Constance H. Berman

title.none: Lifshitz, The Name of the Saint (Constance H. Berman)

identifier.other: baj9928.0707.020 07.07.20

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Constance H. Berman, University of Iowa,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Lifshitz, Felice. The Name of the Saint: The Martyrology of Jerome and Access to the Sacred in Francia, 627-827. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006. Pp. xiii, 230. $40.00 (hb) 0-268-03375-7 (hb). ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.07.20

Lifshitz, Felice. The Name of the Saint: The Martyrology of Jerome and Access to the Sacred in Francia, 627-827. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006. Pp. xiii, 230. $40.00 (hb) 0-268-03375-7 (hb). ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Constance H. Berman
University of Iowa

Felice Lifshitz provides an insightful view of seventh through ninth century religious practices surrounding the names of saints which provided alternatives to the much more well-known cult of saints' relics. Those practices associated with and explaining the interest in the Martyrology of the Pseudo-Jerome centered on the use of lists of saints' names to add sanctity and protection to the recently dead, whose names would be inscribed next to or in the proximity of those of saints on the parchment pages where, just as in the cult of relics, proximity to the saint was a promise of protection and participation in saintly virtue. As she says:

The Martyrology of Jerome is perhaps best understood as adevotional instrument most suitable for, and most clearly ofinterest to, those persons who like Willibrod-Clement orWitiza-Benedict accepted the notion that a saint's postmortempower could inhere within, and be transferred through theirnames. (6)

Lifshitz continues:

The names of saints and not just their relics, were also believedby some Latin Christians to enable them to gain access to thebenefits of sacred virtus. At least this was the opinionof a group of eighth and ninth-century people associated with theMartyrology of Jerome. (8)

In a detective-like approach to the manuscript tradition of the Martyrology of Jerome, or rather the Pseudo-Jerome, Lifshitz shows not only how valuable it is to our understanding of the religious history of the era, but also establishes its dating and origins, and traces its developing use. Arguing against any possible recensio italica or association with the Jerome who died in AD 430, she shows that a recensio gallica must have been written sometime around 600, although all extant manuscripts come from after the death of Columbanus in 615. She shows that the prefatory letter to the text post-dates the Council of Macon in winter 627/8, and must be seen in the context of The Three Chapters Schism and that Council's preoccupation with how to commemorate Columbanus. Was he to be remembered as a fearless monastic critic of worldly leaders, or a cultivator of papal, episcopal, royal, and aristocratic favor? The Martyrology supported monasticism's more critical stance towards worldly power, praising Columbanus for such criticism. Such emphasis on Columbanus as critic places the prefatory letter at least in the context of Luxeuil, where relics were relatively unimportant and access to saints' names stressed. She suggests a parallel with the renaming of Anglo-Saxon missionaries in the eight century-- Willibrod/Clement, Winfred/Boniface, and nuns at Barking abbey in England, who had similarly taken the names of early martyrs: Justina, Scholastica, Eulalia, and Thecla.

In treating the Martyrology, Lifshitz provides evidence of the Carolingians employing the names of Saints (whether taking their names, as Willibrod, Winfrid and Witiza did, or simply placing their own names next to the saint's name in a Book of the Saints) as an alternative route of access to the holy. Lifshitz opens our eyes to the fact that the names of saints were placed in competition with relics as another dimension of the piety of the early middle ages. Names did not replace relics, but influenced later practices such as the use of monastic necrologies as necessary elements (along with relics) in the connection between this world and the next, as well as the widespread eleventh and twelfth-century practice of naming children after saints associated with the day of birth or baptism. Thus, circa AD 700, name recitation and inscription of names along with those of saints as a means of proximity "ad nomina sanctorum," reflected:

Faith in a mysterious cosmic efficacy applied not only to relicsbut also to names. Inscription itself was considered sufficientto place a deceased person in the company of the saints throughnominal proximity. (35-6)

For Lifshitz, the Martyrology's widespread use by the Carolingians after 772 marks a new phase in the Saxon mission (convert or die), allowing missionaries in the field who wanted to encourage proximity to the Saints to have a new type of "contact relic," the "textualization" as she calls it, of the saint's name itself. Ironically, from the viewpoint presented, the use of it enjoined by Louis the Pious and Benedict of Aniane in 817, which should have marked its widespread application, actually marks the faltering of the practice of use of saints' names.

In an atmosphere suddenly charged with condemnations for heresy,the exotic practices of recitation and inscription of holy nameswould not be able to become standard features of Frankishliturgical practice without undergoing some significantmodifications. (101)

Recitation of names was moved from the mass to the daily monastic chapter and much more limited saints' biographies, written as extended narratives, such as those of the Venerable Bede, would replace the repetition of saints' names found in the Martyrology.

Lifshitz throughout the book shows her versatility as a historian of religion and ideas, forcible conversion, political narratives, liturgical and monastic life, complexities of Carolingian family and women's history, and the study of books and manuscripts. Flexing intellectual muscle and skill throughout, she shows why manuscripts must be checked in person (as well as by film and photograph), to uncover: "overlaps in layers of ink giving order of entries," "squiggles and erasures," and "dry-point glosses" all indicating "active engagement with manuscripts," that can be used to determine the possible uses to which such a texts could be put in the eighth and ninth centuries.

For those interested in any aspect of medieval religious practice, manuscript study or development of the Frankish state, this is a fine and convincing book. It is well-written, well-produced, lays out its argument like the plot line of a detective story, and thus provides a real scholarly satisfaction for the reader. It convincingly disentangles some of the knotted earlier scholarship by taking us along step by step towards a conclusion. It is most impressive.

Finally there are two minor points to note. I have verified with the author that on page 83 the description of a Corbie manuscript from 771-83, Paris, BN Latin 12,260 has a typo; the Martyrology is found on folios one through eleven (not one through two), meaning that this is probably the text in full, not an abbreviation, and that it acted as a preface to the Regula Pastoralis or Pastoralis Cura of Gregory the Great, found on folios twelve through 159. I also verified that the word "sanctarum--of female saints" on page 98 is indeed correct, coming as it does in a list of "categories of names" dated 788-94 found in the Psalter of Mondsee held by Notre- Dame-de-Soissons, an abbey of nuns housing some of Charlemagne's closest relatives.