The Medieval Review 12.06.06

Thayer, Anne T., trans. and Katharine J. Lualdi. Guido of Monte Rochen: Handbook for Curates, A Late Medieval Manual on Pastoral Ministry. Medieval Texts in Translation. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2011. Pp. xliv, 356. . . $34.95. 978-0-8132-1869-4.

Reviewed by:

Winston E. Black
University of Tennessee

The Catholic University of America Press is to be congratulated for including in its Medieval Texts in Translation series one of the first complete translations of a medieval pastoral manual, an important genre of religious literature but still little studied despite the advances made by Fr. Leonard Boyle, Joseph Goering, Ronald Stansbury and others in the field of pastoralia. The Handbook for Curates, a translation of the Manipulus Curatorum (hereafter MC), will be helpful in making the genre of pastoralia more accessible and understandable to students of medieval religion, thought, and society. It is especially important as a key example of the intersection of religious doctrine and practice: we can follow the author as he tries to make centuries of theology and canon law comprehensible for the priest of little learning and, in turn, for his parishioners.

The MC was composed c. 1330 by a Spanish (or perhaps French) priest named Guido (his name will be discussed below), and dedicated to Raymond, bishop of Valencia (r. 1312-1348). Guido wrote the MC for the use of both neophyte priests who lacked an advanced education and better-educated priests seeking inspiration on the sacraments and pastoral care. How popular was it? There are an astonishing 250 extant manuscript copies and 123 different impressions in eleven known variations before 1510. Despite, or because of, its popularity, the MC was placed on the Index of prohibited books, and condemned in its Latin and vernacular versions in 1554. In the introduction to Handbook for Curates, Anne Thayer and Katharine Lualdi briefly examine Guido's life and the MC, but focus on the later history of the text in its printed form, and on the marginal annotations made in those editions (xxx-xli). They demonstrate the practicality of the MC and how readers made it even more useful through their marginal notations. Thayer, a scholar of late medieval and Reformation preaching, prepared the translation on the basis of a 1486 impression by Guillaume LeRoy (Lyons), now found in the British Library, collated where necessary with a 1499 edition (Strassburg: Martin Flach). This emphasis on the printed tradition leads them to ignore the technologies of manuscript production; for example, they imply that it was the printers who introduced the "table of contents, running headlines, and paragraph divisions" (xxxiii) to the MC, when all of these are present in the manuscript copies.

Guido divided his MC into three parts, gearing it towards efficient pastoral care at the parochial level, with clear descriptions of practice and performance, girded by a modicum of theory. In Part I he outlines the meaning and administration of six sacraments (baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, orders, extreme unction, and marriage). Part II he dedicates entirely to the sacrament of penance, an indication of the centrality of confession in later medieval pastoral care. Part III is the shortest by far, containing a summary of basic religious doctrine (articles of faith, Lord's prayer, Ten Commandments, etc.). Thayer has named Part III "Basic Catechesis," although no editions I have seen uses that title, opting instead for variations on "The articles of faith and those things which pertain to the teaching of the people" (de articulis fidei et de his que pertinent ad populi informationem). Thayer and Lualdi nicely demonstrate (xxiv-xxix) that the popularity of the MC is due in part to Guido's ability to adapt, simplify, and combine the features of older pastoral manuals in his treatment of the sacraments, confessional practice, and catechism. It is a "Goldilocks pastoral manual": not too long and not too short; thorough in its scope, but not overwhelming; learned, but not weighed down by excessive citation; with sections reminiscent of scholastic disputationes, yet directed toward resolving mundane issues of pastoral care, e.g. he debates whether broth or snow be used in baptism (16-17). Similarly, he simplifies difficult issues of consanguinity in marriage by inventing a couple named Bartholomew and Bertha, and naming their relatives (Peter, James, John, Andrew, etc.), and tracing their possible relations (138-140).

Thayer's translation is usually quite readable, and she has done well to break up Guido's lengthy sentences and to simplify or make active his many gerundive phrases (e.g. sciendum est). Latin words whose etymology is discussed (sacerdos, baptisare, etc.) are placed in parentheses and some of the more technical Latin phrases (e.g. opus operatum) are left in square brackets in the text. This is appreciated, such as when Guido remarks that an illiterate priest who baptizes in the (erroneous) names of patria, filia, and Spiritus sancta (21) has nonetheless performed a valid baptism if done in the right spirit. As is common among pastoral authors, Guido frequently quotes mnemonic poems to help priests remember difficult points of matrimony or impediments to sacraments, and in these cases Thayer has retained the Latin before her translation, which helps the student understand how pastoral care was taught and recalled in this period. Thayer has usefully translated the original table of contents, showing how a later medieval author divided his own text. This, however, has been placed at the end of the text (307-312), whereas most editions place it at the start, where it would be more useful.

