The Medieval Review 11.06.29

Jacobsen, Peter Christian. Miracula s. Gorgonii, Studien und Texte zur Gorgonius-Verehrung im 10. Jahrhundert. MGH, Studien und Texte, Band 46. Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2009. Pp. xix, 222. 30.00 EUR. 97837752-5706-0. . .

Reviewed by:

Scott G. Bruce
University of Colorado

Poor Gorze. This imperial monastery, founded in Lotharingia by Chrodegang of Metz in 749, has always suffered from comparison to its younger but much more influential Burgundian rival, the abbey of Cluny (founded in 910). [1] In response to late nineteenth-century depictions of Cluny as the center of a universal reform of European monasticism in the tenth century, Kassius Hallinger championed the abbey of Gorze as a font of ascetic spirituality that was distinct in its idiom from Cluny and no less legitimate. Hallinger's massive work on the topic--Gorze-Cluny: Studien zu den monastischen Lebensformen und Gegensätzen im Hochmittelalter--inspired two generations of historians to pay closer attention to monastic customaries (consuetudines) as sources for religious history, but did not succeed in shifting scholarly interest away from Cluny. [2] The most recent reevaluation of Hallinger's thesis by Anne Wagner pretty much lays the matter to rest. [3] She concludes that in the tenth century, as Cluny was stretching its tendrils into Provence and Italy, Gorze's influence was still primarily local and confined to dependencies in the Moselle valley. Only in the eleventh century, when Cluny was at the height of its power and prestige, did Gorze begin to find its stride, but it never became the head of a monastic order (ordo), as Hallinger had argued.

Historians have not given up on Gorze, however, and rightfully so. In this critical edition of a cluster of tenth-century texts, Peter Christian Jacobsen draws attention to an aspect of Gorze's devotional history that distinguishes this institution markedly from the abbey of Cluny: the cult of relics. While the great Burgundian monastery had a significant relic collection, it remains understudied, in part because the Cluniacs did not produce texts to promote it. The monks of Gorze did otherwise. In the tenth century, they composed a number of texts related to Saint Gorgonius, a martyr of Diocletian's persecution whose remains Chrodogang imported from Rome to Gorze when he founded the abbey in the eighth century. These included a collection of the saint's miracles that doubled as a history of Gorze from its foundation to the tenth century (BHL 3621), a passio of Gorgonius composed by Bishop Milo of Minden for the monks of Gorze (BHL 3617), as well as two sermons that were read on his feast day at Minden and Gorze. Jacobsen provides new critical editions of all of these texts and sets out in his introduction to answer the central question that arises from them: why did the monks of Gorze and Minden lend so much energy to the cult of Saint Gorgonius in the tenth century, over two hundred years after the arrival of his relics from Rome?

As Patrick Geary and others have taught us, the theft of holy remains (furta sacra) always occurs with the tacit permission of the saint in question. [4] The integrity of the new cult is founded entirely on the saint's willingness to change locales. Imagine then the anxiety of the monks of Gorze, when rumor reached them in the mid- tenth century that relics of their very own Gorgonius (medietas corporis--half of his body!) had been discovered in Saxony at the abbey of Minden. With fear and trembling, they approached the shrine of their saint to investigate the state of his bodily remains, only to be driven away by a holy fright when they attempted to break the seal of the tomb. Unease about the integrity of their cult no doubt prompted the composition of the Miracula sancti Gorgonii, wherein the monks of Gorze relate this vivid and compelling story. How these remains of Gorgonius came to Minden is anyone's guess. Was there a separate translation of his relics from Rome to Saxony (as there was to Marmoutier in the ninth century)? [5] Or were these relics originally from Gorze, displaced perhaps when the monks fled with them to Metz to escape the onslaught of the Magyars in the first decades of the tenth century? Whatever the case, it is clear that the monks of Gorze had to reconcile themselves to the fact that they were no longer the sole representatives of the saint's saving virtus.

This edition of the Miracula sancti Gorgonii and its allied texts meets the high expections of scholarship that we have come to expect from the Monumenta Germaniae Historica. The critical apparatus is clear and learned. Four useful indices of sources, manuscripts, names and individual words close out the volume. It would have been preferable to have the Latin edition and German translation of the miracula on facing pages, rather than presenting them seriatim, as this would have saved the attentive reader the awkward task of flipping back and forth repeatedly between them. The bibliography is generally comprehensive, but weak on English scholarship. Jacobsen knows the work directly related to Gorze, like John Nightingale's Monasteries and Patrons in the Gorze Reform: Lotharingia c. 850-1000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), but often overlooks important scholarship on more general themes that are nonetheless important to his book, like Julia H. M. Smith's many articles on the translation of Roman saints to northern Europe in the early Middle Ages. [6]

This collection of tenth-century texts related to the cult of Saint Gorgonius from Gorze and Minden will reward historians of early medieval monasticism and the cult of relics. Rivalry between Christian cult centers is not unknown in the early Middle Ages, but rarely do we have the opportunity to observe its complexities as clearly as we can in the case of Gorgonius. The scholarly conversation about the early medieval legacy of this Roman martyr has become even richer with the recent appearance of new editions and French translation of many of the same texts treated by Jacobsen. [7] Let us hope that both of these books stimulate further interest in these Ottonian monasteries and the Roman relics they venerated for some time to come.



1. On the activities of Chrodegang and the founding of Gorze, see M. A. Claussen, The Reform of the Frankish Church: Chrodegang of Metz and the Regula canonicorum in the Eighth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

2. Studia Anselmiana 22-25 (Rome, 1950-51). For a recent collection of articles that demonstrates the different ways that monastic historians can utilize monastic customaries, see From Dead of Night to End of Day: The Medieval Customs of Cluny/du Coeur de la nuit à la fin du jour: les coutumes clunisiennes au Moyen Âge, ed. Susan Boynton and Isabelle Cochelin (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005).

3. Anne Wagner, Gorze au XIe siècle: Contribution à l'histoire du monachisme bénédictin dans l'empire (Turnhout: Brepols, 1996).

4. Patrick Geary, Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages, revised edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).

5. M. E. van de Beek, "Mobilising Special Forces: An Examination of the Historia Translationis of the Martyr Gorgon and the Uses of this Saint for the Monastery of Marmoutier in the Mid-Ninth Century" (unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Utrecht, 2009).

6. See, for example, Julia M. H. Smith, "Old Saints, New Cults: Roman Relics in Carolingian Francia," in Early Medieval Rome and the Christian West: Essays in Honour of Donald A. Bullough, ed. Julia M. H. Smith (Leiden: Brill, 2000), pp. 317-339.

7. Sources hagiographiques de l'histoire de Gorze (Xe siècle): Vie de saint Chrodegang, Panégyrique et Miracles de saint Gorgon, eds. Monique Goullet, Michel Parisse and Anne Wagner (Paris: Picard, 2010).