Michael Frassetto

title.none: Boureau, Satan Hérétique (Michael Frassetto)

identifier.other: baj9928.0610.031 06.10.31

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Michael Frassetto, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Boureau, Alain. Satan Hérétique: Naissance de la démonologie dans l'Occident medieval (1280-1330). Paris: Odile Jacob, 2004. Pp. 318. ISBN: $31.00 (pb) 2-7381-1366-4.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.10.31

Boureau, Alain. Satan Hérétique: Naissance de la démonologie dans l'Occident medieval (1280-1330). Paris: Odile Jacob, 2004. Pp. 318. ISBN: $31.00 (pb) 2-7381-1366-4.

Reviewed by:

Michael Frassetto
Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

Alain Boureau, author of a number of studies on medieval intellectual and cultural history, offers an insightful volume on the development of medieval religion in his study of Satan the heretic. In this volume, Boureau examines the emergence of medieval demonology and its relation to the developing concerns with sorcery and witchcraft and the witch craze of the late Middle Ages. Arguing that the concerns with demonology emerged a century before the traditional date, Boureau identifies the various theological, intellectual, and social conditions that led to the sudden emergence of concerns with demons and demonology in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. A prominent place in this development was assumed by Pope John XXII, and along with the pope's important contributions, Boureau examines the contributions of theologians and canonists of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, medieval attitudes toward the pact and anthropology, the practice of canonization, and anecdotes concerning saints and demons found in a variety of contemporary sources.

In the introduction and opening chapter of Satan Hérétique, Boureau examines various developments that demonstrate the sudden and widespread concern with demons and the devil, noting the discussion of demons in the canonization process of Thomas Aquinas as well as John XXII's deep fascination with the subject. Boureau charts related changes, including new developments in inquisitorial processes. Of greatest importance in this development, however, was John's own contribution. The various antecedents came together in his papal bull, Super illius specula (1326-27), which defined the invocation of demons and performance of magic as heresy. The bull also contributed to a new understanding of what constituted heresy, identifying actions rather than thought as the defining factor in heresy. Although noting that there are questions concerning the bull's authenticity, Boureau examines, in chapter two, the special commission John XXII called in 1320 to advise him on the preparation of the bull. Boureau suggests that the commission itself is testimony to the concerns with demons that gripped the pope, and its members seemed inclined to support the pope in varying degrees. The most important figure on the commission, Enrico del Carretto, provided the pope with new arguments on the efficacy of magic and strongly supported the pope's imputation of heresy to invoking demons. Carretto's response to John's questions to the commission, which Boureau discusses at length (pp. 75-91), thus provide the theological support for the pope's bull.

At the heart of Carretto and, ultimately, the pope's new understanding of demonology was the establishment of a pact with the devil. Carretto maintained that the simple act of requesting a pact with the devil was heresy, which provided a new foundation for declaring sorcerers heretics (91). Identifying the importance of the pact to the formulation of the new demonology, Boureau discuss at length the importance of the pact in medieval society. He examines the legend of Theophilus, alleged pacts with the devil that Boniface VIII and others struck, the general meaning of the pact as a social compact in medieval Europe, and Peter John Olivi's understanding of the pact. Boureau notes that the pact could be a beneficial thing but also the basis of a conspiracy, which raised concerns of John XXII and others by the fourteenth century.

Having thus established the importance of the pact and its negative aspects, Boureau reviews the sudden interest in demons in scholastic theology. He contends that there was little theological interest in demons before the thirteenth century, and any previous discussion concerned the role of the devil in the divine plan. Suddenly in 1270, a number of theological treatments of demons emerged, most notably those of Thomas Aquinas and Peter John Olivi. As in many things, Dominican and Franciscan masters took opposing views on the nature of the devil and the fall, but despite this opposition they clearly reflected what Boureau sees as a dramatic new interest in the devil and demons. This interest, Boureau argues in chapter five, is demonstrated further in various canonization processes that took place in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. Not only did the role of demons take on a more pronounced place in canonization processes, but the understanding of possession changed.

In the final two chapters, Boureau surveys changes in anthropology and models of diabolical possession. Boureau notes that along with other changes in the late thirteenth century, the long struggle waged between saints and demons assumed a new guise that reflected changes in the nature of medieval anthropology and jurisprudence. Reviewing the influence of Augustine on earlier medieval views, which emphasized the union of body and soul, Boureau notes the impact of Aristotle on theology and anthology. At the same time, Boureau contends, there were changing attitudes toward responsibility in criminal acts with the emergence of new categories of those not responsible for their actions, including sleep walkers. Satan Hérétique closes with a discussion of divine and diabolical possession as revealed in contemporary theological and related works.

Satan Hérétique is a wide ranging study based on an equally wide range of sources, juridical, hagiographic, theological, and more. Boureau makes a compelling argument for sudden and dramatic change in attitudes toward demons around the year 1300 that laid the foundation for the later witch craze and for new approaches to heresy. His case, perhaps, would have been stronger had he addressed more directly the concerns with demons and the devil that can be found in earlier medieval texts. Demonic possession, visitations by devils, and pacts with the devil were not unknown prior to the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. The origins of the pact with the devil have been traced to the eleventh century, and concerns with the devil were surely not new in the thirteenth century. Despite this omission, Boureau's Satan Hérétique addresses an important topic and offers the starting point for further exploration of late medieval religious belief and related matters.