The Medieval Review 15.08.44

Harder, Clara. Pseudoisidor und das Papsttum: Funktion und Bedeutung des apostolischen Stuhls in den pseudoisidorischen Fälschungen. Papsttum im mittelalterlichen Europa, 2. Köln: Böhlau Verlag, 2014. pp. 290. €39.90 (hardback). ISBN: 9783412223380 (hardback).

Reviewed by:

Eric Knibbs
Williams College

Pseudo-Isidore has enjoyed unusual press of late. Even many beyond the confines of legal history are aware of Klaus Zechiel-Eckes's sensational discovery, first published in 2000, that the architects behind this most formidable of ninth-century forgeries did their work at the Frankish monastery of Corbie. [1] In the wake of this revelation, Pseudo-Isidorian studies have experienced a total realignment, as Zechiel-Eckes's unconventional theories about the Pseudo-Isidorian corpus have found widespread acceptance. Thirty years ago, everyone told much the same story about Pseudo-Isidore: he was a pro-episcopal forger from the archiepiscopal province of Reims who drafted his masterpiece, the False Decretals, between 847 and 852. As an opponent of his archbishop, Hincmar of Reims, he aimed to protect the Frankish episcopate from legal hardship, the interference of energetic metropolitans, and the meddling of secular authorities. [2] Today scholars are more inclined to follow Zechiel-Eckes in dating Pseudo-Isidore to the 830s rather than the later 840s, and to search for the forgers among an earlier generation of church reformers and political dissidents at the monastery of Corbie, above all Paschasius Radbertus. [3] Zechiel-Eckes died unexpectedly on 23 February 2010, but his thought lives on, particularly among his former students at Cologne. Among these acolytes is Clara Harder, whose book represents a codification and extension of her late advisor's thought on the problem of Pseudo-Isidore, and a delineation of her own views about the forgers' conceptions of papal power and the jurisdictional primacy of the apostolic see.

The histories of Pseudo-Isidore and the medieval papacy are inextricable. The great reform popes of the eleventh century brought Pseudo-Isidore's products to the notice of a newly emerging legal profession, and won the forgeries a permanent position in the canonical tradition. They were understandably intrigued, for Pseudo-Isidore flattered their ideological preconceptions: the most prominent constituents of the corpus are nearly a hundred pieces of fabricated papal correspondence attributed to the earliest bishops of Rome. [4] These and associated fictions demand an expanded role for the apostolic see in the affairs of the Frankish church. The forgers are particularly interested in the papal court as a venue for appeals, but they also cast Peter's successor as a champion of Christian orthodoxy, a central administrator of Western Christendom, and a guarantor of ecclesiastical autonomy. Early readers saw Pseudo-Isidore as a papal invention, and Reformation and Counter-Reformation polemicists battled over the meaning of the forgeries. [5] Only in the nineteenth century did the forgeries emerge definitively, and for everyone, as Frankish inventions. The scholars responsible for this more sensitive reading, reacting against the errors of their forebears, were often tempted to minimize the relevance of the forgery program for the pope. The new way of reading the False Decretals posited that Pseudo-Isidore championed the Frankish episcopate, and that the pope was more a means to an end than a central goal of the Pseudo-Isidorians. In Hermann Wasserschleben's formulation, "Pseudo-Isidore gives the popes nothing without considering the episcopate." [6] Pseudo-Isidore's affection for the bishop of Rome arose from his vision of a distant court, at the margins of Carolingian influence, that could oversee episcopal trials, exonerate accused clergy, and ensure the administrative independence of the church from royal or imperial authority. As Harder writes, "From this perspective the powerful reception of the Pseudo-Isidorian collection during the era of the reform papacy and its influence on the canonical collections that emerged in this connection would seem to be a historical irony, a misinterpretation of the source material" (14).

Harder wonders whether Pseudo-Isidore's papacy might have been something more than a tactic. In doing so, she departs from past scholarship on the forgeries, which has tended to concentrate either on the philological problems that beset the forgeries and their manuscript tradition, or on the pro-episcopal procedural provisions invented by the forgers and their early reception in the later Carolingian empire. It is strange but true that Harder is the first modern scholar to approach Pseudo-Isidore's papacy as a phenomenon worthy of study in its own right. We can only hope that more studies in this vein will follow. If they maintain the standards upheld here, such exercises promise to integrate Pseudo-Isidore more closely with Carolingian history and with modern historical debates about the nature of politics, theology, and law in Carolingian Europe.

