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... a description of the hierarchical Church, its framework and machinery.
The word 'description' is somehow too narrow to express what I would like to present, for my ambition is to show how the ecclesiastical institutions functioned.
What I aim at is a picture of the Church 'in motion'.
I will try to discover the mechanisms of cooperation between the three levels of the hierarchic pyramid: the patriarch and his curia, the bishops, and the remaining clergy subordinate to the latter.
I believe that I am able to sketch (at least in part) the mentality of the members of hierarchical Church, to reconstruct the procedure of appointment of bishops and to give an account of the creation of the network of churches. (...) My intellectual adventure with the history of the Church began with research on ecclesiastical economy, incomes and the manner of their administration, expenditures, and the material status of the clergy.
The choice of these subjects was absolutely natural to me, since my academic education had provided me with a solid background for tackling such issues; I had also learnt much while preparing my doctoral dissertation on the textile industry of Roman Egypt.
In spite of having enough reasons to find the results of my previous research satisfactory, I did not want to explore the subject any farther.
It was late antique Egypt that captivated me- a fascination I owe to my French papyrology teacher, Roger Remondon.
Within this realm I found the Church and monasticism particularly intriguing. (from the Preface)
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