Sarah Hamilton

title.none: Ott and Jones, eds., The Bishop Reformed (Sarah Hamilton)

identifier.other: baj9928.0806.018 08.06.18

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Sarah Hamilton, University of Exeter,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Ott, John S. and Anna Trumbore Jones, eds. The Bishop Reformed: Studies of the Episcopal Power and Culture in the Central Middle Ages. Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007. Pp. xiv, 280. 978-0-7546-5765-1. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.06.18

Ott, John S. and Anna Trumbore Jones, eds. The Bishop Reformed: Studies of the Episcopal Power and Culture in the Central Middle Ages. Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007. Pp. xiv, 280. 978-0-7546-5765-1. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Sarah Hamilton
University of Exeter

Medieval bishops combined great secular authority, as wealthy lords with extensive land holdings, with their role as pastors of all those living in their diocese; as such they were ultimate regulators not just of the lives of their clergy but of all Christians. Yet unlike their monastic and secular counterparts, the phenomenon of episcopal power, especially in the crucial years between the Carolingian regnum and the rise of papal authority in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries, has been relatively neglected until very recently. [1] Scholars have preferred to study the careers of individual bishops or the bishops of a particular kingdom, or the idea of "reform" at a particular moment, as articulated or practised by a particular bishop, and steered away from the sort of cross-regional and cross-period comparisons which are often most fruitful. [2] It is only the last decade that this lacuna has begun to be remedied, starting with the publication in 2004 of The Bishop: Power and Piety and the First Millenium, edited by Sean Gilsdorf (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2004). The Bishop Reformed therefore represents a welcome development of this theme across a longer period, the three centuries between 900 and 1200.

In broadening their focus out from the years around the first millennium, the editors have, seemingly unconsciously (for there is no mention of it in their introduction), taken up a project left unfinished by the early death of Tim Reuter in 2002. Reuter's seminal essays "The 'Imperial Church System'" and "A Europe of the Bishops" provide some of the most-cited references in this volume, and he was embarked on "a study of episcopal power across the longue durée" at the time of his death. [3] He published the early fruits of this, sadly unfinished study, amongst other places, in Gilsdorf's collection. [4] As Janet Nelson writes in her introduction to a posthumous collection of his essays, "he himself would have hoped that the project could be taken forward by other hands. It seems likelier to be attempted by a team than a lone scholar. For as well as being among the outstanding medieval historians of his generation, Tim combined knowledge, skills and interests in a unique and irreplaceable way." [5] Reuter is irreplaceable, but the appearance of this rich volume of essays by thirteen North American, British and French scholars, which has its origins in a 2003 Kalamazoo panel, demonstrates that he was not working in isolation, and that the baton has been successfully passed to others. The Bishop Reformed records an important stage in the path of this renewed collective effort to reconsider episcopal authority, with episcopal interest in reform as one aspect of that, across the three crucial centuries from 900 to 1200.

These centuries witnessed considerable change. Our view of bishops before the papal reforms of the mid-eleventh century is still overshadowed by the work of Émile Amann and Auguste Dumas who emphasised lay control of the church in a period in which individual families might control bishoprics for generations; this led historians to concentrate on bishops as lords, rather than as pastors, reflecting in part the German tradition of focussing on Bischofsherrschaft and the close relations between bishops and royal rulers under the Carolingians and the Ottonians labelled the Reichskirchensystem. [6] The years after 1050 are still dominated in the historiography by the growth of centralising papal authority. Modern scholars have overturned Augustin Fliche's view of reform as papally led, and revealed the extent to which episcopal co-operation was crucial to both clerical reform and the growth of centralised papal government in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. [7] Here several of the contributors have much to add in terms of detail, elucidating the importance of local contexts for understanding the actions of particular bishops, and the dangers of using labels such as "imperial" and "Gregorian" as interpretative tools. In the words of the editors, "If there is a recurring this volume it is that bishops reacted to the process of ecclesiastical reform--and also understood reform--both in terms and ideals set by others and through the tailored lens of local custom, tradition and culture" (18). These individual studies of bishops in their localised environments serve therefore to reaffirm recent trends in the scholarship, in the words of their editors, they are a "reaction to, not a reaction against, the recent historiography" (18).

