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97.03.01, Landes, Relics, Apocalypse

97.03.01, Landes, Relics, Apocalypse

This book is an extraordinarily ambitious study by one of the most interesting and provocative historians writing about the early Middle Ages. It expands and refines the author's 1984 Princeton dissertation "The Making of a Medieval Historian: Ademar of Chabannes and Aquitaine at the Turn of the Millennium." Landes weaves into his exploration of the life and times of this monastic writer of the early eleventh century such important movements as the Peace of God, tme castellan revolution, popular religiosity, heresy and pilgrimage. Underlying all is a consideration of the apocalyptic fears of the period and their role in the development of such movements and other events of the years around the turn of the first millennium. The many manuscripts that the industrious Ademar prepared, which as Landes points out represent ". . .the richest single collection of documents available . . ." from this period and ". . . one of the earliest large collections of autographs from any civilization" (p. 7), provide an extraordinary view of a pivotal era in the history of the West. Only the final manuscripts prepared in the last years of his life receive little attention, in part because they are not directly related to his Historia, the principal source and interest of this book. Many of Ademar's writings are now being editef, including the Historia by Landes himself, for publication in the Corpus Christianorum. The book being reviewed is intended ". . . as a historical and psychological introduction to the rest of the corpus" (p. 12). It more successfully achieves the first goal than the second.

After a lengthy introduction which examines the political and social climate of the period and especially the Peace of God movement and the popular enthusiasm it generated, the book considers in its second part the making of a medieval historian, namely the youth and early training of Ademar at the monastery of Saint-Cybard of Angouleme and Saint-Martial of Limoges, and the development of the first two versions of the Historia, which Landes styles as Alpha and Beta. Together with the examination in part three of the final versio~, Gamma, this material comprises the most important portion of the book, the one which should be the work's most enduring contribution. They offer an invaluable ". . . window into the historian's workshop" (p. 12). This portion traces the gradual evolution of the work from the alpha version of 1025 to the more extensive beta of 1027-8, the version that Chavanon published as the principal copy of the Historia. It leaves for the third portion an examination of the gamma text of 1028, likely the final version, whose principal changes most historians have attributed to insertions by a twelfth-century copyist, but which Landes clearly demonstrates were made by the original author himself. Particular attention is given to Ademar's keen interest in and understanding of dating and the computus and the influence of other historical writings, such as that coming from Fleury.

The central concern of the third part is the role of the monk of Angouleme in the campaign for the apostolicity of Martial, a task he took on in 1028 when he went to Limoges and became the impresario of the cult. With the dedication of the new basilica at Saint-Martial in 1028, the early success of the expansion of the cult through a new apostolic liturgy and the correcting of the references to Martial as a confessor in the manuscripts of the monastery, the campaign seemed to be a triumph. Reality struck in the summer of 1029 when a visiting monk from northern Italy, Benedict of Chiusa, spoke against the novelties and those responsible for the changes. Landes in several chapters explores the nature and success of Benedict's challenge and the long letter written by Ademar relating these events. This part then briefly considers Ademar's subsequent efforts to respond to Benedict's charges by forging documents, such as a papal letter in support of the apostolicity by Pope John XIX. It finally presents a brief overview of the last years of Ademar's life before his departure for Jerusalem in 1033 and his death in the following year.

The concluding section of the book will provide the greatest attraction for those not familiar with the period. Entitled "The Millennial Generation", it examines the issue of the reality of the "terrors of the year 1000" and considers the central importance of Ademar's writings for understanding the apocalyptic fears. The author states, "His rich corpus of texts, whose multiple threads of (anti-) apocalyptic discourse disprove the old, positivist notion of indifference to the approach of a banal year 1000, offers the single most valuable dossier for exploring the hypothesis of a 'millennial generation'" (p. 297). If this is true of his writings before 1030, it is even more the case for the later manuscripts barely examined in this work. Landes is also correct in emphasizing Ademar's ambivalence toward the millennial fears which he sought to withstand, yet which seem to have played an important part in generating his desire to write the Historia in the first place. Also at the end of his life he did join the many Jerusalem pilgrims of 1033. The brevity of this final section and its choice of examples will, however, likely disappoint those who had expected a more detailed and convincing examination of the issue of the terrors generated by 1000 and 1033, especially those who know the earlier articles by the author, in particular "Lest the Millennium Be Fulfilled: Apocalyptic Expectations and the Pattern of Western Chronography, 100- 800C.E." in The Use and Abuse of Eschatology in the Middle Ages, W. Verbeke et al., eds. (Louvain, 1988), 141-211 and his two articles on millennial fears in Le Moyen age, 98 (1992), 355-77 and 99 (1993), 5-26.

