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date: 19 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Church discipline and the ways in which it was implemented offers an important window on to the relations between churchmen and lay people. But historians need to understand what ‘discipline’ meant within a medieval context: rather than seeing it solely as to do with repression, it was a key concept in the productive government and shepherding of the Christian community, directed toward salvation. This chapter examines the historiographical challenges of understanding church discipline across the whole middle ages, focussing particularly on the role of the bishop; and it argues that aspects which are often thought to date only from the later middle ages can in fact be found much earlier.

Keywords: Penance, confession, excommunication, church courts, inquisition, episcopal visitation, canon law

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