Living like the laity? The negotiation of religious status in the cities of late medieval Italy

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Abstract

Framed by consideration of images of treasurers on the books of the treasury in thirteenth-century Siena, this article uses evidence for the employment of men of religion in city offices in central and northern Italy to show how religious status (treated as a subset of ‘clerical culture’) could become an important object of negotiation between city and churchmen, a tool in the repertoire of power relations. It focuses on the employment of men of religion as urban treasurers and takes Florence in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries as a principal case study, but also touches on the other tasks assigned to men of religion and, very briefly, on evidence from other cities (Bologna, Brescia, Como, Milan, Padua, Perugia and Siena). It outlines some of the possible arguments deployed for this use of men of religion in order to demonstrate that religious status was, like gender, more contingent and fluid than the norm-based models often relied on as a shorthand by historians. Despite the powerful rhetoric of lay–clerical separation in this period, the engagement of men of religion in paid, term-bound urban offices inevitably brought them closer to living like the laity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-55
JournalTransactions of the Royal Historical Society
Volume20
Early online date5 Nov 2010
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

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