This chapter introduces the main goals of the book: (1) to rectify the neglect of the secular clergy in current historiography; (2) to show just how important the secular clergy were within medieval society; (3) to explore the tensions created by the need for the secular clergy to operate beyond the cloister walls, often in deeply secular settings, in a period in which “the world” was viewed with deep suspicion. In addition, it sets out the geographic and temporal parameters of the discussion and delves into the defining characteristics of the secular clergy. What set them apart, both in broad theoretical and in more precise technical terms, from the laity and from the regular or monastic clergy? Finally, the this introductory chapter provides a brief overview of the remaining chapters.
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