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Lesser Clergy in medieval Silesia. Prosopographical Analysis of Clerics in Nysa 1250 – 1550

Project information


Project title: Lesser Clergy in medieval Silesia. Prosopographical Analysis of Clerics in Nysa 1250 - 1550

Project No: 2014/13/B/HS3/04932

Project lead: dr Ewa Wółkiewicz

Project lead, institutional: Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Project financing:National Science Center, 2014-2016


e-mail: ewawolkiewicz@op.pl
phone (22) 620-28-81 do 86

Project implementation:

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology of the Polish Academy of Sciences





Project information


1. Research project objectives/ Research hypothesis


The aim of the project is to examine the functioning of the social group of lower clergy in late medieval Silesia. In previous studies on the clergy as a social group this particular subcategory was taken into account into relatively marginal extent. Existing studies focused mostly on the prosopographical analyses of upper class clerics - i. e the episcopate as well as members of cathedral and collegiate chapters. Therefore, to recognize properly a role of the clergy and its impact on laic milieu in a medieval town, it seems important to focus on a group of parsons, vicars and other numerous representatives of the lower clergy on the parochial level. Despite the emergence of several prosopographical works on the lower Silesian town clergy in recent years many threads of research has not yet been adequately developed in the synthesizing form. The most important of these issues seems to be undoubtedly a matter of literate practice and mentality of late medieval clergymen. Preserved literary sources provide a convenient opportunity to complement existing knowledge on forms of written communication in the aforementioned period. An important issue to be raised of the project is also a verification of the thesis concerning the progressive impoverishment of the lower clergy group in the late fifteenth century, which may have contributed to numerous accession of this "ecclesiastical proletariat" to the ideas of the Reformation.
Research field for such outlined issues will be mainly late medieval Nysa (Neisse), which primarily justifies a relatively abundant source database providing types of records unique across Central Europe. The town of five thousand inhabitants which can serve as a an example of a typical medium-sized urban settlement in Silesia is also a convenient starting point for further research of other localities. The chronological framework of the project is on the one hand the first half of the thirteenth century, when the earliest attested mention of the clergy in Nysa emerged, and the second half of the sixteenth century, when the city was strongly influenced by the Reformation movement. Such a broad chronological perspective allows to trace also biographies of the priests who were ordained before 1517, and by means of that a complex confessional situation in the second quarter of the sixteenth century.


2. Research project methodology


A study on the lesser clergy in the late Middle Ages requires a comprehensive archival research covering archival collections both urban, as well as ecclesiastical provenance. Due to the dispersion of the archives the queries in Poland, the Czech Republic and Germany will be necessary. Very important is also a detailed analysis of papal documents - relating both to bestowals of benefices, as well as documentation of the Apostolic Penitentiary, including cases of offenses committed by clergy. For comparative context it will be necessary to collect secondary literature on the subject, especially for the area of the German Reich, the Czech Crown and the Polish Kingdom. Preparing a comprehensive catalogue of clergy allows the framing the aforementioned social group with prosopographical and statistical methods.


3. Expected impact of the research project on the development of science, civilization and society


The project will examine the important group of medieval society, which remains as so far not accurately recognized even in Western literature. The basis of the research will be unpublished archival sources, not used before in the study. The results will be published in a monograph combined with a biographical catalogue of the analyzed group. It is also planned to prepare a paper presenting the main findings of the research in English. The collected data can be used not only for the study of social history, but also the future development of the late medieval genealogy. Work will also provide an important contribution to the study of late medieval literate mentality and history of the Church.