Harder's book contains seven chapters, but it really comes in two parts. The introduction and the complex initial chapter together run to eighty pages, or nearly two-fifths of the entire volume. Here Harder states her premises, surveys the legal and doctrinal position of the apostolic see from late antiquity through the ninth century, and then outlines her views of the origin, date, and interrelationships that are presumed to prevail within the Pseudo-Isidorian corpus. Though this first half of Harder's book is necessarily introductory, it is crucial to her approach and among the most central contributions of her study. Here she takes the history of the papacy and its role in Western Christendom from late antiquity through the pontificate of Gregory IV (d. 844), at once demarcating Gregory's pontificate as the period that gave rise to Pseudo-Isidore. Indeed, Harder argues that Gregory's presence at the deposition of Louis the Pious in 833 was a key moment in the crystallization of Pseudo-Isidorian ideology (49-60, 78-83). From here, Harder proceeds to adapt the ideas of her late teacher on Pseudo-Isidore's origins. The result is a comprehensive theory of the genesis of the Pseudo-Isidorian corpus. Though the individual pieces of this theory are not all of Harder's own making, their integration with Harder's own readings amounts to the most complete statement of the current thought about Pseudo-Isidore's origins to date.

To begin with, Harder endorses Zechiel-Eckes's backdating of the forgery project to the later 830s. The terminus post quem for the forging of False Decretals remains, as in Zechiel-Eckes's conception, the 836 Council of Aachen (79). Harder quietly sets aside Zechiel-Eckes's contentious arguments that Amalar of Metz used the forgeries in his defense at the Council of Quierzy in 838, favoring instead conventional views of Pseudo-Isidore's early reception. [7] The result is a dating scheme that is more robust and defensible, if broader: "At the earliest, therefore, the False Decretals can have existed completely and in their long form in 836; at the latest, they must have been brought into circulation by 850/51" (79). Harder also follows Zechiel-Eckes in tracing the impetus behind the forgery project to the Carolingian political crisis in 833 that culminated with the deposition of Ebo of Reims and other disloyal bishops at Thionville two years later (82). No sooner were the forgeries developed than the Carolingian civil war impeded their introduction, which for Harder explains the disparity between the early date championed by Zechiel-Eckes and lightly favored here, and the later dates of our manuscripts and early citations (none of which can be shown to antedate 850).

Harder also adopts her teacher's approach to the relative chronology of Pseudo-Isidore's products, again with subtle but meaningful adjustments. For various reasons that we will explain shortly, Zechiel-Eckes was inclined to insist on the parallel nature of the two major Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries, the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita and the False Decretals. Harder is slightly more agnostic, suggesting that an answer to questions of priority "is probably impossible, given the many-sided nature of the intertextual relationships among the different parts of the forgery" (75). In an admittedly speculative concluding excursus, Harder would if anything posit the False Capitularies as a later development, part of a "second phase" in the forgery operation, which turns traditional views on their head. [8] As in Zechiel-Eckes's view, Radbertus is, for the purposes of this book, synonymous with Pseudo-Isidore (90-94, 216-20). He wrote in his Epitaphium Arsenii of providing an embattled Pope Gregory IV with arguments about the pope's position as the judge of all Christendom and the pope's corresponding immunity from judgment--ideas that were certainly favored among the forgers, though they did not originate with Pseudo-Isidore. Radbertus's movements and occupations are also unaccounted for during the presumed period of the forgery, and of course he was a leading intellectual and later abbot at the monastery of Corbie, where the forgers did their work.

Chapters 2 through 6 then study Pseudo-Isidore's provisions regarding the pope and papal primacy as they exist throughout the forgeries, including the False Decretals (chap. 2), the Capitula Angilramni (chap. 3), the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita (chap. 4), the so-called Excerptiones de gestis Chalcedonensis concilii (chap. 5; hereafter the Chalcedon Excerpts), and finally a decretal in the name of Gregory IV (JE †2579) that should be ascribed to the Pseudo-Isidorians (chap. 6). [9] Harder is at pains, throughout, to study the actual arguments of these concoctions and the sources upon which these arguments depend. This is a massive task and it is necessarily incomplete. Chapter 2, on the False Decretals, faces the largest obstacles and is the most extensive of the lot; Harder's analysis of the intitulationes to the decretal forgeries (107-9) stands out in particular among various insightful discussions here. The shortest chapter is understandably that on the Capitula Angilramni, which is consumed with procedural law and deals with the pope only peripherally. JE †2579 receives outsized analysis, partly because of the difficult debates surrounding its origins and purpose, and partly because of its unique position in the forgery complex. Pseudo-Isidorian sources receiving extended consideration include the Bible, particularly its use in the False Decretals; genuine papal decretals of Innocent I and Leo I; genuine conciliar legislation, particularly Nicaea, Sardica, and Chalcedon; the Historia Tripartita of Cassiodorus/Epiphanius; and Roman law. Throughout, Harder finds the forgers struggling variously to subject councils to the jurisdiction of the pope, to place bishops within the protection of the apostolic see, and to portray an unusually authoritarian papacy and project this confident and even strident institution back onto the earliest centuries of Christianity. She emphasizes that the mosaic composition of the False Decretals from genuine antecedents has the effect of making decretal legislation appear to be the earliest and most fundamental source for all the key legislative and doctrinal notions of Christianity. For Harder, this is sufficient to demonstrate that the papacy is more than a means to an end for the forgers. This reconfiguration and centralization of the apostolic see should be seen, instead, as one of the overarching goals of the Pseudo-Isidorians.

