Mark Dupuy

title.none: LaCorte and McMillan, eds., Regular Life (Mark Dupuy)

identifier.other: baj9928.0602.010 06.02.10

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Mark Dupuy, Edith Cowan University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: La Corte, Daniel Marcel, and Douglas J. McMillan. Regular Life: Monastic, Canonical, and Mendicant Rules, Second Edition. Series: TEAMS Documents of Practice Series. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2004. Pp. xi, 164. ISBN: 8.00 1-58044-079-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.02.10

La Corte, Daniel Marcel, and Douglas J. McMillan. Regular Life: Monastic, Canonical, and Mendicant Rules, Second Edition. Series: TEAMS Documents of Practice Series. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2004. Pp. xi, 164. ISBN: 8.00 1-58044-079-7.

Reviewed by:

Mark Dupuy
Edith Cowan University

This is a reissue of a collection of documents originally selected and edited in 1997 for the TEAMS series on Documents of Practice, a useful series committed to publishing affordable and accessible texts for university undergraduates in medieval history. The original editors declined the offer to expand and revise their work, a task then taken up by the volume's current editor, Daniel M. LaCorte. (iv) Although the series is very affordable and widely available in North American libraries, the current reviewer was unable to obtain a copy of the previous edition. Electronically available bibliographic data suggest that the volume has been substantially enlarged, with an additional eighty pages of text, and as such the re-issue seems justified.

The greatest strength of the original volume and of the second edition is to encourage readers to consider religious life as something of an organic whole, even as it exposes the devotional distinctions between various orders and congregations. Scholars and researchers of religious orders often consider or frame religious life by making sharp distinctions among monastic, canonical, and mendicant forms of observance, although in North America this tendency has traditionally been less pronounced than in Europe (see for instance, Barbara Rosenwein's "Views from Afar: North American Perspectives on Medieval Monasticism," in Dove va la storiografia monastica in Europa Milan, 2001). The work of the editors in this particular volume has been essentially that of collection, contextualization, and annotation, although John of Capgrave's Life of St. Gilbert has been rendered into modern English by LaCorte (120). Otherwise care seems to have been taken to employ selections that come from relatively recent editions and translations, and are thus suited to undergraduate audiences. The whole is equipped with a useful if brief introduction.

The editors have fitted each selection with its own brief introduction, and these are excellent for priming students to look for particular issues highlighted by the selected texts. Some texts are cannily chosen, and are presented in ways which will spark fruitful lines of questioning for more perceptive students. The introduction to the Foundation Charter of Cluny ( 105) stresses that William (more accurately, Odo) hoped to protect Cluny from secular interference, while the preceding selection from the biography of Benedict of Aniane closes with a matter-of-fact discussion of monasteries which were "employed for secular burdens and military service." (104) The selections from the Cistercian Exordii will raise questions about the place of women in early Cistercian history, (128) but the bibliography is ill-equipped to provide readers with any answer other than a traditional response based on the act of taking these particular documents at face value--in short, there were no early Cistercian women. As the last few sentences make clear, a few sections of the book are not really explications of rules, and instead reproduce letters, vitae, and foundation documents. Editorial willingness to include such documents--which pertain only tangentially to rules--but not to include other sources relevant to administration is emblematic of another long-standing trend amongst monastic and ecclesiastical historians, namely the separation of administration and spirituality as distinct entities, with the former usually cast in the role of 'poor cousin.'

Perhaps the major difficulty rests with the work's point of departure for understanding medieval religious life. To study the orders one must study their various rules, which always serve as a sort of spiritual cornerstone. But much supplementary information about high and late medieval orders remains, and much of it provides a more nuanced picture of religious life than can be gleaned from the Rules alone. Benedictine houses often generated much useful information at chapter, and the transformation of the idea of a chapter into a more general assembly for internationalized orders after the rise of Citeaux created a significant amount of information which often goes overlooked in approaches leaning heavily towards the spirituality of the orders. Regular Life occasionally shows glimpses of this, as in its presentation of the late twelfth century Hospitaller statutes associated with Roger des Moulins (137-8). In spite of earlier works by Constance Berman and Constance Bouchard (and several less accessible works by European scholars as well), the introduction accepts the early Cistercian presentation of itself and its success as being wedded to the twin pillars of monastic manual labor and rigid seclusion from the secular world. The editor also clearly sides with DeVogue's interpretation of the chronological primacy of the Regula Magistri over the Regula Benedicti, an interpretation with which the current reviewer is not entirely unsympathetic. Yet while most scholars seem to follow DeVogue on the matter, the issue has not been resolved decisively, and the admission that some sort of controversy exists would have been welcome. The introduction favors a cyclical interpretation of 'decline and reform,' a traditional impression which has limitations and is the subject of several recent dissertations and monographs-in-progress. The 'national' military religious orders are largely untouched, in spite of a good deal of secondary and primary material available; the remarkable development of the Order of Santiago, for instance, might have been glimpsed at from Enrique Gallego Blanco's Rule of the Spanish Military Order of St. James: 1170-1493 (Leiden, 1971), but copyright royalties and the desire to restrain the cost of publication might have played a role in such decisions. The assertion that for the military orders "there is no better study than Dominic Selwood's Knights of the Cloister" (162) displays an enthusiasm that is not necessarily warranted. Alan Forey's survey on The Military Orders is broader in scope and is far more suited to undergraduates than Selwood's text, which focuses only on the Templars and Hospitallers, and then only in their 'heartland' of Occitania. LaCorte's presentation of the foundation of the Dominicans emphasizes the order's adoption of the Augustinian Rule, but it does so at the expense of recognizing the immediate debt owed by Dominic to the Premonstratensians, whose constitutions provided the conduit for how Augustinian (and Cistercian) precepts filtered down to Dominican modes of governance and observance.

Although the secondary bibliography contains only references to monographs, students engaged in the study of religious rules would profit from some of the issues raised in James Brodman's "Rule and Identity: The Case of the Military Orders" [1], an article which manages to be of relevance beyond the military orders. Why "Art and Architecture" warranted an entire subsection in the selected secondary bibliography is a bit puzzling, especially considering its brevity. In any case Megan Cassidy-Welch's Monastic Spaces and their Meanings: English Thirteenth Century Monasteries (Brepols, 2001) should probably also be included.

Ultimately it may be said that this edition achieves what it set out to accomplish, even if one takes issue with certain aspects of its overall approach to understanding regular life. Undergraduates doing coursework on the religious orders will find it readable, affordable, and useful, although as with almost any text, instructors will undoubtedly want to supplement aspects of it. LaCorte's reissue provides instructors and students with a solid point of departure for their coursework, and like many other volumes in the TEAMS series, this one should prove to be worth much more than its list price.


[1] Catholic Historical Review 88 (2001): 383-400.