Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

title.none: Jotischky, Perfection of Solitude (Smet)

identifier.other: baj9928.9702.008 97.02.08

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Joachim Smet, O. Carm., Institutum Carmelitanum, Rome,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Jotischky, Andrew. The Perfection of Solitude: Hermits and Monks in the Crusader States. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995. Pp. xviii, 198. $35.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-271-01346-X.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.02.08

Jotischky, Andrew. The Perfection of Solitude: Hermits and Monks in the Crusader States. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995. Pp. xviii, 198. $35.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-271-01346-X.

Reviewed by:

Joachim Smet, O. Carm.
Institutum Carmelitanum, Rome

In his preface to this book, Dr. Jotischky rightly observes that although we know a good deal about the hierarchy and secular clergy in the Near East due to their historian, Bernard Hamilton, "the monastic culture of the Latin East has been illuminated only by narrow shafts of light" (p. xii). Of "the monastic culture" the author, as indicated in the title, concerns himself almost exclusively with the eremitical element.

In successive chapters, the author discusses the attitude of monasticism to pilgrimage to the Holy Land ("Monks and Jerusalem"), the important witness of Gerard of Nazareth to Latin eremitism ("Gerard of Nazareth and Western Hermits of the Crusader States"), monastic foundations in the Holy Land ("The Character of Latin Monasticism in the Crusader States"), Orthodox monasticism and its possible influence on the Latin monks ("Orthodox Monks and Monasticism in the Holy Land"). Three chapters deal with the Carmelites -- if one excludes the Knights of Malta, the only indigenous religious institute to come down to us from crusader Palestine. A final chapter deals with the "Geography of Holiness," physical sites as "holy."

Much of the introductory chapter, "Monks and Jerusalem," is concerned with the attitude of monasticism to pilgrimage and settlement in the Holy Land. The author holds thatThe settlement of monks in the Holy Land was seen as detracting from the fundamental vocation of monasticism. Implicit in the monastic ideal was the rejection of special places, or spiritual benefits accruing from being in a certain location rather than any other. The cloister in France or Italy, because it represented Paradise, surpassed the holiest of sites in the earthly Jerusalem.(p. 15) This statement, if it has any weight, would apply largely to the new reforming orders of the 11th and 12th centuries. Moreover, St. Bernard had his own practical reason for refusing foundations in the Holy Land, as ill-suited to the peaceful existence of contemplatives. Pilgrimage, in fact, is actually "implicit in the monastic ideal" (leaving family and home for the unknown) and in the Christian ideal itself (abandonment of self). The Benedictines are found in the Holy Land in Carolingian times, and again after 1023, and it is not known that they were seen "as detracting from the fundamental vocation of monasticism."

St. Jerome, who lived and died in Bethlehem, is often quoted as preferring the heavenly to the earthly Jerusalem (who wouldn't?); less quoted is his letter 14 to Heliodore: "A monk cannot be perfect in his native country."

In the first chapter, dealing with the theme of the book, the Western hermits of the Crusader States, the author uses to good effect Gerard of Nazareth's now well-known, De conversatione servorum Dei. He enriches Gerard's account with information from other hagiographical sources. A systematic search through the lives of medieval saints for those with relations to the Holy Land, following his technique, might be a fruitful field of research. One could question some of his conclusions, as when he conjectures that Abbot Elias' removal from his hermit's cave in the Valley of Jehoshaphat to the Benedictine monastery of St. Mary in the same place might represent a general tendency within the Latin Church. The pilgrim, Theoderich (1172), tells us that the hermits in the valley were under the care of the abbot of St. Mary, a usual Benedictine practice, so the move to the cloister and vice versa need not be taken to be significant. Jotischky, it must be said, tends to draw very sweeping conclusions from rather tenuous evidence.

The second chapter "undertakes to furnish examples of the types of foundations found in the Latin East in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries," so here we are to be given a general review of religious institutions present in the Near East, though the author warns that he will present only a selection. Actually, it would have been helpful had the author provided the reader with an overall view of the religious presence in the Holy land. Instead, taking a thematic approach, he describes "the reinforcement of foundations predating the First Crusade, the assumption of shrine churches by the Franks, and the foundation of new monasteries" (p. 50). But the only pre-Crusader monastery on the Mount of Olives no longer existed to be "reinforced" in 1099, whereas the one that did, St. Mary Latins, the author lists under shrine churches.

