CFP: Imperialis Ecclesia (Rome, 30 Jun-1 Jul 16)

Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max Planck Institute for Art History, Rome, June
30 – July 1, 2016
Deadline: Feb 15, 2016

“Imperialis Ecclesia”: Frederick II Hohenstaufen and sacred architecture between Italy and Germany
International ConferenceFrederick II
organised by Francesco Gangemi and Tanja Michalsky

Art under Frederick II is commonly held to be mainly a secular phenomenon, a product of imperial authority in open conflict with the Church. In fact, the activity of Frederick as a builder of castles is well known, while religious buildings are doubtless a secondary aspect
of his patronage. As a consequence, the artistic evidence related to the emperor and belonging to the sacred sphere is among the most disregarded and controversial aspects of his reign.  Paradoxically, the sacred character of the sovereign has long been the subject of debate in research on the imperial ideology of Frederick.
Many historical, philosophical and philological studies – from
Kantorowicz’s messianic interpretation to Abulafia’s demystification
and to more recent contributions – have developed around the concept of
an «imperialis Ecclesia» (according to Pier della Vigna) as a
fundamental theme in the historiography on Frederick.
Religious buildings are neglected in these studies, both because of the
difficulty in identifying sacred architecture explicitly related to the
emperor and because of the emperor’s assumed indifference to religious
patronage. Despite the reticence to acknowledge a Frederician sacred
art, however, it is indisputable that a medieval sovereign needed
temples in order to represent his own authority and as an instrument of
ideological and political propaganda.

This conference aims to define the role of Frederick II for the sacred
architecture of his time in Italy and Germany. For that matter it
investigates the dialectic between the two countries as a reflection of
his dual identity – Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily – and
considers his Norman and Hohenstaufen heritage.
The primary purpose of the symposium is to define Frederick’s concern
for religious buildings, their functions in the representation of the
imperial power or vice versa the possibility that this function was not
fulfilled, by discussing their historical and political contexts. At
the same time, we want to discuss the role of Frederick and the
Hohenstaufen with respect to the spread of Gothic style in Italy and
Germany against the background of the great changes that took place in
architecture and sculpture during the first half of the 13th century.

Especially encouraged are presentations that refer to the following
– the sacred character of the emperor in Frederick’s imago publica and
the contexts where it was eventually manifested
– the religious buildings commissioned by Frederick, the buildings that
attracted his interest, and those that were influenced by his
political, artistic and territorial strategies
– the manifestation of imperial power in the church: the use of its
space for liturgy, coronation ceremonies, burials, and assertions of
the sovereign’s presence
– the relationship between church and palace: palatine chapels and
churches used by the Emperor
– the foundations belonging to religious orders supported by Frederick
II, such as the Teutonic Order and the Cistercians
– Frederick’s policy concerning sacred art in comparison to his Norman
and Hohenstaufen predecessors

Proposals for talks should be sent in the form of an abstract (max 1
page) with a brief CV by February, 15th, 2016 to


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