07.07.02, Tinti, ed., Pastoral Care in Late Anglo-Saxon England

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Melanie Heyworth

The Medieval Review baj9928.0707.002


Tinti, Francesca. Pastoral Care in Late Anglo-Saxon England. Anglo-Saxon Studies, vol. 6. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2005. Pp. vii, 152. ISBN: 1-84383-156-2, ISBN-13: 978-1-84383-156-3 (hb).

Reviewed by:
Melanie Heyworth
University of Sydney

This volume comprises an Introduction by Francesca Tinti and seven essays, most of which are longer versions of papers delivered at the International Medieval Congress (Leeds) in 2002. While the essays in this volume are loosely connected by the issue of "pastoral care," each contribution is methodologically distinct with diverse foci and understandings of the concept of "pastoral care." Tinti defines "pastoral care" as referring to "all the activities carried out by the clergy to assist and support the spiritual life of the laity," including administering sacraments, as well as "more common tasks and activities, such as preaching" (1). The breadth of construal that this expansive definition invites results in seven diverse chapters, and a volume the coherence of which is not always evident.

Francesca Tinti's concise "Introduction" attempts to synthesise not only the immediate late Anglo-Saxon context for the administration of pastoral care in England in the tenth and eleventh centuries, but also its historical background, tracing the development of the Anglo-Saxon church's awareness and systemisation of pastoral care and, moreover, the scholarly context in which the current volume is positioned. Her synthesis, which aims to "provide a context in which readers could place the following essays" (13), covers a vast array of information, including methodological issues; the need for local studies versus those of institutions; the effect of the Benedictine reform, urbanisation, and saints' cults and relics on the concept of pastoral care; the audience for and reception of pastoral care; and the value of architectural and archaeological insights into the practice of pastoral care. Given the wealth of information that she provides, and the extensive range of material that she covers, Tinti undoubtedly and skilfully provides that context. For instance, she highlights the key arguments and the continuing importance of the so-called "minster debate," aided by some judicious referencing; though it is worth noting that, despite her insistence that the volume does not aim to revive the "minster debate" (2), the essays included therein pertain to that debate (if only in their assumptions) and must contribute to it. However, anyone unfamiliar with the debate would not be overly enlightened. Tinti devotes considerable space in her Introduction to establishing a logical cohesion to this diverse collection, and to giving the volume a deeper unity than its focus on the broad concept of "pastoral care" might imply. In this effort she only partially succeeds, primarily because there is some lack of coherence between each contribution, as will be noted individually below.

In "The Clergy in English Dioceses, c. 900-c. 1066," Julia Barrow examines the "provenance, recruitment and patronage of those who were mostly involved in pastoral activities: the clergy" (5). Barrow herself notes that, since the tenth and eleventh century evidence for this topic is "quite exceptionally sparse" (18), her contribution offers some hypotheses which rest on a survey of the extant primary sources. In this she is successful: she provides a detailed summary and survey of the extant primary sources which pertain to the recruitment of the clergy, and particularly to the operation of family networks and patronage in the enrolment and promotion of individual clergymen. She provides an engaging narrative description of the relevant sources, retelling in snippets examples of real, often named, clerics, and of what can be gleaned about individual clerics' lives from the extant sources. The strength of her contribution, then, lies in its cataloguing of the pertinent primary sources. In terms of a broad appeal to non- specialists (even to Anglo-Saxonists unfamiliar with the intimate workings of the church), however, Barrow would have done well to define better the terms that she uses: this chapter's appeal to a generalist audience is limited by its use of undefined jargon.

