In the Middle Ages parishes were both the smallest entities of Church administration and governance as well as fundamental units of social life structure. In the historiography regarding the Church in the State of the Teutonic Order emphasis has been laid so far almost exclusively on attempts to re-create the network of parishes and its territorial expansion. The social aspect of a parish life and the religious climate have meanwhile received scant attention or have been utterly by-passed, especially as far as village parishes are concerned. So far the studies on the network of parishes have been conducted many times alongside research into the development of settlement patterns in 13th and 14th century Prussia. The studies include papers often written at the turn of 20th century to cater for the needs of the time. Unlike similar studies regarding the territories of medieval Poland (just to mention publications by Eugeniusz Wisniowski), parishes in the State of the Teutonic Order in Prussia still remain an uncharted field of historical research. Suffice it to say that most research conducted up to date contains either simple list charts (A. Olczyk) or offer analyses of selected issues, such as patrocinia (patronage of a saint over a church dedicated to him or her) (W. Rozynkowski). No studies are available to provide an in-depth look at the parishes not just from the point of view of Church governance but also from the point of view of their social functions. Thus, an online database allowing access to a complete network of the parishes will bridge the gap in the studies on the Church in the State of the Teutonic Order. So far historical research has mainly focused on various diocesan and cathedral bodies as well as their relationships with secular authorities represented by knight-friars. The studies have concentrated only on town parishes and research has been conducted mostly in connection with a broadly defined history of Prussian cities.
The project primarily aims to re-create the network of parishes in the State of the Teutonic Order in Prussia and Pomerelia using a wide-ranging research questionnaire which covers not just parishes, but also a number of issues connected with lower clergy, the laity as well as broadly comprehended material culture. The focal points of the research include the number of parishes, the characteristics of a parish network on the territory of particular Pomeranian dioceses and archdeaconries, financial standing, identities of the lower clergy and the laity involved in the life of a parish. The project also aims to develop an online database at www.zhk.umk.pl allowing fast access to information about a particular parish. The upside of the service will be that following its completion, the database will be regularly updated in the years to come.
Thanks to ‘advanced search’ option the database allows to carry out research into medieval parishes on many different levels. The database enables:
- to verify the total number of parishes in a given diocese
- to track changes in the pattern of parochial network in particular dioceses
- to conduct research into parish clergy, their background and mobility
- to conduct research into hagio-toponymy by dint of the database of patrocinia
- to conduct research into parish communities
- to conduct research into spirituality by dint of information regarding preserved book collections
- to provide local communities with information about their parish, thus becoming an invaluable vehicle of regional education as part of History teaching curriculum
The project will also provide an opportunity to overview the current state of historiography and set new directions for research in the field. For this purpose, as part of the project schedule, an international conference will be held followed by the publication of a volume of conference papers.