The notes to the text are clear, if spare. Biblical references and those to a few other authors (Bede, Aquinas, Hostiensis, etc.) are placed in the footnotes. Canon law references, usually to Gratian's Decretum or Gregory IX's Liber Extra, are retained in the body of the text but modernized (i.e. "C.23 q. c.1" for in decre.23.q.3.c.Si http://decre.23.q.3.c.Si heres). Quotations from Roman law, the Code and Digest, are similarly cited within the text, but not explained in the introduction or appendix. It is appreciated in the year 2012 that websites are cited for translations of Aquinas, but it is unfortunate that only the online version of Peter Lombard's Sentences is cited (13), where only Book I and the start of Book IV have been published. There are multiple footnotes in the introduction referring to passages in the text only by section number; page numbers would have been useful (e.g. note 22, p. xx, reads only "Prologue"--where is this?). The editors include an appendix--an excellent tool for students--of "Authors and Sources Cited" by Guido, providing brief biographies or descriptions of authors and texts, from Augustine and Arius to Aquinas and John XXII. They also provide a thorough topical index and an index of scriptural quotations.

The translation is not without errors and infelicities. I have not been able to compare the entire text to the Latin, but inspection of just Guido's dedicatory letter and prologue provides the following problems: adinstar does not mean "toward the image" (3), but "in the image"; "in this way in the desert" (3) should be "in the desert of this world" (in huius mundi deserto); "in the decretals" (5) should be "in the Decretum" (quod ponitur in Decretis); "concerning the sacraments in which they are watched" (6) should be "concerning the sacraments which pertain to them" (de sacramentis que ad eos spectant). Two examples will suffice from Part III: "angelic priests" (271) should be the more common and sensible "priests of the gospel" or "evangelical priests" (euangelici sacerdotes); "may labor toward higher things" (306) should read "may labor to investigate higher things" (ad altiora investigenda laborent). This list could easily be continued. Such errors reveal unfamiliarity on Thayer's part with medieval Latin idiom, religious language, and the standard sources of pastoral care and canon law. Some of these problems may be due to differences in the printed versions, which are significant, but this only demonstrates the need for a critical edition of the MC and a study of the manuscript tradition.

What is more, Thayer and Lualdi's logic for using a printed text over a manuscript is questionable: "since more readers had access to it in print than in manuscript" (xli). There is something to be said for presenting the text as it was understood at the very end of the Middle Ages (there are thousands of extant incunable copies as opposed to a mere 250 manuscripts), but this is not necessarily the same thing as presenting the MC as it was composed in the 1330s. No reader could be blamed for assuming that she was reading a translation of the medieval text, but this is not the case. There is no indication that Thayer or Lualdi examined any manuscript copies of the MC. For a translation of such an important text, Thayer should have compared at least the two printed editions she used to one of the better manuscripts as justification for the choice of base text.

Despite my numerous criticisms, particularly with the quality of the translation and Thayer and Lualdi's naming of the author (see below), the Handbook for Curates will serve an important role in introducing students to the shape, tone, and purpose of medieval pastoral manuals. The MC was an excellent choice for translation, and Thayer and Lualdi have outlined what is both typical and singular about it within the genre of pastoralia. They have rendered in clear English and in a convenient format one of the key voices of later medieval religious practice.

Afterword: What's in a name?

It is rare for a reviewer to question the very name of an author, but in the case of the MC, I find it necessary. Thayer and Lualdi insist on the cover of Handbook for Curates and in their introduction that the author of MC is one Guido de Monte Rochen, although they note that he is variously called "Monte Rocherii," "Monte Rocherio," and "Monte Roterio" (xiii). In defense of their choice of "Monte Rochen," they invoke the authority of the online version of the British Library's Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (, which uses "Monte Rochen" for all the listed editions regardless of the spelling in any given edition. "Monte Rochen" is likewise used for all entries of the MC in the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, even though the incipits provided in dozens of those entries give the name as "Monte Rotherii." Thayer and Lualdi take it for granted that the ISTC is correct without reference to any manuscript or printed evidence.

Guido's name, however, was already discussed by Conrado Guardiola in 1988 and by Raimundo Diosdado Cabellero as far back as 1793. Both agree that Guido's name is "Monte Rotherii" or "Rocherii." Diosdado Caballero, in fact, postulated in his De prima typographiae Hispanicae aetate specimen that "Monte Rochen" was an error of the Venetian printers that was adopted in some later editions. Guardiola likewise says that Monte Rochen is a false reading from "Monte Rocheri" in which the "n" is a misreading of "ri." He concludes on linguistic, paleographic, and printed evidence that the author is Guido de Monte Roquerio of Teruel in Aragon. (The editors do cite Guardiola's essay, but seem to have ignored his conclusions.)

This ghost name--for that is what it surely is--was adopted by the ISTC and Gesamtkatalog, without regard for the fact that nearly every manuscript and incunable of the MC gives the readings "Rotherii" or "Rocherii." I examined three manuscripts of the MC, all fifteenth century and of Italian provenance (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, ms 225; Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosia, A 146 Sup.; and the bookseller Les Enluminures has another copy for sale displayed online at, and all have the author's name written as "Rotherii" or "Rocherii." Likewise, a significant number of incunable editions of the MC are available to view online through the ISTC, Gallica, and Google Books. An informal review of these sites reveals that two Venetian editions (Andreas de Bonetis, 1483; Damianus de Mediolano, 1493) do indeed give the name as "Monte Rochen," while in one Cologne edition (Johann Guldenschaff, 1480) the name has been omitted entirely from the dedicatory epistle. But in fifteen editions (all German but for two Parisian) the name is again "Rotherii" or "Rocherii." If Guido was indeed from a place called "Mons Rochen," then the burden of proof lays on Thayer and Lualdi to prove why "Rotherii" is wrong and to tell us the location of "Mons Rochen."