Daniel Williman

title.none: Menache, Clement V (Williman)

identifier.other: baj9928.9903.014 99.03.14

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Daniel Williman, Professor of Latin and History, Binghamton University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1999

identifier.citation: Menache, Sophia. Clement V. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, 4th Series, No 36. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Pp. xiv, 351. $69.95. ISBN: 0-521-59219-4.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 99.03.14

Menache, Sophia. Clement V. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, 4th Series, No 36. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Pp. xiv, 351. $69.95. ISBN: 0-521-59219-4.

Reviewed by:

Daniel Williman
Professor of Latin and History, Binghamton University

Po pe Clement V (1305-14) was the first pope to stay at Avignon -- for some 23 weeks, in the Dominican convent. The author, perceiving that much research into his eventful pontificate had not established its character unambiguously, undertook this study "to meet the need for a reconsideration of prevailing premises in order to draw a more coherent picture." The strongest received opinions about Clement V have been two: that he extended the papal domain in the churches of France and England with an economic purpose, the enrichment of himself and his family; and that he opposed no resistance to Philip the Fair's murder and plunder of the Templars, but instead cooperated, and profited from it. Those inveterate notions remain unshaken by this study. Some readers may accept the author's opinion that the supreme motive of Clement's policy was his desire for a new Crusade and that it was this principle which led him to make friendly accommodations with the sovereigns and to build up a war-chest for his nephews to spend in battle in the Holy Land. Others will not.

In the first chapter, Clement V's ecclesiastical career is recounted, with special attention to the circumstances of his election and a consideration of the question whether he belonged to the equivocal category Popes of Avignon or not. Menache seems to answer this question affirmatively, and her purpose seems, as the book goes on, to make use of 14th-century opinions and modern studies of the Avignon papacy as if they included Clement V. Then comes a "personal portrait" concerned principally with the pope's bad health. The other chapters are topical, and if their subjects overlap and repeat, that is due to the politics of the age and the situation of the papal government in it. In chapter 2, "Church policy," a section on the papal curia concentrates on the preferment achieved there by the pope's family and Gascon countrymen; there is no discussion of curial organization and functions. Then Clement's various interventions in the ecclesiastical appointments in England and France are recounted. "Crusade and mission" is devoted to the pope's efforts to fund and mobilize some activity against the Moslem enemy in the east. Three chapters on Italy, France and England are devoted to the concerns and episodes of royal politics in which Clement V took part: the war betweeen Emperor Henry VII and Charles of Anjou, king of Sicily; Philip IV's campaign against the posthumous reputation of Boniface VIII and for the exoneration of Nogaret; the excommunication and exile of Edward II's favorite Piers Gaveston. Finally, there is an account of the Council of Vienne and of the Clementine Constitutions, this pope's addition to the medieval corpus of canon law.

Throughout, each event and each contemporary opinion mentioned is backed by a note of the pertinent archival or chronicle evidence. The footnotes and the bibliography of primary sources seem painstakingly accurate. If only the nature and dates of those sources (especially the chronicles) had always been indicated, this book would be a useful topical guide and index to the complete dossier of published primary documents on Clement V. The consistently correct spelling of the Latin excerpts was especially impressive.

Sophia Menache's own connective text, however, is often awkward and painfully difficult to read. Sometimes two passes or more were required before I could settle on a meaning for a sentence, and then it was not certain whose message I grasped, my own or the author's. Here are some samples. On pp. 1-2: "The trials of the Templars and of Boniface VIII, coupled with the pope's absence from Rome and what appeared to be a growing reliance on France and its king, often acquired the weight of unquestionable proof in turning Clement's pontificate into a main factor in the collapse of the medieval papacy." Again, on p. 67, after mentioning interventions in favor of Walter Stapledon's election to the see of Exeter by Edward I's widow Queen Margaret and Philip IV of France, "Internal conflicts of this kind could hardly have affected the acceptability of papal monarchy or the implementation of its prerogatives." On page 23, "Just as authors from the Italian peninsula regarded him as French, chroniclers from the Ile-de-France treated him as Gascon. The only possible alternative remained England; but even there, Clement's unconditional support of Edward I and Edward II gradually weakened the original, positive approach."

