’… downcast eyes and a bowed head are the two gestures that best typify a behaviour which, although part of a refined way of life, was ascribed to a plan for moral improvement and therefore labelled as Christian good manners’. 1 This passage from Giovanni Pozzi’s brilliant essay of 1986 sums up one of the fundamental aspects of the process of discipline and civility occurring at the beginning of the modern era. The nature, periodization and implementation of this process is now the subject of a vast and exhaustive bibliography. 2 We are particularly indebted to Dilwyn Knox for showing, contrary to Norbert Elias’s well-known ideas, the ecclesiastical roots of this process of civility, to be found in monastic discipline and in the link between external demeanour and the soul’s disposition. 3 Giovanni Pozzi claimed that the later concept of Christian good manners was based on an assumption that behaviour was inherently morally indifferent, and therefore attributable to the laity and motivated purely by custom in a design for Christian perfection. The all-embracing ethics and asceticism required of Christians and imposed between the Counter-Reformation and the French Revolution affected every aspect of behaviour and reduced the scope for morally indifferent acts. The strengthening of the moral code for priests following the Council of Trent and the subsequent greater consistency of ecclesiastical discipline sharpened the distinction between clergy and laity, but also led eventually to a growth in the ideological 77influence of the clergy, the more organized of the two spheres. Young men were required to act like seminarians, not only because in both cases education was the responsibility of the same authority, but also because one way of life was attempting to impose itself on the other. While in reality a numerous clergy to a considerable extent adopted peripheral aspects of secular behaviour, in theory a lay person was moulded into a fairly rigid ‘forma cleri’. 4