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The Professionalization of the Clergy

Parish Priests in Early Modern Malta

Frans Ciappara

Abstract

This article engages with the role of the parish priests in Malta in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It focuses especially on their degree of professionalization by examining their relations with the bishop and with the other members of the clergy and the laity. It concludes that, as in other countries, it was difficult for the decrees of the council of Trent to be fully implemented in Malta. If some parish priests were diligent in exercising their duty, others preferred to put their personal interests before those of their flock. For some, the gaining of money was their besetting sin with the result that running feuds were an inseparable part of most parishes.

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Translating “Holy Bodies” (Corpi Santi) in Malta, 1667–1795

Frans Ciappara

Abstract

This article discusses the corpi santi, or whole skeletons of saints, which were brought to Malta from the catacombs of Rome in the eighteenth century. Here they had a diff erent meaning than they had in northern Europe. Malta was not aff ected by the Thirty Years’ War and therefore did not have to replace relics destroyed by the Protestants. The Maltese church also had no need to emphasize its connection with Rome. These saints were honored in Malta because they were heroes, having died for Christ as martyrs. Parishioners also perceived corpi santi as patrons, explaining why they were fully integrated within the parish. They rendered the churches in which they were exhibited centers of local devotion, thereby according prestige to the parish and intensifying rivalry between parishes. The saints also gave identity to the parish, so that parents even named children after them.