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The Church in the Republic

Gallicanism and Political Ideology in Renaissance France

The Church in the Republic offers a new interpretation of the relationship between religion and politics in Europe at the dawn of the modern age. Its main subject, the theoretical and political contest over the liberties of the Gallican Church, was one of the great political issues of early modern France. This debate raised basic questions on the nature and origins of authority within human institutions. It shaped the way French Catholic magistrates, laypeople, and clergy understood the state and their own places within it, and was followed closely in England, Italy, and beyond.

The conflict over Gallicanism revealed the assumptions underlying the political thought of two of its most influential participants: the lawyers and judges of the French sovereign courts, and the bishops and other prelates of the Catholic clergy. Jotham Parsons shows that the Gallican controversy began with an attempt by humanists to understand society as based on contingent, historical custom rather than immutable divine justice. Under the pressures of political and religious conflict, this theoretical commitment developed into a powerful political ideology. At the same time, the Tridentine Reform was reinvigorating France's Catholic clergy intellectually and organizationally. French bishops could thus counter what they saw as an attack on their proper jurisdiction with a vigorous and successful bid for increased authority within the royal state. These two alternative visions, Gallican and clericalist, provided a framework for politics for the remainder of the Old Regime and were highly influential around Europe.

This book presents an enlightening examination of the ways in which Renaissance humanism and the Catholic and Protestant Reformations interacted to create the modern state.


Jotham Parsons is assistant professor of history at Duquesne University.


"Through a careful examination of the literature produced by the conflict, Parsons shows how the ideological contest over the Gallican liberties shaped political debates until the Enlightenment, and demonstrates the importance of religion to the development of the French state."—E.M. Wengler, Choice

"This deft analysis of Gallicanism and its intersection with constitutional theory and practice addresses a much neglected element in the history of early modern France."—
Raymond A. Mentzer, Renaissance Quarterly

"By taking seriously the often arid and arcane disputes that roiled French jurists and churchmen in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, Parsons affords us an enriched and insightful perspective into how the Gallican views of each group helped to mold both the Bourbon monarchy and later opposition to it. . . . This is a significant study that contributes to our ongoing quest to understand both the genesis and eventual demise of the early modern French monarchy."—Michael Wolfe, American Historical Review

The Catholic University of America Press

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320 Pages
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