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Cultures of Power

Lordship, Status, and Process in Twelfth-Century Europe

Edited by Thomas N. Bisson

Publication Year: 1995

The authors of Cultures of Power proffer diverse perspectives on the prehistory of government in Northern France, Spain, Germany, the Low Countries, and England. Political, social, ecclesiastical, and cultural history are brought to bear on topics such as aristocracies, women, rituals, commemoration, and manifestations of power through literary, legal, and scriptural means.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

In this volume are gathered papers originally prepared for an interdisciplinary conference on Power and Society in the Twelfth Century (1050— 1225) sponsored by the committee on medieval studies at Harvard University. The occasion and purpose of the conference are explained in the Introduction, which is devoted to the contents of this volume. But no ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-8

In 1988 the Committee on Medieval Studies at Harvard University authorized me to organize an interdisciplinary conference. I welcomed the invitation not only as an opportunity to carry on in a worthy tradition of the Committee but also as an occasion for trying out an idea well suited to collaborative exploration. I wanted to see what would happen if specialists ...

Part I. Elites Old and New

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1. Nobles and Knights in Twelfth-Century France

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pp. 11-35

Marc Bloch could not have imagined the long shadow his discursive essays entitled Feudal Society (1939-40) would cast over the historiography of medieval France.1 Seeking to capture the essence of medieval society for a general audience, he framed a paradigm of social organization that has ...

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2. Instruments of Power: The Profile and Profession of ministeriales Within German Aristocratic Society (1050–1225)

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pp. 36-55

In the last of the illuminations that decorate the Bern manuscript of Peter of Eboli's Liber ad honorem Augusti, Emperor Henry VI is depicted in triumph over his enemies, seated on a throne flanked by his principal counsellors: Conrad of Querfurt, bishop of Hildesheim and chancellor of the Empire; Markward of Annweiler, duke of Ravenna and imperial seneschal; ...

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3. Castles, Barons, and Vavassors in the Vendômois and Neighboring Regions in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

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pp. 56-68

It is Georges Duby who first sketched the portrait of those milites who found a place in the elite by sitting in a castellan's court, thereby sharing in a more elevated sociability than that of the village. He cited Guigonnet de Germolles as an example of such a knight.1 Other historians also found such examples and in 1960 Jean Richard provided the fullest description of

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4. Women and Power

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pp. 69-86

The word "power" (pouvoir) is vague in French. Let it be clear that I shall not be speaking of all kinds of power, but only of that expressed by the Latin term potestas in records of the period we have chosen to study. That is, the power to command and to punish. My question is this: in what measure did women share in this power?...

Part II. Strategy, Means, Process

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5. Proposing the Ordeal and Avoiding It: Strategy and Power in Western French Litigation, 1050–1110

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pp. 89-123

In around 1060, a famulus called Bunghole2 became entangled in a lawsuit with the abbey of Saint Vincent of Le Mans when, with the support of his lord, Richard of Loupfougere, he challenged the monks' right to a tithe in the village of Puizieux. In response, abbot Hugh arranged a meeting to discuss the dispute in the court of count Roger of Montgomery at ...

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6. England, France, and the Problem of Sacrality in Twelfth-Century Ritual

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pp. 124-148

Historians have long recognized the importance of ritual in communicating the sacred attributes of early medieval kingship. For almost as long they have understood that the power of later medieval monarchies to shape public opinion was the power of political theater.1 But between the sacred liturgies of pontifical kings and the political theater of statist monarchs lies ...

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7. Law and Power in Twelfth-Century Flanders

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pp. 149-171

In the twelfth century the county of Flanders was one of the most famous "territorial principalities" of the kingdom of France.1 For two centuries it had behaved as an autonomous state—Galbert of Bruges does not hesitate to call it a regnum and its count a princeps2—but legally speaking it was held in fief from both the French and the German crowns. These two ...

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8. Papal Judges Delegate and the Making of the "New Law" in the Twelfth Century

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pp. 172-200

In the exercise of power in twelfth-century Europe, no claims to primacy of authority and jurisdiction equalled those of the papacy in their universality and essentially spiritual nature. The fundamental basis of papal claims to universal jurisdiction lay centuries earlier in the doctrine of Petrine supremacy, the superiority of Peter among the apostles. From the fourth and fifth centuries, following the imperial acceptance of Christianity, this ...

Part III. Cultures of Power

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9. Sacred Sanctions for Lordship

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pp. 203-230

Imprisoned in Pavia and frustrated in his episcopal ambitions, Rather of Liege, writing his Praeloquia about 935, denounced lordly pretentions among the hereditary nobility. The "patron" or "lord" (senior), as he was now customarily flattered,1 paid no heed to what Augustine, Gregory, and Benedict had set down long ago about human "equality" before God. Distinctions among people arose, Rather pointedly noted, from the human ...

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10. León: The Iconography of a Capital

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pp. 231-258

Among the earliest of Romanesque tympana is one over the door opening into the southern aisle of the church of San Isidoro in Leon. At first glance the choice of the ancient theme of the Agnus Dei seems to reflect the pioneering state in the early twelfth century of the tradition of figured tympana. The pairing on the central axis of the Lamb and the Offering of Isaac apparently establishes a eucharistic iconography of a type which was to remain ...

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11. Jongleur as Propagandist: The Ecclesiastical Politics of Marcabru's Poetry

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pp. 259-286

So ends a biography (or vida) prefacing a group of poems attributed to the vernacular poet and performer Marcabru in a thirteenth-century manuscript collection of lyrics.2 What is the historical value of such a statement? Literary scholars have shown that many of these vidas are based solely on interpretations of the poetry that follows in a particular manuscript collection, ...

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12. Courtliness and Social Change

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pp. 287-309

This study suggests ways of assessing the part played by courtly literature and courtly ideals in the social changes of the twelfth century. It is not easy to assess the role of literature and ideas in any climate of social crisis and change.1 For twelfth-century court society, where imaginative literature forms a large part of the documentation, the problems are great, and that ...

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13. Principes gentium dominantur eorum: Princely Power Between Legitimacy and Illegitimacy in Twelfth-Century Exegesis

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pp. 310-328

Potestas and dominatio: even when denoting traditional rulers of royal rank, power and lordship were highly sulfurous concepts within clerical Herrschaftstheologie. 1 I have quoted from one of Gregory VTPs famous letters to Hermann, bishop of Metz; I could as well have called on Augustine's earlier condemnation of Roman lust for domination, libido dominandi.2

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pp. 329-332

People feared the great in the twelfth century, and wondered who was great. Men with power, worried when they lacked status or recognition, struggled to secure customary—that is, legal—assurance of rank. It is a characteristic oddity that ministeriales tainted with servitude often rose higher in their societies than the untainted famuli., mayors, and provosts of western France. But it is clear that service created power. By the later ...

List of Contributors

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pp. 333-336


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pp. 337-353

E-ISBN-13: 9780812200768
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812215557

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 1995

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Aristocracy (Social class) -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Nobility -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Elite (Social sciences) -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
  • Power (Social sciences) -- Congresses.
  • Social history -- Medieval, 500-1500 -- Congresses.
  • Upper class -- Europe -- History -- Congresses.
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