Mediaevalia

Volume 44, 2023

Angelica Federici
Pages 185-214

Politics, Power, and Prestige in Female Conventual Communities of Medieval Latium
The Exemplary Case of Santa Maria in Viano (Frosinone)

The renewed academic interest in religious women has not resulted in any overarching or detailed study of Latium. A thorough historiography is still lacking for the region’s late medieval convents. This is surprising as the region was densely populated by female monastic settlements between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. An emblematic case in this regard is the convent of Santa Maria in Viano in Sgurgola (Frosinone). By the fourteenth century, almost half of the Conti family estate in Sgurgola was owned by the nunnery of Santa Maria in Viano. The convent played a pivotal role in shifting the delicate power balance between feudal lords in the region. What emerges is the prominent and strategic role of female monastic communities whose political agency casts a new light on an overlooked but historically dynamic period. Rural monastic settlements functioned as strategic frontiers, which were crucial to regional baronial land interests during the earlier period. Unsurprisingly, the presence of innovative architectural and artistic elements inside the church of Santa Maria in Viano also showcases the synthesis of Cistercian architectural models and local building traditions.