Such considerations drive Harder to return to the question of origins in her conclusion, where she insists again upon Radbertus's authorship, for "the importance that the False Decretals ascribe to apostolic authority corresponds to the depiction of the pope in the Epitaphium Arsenii" (217). More broadly, Harder emphasizes the prominent position of the papal prerogatives in the False Decretals and JE †2579, and the purportedly muted recurrence of these same points in the capitulary forgeries. She therefore proposes a two-phase forgery process: JE †2579, the Chalcedon Excerpts and unspecified "first redactions" of the False Decretals were produced under Radbertus's aegis. A later phase then involved the compilation of the Capitula Angilramni and the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita (219). Phase I extended from the early 830s through the later 830s, while Phase II extended from the later 830s through the 840s. "The early 840s were accordingly a period of exchange between the forgery teams, such that those oft-described interdependencies among the forgeries took shape which, today, can no longer be fully disentangled philologically" (219). Philological arguments about internal chronology are therefore set aside in favor of contextual readings and broader hypotheses about how the thought of the forgers can have developed over nearly two decades.

In all of this there are a few omissions. The most serious is the absence of any extended consideration of the Donation of Constantine. While this forgery is not of Pseudo-Isidore's making, it certainly belongs somewhere in Harder's survey of the pre-Pseudo-Isidorian history of papal primacy. As a constituent of the False Decretals, moreover, the Donation is relevant for gauging the aims and thoughts of the forgers. [10] Secondly, Harder adopts the traditional 836 terminus post quem for the decretal forgeries, a view against which Gerhard Schmitz and more recently Semih Heinen have raised serious objections, though neither was printed in time for Harder's bibliography. [11] Nor is it clear, from Harder's brief discussion of plenitudo potestatis in Leo I, that Leo used his phrase to describe only the delegated power of the vicariate. Imprecision here obscures the radicalism of the Pseudo-Isidorians, who apply Leo's words to episcopal power more broadly. [12]

Zechiel-Eckes was a brilliant historian whose work has changed the study of Pseudo-Isidore forever. Yet he advanced his ideas in the heat of discovery, in short articles and in isolated talks. He was a revolutionary more than a synthesizer. Here, as Zechiel-Eckes's views are consolidated in service of a new and synoptic reading, it is inevitable that some weaknesses should emerge. We have seen, for example, that Zechiel-Eckes wished to preserve an early date for the False Decretals in the Pseudo-Isidorian corpus. His analysis of their contents convinced him that they were a defense of Ebo and the other bishops deposed by Louis the Pious at Thionville in 835, rather than an attack on Hincmar. This view required Zechiel-Eckes to reject old orthodoxies that favored another forgery in Pseudo-Isidore's library, the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita, as an earlier stage of the enterprise upon which the decretal forgers depended. The problem is that the False Capitularies carry a preface that was written, manifestly, after 847. [13] For Zechiel-Eckes, False Capitularies and False Decretals were therefore parallel developments, if indeed the Decretals did not emerge earlier. Harder follows Zechiel-Eckes in this basic tactic, but like her teacher she never confronts the pages of evidence that Paul Hinschius adduced for the priority of the Capitularies. [14] A closer engagement with this work might have brought various anomalies to the attention of Harder's readers. Above all, the False Decretals seem to use a great many sources only as they appear in the False Capitularies, complete with interpolations and other modifications that are most visible at the level of the capitulary forgeries. Harder might argue that this evidence is far from conclusive, and that would be fair. Yet she also follows Zechiel-Eckes in proposing a very early relative date for the Chalcedon Excerpts, precisely because the broader forgeries cite a key passage from the Chalcedon acta with a one-word interpolation that is also on hand in the Chalcedon Excerpts (178). [15]

