Peter Diehl

title.none: Miller, Formation of a Medieval Church

identifier.other: baj9928.9402.009 94.02.09

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Peter Diehl, Western Washington University

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1994

identifier.citation: Miller, Maureen. The Formation of a Medieval Church: Ecclesiastical Change in Verona, 950-1150. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. ISBN: ISBN0-8014-2837-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 94.02.09

Miller, Maureen. The Formation of a Medieval Church: Ecclesiastical Change in Verona, 950-1150. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. ISBN: ISBN0-8014-2837-8.

Reviewed by:

Peter Diehl
Western Washington University

Maureen Miller offers a new understanding of ecclesiastical reform and growth in this exemplary study of Verona's ecclesiastical institutions. Her book reflects intensive, meticulous archival research and a thorough grounding in the local historiography of Verona, but it avoids the campanilismo still found in many studies of Italian cities. Miller successfully relates local developments to broader trends in the history of the Church in Italy and western Europe as a whole. The example of Verona enables her to reassess the concept of ecclesiastical reform and the role of the papacy in promoting reform. She aims "to make some small contribution toward a new kind of Church history" (6) by combining the strengths of traditional institutional approaches, focused on authority and power, and recent religious history, oriented to anthropological and sociological concerns. At the same time, she hopes to avoid the pitfalls of both schools, the "history from the top down" and confessional biases of traditional Church history (5), as well as the new religious history's "tendency to associate institutions with the repression of popular piety" (6). The book largely succeeds in achieving these goals.

Miller's choice of Verona is a shrewd one. The city's history typifies developments in many northern Italian cities: spectacular economic and demographic growth during the eleventh and twelfth centuries and a move from rule by imperial delegates (the bishop and count) to a communal government. She remarks on the city's typicality, noting its similarities to many other medium-size cities in Italy and elsewhere (7-8). Other considerations, however, distinguish Verona from the typical medieval city. Unusually ample runs of documents in the city's archives and the Vatican Archives allow an historian to investigate the city's ecclesiastical institutions in minute detail. Furthermore, Verona's strategic position athwart the Adige, controlling access to the Brenner Pass, guaranteed that Verona would never become just another city. Verona remained important to the emperors throughout the period of Miller's study and became vital to the popes as well when their ecclesiological conceptions and political claims came into conflict with the emperors from the 1070s onward.

Despite the city's strategic importance, Miller finds that emperors and popes exercised only limited influence on Veronese ecclesiastical institutions and on local reform efforts. Most significant changes in the Veronese church sprang from local sources or the initiatives of particular individuals acting on their own impulses rather than the orders of political or ecclesiastical superiors. The same principle also applied to resistance to reform—local individuals and institutions rather than external forces decided the issue. Ratherius, the most famous bishop of Verona in this period, provides perhaps the key example. He owed his position to royal appointment in each of his terms as bishop, but his efforts to reform the diocese's clergy sprang from w ithin. He is best known for his objections to the "mulierositas" of many Veronese clerics—and married clergymen seem to have been common there (46). But he also attempted to enhance his own power at the expense of the cathedral chapter by trying to remove the lower clergy of the diocese from the chapter's control. He failed in part because he lacked the necessary support from his royal masters to overcome the chapter's resistance (48-50).

