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Winner of Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize

2018 Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize

The Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize recognizes a first article in the field of medieval studies of outstanding quality. It is awarded this year to Alison Locke Perchuk’s powerful and original article, “Schismatic (Re)Visions: Sant’Elia near Nepi and Sta. Maria in Trastevere in Rome, 1120-1143,” Gesta 5 (2016): 179-212. In this gracefully interdisciplinary article, Perchuk draws on diverse material and textual sources to recover a lost history: the political use of church architecture and icon replication by early twelfth-century popes Calixtus II and Anacletus II to assert their authority against competing claims by the emperor and rival popes—a history erased when competitors such as Innocent II gained recognition as legitimate. In doing so, Perchuk revisits the question of how ecclesiastical architecture around Rome served to encode political messages as the reforming popes attempted to impose their vision of authority on Rome’s landscape. In particular, Perchuk makes innovative and provocative use of ideas of center and periphery and of reception theory to show how politicized monuments can lose their original meaning and how other monuments can become repoliticized. She cogently reinterprets the architectural history of a church outside Rome long seen as an example of provincial Romanesque, Sant’Elia, to reveal it instead as a significant monument to papal Romanitas and as a crucial boundary marker for papal authority. As she shows, one marker of Sant’Elia’s original status as a monument to papal power was its incorporation of the image of the Madonna della Clemenza, a politicized icon that also played a role in the Roman church of Sta. Maria de Trastevere. The twelfth-century renovations of this church have long been attributed to Innocent II, but Perchuk’s sensitive reading of the building reveals instead an alternative history of papal legitimacy promoted by Anacletus II and later erased and reconfigured by Innocent II. Perchuk’s impeccably researched and beautifully written article thus reveals a palimpsest that contradicts the official version of papal history. With its important and provocative reinterpretations of papal and architectural history, its broad-ranging conclusions, its sophisticated use of theory, and its detailed and comprehensive scholarship, “Schismatic (Re)Visions” is an exemplary first article.

Robert J. Meyer-Lee

Daniel Hobbins

Amy G. Remensnyder (Chair)

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