And can we be so confident that Radbertus is Pseudo-Isidore? Locating Pseudo-Isidore at Corbie is not in itself enough to implicate Radbertus, for the simple reason that others enjoyed access to the monastic library. Nor is Radbertus-as-Pseudo-Isidore a theory that reveals or explains very much, beyond perhaps the genesis of JE †2579. [16] While it is indeed possible to associate views on the papacy that Radbertus airs in one passage of his Epitaphium Arsenii with the forgers' own arguments, it is also a grave problem that the greater part of the forgers' agenda is nowhere attested in Radbertus's writings and has very little to do with Radbertus's status or personal situation. However much Harder is right to analyze Pseudo-Isidorian conceptions of the papacy in their own right, vast swaths of the Pseudo-Isidorian corpus, particularly the False Decretals, are about little more than the independence, autonomy, and prerogatives of the Frankish episcopate. In this sense, Pseudo-Isidore is an episcopal forgery, and Radbertus was only ever a monk and an abbot. That this episcopal forgery was built and circulated with the resources of a monastic library amounts to no more than a minor paradox. Early medieval cathedral libraries and scriptoria were not the cutting-edge research institutions of their age, and learned episcopal forgers might be expected to do their research in monastic collections. In other words, placing Pseudo-Isidore at Corbie does not demonstrate Radbertus's authorship so much as it vindicates the old and venerable theory of Pseudo-Isidore's origins in the Reims province. [17]

More broadly, Harder's approach to Pseudo-Isidore echoes Zechiel-Eckes's preoccupations in ways that can be limiting. She reserves particular emphasis for those texts that formed the cornerstones of Zechiel-Eckes's work, while sometimes neglecting others. The Chalcedon Excerpts are therefore singled out from a dense and broadly understudied body of material appended to early False Decretals manuscripts as a forgery in their own right, and Harder studies Pseudo-Isidorian sources like the Historia Tripartita of Cassiodorus/Epiphanius very closely. Karl-Georg Schon's work on the Collectio Danieliana is not mentioned, and important sources of crushing relevance for Pseudo-Isidore's view of the papacy, especially the Liber Pontificalis, receive at best passing acknowledgment. [18] Perhaps predictably, my prior work with the interpolated Hispana (a Pseudo-Isidorian revision and light reworking of the authentic Collectio Hispana) leads me to regret its exclusion here. The relatively rare interpolations in Hispana texts manifest the same miscellaneous constellation of concerns and the same lack of focus on papal primacy as the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita.[19] Yet Harder suggests that the interpolated Hispana belongs in the first phase of the forgery project, and contrasts this project with the False Capitularies. This neglect is a broader symptom of Harder's emphasis on material sources, which comes at the cost of formal source analysis and places some crucial patterns beyond Harder's reach. [20] For example, the Gregory IV decretal, JE †2579, is little more than a tissue of citations lifted from the interpolated Hispana, while the broader sequence of decretal forgeries (with a few telling exceptions) seems to depend far more extensively on texts taken from the Dionysio-Hadriana. I am not sure what to make of that, but surely it means that we might be less than justified in dismissing the interpolated Hispana as a text with too much content in common with the False Decretals to warrant separate treatment (60). In addition to enriching the Hispana with False Decretals, the Pseudo-Isidorians also contribute many items from both the Dionysio-Hadriana and the Quesnelliana.[21] Perhaps there is no discernible rhyme or reason to this aspect of their project, but a study of the papacy in Pseudo-Isidore owes some consideration, however brief, to Pseudo-Isidore's activities as a compiler of papal decretals, as well as a forger of them.

Harder is candid about the complications of reading and analyzing forgeries: "Attempting to distill the intentions of a a complex process, which does not always succeed even in the most sensitive analysis" (19). She is equally clear about the limitations of her project:

To avoid misunderstanding, it should be noted explicitly that it is not the goal of this project to impugn the importance of the episcopate for the forgeries...The systematic investigation of episcopal power in the False Decretals and Capitularies has no part in this analysis, which only touches on episcopal faculties where the apostolic see is also at issue. This project will rather show that it was perfectly possible for the forgers to erect, on the one hand, a wall of legal protection around the episcopate, without neglecting, on the other hand, a massive increase, for its own sake, in the power of the Bishop of Rome. (19)

The Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries extend to hundreds of thousands of words, and no single study can be expected to grasp the whole problem. Even Horst Fuhrmann thought it necessary to open his three-volume opus with an apology for its shortcomings. [22] It would be unfair to criticize Harder for limitations accepted of necessity and openly acknowledged. At the same time, these limitations must color Harder's analysis, circumscribe her argument, and temper our estimation of her findings. Particularly important is the essentially seamless integration of Pseudo-Isidore's procedural and administrative protections for the episcopate with his centralizing provisions in favor of the apostolic see. Harder is correct that her forbears have grasped only half the picture in insisting that Pseudo-Isidore's episcopal advocacy was primary and his provisions on Rome's behalf a mere expedient. As Harder brings the papal provisions into focus, however, the episcopal concerns can fall out of view. To argue, as I think Harder does, that the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries inflate the legal and jurisdictional prerogatives of the pope beyond what is strictly necessary for the protection of the Frankish episcopate is to make, however implicitly, new and intriguing claims about the position of procedural law in Pseudo-Isidore. Yet a systematic analysis of procedural law in Pseudo-Isidore has no part in Harder's project.

The consequences include some difficult moments. One occurs in the course of Harder's analysis of the Capitula Angilramni, where she comes to discuss one of the few capitula in this collection that address papal authority at all. It is c. 2:

No bishop may be questioned, accused or summoned to any synod for whatever crime, unless he has been canonically summoned to a legitimate synod convened in its time through apostolic authority, unto which the singular power of convening councils has been ceded through the order of the lord and justly blessed Peter the apostle and also through the decrees of the holy canons and the venerable fathers. Should some presume to do otherwise, their proceedings are conducted in vain, nor are they considered in any respect ecclesiastical, nor will whatever they put before the accused have any force, since the apostolic see, through the testimony of the voice of truth, achieved the first primacy, nor would it be called first if it had another over itself, for indeed it is the head of all churches, and all have derived their origin from it. And it achieved primacy not through synodal or other pronouncements or institutions, but through the gift of the Lord, who said: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," and other things in this vein, against which, should any proud spirit raise objections, he may not depart with impunity, but will risk losing his rank. [23]

Harder argues that "the episcopal trial by itself is, in this [passage], only an occasion for the unmistakable statement of Roman privileges" (145), which strikes me as one-sided. We have here, instead, a general movement from practical prescriptions to ideological pronouncements that are impossible to disentangle from one another. Neither is an excuse for the other; Pseudo-Isidore believes that councils cannot convene absent the authority of the apostolic see, because Pseudo-Isidore believes that synodal authority flows from Rome. This is an argument that can be picked up from either end. One can argue with Wasserschleben that our forgers' goal is the protection of the Frankish episcopate and that everything else is a legal device. Alternatively, one can argue with Harder that Pseudo-Isidore seeks the empowerment of the papacy in its own right, and that the bishops in this text provide a rhetorical excuse. Both angles cost us an appreciation of the cohesive vision of the forgers, whose ideological commitments demanded reforms that they hoped to realize in their world.

We might even venture further than this, and posit that the errors of Wasserschleben and earlier scholars were eminently understandable, for time and again the forgeries pick up the procedural side of the Pseudo-Isidorian system while leaving the ideological side largely implicit. Beyond some instances of thunderous rhetoric in the False Decretals, the jurisdictional authority of the papacy is rarely invoked without some connection to procedural law, ecclesiastical autonomy, or the accusation of clergy. This is not to say that Pseudo-Isidore's papacy is a mere tool. It is, however, to argue that for the forgers, the real-world implications of their ecclesiastical theories required articulation more urgently than did associated ideological justifications. Perhaps it is to be expected that the very project of legal forgery encourages the practical over the ideological.

These considerations inspire caution about some of Harder's conclusions. In the course of discussing "The Pope in the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals" (chap. 2), for example, she makes the following observation:

In all the procedural hurdles that the decretals construct, the apostolic see remains the court that is entitled to overriding and final judgment of the case. For this see there are no conditions and no restrictions, as is the case for a synodal conviction. That means that the pope can at any time deprive any bishop of power, depose him, or condemn him, without any possibility of mitigation or appeal remaining for the defendant. This consequence is implicit in the False Decretals, but is nowhere set forth explicitly. We can therefore agree only reservedly with [Horst] Fuhrmann, who would have the False Decretals emphasizing papal rights only insofar "as these rights were of service to suffragan bishops" (101). [24]

Could Pseudo-Isidore have agreed that his forgeries allow the pope to proceed arbitrarily against any bishop at any time? The procedural law of the False Decretals is never confined to the province. Even though the papal court is the end of the appeals process (which must, after all, end somewhere), I see no reason to assume that the Pseudo-Isidorians did not envision their protections as applying to the papal court as well as everywhere else. These protections are framed universally, and the popes are cast as their guarantors in law and history. And what of our forgers' frequent remarks that God alone can condemn bishops? [25] It is hard to see how that is consistent with Harder's reading of an unbounded Pseudo-Isidorian papacy, capable of proceeding against the episcopate at will.