In that category, shrine churches, the author's information about Sebaste is quite confused (pp. 55-56). The cathedral church at the tomb of St. John the Baptist, previously a mosque, was placed in charge of Austin canons and returned to Moslem control after 1187; the monastery on the site of Herod's palace was consistently Orthodox both in crusader times and subsequently. Likewise, by the words, monasterium Beate Virginis Marie, matris domini nostri, quod est magnum atque preclarum, Saewulf (1102) is not referring to a Greek monastery in Bethlehem but to the surviving Constantinian church. In fact, in the sentence immediately following, he sets forth the biblical features in eadem ecclesia. Saewulf also uses the term monasterium for the churches of Nazareth and Mount Tabor. In this, he resembles the French pilgrims who use the word moustier for a church or a monastery indiscriminately.

Of the new monastic foundations Jotischky discusses the Premonstratensian canons in Ramla and Montjoie, Cluniac in Palmaria, and the Cistercian monasteries in the County of Tripoli. Montjoie was founded under Baldwin II (1118-1131), as Eberhard Mayer has proven. Cluniacs are said to have been reluctant "to establish daughter houses in the East and eventually arrived in the Holy Land on the backs of established houses so to speak" (p. 58). Authors disagree about the Cluniac affiliation of the Benedictine houses in the Holy Land, but the one house of which we may be certain, Mount Tabor, certainly did not arrive on anyone's back, nor did St. Mary in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, if it was Cluniac, as some hold. Mabillon would have all Palestinian houses of the Order Cluniac.

The lengthy excursus on Orthodox monasticism in the Holy Land (Chapter 3) might seem excessive, but it enables the author to demonstrate the background and persistence of Eastern eremitical life in Palestine. This is the best chapter of the book. The Latin hermits frequently took over the sites of former Eastern communities or, as in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, shared them with the Eastern monks. Given such proximity, the author argues, the Latins could hardly have done other than learn the ways of the hermit in the Oriental milieu. Nevertheless, he concludes, the two strains existed for the most part independently of each other. An interesting observation of the author is that while the Orthodox monks lived with the conscious awareness of continuing a tradition, the Latins settled rootless in a new environment. Throughout the book, the author holds the Orthodox background of eremitism before the reader.

Jotischky, citing Theoderich, posits a Latin monastery on Mount Quarantena "following the same model as [the Orthodox] Choziba and Saint Sabas" (p. 78). The German pilgrim's description is "disappointingly uninformative regarding the monastery" (p. 79); in fact, he mentions it not at all. The same is to be said about the visit of Duke Henry the Lion to Quarantena. Arnold of Lubeck records that the duke ascended the mountain, conducted by a body of Templars (who had invested the mountain), and that one of the company, Abbot Henry, offered Mass there, but of the presence of a Latin monastery there is no word. The Austin canons of the Holy Sepulchre had a church, perhaps a priory, in the Quarantena area.

St. George de La Beyne, on the road between Saphet and Acre, is claimed by the Benedictines as their own. Pringle concludes that it was an Orthodox monastery (cited p. 83), but it is unlikely that French pilgrims who noticed "a church of black monks" were referring to Greeks. The terms, "black monks" and "black nuns" are commonly used by Latin pilgrims with regard to Benedictine houses.

The most important source of information about Latin hermits in the Holy Land is, of course, the hermits of Mount Carmel. To this subject Jotischky accordingly devotes three chapters (a fourth of the book): "The Origins of Monasticism on Mount Carmel", "The Early Carmelites", and "The Development of the Carmelite Order in the Latin East".

In the chapter on the origins of monasticism on Carmel, Jotischky traces the history of the mount as a cult center. Especially noteworthy is the testimony of Antoninus of Piacenza (570 A.D.), who visited the "monastery of St. Elisha" in what is now thought to be the wadi 'ain es-Siah, the site of the later settlement of the Latin hermits of Mt. Carmel. The Carmelites' version of their origins is traced through the Institutio primorum monachorum, of Philip Ribot (d. 1391), and forms the framework of the discussion of the Carmelite presence in the Holy Land -- a questionable methodology which leads Jotischky to tilt with windmills long recognized as illusory. Oddly, he sometimes treats this and other admittedly legendary material as sources of genuine historical information, and so is led to wrestle with a number of non-problems. A weakness of the book is a lack of familiarity with Carmelite research of the past half century. Jotischky is aware of Paul Chandler's critical edition of the Institutio, a doctoral dissertation at the Center for Medieval Studies in Toronto University (1991), but was unable to consult it (p. 104, note 2). Applying medieval hermeneutics, Chandler sees the Institutio, not as a polemical work meant to convince skeptics, but as an effort to define Carmelite identity, addressed to members of the Order. Jotischky provides little, if any, information on Ribot, who remains a somewhat shadowy figure. Use of Chandler's article on Ribot in the Dictionnaire de spiritualite (1988) would have been helpful to readers.

