Frances Andrews

title.none: Mosca, Alberto Patriarca di Gerusalemme (Andrews)

identifier.other: baj9928.9804.005 98.04.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Frances Andrews, University of St Andrews,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1998

identifier.citation: Mosca, Vincenzo, O. Carm. Alberto Patriarca di Gerusalemme: Tempo-Vita-Opera. Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana, vol. 20. Rome: Edizioni Carmelitane, 1996. Pp. 780. ISBN: ISBN 8-87288-042-4.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 98.04.05

Mosca, Vincenzo, O. Carm. Alberto Patriarca di Gerusalemme: Tempo-Vita-Opera. Textus et Studia Historica Carmelitana, vol. 20. Rome: Edizioni Carmelitane, 1996. Pp. 780. ISBN: ISBN 8-87288-042-4.

Reviewed by:

Frances Andrews
University of St Andrews

Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, had a long career which spanned both the Western and Eastern Mediterranean worlds before it was cut short by a dagger in 1214. As a canon and bishop in northern Italy, he enjoyed close relations with both popes and emperors before taking up the position of Patriarch in 1205. While in the East he provided the Hermits living on Mount Carmel with a rule of life and has been seen by some as one of the founders of the order of the Carmelites. This last role is the root of Vincenzo Mosca's interest in Albert, and his book is an explicitly post-Vatican II examination of the origins of his own institution, undertaken as a doctorate at the Gregorian University. As Mosca himself writes, the decree Perfectae Caritatis encouraged a "return to the sources" which has fostered numerous studies of the early rules of such religious orders. His audience is thus in large part his own brethren, the Carmelites of the 1990s and beyond, and he hopes to "initiate collective consciousness-raising," to be pursued through both individual and group research.

Albert's role certainly has not attracted great attention in the past. Even amongst the Carmelites, his contribution was quickly overshadowed by claims that they owed their origins to the prophet Elijah, but Mosca is not the first Carmelite to approach the subject, and he acknowledges his debt to his predecessors. He claims that he is not setting out to prove, "on principle" that Albert was the founder of the Carmelites and argues that a certain amount of spiritual and historical de-mythicising is necessary, "removing the veil over our eyes." Such expressions of concern confirm that the audience he has in mind are the devout members of his own order and that of the Carmelitani scalzi. They also indicate the guiding spirit of the whole work and it is thus no surprise when Albert is indeed identified as the founder of the Carmelites on page 545.

Mosca wishes to see Albert as an "esemplare religioso" (p. 535) but also highlights his role as a jurist, acting as arbiter in innumerable disputes as canon, bishop and patriarch, as an efficient administrator, dealing with the competing claims of the commune of Vercelli, and as a diplomat enjoying the favour of the Empire without ever losing respect for or from the papacy. In the final phase of his career Albert has become "a skilled diplomat, able mediator and true statesman." (p. 538) His murder is attributed either to Runciman's old idea of hostility amongst the Hospitallers whose Master he had deposed (p. 385), or to his role in the retaking of Jerusalem, towards which he achieved little (p. 538).

The book is divided into two general sections, the first, organised in seven chapters, begins with a preliminary account of the historical, political and religious climate, then covers the career of Albert and of the religious groups reformed or examined by him, closing with his dealings with the Carmelites. The second section is a 200-page documentary appendix.

The book thus opens with a broad sweep covering the historical and religious environment of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries in 170 pages. It is not unlike that undertaken by, for example, Franco Dal Pino in his history of the Servites and indeed Mosca acknowledges his debt to him, though not to his work on the Servites (p.123, note 92). This chapter concentrates on juridical themes and on the founders and early rules closest to those of the Carmelites (p.140). This sort of synthesis is perhaps the most difficult form of history- writing, but the result is not very satisfactory. Much of it simply summarises the readily available work of others and Mosca constructs a deceptively simple and beguiling view of the medieval church. For example, the role of the papacy is modelled using normative texts without acknowledging the difficulties of implementation (on p.115 he records simply that the "verdict of the papal tribunal could substitute a government, or transfer its power," as though this would not have been controversial). This section is also marked by an extraordinary absence of women, included only as an afterthought on pages 169-170.

Chapters 2 and 3 cover Albert's early career, as a regular canon at Sta. Croce Mortara and as bishop of Bobbio and Vercelli. Once again there is a lengthy dissertation on the context, discussing the origins and early history of the Mortara community, its rule, customs and ideal of life before moving on to Albert's own career. The chapter on Albert as Bishop of Vercelli details in separate sections his relations with the Church of Vercelli, the papacy (in particular Innocent III) the Empire and the Commune. This systematic listing of his activities shows him to have been an efficient and effective bishop and diplomat. However, once more, the particular discussion of Albert's role in each case is prefaced by prolonged surveys of the background.

