The Medieval Review 11.07.16

Madignier, Jacques. Diocèse d'Autun. Fasti Ecclesiae Gallicanae: Répertoire prosopographique des évêques, dignitaires et chanoines des diocèses de France de 1200 à 1500, vol. 12. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2010. Pp. viii, 477. . . EUR 71.50. 978-2-503-53571-5.

Reviewed by:

Constance Bouchard
University of Akron

The Gallia christiana [GC] is an extremely useful but sometimes unreliable source. For the most part put together in the eighteenth century by highly learned and pioneering scholars, its lists of bishops and abbots of France are still used because they are often all we have. Given how many more sources have become available, however, it is possible now for scholars to produce much fuller and more accurate histories of French churches.

In recent decades there have thus been several projects undertaken to provide new reference works, intended to replace the GC and other eighteenth- through early twentieth-century scholarly efforts. (No one, however, is undertaking to print, as the GC did, the primary source documents the editors considered the most important for each diocese.) The "Series episcoporum ecclesiae catholicae occidentalis," or "new Gams" as it is often called, first appeared in 1982. It gives detailed lists of bishops who held office before the year 1198, but so far has produced only a small number of volumes for dioceses in Germany, Britain, and Scandinavia, none yet concerning France.

The "Fasti ecclesiae Gallicanae," on the other hand, focuses exclusively on France in the later Middle Ages, beginning with the year 1200. Unlike the GC, it is not concerned with ecclesiastics other than the bishops, the cathedral officers, and the canons. There is no information here on monasteries, nunneries or other religious houses, although the listing of cathedral canons is very thorough (unlike GC). The first volume appeared in 1995, and subsequent volumes have been appearing every year or so, each covering one diocese. They have appeared in no particular order, as the different scholars undertaking the project have completed their work; the series editor calls this a "mosaic" pattern (viii). So far the series has produced volumes for Amiens, Rouen, Reims, Besançon, Agen, Rodez, Angers, Mende, Sées, Poitiers, Sens, and now Autun. (The next promised volume is Châlons-en-Champagne.)

Like the other books in the series, the Autun volume is primarily a listing, not a monograph. Fifty pages are devoted to three centuries of bishops of Autun; each has a page or two, with information on his family and career, followed by a list of sources, both primary and secondary. The bulk of the book, however, over three hundred pages, is given to the canons of Autun. They are listed alphabetically by first name, and for each a few words are given on their background and career, such as it can be found in the sources--which for most means very little. The list of canons is completed by a list of "clercs exclus," men who tried to join the cathedral chapter but were not successful.

Contrasting with the rather dry list of canons and dignitaries is a long section at the beginning which gives an overview of the history of the diocese of Autun, before as well as after 1200, including the layout of the city and the cathedral quarter, the famous Romanesque church of St.-Lazare--which however was not originally the cathedral-- the cathedral treasury, and such interesting information as the books now in the municipal library which were known to have been in the cathedral library before the French Revolution. This introductory section, some one hundred pages, is an excellent place to start for anyone studying medieval Autun.

The volume, like the rest of the series, impresses with the thoroughness of the research that led to the identification of nearly a thousand clerics. Excluding the highly unlikely discovery of unknown archives, it will be the ultimate reference work enumerating the men who served in the late medieval cathedral of Autun. And yet at the same time the volume (again like the rest of the series) frustrates because it is difficult to use.

The bishops and canons are each assigned an index number, intended to identify them in a data base, but no details are given on exactly how a number was assigned or, for that matter, what purpose it serves. The bishops, who appear first in the volume, start not with number 1 as one might have expected but with number 297. Overall, no one is assigned a number smaller than 201. In general the numbers are assigned alphabetically by first name (bishops and canons alphabetized together), but there are inexplicable anomalies. For example, everyone from 910 to 941 is a Johannes--except for 919, who is Ferricus. Another group of men also named Johannes are given the numbers 544 to 651, with one Innocentius in their midst (at number 584). The indices to cognomina and to diocesesan cities in which the Autun clerics might function refer to people by their numbers, but given the way that numbers were assigned it is then sometimes difficult to find the person in question, or even to know whether to look for him among the bishops or the canons. Searching for someone by index number in a computer data base would of course be easy, but this is a book, not a computer file.

The bibliography is also hard to use. There is not one list but multiple ones, brief bibliographies for most of the short introductory sections at the beginning of the volume, and then a more comprehensive one divided among works on Autun, works on Burgundy, studies of cathedral canons, "general" works, reference works, and so on. One would also not know from looking over the bibliographies that anyone had ever published on Autun in a language other than French. Just one example of a serious omission is Linda Seidel's study of the construction and sculpture of the church of St.-Lazare.[1]

The most useful part of the book is the list of bishops, with information on their background, election, and notable accomplishments. Indeed, one wishes that this section could have been much longer. Few scholars, on the other hand, will find reason to consult the list of canons, which can usually give little more detail than that a canon appeared in a document in a certain year, or is known to have had a house in the cathedral close. This is rather too bad, given how much work must have gone into assembling the list. The book, like the rest of the series, will find a home in most research libraries, but we are still very far from replacing the GC.



1. Linda Seidel, Legends in Limestone: Lazarus, Gislebertus, and the Cathedral of Autun (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).