John Howe

title.none: Cushing, Papacy and Law in the Gregorian Revolution (Howe)

identifier.other: baj9928.9908.008 99.08.08

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John Howe, Texas Technical University, john.howe@TTACS.TTU.EDU

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Cushing, Kathleen. Papacy and Law in the Gregorian Revolution: The Canonistic Work of Anslem of Lucca. Oxford Historical Monographs. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. xi, 246. $69.00. ISBN: 0-198-20724-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.08.08

Cushing, Kathleen. Papacy and Law in the Gregorian Revolution: The Canonistic Work of Anslem of Lucca. Oxford Historical Monographs. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. xi, 246. $69.00. ISBN: 0-198-20724-7.

Reviewed by:

John Howe
Texas Technical University

This is a difficult book to categorize. To a specialist audience it offers an advanced analysis of the canonical work of (St.) Anselm of Lucca (d. 1086), a thematic treatment written and organized in a way that still betrays its origins as an Oxford masters and doctoral thesis. Readers with a general interest in the medieval Church might wish that some of this work had been consigned to articles in legal journals but they could still benefit from the author's valiant attempts to situate Anselm in the broader context of ecclesiastical reform.

The initial pages offer one of the best English-language surveys of relevant newer scholarship up through about 1995. Significant here is the title "Papacy and Law on the Eve of the Gregorian Revolution." Kathleen Cushing follows the lead of her thesis director, the late Karl Leyser, in using the term "Gregorian Revolution" to designate the events generally known today as the Gregorian Reform. One might hesitate to adopt this innovation because it applies the abrupt implications of "revolution" to an uncomfortably long era, shifts the balance of the millennial reform movement a little too far forward, and implicitly assumes Cushing's conclusion that ecclesiastical changes were not so much a reordering of the Church on the basis of ancient precedents ("reform" according to the terminology of Gerhart Ladner and others) as they were a revolutionary redefinition of the Church according to a general principle of papal discretion. Nevertheless, Cushing is willing to view the problems in new ways and to deal with ecclesiastical change on a larger scale, with a more extended chronology and with a far more universal cast of characters. She introduces recent research that tends to shift the focus away from battling emperors and popes toward broader economic, social, legal, and religious changes.[1]

This broader perspective potentially undermines her project. If ecclesiastical change no longer seems to pivot so much on Gregory VII and his circle, then why examine the movement from the perspective of Anselm of Lucca, a man who, according to his first biographer, "above all sought to imitate as much as possible in all things his most holy teacher Pope Gregory"?[2] Cushing has a clear answer: the earlier reform attempts, however important, were lacking in coherence and direction because they lacked a generally accepted authority; a renewed emphasis on canon law was insufficient in itself because churchmen needed a higher authority to purge the canons of false accretions and contradictions; the reformers of the 1070s and l080s, she argues, began to recognize this and to champion the authority of Rome above the laws (even while claiming to be restoring canon law to its pristine state)--thus they helped launch the more Rome-centered Church of the higher Middle Ages (esp. pp. 35-39, 65-67, 104-06). In this revolutionary transition, one of the most important innovators would be Anselm of Lucca.

Anselm was born ca. 1040, a son of Milanese nobles. His uncle, Bishop Anselm I of Lucca, was the future Pope Alexander II (1061-73). The senior Anselm had studied in northern France with Lanfranc of Bec (later Archbishop of Canterbury, d. 1089), who, circumstantial evidence suggests, may also have taught the second Anselm (pp. 45-48). When, early in 1073, Pope Alexander finally relinquished his Luccan episcopate, his nephew succeeded him, although remaining bishop elect for two years until papal relations with Henry IV had temporarily thawed enough so that there was no canonical impediment in asking him to approve the election. Anselm II strove to regularize episcopal property and to force his cathedral canons to adhere to the Augustinian rule. He was so inflexible that he is quoted as saying that he preferred "that in a church there be no clerk or monk rather than that there be one without a rule ("irregularis") or, as might be said, irreligious ("irreligiosus")."[3] In the resulting conflict, even Gregory VII's support proved unavailing.[4] Luccan elites rallied to Henry IV's antipope, Clement III (1080-1100). Anselm had to live in exile until his death in 1086, largely at the court of his patroness and supporter Matilda of Tuscany (d. 1115). Nevertheless, as a result of his reputation for sanctity, he was commemorated in two nearly contemporary vitae.

