Maureen C. Miller of UC Berkeley wins Shea Book Prize

2015 ACHA John Gilmary Shea prize awarded to
Maureen C. Miller, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley


Maureen C. Miller
Maureen C. Miller

Clothing the Clergy: Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, c. 800-1200

The John Gilmary Shea Prize is “given annually to the author of a book, published during a preceding twelve-month period, which is judged by a committee of experts to have made the most original and distinguished contribution to knowledge of the history of the Catholic Church.”

In awarded the Shea prize to Maureen C. Miller, University of California, Berkeley, for Clothing the Clergy: Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, c. 800-1200 (Cornell University Press), the Committee commented that

“It is common for historians to speak metaphorically of following threads and weaving together stories.  But for Maureen C. Miller, textiles and their production offer more than just a language to explain the historian’s craft.  They instead serve as crucial texts themselves, providing new and valuable insights into the past.  In Clothing the Clergy: Virtue, and Power in Medieval Europe, c. 800-1200, Miller deftly demonstrates the importance of clerical vestments for understanding how religious authority was conceived and exercised.  As she reveals, the gradual rise in the status of the clergy from the early to high Middle Ages was accompanied by ever more elaborate forms of clothing, even though this development stood in contrast to the repeated calls for reform among certain quarters of the clergy.  Eventually, the reformers adopted the type of magnificent vestments that have been the markers of clerical power down to the modern era.  Relying on a wide array of physical evidence, Miller reveals the level of effort invested in producing these vestments and how the styles changed over her period as a reflection of changing ideas about clerical virtue and power.  She further demonstrates the role of female patrons and producers in making the vestments, showing how women actively shaped clerical culture.  Miller’s work exemplifies the value of the study of material culture and offers a compelling argument that deepens our understanding of medieval Catholicism and its legacy.”

The selection of Dr. Miller’s work is doubly significant because this marks the first time that an individual has been a two-time recipient of this honor.  Dr. Miller had previously been awarded the 1993 Shea prize for her book, The Formation of a Medieval Church: Ecclesiastical Change in Verona, 950-1150 (Cornell University Press).  We congratulate her on her fine accomplishments.