The Bishop's Palace

The Bishop's Palace

Architecture and Authority in Medieval Italy
  • Winner of the 2001 Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize (Society for Italian Historical Studies)
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.

Maureen C. Miller

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.

Clothing the Clergy
Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, c. 800–1200
Maureen C. Miller
Maureen C. Miller traces the ways in which clerical garb changed over the Middle Ages. Miller goes into detail about craft, artistry, and textiles and contributes to our understanding of the religious, social, and political meanings of clothing, past and present.

The Formation of a Medieval Church
Ecclesiastical Change in Verona, 950–1150
Maureen C. Miller
In this provocative account, Maureen Miller challenges traditional explanations of the process that changed the nature of religious institutions—and religious life itself—in the diocese of Verona during the early and central Middle Ages. Building on...