"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Antique Papal Authority

Students of the papacy, after having read and ordered for their 500 closest friends copies of my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy: Ut Unum Sint and the Prospects of East-West Unity, will be interested in a recently published book from Cambridge University Press and authored by Kristina Sess: The Formation of Papal Authority in Late Antique Italy: Roman Bishops and the Domestic Sphere (CUP, 2011, 338pp.).

This book, the publisher tells us,
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 ca. 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.

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