"Once Mistress of the World:" Rome, St. Peter, and female devotion in the early Middle Ages
Metadata[+] Show full item record
[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] I reassess the reception of Rome in the early medieval west from the historiographical background of women's history. Women's conception of Rome as a cult center, an intervening ally, and a devotional adviser between 300-900 CE proved crucial in a coming-of-age period for the papacy, whose spiritual authority had begun to resonate from the Mediterranean northward as the vicar of St. Peter. My consideration of women through the lens of Petrine devotion and Roman networks stands out from previous studies that cite papal legitimacy and Roman influence in the political and rhetorical debates among the pope, bishops, and rulers. Through examinations of women's devotional practices involving Rome, it is possible to see the significance of the city and its representatives in the devotional lives of western Christians along with women's vital part in maintaining and extending papal authority and Roman cults in the first millennium. This study draws from hagiographical, epistolary, and literary sources in addition to the use of material evidence such as inscriptions, devotional objects, and architecture. None of these sources are new to early medievalists, but when read for the Roman affiliations within female devotion, they bring us to expand our impressions of Rome's reception in the west and redefine our expectations of women's religious practices. In order to capture the breadth of early medieval women's associations with Rome, this study takes a broad geographic and social approach. The geographic focus for this study spans from Rome to include Francia and Anglo-Saxon England in order to emphasize the extent of Rome's appeal, and also to demonstrate women's involvement in the widespread travel networks that culminated at the city. Although elite women dominate sources for early medieval women, it is nevertheless possible to tease out from evaluations of cult worship the devotional trends of popular religion, and with them the deeds of the poor or middling ranks in society. This broad examination of devotion in terms of geography and social rank contributes to a dynamic image of the late antique and early medieval worlds, providing further caution against assumptions that the local predominated in the worldview of those living in the centuries following the political fall of Rome. As we continue to gradually reinsert Rome into the narrative of the early medieval west, women should figure in our discussions of the developments in papal authority, the success of the cults of Roman saints, and the facilitation of pilgrimage and exchange routes that extended from Rome through Francia and across the English Channel. The continuity of women's roles in domestic devotion between late antique and early medieval culture grounds the survey of Rome and its reception in the west, even as we struggle with the real changes in its political and economic structures. Although early medieval men and women witnessed a localization of thought and exchange following the withdrawal of the Roman Empire, they were no less aware of the enduring ties between their region and that of Rome, the city that was once “Mistress of the World.”
Access to files is limited to the University of Missouri--Columbia.