Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The eigenkirche or proprietary church was an important factor in the ecclesiastical policy of William I. In previous studies, the proprietary church was considered purely a local phenomenon. William's religious concerns in Normandy and England demonstrate the eigenkirche's role at the local, royal, and international levels. An examination of the legal sources is critical to understanding the proprietary church in Anglo-Saxon England, Normandy, and Norman England. The Anglo-Saxon charters provide important examples of the private church and monastery in the pre-Conquest period. In Normandy, the ducal charters, once inaccessible because of archival problems, are now available for analysis of the Norman Church. For England, the Domesday Book yields detailed information about churches and ecclesiastical property before 1066 and afterwards. This study, in contrast to former works which relied upon narrative sources, depends extensively on these legal documents. The Anglo-Saxon Church, as revealed in the charters, was a loosely organized system dominated by private interests. Churches, monasteries, and ecclesiastical property were owned outright by individuals and corporations (secular and religious). Despite the efforts of reformers like Dunstan, the Anglo-Saxon Church remained fragmented until the Conquest. William's invasion of England radically changed the condition of the Church. The Conqueror introduced his Norman ecclesiastical policy. In Normandy, the duke had gained control over the Church through feudalism. In particular, allodial lands and churches of the noble class were feudalized, but that group retained its independence. When William conquered England, he created an accentuated form of feudalism which tied all men and lands to the king. The Church became enmeshed in the feudal system and was considered part of his allod, the English kingdom. Though William claimed absolute control, there were serious difficulties in his eigenkirche policy. Namely, he could not solve the problem of jurisdiction between dioceses and monasteries and between feudal and ecclesiastical persons. Moreover, William's policy directly opposed papal goals towards England which sought to make the kingdom a papal fief.