Our ancestor Claude ARNOLD was a CHURCHWARDEN for the Abbey of Munster in the little village Ampfersbach (1651 to 1657) and for the chapel of SCHWEINSBACH where he received the pilgrims, rang out the masses and wrote the register of the Administration of this little Parish belonging of the Abbey.


The churchwarden of the Chapel of SCHWEINSBACH near of MUNSTER

But what is exactly a CHURCHWARDEN?

Many questions about this post when we find it in a deed and what is a Churchwarden for the Clergy?

This name was given to each member of the Council of the Administration of the Parish. The Churchwarden was chosen among the Administrators in order to constitute a board under the title of Chairman-Secretary and Paymaster.

The Churchwarden had to organize the operating budget of the Administration of the Church, to prepare the different questions about the Administration, to accomplish all the decisions and to manage the Administration of the Parish. In the old time they were Paymasters and Tax Collectors for the Administrations of Churches and Brotherhoods.

We discover them at the time when began the Parish Registers and when the counts began to be serious in the very powerful Clergy under the Ancien Régime. We can identify them at that time.

They were chosen among notables and burghers, had to know how to read and to write and to count. But they had also to ring out the masses and to receive the pilgrims, to organize the funerals, well they were handymen of the Church, laics with a family life with an additional job as was our ancestor Claude ARNOLD.

As we can see they were very busy and had a great responsibility. It was a post so much important that the Churchwarden was very powerful till the end of the 16th century and the King was looking at him with interest…

Louis the 14th, in front of many complaints decided with the agreement of his Ministers and in order to please to the Clergy, to set up PAYMASTERS-TAX-COLLECTORS OFFICES for incomes of the Administrations and Brotherhoods of each parish of PARIS and other towns of his kingdom by an Edict on February 1704.

These offices were hereditary and were managed by three members. The Edict said: "The Churchwardens will be permanent and will be just under the Honorary Churchwardens in the parishes which have Honorary Churchwardens and at the first rank when no Honorary Churchwardens. They will have the same rights and the same credit, privileges and posts as the other Churchwardens ".

But they are no longer allowed to take taxes on the incomes of the Administration of the Church!! They will have the responsibility of the Records of the Administration of the Parish and of the Brotherhood, and will have to give the deeds to the Priest with inventories and put them in a safe that only the Priest has the key.

In the Parish Records, filed in the Ancien Régime (before 1792) are several deeds which give us an idea of the post of a Churchwarden.

The post of Churchwarden was stopped during the Revolution on 1789, but nowadays even if the title is not the same, there is always a post for the bookkeeping in the Parishes.


The old chapel of SCHWEINSBACH at the time of Claude ARNOLD with under it the farmer’s house.

M.A.T. (all rights reserved)

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