As both the editors' "Introduction," and Thomas Head's "Postscript" make clear, the figure of the bishop was always, in Head's words, "ambiguous." The bishop was expected to combine "the twin ideals of noble resourcefulness and pastoral solicitude" (1). For bishops were generally noblemen, and their status and connections gave them the authority to defend their property, but, following the model set out in 1 Timothy 3.1-7 they were also expected to be able to teach their flock, and to set a good example through their behaviour. There are other dyads as well: as Head in his case study of the tenth-century sometime bishop of Verona, Rather, demonstrates, one individual could in his own life embody the tensions between the spiritual and the active life, ecclesiastical corruption and reform, local and imperial politics. Whilst these tensions lie at the heart of many of the essays in this volume, two themes in particular come to the fore: developments in, and articulations of episcopal self-consciousness, on the one hand, and on the other, the truth of Reuter's argument that bishops' interests were primarily aligned with their dioceses rather than royal authority, and the consequent continued unravelling of the traditional grand narratives of papal reform. [8]

Anna Trumbore Jones' reconsideration of the role of bishops of Aquitaine in the long tenth century (877-1050), applies Reuter's insight that terms suggesting "the systematic control by lay lords over the church and its bishops in this period need to be used with care" (38). She shows how the close relationship between the bishops of Poitiers and the dukes of Aquitaine, which was so fundamental to the Peace of God movement, did not have earlier roots. At the same time, she points out how the Peace Councils, whilst they owe much to ducal authority, also represent the earliest evidence for collective consciousness on the part of the Aquitainian bishops. To her insight about an increasing sense of episcopal self-consciousness in Aquitaine might be added the tenth- century East Frankish bishops considered by Greta Austin in her essay; their councils, and the records of those councils, represent the continuation of Carolingian ideals of episcopal office. Austin's paper looks at material from the Reich, and asks instead a different question: how did bishops use and produce canon law in the period before papal reform. Building on Lotte Kéry's bibliographical guide to early canonical collections, she demonstrates how the Gregorian reformers' interest in law has deep roots in the local collections of the tenth and eleventh centuries. [9] She thus makes easily accessible to Anglophone readers a largely specialised and often indigestible (to non-canonists, at any rate) literature. After a whistle stop tour of the evidence of canon law collections, councils, letters collections and vitae she ends with a brief study of Burchard of Worms, and his codification of both secular and ecclesiastical law. She argues "it seems possible that bottom-up demand fuelled the growth of jurisprudence, rather than a top-down policy of papal reform, and that this groundswell of new legal interest arose, at least in part, from the practical and pastoral concerns of the tenth- and eleventh-century episcopate" (57). There is little here that is news to the non-specialist but she provides a helpful summary of current thinking for postgraduates.

That such episcopal self-consciousness was not confined to the Frankish heartlands is clear also from Renée R. Trilling's careful paper on the different redactions of the Anglo-Saxon Archbishop Wulfstan of York's Institutes of Polity. She argues that his earlier reservations about giving church leaders a prominent place in the secular hierarchy gave way in later redactions to his assertion of the importance of bishops in government. It will not come as a surprise to specialists that this trend can be detected across three different regions of Europe at roughly the same time-- the late tenth and early eleventh century; Wulfstan, it is well known, was well abreast of contemporary continental developments in law, liturgy and sermon literature. These developments continued into the twelfth century: Bruce C. Brasington's investigation of Ivo of Chartres' letters argues that one can get behind the rhetoric of anger to glimpse the individual behind the office. Dorothy F. Glass's study of the building of the cathedral of Piacenza, begun in 1122, demonstrates the extent to which its decorative programme reflected the interests of its bishop, Arduin. As John Eldevik reminds us later, church building had always been the mark of a good bishop, and that it is the attention paid to church building in eleventh-century writings which is new (171). What needs to be thought about more clearly in future is how far these literary and artistic manifestations of episcopal self- consciousness represent any real change in how bishops thought about their office.

One way forward to answering this question may lie in further study of the liturgy. Here Éric Palazzo provides a useful summary in English of his work in French to show how the evidence of liturgical books reflected ideals of episcopal office. [10] He repeats here the argument he has put forward elsewhere that the emergence in the tenth century of the pontifical--that is a liturgical codex of those rites peculiar to the bishop--is evidence for increasing episcopal self-consciousness. Evan A. Gatti focuses on a different bishop's book, the benedictional made for Engilmar, bishop of Parenzo (1028-45) (modern-day Pore? in Croatia), and in particular on the iconography of the portrait of Engilmar standing before the altar and making a gesture of blessing. She places this in the context of the "new iconography for episcopal portraiture that emerged around 1000 that depicted the bishop in liturgical postures" in other bishops' books (92). At roughly the same time, art and the word served together to reemphasise episcopal authority.