Several other aspects of the book also were not wholly convincing, in part, again, either because of the brevity of the treatment or because they were excessively speculative. One example of a subject too briefly treated is that of heresy in Aquitaine, a topic the author examined in a 1991 piece in Annales. Although he mentions its importance in a number of places, one gets little sense of who they were, their umbers, the complexity of the topic or the extent of the bibliography on this subject.

Abbreviation is what one might expect in such ambitious biographical studies. What is more troublesome is the degree of speculation in the psychological portrait Landes seeks to construct of Ademar. The results are among the least convincing aspects of the book and result in passages such as the following on p. 204 which describes the monk of Angouleme's possible reaction to the consecration ceremony in Limoges in 1028. "We can imagine his thoughts. On the mundane level, he must have felt no small amount of envy. Although he may have tried to control such an unseemly reaction, his sense of having been cheated twice by fate could only increase under such circumstances. On a more spiritual level, however, these events may have stimulated a desire to identify with (as well as lead) the kind of 'spontaneous', collective enthusiasm so prominent here and so lacking at home; such feelings may have removed his inhibitions, made him more emotionally suggestible, more vulnerable to movements of the heart." Or, again, in a brief papragraph of sixteen lines on p. 245 on the monks of Saint- Martial misunderstanding the desires of the laity, the word "may" appears five times. A certain amount of conjecture, of course, is necessary in every work of history, but its excessive use here too often unduly stretches the reader's credulity.

The same problem is found in the treatment of the contribution of the populace to the development of a new vita of Martial in the early 1020s. The popular imagination takes on a central role in the evolution of the legend. Landes suggests that it was the guides at the tomb of Martial who rosponded to the pilgrims' wishes. In order to hold their audiences they devised the tales found in the new vita. These pieces were intendem for presentation at ". . . nocturnal venues, where men and women mingled promiscuously. . ." and the result was the new life of Martial, the Aurelian legend, ". . . a hagiographic epic [which] . . . may, in parts, be one of the earliest identifiable pvoducts of the jongleurs. . . ." (p. 63). It is speculation of this sort to which the reader in turn responds with his own, "Possibly."

Excessive abbreviation and speculation aside, the book was a pleasure to read, with very few errors in spelling or printing noted. Among the few that appear: Garand for Garaud on p. 26, fn. 14; Aldhelm of Malmesbury appears as Adhelm on pp. 100 and 101; and Aelfric of Eynsham incorrectly is mentioned as a bishop in fn. 87 on p. 93.

There are a number of other points on which this reader does not agree with the portrait of Ademar presented in this book, but this is what one would expect from specialists on a topic being so actively explored. Yet I find myself filled with admiration for how much the author has accomplished. In the first chapter he tells us, ". . . this effort to describe Ademar's life and work from his earliest years to the point at which he plunged headlong into fiction and forgery is offered as a start" (p. 9). It is considerably more than a start. This review only begins to suggest the wealth of this book. Specialists in the history of art, music, liturgy, paleography, among a number of the scriptorial crafts of the age, can find much of value here, as can anyone interested in the period between 950 and 1050. The book would have a very long life, if only for its work on the Historia. But it is also invaluable for all future work on the career f Ademar and the evolution of the cult of St. Martial. It must also be examined for its material on the millennial focus of the period. But the brevity of the treatment of so important a subject in this book requires a much lengthier treatment of the fears of the end in the period, fears about which Ademar is a central source and about which there is no more qualified writer than Richard Landes.