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06.08.16, Bertram, The Chrodegang Rules

The Medieval Review

06.08.16, Bertram, The Chrodegang Rules

Although he is almost omnipresent in the middle years of the eighth century--so much so that James McKinnon dubbed him "the ubiquitous Chrodegang" [1]--Chrodegang, bishop of Metz from sometime in the 740s until his death in 766, had not received the attention such an epithet might warrant, especially in the Anglophone world. I would guess that most Carolingianists recognize him, as do those whose interests lie in the development of early western music, but beyond a French Festschrift from 1967, [2] and some important articles by Josef Semmler, he has been more known than studied. [3] But all that has changed in the last few years: we seem to be in the midst of a virtual Chrodegangian Renaissance. Three monographs that have substantially focused on Chrodegang have been published since 2003: Brigitte Langefeld's study of the Anglo-Saxon versions of Chrodegang's rule for cathedral canons came out that year; [4] my own book on Chrodegang's rule was published in early 2005; [5] and now comes Jerome Bertram's editions, translations, and commentaries on not only the Regula canonicorum , but also the Institutio canonicorum from the 816 council of Aachen, and the so-called Longer (or Interpolated ) Rule , from the ninth or tenth century.

In the Forward, Bertram sets out very clearly the reasons for his undertaking the task of translation. After praising the idea of the religious common life, he states that "many of the much-publicized problems among the isolated Catholic clergy could be alleviated if a form of community life could be re-established." In other words, the goal of the book--like that of Chrodegang's own rule--is essentially pastoral. Bertram seeks to re-form the life of the clergy, by re- establishing an old pattern of life, and thus, in many ways, the book is a polemic. This fact must be borne in mind throughout the whole of the text.

Chapter One opens by offering an interesting contrast between an 'Augustinian' and 'monastic' vision of the common life of clerics: the adherent of the former believe that almost all the clergy lived a style of life based on the Acts summaries until the time of Constantine, and such a conversatio continued after the establishment of the church, as one can find in texts from Eusebius of Vercelli, Ambrose, and Augustine. On the other hand, the far more numerous proponents of a 'monastic' interpretation of the clerical common life view it, from its inception, as a sort of second-class monasticism. Bertram firmly places Chrodegang in the first camp, and argues vigorously that, whatever some of our sources say, he did not seek to 'monasticize' his clergy.[6] Bertram offers then a short and sometimes very unreliable history of canons and clergy, based, as far as I can tell, on some very old scholarship. For instance, he does not seem to know Josef Semmler's article on the ubiquity of the common life of clerics in northern Europe, even before the Carolingian period: instead Bertram often perceives this as one of the distinctive Anglo-Saxon contributions to the Middle Ages.[7] In fact, this is perhaps the greatest problem in the book: while Bertram of course was not able to draw on books in press as he was writing, he often relies on scholarship that is rather old or very odd. For instance, his bibliography has more titles by Margaret Deanesly than any other author, but he cites only one work by Semmler, one by J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, one by David Ganz, and so forth. Likewise, when he delves into the question of celibacy in the early church, the only work he cites (and only in his bibliography) is a book recently published by San Francisco's very partisan Ignatius Press. Thus, one should turn with only the greatest caution to The Chrodegang Rules for context and general history.

The heart of the book is in the presentations and translations of the three texts mentioned in the title. Although the title itself promises "critical texts", Bertram tells us that he "has provided the Latin according to the most accessible editions": he offers the Rule of Chrodegang in the 1937 Pelt edition; the Aachen Institutio canonicorum in the 1904 MGH Werminghoff edition; and Longer Rule based on Cambridge Corpus Christi College ms 191, edited by Napier for EETS in 1916, with some emendations. With the publication of Langefeld's book, however, Napier has been superseded, and her text should be consulted instead. Werminghoff based his work on over seventy extant manuscripts, and his is still the best edition available, but there are some problems with Pelt, who was himself a bishop of Metz. For his own reform efforts, Pelt produced text of the Rule of Chrodegang based on the 1889 edition of Wilhelm Schmitz. [8] But a couple of years after Schmitz's text was published, a new, and more reliable, manuscript containing the rule was discovered, and its publication offered a variety of emendations. [9] Pelt took these changes and made the appropriate adjustments to Schmitz's edition. But Pelt faced two problems. First, he did not note, or even probably know, of all the variants between the two manuscripts; and second, the manuscript upon which Schmitz based his edition is mainly written in shorthand, which Pelt could not read. What we need is a new edition of Chrodegang's rule based on all four extant manuscripts, and done by someone who can read Tironian notes.

Chapter Two is concerned with Chrodegang's rule. Bertram begins with a sort of historical introduction to Chrodegang and mid-eighth century Francia, and then offers a commentary on the rule itself. This is the material I know best, and it is in the historical section that we see Bertram at his weakest: his scholarship is most dated, even at the level of the basic facts, and he proffers as truths notions that had been refuted fifty years ago. But once he turns his eyes to the rule, Bertram can be most insightful. While our interpretations might differ, it is clear that Bertram can be a most sensitive reader of texts, and, unlike others who have deemed Chrodegang nothing more than a mediocre plagiarist, Bertram shows a real appreciation for the bishop's originality. Moreover, he has a clear understanding of the limits of Chrodegang's education and especially his Latinity, which he will use to some effect in the next chapters.