Harder concludes that "synods, as legislative bodies, are subordinated to the pope in the False Decretals" (213). To prove this point, the best text is probably JK †1051, a decretal forgery in which Pseudo-Pelagius II condemns the ecumenical ambitions and conciliar activity of Patriarch John IV of Constantinople by declaring that synodal authority derives from Rome alone. After long passages in which Pseudo-Pelagius insists upon his primacy in extrajudicial and doctrinal matters, he concludes by restating the right of appeal from the provincial synod to the papal court. Even here, Pseudo-Isidore cannot mention conciliar authority in its legislative guise without steering the argument back to his appeals apparatus. [26] Yet sometimes Harder seizes upon Pseudo-Isidore's papal provisions while appearing to minimize the episcopal protections with which they are intertwined. Thus she alights on Capitula Angilramni c. 39, which proclaims the right of papal legates to overturn decisions reached by a provincial synod, in partial dependence on a related statement from the Council of Sardica. The moment is significant for Harder because Pseudo-Isidore leaves episcopal provisions in his authentic source behind, adopting only those statements of relevance for the papacy. She can therefore write that "Pseudo-Isidore devotes considerably more attention in this passage to papal rights than episcopal rights" (150). Yet popes and bishops are not in competition anywhere beyond Harder's argument. The episcopal protections are always implicit, and here they are even explicit, for c. 39 falls in the direct vicinity of other capitula that insist upon the right of appeal. [27]

More balanced is Harder's analysis of the interaction between Pseudo-Isidorian provisions regarding conciliar autonomy:

The forger expands papal power [over councils] in order to protect the episcopate from persecution and excommunication. He thereby curtails the rights of bishops at the same time and to a corresponding degree: without papal authority they are not allowed to convene synods. And synodal resolutions become invalid as well, should the pope refuse to confirm them (112).

These provisions are present across the forgeries, and Harder argues effectively that the intent was less to limit episcopal authority than it was to secure ecclesiastical autonomy:

In fact, it was the case that synods in the Frankish empire were convened not by the episcopate or the apostolic see, but by the ruler. What first appears to be an attack on the freedom of bishops, therefore, meant in the ninth century, above all, that royal customary rights over the bishop were transferred to Rome. (113)

Harder extends her examination of secular authority as envisioned by the forgers across her entire analysis, and the result is a useful corrective to the easy assumption that Pseudo-Isidore altogether avoids the subject of secular or imperial power. In fact, the forgers rework the Chalcedon Excerpts to replace imperial prerogatives with papal ones (178-80), just as they clarify the importance of papal participation in and confirmation of the supposedly Carolingian provisions regarding the Frankish church that recur in the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita (158). The goal was not to contribute to the worldly power of the papacy, but to secure ecclesiastical autonomy by edging out royal prerogatives with papal ones (214). The subtle and indirect nature of our forgers' arguments on these points must surely say something about both their political position and their goals. Clearly there is a great deal more to be learned here.

In conclusion, Harder pauses to consider Pseudo-Isidore's influence on the broader history of the Carolingian empire. Earlier pages have surveyed the role of Rome for Frankish church reformers through the time of Gregory IV and the moment of his participation in Lothar's coup of 833 (40-60). Beyond this singular crisis and the discussions it provoked, Harder is unable to find any insistence upon papal primacy in the Frankish kingdoms before the circulation of the False Decretals. "Through the first quarter of the ninth century in the Frankish empire, the doctrine of primacy was not a topic that gave rise to any discussion" (220). Her consideration of mid-century crises and debates, however, including the reaction to the Duke Nominoe's assault on the Breton episcopate, Pope Nicholas I's participation in the controversy over Lothar II's marriage, and Rothad of Soisson's papal appeals, convinces her that ecclesiastical politics experienced a significant shift in later decades:

Through the 830s, papal authority was indeed fundamentally recognized, but in large part it was without repercussions for ecclesiastical and political debates and controversies. The middle of the ninth century experienced an explicit acceptance and a rhetorical reinforcement of Roman authority in the Frankish empire that had never been seen before, and that arrived after the penetrating political upheavals throughout the Frankish empire in the 830s and 840s. (224)

