The Medieval Review 16.03.07

Lauwers, Michel, ed. Monastères et espace social: Genèse et transformation d'un système de lieux dans l'Occident médiéval. Collection d'études médiévales de Nice, 15. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014. pp. 620. ISBN: 978-2-503-53581-4 (paperback).

Reviewed by:

Constance Berman
University of Iowa

Replete with illustrations, tables, and maps--many in color, a collection by many hands brought together by Michel Lauwers at the University of Nice Sophia Antipolis includes a remarkable group of studies by historians and archaeologists on major western medieval monastic sites. The general question posed is how did monastic communities organize the space in which they lived and how did their presence impose as well on the space of societies beyond their gates. In three subsections (I: Modèles, représentation, figures; II: Lieux, circulation, hiérarchie; III: Espaces, fonctions, environnement) nineteen scholars, including Lauwers, discuss monastic space in such diverse locations as Zwettl, San Vincenzo al Volturno, Novalaise, Marmoutier near Tours, Saint-Claude (Jura), Cluny, and Fontevraud. Also are included are larger regions like Provence and figures found among the documents such as the Saint-Gall Plan or sketched maps of fishing rights at Maguelonne, Saint-Gilles, and Lérins. Methodologies include not only archaeological reports and the sketch plans that have survived, but analysis of textual themes.

The last is seen, for instance, in part one, in Cécile Caby's, "Comme un poisson dans l'eau... Propositum vitae et lieux de vie monastique (XIe-XIIIe siècle)" (111-146), which considers images of monks and monasteries, including also the notion of distances far from "cities, castles and villas." Similarly, the implications of early medieval monastic rules for monastic organization of space are discussed in Sofia Uggé's "Lieux, espaces et topographie des monastères de l'Antiquité tardive et du haut Moyen Âge: réflexions à propos des règles monastiques" (15-42), which lays out in tabular form the implications on enclosure, novices, and meals of eleven distinct early rules. Lauwers himself in "Circuitus et figura. Exégèse, images, et structuration des complexes monastiques dans l'Occident médiéval (IXe- XIIe siècle)" (43-109) looks at such figures or schema of monastic sites, proposed or actual, including that for Christchurch, Canterbury, as well as that of Saint-Gall. He considers the relationship of these to biblical descriptions of Temple and Tabernacle, including illustrations of them.

Uta Kleine in "La Terre vue par les moines. Construction et perception de l'espace dans les représentations figurées de la propriété monastique: Marmoutier (Alsace) and Zwettl (XIIe-XIVe siècle) (147-184) begins with the figura in color with the organization of the church as a great Gothic window from the Cambridge University Library manuscript of Gilbert of Limerick. She also examines the relationship of spaces in the plans of Marmoutier in Alsace from 1142, Sindelsberg from 1146, and in the fourteenth-century manuscript illustration of the great circle of holdings for the Cistercian foundation at Zwettl in Austria. Kleine emphasizes the ways in which the two twelfth-century figures make a distinction between sacred and secular spaces no longer found in the fourteenth-century Cistercian example. Paul Fermon, in "Les représentations des pêcheries de Maguelone, Saint-Gilles et Lérins, ou les usages de la figura dans les milieux ecclésiastiques du milieu du XIVe siècle à la fin XVe siècle" (185-209), provides a particularly clear drawing of l'Étang de Scamandre in the Camargue from the archives of the Gard in Nime; it provides a further context for the places and monastic officers named in Les coutumes de Saint-Gilles, XIIe-XIVe siècles, published by the then archivist of the Gard, Édouard Bligny-Bondurand (Paris: Picard, 1915).