The stylistic faults here are familiar to readers of undergraduate papers: the passive voice and abstract nouns used instead of concrete and direct expressions, as if to evade a critical reader's judgement; careless diction, the uncritical use of words and phrases that are inappropriate in denotation or connotation; misapplied prepositions; pronouns of uncertain reference; verbal parsimony, using phrases where whole clauses are needed; dangling participles and other modifiers; the promise of logical cohesion implicit in "thus" and "therefore" unfulfilled.

Toward the top of page 2 of the Introduction, as I was becoming impatient with this reading and its perils and pains, a sentence leaped to my eye. Thus, any historian who attempts to study the popes and the papal court during the so-called 'Avignon period' must deal frequently with their scandalous reputation, a characterisation that Petrarch encapsulated in his well-known expression 'Babylonian captivity of the papacy'. "Now this," I said to myself, "is clear, almost elegant; with a small change or two (biffing 'thus' and using 'character' instead of its abstract extension) this is how I myself might have made that slightly banal but necessary observation. But soft!" I then exclaimed, "With a small change or two, that IS how I expressed it, in an article published in 1985 which, I now see, is cited in a footnote, though the formality of quotation marks in the text has been foregone!"

Sensitized to this other undergraduate peccadillo, the all-but- verbatim plagiary, I looked for other instances, checking Menache against the few standard manuals of the Avignon papacy on my own bookshelves and then against more specialized works in the library.

The last sentences on page 23 are taken from Guillemain, La cour pontificale d'Avignon, p. 76 without quotes or citation. The paragraph which links pp. 25-26 is from Renouard's Que sais-je volume La papaute a Avignon, p. 14, slightly altered for the worse, not quoted or cited (the English translation of Renouard is the version in the Bibliography). Pages 30-33, 51-52 and 125 have pastiches from the 1963 English version of Mollat, The Popes of Avignon, pp. 6-8, though the first French edition (1912) is the version in the Bibliography; again, there are no quotes and no citation. The chapter on Piers Gaveston takes an argument and much phrasing, used without quotes on pages 259 and 262, from J. S. Hamilton, Piers Gaveston (1988) pp. 69-70 (partially cited) and p. 76 note 72 (uncited). The middle of p. 261 is clipped out of Pierre Chaplais' Piers Gaveston (1994), pp. 59-60, cited but not quoted. There may be more such pilferage, but half a day seems enough for a reviewer to spend on such forensic browsing, and the readers' patience also is surely limited. Some clues must remain unpursued, for instance the use of the English words "assistance" (p. 283) and "sensible" (p. 38) where "attendance" and "sensitive" were needed, hinting at a French inspiration.

Menache occasionally misunderstands the messages of the modern authors to whom she refers. It may be that they were valuable to her chiefly as threads leading back to the primary sources. Note 23 on page 40 rang untrue to me: "C. Samaran and G. Mollat found Clement V responsible for the corrupt fiscal practices of the Avignon period: La fiscalite pontificale en France, p. 158." Actually (on p. 159) they said "La fiscalisme que l'on a si vivement reproche aux papes du XIVe siècle d'avoir introduit dans l'Église, est l'oeuvre de Jean XXII, mais la responsabilite en revient à Clement V," and they go on to give the reason: Clement V left an empty treasury. Page 90 has a passage translated directly from Samaran-Mollat, accurately cited in note 320 but without quotation marks. A careful reading of my own article mentioned above would have led the author to Kuttner's study "The Date of the Constitution Saepe," and kept her from giving that crucial document a date at least six years early. Menache's page 285 note 43 reads "The province of Narbonne was among the very few that did not present any complaints [to the Council of Vienne], either because of the successful policy of its archbishop, Gilles Aycelin, in restraining royal officers -- as claimed by [Jo Ann] McNamara, ... Gilles Aycelin, p. 187." But McNamara's text has nothing to do with the province or suffragans of Narbonne, only the diocese and in particular the archbishop's properties there.

Senior scholars once could allow their names to appear on the editorial boards of such distinguished historical series as the Cambridge Studies, confident that they could leave it to an academic press to protect their professional reputations with a skillful and assiduous reading of copy. Today it is likely that only those faults which can be caught by a computer's orthography software, or by a technical editor's attention to the accuracy and style of footnotes and bibliography, will be corrected. For grammar, diction, rhetoric, accurate reporting of historical fact and opinion, and honest repetition of other authors' work, it is advisable for scholars mentioned as editors to read anything that will bear their names.