Bert Roest

title.none: Andrews, The Early Humiliati (Roest)

identifier.other: baj9928.0009.007 00.09.07

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Bert Roest, University of Groningen,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2000

identifier.citation: Andrews, Frances. The Early Humiliati. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Pp. vii, 352. $69.95. ISBN: 0-512-59189-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 00.09.07

Andrews, Frances. The Early Humiliati. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Pp. vii, 352. $69.95. ISBN: 0-512-59189-9.

Reviewed by:

Bert Roest
University of Groningen

In this dense but well-written and heavily documented monograph, Frances Andrews, Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, explores the early history of the Humiliati, a group of (predominantly) lay religious who, like the Waldensians and other groups, were condemned by the Church as heretics in 1184, but were reconciled seventeen years later under the pontificate of Innocent III.

After an informative introduction, which presents a bird's-eye view of the history of the Humiliati until their suppression in 1571 and argues for the importance of studying the early history of the movement until its reconciliation with the Church, the first chapter opens with a delightful historiographical analysis. In this analysis, Andrews traces the representation of the early Humiliati between the fourteenth-century accounts of Dominican order historians and the twentieth-century narratives of Grundmann, Violante, Epstein, and others. Andrews devotes special attention to the impressive documentary and historiographical endeavours of the eighteenth-century erudite Tiraboschi and the early twentieth-century historian Zanoni, whose works still "are essential in the hand baggage of any student of the early Humiliati" (p. 6) and have been instrumental for the approaches and questions of later historians.

Chapter 2 follows with a case-by-case examination of the twelfth-century evidence for the Humiliati before 1201; the so-called 'prehistory' of the movement, which by many modern historians is judged to be a time of fluidity about which little is known. With a creative use of the sparse source materials, Andrews develops a reasonably convincing picture of Humiliati presence in various north-Italian centres (such as Milan, Piacenza, Pavia, Frassineto Po, Tortona, Como, Vicenza, and Lodi) from the mid-1170s to the 1199-1201 period that lead to papal approval of the order. Andrews divides the early years of the movement into an initial orthodox phase, during which religious communities that called themselves Humiliati lived a very humble lifestyle and actively promoted catholic peace, and a heretical period after the generic excommunication of the Humiliati for disobedience, as they insisted too much on preaching without proper authority and refused to take oaths. In that second phase, ecclesiastical spokesmen repeatedly linked Humiliati groups with other assumed-heretical groups, like the Poor of Lyons. Some of the Humiliati communities traceable in this difficult period can be directly associated with the later, redeemed, Humiliati order. Other groups defined as Humiliati in the early sources did not survive their heretical stigma or eventually merged into other religious communities, showing that at this time the label 'Humiliati' did not signify a clearly identifiable membership and identity. Andrews rightly remarks that this should caution historians from using overly rigid categories when writing the history of such budding religious movements. Just as the initiative of Francis and her emerging order stimulated a wealth of other groups to adopt a similar minoritismo ideal, so a prior umiliatismo ideal might have stimulated various groups, not all of which would later develop ties with the 'official' order after 1201.

Andrews touches upon the problem that notarial records present a different view of the Humiliati than the papal letters and the narrative accounts of contemporary ecclesiastics. The available notarial records tend to present a far more traditional picture of the early Humiliati than the other sources, which stress their (good and/or threatening) innovating aspects. Modern historians often seem to follow these latter sources, to emphasize the 'novel' and even heretical aspects of the new movement, whereas Andrews draws attention to the way in which notarial and administrative sources actually present these early Humiliati as 'established' groups with an accredited lifestyle. This also shows in the promotion of Humiliati communities by local bishops and other local religious, both before and after the 1184 condemnation. The same sources indicate that already in this prehistoric phase such Humiliati communities regularly included priests, a phenomenon that needs further investigation.

Andrews establishes the 'landed' character of several early Humiliati groups (which implies a traditional monastic form of poverty rather than a mendicant one) and the presence of double communities of male and female religious. She also shows that after the 1184 condemnation several groups survived by evading the heresy stigma of the Humiliati label, a phenomenon that was also visible in the 1201 papal letters of approval, which address under various names a large number of houses and communities that seemingly had survived. On the basis of these facts, Andrews concludes that the heretical nature of the pre-approval Humiliati should not be overemphasised. Unlike the Waldensians, there is no evidence for the emergence of unorthodox beliefs and practices after their condemnation, which made local tolerance and ultimate reconciliation with the Church much easier.

Chapter 3 deals in detail with the approval process around 1200, when Humiliati leaders submitted themselves to Pope Innocent III. By then, three distinctive patterns of organisation had emerged: i) Humiliati groups of married or single lay men and women living a religious life in their own homes (the later third order); ii) male and female regulars living in common, both in separate and in double communities (the later second order); iii) clerics organised in more formal communities (the later first order). Andrews examines the careers of the individuals involved on both sides of the negotiations that led to an examination of the Humiliati's proposed way of life by two papally instituted delegations. In this way, Andrews establishes a context for Innocent III's approval of the three sub-orders of Humiliati under one framework of authority in June 1201 (which normally receives the brunt of historical attention), and assesses in some detail the diplomatic contribution of the Humiliati spokesmen (such as James of Rondineto, Guy de Porta Orientale and Lanfranc of Lodi) and the papally appointed 'prudent' prelates involved with the first examinations (notably the regular canon Albert of Vercelli and the Cistercian Peter of Lucedio). Andrews not only makes a case for the influence of the latter prelates on the new order's institutio and its liturgical practices, but also weighs the impact of the official curial delegates who brought the examination process to conclusion.