For Harder, this is a sign of a pseudoisidorische Wende, or a cultural and political realignment that occurred in response to the dissemination of Pseudo-Isidorian legal norms. The idea is, in part, a rehabilitation of an older thesis advanced by Walter Ullmann in far less defensible form, and it requires nothing so much as a new survey of relations between Rome and the Franks from the reign of Louis the Pious through the circulation of the False Decretals. [28] Of course Harder's rather different project confines her analysis of "Roman Primacy in the Frankish Empire of Louis the Pious" (the title of subsection 1.1.4) to an introductory excursus. There she handles Johannes Fried's provocative arguments about Louis the Pious's purportedly fraught and complex relationship with Rome and the papacy skeptically, as has been the rule. If we are to accept that Louis's political problems lie at the heart of Pseudo-Isidore's motivations, however, these ideas will have to be reconsidered very carefully. [29] Even those constituents of the Pseudo-Isidorian corpus that seem most closely related to the events of 833, like the decretal of Gregory IV (JE †2579), advance an ideology that extends far beyond the immediate circumstances of Lothar's coup, drawing upon deeper trends in Frankish church reform extending through the 829 Council of Paris and beyond.

In the absence of this work, an uncharitable reader could charge that Harder's pseudoisidorische Wende is an artifact of Zechiel-Eckes's dating scheme. If the False Decretals took shape not in the later 830s, but a decade or more later as earlier scholarship assumed, then Pseudo-Isidore becomes not a driver but a reflection of the growing interest in Roman primacy that colored political and ecclesiastical thought towards the middle of the ninth century. Harder's insistence that Radbertus and Pseudo-Isidore should be identified with one another is acutely vulnerable to this sort of objection. She emphasizes that Radbertus's account of the events of 833 in his Epitaphium Arsenii is alone in insisting upon the universal jurisdiction of the pope. This is the cornerstone of her argument for Radbertus-as-Pseudo-Isidore, for as she notes, beyond the forgeries, this argument occurs nowhere else in the 830s. Yet Mayke de Jong has reminded us that Radbertus wrote his lines about papal power in the Epitaphium two decades after the events he describes. [30] We have to wonder whether Radbertus really shared precocious views of papal power with Pseudo-Isidore in 833, or whether his insistence that he did was a means of pleading, however anachronistically, for the justice of his and Wala's rebellious stance in a world with new ideas about the position of Rome in the Frankish church. In this as in many other matters, we can only hope that Harder's learned and provocative analysis will encourage further discussion and debate.



1. The key articles are Klaus Zechiel-Eckes, "Verecundus oder Pseudoisidor?," Deutsches Archiv 56 (2000), 413-46; and "Ein Blick in Pseudoisidors Werkstatt: Studien zum Entstehungsprozeß der Falschen Dekretalen mit einem exemplarischen editorischen Anhang," Francia 28 (2001), 37-90.

2. For an English introduction to the traditional view, see Horst Fuhrmann, "The Pseudo-Isidorian Forgeries," in Detlev Jasper and Horst Fuhrmann, Papal Letters in the Early Middle Ages (Washington D.C., 2001), 137-95.

3. Zechiel-Eckes restated his political arguments many times; for his final statement, see his (posthumously published) Fälschung als Mittel politischer Auseinandersetzung: Ludwig der Fromme (814-840) und die Genese der pseudoisidorischen Dekretalen (Paderborn, 2011).

4. Paul Hinschius, ed., Decretales Pseudo-Isidorianae et Capitula Angilramni (Leipzig, 1863).

5. The easy assumption that the papacy lay behind Pseudo-Isidore was voiced, perhaps first of all, by the Magdeburg Centuriators in their pioneering Lutheranist history of the church, and repeated many times afterwards as a simple truism.

6. Hermann Wasserschleben, Beiträge zur Geschichte der falschen Dekretalen (Breslau, 1844), 40-41, cited by Harder (17).

7. For one among many formulations of this argument, see Zechiel-Eckes, "Auf Pseudoisidors Spur, oder: Versuch einen dichten Schleier zu lüften," in Wilfried Hartmann and Gerhard Schmitz, eds., Fortschritt durch Fälschungen? Ursprung, Gestalt und Wirkungen der pseudoisidorischen Fälschungen (Hannover, 2002), 1-28 at 10-11, with notes 33-4.

8. See Semih Heinen, "Pseudoisidor auf dem Konzil von Aachen im Jahr 836," in Karl Ubl and Daniel Ziemann, eds. Fälschung als Mittel der Politik? Pseudoisidor im Licht der neuen Forschung: Gedenkschrift für Klaus Zechiel-Eckes (Wiesbaden, 2015), 97-123 at 99, here referencing Karl Ubl, Inzestverbot und Gesetzgebung (Berlin, 2008), 323-40.

