Constant J. Mews

title.none: Stroll, Calixtus II (Constant J. Mews)

identifier.other: baj9928.0601.028 06.01.28

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Constant J. Mews, Monash University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Stroll, Mary. Calixtus II (1119-1124): A Pope Born to Rule. Series: Studies in the History of Christian Traditions, vol. 116. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Pp. xix, 540. 199.00 90-04-13987-7. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.01.28

Stroll, Mary. Calixtus II (1119-1124): A Pope Born to Rule. Series: Studies in the History of Christian Traditions, vol. 116. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Pp. xix, 540. 199.00 90-04-13987-7. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Constant J. Mews
Monash University

To devote a monograph of over five hundred pages to a pope who ruled the Church for only five years might, at first sight, seem excessive. There can be no doubt, however, that Guy, archbishop of Vienne from 1088 until 1119 and youngest son of William, Count of Burgundy, transformed the papacy into a self-confident institution, and thus the character of the Roman Church in the twelfth century. Given the immense importance of those years between 1119 and 1124, Stroll's weighty survey of the achievements of the reign of Calixtus is to be welcomed.

While Stroll devotes an introductory section of her book to Guy as archbishop of Vienne, her major theme is that as pope, Calixtus II was a tough, pragmatic figure, "born to rule"--as the subtitle of her monograph indicates. Her analysis is above all with the political dimensions of his career. As she rightly observes, Vienne was not an established breeding ground for future popes. Unlike Urban II, Pascal II, and Gelasius II, he was not a monk. As Stroll makes clear, his background was unashamedly traditional. He became archbishop of Vienne because of his family connections. His brother, Rainald II, became count of Burgundy from 1087 to 1102 (who would be succeeded by a nephew, Rainald III, count of Burgundy 1102-1148), while another brother, Hugh, was archbishop of Besançon from 1085 to 1102. One of his sisters, Clementia, was married to Robert II, count of Flanders and then Godfrey V, Duke of Lower Lotharingia, while the daughter of another sister, Gisela, was Adelaïde of Maurienne, wife of Louis VI of France. Guy was also related by blood to Henry V of Germany, as well as to Henry I of England. In many ways, Guy was an archbishop of the old school, born to rule whatever ecclesiastical polity was assigned to him by his family. Stroll makes clear that as archbishop he was not averse to creating forgeries to demonstrate the antiquity of his archdiocese, and thus make Vienne a place of importance within Burgundy and beyond. There were serious disagreements with Urban II about the cavalier way in which he expanded the interests of Vienne and is dependencies. Stroll is at her best in exposing the web of self-interest that drove Guy in his desire to extend the web of patronage.

The major part of this monograph is devoted to unraveling the complexities behind his election as Pope, and his relationships with different parts of Latin Christendom: England, Germany, Spain and France, Italy. Stroll has had the benefit of drawing upon a recent comprehensive study of Calixtus II by Beate Schilling: Guido von Vienne-Papst Calixt II, MGH Schriften 45 (Hanover, 1998). There is an impressive thoroughness to her analysis of every charter and mention of Calixtus II as pope. He emerges from her study as highly skilled in the way in which he developed the policy of personally consecrating archbishops (like Thurstan of York), and creating a network of ecclesiastical clients, dependent on his authority, across Europe. Stroll makes clear that his family background and aristocratic connections enabled him to re-assert the interests of the papacy after a period of increasing weakness during the later part of the reign of Paschal II (1099-1118) and the short reign of Gelasius II (1118-1119), in particular in his relationship to Henry V (1106-1125).

Stroll departs from traditional interpretations of Calixtus II in not making any claims for him as an ecclesiastical reformer. Rather than debate with the assumption, made by J.N.D. Kelly in his Oxford Dictionary of the Popes, that Calixtus was "an indefatigable champion of reform," she simply avoids the subject. She makes a passing comment that neither Calixtus, nor his chancellor Haimeric (to whom Bernard of Clairvaux addressed his De diligendo Deo, and many letters) "showed any predilection for spirituality" (462). While Stroll has already argued in her book on Anacletus II and the papal schism of 1130 against the now out-dated hypothesis that Innocent II was supported by a "younger generation" of reformers, against an older generation, represented by Anacletus II, her reading of Calixtus II is to emphasize that his major concern was to strengthen and expand the authority of the papacy, "and in this cause, he used men of every stripe" (478).