The next chapter deals with the legislation from Aachen in 816. Bertram states that the reform program begun during the time of Pippin the Short continued throughout the reign of his sons and grandson, but "always in close communication with the Pope, and under considerable influence from England" (84). Although few would agree with this statement any more, he does note that throughout the Carolingian period, revivifying the clergy was seen as the key to enlivening the whole church. Louis the Pious continued this work begun by his father and his father's advisors, and called together a council to legislate for the life of both monks and secular clergy. The result is the Institutio canonicorum . Bertram notes that there is no evidence that the council fathers, although writing rules for the lives of canons and priests, knew of the work of Chrodegang, and he suggests that this is because of Chrodegang's sometimes flawed Latin: it was simply too barbaric to be read! Whatever the case, Chrodegang's work seems to have had no real influence on the imperial decrees issued. The legislation consists of five parts: a prologue, two different patristic catenae drawn mainly from Isidore, Gregory the Great, and 'Julianus' Pomerius (with a little Augustine and Jerome), a florilegium drawn from councilor pronouncements, and a regula canonicorum . Bertram presents and translates the prologue and the rule, along with an appended letter from Louis to some archbishops who did not attend the meeting, but omits the 113 chapters taken from earlier material. Although this decision is certainly understandable, it is a shame: the patristic and conciliar dossier that makes up the bulk of the legislation provided not only a justification for the rule that followed, but would offer the reader a fine sense of what leading ecclesiastics thought their priests ought to know. The Aachen regula canonicorum is most interesting, and, as Bertram argues, it shows all the signs of being written by committee (for instance, c. 114 seems to argue that monks are 'better' than canons, while the next chapter comes to the exact opposite conclusion). His suggestion of Benedict of Aniane as a potential author seems more than plausible, though it would need to be argued more than he does.

The final chapter presents the oddest of the three texts, the so- called Regula longior . This is a heavily interpolated rule based on that of Chrodegang, but also including material drawn from the 816 Aachen council, and from other sources as well. This text forms the basis of Langefeld's study, and her book should be consulted instead of Bertram's: she presents a better edition, as well as a more detailed commentary.

Bertram, as he promises, delivers a pretty good text of all three works he examines. His translations into English are generally accurate and fluid, and although one can always quibble with some choices, he also has some lovely renditions which capture the spirit, if not always the most literal sense, of the texts with which he is working (for instance, "vultu rigidu" becomes "sour-faced"!). Like so many translators, he does tend to fall into the King James Version when he comes to biblical texts, but this seems a relatively small fault, and probably more a matter of taste than anything else. A greater problem, unfortunately, is the publisher's decision to present the editions and the translations separately, rather than side by side, a decision which makes cross-checking a toilsome experience. Despite this handicap, however, the publication or translation of almost any early medieval text is a cause to rejoice, and Bertram here has done our community a significant service. Faculty members can send undergraduates (and even graduate students who lack the time or the language skills to engage the Latin) working in early medieval history to these texts (though, again I repeat, probably not all of the accompanying commentary) for a good entree into the world of non- monastic history. And for that Bertram is to be commended.


[1] James McKinnon, The Advent Project: The Later-Seventh-Century Creation of the Roman Mass Proper (Berkeley, 2000), p. 75.

[2] Saint Chrodegang: Communications presentes au colloque tenu a Metz (Metz, 1967).

[3] For instance, see Josef Semmler, "Monche und Kanoniker im Frankenreich Pippins III und Karls des Grossen," in Untersuchungen zu Kloster und Stift , Veroffentlichungen des Max-Planck-Instituts fur Geschichte 68, Studien zur Germania Sacra 14 (Freiburg, 1980), pp. 78-111; and idem , "Chrodegang Bischof von Metz 747-766," in Friedrich Knopp, Die Reichsabtei Lorsch: Festschrift zum Bedanken an die Stiftung der Reichsabtei Lorsch 764 , (Darmstadt, 1973) 1. 229-45.

[4] Brigitte Langefeld, The Old English Version of the Enlarged Rule of Chrodegang, Edited together with the Latin Text and an English Translation , Munchener Universitatsschriften 26 (Frankfurt am Main, 2003).

[5] M. A. Claussen, The Reform of the Frankish Church: Chrodegang of Metz and the Regula canonicorum in the Eighth Century (Cambridge, 2004).

[6] The usually reliable Paul the Deacon writes that Chrodegang "united the clergy, and converted the sacred space within the cathedral cloister to the image of a monastery; and he instituted a rule [norma ] for them, of how they must serve God in church," Paul the Deacon, Gesta episcoporum Mettensium , ed. G. H. Pertz, MGH SS 2. 260-70 at p. 268.

[7] Josef Semmler, "Mission und Pfarrorganisation in der rheinischen, Mosel- und Maaslandischen Bistumern (5.-10. Jahrhundert)," in Christianizzazzione ed organizzazione ecclesiastica delle campagne nell'alto medioevo: espansione e resistenze , Settimane di Studio sull'alto medioevo 28 (Spoleto, 1982), pp. 813-888.

[8] Wilhelm Schmitz, ed., S. Chrodegangi Mettensis episcopi Regula canonicorum (Hanover, 1889), based on Leiden, Universiteitsbibliothek, Voss. lat. 94.

[9] This manuscript is Bern, Burgerbibliothek lat. 289, and was published by Adalbert Ebner, "Zur Regula canonicorum des hl. Chrodegang," Romische Quartalschrift fur christliche Altertumskunde und Kirchengeschichte (1891): 82-88.