The Church under Norman rule

Church organization before the Normans

To understand the Normansí relationship with church institutions in southern Italy, we need to go back to the early 11th c. and the period before the Normans first made their presence felt. The territory that fell to them was in utter disarray following repeated crises from the 6th to the 9th c.: invasions by the Goths, establishment of the Lombard principalities, wars against the Byzantines, Moslem raids. Many episcopal sees were deserted and the popeís authority was far from secure.

Confusion ensued, resulting from the position of the Mezzogiorno, caught in the no manís land between Latin Christendom and the Byzantine world. The pope and the Byzantine authorities were still able to agree over how to organize the Christian communities in Apulia and Calabria. The Greek communities were tolerated in Latin territory, in Campania and in the duchies along the coast around Naples. But in Sicily, after the Moslem invasion, only the bishops of Palermo and Catania held onto their sees.

During the 10th c., it was papal policy to set up episcopal sees in principalities being established at Capua, Naples, Amalfi, Salerno etc. The large Lombard district of Benevento remained important as before. But the church hierarchy was by no means restored to order. In Normandy, the survival of the dioceses had ensured a degree of continuity in the Carolingian set-up and had made the pagan Normans easier to assimilate. A century later, in southern Italy, the now Christian Norman conquerors faced a confused situation, reorganization of which led them to find the levers of power.

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