The Medieval Review 10.06.09

Brasington, Bruce C. and Kathleen G. Cushing, eds. Bishops, Texts and the Use of Canon Law around 1100: Essays in Honour of Martin Brett. Church, Faith and Culture in the Medieval West. Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate, 2008. Pp. 242. 99.95 ISBN 978-0-7546-6015-6. .

Reviewed by:

John Ott
Portland State University

Over the past several years, the community of canon law scholars has been busily fêting its luminaries. Festschriften have appeared for Peter Landau (2000), Roger Reynolds (2004), Kenneth Pennington (2006), and Linda Fowler-Magerl (2008); another is on the way for Robert Somerville. Martin Brett joins their company in this volume of fourteen essays co-edited by Bruce C. Brasington and Kathleen G. Cushing. Both editors have worked directly with the honoree in their own scholarship; Brasington, for example, has partnered with Brett to produce an on-line and fully accessible edition of the Panormia, an influential, late eleventh-century canon law collection until recently attributed with few qualms to Ivo of Chartres. [1] Besides the Panormia, Brett has worked many years to produce new editions of the Tripartita (also once attributed to Ivo) and the Decretum (still attributed to him), as well as the eleventh- and twelfth-century episcopal acta of Canterbury, and a variety of other projects. Even to casual observers of the field of canon law studies, Brett has surely earned this volume, as the warm praise of its contributors for his work makes clear.

Following a modest homage to Brett--a list of his publications appears at the end of the volume (215-220)--and a survey of the volume's contents (1-3), the editors have divided the essays into two groups: "Bishops and their Texts" and "Texts and the Use of Canon Law." The first group favors contributions which explore bishops' involvement in the compilation and transmission of canon law collections; the second group of essays addresses the methods, motives, and interpretations of the collections' compilers. The distinctions are by no means absolute, and one can easily imagine other ways of organizing the contents of the volume (for example: paleographical and codicological studies in one group; studies focusing on the formal sources of law collections in another; and the social, political, and pastoral applications of canon law in a third). Nearly all the essays concern the compilation and transmission of canon law in the period before Gratian, and studies of the Ivonian corpus and the Collectio Lanfranci, central to much of Brett's own work, dominate a significant portion of the volume. Many of the contributions include new editions of previously unpublished texts.

Given the purpose of the Festschrift in celebrating its honoree's achievements, one generally doesn't expect to find major intellectual breakthroughs or revelations between its covers. With a couple of important exceptions, that is true here. The majority of the contributions are extracted from their authors' ongoing research: they refine arguments, test hypotheses, share tidbits and insights gleaned from close work with particular manuscripts, and/or make calls for additional research or critical editions. Several arrive at negative conclusions regarding standing hypotheses about the formal sources or influences of canonical collections. Greta Austin ("Secular Law in the Collectio Duodecim Partium and Burchard's Decretum") compares the inclusion of the few canons drawn from secular law appearing in the CDP and Decretum to test the hypothesis that, given the many similarities between the canons of these texts, there may have been an "X" source from which both drew, as opposed to one collection having served as a source for the other. Confirming her earlier research, she concludes that there indeed was no "X" compilation; the CDP probably drew directly from a version of Burchard's Decretum. Nicolás Alvarez de las Asturias ("The Use of the Collectio Lanfranci: The Evidence of the Manuscripts") rules out the possibility that the twelfth-century legal compilation found in Hereford Cathedral Library O ii 7 (Hd) might have been derived from the Collectio Lanfranci. Against the thesis which Zachary N. Brooke first argued in 1931, namely that the Collectio Lanfranci had served as the sole original source of the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals in England, Alvarez de las Asturias demonstrates that Hd, in addition to two manuscripts Brett identified in 1992, represents a Pseudo-Isidorian tradition different from that of the Collectio Lanfranci. These are perhaps the sorts of conclusions that only a canon law specialist could love--studies which ultimately confirm suppositions that had been generally, but not exhaustively, demonstrated.

