Going Medieval

Medieval adventures without a TARDIS

‘Power of the Bishop’ Conference

Organizers and Editors

Dr Angelo Silvestri ; Dr Chris Dennis ; Dr Melissa Julian-Jones

Chief Editor of Conference Transactions

Prof. Peter R. Coss

Power of the Bishop Conference


‘In the Hands of God’s Servants’: The Power of the Bishop in Western Europe 1000-1300 was the inaugural conference of a biannual series, held at Cardiff University in May 2013. While episcopal power is a topic very much in vogue at the moment, with several ecclesiastic and episcopal series appearing in the catalogues of several major academic publishers,  not a great deal has been done regarding the local centre of a bishop’s power.

Bishops Conference

Bishops occupied a prominent place in the hierarchy of the medieval church, but they were also able to exercise power in a secular context as judges, warriors, advisors to princes and as lords who exploited a broad range of rights over land and people. Although the careers of the most famous of their number have attracted much interest in modern historiography, the nature, extent and significance of episcopal power at a local level, which formed the basis for the bishop’s pre-eminence in medieval society, has not been fully considered. The aim of this conference was to gain a clearer understanding of the construction, enhancement and expression of episcopal power at a local level in Western Europe. Since a bishop’s local power was intimately connected to the episcopal office and the duties it entailed, the conference will be focused in particular on these activities, such as a bishop’s pastoral responsibilities and his role in the liturgy, and their role in the formation and development of episcopal power. However, the effect on episcopal power of other aspects of a bishop’s role in local society was also considered, such as his relationship with aristocratic families. 

There were 19 speakers from the United Kingdom, USA and across Europe with a significant number of people attending the sessions over the two days. The event featured eminent academics as well as postgraduate students including Prof. Peter Coss from Cardiff University, Dr Stephen Marritt from Glasgow University, and Dr William Aird from Edinburgh University as keynote speakers. The event was a great success and we received extremely positive feedback from all the participants both for the organisation and for the quality of the papers. 

We received funding and marketing support from the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, the School of European Studies, Politics and Translation [now the School of Modern Languages and the School of Politics and International Relations], the Royal Historical Society, and the Higher Education Academy, for which we are extremely grateful.

I blogged about the conference last year, and can now add an update regarding the conference transactions.

Excitingly, our book proposal has been looked over by Brepols, who have requested the full MS. Our deadline for all the papers is September 2014, and although I must stress this is not a signed and sealed deal, even if Brepols come back and say no, we will at least then have a complete MS to send to other publishers! Fingers crossed.

Power of the Bishop II took place in June 2015, and focused on Episcopal Personalities. We had a great time with speakers and delegates from the USA, EU and UK, with some familiar faces from 2013! We are now in the process of organising the 2017 conference, Power of the Bishop III.

Stay tuned!


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