Francesca Tinti's contribution, "The 'Costs' of Pastoral Care: Church Dues in Late Anglo-Saxon England," has its focus more on the development of a system of church dues than on "the more or less explicit connections that sources draw between the delivery of pastoral care and the need to sustain the clergy responsible for cura animarum" (5). Tinti attempts to analyse the relationship between the payment of church dues and the reception of cura animarum to see if, as in Carolingian sources, the development and payment of church dues in an Anglo-Saxon context were directly related to the provision of pastoral care. By examining the development of and attitudes towards church dues in legal codes, in instructions for the clergy (such as AElfric's pastoral letters), in late Anglo-Saxon homilies, and in episcopal leases, Tinti attempts to draw a picture in which there were "specific references to the connection between the delivery of pastoral care and the duty to pay church dues in return" (40). Whilst ultimately Tinti concludes that "it does not seem possible to find such specific and explicit statements on the relationship between a church and its filii as those that we have found in Continental texts" (41), her analyses of individual Anglo-Saxon texts seem to over-state the relationship between church dues and pastoral care. Only Wulfstan's Institutes of Polity presents a compelling case for this relationship; otherwise, her case is far less explicit than she claims. Tinti's focus often strays from the relationship of church dues to pastoral care, rather concentrating on examining the development of a system of church dues itself with no, or little, reference to pastoral care. Nevertheless, Tinti's contribution is thought-provoking and the appeal of her argument is that, as she herself notes, she moves beyond previous discussions by comparing legislative codes with other relevant documentary material (32), rather than examining them in isolation.

Jonathon Wilcox's "AElfric in Dorset and the Landscape of Pastoral Care" is a strong and substantial contribution, despite its being one of the shorter chapters in the volume. With his focus squarely on pastoral care, Wilcox tackles important questions and evidence which will contribute not only to the study of Anglo-Saxon pastoral care, but also to AElfrician studies. Looking primarily at the two series of Catholic Homilies, Wilcox examines the uses of AElfric's homilies "on the ground" by analysing the nexus between the intended audience, the performance context, and the various possible pastoral models--the actual pastoral situations of the various local communities--in which AElfric's Catholic Homilies might have been used. He thus succeeds not only in elucidating the role of homilies in the provision of pastoral care, but also convincingly posits an audience for the Catholic Homilies in the communities surrounding Cerne Abbas, Dorset.

One of the most innovative contributions to the collection, although one that is only loosely connected to the volume's theme, is Helen Gittos' "Is there any Evidence for the Liturgy of Parish Churches in Late Anglo-Saxon England? The Red Book of Darley and the Status of Old English." The essay has two trajectories: in the first part, Gittos asks fundamental questions about parish churches and their local priests, including about their education, their role, and the expectations of their parishes and patrons, particularly considering the liturgical duties of the parish priest. Using the Red Book of Darley (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS. 422), a sacramentary which hints at how "the clergy of proto-parish churches celebrated mass and office" (66), as a case study, Gittos concludes that it--and others like it--was written and compiled to be a practical aid in the field: "the Red Book of Darley seems to contain almost everything that the putative parish priest would need" (69). Her analysis of the baptismal rite contained within it leads her to conclude that Darley is "an eminently practical document" (74) which ensures that it is absolutely clear for the priest "who should do what and when" (74) during the rite. Perhaps the most profound argument Gittos presents, however, is in the second section of her essay on the liturgy and the use of the vernacular. Gittos' analysis of the use of Old English in liturgical texts (which she defines as texts for formal public liturgy [76]) shows that the use of the vernacular therein is not testament to a lack of latinity in the clergy, nor that Old English was the poor cousin to Latin, but, rather, that it is "evidence for the high status accorded to Old English in the late pre-Conquest period" (82), a conclusion with profound repercussions for all Anglo-Saxonists, far beyond the remit of this volume.

Sarah Hamilton examines confession and excommunication in "Remedies for 'Great Transgressions': Penance and Excommunication in Late Anglo-Saxon England." Her chapter is clearly divided into two distinct arguments. Initially, she considers the administering of penance, making the necessary distinction between private and public confession. She examines textual evidence, primarily associated with Wulfstan, to conclude that bishops and the higher clergy encouraged frequent confession from their lay congregations, "both at specific times of the liturgical year--as in Lent--and when approaching death" (14). By considering those extant texts which would have been used to support the administering of penance to penitents, she concludes that this extant evidence for penance "remains largely episcopal and monastic, despite the efforts made by bishops to promote its practice amongst the rural clergy, perhaps because more practical manuscripts are much less likely to have survived" (92). This first section is a valuable synthesis of existing scholarship. In the second part of her contribution, Hamilton analyses the evidence for excommunication in late Anglo- Saxon sources. Through a comprehensive survey of extant evidence (with an effective appendix), she is able to prove the existence of excommunication rites in that period, the currency of the practice of excommunication, as well as Wulfstan's direct interest in excommunication. However, whilst administering penance and hearing confession are pastoral duties that might need no justification for inclusion in this volume, a connection is not explicitly made to pastoral care in her second section on excommunication, and the role of excommunication in the practice of pastoral care needs further justification and explanation. The ultimate sentence of Hamilton's essay concludes that excommunication "was an important aspect of the pastoral life of the Church" (103), but her argument would have benefited from her engaging with this contention.