Contributors Roger E. Reynolds, Kathleen G. Cushing, Michael Gullick, Przemysław Nowak, Robert Somerville, Peter Landau, Bruce C. Brasington, and Anders Winroth offer new glimpses into familiar and not-so-familiar manuscripts and legal collections, with provenances ranging from Poland to southern Italy, France, and England. One is tempted to characterize these essays as amuse-bouches--light samplings from ongoing or future projects designed to entice the reader and point the way to new questions and possibilities. Nearly all the above authors qualify their findings as early or preliminary fruits of research (14, 76, 86, 116-117, 159, 190). Brasington, Nowak, and Somerville address texts and manuscripts within the Ivonian tradition. Nowak's "The Manuscripts of the Collectio Tripartita in Poland" presents a codicological study (with ten B/W plates) and resumé of arguments concerning the dating and provenance of two manuscripts containing the CT, once thought to have been brought to Poland in the entourage of Galo of Beauvais, a close friend of Ivo of Chartres, who traveled there on papal business in 1103 or 1104. [2] In fact, Nowak's codicological analysis shows that Ms. 25 of the Cathedral Library of Gniezo ("N") was produced c. 1124-1148 in southern Germany, while Ms. KP 84 of the Cathedral Chapter Archives and Library at Kraków ("P") may have originated in the lower Rhineland and was produced between 1110-1118 (95/n. 25, 99). Robert Somerville, in "Ivo in America," identifies two Ivonian fragments, part of a larger assemblage of manuscript fragments first gleaned by the antiquarian John Bagford in the seventeenth century and now housed at the University of Missouri (112-113). One formerly unidentified fragment (no. 5) contains part of a sermon De sacramentis dedicationis attributed to Ivo; the other (no. 23) preserves tidbits of Part Seven of Ivo's Decretum. In "'Notes from the Edge': Marginalia and Glosses in Pre-Gratian Canonical Collections," Bruce C. Brasington offers sensible observations on the value of paying close attention to scribal or reader nota marks and glosses as indicators of a particular text's audience and their interests as readers--in the examples here, as readers of Ivo's canon law collections. In a similar vein, and in a complementary essay that reads much like a case application of Brasington's observations on notae, Michael Gullick presents a detailed investigation of the marginal notations in Cambridge Trinity College Ms. B.16.44, the oldest complete manuscript of the already mentioned Collectio Lanfranci. Gullick examines the minuscule and majuscule notations and identifies three groups of scribes who annotated the text; Lanfranc, who brought the manuscript from Bec to Cambridge, may have been one of them. He also, as Gullick freely admits on the slim paleographical evidence, may not have been. What these particular studies have in common is their emphasis on the potential of seemingly minor paleographical and codicological elements--marginalia, fragments, scripts--to shed light on the larger questions of sources, transmission, and readership of canon law. Their authors credit Martin Brett with insisting on this sort of "thoroughly traditional" attention to detail (p. 1 and elsewhere), long a staple of modern canon law studies, but of renewed importance as long-standing ideas about textual traditions are re-examined.

Less directly concerned with codicology and more with formal sources and texts are the studies of Reynolds, Blumenthal and Jasper, Cushing, Winroth, and Landau. Collectively, their studies present the reader with more substantial entrées. Reynolds considers a derivative of the southern Italian Collection in Five Books (C5B), the so-called Collectio Angelica. Following an examination of three canons attributed to the German Emperor Henry II, he concludes that it must derive from a version of the C5B other than those currently known from among the three surviving copies. The variations illustrate the importance of a critical edition of the latter and the need for more thorough study of the canons in C5B and its derivatives to determine if other, perhaps longer versions of the Collection in Five Books once existed. Cushing presents a survey of recension Bb of Anselm of Lucca's Collectio Canonum, which exists in a single copy of the early twelfth century, now Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana Ms. Barberini lat. 535. Cushing has argued elsewhere that Anselm's Collectio was a "manual of and for reform" embodying identifiably "Gregorian" principles. [3] Here, she tests those conclusions by comparing recension Bb to recension A of the Collectio. Bb, produced for the reformed canons of San Frediano of Lucca, contains a number of additions and modifications not found in A. The degree and type of variations lead Cushing to conclude that the compilation was still aimed at church reform, albeit "slightly more removed from polemical contexts" (77), that is, from the high stakes debates over law and custom that were the hallmark of the partisan conflicts between Gregory VII and Henry IV. On the subject of Gregory VII, Uta-Renate Blumenthal and Detlev Jasper examine the transmission and manuscript tradition of the papal decree Licet nova consuetudo, establishing the timing of the ember days, and furnish a new scholarly edition of the same (60-68).

In his "Roman Law in Gratian and the Panormia," Winroth probes the selection of canons drawn from the Panormia for the legal precedents employed in Gratian's so-called "Marriage Treatise." Gratian had a "curious relationship to Roman law" (184). The Panormia contained a significant number of Roman canons, but Winroth concludes that Gratian deliberately avoided citing them when using this source. As to why he eschewed them, more questions remain than answers. For political or ideological reasons? Because Gratian preferred to erect the Decretum principally on church law? It remains to be seen. Whereas Winroth studies perhaps the most famous twelfth-century legal collection, Peter Landau offers a brief introduction to one of its obscure contemporaries, the Summarium of the archdeacon, later bishop, of Châlons-en-Champagne, Haimo of Bazoches (ruled 1152-1153). Qualifying the Summarium as "ein schlichtes Informationsmittel fÜr einen kirchlichen Richter" (159), Landau examines Haimo's selection of canons for evidence of those he felt relevant for his use in the cura animarum and the instruction of fellow clergy.