Chapters 4 and 5 then examine two religious groups with whom Albert was closely involved while bishop: the Canons of Biella and the Humiliati, before moving in chapter 6 to consider Albert's activities as Patriarch of Jerusalem and Apostolic Legate.

Having established the environment in which Albert worked and the details of his career, Mosca then turns to his relations with the Hermits on Mount Carmel, beginning with an examination of the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century sources and traditions about their origins. Finally, on page 431, he turns to the work undertaken by Albert for the Hermits on Mount Carmel, once again prefacing the detail with a general discussion of the context, in this case, monastic life in the holy land.

The book concludes with an examination of Albert's claims to be seen as founder of the Carmelites and poses various open questions, a return to his original desire to initiate rather than close the discussion.

A great deal of work has gone into this volume but we do not learn as much from it as we might. Much of the effort has been to synthesise the studies of others. He is at his best when he finally gets down to a detailed discussion of the early Carmelite vitae formula and perhaps the most interesting section is the concluding account of correlations between the rules of Albert's own community of Mortara, the Humiliati and the Carmelites. In particular Mosca emphasises their Christocentrism and argues that these parallels go beyond the simple common values of religious movements at the time, suggesting that these mutual influences reflect the originality of Albert's contribution (p. 539-43). However the practices described include such traditional regular observances as silence, poverty, the holding of a daily chapter, the invitation to constant prayer, fasting and abstinence. More work would need to be done on the origins and singularity of these particular customs to convince this reader that the ideas reflect Albert's originality. Mosca also distinguishes between the technical and juridical interventions of Albert on behalf of the canons of Biella and the Humiliati and the "legislative but also charismatic" role he played with the Carmelites. He argues that the vitae formula of the Carmelites amounts to Albert's spiritual testament and that without him the Carmelites would not have had an identity. Thus in his view Albert should be seen as the founder of the Order, equal to Francis of Assisi and Dominic Guzman as "one of the great men of that time in the Church who contributed decisively to an epoch-making shift through their spiritual and institutional renewal" (p. 544-5).

This volume will undoubtedly provide the author's fellow Carmelites with food for thought about the origins of their Order. It will also be useful as a source of information collected in one place on a key figure in the church of northern Italy in the late twelfth century and an important player in Innocent III's reforms of the wider church. However the length of the main text (540 pages), largely the result of contextualising every area of Albert's activities so that he often disappears from the discussion for pages on end, may well deter all but the most persistent readers. The freedom to write without word-limits is enviable, but quoting at great length from secondary as well as primary writers hardly seems necessary. Although the Latin passages are not difficult, translation would have made the book smoother to read. Moreover, given that most of the texts cited are already printed in extenso in the appendices, their repetition in the text simply over-burdens the volume. In spite of his express wish to "return to the sources," these are not always explicitly acknowledged. Thus for example, in chapter 5 (p. 303), a hostile view of the Humiliati is summarised without indicating that the source is Burchard of Ursperg. There is also frustrating dependence on the work of other secondary historians. In chapter 2, the discussion of Albert's origins depends on a review of secondary writers rather than an original evaluation of the scant primary sources. It would have been quicker and simpler to adopt the argument of the most recent historian and pass on to more novel material. Indeed here, as elsewhere in the text, articles by other writers inform the structure of the argument (for example, Minghetti on Albert in Italy, Gorino Causa on the canons of Biella, Staring on Carmelite sources, Friedmann on the early hermits). Yet at the same time, there is a surprising lack of recent scholarship -- most notably, numerous groundbreaking Italian articles on the Humiliati, the new edition of the Registers of Innocent III and Andrew Jotischky's book on the Carmelites (The Perfection of Solitude: Hermits and Monks in the Crusader States, Penn State 1995). Typographical errors ('Alberoni' for 'Alberzoni,' 'Herliny' for 'Herlihy,' 'Todi' for 'Lodi,' 'Clifford H.L.' for 'C.H. Lawrence'), are unfortunately commonplace, and suggest that better copy-editing might have helped. The appendices bring together a useful range of documentation, but almost all of it has been published before (in some cases, several times) and is simply reprinted without further editing. The illustrations and maps are reproduced from other works and in many cases are extremely poor. The maps in particular are confusing because the same locations are identified in a variety of languages (dictated by the source from which they have been copied), and some of them are almost illegible (eg. Appendix 9 no. 19).

The career of Albert, Patriarch of Jerusalem, is certainly worthy of in-depth investigation and Mosca has brought together a vast array of information. However, a better book could have been carved out of it by cutting down on the contextualisation which is already easily accessible in many well-written and illustrated secondary works. As it stands, most readers will flag before they reach his conclusions.