Victoria Thompson's chapter on "The Pastoral Contract in Late Anglo-Saxon England: Priest and Parishioner in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Miscellaneous 482" considers an important dimension of the delivery of pastoral care: that of the relationship between the priest and his parishioner. By close examination of MS Laud Misc. 482, which was "probably made for the practical use of the clergy in their ministry to the sick and dying" (15), Thompson comprehensively demonstrates that the priest's administration of pastoral care had as many ramifications for his own soul's health, as for his parishioners'. In her examination of rites for the sick and dying, as well as of the penitential and confessional texts in Ms Laud Misc. 482, Thompson establishes what she terms a "contractual" bond between the priest and parishioner in which "the priest's own spiritual well-being depends on his ability to minister adequately to the souls in his care" (109). This co-dependency seems to be a fundamental aspect in the practice of pastoral care, at least as it is captured in this particular manuscript. In some ways, given that Thompson uses Ms Laud Misc. 482 as an example of a manuscript which attempted to resolve the complex tension between priest and parishioner "by enabling priests to perform the sacraments to the best of their ability, and to communicate with their parishioners with the utmost clarity" (119), Thomspon's chapter best articulates the explicit purpose of the volume which Tinti defines as engaging with "what pastoral care really consisted of in late Anglo-Saxon England, how it was provided and by whom" (14).

In "Caring for the Dead in Late Anglo-Saxon England," Dawn Hadley and Jo Buckberry examine the late Anglo-Saxon archaeological and documentary evidence for the location and form of late Anglo-Saxon burials. They consider the nexus between archaeological and textual evidence to examine the diversity of burial rites and location in the late Anglo-Saxon period (121). Primarily, their purpose is to show that the Church was taking increasing control of the pastoral ministry of caring for the dead, particularly in terms of controlling the location of burial (131). Perhaps what is most interesting about Hadley's and Buckberry's argument is what the church was not interested in: in the textual evidence, burial location is shown to be of primary concern, but the actual form of burial is not. On one hand, archaeological evidence, such as the variety of coffins used in burials (wooden, stone, lead, or stone lined), supports the argument that the church didn't concern itself with the form of the burial, and that burial form was a highly localised custom. Evidence of the diversity of burial form such as the presence of grave goods, and stones or wooden rods on or near the corpse, indicates that "local rituals and superstitions appear to have continued" and that funerary practices could be used for conspicuous "social display" (147). On the other hand, the archaeological record suggests a development of churchyard burial and the attempt by the church to control burial rites and location. Hadley and Buckberry are right to claim that "the archaeological record has much to contribute to our understanding of the treatment of the dead in the tenth and eleventh centuries" (146). Their contribution ends the volume on an important, but otherwise overlooked, note: that pastoral care--here, caring for the dead-- was a matter not only for the "Church, but also for families, local communities, and lords" (147).

This volume represents a significant and important contribution to studies into late Anglo-Saxon pastoral care. Tinti is right to note that it is surprising that the wealth of material pertaining to pastoral care for the late Anglo-Saxon period "should not yet have been used in any extensive way to provide a historical analysis of the pastoral context in which these texts were produced" (3), and Pastoral Care in Late Anglo-Saxon England begins to fill this significant lacuna in scholarship. It is to be hoped that it stimulates further interest in this topic, particularly since the volume represents only limited aspects of pastoral care. The silence in the volume on the church's pastoral duties in relation to marriage, for instance, is an obvious omission. Whilst marriage was not a sacrament in the late Anglo-Saxon period, the church's role in presiding over, blessing, and indeed, monitoring, marriages, must have constituted at least a portion of its pastoral responsibilities (as indicated by such texts as Be wifmannes beweddunge "Concerning the betrothal of a woman" and the marriage blessing found in the Red Book of Darley). The value of this volume, then, lies not only in the contribution it makes to the field in and of itself, but also in the appeal that it issues for further work into Anglo-Saxon pastoral care.

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Author Biography

Melanie Heyworth

University of Sydney