One of Haimo's sources is the Collectio 10 partium, compiled at the instigation of John, bishop of Thérouanne (ruled 1099-1130). This text, and others circulating along the Via Francigena, are the subject of Linda Fowler-Magerl's study of the collection and transmission of canon law along the northern section of that crucial arterial. Fowler-Magerl's is one of several studies in the book of interest to non-specialists. Through an examination of the numerous farraginous and systematic law collections compiled along the road between Wissant and Châlons, the author argues that rather than depending upon the traditional notion of the "institutional school" as a center for the transmission of law, proximity to roads should be considered crucial for the circulation of legal material. This point is well taken, and may help explain connections between, say, Lucca and Reims (130)--communities which did indeed exchange texts. But of course, roads don't move books; people do. As for some of the northern French farraginous collections mentioned by Fowler-Magerl, particularly those from the archdiocese of Reims, it is highly probable, perhaps even likely, that the materials were copied and exchanged at the increasingly regular archdiocesan synods of the last quarter of the eleventh century. It is these professional and interpersonal clerical networks, which major roads facilitated, that counted most of all.

To my mind the fullest plate on offer in the collection, for both its broader scholarly appeal and contribution to canon law studies, is that of Christof Rolker. Rolker, in "History and Canon Law in the Collectio Britannica: A New Date for London, BL Add. 8873," offers a revised dating and provenance for elements of the extant copy of the CB, a collection of papal letter fragments and varia containing patristic and Roman law material well known and often used by canon law scholars and historians. [4] Based on historical excerpts in one collection of varia, Rolker presents compelling evidence that the manuscript was "reworked" (143) in northern France some time after 1108, the year of King Louis VI's coronation at Orléans by the archbishop of Sens. This considerably narrows the timeline of the composition of a manuscript which formerly, based on its contents, could only be ascribed to the period after 1089. [5] Rolker argues, on the basis of the verbatim inclusion of two passages from CB in letter 189 of Ivo of Chartres, that a common "X" source lay behind both the CB and Ivo's letter. This "X" source, he argues, was composed following the contentious reaction on the part of the clergy of Reims to Louis' coronation at Orléans. Rolker's is a masterful argument that simultaneously illuminates elements of Ivo's correspondence, the controversy surrounding Louis' coronation and events at Reims in 1106-1107, and the compilation of BL Add. 8873. He presents an edition of the relevant portion of the manuscript.

Rolker's offering is satisfyingly met by the bracing chaser of Anne Duggan, "De consultationibus: The Role of Episcopal Consultation in the Shaping of Canon Law in the Twelfth Century," which fittingly closes the volume. Duggan examines the collaborative approach to church governance increasingly observable in the later twelfth century through the exchanges of bishops who wrote to the papal curia seeking guidance on specific points of law. Gratian may have furnished a living handbook on legal matters within the church, but it was not ideal for judicial practice (204). In their responsa to episcopal inquiries, popes could offer rapid and nuanced decisions on local issues, correction of practice where necessary, and review of decisions where appropriate. As Duggan points out, episcopal consultation went way back—to the fifth century at least. But her essay offers a salutary reminder that regional prelates and their legal staffs in many ways helped to shape the papal practice of issuing decretal collections in the thirteenth century and after.

Given the discoveries of the current generation of scholars concerning the foundational texts of medieval canon law, it is more important than ever that specialists in the field communicate their insights and methods to as broad an audience as possible. To be fair, Festschriften are somewhat idiosyncratic publications and not the ideal vehicle by which to achieve this. Brett's research, and by extension the research of his peers and colleagues in canon law, "has not been fashionable" (1). The editors express their gratitude for this fact. Indeed, there are few substitutes for a close examination of texts for dispelling myths and misconceptions about the character of medieval legal culture! A more pressing question, however, and not one this volume supplies an answer for, is how to makes the field, its texts, and its methods, speak to the scholarly audience outside its own circle of believers.


1. The attribution was challenged by Christof Rolker, a contributor to the volume, in his 1996 Cambridge dissertation and now monograph, Canon Law and the Letters of Ivo of Chartres (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

2. An argument put forward notably by Pierre David, "Un disciple d'Yves de Chartres en Pologne—Galon de Paris et le droit canonique," in La Pologne. Au VIIe Congrès international des Sciences Historiques, Varsovie 1933, vol. 1 (Varsovie: Société Polonaise d'Histoire, 1933), 99-113.

3. She makes this argument notably in her monograph on Anselm's canon law collection, Papacy and Law in the Gregorian Revolution. The Canonistic Work of Anselm of Lucca (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

4. See for example, Robert Somerville, with Stephan Kuttner, Pope Urban II and the Collectio Britannica and the Council of Melfi (1089) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

5. Ibid., 3-21, at p. 3.