05.02.20, Nospickel, ed., Necrolog des Klosters Michelsberg

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Charles Hilken

The Medieval Review baj9928.0502.020


Nospickel, Johannes, ed.. Das Necrolog des Klosters Michelsberg in Bamberg. Series: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Libri Memoriales et Necrologia: Nova Series vol. 6. Hanover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2004. Pp. xxxiv, 694. ISBN: 3-7752-5506-0.

Reviewed by:
Charles Hilken
Saint Mary's College of California

This study and edition adapted for use with the accompanying facsimile of the twelfth century necrology of the Benedictine monastery of Michelsberg in Bamberg (Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek, Lit. 144, fol. 62r-107v) is a necessary read for anyone involved in the contemporary study of necrologies. The breadth and depth of historical analysis and prosopography are enough to recommend it, but of even greater universal application are the considerations about the tradition of use of the necrology and its meaning for the inner history of the community.

The present work is a big book (315 x 230 mm) of more than 700 pages when one includes the facsimile and additional plates. It is big also in its tasks. In addition to the preliminary studies by Wollasch, Hochholzer, and Nospickel, and the edition (more precisely, the calendric series of entries) of the necrology and brief accompanying texts, there is a remarkably accomplished set of identifying apparatuses (Provenienzregister) which are really at the heart of the book, both in number of pages (more than 200) and in the scope of the author. Nospickel is hesitant to call his "entries in a calendric sequence" an edition and argues that they "serve as an aide for the use of the facsimile and form the ground work for the 'Provenance Register' in which all the persons named in the necrology are organized according to their monastic origins and ecclesiastical communities or according to their place in the world of the laity." (52) The divisions of the register merit noting as follows.

Provenance Register:A. Monastic affiliation.a. 1. Men's convents and double monasteries (Benedictine, Cistercian).a. 2. Women's convents (Benedictine, Cistercian, conversae) and inclusae.B. Clerical affiliation (papal, episcopal, unknown).C. Laity.c. 1. Imperial and royal family members.c. 2. Upper nobility (dukes, margraves, palatine counts, counts, and their family members).c. 3. Laity identified with a place name (divided into freemen; monastic, ecclesiastical, imperial, and feudal ministers; and laity of unknown standing).c. 4. Laity without a place name (divided into laity known only by their gifts or other benefactions; laity named by a familial relationship; and lay names without any other identification.D. Additions of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

It is truly remarkable that Nospickel was able to assign a provenance to around 75% of the more than 2300 names. The structure of the necrology, in which each calendar day is divided into three arcades, is of great assistance here. The first column has the names of the abbots and monks of Michelsberg; the second has the lay brothers of Michelsberg and the abbots, monks, lay brothers and clerics of communities in confraternity with the abbey; and the third arcade has the names of nuns, lay sisters, and laity. In addition, places of origin were frequently noted by the scribes or their successors. But in many instances Nospickel was able to identify or confirm the identity of a person by finding the name in the necrology of an affiliated community.

The rendering of the edition not as an edition per se but as a reproduction of the chronological sequence of entries, removes any reasonable objection to the somewhat busy aspect of the printed text. In addition to the sequence of entries and critical apparatus, the text pages have letter, number, and title references to the Provenance Register, as well as numbered references to Hochholzer's catalogue of scribal hands. The layout is rather elegant given all that Nospickel has included.

