Their vital role supporting their husbands' work may long have been acknowledged by worshippers.
But bishops' wives have always been omitted from official portraits of their husbands in the Church of England.
Now centuries of tradition have been overturned with the first painting to include a bishop's wife.
The portrait of the Right Reverend Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells, shows his wife Dee sitting in a pew in the background at Wells Cathedral.
The oil painting, by artist Jane Allison, hangs in the hallway of the Bishop's Palace in Wells, Somerset, alongside portraits of previous bishops.
It was commissioned by the diocese and unveiled on Thursday as part of celebrations of the diocese's 1,100th anniversary.
Mrs Price, 63, said: 'I think it's an amazing picture and I'm proud to be a part of it.
'It's a massive step forward for women in the church because previously it had never been considered.
'I don't at all mind being the bishop's wife and being in the background, but I do look forward to the day when there is a woman bishop in the foreground.'
Bishop Price, 64, said: 'Having Dee in the portrait was my tribute to her and to all of the amazing work she's done. Throughout our ministry we have always worked together.'
John Andrews, a spokesman for the diocese, said: 'Before the Reformation [in the 16th century], bishops didn't have wives and many still don't. But Dee has been a massive inspiration in the regeneration of the Palace.
'Having a man and woman together had never been considered suitable before as portraits have always just been individuals.
'Having her in the portrait shows the role of women is now very much appreciated in the Church.'
Image and text by the Daily Mail