The relationships among members of the clerical elite in thirteenth-century Scandinavia have often been presumed to have been governed by the formalized hierarchies of the church. However, the conflict between the Cistercian monks at Øm Abbey near Aarhus in Denmark, and Tyge, the local bishop, reveals alternative ways of constructing hierarchy. Since bishops at that time had no formal jurisdiction over the Cistercians, Tyge tried to use the concept of “friendship” (amicitia) to construct a power relationship, while the monks proposed a completely different understanding of what the friendship should entail. A careful reading of Exordium Monasterii Carae Insulae (the Øm Abbey Chronicle) – the abbey’s own record of the conflict – reveals how different interpretations of gifts, land transactions, and friendships could be used to construct hierarchies within clerical elites. The outcome of the conflict was mainly determined by the socio-political networks of the two parties, and legal argumentation was valid only when there was power to enforce it.