Nospickel has treated the question of use carefully and his questions, conclusions, and observations provide good benchmarks for understanding medieval Benedictine necrologies in light of the communities that made them. With all of his insights drawn from careful observation the necrology becomes an understandable reflection of the changes in the customs and practices of the Michelsberg community and its spiritual relations with the outside world. His source for much of what he knows about the keeping of the necrology at Michelsberg is the customary of Hirsau (Patrologia Latina 150, cols. 923-1146), whose reform constitutions the abbey adopted as part of the same rebuilding and renewal program that produced the new necrology. From the Hirsau and other customaries Nospickel knows that the armarius or his deputies entered the names into the necrology, which was part of a chapter book during the decades of its use in the chapter room. The chapter book itself eventually made its way into the sacristy where it was recorded as a plenarium. There was a distinction, especially in the earliest stratum of the necrology, among monks from affiliated communities between a name with plena fraternitas which became the norm and a frater noster most of which have been erased. The distinction was of kind and amount of suffrages. The anniversary of a death remembered with plena fraternitas was the occasion of a prebendary meal for the poor. The dead of the abbey of Michelsberg itself were divided into monks proper, or 'interior' brothers and conversi, that is, lay or 'exterior' brothers. There is no direct evidence from the customary of Hirsau that conversi who made a contract of affiliation were recorded in the necrology based on that contract, but there is evidence that their names were to be recorded in libri vitae. These latter books carried the load of names of affiliated monasteries as well. The frequent listing of conversi in the necrology, however, would indicate that the contracts of lay brotherhood are linked to them. This presumption is strengthened by the placement immediately before the necrology of the prayers for the monastic shaving of the head (fols. 60v-61v), which Nospickel edits. (85-87)

Nospickel's careful study of the composition of the entries against the backdrop of the history of the community yields other, even more interesting findings because they are seldom treated. His insights about the work of the scribes of the necrology include the following. There are discernable patterns to the work of the scribe who entered the ground stock of names and yet inconsistencies would indicate that he learnt as he progressed through the calendar. He observed a hierarchy of names based on ecclesiastical offices. The maintenance of hierarchy over time was the cause of erasures and rewriting. These and all 300 erasures, many visible by ultraviolet light, are attributable to the armarius and his deputies. There are instances where the first scribe failed to enter the provenance of a name, defects which later scribes would emend based, it would seem, on other available sources. A comparison of entries in other sources shows occasional delays, mostly by one day, of the entry of death notices. Sometimes a scribe has entered a group of names in one entry or a number of entries, which can be grouped together in a web of relationships around one key name.

Nospickel's analysis of changes in the writing and maintenance of the necrology creates an historical immediacy that is often lost by the scholarly tendency to consider the use of a necrology as a static epochal practice. The Michelsberg necrology is most importantly a witness to the practices of the twelfth century. It tells us who was remembered and what offices were paid to their memory. Contacts with affiliated houses for the purpose of recording anniversaries were never long-lasting, with the exception of Muensterschwarzach. Wholesale erasure of the common phrase 'frater noster' would indicate a subsequent revision in the practice of assigning suffrages. Remembrance of the laity expanded from 20% to 30% of contemporary entries as the twelfth century progressed. Seldom did laity who were not conversi achieve plena fraternitas. There are 75 instances of an 'officium' given mostly for laity, which is always noted with a number of candles. Periods of intense scribal activity signal periods of renewal or reform in the abbey. Witness the 120 names of hand #8 written between 1148 and 1162, which is wholly contained within the abbacy of Eberhard II. During this time the stressing of names by the addition of dates, which had earlier been reserved to abbots and monks, increased greatly. Dated entries under Eberhard II are often in rubrics with plena fraternitas added. The necrology was in continuous use until the middle of the eighth decade of the century when the absence of names known from other sources indicates that the monks stopped using the necrology at their daily chapter. Nospickel speculates that the pressure of accumulated anniversary obligations could have caused the suspension or the retirement of the necrology. There is evidence of the erasure of suffrages, gifts, and names, all of which may indicate that with the passage of time legacies lapsed. All of this was contemporary with the waning of the spiritual influence of the Benedictines and waxing of Cistercian pastoral care. At the same time, the cathedral chapter, which was affiliated with the abbey by their common obedience to the bishop of Bamberg (Michelsberg was an episcopal abbey), began a new necrology of its own. The chapter book with its necrology was no longer in daily use after 1183/1186. A final piece of evidence that the monks set aside the use of this necrology is the presence of the formal and highlighted entries of Bishop Otto and Empress Kunegund both of whom were canonized towards the end of the century. It would be expected that the scribes would have erased their names at the time of canonization. But a note of caution is in order here, as Nospickel's and Wollasch's treatment of the entry for Bishop Otto show that there was more of tradition than science in the necrology when separating saints from the dearly departed.

