Julie Kerr

title.none: Dutton, LaCorte and Lockey, eds., Truth as Gift (Julie Kerr)

identifier.other: baj9928.0601.027 06.01.27

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Julie Kerr, University of Sheffield,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Dutton, Marsha, Daniel M. LaCorte and Paul Lockey. Truth as Gift: Studies in Medieval Cistercian History in Honor of John R. Sommerfeldt. Series: Cistercian Studies Series, volume 204. Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2005. Pp. xxxvi, 588. ISBN: 29.95 0-87907-304-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.01.27

Dutton, Marsha, Daniel M. LaCorte and Paul Lockey. Truth as Gift: Studies in Medieval Cistercian History in Honor of John R. Sommerfeldt. Series: Cistercian Studies Series, volume 204. Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2005. Pp. xxxvi, 588. ISBN: 29.95 0-87907-304-7.

Reviewed by:

Julie Kerr
University of Sheffield

"Truth as Gift" is a substantial festschrift celebrating John R. Sommerfeldt's contribution to medieval and particularly Cistercian studies. It pays tribute to the extensive impact Sommerfeldt has made as a scholar and a teacher during his forty-year academic career, to his role in promoting collaboration between lay and Cistercian scholars and establishing WMU as an international centre for medieval studies. Best known for his work on Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Sommerfeldt has published widely also on Aelred of Rievaulx. This festschrift rightly reflects the many and diverse areas of medieval scholarship that he has touched. "Truth as Gift" opens with a preface by the late Father Paschal Phillips OSCO, a friend of Sommerfeldt's and co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Studies at WMU (1976). This is followed by letters from the American Superior of OCSO, the Abbot General of the Cistercian order and the director of the Medieval Institute, of which Sommerfeldt was founding director. A detailed introduction sketches a personal and professional picture of Sommerfeldt and his achievements, and provides a thematic context for the twenty-one contributions from friends, colleagues and former students, both monastic and lay. The editors explain that "Truth as Gift" seeks to explore historical change and development. The articles represent a wide range of scholarship and take the reader from the late eleventh century to the present day and from Armenia to America, but the emphasis is appropriately on Bernard of Clairvaux and theology. The festschrift ends with a detailed Curriculum Vitae of John Sommerfeldt.

The contributions open with Bernard McGinn's exploration of caritas from 1000-1300, "Love's Last Millennial Turn." Caritas was integral to Cistercian life and has been a focus of Sommerfeldt's scholarship. McGinn considers the "original and subtle" views of caritas which, he claims, are still significant, and discusses love as understanding that offered a path to God and love as madness. The former is examined chiefly through William of St Thierry and the latter through Richard of St Victor, whose theory was "injected with passion" by the thirteenth-century female mystics. The intellectual and spiritual context of the late eleventh century is explored further by Giles Constable, "Saint Bruno of Cologne and Solitude." This fascinating article discusses a letter written by Bruno to his friend, Ralph, bishop of Rheims. Bruno was at this time living the eremitic life and enjoined Ralph to come and share his happiness and fulfill the promise they had made as young men to take the monastic habit. This remarkable letter vividly conveys the great energy and reforming zeal at this time of religious renewal, and raises the important themes of friendship and love.

The seven articles forming the second of the editors' groups relate in some way to the climate when the Cistercians were developing and growing as an order. They cover a vast range of topics, locations and time periods. Christopher Holdsworth, "The Affiliation of Savigny," convincingly argues that political circumstances may have been instrumental in effecting the union between the Cistercians and Savigniacs in 1147, and that plans for affiliation may have been a longer process than hitherto thought. Francis Swietek and Terrence Deneer, " 'Et inter Abbates de Majoribus Unus': The Abbot of Savigny in the Cistercian Constitution, 1147-1243," make a compelling case for the reassessment of the abbot of Savigny's position and argue that he was not at this time accorded constitutional privileges and was certainly not considered fifth in line after the Four Elder Daughters. Still, he enjoyed certain perks and might, for example, travel to the General Chapter with three rather than two horses. A useful appendix shows the derivative nature of the Chronicon Savigniacense. George Beech, "A Little-Known Armenian Historian of the Crusading Period: Gregory the Priest (1136-62)," brings to light a source and subject matter that are probably unfamiliar to most readers. Gregory, who was a priest in Armenian Cilicia, was an eye- witness to the events he describes in his short chronicle which is a continuation of Matthew of Edessa. He offers an interesting perspective of the impact the Crusades had on this region and his perception of outsiders. Gregory, who was essentially a local historian, was largely concerned with the towns and townsfolk which he saw as the central core of the Armenian people.

The following two entries are by monastic scholars and discuss current projects. Dom Thomas Davis OCSO, "The Saga of the Sacred Stones: The Chapter House of Santa Maria de Ovilia," provides a detailed and personal account of the rebuilding of this Spanish chapter-house in the States. The venture was begun in the 1930s when William Hearst purchased stones from the Cistercian abbey to incorporate in a castle he proposed to build in California. The Depression caused Hearst to abandon his plans. World War II, lack of funds and vandalism meant that by the 1970s the stones lay in "a helpless limestone heap." Thanks to a rescue operation led by Dr Margaret Burke the rebuilding of the chapter house is now underway at Davis's own abbey of New Clairvaux, California, where it will be incorporated within the monastic complex. Father Chrysogonus Waddell, "A Corpus Liturgicum Cisterciense Saeculi Duodecimi: A Tribute to John Sommerfeldt", will dedicate his forthcoming work, Corpus Liturgicum Cistercienses, to John Sommerfeldt. Here he explains the nature of the project and the form it will take, and discusses the sources used. Corpus Liturgicum Cistercienses will make available Cistercian liturgical texts from the early twelfth century to show how the liturgy developed during the twelfth century. These sources are currently inaccessible to most scholars and Waddell's work will be a valuable contribution to Cistercian and liturgical scholarship. The texts will be accompanied by notes and commentaries, but without English translation.

Cornelia Oefelein, "The Forgotten Library of the Sisters of Egeln" and David Bell, "Reading Revolutionary Book-Lists: The Case of Les Echarlis," offer an insight to the literary world of the Cistercians in the post-medieval period. Oefelein explains that after their suppression in 1809 the nuns of Egeln continued until 1852 at the Benedictine abbey of Huysburg, now home to Benedictine monks of Trier, where their library collection remains. There is no surviving catalogue of the nuns' library and it was previously thought that the collection contained about sixty works. Oefelein, however, has compiled a list of 108 works dating from the seventeenth century, which she divides into printed non-liturgical works, printed liturgical works and manuscripts. David Bell's extensive work on monastic libraries is here continued in his engaging exploration of the library of Les Echarlis whose holdings are known from a catalogue that was compiled by the revolutionary authorities in 1789. Bell lists and analyses in detail the 240 titles which he compares to other monastic collections. He concludes that the library of Les Echarlis would have provided its monks with a "sound education" and notes that the monks were making new acquisitions on the eve of revolution. This undermines any suggestion that monastic life was in decline and Bell calls for a re-evaluation of Cistercian life at this time.

John Sommerfeldt is associated chiefly with his work on Bernard of Clairvaux and the third section of this edition is concerned largely with Bernard and his legacy. Bernard's anthropology is explored at length by Father Luke Anderson, "Bernard's Primigenial Anthropology: A Genus Not Fully Specified," and is inspired by Sommerfeldt's own work on the subject which Anderson outlines. Bernard's perception of free will is considered further by Aage Rydstrom-Poulsen, "The Augustinian Bernard of Clairvaux: A Reading of 'De gratia et libero arbitrio'." This stimulating analysis explores Bernard's perception of the relationship between free-will and grace to argue that Bernard was not a precursor to thomastic understanding of nature and grace but followed firmly Augustine's teaching that human will is responsible for sin; all good is given by God but worked through man who needs to co-operate in this pursuit of salvation. Emero Stiegman, "'Woods and Stones' and 'The Shade of the Trees' in the Mysticism of Bernard of Clairvaux," rejects the notion that the nature imagery Bernard evokes in his letters to Henry Murdac and Aelred of Rievaulx show him as a nature mystic. Rather, the natural images are metaphors for the Cistercian experience. Bernard's attitude to the Jews is considered alongside those of Aelred of Rievaulx and Guerric of Igny by Paul Lockey, "Conflicting Cistercian Attitudes toward the Jews," to gain an insight into their perceptions on salvation. Lockey concludes that Guerric was the harshest of the three, seeing the Jews as the "wandering prisoner," condemned for spurning Christ. Bernard and Aelred showed more compassion and both believed that at the end of time the Jews would be reconciled and made equal partners with the Church. Bernard vehemently denounced the persecution of the Jews, seeking instead their love and conversion. Aelred showed empathy, comparing the Jews to the prodigal son who sought to return to the Father. The abbot's role as teacher, preacher and father-figure is explored by Daniel La Corte, "Abbot as Magister and Pater in the Thought of Bernard of Clairvaux and Aelred of Rievaulx." He explains that the Cistercian abbot was also to exhibit the qualities of "mater" by nurturing and comforting the brethren. Reference to Anselm of Bec, who had a similar perception of the abbot's role, would have added an interesting dimension to this article.

Aeled of Rievaulx is chiefly remembered for his devotional writings and his role as an historian has been largely overlooked. Marsha Dutton, "A Historian's Historian: The Place of Bede in Aelred's Contribution to the New History of His Age," seeks to redress this imbalance. Her stimulating analysis makes a convincing case for Aelred as a proponent of a new kind of history who played an important role in the development of historical thinking. Dutton's lengthy but engaging study argues that by analysing Aelred's use of Bede in his seven historical works, we can trace his development over twenty years as an historian of his age who perceived history as "a process worked out through human interaction" that might offer a path to Truth and Understanding. Thanks to the efforts of John Sommerfeldt and Cistercian Publications almost all of William of St Thierry's writings are now accessible in published translations. Yet there is no bibliography of William's writings and little in the way of a biography. The following two articles are a welcome addition and provide a valuable introduction to the man and his works. Father M. Basil Pennington, "Meet Abbot William: An Introduction to the Life and Works of William of St Thierry," offers a clear and concise account of William's early life and his relationship with Bernard of Clairvaux, with whom he shared a close friendship. F. Tyler Sergent, "A Bibliography of William of St Thierry," provides the first bibliography of William's writings which are listed alphabetically, and of studies on William and his work. This includes references to critical editions and translations of William's works.

The final four essays are concerned in some way with Bernard's legacy. Sommerfeldt has prompted a re-evaluation of Bernard's position on scholastic theology arguing that Bernard was a humanist who was not opposed to scholastic theology and promoted its use in pastoral training. Christopher Bellitto, "Humanist Critiques of Scholastic Theology: Continuities in Medieval Educational Reform," takes Sommerfeldt's thesis as his starting point to posit that Bernard's humanist perspective was shared by the later medieval educational reformers. He maintains that Oresme, D'Ailly, Gerson and others drew explicitly on Bernard's writings and also on the teachings of Augustine to redirect scholastic theology from academic theorising to practical preparation for the parish. Bernard of Clairvaux's influence on Calvin has been the source of discussion for the last decade and is the subject of two articles in this collection. Dennis Tamburello, "John Calvin's Mysticism and the Treatise 'Against the Libertines'," calls for a wider definition of mysticism and seeks to place Calvin in the context of earlier mystics, such as Bernard and Gerson, who understood that God and man were bound in a close relationship grounded in grace. Calvin's relationship with Bernard is explored further by Otto Grundler, "Justification and Sanctification in John Calvin and Bernard of Clairvaux," who argues that Calvin saw Bernard and himself as fellow followers of Augustine, and that their relationship was one of kinship. He considers this in the context of justification and sanctification, which both men perceived as stages in the process of salvation. The collection ends fittingly with devotion to the Virgin. Taking Bernard of Clairvaux as her starting point E. Rozanne Elder, "Shadows on the Marian Wall: The Cistercians and the Development of Marian Doctrine," considers Bernard's objections to the introduction of a liturgical feast celebrating Mary's conception without sin which he claimed was "rationally insupportable." Despite Bernard's opposition the cult became widely accepted and received official sanction by the pope. Elder offers a clear and coherent analysis of how this came about, and discusses the importance of Southern England in the promotion of the cult.

"Truth as Gift" is a vast and eclectic collection of essays that offers a valuable insight to many aspects of Cistercian and Cistercian-related life. It includes several articles that will make a significant contribution to medieval scholarship. A number of contributions challenge prevailing assumptions and some make a convincing case for reassessment, notably the two essays on the Savigniac order. The sheer size and scope of the festschrift is admirable and there are relatively few typographical errors for a work of this magnitude. Several contributions are perhaps a little long and may have benefited from being more concise. The insertion of so many section headings within each article seems unnecessary, and is often irritating and misleading, for the heading does not always accurately describe the content that follows. These are minor criticisms and the editors are to be commended for bringing together this diverse and stimulating collection of articles that represents a wide range of scholarship and is a fitting tribute to a man who has influenced so many aspects of medieval studies.