Chapter 4 outlines the norms established for the order in and after 1201, and illustrates the observance in the various Humiliati communities in the early decades of the thirteenth century. The major difficulty is that no customaries for the early thirteenth-century Humiliati seem to have survived. Andrews therefore draws on several groups of other normative texts (papal letters and the order's institutio), both to describe major aspects of the approved forms of Humiliati life in 1201 and to tackle status and content of the surviving early rules.

Whereas Chapter 4 deals with the regime established in and after 1201 on the basis of these official documents, chapters five to seven examine in more detail the life of the order 'on the ground,' combining all possible notarial records and papal letters to 'piece together the observance and practices of the Humiliati order in the early decades of its development within the Church' (p. 135). Chapter 5 centres more in particular on the nature, size and geographical 'catchment' areas of Humiliati houses, the existence of Humiliati churches, matters of institutional security, the internal hierarchy within communities and between so-called universitates of Humiliati in north-Italian cities, and the respective roles of female and male superiors. The strong local identities of many Humiliati communities explain why centralisation was resisted for a long time, and maybe also why the Humiliati failed to expand beyond northern and central Italy.

Chapter 6 uses surviving professions of faith to consider the development of vows and entry rituals in the first and second orders, as well as dominant forms of donation and recruitment, which sometimes involved complete family groups and occasionally aroused suspicion of local communal governments. Chapter 7 returns to the evidence of papal letters to trace the development of a unified observance and more regular forms of visitation after c. 1227, and the impact of Innocent IV's constitutional changes (1246). These papal initiatives eventually steered the Humiliati towards a hierarchically organised order (more or less along Dominican lines). Andrews suggests that the increasing involvement of Dominican visitators from the 1230s onwards might have stimulated the adoptation of this more centralised form of government, replete with the introduction of a master general (with the appointment of Beltramus of Brescia in 1246). Although these centralising initiatives did not always take immediate effect, the Humiliati increasingly behaved like other centrally organised regular orders.

Finally, Chapter 8 attempts to place the Humiliati of the first and second orders into a wider pastoral and ecclesiastical context by comparing the development of their pastoral rights, their burial rights, and their position towards local religious authorities with the emerging pastoral framework of the mendicant orders. Andrews emphasises local differences between the pastoral role of different Humiliati groups, which makes it much more difficult than for the mendicants to come to a general assessment about the Humiliati's pastoral position in the Church at large. She nevertheless is able to conclude that the Humiliati on the whole were far more conformist than the mendicants, more eager to win acceptance than to challenge established ecclesiastical authority.

In her introduction, Andrews points out that she does not provide a general history of the early Humiliati. She contends that there is still too much research going on to make that a realistic project. To facilitate further study, She provides the reader not only with a comprehensive list of primary and secondary sources, but also with three lengthy appendices, respectively a full calendar of papal and episcopal letters and privileges concerning the Humiliati, a series of Humiliati professions of faith, and a listing of wills involving the Humiliati as beneficiaries or executors.

In this volume, Andrews merely aims to understand the Humiliati as a movement outside and subsequently as an order within the Church. Hence this book explores in particular the transition of the late twelfth-century Humiliati movement into the thirteenth-century Humiliati order. That objective, as well as the survival rate of documents, also dictate the chronological limitations of Andrews study. She does not move beyond the 1270s, when protracted disputes with the bishops of Milan, Como and Brescia lead to a new epoch in which the order became entirely free from episcopal intervention.

Notwithstanding these acknowledged limitations and the author's complaint that the actual life of Humiliati communities 'on the ground' is sometimes hard to pin down, Andrews exploration of the available source materials has resulted in a very fulfilling historical narrative. In between her many detailed descriptions of Humiliati settlements and forms of religious observance, Andrews shows in a convincing manner that the survival of the Humiliati as a heretical movement and the successful re-integration into the Church was made possible because of the inherently ecclesiastical profile of many Humiliati groups, unlike that of other 'heretical' movements that failed to re-integrate. Andrews also shows that the initial regime of the first and second orders around 1200 foreboded the mendicant experience, yet still contained many elements of both monastic and canonical life. To some extent this traditionalism was stimulated by the influence of the prelates who examined the Humiliati in 1201 and played a key role in the order's approval. In the course of the normative initiatives of the 1230's and the instalment of a master general in 1246, the Humiliati moved in the direction of a centrally organised regular order, widely esteemed by the traditional ecclesiastical authorities and the mendicant orders (the Dominicans in particular) as a powerful instrument of orthodoxy.

In all, the importance of Andrews' book surpasses her already commendable new insights into the history of the early Humiliati. Andrews careful approach to the beginnings of the Humiliati, with its fruitful juxtaposition of different kinds of source materials, can serve as an important case-study, teaching us in an almost impeccable manner a lesson concerning the complex emergence of evangelical renewal movements in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and implicitly inviting us to reconsider the origins of other groups, on both sides of the 'heresy-orthodoxy' divide.