Timothy Reuter

title.none: Wiessner, ed., Das Bistum Naumburg (Reuter)

identifier.other: baj9928.0003.010 00.03.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Timothy Reuter, University of Southampton,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2000

identifier.citation: Wiessner, Heinz, ed. Das Bistum Naumburg, Vol. 1, part 1, Die Dioezese. Germania Sacra, New Series, No. 35:1. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1997. Pp. xx, 732. DM 326. ISBN: 3-110-15193-6.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 00.03.10

Wiessner, Heinz, ed. Das Bistum Naumburg, Vol. 1, part 1, Die Dioezese. Germania Sacra, New Series, No. 35:1. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1997. Pp. xx, 732. DM 326. ISBN: 3-110-15193-6.

Reviewed by:

Timothy Reuter
University of Southampton

This volume has a long history. The Germania Sacra series was an interwar project which aimed at a systematic survey of all pre-Reformation ecclesiastical foundations--cathedrals, monasteries, collegiate churches, priories--on German territory. 'Systematic' meant here not only making a list and ensuring that nothing got left out but also laying down a master-plan with a comprehensive list of headings and subheadings which all volumes were to follow. Only a handful of volumes were produced before the outbreak of war in 1939, but a number of others had been commissioned, of which this was one. In 1941 the then director of the overall project, Gottfried Wentz, claimed that its initial editor, Ernst Devrient, had taken the volume, on which he had been working since 1930, to the point where it was ready to go to press. In fact this was not true by any means, and when the present editor, Heinz Wiessner, took over the volume in 1956, following Devrient's death in a traffic accident in 1948, the manuscript was not only incomplete but in a number of respects inadequate. As so often with such undertakings, a fresh start had to be made.

By this time other developments had intervened. The Germania Sacra series had been taken over by the newly-established Max-Planck-Institut für Geschichte in Göttingen, in what was by then West Germany. The author, however, was working in the state archive service in East Germany, on the other side of the minefields and barbed wire. As a state archivist he was a 'secret-bearer', subject to special restrictions in his ability to travel or to meet western visitors, all the more restrictive as he had no relatives in the west and could not therefore claim any 'legitimate' rights of contact. Work on the project therefore had to be carried on almost clandestinely, even after the author had left the state archive service: Irene Crusius, the long-standing secretary of the whole Germania Sacra undertaking in the west, gives a fascinating account of this microcosm of scholarly relations in divided Germany in her preface, with graphic details of how the author was supplied with scholarly materials almost as a spy might have been supplied with code-books and instructions, with conspiratorial meetings in cafes and smuggled books in suitcases.

East German scholarly libraries suffered before 1989 not only from ideological suspicion about the acquisition of 'western' scholarship but from straightforward shortage of cash, especially hard convertible currency with which to purchase books from outside the COMECON zone. In this respect, even more than in the absence of opportunities for free exchange of ideas between scholars and much more than in the effects of an externally imposed interpretative paradigm, East German medieval scholarship was impoverished. The book does still show something of the conditions under which it was produced--not in any lack of awareness of individual pieces of scholarship, of which I have found no significant examples, but more in a certain flavour of detachment from the overall scholarly developments of which individual pieces of scholarship are a part. That is neither surprising nor a matter for censure: the miracle is that the volume has appeared at all.

The diocese whose history is covered here was founded in 968 at Zeitz, some 50km ESE of Naumburg, as part of the establishing of a province for the newly-founded archbishopric of Magdeburg. It was not until 1028 that it was moved to its present location; even in the twelfth century it could still be referred to as the bishopric of Zeitz. A chapter remained in Zeitz, and the bishops themselves again took up residence in Zeitz from 1285, though the see was not transferred back there. Like all the east Saxon dioceses except Magdeburg itself it was small and poor, and it was never enriched by the appointment of a bishop able to supplement its endowment from his own patrimony, unlike Hildesheim (Bernward) or Merseburg (Thietmar). It was unusual also in becoming early a kind of 'house bishopric' for the family of the margraves of Meissen. Several of the early margraves were buried in the cathedral, and when this was rebuilt in the thirteenth century its famous sculptures of Ekkehard II and others, which are amongst the earliest examples of three-dimensional 'realist' representation in the medieval west, produced a memorialisation of the diocese's early history which substantially and surprisingly played down its origins as a royal foundation in order to present it as a local aristocratic diocese. Surprisingly, because the family branches which were here memorialised were no longer playing a significant role in local and regional politics: there is no real question of a rewriting of history in order to please powerful local patrons in the absence of a kingship able to protect and endow.

Wiessner covers the history of the bishopric and diocese from its foundation through to the period of the reformation (the cathedral chapter in Naumburg and the collegiate foundation in Zeitz are to be the subject of separate volumes, as is normal practice in the Germania Sacra treatment of dioceses). As suggested above, the bishopric was always a rather small-scale affair: unlike many other German dioceses, the bishopric was unable to develop a serious late medieval territory, losing out in the competition for Landesherrschaft to the Wettiner margraves from the thirteenth century. Its bishops rarely played a leading role either in the politics of the Reich or the religious life of the region.

The systematic plan used for Germania Sacra volumes--sources and literature; archives and library; historical survey; institutions and administration; religious and spiritual life; property; lists of office holders--makes for a very thorough if often rather fragmented treatment of the diocese's history. It's not clear, for example, that much is gained from having three pages on Naumburg and the crusades or six pages on heresy and inquisition in the diocese, when what we are dealing with are much more widespread phenomena. The volume presently under review includes the first six sections of the Germania Sacra plan only: volume 2, which at the time of review had not yet appeared, is to include the prosopography as well as an index and maps. Together they will make up a significant contribution to the history of the church in eastern Saxony, the first port of call for any work on religious history in or around medieval Naumburg.