The section on early Carmelites can hardly be said to throw much light on the subject. The author is at pains to explain the alleged legislative activity on behalf of the Carmelites of Aimery, patriarch of Antioch (1140-1193), whereas for the past fifty years it has been known that Aimery entered Carmelite legendry through the Dominican Stephen de Salagnac's, De quatuor in quibus Deus Praedicatorum Ordinem insignivit (1277-1278), in which Stephen substitutes his compatriot of Limoges for Albert as legislator of the Carmelites.

The discussion concerning whether Albert wrote the Rule and in what exact year is an exercise in futility. Not everyone will find it "impossible to believe that his [Albert's] legislation for the hermits of Mount Carmel was not influenced by the success and prestige of the Carthusians" (p. 130). (Albert, by the way, was not a monk, but a canon regular of the Holy Cross of Mortara.) A serious fault in the book is that, in discussing the Rule of St. Albert, Jotischky does not use Albert's Rule, or Formula vitae, of the existence of which he seems unaware, but the mitigated, or "Innocentian," Rule of 1247. More helpful than Battman's French translation (1982) of the Rule of 1247 would have been Bede Edwards' earlier English translation (1973), which indicates the additions brought to Albert's Rule by the mitigation.

Jotischky finds St. Brocard, to whom the Rule is addressed, "undoubtedly an unreliable figure," maybe even an Orthodox monk (p. 135). The best source of information on Brocard, an historical figure, is the article on him in the Bibiotheca sanctorum. Jotischky is much taken up with the curious incident recounted by Gunther of Paris (1204), which hardly deserves to be taken seriously in the matter of religious foundations on Carmel.

On the question of the presence and location of hermits, Latin or Orthodox, on Mount Carmel (the third section on the Carmelites), it is important to keep in mind conditions in Palestine after the disastrous battle of Hattin (1187), when the religious orders in the Holy Land were mostly crammed into Acre in drastically reduced circumstances, and very little Lebensraum was left to Latin hermits.

In the twelfth century, Latin hermits seem to have preferred locations other than Carmel. In those years, accounts by pilgrims travelling the coastal road between Acre and Jaffe inevitably recall Elijah's relation to Carmel, but mention no hermits. With the recuperation of the littoral (1192) and the inaccessibility of the rest of Palestine, one might expect to find Latin hermits on Mount Carmel, and in fact several accounts make clear allusions to Latin hermits in the wadi 'ain es-Siah.

For centuries, however, Oriental religious are found on Carmel. Of interest to our subject, which is concerned with the Haifa end of Carmel, is the community at the Cave of Elijah mentioned by the Greek pilgrim, Phocas, around 1185. "Some time ago," a gray-haired Calabrian monk, a priest, had gathered ten brothers in a monastery built on ancient ruins. Phocas' expression, "some time ago" (Lat. tr.: ante aliquot annos), is somewhat vague and indicates his lack of information, but it probably refers to a time after 1107. In that year, the Russian abbot Daniel and his fellow pilgrims visited the Cave and prayed there, but he mentions no monastery, which he would certainly have done, had it existed. Likely, whatever monks there were at the Cave did not remain long after Phocas' visit or outlast the Battle of Hattin and its aftermath. Jotischky cites two versions of a French pilgrim account (1231), Les pelerinaiges por aler en Iherusalem and Les sains pelerinages, and prefers the latter, (Cheltenham ms. 6664), but the reference there to hermits of Carmel at the Cave, to this reviewer, is an evident interpolation. Jotischky arrives at the strange conclusion that "the Rule of St. Albert did not manage to absorb all Orthodox and Latin hermits into a single foundation" (p. 141).

The treaty between Sultan Malik al Mansur and the cities of Acre, Sidon, and Athlit (1283) refers to a Mar Elias, which the author takes to mean "the monastery of the Carmelites on the summit of Mount Carmel" (p. 146) If it refers to a monastery at all, as Friedman holds, and not simply a place, it would be the Cave of Elijah, not the wadi, and the Calabrian's Greek monastery would have survived until the fall of the Latin kingdom and possibly beyond.

The author attempts to make a case for a mixed community of Orthodox and Latin hermits at the wadi, a notion which he admits "may appear at first sight bizarre" (p. 141). His suggestion, that Albert's instructions regarding prayer are sufficiently "evasive" to allow each type of monk to follow his own rite, is indeed bizarre (p. 142).

Jotischky's beautifully produced, interestingly written book is a welcome venture into a subject practically virgin, and one would like to praise it unconditionally, but it manifests too little control of the literature and contains too many inaccuracies and insufficiently substantiated deductions to warrant unqualified approval.