Joachim Wollasch's contribution entitled "Death Memorial and Tradition Building in the Episcopal Monastery of Michelsberg at Bamberg" makes ample use of Nospickel's study and thereby shows the merits of a well-edited necrology. The Michelsberg necrology is familiar terrain for Wollasch who used it, especially the lay entries, in his groundbreaking 1973 study Moenchtum des Mittelalters zwischen Kirche und Welt. Much of his present essay is devoted to placing the production of the necrology in the context of the monastic reform put into effect by Bishop Otto and Abbot Wolfram after the rebuilding of the abbey, which was destroyed in an earthquake of 1117. Wollasch's contribution is more about the history of the abbey and its times than about the inner life of the community. The necrology was composed at the high point in the abbey's history and is an expression of a community conscious that it is living through a moment of renewal. Wollasch argues that the artful user of the necrology could have helped shape the history and tradition of the monastic community and gives Ebo the author of the Vita of Bishop Otto as evidence.

Elmar Hochholzer's essay entitled "Paleographical Observations" makes most use of the facsimile pages of the necrology as well as photos of other folios from Cod. Lit. 144 (fols. 1r, 59r, 59v, 60r, 60v, 61r, 64v enlargement, 108v, 111v); Cod. Lit. 152, fols. 8r and 81r; Cod. Lit. 159, fols. 37v, 38r, 46v; and Bamberg, Codex Bibl. 27, fol. 4r). Hochholzer begins with the question of whether any of the scribes of the necrology were active in other productions of the Michelsberg scriptorium. His study is larger, of course, and considers the evidence of the affiliations with other monastic scriptoria. Three codices in particular have scribes in common with Lit. 144: Lit. 159, a martyrology which once formed with Lit. 144 the twelfth-century chapter book; Lit. 152, a Michelsberg copy of the monastic constitutions of Hirsau; and Bibl. 27, a Hrabanus Maurus book. The dating of the necrology is left to Hochholzer who dates it with caution and good argument to between October 1122 and October/November 1123. As for the daunting task of grouping the entries by scribe, Hochholzer offers that an honest assessment of the number of hands at work, after intensive study of the original and facsimile, might put the number at a hundred. With even more difficult examinations, based upon characteristic details, ligatures, abbreviations, proportions, and above all the ductus, it is possible to give some definition to scribal hands. Hochholzer finds 320 entries by the scribe of the ground stock of names and 28 distinct groups of additional entries and numbers these hands #1-#26, with #2a and #3a added. The additional hands yield another 420 entries. The total of 740 entries hardly approaches a complete assessment of scribes as most of the 2300 entries are of only one person. The question of the practice of making entries to the necrology goes beyond the scope of Hochholzer's work and Nospickel leads the reader only so far. The hands at work on the necrology must have exceeded the armarius and his deputies. There is more yet to be said about who made the entries to the necrology.

There are few deficiencies in this solid work. The choice to treat separately the entries to the necrology after the twelfth century is justified, but it would have been well to address the reason for the occasional entries to the necrology after the monks ceased to use it for the daily practice of the chapter room. A list of abbots and bishops of the twelfth century would have been helpful especially for those not immediately familiar with the ecclesiastical history of Bamberg. The inclusion of the facsimile makes most sense for Hochholzer's purposes. The merits of the work of Nospickel and Wollasch could have stood alone without the facsimile. Final word should be made about the inclusion of the alphabetical table of name stems (Lemmatisiertes Personnennamenregister). This is the work of Dieter Geuenich and is something familiar to readers of previous volumes of MGH necrologies. In addition there are indices for personal titles, death years, place names, and church/convent (patrozinien) names.

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Charles Hilken

Saint Mary's College of California