9. For the Capitula Angilramni: Karl-Georg Schon, ed., Die Capitula Angilramni: Eine prozessrechtliche Fälschung Pseudoisidors (Hannover 2006); for the False Capitularies of Benedictus Levita, see (most conveniently) MGH LL 2.2, 17-158, but above all the new edition-in-progress led by Gerhard Schmitz with associated online resources at; for the Chalcedon Excerpts, see Johannes Baptista Pitra, Spicilegium Solesmense...(Paris, 1858), 4, 166-85; and for JE †2579 see MGH Epp. 5, 72-81.

10. Some comment would have been welcome from Harder on the highly contentious views of Johannes Fried, Donation of Constantine and Constitutum Constantini: The Misinterpretation of a Fiction and its Original Meaning (Berlin, 2007).

11. For these arguments, see Heinen, "Pseudoisidor"; and Gerhard Schmitz, "Die Synode von Aachen 836 und Pseudoisidor," in Philippe Depreux and Stefan Esders, eds., Produktivität einer Krise: Die Regierungszeit Ludwigs des Frommen (814-840) und die Transformation des karolingischen Imperium, forthcoming. Their exclusion from Harder's dating scheme is nevertheless odd, as these views have been aired at conferences and widely known since at least 2013.

12. See Robert L. Benson, "Plenitudo Potestatis: Evolution of a Formula from Gregory IV to Gratian," Studia Gratiana 14 (1967), 195-217, which Harder cites (27, 182).

13. The elegiac couplets that preface the False Capitularies imply that Otgar, archbishop of Mainz from 826 to 847, was dead at the time of composition. See the online edition at demum, quem tunc Mogontia summum/ Pontificem tenuit, praecipiente pio...

14. Hinschius, Decretales, CXLIII-CLXIII.

15. Zechiel-Eckes, "Verecundus oder Pseudoisidor?," 427 with note 50. For more direct (and skeptical) engagement with Hinschius, see Gerhard Schmitz, "Verfilzungen: Isidor und Benedict," in Ubl and Ziemann, Fälschung als Mittel der Politik?, 127-51.

16. See Harder's discussion of this letter (181-212), in the context of her prior remarks on Radbertus as Pseudo-Isidore (83-89).

17. The Reims hypothesis goes back to Julius Weizsäcker, "Hinkmar und Pseudoisidor," Zeitschrift für historische Theologie 28 (1858), 327-430. My thought on the episcopal nature and monastic origins of Pseudo-Isidore is influenced in part by Steffen Patzold, "Überlegungen zum Anlass für die Fälschung früher Papstbriefe im Kloster Corbie," in Ubl and Ziemann, Fälschung als Mittel der Politik?, 153-72.

18. Karl-Georg Schon, Unbekannte Texte aus der Werkstatt Pseudoisidors: Die Collectio Danieliana (Hannover, 2006).

19. For the interpolated Hispana: Lotte Kéry, Canonical Collections of the Early Middle Ages (Washington D.C., 1999), 69-70; no edition exists, but note the online transcription by Annette Grabowsky at .

20. Zechiel-Eckes's own discoveries compelled him to study and write about the material sources of the forgeries above all, and his insistence on the priority of the so-called short version of the False Decretals (Hinschius's A2 recension) preempted any comprehensive analysis of the broader collection.

21. On these, Kéry, Canonical Collections, 13-20 and 27-9.

22. Horst Fuhrmann, Einfluß und Verbreitung der pseudoisidorischen Fälschungen (Stuttgart, 1972), 1: vii.

23. Schon, Die Capitula Angilramni , 96-8.

24. Fuhrmann, Einfluß und Verbreitung, 1:147.

25. Hinschius, Decretales, 42, 76, 85, and 117; also Benedictus Levita 2.381, 3.167, 3.441.

26. Hinschius, Decretales, 720-25.

27. On appeals, Capitula Angilramni cc. 30, 32, 34-35, and 42 (ed. Schon, 134-136, 142).

28. Walter Ullmann, The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages (London, 1970), here alighting upon Ullmann's decision, in chapter 6, to demarcate "The Age of Pseudo-Isidore."

29. Johannes Fried, "Ludwig der Fromme, das Papsttum und die fränkische Kirche," in Peter Godman and Roger Collins, eds., Charlemagne's Heir: New Perspectives on the Reign of Louis the Pious (814-840), 231-73.

30. Mayke de Jong, "Paschasius Radbertus and Pseudo-Isidore: The Evidence of the Epitaphium Arsenii," in Valerie L. Garver and Owen M. Phelan, eds., Rome and Religion in the Medieval World: Studies in Honor of Thomas F.X. Noble (Dorchester, 2014), 149-78.

Copyright (c) 2015 Eric Knibbs

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