Sarah Foot

title.none: Blanks, Medieval Monks (Sarah Foot)

identifier.other: baj9928.0802.008 08.02.08

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Sarah Foot, University of Oxford,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Blanks, David, Michael Frassetto, and Amy Livingstone, eds. Medieval Monks and Their World: Studies in Honor of Richard E. Sullivan. Brill's Series in Church History, vol. 25. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007. Pp. vi, 211. $99.00 (hb) ISBN-10: 90-04-15463-9, ISBN-13: 978-90-04-15463-6. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.02.08

Blanks, David, Michael Frassetto, and Amy Livingstone, eds. Medieval Monks and Their World: Studies in Honor of Richard E. Sullivan. Brill's Series in Church History, vol. 25. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007. Pp. vi, 211. $99.00 (hb) ISBN-10: 90-04-15463-9, ISBN-13: 978-90-04-15463-6. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Sarah Foot
University of Oxford

All Festschriften include fulsome tributes to the scholar whose work they honor, but few volumes attest so convincingly to the warmth of the respect in which their subject is held as does this engaging and interesting collection of essays by former pupils and colleagues of Richard E Sullivan. After reading the volume, this reviewer was left genuinely regretful that she has never heard Professor Sullivan lecture or had the chance to converse with him about his passion for medieval monasticism. Since Sullivan took a particular interest in pedagogy, publishing his own essays on teaching (Speaking for Clio, Kirksville, MO, 1991), and editing a volume on Carolingian learning (The Gentle Voices of Teachers: Aspects of Learning in the Carolingian Age, Columbus OH, 1995), it is appropriate that the volume celebrates him as much as a teacher as a scholar and that several of the essays deal directly with the question of teaching in the Middle Ages.

Monasticism, especially Carolingian monasticism, was one of the central preoccupations of Sullivan's work and thus the first half of this volume includes essays under the broad heading "Monks and the world," while the second half explores "Monks and ideas." In his essay on the Plan of St Gall entitled, "What was Carolingian monasticism?", Sullivan explored what the evidence for the organisation of monastic space provided by the St Gall plan revealed about Carolingian ideas of the separation of monasteries from the world around them, showing that far from the hostility to the secular one might imagine, in fact Carolingian monks embraced the lay world around them. This theme is pursued in several of the essays in the first half which range chronologically from the Egyptian desert of the third century to the Chartrain in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Darlene L Brooks Hedstrom offers a portrait of Egyptian monasticism, drawing on new work in the study of monastic origins in Egypt, particularly the study of Coptic texts and recent archaeological investigations. Hedstrom produces a more balanced picture of the earliest forms of monastic devotion than that available from the accounts of the Desert Fathers and shows how the heritage of the Fathers reached its apogee in the period after Egypt had been absorbed within the Islamic Caliphate. John Contreni responded directly to Sullivan's essay on the nature of Carolingian monasticism with a lively study of Heiric of Auxerre's Miracula of St Germanus, whose relics were translated to the crypt of the church at Auxerre in 859 by Charles the Bald. Heiric collected around sixty stories of contemporary or near contemporary miracles worked by the saint, many of them involving the rural population of the area around Auxerre, although some also touching the lives of the rich and powerful. Contreni shows effectively how Heiric promoted the success of the cult site, providing a "momentum of miraculousness" by bringing a wide range of people (and animals) as central actors in his narratives and offering a vivid picture of the intersection of the worlds of monks, nobles and peasants. Exile and the political culture of the Carolingian world is the theme of Steven Stofferahn's essay on Paschasius Radbertus, which explores the fates of Charlemagne's cousins, Adalhard and Wala. Daniel F Callahan looks at the pilgrimage of Ademar of Chabannes to Jerusalem in 1033, questioning the attraction of the holy city in the period and paying close attention to Ademar's state of mind as he prepared for the pilgrimage on which he probably died (in the violent earthquake that damaged the city and surrounding area in December 1033). In an essay exploring relations between monks and their lay families in the Chartrain, Amy Livingstone illustrates how closely tied were monastic houses into the aristocratic culture into which most of their number were born.

In the most original and significant of these essays, Constance B Bouchard reassesses "Feudalism", Cluny and the Investiture controversy. Bouchard overturns conventional views of the creation and development of a model of hierarchy in medieval society, not just debunking (as others have done before her) the central elements of the accepted model--the principle of Carolingian "Feudalism"; the idea of a Cluniac monastic pyramid of houses; and the notion that the papacy was directly influenced by Cluny--but also proposing a diametrically opposite model. She proposes that the Investiture Controversy was the first step, not the last, in the development of governmental hierarchy; that it influenced monasticism, rather than the other way around (as seen particularly in the Cistercian order) and that it was developments in ecclesiastical hierarchy that influenced twelfth- century fief-holding arrangements between kings and the aristocracy. This is essential reading for all medievalists.

Thought dominates the second half of the volume. M A Claussen considers Chrodegang's vision for a reformed society as revealed in his rule for canons and his exegesis of the story of the earliest Christian communities; he shows that the beginnings of the Church are explained for practical spiritual and ecclesiological reasons relating to communal meals and to property arrangements. This essay offers an important corrective to the general tendency to consider Carolingian reform in exclusively Benedictine terms and it would have an application, not considered here, for the spread of reforming ideas beyond Frankia, especially to England. Eucharistic theology, especially in the thought of Ademar of Chabannes, is the focus of Michael Frassetto's essay, which explores the transmission of Carolingian ideas, especially the debate between Paschasius Radbertus and Ratramnus of Corbie about the real presence, beyond the Carolingian age. Quite different in feel is David Blanks' engaging exploration of lay belief, heterodoxy and anti-clericalism in the diocese of Pamiers, south of Toulouse through the records kept by Bishop Jacques Fournier (1317-34; Pope Benedict XII 1334-42). Deliberately taking the focus of attention away from Catharism, Blanks uses individual examples to argue a wider case about the wide variations in lay attitudes to the church in this region: "Catholics and non-Catholics alike practiced their faith imperfectly. Many who thought they were good Catholics were not (doctrinally-speaking), and many who venerated the heretics, or just had unorthodox ideas, nonetheless participated in the communal life of the parish." Edith Wilks Dolnikowski brings the formal essays to an end with a study of the doctrine of divine foreknowledge in Wyclif's Latin sermons.

In conclusion, Kathleen Mitchell offers reflections on the role of the academic as public historian by exploring her own work on the National Endowment for the Humanities in promoting the work of state and jurisdictional humanities councils. It would be, as she admits, an exaggeration to compare the outreach work of the NEH to the sending of Christian monastic missionaries to convert the Avars and the Danes, but she does show how this work can bridge important cultural frontiers. Presenting Richard Sullivan's students and colleagues as a comitatus, Mitchell demonstrates how they have each pushed out frontiers and encouraged public engagement in the intellectual heritage of the middle ages.

This is an engaging and stimulating collection of essays, a worthy tribute to the remarkable man and scholar to whom it is dedicated. The editors kept all contributors tightly to a fixed word limit and this enforced brevity considerably enhances the effectiveness of each essay and of the volume as a whole. Like all Brill books, it is ludicrously over-priced, which is a great shame, for it deserves to have a wide readership far beyond the library sale for which it has been marketed.