The book as a whole provides numerous examples of reforms and changes in the diocese of Verona during the two centuries from 950 to 1150. A brief description of the contents will highlight some of the author's findings. In a substantial introduction (1 -21), Miller explains her historiographical orientation and choice of Verona. Chapter 1, "Growth" (22-40) documents massive increases in both numbers and categories of ecclesiastical institutions. This expansion reflects the city's population growth and economic development in the period. It also reveals a shifting pattern of control. Many of the oldest churches in the city and diocese belonged to the cathedral chapter or other institutions which fell outside the effective control of the bishop. The rapid expansion of population from 950 onward prompted the establishment of many new churches and monasteries, a development which bolstered the power and position of the bishops as sponsors of these institutions. The next chapter, "The Secular Clergy" ( 41-62), examines how the expansion of pastoral responsibility implied by rapid growth affected those charged with pastoral duties, the priests and other secular clergy of the city. Chapter 3, "The Religious Life" (63-95), surveys the responses of monasti c and canonical institutions to the same impulses of growth. The next chapter, "The Support of Ecclesiastical Institutions" (96-116), details changes in endowments, patterns of bequests and the like and the implications these changes had for the spiritua l life of the Veronese. Chapter 5, "Ecclesiastical Organization" (117-43), charts the relationships of ecclesiastical institutions to one another, untangling the complex weave of dependence and control among the monasteries, canonries, pievi, chapters, and parish churches. This chapter reprises and expands the theme of growing episcopal power and the increasingly hierarchical structure of authority within the diocese. A final chapter, "The Bishops and Their See" (142-74) examines the convoluted relations of Verona's bishops, all outsiders and imperial appointees from the ninth century until 1122, with the church they presided over. A brief conclusion (175-77) and appendixes on sources (179-81) and databases of institutions and place names compiled by the author round out the work.

Miller largely achieves her goal of tying trends in spirituality to institutional developments in the Veronese church, though the nature of her sources obliges her to focus more on institutional than on individual spirituality. But hers is an institutional history not based primarily on the doings of the high and mighty, of emperors and bishops—although they appear in her pages as well—but rather of the more modest clerics and lay persons who provided much of the impetus for growth in the diocese. Miller can thus adroitly track some important developments in lay piety as they affected local churches and monasteries. For example, the patterns of lay donations to ecclesiastical institutions reveal both continuities and changes. Wills reveal unceasing support for Benedictine monasteries and other institutions which offered prayers for donors throughout the period, but also support for new experiments in pastoral care exemplified by the collegiate churches (scole) established in the eleventh and early

twelfth centuries for clerical training (113-15). Miller relates these local Veronese developments to broader trends throughout Italy and throughout Christendom as a whole. Her book thus provides a useful model for tying local studies to broader developments in religious history.

Miller's methods also have some significant limits. One rarely gains significant insight into the internal dimensions of lay piety from the sorts of documents she employs. There are few clearly distinguished individuals in this book other than Bishop Ratherius, perhaps since only he left the kind of writings which reveal much about his personal piety. This lack of insights into individuals and their personal spirituality is not really Miller's fault—imperial diplomata and private charters rarely move far beyond the formulaic, and other sources seem to have been rare. One wonders whether local saints' lives might supplement the institutional sources that Miller deploys so skillfully.

Miller implicitly centers her study on the eleventh-century era of ecclesiastical reform. She makes a strong case that for Verona, the era's usual label as the "Gregorian Reform Movement" fails to do justice to local initiatives for reform, oriented to local goals. Verona did not remain untouched by Gregory VII and his successors or their imperial opponents. Indeed, the resolution of the Investiture Contest had significant results there. From 1122 on, bishops of local origin replaced the imperial appointees, mostly from north of the Alps, who had ruled the see since the Carolingian era (163). But most changes in the composition of the clergy and the institutional structure of the Verones church depended on local initiative, not papal or imperial inteventions. Miller argues that the essence of the "medieval" church of Verona as it would exist for the next several centuries had emerged by about 1150. One might quibble with her decision to end her study here, for many significant religious changes continued at Verona even afterward. In particular, the city became a center of Catharism in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This ultimately resulted in one of the first mass executions of Italian heretics, in 1233. Why should Verona turn into such a center of discontent by the later twelfth century when its reforms of the eleventh and early twelfth centuries had been accomplished without much of the turmoil seen elsewhere? Miller suggests that the religious tensions of the later period result ed from the deterioration of "the mutuality that informed relations within the Veronese Church during the eleventh and early twelfth century" (116). This idea has much potential, but unfortunately the author does not pursue this deterioration very far in to the later twelfth century.

Despite some minor limitations, the book presents an original and cogent account of religious development in Verona. Anybody working in medieval ecclesiastical history would profit from reading the work, and colleges and universities should add it to their libraries. Miller has produced a model local study informed by a critical awareness of the broader historical context in which developments at Verona took place and of the problems and potentials of various historiographical approaches to the medieval Church.