Albrecht Classen

title.none: Heikkila, Das Kloster Fulda und der Goslarer Rangstreit (Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.9905.016 99.05.16

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Heikkila, Tuomas. Das Kloster fulda und der Goslarer Rangstreit. Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1998. Pp. 222. ISBN: 9-514-10856-6.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.05.16

Heikkila, Tuomas. Das Kloster fulda und der Goslarer Rangstreit. Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1998. Pp. 222. ISBN: 9-514-10856-6.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

In medieval Germany the various archbishops, bishops, and imperial abbots waged a closely watched battle over who ranked highest and exerted the most influence. This ranking was often expressed in public, for instance, through seating arrangements during mass or at other official occasions. Such an event took place at Pentecost of 1063 in Goslar, but the competition between the imperial Abbot of Fulda, Widerad, and the Bishop of Hildesheim, Hezilo, suddenly erupted into a physical conflict as the latter called his soldiers, hidden in the church, to come forward and had the Fulda group forced out of the church. They in turn soon called their own soldiers which then led to a bloodbath. Hezilo was later able to put all the blame on Widerad who, already weakened through other political circumstances, resorted to bribery of the involved royals, bishops, and archbishops not to investigate the affair and sweep it under the carpet. This massive bribery in turn depleted the wealth of the Fulda monastery, and soon a group of Fulda monks staged a riot against Widerad which, however, was soon crushed.

These events, as minuscule as they might seem to the modern historian, provide the basis for Tuomas Heikkila's (the name is actually spelled with an umlaut over the 'a') detailed examination in which he draws significant conclusions from the small conflict in Goslar which shed significant light on the political, economic, and religious role of the Fulda monastery at large, and hence also on the political situation of eleventh-century Germany. Since its foundation in the eighth century Fulda had always enjoyed a tremendous political influence and boasted one of the largest land holdings in Germany. Therefore, the abbots of Fulda had always claimed second position right after the Archbishop of Mainz, even though this claim was challenged from time to time. Because Fulda had been founded by the missionary St. Boniface, and because Fulda had always enjoyed a very good relationship with the papacy, the monastery could indeed argue for its political supremacy within the German empire. The Abbot of Fulda was also the archimandrite or archabbot, meaning that he was the primas of all abbots in Germany. This privilege entitled him to wear during mass the symbolic dalmatic and sandals as if he held the rank of a cardinal. Moreover, the monastery of Fulda had received as a gift from the pope the monastery St. Andrea in Rome, probably to serve as the private quarters for those abbots who went to Rome to receive the pope's consecration. Heikkila also points out that the Fulda abbot and the Mainz archbishop enjoyed a particularly close relationship, even though this did not necessarily imply that Fulda could indeed assume the second position right after the archbishop.

Bishop Hezilo of Hildesheim was not only eager to reject Widerad's claim for his personal sake, but also to use the occasion to demonstrate his political power and to humiliate Fulda which owned many estates within his bishopric. Much more important, though, proved to be the relationship between Hezilo and the Archbishop of Cologne, Anno, who had, so to speak, kidnapped the young ruler Henry IV from his mother Agnes in 1062 and had assumed a representative governorship over Germany in his new role as Henry's tutor. The Archbishop of Mainz, Siegfried, struggled against Anno and tried to outmaneuver him in the control over the young German emperor and to defeat him in their political competition. At Christmas of 1062 Siegfried had convened a synod in Goslar to rally support for his position, and at that time Abbot Widerad had indeed managed to secure the second rank behind the archbishop of Mainz. As Heikkila emphasizes, however, Siegfried only thought of his own self-aggrandizement, not of Fulda's plight because a few years later Mainz forced the abbey to turn over considerable taxation privileges and so weakened Fulda financially. In fact, it seems as if Widerad became a pawn in Siegfried's machinations and quickly lost in his struggle against Hezilo because the bloody outcome of the fight in Goslar was entirely blamed on him and his people because Widerad had called in his armed troops after the first onslaught by the Hildesheim soldiers which dramatically escalated the conflict. Consequently, the Fulda abbot had to pay large sums of money to his opponents to avoid being removed from his position. The riot against him which resulted as a consequence, however, was immediately met by general opposition and was quickly squashed because it would have endangered the rigid hierarchical thinking typical of that time (173).

Another important consequence of the event in Goslar was that Archbishop Anno of Cologne, weakened by the steady confrontation with Archbishop Siegfried of Mainz, had to find a new ally in Archbishop Adalbert of Hamburg-Bremen. The latter forced Anno in 1063 to share the governorship with him which Heikkila describes as the result of a long-term effort on Adalbert's part to rob Anno of some of his political power. The battle in Goslar did not necessarily trigger the division of the governorship, but it certainly demonstrated publicly that Anno was not strong enough to avoid such scandals. Siegfried also lost in influence, and Widerad barely managed to survive the crisis. The Fulda monastery received a devastating blow in Goslar and from then on experienced a steady economic and political decline, even though, as the author emphasizes, the cultural-literary life continued quite rigorously.

Heikkila's study, which seems to have been his doctoral dissertation submitted at the University of Helsinki, proves to be an excellent case study in which both the local and the global events are sharply profiled and discussed in very clear terms. The author considers not only the most recent research literature, but has also returned to scholarship dating back to the seventeenth century because it contains much valuable information about sources which are lost today and which often appear to have had a better understanding of the historical events than modern historians.

Heikkila introduces us once again to the historical development of the Fulda monastery and places the Goslar conflict in the context of imperial politics (Henry III and his young son, Henry IV). Moreover, he also illustrates the economic, religious, and ideological aspects dominant in the eleventh century. In other words, although Heikkila seems to look only into a small, locally interesting case, the fight in Goslar 1063, he unearths the wider implications and demonstrates the lasting significance resulting from this bloody clash between the Abbot of Fulda and the Bishop of Hildesheim.

The reader would have profited from a different structure than the present one, as the actual historical events, the fight in Goslar, are detailed only very late in the fourth chapter, after Heikkila has discussed the various sources available today, the history of the monastery Fulda, the individual characters involved in the struggle both within the church and in the government, and the reasons for the fight to erupt in the first place. Nevertheless, the study is well written and masterfully takes us through the maze of charges and countercharges. It also needs to be pointed out that Heikkila, although a Fin, has written his thesis in an almost impeccable German. This book proves to be a solid and critical investigation of a complex case and convincingly argues for the imperial significance of the small event in Goslar in 1063.