The Normans in the Mediterranean


The Church under Norman rule


    In southern Italy, the Normans intervened in a situation characterized by the coexistence on the same territory of Christian populations of the Latin or Byzantine tradition alongside Moslems and Jews. Political and religious conflicts became closely mixed up in the struggles opposing the papacy, the Holy Roman Empire and the Eastern Empire. And being so close to the Islamic countries only complicated the matter further.

The struggle against Islam was in fact the Norman mercenariesí prime justification for their conquests. To counter the image of the "damned Normans" drawn by chroniclers hostile to their pillaging, the Norman mercenaries passed off mythical credentials making them the champions of Christendom at a time when the crusade idea was in the air.
Initially, the Norman lords generally supported the popes in Rome who were in favour of the Gregorian reform and opposed the power of the Holy Roman emperor. Thus, the papacy finally recognized the Hautevillesí conquests after making a vain stand against their rise. But after 1130, the new Norman kings set about tightening their grip on the churches of their kingdom, and brought as much pressure as possible to bear on the policy of the Holy See.

Church organization under Norman rule was especially characterized by a proliferation of small dioceses whose bishops had little power compared to that wielded by their counterparts in the western kingdoms. On the other hand, the Norman period was for monasticism a time of expansion. Once Sicily had been recovered from the Moslems, many Greek and Latin monasteries were established there, while in the mainland provinces of the Mezzogiorno, new foundations were encouraged by the Norman conquerors. However, the reformed orders which appeared in France at the turn of the 11th and 12th c. had no notable success in the Norman kingdom.


Church organization before the Normans
Bishops & diocese : a complicated network
New organisation : priests and parishes
Monasticism under the Normans : the Greek orders
The Benedictine abbeys
Reformed monasticism

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