The Bishop's Palace: Architecture and Authority in Medieval Italy

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This lavishly illustrated book looks at the art and architecture of episcopal palaces as expressions of power and ideology. Tracing the history of the bishop's residence in the urban centers of northern Italy over the Middle Ages, Maureen C. Miller asks why this once rudimentary and highly fortified structure called a domus became a complex and elegant "palace" (palatium) by the late twelfth century. Miller argues that the change reflects both the emergence of a distinct clerical culture and the attempts of bishops to maintain authority in public life. She relates both to the Gregorian reform movement, which set new standards for clerical deportment and at the same time undercut episcopal claims to secular power. As bishops lost temporal authority in their cities to emerging communal governments, they compensated architecturally and competed with the communes for visual and spatial dominance in the urban center. This rivalry left indelible marks on the layout and character of Italian cities.Moreover, Miller contends, this struggle for power had highly significant, but mixed, results for western Christianity. On the one hand, as bishops lost direct governing authority in their cities, they devised ways to retain status, influence, and power through cultural practices. This response to loss was highly creative. On the other hand, their loss of secular control led bishops to emphasize their spiritual powers and to use them to obtain temporal ends. The coercive use of spiritual authority contributed to the emergence of a "persecuting society" in the central Middle Ages.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This significant book is the first history of the medieval episcopal residence in central and northern Italy. . . It is an impressive work of comparative and interdisciplinary scholarship, and it places the episcopal residence at the center of political and cultural changes within the city before 1300. . . This book is a major contribution to the literature about medieval urban architecture and the definitive study of the episcopal palace."—George Dameron, Catholic Historical Review, July 2001

"This handsomely designed book. . . is the first volume in what promises to be an exciting interdisciplinary series from Cornell. . . A welcome contribution to many areas of medieval culture that were previously little understood. As a pivotal work that outlines the parameters of a rarely studied building type and its cultural practices, Miller's book offers a step forward and throws the door open on a new range of issues that could be pursued by specialists of various disciplines and methodological stripes."—Jill Caskey, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, June 2001

"A handsome, generously illustrated volume. . . All levels."—Choice, January 2001

"I was profoundly impressed by this book. Miller handles and synthesizes historical and archaeological evidence. . . with equal precision, and offers insights that will be valuable to the archaeologist and to the the cultural historian."—Matthew M. Reeve, Religion and the Arts

"Maureen C. Miller has positioned herself in the midst of two current interests in medieval history: power, and architecture and language. Skillful in both fields, and possessing a magisterial knowledge of archival and printed sources as well as current literature, she has written a book that is required reading for anyone working on central and northern Italy. This study is both analytical and deeply probing and does not hesitate to contest the accepted canon, impelling historians to reconsider positions previously not though to be open to dispute. . . The power of her arguments, and the elegance of her scholarship command great respect."—Mary Stroll, American Historical Review, April 2002

"All over Western Europe bishops were once very much more powerful politically than they are now. . . The choice of the episcopal residence as a subject is undoubtedly a novel way to explore the link between town and biship and this alone lends Maureen Miller's thoroughly researched book true originality."—Ross Balzaretti, Urban History, Vol. 28, No. 3, 2001

"Lavishly illustrated with photographs and diagrams, Miller's narrative is vigorous and convincing. . . . Miller presents us with a striking, perhaps tidy, parallelism between architecture and episcopal power. One might wonder whether, besides imaging power, religious sensibilities, budgetary considerations, and even accident, might also have guided architectural projects, but to this reader Miller's parallels are generally convincing."—Augustine Thompson, Ecclesiastical History, January 2002

"An exhilarating and serious book. . . Miller has done splendid service in locating the bishops firmly in their palaces. . . Miller's discussion of the painted decoration of bishops' palaces is exemplary and will become required reading. . . There is much to ponder on in this courageous and innovative book. It marks a new stage in reading the episcopal slant on the topography of power in the medieval Italian city, and its lessons will surely be broadly applied."—Julian Gardner, Speculum, October 2002

"Maureen Miller is a splendid scholar/teacher and a great storyteller. Skillfully blending a close reading of legal and institutional documents with a keen curiosity about the actual buildings with which they are associated, she brings a thousand years of key buildings and ideas to life."—Gary M. Radke, Syracuse University, author of Viterbo: Profile of a Thirteenth-Century Papal Palace

"I am extremely impressed with this very well-written and engaging book. The subject—the bishop's palace—is a novel one and has proven to be a creative way of looking at some of the main debates in medieval Italian history. Maureen Miller has done impressive research in a number of archives, finding in the process many fresh sources on her subject; the notes and bibliography reveal the work of a meticulous historian who has clearly mastered the subject."—Steven Epstein, University of Colorado at Boulder

"Maureen Miller has walked innumerable cities and mastered some exceedingly difficult historiographical issues. Her explorations of the medieval urban texture is a revelation—the Episcopal palace was not simply the seat of religious administration, it was the locus in which spiritual, social, and political life in the early Italian communes was worked out. This is an exciting and original book."—Duane J. Osheim, University of Virginia

Joseph Rykwert
Maureen C. Miller's The Bishop's palace is welcome—sharp, clear, learned...
Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Maureen C. Miller is Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Clothing the Clergy: Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, c. 800–1200, The Bishop's Palace: Architecture and Authority in Medieval Italy, and The Formation of a Medieval Church: Ecclesiastical Change in Verona, 950–1150, all from Cornell, and Power and the Holy in the Age of the Investiture Conflict: A Brief Documentary History.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Abbreviations xi
Introduction 1
I. Office/Space: The Architectural Expression of Episcopal Authority, 300-1300 13
Chapter 1 The Episcopal Residence in Late Antiquity: The Episcopium 16
Chapter 2 The Episcopal Residence in the Early Middle Ages: The Domus Sancte Ecclesie 54
Chapter 3 The Episcopal Residence in the Central Middle Ages: The Bishop's Palace 86
II. Culture/Power: The Character of Space and the Meaning of Actions 123
Chapter 4 Urban Space and Sacred Authority 125
Chapter 5 What Kind of Lord? The Bishop in His Hall 170
Chapter 6 Spiritual Space, Interiority, and Charismatic Authority: The Bishop's Chapel 216
Conclusion 253
Appendix 261
Selected Bibliography 277
Index/Glossary 303
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