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13.06.27, Blumenthal, Winroth, and Landau, eds., Canon Law, Religion, and Politics

13.06.27, Blumenthal, Winroth, and Landau, eds., Canon Law, Religion, and Politics

This festschrift celebrates a distinguished scholar and teacher of medieval history (though his handsome frontispiece photo suggests a lost alternative career as George Clooney's stand-in). As the extensive circle of his amici testifies, Robert Somerville, Professor of History and Religion at Columbia University, has attained an international reputation for the study of the medieval papacy, church councils, and canon law, notably in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The three topics of the volume's title reflect the range of his academic interests and form headings to its three parts.

The first part on "Canon Law" principally focuses on pre-Gratian canonical collections. Harold Berman saw the reform movement as the primary impulse for their compilation, but several essays here show compilers outside the reform circle making and adapting these collections for local needs and purposes, especially the Italian monasteries whose activity in collecting legal and penitential texts Cushing analyses in Chapter 3. Likewise Roumy (Chapter 6) observes how one northern French manuscript of the "Gregorian" collection Sinemuriensis omitted canons counter to local custom, especially those making consummation necessary to "indesolubility [sic]" contrary to the Parisian theologians' emphasis on marital consent alone. In Chapter 4 Schneider even remarks that another French collection (Burdegalensis) from the 1070s drew largely on an old compilation Burchard's Decretum and little on the new reform-inspired Collection in 74 titles; its compiler appeared more interested in monastic regulations than absorbing Gregorian ideas. The compilers' selection of texts in such collections was also influenced by their cultural milieux and contacts; Cushing's monasteries obtained texts from well outside their locality indicating a wide network of connections. Likewise Reynolds notes in Chapter 6 that southern Italian collections were uniquely receptive of eastern patristic texts, reflecting the strong Greek influence in the region. Blumenthal (Chapter 2) concludes that the collection Caesaraugustana was probably compiled in Catalonia or southern France, c.1115, since its remarkable inclusion of civilian texts corresponds with strong Pyrennean interest in Roman law by the early twelfth century. Most of these essays also shed important light on the process of textual transmission, notably Austin's (Chapter 1) which identifies two collections in a Paris manuscript as sources for the Ivonian Panormia and Decretum; meanwhile Roumy and Schneider note the indebtedness of their collections to earlier ones, especially Burchard's Decretum.

Two other essays in Part 1 concern the rise of jurisprudence in the twelfth century. In Chapter 7 Brasington scrutinises and edits an early twelfth-century canonistic summula on anathema and excommunication, observing that its preoccupations are more theological than legalistic. Landau's Chapter 9 examines a genre of canonistic literature which flourished by the mid-twelfth century and displayed the opposite tendency: procedural manuals which were compiled for use in the church courts and based on Roman law. Landau focuses on an Anglo-Norman example "Ulpianus de edendo" that he dates to 1150–1160 and speculatively associates with Durham.

Jones's Chapter 8 seems out of place in Part 1, not being directly concerned with canon law, and might have been better paired with Beach's (Chapter 12) in Part 3 ("Politics"), for both chapters regard monasteries seeking freedom from episcopal control. Jones questions the supposed insignificance of the papacy in the tenth century, noting that Aquitanian houses still found it valuable to obtain or even "forge" papal privileges of exemption then, often ironically with episcopal support. Nevertheless she perceives tenth-century popes as weak as they acted merely in response to petitions rather than on their own initiative; (arguably even subsequent "strong" popes such as Innocent III were largely responsive and reactive).

Part 2 ("Theology") contains two chapters on the Eucharistic controversy that divided the Western Church in the central middle ages. Shrader's Chapter 10 analyses and lists manuscripts of two Eucharistic tracts by tenth-century scholar and abbot Heriger of Lobbes, noting that these works helped reinforce a shift from interpreting the Mass as symbolic to belief in the Real Presence. Brett edits another contribution to this debate in Chapter 11, Ernulf of Canterbury's "De corpore et sanguine Domini" (c.1095), which defended the realist position against Berengar of Tours's teachings.

Part 3 includes several essays analysing medieval writers' use of history to justify political or institutional positions. Beach's Chapter 12 focusses on the early twelfth-century Peterhausen chronicle and how its author portrayed past tensions between his monastery and its episcopal patrons in order to support its struggle for liberty in the 1120s. Likewise Jasper's Chapter 13 edits a list of alleged historical precedents compiled to legitimize Gregory VII's deposition and excommunication of Henry IV in 1076, describing its manuscript tradition and sources. Similarly in chapter 14 Peters analyzes an early fascinating example of the "mirror of princes" genre, which English polymath Gervase of Tilbury dedicated to his patron Otto IV in 1215. On the history of papal-imperial relations found in canon law Gervase followed dualist tradition (though Peters oddly includes Alanus among its contemporary canonistic exponents rather than the hierocrats), adopting a radical re-reading of the Donation in order to challenge Innocent III's controversial claims in "Venerabilem." The remaining essays are less obviously concerned with politics, except in the sense of relations between ecclesiastical authorities and localities. Constable's Chapter 15 evaluates local knowledge of Urban II's aims for the First Crusade, concluding that French crusader charters from the late 1090s show an understanding that the pope's goals of aiding eastern Christians and freeing Jerusalem were linked ab initio. Pennington's Chapter 16 holds that papal interventions in local litigation show sophisticated knowledge and use of civil law in Italian church courts and Roman curia by the 1120s despite Wickham's assumptions to the contrary. In Chapter 17 Donahue contrasts English and French approaches to diocesan statutes after 1200, finding that synodal statute-books were still being compiled and enforced in France long after they ceased to be applied and updated in England, and cleverly explains this difference by analogies to secular law in both realms. Makowski's Chapter 19 similarly compares law with local practice, observing that English nuns, except for mendicants and Bridgettines, resisted Boniface VIII's constitution "Periculoso" requiring their strict enclosure, despite episcopal attempts to enforce this. Finally academic politics is the subject of Brundage's Chapter 18, which explores the increasingly bitter rivalry between theologians and canonists in medieval universities, where demand for vocational education ultimately favoured the jurists.

In all this is a rich collection covering a broad chronological and thematic range, which should give it substantial appeal and it certainly deserves a wide readership. Its methodological emphases on editing texts and grounding historical argument on close study of manuscript sources should also convince the dedicatee that he has the right academic amici.