This chapter examines episcopal almsgiving, the principal sources of which were revenues from imperial subventions, church properties, special collections, and the regular offerings made by the faithful. These offerings, often referred to as first fruits, did not include tithes as they were later understood. Eloquence was essential to the bishop in raising funds for alms which he then distributed with assistance from the deacons. Such alms principally benefited a small number of Christian recipients: widows, their dependent children and other ‘orphans’, and some poorer virgins. While this form of poor relief chiefly took the form of regular distributions of food, some urban churches also founded hostels for the care of the sick destitute.
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