03.09.17, Twyman, Papal Ceremonial in the Twelfth Century

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Louis Hamilton

The Medieval Review baj9928.0309.017


Twyman, Susan. Papal Ceremonial at Rome in the Twelfth Century. Series: Henry Bradshaw Society Subsidia, vol. 4. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell, 2002. Pp. xii, 251. ISBN: 1-870252-16-0.

Reviewed by:
Louis Hamilton
Villanova University

Susan Twyman's Papal Ceremonial is a welcome addition to the venerable Henry Bradshaw Society's series of liturgical studies. While historians have been interested in ritual studies for over a generation, not many possess the technical training to examine the liturgical sources as critically as does Twyman. Her straightforward style conceals the recalcitrance of the sources she is working with and the many knotty problems she has successfully made plain (her second chapter is given over to a detailed discussion of the sources). Students of Rome, the liturgy, and the medieval papacy are the most obvious audience for this volume. The author's brief but complex study also deserves a careful reading by historians of medieval urban Italy. Twyman, resisting more obvious readings of papal ceremonial along pan-European lines, places a portion of papal ceremonial, the adventus, into the context of Roman communal history. In so doing, both the commune and the bishop of Rome become more comprehensible.

Adventus was the formal reception given to an arriving emperor in the Roman period and taken over by the papacy most probably, Twyman demonstrates, in the Carolingian period (81-84). Evidence for the adventus begins again with Leo IX in 1049 (84). Some of our best evidence for its practice occurs in the twelfth century, most notably in the reign of Paschal II. Thus, adventus can be clearly connected to periods of "heightened papal political ambition" (85). On these occasions, the Roman nobility, the Jews, and large crowds would leave the city to greet the popes as they approached in a kind of ritual obeisance (105). Twyman spends much of Chapter 6 demonstrating that essentially the same rite was performed within the city as well.

Most interestingly, Twyman demonstrates that a change occurred in the practice of adventus after the triumphal return of Calixtus II in 1120. This change made the adventus a sign of the consent of the Roman commune to the elected pope. In June of 1144, no one less than the brother of the anti-pope Anacletus II (Jordan Pierleone) was chosen to lead the newly-formed commune as patricius (152). This should be seen as a clear statement of dissatisfaction with papal rule in Rome and the contado following so soon after the death of Innocent II (d. 1143) (155). It is at this same time that the commune insisted that a pope elected outside of the city "must receive approval of the Romans before he would be recognised as lord" (222). With this, Twyman argues convincingly, there was a renewed emphasis on the popular acclamation of the popes at their election and a shift in the meaning of the adventus from obedience to approval (222). The irony is that even as the adventus is increasingly performed in the twelfth century, it reflects the relative weakness of the bishop of Rome in relation to his city (225).

As Twyman notes, precious little is known about the early Roman commune and even that has not been thoroughly considered (222). Thus, by examining the ceremonial life of the bishop of the city she has shed light on its commune. In this way Twyman's study exemplifies what, I think, will prove to be the enduring value of such ritual studies: their capacity to reveal subtle shifts and variations in the historical landscape. The bishop of Rome and bishops up and down the Italian peninsula were competing with rival civic and religious institutions engaged in building churches, supporting feasts, burying the dead, etc. Adventus itself, as revived by the papacy, was imitated by non-clerical governing bodies (15-17). In some cities, such as Venice, the bishop was largely marginalized by the commune; in other cities, as Rome, the bishop was able to dominate the commune. In Rome, the great irony was that it was the Romans' capacity to exile their bishop that helped create a universal pope whom they could not resist. The ceremonial life of the papal court in exile had much to do with the creation of that universal papacy.

The dynamics between bishop and commune are complex and Twyman has done us a great service by placing this particular episcopacy back into a precise urban context. Importantly, her work also demonstrates that the revival of this ancient Roman custom in the twelfth century was not just another aspect of a pan-European renaissance but served specific purposes and had particular meanings in the city in which it was performed. Those purposes and meanings have a history, and changed even over short periods of time. The imitatio imperii- should not be assumed to have a uniform, static meaning or influence (222).

This is only the outline of a book filled with closely argued and fascinating details: the rivalry between the canons of the Lateran and S. Peter's (116), the eschatological symbolism of papal coronation (122, 128), or the use of temporary triumphal arches (210-217), to offer only a few examples. The infelicities of the work are minor. The most serious of these concern the map of Rome (xi) which notably lacks S. Maria in Pallara (discussed at 121) and appears to represent the orientation of Roman churches but, oddly, only presents some of them accurately. One might also wish for a more complete index, but these are superficial blemishes on a valuable study.

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Louis Hamilton

Villanova University