The importance of studying the local context is best exemplified by Theo Riches' reconsideration of the best known speech attributed to a bishop in this period: that supposedly delivered in 1025 by Bishop Gerard I of Cambrai-Arras (1012-51) dividing society into three orders (those who work, those who fight, and those who pray). Whilst Georges Duby famously viewed the speech as the reaction of an "imperial" bishop to dangerous social change, Riches argues that he ignored its specific textual and historic context. [11] The speech is not the protest of an imperial bishop faced with social change, but rather a statement about the primacy of the bishop's authority in the face of noble opposition to his authority. This essay thus represents an important revision of Duby's interpretation and as such deserves to makes its way into the "mainstream" of eleventh-century history. John Ott takes up Bishop Gerard's nephew and successor, Bishop Lietbert of Cambrai (1051- 76), examining the vita written about him c. 1100 by Raoul, priest and monk at Lietbert's foundation of Saint-Sépulchre in Cambrai. He demonstrates the importance of placing the life precisely in its historic context: the prolonged political dispute over the succession to the bishopric of Cambrai, which led Arras to split from Cambrai in 1094. Raoul's primary aim was to demonstrate how the combination of action and contemplation, the twin ideals of Martha and Mary, had led to harmony, and thus make a plea for a return to harmony within the bishopric. John Eldevik investigates another "imperial bishop," Sigebert I of Mainz (1060-84), a member of the local elite, and his efforts to reform the clergy and monasteries within his diocese, and restore diocesan tithes in Thuringia, arguing that "[i]n the historiographical din created by the clash of regnum and sacerdotium we have tended to miss the less explicit strategies employed by German bishops like Siegfried to negotiate the dispute not as a concrete partisan on one side or the other but as a regional lord and bishop determined to define and assert the integrity of his office and diocese" (164).

The two remaining essays, both on Italy, highlight not so much the differences in the episcopal experience of authority as the importance of studying the local context in which that power was exercised. Whilst Valerie Ramseyer's study of Archbishop Alfanus I of Salerno (1058-85) points out the historic difference of southern Italy, where bishops had lacked the hierarchy to supervise the provision of pastoral care, she also demonstrates how the archbishop, in conjunction with Monte Cassino, and the new Norman rulers, worked to promote reform with political as well as religious ramifications. She thus reveals the similarities of the episcopal experience there with that in northern Europe. Maureen C. Miller's essay on the changes which took place in the ceremony in which the new bishop entered Florence, and ritually took possession of the diocese, focuses on the period after Lateran IV; as such it lies outside the main period under focus in this volume, but represents a further aspect of her work on this ritual, and shows the continuing importance of undertaking local studies into the later medieval period.

As is inevitable with any collection, some contributions are stronger than others, there are gaps in focus and geographical coverage, crucial questions are ignored, and fruitful types of source neglected. The geographic coverage especially is very patchy and entire regions, mostly obviously the Iberian penisula, omitted. [12] Contributors stick resolutely to the Latin core, and ignore the experience of those bishops on the fringe, be it Celtic, Scandinavian, Slav, Iberian or Levantine. Yet the outward expansion of Latin Europe is one of the key changes in these centuries, and it would be interesting to know not just how bishops were agents in that conquest, which is already partially understood, but how their experiences and authority compared with that of bishops in the core regions. The contributions in this collection stick mostly to the roads offered by traditional sources: vitae, chronicles, charters and letters predominate; to that extent their agenda is driven by, and indebted to, earlier historiography. Surprisingly little attention is paid to work clearly written by bishops (Brasington, Head and Trilling are exceptions here) or written or made for bishops (with the exceptions of Austin, Gatti and Palazzo). The potential of other texts, in particular the pontificals, is alluded to by Palazzo, and again by Head in his "Postscript," but much remains to be done with the richness of the liturgical material, and in particular those rites composed by and for bishops. [13] More could be done also with other texts which manifest episcopal self-consciousness: the conciliar ordines, the letters (as suggested by the essays by Austin, Head, Brasington), as well as conciliar proceedings and canon law collections (as suggested by Austin). Such patchiness is inevitable and should not detract from the rich, if diverse and fragmented, picture presented here. Our understanding of episcopal authority in these centuries is far from complete, as the editors themselves would no doubt acknowledge, but theirs is an interesting interim report, [14] and one which in pointing the way forward in the direction of localised studies, promises much for the future.


