Book Series Studies in the Early Middle Ages, vol. 42

Churches and Social Power in Early Medieval Europe

Integrating Archaeological and Historical Approaches

Jose Sánchez-Pardo, Michael Shapland (eds)

  • Pages: xvi + 553 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:120 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2015

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-54555-4
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-54740-4
  • E-book
  • Available

A comparative and interdisciplinary approach to secular power and the foundation of medieval churches


“Fascinating about this collection is the comparative ease with which one can indulge in each region. The contributions are just long enough to allow the authors to presented telling examples from key sites, to introduce theoretical background and current debates connected. At the same time they are short enough to quicken the reader's appetite - a desire which can easily be appeased with the help of ample footnotes and references.” (Sophie Hueglin, im H-Soz-Kult, 25.05.2016)

"This well-organised and diverse volume considers the question of early medieval churches and social power (…) I would highly recommend this volume to anyone who is interested in early medieval Christianity or elite power in Western Europe." (Samantha Leggett, in Parergon, 33/2, 2016, p. 167-168)

“Pan-European approaches to the study of early medieval social processes, let alone the church and its role in this, are very much in their infancy. This landmark volume makes a notable contribution towards addressing this. Its success lies in the editors’ clear vision, the diversity, quality and depth of the sixteen case studies, and the way the whole has been drawn together.” (Sally Foster, in Landscape History, 38/1, 2017, p. 101)

“El esfuerzo realizado por ofrecer un nuevo panorama sobre la fundación de iglesias en el altomedievo europeo es tan necesario como meritorio (…)” (Maria De Los Áangeles Utrero Agudo, in Anuario de Estudios Medievales, 47/1, 2017, p. 451)

“In reality, one of the main values of this book is its presentation – with many and excellent drawings – of recent excavations and architectural analyses of late antique and very early medieval churches, especially in Spain, Italy and southern Gaul. Many of these buildings are poorly known, and the scale of recent advances through high-quality professional survey is impressive. There is also excellent archaeological work from outside the Mediterranean zone (…)” (John Blair, in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 69, 2018, p. 387)


Local churches were an established part of many towns and villages across early medieval Western Europe, and their continued presence make them an invaluable marker for comparing different societies. Up to now, however, the dynamics of power behind church building and the importance of their presence within the landscape have largely been neglected.

This book takes a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to the study of early medieval churches, drawing together archaeology, history, architecture, and landscape studies in order to explore the relationship between church foundation, social power, and political organization across Europe. Key subjects addressed here include the role played by local elites and the importance of the church in buttressing authority, as well as the connections between archaeology and ideology, and the importance of individual church buildings in their broader landscape contexts.

Bringing together case-studies from diverse regions across Western Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, the British Isles, Denmark, and Iceland), the seventeen contributions to this volume offer new insights into the relationships between church foundations, social power, and political organization. In doing so, they provide a means to better understand social power in the landscape of early medieval Europe.



Introduction: Churches and Social Power in Early Medieval Europe — JOSÉ CARLOS SÁNCHEZ-PARDO AND MICHAEL SHAPLAND

Part I: Churches as Channels for Power Relations

Founding and Owning Churches in Early Medieval Álava (North Spain): The Creation, Transmission, and Monumentalization of Memory — JUAN ANTONIO QUIRÓS AND IGOR SANTOS

Local Churches and Lordship in Late Antique and Early Medieval Northern Italy —ALEXANDRA CHAVARRÍA

Local Churches and Social Power in Early Medieval Ireland: A Case Study of the Kingdom of Fir Maige — TOMAS O’CARRAGAIN

Churches and Social Elites in Early Medieval Tuscany: a Quantitative-Statistical Approach to the Episcopal Archive of Lucca — ROBERTO FARINELLI

Part II: Churches and the Transition of Power

Patronage in Transition: Lordship, Churches, and Funerary Monuments in Anglo-Norman England — ALEKSANDRA MCCLAIN

Power Strategies in the Early Medieval Churches of Galicia (711–910 ad) — JOSÉ CARLOS SÁNCHEZ-PARDO

Heidenheim and Samos: Monastic Remembrance of the ‘Anglo-Saxon Mission’ in Southern Germany and the ‘Mozarabic Resettlement’ of Northern Spain Compared — CHRISTOFER ZWANZIG

Churches and Lordship in Western Normandy, 800–1200 ad — DAVID PETTS

Part III: Churches in Landscapes of Power

Early Medieval Religion and Social Power: a Comparative Study of Rural Elites and Church Building in Northern France and Southern Scandinavia — ANNE NISSEN-JAUBERT

The Church and the Land: Settlement, Economy and Social Power in Early Medieval England — DUNCAN W. WRIGHT

Powers, Territories, and Architecture in Northwest Portugal: an Approach to the Christian Landscapes of Braga Between the Fifth and Eleventh Centuries — LUIS FONTES

Local Churches, Settlements, and Social Power in Late Antique and Early Medieval Gaul: New Avenues in the Light of Recent Archaeological Research in South-East France — CHRISTINE DELAPLACE

Part IV: Churches as Centres of Power

Architecture and Power at the End of the Lombard Kingdom — GIAN PIETRO BROGIOLO

On the Origins of the Great Carolingian Place of Power: Recent Excavations at Aachen Cathedral — ANDREAS SCHAUB AND TANJA KOHLBERGER

Royal Churches and the Practice of Anglo-Saxon Kingship — MICHAEL SHAPLAND

The Development of the Church in Iceland in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries, with reference to the Reykholt Church — GUÐRÚN SVEINBJARNARDÓTTIR

Index of people, places, and subjects