Cushing is primarily interested in Anselm as canonist. Anselm compiled a Collectio Canonum during his exile between 1081 and 1086, probably after 1083. It consisted of thirteen books of unequal length, broken down into 1149 chapters, proceeding from the initial books on the papacy to the final books on the sacraments, excommunication, and lawful use of coercive power. Scholarly knowledge of this collection is complicated by the fact that it was a living document, surviving in four principal recensions all of which have been interpolated to a greater or lesser extent. Most of the manuscripts date from the early twelfth century. The best present edition is by Friedrich Thaner (1906 and 1915), but he conflated various recensions and died before he finished. In this present study, the unedited books xii and xiii are at last printed, albeit in a "provisional and much abridged working edition" (pp. 179-200).

Cushing presents a "preliminary examination of Anselm's canonical sources" (pp. 62-102, esp. 102, with tables 203-24). Anselm used many. His most direct source was the Collectio in LXXIV Titulos, which gathers together texts on papal prerogatives. But he did not use it slavishly, and often, especially in the case of the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, he went back to the original texts (as Cushing demonstrates in appended comparisons, pp, 147-75). Anselm played an important role in disseminating and popularizing Pseudo-Isidore in Italy. He integrated patristic texts into his legal collections, employing them as "true auctoritates" to such an unprecedented degree that his work "in fact marks the beginning of a dramatic transformation in the use of patristic texts as sources of law" (p. 91-95).

Anselm wanted to reform the Church by strengthening the pope. Sometimes in his legal collection, Cushing claims, he furthered this agenda "by means of some subtle manipulation of his texts" (p. 74). Anselm has traditionally had a good reputation as a fair and accurate compiler. However, Cushing demonstrates that he occasionally altered the rubrics introducing his canons, or created new rubrics, giving his texts "significant redirection" toward more papal power. It would be hard to imagine Anselm proceeding in any other way, given the medieval propensity to explicate and interpret texts in terms of preexisting paradigms. Yet just for that reason Gregorian ideology is illuminated by analyzing how texts were pulled and shaped. Cushing compares Anselm's work to the parallel collection made by Cardinal Deusdedit from 1083-87. Deusdedit had a hierarchy of sources; Anselm treated all sources as equally authoritative under the pope. Deusdedit looked more at the Roman Church as a corporation; Anselm gave more emphasis to papal leadership (pp. 99-102).

The final chapter on "Anselm and Coercion" previously appeared in the Catholic Historical Review (1995). Although at first glance it might seem to be an epilogue, it actually binds together this monograph in several ways. It exploits the last two books of Anselm's Collectio, the books which have their fullest printed version to date appended here. It develops a corollary of Anselm's emphasis on papal supremacy-- if the pope has great power, then he has a moral and charitable imperative to act forcefully. Anselm's attempts to justify coercion reflect concerns that preoccupied him during his last years: his final work would be a Liber contra Wibertum which attempted to bring antipope Clement III back to Roman obedience, initially through scholarly arguments, but acknowledging that force, which had already been used on both sides, might have a role in ending the schism.

Overall this is a difficult book. Cushing attempts to bridge the gap between general ecclesiastical history and canonistic legal studies. She presents current research directions and advocates an important thesis, arguing that the essence of the reform was law, and that the "Gregorian Revolution" was a jump from recovering legal precedent to championing Rome as law's sole arbitrator. Yet there may be some disjunction here inasmuch as her project seems to flow more out of traditional treatments of Rome-centered reform than out of the newer broader studies of reform she described in this book's first chapter. Cushing's more technical arguments and demonstrations may manage both to tax non-specialists and to vex specialists: the former might wish for a general monograph without them; the latter might wish they had been presented in fuller detail and based on a less provisional text. Yet, even if some of her analyses and texts are not, and are not intended to be, definitive last words, she has succeeded in advancing our knowledge of Anselm and his world.


[1] The long accepted scholarly orthodoxy on eleventh-century Church reform is perhaps best exemplified by Gerd Tellenbach's The Church in Western Europe from the Tenth to the Early Twelfth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). For an overview of some of the problems it presents, see John Howe, Church Reform and Social Change in Eleventh- Century Italy: Dominic of Sora and His Patrons (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), pp. xiv-xviii. A vividly written microcosmic view of one aspect of the broader reform perspective is Richard Landes, Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History: Ademar of Chabannes, 989-1034 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), pp. 24-74.

[2] Vita Anselmi Episcopi Lucensis xxxi, ed. Roger Wilmans, in MGH Scriptores XII (1856), p. 22.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Gregory's efforts in support of Anselm's reforms are now treated more specifically in H. E. J. Cowdrey, Gregory VII (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 303-05.