1. An important exception is: Le istituzioni ecclesiastiche della 'Societa Christiana' dei secoli 11-12: Papato, cardinalato ed episcopato: Atti della quinta Settimana internazionale di studio, Mendola, agosto 1971, Miscellanea del Centro di Studi Medioevali 7 (Milan: Editrice Vita e Pensiero, 1974).

2. E.g. Richard A. Fletcher, The Episcopate In The Kingdom Of León In The Twelfth Century (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1978), and his Saint James's Catapult: The Life and Times of Diego Gelmirez of Santiago de Compostela (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984); Bishop Æthelwold: His Career and Influence, edited by Barbara Yorke (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1988); St Dunstan: His Life, Times and Cult, edited by Nigel Ramsey, Margaret Sparks and Tim Tatton-Brown (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1992); St Oswald of Worcester: Life and Influence, edited by N.P. Brooks and C. Cubitt (London: Leicester UP, 1996); Bischof Burchard von Worms 1000-1025, edited by Wilfried Hartmann (Mainz: Gesellschaft für Mittelrheinische Kirchengeschichte, 2000); Jeffrey Bowman "The Bishops Builds a Bridge: Sanctity and Power in the Medieval Pyrenees," The Catholic Historical Review 88 (2002), 1-16; Wulfstan, Archbishop of York, edited by M. Townend, Studies in the Early Middle Ages 10 (Brepols, 2004); St Wulfstan and his World, edited by Julia Barrow and N.P.Brooks (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005); Mary Frances Giandrea, Episcopal Culture in Late Anglo-Saxon England (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2007).

3. "The 'Imperial Church System' of the Ottonian and Salian Rulers: a Reconsideration," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 33 (1982), 347-74, reprinted in his Medieval Polities and Modern Mentalities, edited by Janet L. Nelson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 325-54; "Ein Europa der Bischöfe: das Zeitalter Bischof Burchards von Worms," in Bischof Burchard von Worms, 1000-1025, edited by Hartmann, pp. 1-28; quote from Janet Nelson's editorial introduction to Medieval Polities, p. xviii.

4. "Bishops, Rites of Passage, and the Symbolism of State in Pre- Gregorian Europe," in The Bishop: Power and Piety at the First Millenium, edited by Sean Gilsdorf (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2004), 23-36.

5. Medieval Polities and Modern Mentalities, p. xix.

6. E.g. Heinrich Fichtenau discusses bishops under general heading of "nobilitas": Living in the Tenth Century: Mentalities and Social Orders, trans. Patrick J. Geary (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 181-216.

7. See the helpful overview in Kathleen G. Cushing, Reform and the Papacy in the Eleventh Century: Spirituality and Social Change (Manchester: Manchester UP, 2005).

8. "Ein Europa der Bischöfe. Das Zeitalter Burchards von Worms," in Bischof Burchard von Worms, 1000-1025, edited by Hartmann, pp. 1-28.

9. Lotte Kéry, Canonical Collections of the Early Middle Ages (ca. 400 -1140): A Bibliographical Guide to the Manuscripts and Literature, History of Medieval Canon Law (Washington DC: The Catholic University Press of America, 1999).

10. Le Moyen Age: Des origins au XIIIème siècle (Paris: Beauchesne Editeur, 1993); L'Évêque et son image: L'illustration du Pontifical au Moyen Âge (Turnhout: Brepols, 1999).

11. Les trois ordres ou l'imaginaire du féodalisme (Paris: Gallimard, 1978).

12. But see Richard A. Fletcher, The Episcopate in The Kingdom Of León In The Twelfth Century (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1978), and his Saint James's Catapult: The Life and Times of Diego Gelmirez of Santiago de Compostela (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), and Jeffrey Bowman "The Bishops Builds a Bridge: Sanctity and Power in the Medieval Pyrenees," The Catholic Historical Review 88 (2002), 1-16.

13. In Head's words, "One of the most consistently important duties of a bishop was to serve as the arbiter of the holy in his corner of Christendom" (p. 263).

14. As was recognised by the editors' involvement in the foundation in 2004 of Episcopus: the Society for the Study of Episcopal Power and Culture in the Middle Ages: