Albrecht Classen

title.none: Riedl, Joachim von Fiore (Albrecht Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.0608.025 06.08.25

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Riedl, Matthias. Joachim von Fiore: Denker der vollendeten Menschheit. Series: Epistamata: Wurzburger Wissenschaftliche Schriften: Reihe Philosophie, vol. 361. Wurzburg: Konigshausen & Neuman, 2004. Pp. 395. ISBN: $65.00 3-8260-2697-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.08.25

Riedl, Matthias. Joachim von Fiore: Denker der vollendeten Menschheit. Series: Epistamata: Wurzburger Wissenschaftliche Schriften: Reihe Philosophie, vol. 361. Wurzburg: Konigshausen & Neuman, 2004. Pp. 395. ISBN: $65.00 3-8260-2697-7.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

G. R. Evans (Fifty Key Medieval Thinkers , 2002) identified Joachim of Fiore as one of the leading medieval intellectuals, and determined as his major contribution the doctrine of the "'invisibility of the true Church'" (110). Philosophers and theologians alike over the last two hundred years have uniformly agreed with this general assessment, and the number of scholarly studies on this visionary abbot and religious leader is legion. In his doctoral dissertation, submitted to the Friedrich-Alexander- Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg in the winter semester of 2002/2003, Matthias Riedl attempts to offer a social-historical-theological interpretation of some of Joachim's most influential and far-reaching treatises to prove that this author was indeed the creator of the idea that human society is progressing toward its perfection in political and spiritual terms. Joachim based his approach, as Riedl suggests, on three areas: apocalypse, Pauline ecclesiastic teachings, and the monastic order. Although Joachim passionately tried to liberate himself from involvement with the world, his efforts failed because he was in such demand as an abbot and was constantly sought after by worldly leaders asking for advice.

Riedl has loosely structured his study according to the three pillars in Joachim's thinking, beginning with a historical discussion and critical examination of apocalyptic discourse from late antiquity to Joachim's time, focusing especially on St. Paul. But ultimately he instead follows the abbot's major writings and discusses them in admirable clarity and detail. Since Joachim trusted in God as the one authority who would eventually allow mankind to reach its fulfillment/perfection, his apocalyptic teachings were intimately intertwined with social and political perspectives. But before Riedl actually turns to Joachim's texts, he revisits all three aspects once again (Apocalypse, Pauline ecclesiastic teachings, and the monastic order), offering an extensive, perhaps too repetitive, discussion of their historical developments.

Subsequently, though not clearly enough distinguished from the afore- mentioned issues, Riedl turns to Joachim's biography and connects it with his early masterpiece, the Genealogia , which he characterizes as a kind of blueprint for all later writings. He offers a German translation which is based on Gian Luca Potesta's edition in Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 56/1 (2000). This text specifically illustrates the concrete political experiences and concerns dominating Joachim's thinking and his struggle for how mankind can achieve its ultimate goal of spiritual perfection. Following the analysis of Joseph Ratzinger (the present pope), Riedl reaches the conclusion that Joachim was the first to emphasize that with Christ time had not come to an end, but instead the time of the Church had arrived (141-42). Nevertheless, Joachim did not believe that for this reason the apocalyptic vision had to be abandoned because the worldly Church was approaching its own demise, and hope rested only in the heavenly Jerusalem (149).

Turning to the role of the Curia, Joachim composed his much more literary treatise, De prophetia ignota , which Riedl examines in the following section. Here the political events during his lifetime, especially the conflict over the investiture of bishops in the German empire, come to the fore, but also an element of the myth concerning the downfall of this empire. In his Intelligentia super calathis he acknowledged the validity of the Constantine donation to the Church, but also recognized that the latter would eventually collapse as well because of its involvement with the world through this donation. Riedl observes that Joachim here developed a kind of Mirror of Princes and tried to test his theological insights in light of the political and military conditions of his time.

Next Riedl examines Joachim's Psalterium decem chordarum as a reflection of his concern with the reform of the Benedictine order, strongly leaning toward the Cistercians and believing in the preponderance of the spiritual dimension over the material world, as reflected by the introductory visionary account. But Joachim heavily criticized the clerical structure of his time which was, as he argued, only a system created by God for the enrichment of the cosmos, not to have a hierarchy of those more worthy for God, or less.

One of Joachim's masterpieces was his Liber Concordiae in which he formulated his fundamental concepts of how to reform the Church and how to direct the individual toward the afterlife. On the basis of this and other works Riedl discusses Joachim's world view, the human condition, and his concept of history, before he turns toward Joachim's belief in progress and historical change, his understanding of evil and its manifestations, the possibility to achieve three progressive stages in visionary experience available to man and taking him to salvation, which is also linked with the concept of man's freedom of material shackles. But Joachim also outlined his strong support for the papacy and specified its role within the history of the apocalypse.

Finally Riedl offers a translation into German and a commentary of Joachim's Dispositio novi ordinis in which the abbot outlined his concept of the ideal social structure of human society and the order of the Church, especially the order of monastic communities. The author concludes with a critical discussion of the vast reception of Joachim's ideas by posterity, which was, however, often misled as to what texts could really be assigned to him, and a discussion of Joachim's fundamental concept of progressive history leading toward human perfection already in the twelfth century. This observation strongly undermines, as Riedl argues quite convincingly, the traditional division into historical epochs and points to a much earlier development of the idea of progress than previously assumed, at least much earlier than the Renaissance.

In his well-researched study Riedl finally offers a bibliography (divided into primary and secondary material) and an index of persons.