John Contreni

title.none: Claussen, Reform of the Frankish Church (John Contreni)

identifier.other: baj9928.0704.008 07.04.08

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John Contreni, Purdue University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Claussen, M.A. The Reform of the Frankish Church: Chrodegang of Metz and the "Regula canonicorum" in the Eighth Century. Series: Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series, vol. 61. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pp. 362. $85.00 (hb) ISBN-13: 978-0-521-83931-0 ISBN-10: 0-521-83931-9 (hb). ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.04.08

Claussen, M.A. The Reform of the Frankish Church: Chrodegang of Metz and the "Regula canonicorum" in the Eighth Century. Series: Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series, vol. 61. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pp. 362. $85.00 (hb) ISBN-13: 978-0-521-83931-0 ISBN-10: 0-521-83931-9 (hb). ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

John Contreni
Purdue University

Bishop Chrodegang of Metz (c. 745-766) is hardly a household name, even among medievalists. When he is remembered at all, he is usually credited in textbooks for introducing "Gregorian" chant to Francia. But this is one of the last topics that M.A. Claussen treats in his fascinating and meticulously argued study of a "new" and much more interesting Chrodegang. Less a reformer of the Frankish church, Chrodegang emerges in Claussen's pages as a builder of a new kind of Christian community centered on the canons of Metz and radiating outward to embrace everyone in Metz, from the bishop to the town's poor, from the canons to monks, priests, and laypeople. In a world beset with fragmentation and disunity, Chrodegang hoped to achieve a community based on unanimity and harmony. This sounds fine, but when one understands that the success of the model depended fundamentally on the conversion of a secular Frank to a canon (261), one understands how daunting and revolutionary Chrodegang's vision was. It would require, in Claussen's apt phrase, nothing less than the "spiritual ethnogenesis" (46) of Chrodegang's people. The new Chrodegang who emerges in these pages joins a growing list of dark age political and religious leaders who did more than cope within the framework of the traditions and realities they inherited. The bishop of Metz added to and altered tradition to construct a visionary new reality, a community of all believers truly united by its faith.

But Chrodegang was no dreamer. Politically active and learned, he knew his community needed guidance. The Regula canonicorum aimed specifically at the cathedral canons, but it also drew in everyone in Metz. Claussen's perceptive new reading of this well known but little studied text is at the heart of his book and challenges the conventional wisdom, starting with Paul the Deacon, that Chrodegang sought to monasticize his canons. Claussen's argument rests on a detailed and convincing analysis of the Rule's structure that reveals Chrodegang's single-minded focus on converting prideful and competitive Frankish seculars into canons who could and would join with other Christians to form the new Metz community. In this new community, canons retained the use of their property and its income until their deaths. The new community also included Metz's poor, who not only received sustenance from the canons, but were also joined liturgically with them. The emerging Carolingian church of which Chrodegang was part did not inspire contemplatives or mystics, but rather leaders who thought and acted in these kinds of social terms.

Claussen's new reading of Chrodegang's Rule also depends for its success on close analysis of the Rule's words. Here, Claussen makes excellent use of critical theory to discover his author's intent. A key chapter recalibrates Chrodegang's debt to the Rule of Benedict. In drawing on Benedict, Chrodegang reflected the growing reception of Benedict's monasticism north of the Alps that would eventually culminate in the work of Benedict of Aniane. But, in analyzing the relationship between the two rules (and this is where the meticulousness of Claussen's analysis is most readily apparent), Claussen departs from scholars who, seeing textual dependence, have assumed conceptual and programmatic dependence. Chrodegang's use of Benedict was more subtle than that. The Frank appropriated the Roman's language while transforming it to support his own eighth- century Messine purposes. The ideas and themes of Chrodegang's Rule, in other words, are his own. In appropriating his Roman model to his own ends, Chrodegang demonstrated "sheer textual virtuosity" (138). Chrodegang was equally creative with his other sources, Caesarius of Arles, Gregory the Great, and Pomerius. Claussen recognizes the snippets of their works embedded in Chrodegang's Rule as "intertexts"- bits of texts lifted from their sources and inserted into new contexts, in this case, the Regula canonicorum. Intertextuality was fundamental to medieval composition. The intertext referred, of course, to the authority and original text of an author while allowing the borrower to adapt the intertext to completely new ends, "preserving the old, while making it new" (167). When Chrodegang closed his prologue with an allusion to one of Gregory the Great's homilies on the Gospels, he linked himself to another (Roman) activist monk-bishop while using Gregory's language to reprove hypocritical Christians of all stations who do not fully follow Christ, especially those secular Franks.

The lens widens in the second half of the book to situate Chrodegang's community in the social world of eighth-century Metz. Chrodegang had to confront and inspire hearts and minds and he also had to fashion a community in an environment that supported thirty-two religious establishments. How did he intend that his community leap from the words of the Rule into the streets and neighborhoods of Metz? For Chrodegang, communal liturgical prayer, led by the canons, but engaging and extending to all, provided the common experience, the social glue, of the new community. In requiring his canons to engage the community, Chrodegang offered them another means of personal conversion from their secular culture and preoccupations to the life of committed, active Christians. Far from monasticizing the canons of Metz, Chrodegang created a new culture and a new mission for them. While the canons were clearly the liturgical experts, Claussen finds evidence in Chrodegang's ambiguous and equivocal discussion of community a desire to blur hierarchical distinctions among the its members. In the weekly and festal rituals of the Metz community, Chrodegang aimed at recreating the perceived "unanimity, concord, and charity of the apostolic church" (246).

Also, in furtherance of his community, Chrodegang built buildings, supported monasteries, secured relics, and, above all, established links with Roman traditions which, in the eighth-century West, were the source of all authentic Christian traditions. Here, Claussen arrives at Chrodegang's chief claim to fame, the reception of "Gregorian" chant north of the Alps. However, he subjects even this bit of conventional wisdom to revision. Claussen points out that cantus and cantilena are interpreted too narrowly to refer to song or chant, when what Chrodegang actually introduced was "the whole Roman style of performing liturgy," including Roman-style sacramentaries, ordines, the Roman lectionary and Roman feasts. The goal was not to Romanize Metz, but to restore the lost past of Roman Metz, to "re-Mediometricize Metz" (163). Here is another medieval leader tinkering with memory, in this case using the present to shape the past which, in turn, enhanced the present.

This book bristles with new insights on an important figure, Chrodegang, and on an important topic, building religious community in the early medieval West. Its evocative turns of phrase and its judicious and helpful use of anthropological and narrative theory on almost every page make it a delight to read. Most of all, it's very good history.