While there is clearly much wrong with a naïve division of twelfth-century ecclesiastics into "reformers" and "traditionalists," it seems hard to believe that as pope, Calixtus did not push for his own vision of reform in the Church, even if it was with pragmatic ruthlessness. As Stroll explains, the circumstances behind the election of Guy as pope were unusual in the extreme. Guy was a long-time critic of the willingness of Paschal II to compromise with the German emperor on the question of investiture. At the council of Vienne in 1112, called by Guy without papal authorization, lay investiture was branded as a heresy and Henry V excommunicated. Perhaps the weakest part of Stroll's analysis is her failure to explore Guy's support for new and reformed religious orders, both as archbishop and as pope. Even if he himself drew on a wide range of ecclesiastics to promote his interests, his political skill was precisely to present himself as a spokesperson for the cause of reform. Stroll is very good at explaining the key support Guy was given by Cuno cardinal bishop of Praeneste (Palestrina), papal legate throughout Gaul and Germany from 1112 until 1122, in resisting the demands of Henry V, even against the views of Paschal II. She does not comment on Cuno's involvement in the cause of reform as an Augustinian canon, and as one of the founders of the congregation of Arrouaise. His principal advisor was William of Champeaux, who founded another Augustinian community, at St. Victor, in 1111. According to one report, Cuno of Praeneste was himself invited to be pope by a small group of cardinals who had fled Italy in September 1118, along with John of Gaeta, the recently elected Gelasius II. Gelasius had fled Rome in March 1118, after Henry V had marched into the city in the company of Archbishop Martin of Braga, elected as Pope Gregory VIII. After the death of Gelasius at Cluny in January 1119, Guy was elected pope in Vienne by only a small group of cardinals against the only other serious contender, Pontius abbot of Cluny.

A slightly awkward feature of Stroll's analysis of the reign of Calixtus is that she deals in turn with his policies in a range of different parts of Europe. Thus there is a long initial section on his relationships with England, focusing on the close support that he gave Thurstan of York, then engaged in protracted conflict with Canterbury. We learn very clearly how Calixtus disliked dealing with primatial sees, and preferred to create personal loyalties by supporting individual archbishops in their desire for local independence. This is then followed by a section on Germany, and then a relatively brief section on both Spain and France (the latter entirely from the perspective of a relatively minor player, Geoffrey of Vendôme). The difficulty with this structure to the monograph is that it tends to emphasise local issues at the expense of global themes. The council of Rheims (1119), such an important event in the opening year of the pontificate of Calixtus, is given rather disappointing treatment, as the backdrop to Norman-French negotiations (pp. 116-117), and--very late in the book (pp. 371-82)--as a backdrop to papal-imperial negotiations. We learn nothing about the important new religious orders given approval by the pope at Rheims, such as Fontevraud, the Cistercians, and Premonstratensians, all of which gave vital support for Calixtus II in his struggle with Henry V. The Council of Rheims, convened before Calixtus went to Italy, was an international event of major importance, not least because it ensured that he had the central support of Louis VI (married to his niece, Adelaïde of Maurienne) in his dealings with Henry V. Stroll gives much solid detail about this Council in relation to these negotiations, mediated by William of Champeaux, but gives little sense of the importance of Calixtus' close relationship to the king of France.

Stroll's discussion of his dealings with France from the perspective of Geoffrey of Vendôme gives little sense of the significant role that Calixtus played in shifting Louis VI towards greater dependence on St. Denis. She offers a brief summary of Cuno's involvement at the Council of Soissons, in 1121, but simply by reference to Abelard (curiously tucked into the section on Italy). She does not explain that this was only one of a series of Church councils convened by Cuno in northern France, promoting the cause of ecclesiastical reform, and sharply hostile to Henry V. Stroll is more at home in discussing the relationships of Calixtus to Spain (which gets three chapters, against just one for France).

The section on Calixtus' relationships with Italy is more satisfying, even though it involves yet another summary of his early papal career, in having to start with his entry into Italy in 1120. Again there is a tendency to focus on local issues at the expense of a larger picture. Stroll is good in explaining the central importance that Calixtus faced in dealing with the Normans in southern Italy and Sicily. He realized that he could not maintain the standard oppositional rhetoric to secular authority in which he had engaged in his polemic with Henry V. This also provides a backdrop to her interpretation of the Concordat of Worms in 1122, as marking a much less polarized set of attitudes than he had espoused in 1119. Stroll's interests are so oriented to the political that the first Lateran Council, held in 1123, the first universal council of Christendom to be held in Rome since the patristic era, is discussed within the section dealing with the Concordat of Worms.

Perhaps some of the most interesting insights emerge in the comments Stroll makes about new building in Rome, not least at Santa Maria in Cosmedin, at the Lateran Palace and at St. Peter's itself. While it is certainly true that Calixtus II was driven by a desire to strengthen the interests of the papacy, it is surely significant that on the last day of the I Lateran Council, he took the entire council to St. Peter's to consecrate a new high altar, built over an altar that had not been touched since the time of Gregory I, with his own name inscribed on the outside. To assert that Calixtus II "had no trace of spirituality" is to impose too narrow a vision of spirituality. This surely was a pope, with a profound sense of the Church of St. Peter. He may have been devious and venal in his behavior, but he still had a sense of what a reformed Church could look like. Whatever his personal ambitions, the support that he gave reform movements in the Church transformed its identity. In the process, reformers like Bernard of Clairvaux absorbed assumptions about the legitimacy of the temporal power of the Church that Calixtus found perfectly natural.

There is much to commend in Stroll's in-depth study of a very important pope. Perhaps it is so large that there is a danger that unifying themes in the papacy are overshadowed by attention to local issues. But given that she covers so much ground, it would be otiose to ask that she deal with more than she has done. She has provided much food for further thought.