The Formation of Papal Authority in Late Antique Italy: Roman Bishops and the Domestic Sphere

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Cambridge University Press, Nov 21, 2011 - History
This book is the first cultural history of papal authority in late antiquity. While most traditional histories posit a 'rise of the papacy' and examine popes as politicians, theologians and civic leaders, Kristina Sessa focuses on the late Roman household and its critical role in the development of the Roman church from c.350–600. She argues that Rome's bishops adopted the ancient elite household as a model of good government for leading the church. Central to this phenomenon was the classical and biblical figure of the steward, the householder's appointed agent who oversaw his property and people. As stewards of God, Roman bishops endeavored to exercise moral and material influence within both the pope's own administration and the households of Italy's clergy and lay elites. This original and nuanced study charts their manifold interactions with late Roman households and shows how bishops used domestic knowledge as the basis for establishing their authority as Italy's singular religious leaders.


Household Management and the Bishop of Rome
Chapter 1 The Late Roman Household in Italy
Stewardship as an Elite Ideal
Episcopal Householding in Theory and Practice
Bishops and Lay Households
Marriage Property and Inheritance
Succession Stewardship and Sex in the Laurentian Schism
Authority Cooperation and Competition in the Gesta Martyrum

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About the author (2011)

Kristina Sessa is Assistant Professor of History and Associate Director for the Center of the Study of Religion at Ohio State University. She was named a Fellow of the American Academy of Rome in 2001 and a Fellow of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America at Columbia University in 2006–7. She is the author of several articles on bishops, Christianity and the domestic sphere and edited a special volume of the Journal of Early Christian Studies.

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