John McManners

in Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France Volume 1: The Clerical Establishment and its Social Ramifications

Published in print July 1999 | ISBN: 9780198270034
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600685 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of the Christian Church


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The word ‘abbé’ was extended to cover nominal churchmen, with the tonsure as a minimum clerical qualification, who held abbatial revenues in commendam, or in an even wider sense, to designate clerics living off the Church without working for it. In the novels, correspondence, and memoirs of the age these abbés on the margins of the Church became a stereotype of dubious and opportunistic adventurers. Some, especially those hanging around the royal court, fitted the stereotype, while many others used the leisure provided by their sinecures, or else built on their meagre incomes by publishing literary works of all kinds. In so doing, some prominent abbés made noteworthy contributions to Enlightenment thought, while others defended Catholic doctrine against Enlightened attacks.

Keywords: abbés; court; Enlightenment; literature; scholarship

Chapter.  16037 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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