The eighth-century church, respected, powerful, and wealthy, was not subject to any hierarchy and not uniform in its discipline. Although the Easter controversy had been setded, there was still considerable difference of opinion on the degree of ascetism which should be required from churchmen, and no one over-riding authority existed to announce and enforce a fixed standard. Thus, the dangers of prosperity were enhanced. In such a situation the manner of life practised by the leaders of the church was of vital importance. The abbot, who might be in episcopal orders, was head of the tribe of the church; he had legal responsibilities towards the tribe and administered the church’s property. In the words of an early-ninth-century Rule:

If you are the leader (toísech) of a church, noble is the obligation; Preservation of the rights of the church from the small to the great.


Yours to judge each one according to grade and according to deed.


Yours to rebuke the foolish, punish the hosts, turning disorder into order … 1