Lordship, Reform, and the Development of Civil Society in Medieval Italy
The Bishopric Of Orvieto, 1100-1250
272 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback | 9780268028725 | December 2004
Hardcover | 9780268028718 | December 2004
In his examination of the bishopric of Orvieto from 1100 to 1250, David Foote reveals how three defining developments of the High Middle Ages—the feudal revolution, ecclesiastical reform, and state building—played out in a typical medieval Italian commune. He challenges scholarship that overemphasizes the secular nature of Italian city-states by showing the extent to which developments in ecclesiastical institutions provided a model for the formation of civic institutions and defined a commune’s political and religious culture.
Following the collapse of Carolingian authority in the tenth century, Italy experienced a period of political chaos. Rural lords, unrestrained by central authority, fought to dominate the countryside. Bishoprics, by virtue of their temporal and spiritual authority over dioceses, emerged in the midst of this disorder as the most effective institutions for rebuilding political authority at the local level. The Orvietan bishopric formed the center of an urban coalition attempting to conquer and pacify their contado, or surrounding countryside. Orvieto’s bishopric assisted the early city-state in administering its territory by developing innovative methods of written administration and record keeping.
As the center of a wide range of religious interests, the bishopric was often caught between competing political and religious actors who leveraged their interests through ecclesiastical institutions and resources. This interaction had a profound effect on the city’s political and religious culture. As Orvietans struggled to define the norms that would govern their society, they had to adapt their quest for political power and autonomy to their religious values.
David Foote’s deeply researched new book illuminates the process of state building in its early stages and the formation of political and religious culture in Europe during the High Middle Ages.
David Foote is assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota.
“This elegant book explores a crucial and under-studied problem: the role of episcopal administration in the formation of the Italian city-states. It is a fascinating account of the changing interplay of secular and spiritual power. The bishopric developed systems to collect revenues, exact justice, inventory property, and maintain records that were largely appropriated by the rising commune. The consequences for the bishopric were both political marginalization and also a new freedom to attend to reform and the care of souls.” —Carol Lansing, University of California, Santa Barbara
“In this highly significant case study of the bishopric of Orvieto, David Foote situates ecclesiastical institutions and traditions at the very heart of the development of the commune. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the politics and religion of twelfth and thirteenth century Italy.” —George Dameron, Saint Michael’s College
“David Foote’s study of the bishopric of Orvieto in the central Middle Ages is a felicitous combination of original archival research and broad, innovative thinking about the meaning of the past. It is an exemplary monograph.” —Maureen Miller, University of California, Berkeley
"In a well-researched and richly-detailed study of the commune of Orvieto in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, David Foote traces the role of the bishopric in the development of civil society and the establishment of communal government. Rather than viewing the formation of communes as a strictly secular process, the author demonstrates well the central role played by bishops and the cathedral church in Orvieto, as well as the interpenetration of religious and political interests. David Foote's book is an important addition to the history of communal Italy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries." —The Catholic Historical Review
"What lifts Foote's study beyond the cluster of books that study the rise of the commune is that he resolves not to banish to the margins bishops and episcopal institutions. What makes Foote's book of interest to legal historians is that he takes institutions seriously (not as mere facades for personal power) and treats his sources with respect for their form and provenance." —Law and History Review
"David Foote's examination of the bishopric of Orvieto... is a useful addition to the growing number of scholarly investigations of the interconnections between the developments in episcopal lordship in northern Italy between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, and the emergence and consolidation of communal government in the region's cities after 1150. ...a useful book.... ...contributes to several ongoing debates. Its Italian focus does not limit its interest; the discussion of the episcopal register contributes to the Europe-wide analysis of the significant cultural shift introduced by an emphasis on textuality in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries." —The Heythrop Journal
"Foote's study of bishop and commune in 12th- and 13th-century Orvieto is a work to be appreciated on several levels. It is a significant contribution to early European urban and diocesan history; it is strong on connecting that history to the papal-imperial conflicts of the 12th and 13th centuries; it is unusually sensitive to the role played by Orvietan bishops in the commune-forming process; and it is based on extensive, original archival research, expertly handled and gracefully analyzed. Foote… makes skillful use of the contrasting hagiographies of Pietro Parenzi and Franciscan monk Ambrogio da Massa to illuminate his thesis. The book is also highly readable. Highly recommended." —Choice
"This is a mandatory book for anyone interested in high medieval history. ...Foote has written a clear, concise, original, and extremely informative study that will yield rich dividends to all readers." —Cistercian Studies Quarterly
"An extensively researched and carefully reasoned study of the institutions and forces that shaped a phase of Italian history.... ...a work of superb scholarship and a welcome addition to academic library Middle Ages studies and World History reference collections." —Midwest Book Review