Lay abbot


Lay abbot

Lay abbot ("abbatocomes", "abbas laicus", "abbas miles") is a name used to designate a layman on whom a king or someone in authority bestowed an abbey as a reward for services rendered; he had charge of the estate belonging to it, and was entitled to part of the income.

This custom existed principally in the Frankish Empire from the eighth century until the ecclesiastical reforms of the eleventh. Charles Martel was the first to bestow outright extensive existing ecclesiastical property upon laymen, political friends and soldiers. Earlier, the Merovingians had bestowed church lands on laymen, or at least allowed them their possession and use, though not ownership.

Numerous synods held in France in the sixth and seventh centuries passed decrees against this abuse of church property. The Merovingian kings were also in the habit of appointing abbots to monasteries which they had founded; moreover, many monasteries, though not founded by the king, placed themselves under royal patronage in order to share his protection, and so became possessions of the Crown. This custom of the Merovingian rulers was taken as a precedent by the French kings for rewarding laymen with abbeys, or giving them to bishops "in commendam". "Under Charles Martel the Church was greatly injured by this abuse, not only in her possessions, but also in her religious life." [CathEncy|wstitle=Lay Abbot] St. Boniface and later Hincmar of Reims picture most dismally the consequent downfall of church discipline, and though St. Boniface tried zealously and even successfully to reform the Frankish Church, the bestowal of abbeys on secular abbots was not abolished. Under Pepin the monks were permitted, in case their abbey should fall into secular hands, to go over to another community.

Charlemagne also frequently gave church property, and sometimes abbeys, in feudal tenure. Louis the Pious aided St. Benedict of Aniane in his endeavours to reform the monastic life. In order to accomplish this it was necessary to restore the free election of abbots, and the appointment as well of blameless monks as heads of the monastic houses. Although Louis shared these principles, he continued to bestow abbeys on laymen, and his sons imitated him.

The important Abbey of St. Riquier (Centula) in Picardy had secular abbots from the time of Charlemagne, who had given it to his friend Angilbert, the poet and the lover of his daughter Bertha, and father of her two sons (see Saint Angilbert). After Angilbert's death in 814, the abbey was given to other laymen.

Various synods of the ninth century passed decrees against this custom; the Synod of Diedenhofen (October, 844) decreed in its third canon, that abbeys should no longer remain in the power of laymen, but that monks should be their abbots [Karl Josef von Hefele, "Konziliengeschichte", 2nd ed., IV, 110] In like manner the Synods of Meaux and Paris (845-846) complained that the monasteries held by laymen had fallen into decay, and emphasized the king's duty in this respect. [Hefele, op. cit., IV, 115] But abbeys continued to be bestowed upon laymen, especially in France and Lorraine, e.g. St. Evre near Toul, in the reign of Lothair I. Lothair II, however, restored it to ecclesiastical control in 858, but the same king gave Bonmoutier to a layman; and the Abbeys of St. Germain and St. Martin, in the Diocese of Toul, were also given to secular abbots. In the Diocese of Metz, the Abbey of Gorze was long in the hands of laymen, and under them fell into decay. Stavelot and Malmedy, in the Diocese of Liège, were in the eleventh century bestowed on a certain Count Raginarius, as also St. Maximin near Trier on a Count Adalhard, etc. [Albert Hauck, "Kirchengeschichte Deutschland", II, 598] In 888 a Synod of Mainz decreed (canon xxv) that the secular abbots should place able provosts and provisors over their monasteries.

In a synod held at Trosly, in the Diocese of Soissons, in 909, sharp complaints were made (ch. iii) about the lives of monks; many convents, it was said, were governed by laymen, whose wives and children, soldiers and dogs, were housed in the precincts of the religious. To better these conditions it was necessary, the synod declared, to restore the regular abbots and abbesses; at the same time ecclesiastical canons and royal capitularies declared laymen quite devoid of authority in church affairs [Hefele, "op. cit.", IV, 572-73] . Lay abbots existed in the tenth century, also in the eleventh. Gosfred, Duke of Aquitaine, was Abbot of the monastery of St. Hilary at Poitiers, and as such he published the decrees issued (1078) at the Synod of Poitiers [Hefele, op. cit., V, 116] . It was only through the so-called investitures conflict that the Church was freed from secular domination; the reforms brought about by the papacy put an end to the bestowal of abbeys upon laymen.

Notes

ee also

*Proprietary church


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lay Abbot — • A name used to designate a layman on whom a king or someone in authority bestowed an abbey as a reward for services rendered Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Lay Abbot     Lay Abbot …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • lay abbot — noun : a layman holding title to an abbey and its revenues …   Useful english dictionary

  • Abbot — The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery. The female… …   Wikipedia

  • abbot — Synonyms and related words: abbacomes, ascetic, beadsman, brother, caloyer, celibate, cenobite, conventual, conventual prior, friar, grand prior, hermit, hieromonach, lay abbot, lay brother, mendicant, monastic, monk, palmer, pilgrim, pillar… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • Abbot — • A title given to the superior of a community of twelve or more monks Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Abbot     Abbot     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Lay Brothers — • Religious occupied solely with manual labour and with the secular affairs of a monastery or friary Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Lay Brothers     Lay Brothers      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Abbot, Lay — • A name used to designate a layman on whom a king or someone in authority bestowed an abbey as a reward for services rendered Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Lay brother — In the most common usage, lay brothers are those members of Catholic religious orders, particularly of monastic orders, occupied primarily with manual labour and with the secular affairs of a monastery or friary, in contrast to the choir monks of …   Wikipedia

  • Abbot, Father —    This would be the correct way of addressing the head of an abbey. The original meaning of ‘abbot’ was ‘father’, so the expression is tautological. ‘Abbot’ is sometimes used on its own in direct address. In Henry the Eighth Shakespeare has… …   A dictionary of epithets and terms of address

  • Lay of Hildebrand — The Lay of Hildebrand ( Das Hildebrandslied ) is a heroic lay, written in Old High German alliterative verse. It is one of the earliest literary works in German, and it tells of the tragic encounter in battle between a son and his unrecognized… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.