During the first centuries of Christianity, the faithful had an exclusive bond with their local church. Only dioceses had territorial circumscriptions; countryside churches depended on the bishop. Gradually, local churches acquired more spiritual and economic autonomy and parishes extended geographically due to the demographic increase of the 11th and 12th centuries. The bannus parochialis forced the parishioners to receive the sacraments from their parish priest and to fulfill their religious duty in their parish church, while the gradually generalized system of the tithes was territorially defined. The definition of parochia in the Summa (finished in 1253) of Henricus de Segusio, archbishop of Embrun (France) may be considered the final point of this evolution from dependent churches with personal-related faithful to territorial defined parishes with spiritual and economic autonomy.
This session wants to investigate how this evolution was affected by and did affect the ancient definitions of parish boundaries. Did this evolution urge the need to define the parish limits more precisely? What was the role of natural boundaries in defining the borderlines and what was the impact of the newly defined parochial territories on the surrounding landscape? How were these boundaries fixed in the collective memory and how did this process create or inform traditions such as Beating the bounds, surviving in England and Wales, or the troménies in Brittany?
A last question to be addressed is if and how these ancient boundaries and traditions are still read in today’s landscape and practices – the French revolutionaries for instance often using old parish boundaries for their communes.