The next article, which opens part two of the volume, considers Ireland: Jean-Michel Picard's "L'organisation spatiale des grands monastères d'Irlande médiévale" (213-25) provides fascinating illustrations with aerial photographs in color of walled monastic spaces such as those at Inishmurray and Reask. He demonstrates that there were clear divisions between the sacred space of the church or tabernacle with its priests and the zone in which the rest of the monks or familia conducted more utilitarian activities, often called the atrium. Picard describes how hagiographical texts cite Old Testament descriptions in describing monastic space. He also provides a schema of the three distinct spaces under one roof at Kildare, where the altar space was separated from the separate congregations of monks and nuns. The central Italian monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno is shown in Federico Marazzi's "La règle et le projet. Réflexions sur la topographie du monastère de Saint-Vincent au Volturne à l'époque carolingienne" (227-253). San Vincenzo is argued to be like other early medieval Italian monasteries such as Subiaco or Farfa insofar as having been sited on Roman ruins rather than on a never-before inhabited site. This is probably very typical throughout Europe not only because Christians often effectively purified pagan sites by taking them over, but also because such sites (even if in ruins) contained a wealth of building materials from which a monastic site could be set up, not to mention treasure that might be dug up. Gisella Cantino Wataghin, "L'établissement et l'histoire de l'abbaye de Novalaise" (255-287), provides a complete overview of the surviving documents and narrative sources for this foundation in the early eighth century. Much of the article concerns the material remains, including some small but beautiful artifacts, but also reports on the archaeological excavations and locations of the series of buildings. Wataghin expresses the hope that integration of archaeological reports and written records will illuminate further the possible relationships with Cluniac practice.

Élisabeth Lorans, "Circulation et hiérarchie au sein des établissements monastiques: à propos de Marmoutier" (289-352), describes the history of the monastery from its origins in the very early Middle Ages through its modern abandonment. A careful consideration of texts, extant plans, and archaeological evidence allows her to describe a recognizable monastic complex, enclosed and possibly encastellated on the elevation above the river Loire, coming together in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Gifts by William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda allowed the construction of a new dormitory and refectory probably at about the same time as a chapter house noted in 1124. Lorans notes that as elsewhere in the great monastic complexes of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, multiple sanctuaries, multiple cloisters, and multiple burial places all make it difficult to reconstruct circulation or liturgical procession through its complex space.

Sébastien Bully, "Circulation et hiérarchie au sein des établissements monastiques médiévaux: à propos de la grande galerie de l'abbaye de Saint-Claude (Jura)" (353-375), again discusses the multiple churches within a monastic interior. He concentrates here on archaeological evidence for a long gallery linking two churches and the burials associated with that gallery. Alain Rauwel, "Circulations liturgiques, circulations dévotes dans l'espace abbatial: autour de Guillaume de Dijon" (377-386), consults the customaries, particularly that associated with the reformer William of Dijon, to argue for the rich multiplicity of functions that a great basilica like that of Saint-Bénigne in Dijon would have fulfilled. He suggests that even with the increasing importance of the Eucharist the multiple altars of such churches would have continued to function for the needs of individual monks.

Anne Baud, "L'abbaye de Cluny et l'évolution de l'architecture claustrale entre le XIe et XVIIIe siècle" (387-99), discusses the processions within the buildings, as described in the various customaries for Cluny, and changes within their practice over the centuries. Daniel Prigent, "L'organisation spatiale à Fontevraud vers la fin du XIIe siècle" (401-424), reminds us of what an immense monastic complex this became, with different churches and cloister complexes for different populations--nuns, lepers, reformed sisters, and so on. The discussion of the cuisine cites a recent Mémoire de maitrise and excavations that have discovered considerable ashes, confirming that the apses and chimneys were for the fireplaces on which the cooking was done. In contrast, according to recent study, there is no evidence of cooking fires in the center of the kitchen building, where Prigent opines that the preparation would have been done by the nuns.

In part three, Hans Rudolf Sennhauser, "Nihil operi Dei praeponatur. À propos des premières étapes de la construction des monastères bénédictins" (427-433), provides a discussion of the realities of construction of monastic churches at Saint-Jean at Müstair, at Schaffhouse, and Marienberg (Vinschgau), noting the necessity of initial housing for monks and laborers, what he calls "the barracks," and of an early simple wooden church, often replaced in Carolingian times by a stone church on the same site. Étienne Louis, "Espaces monastiques sacrés et profanes à Hamage (Nord), VIIe-IXe siècles" (435-471), describes the results of decades-long series of excavations there (1991-2001, 2004-2010) as uncovering for the first time in France a house of nuns at Hamage founded c. 630-640, but disappearing during the Viking period c. 881-883, perhaps as a cell of the house of monks at Marchiennes. Conditions there at the time of foundation are unknown according to Louis. As he explains, although described in monastic accounts as an infertile, marshy plain, tree-covered and with few inhabitants, the excavations have uncovered several Roman villas and hamlets there. His conclusions from the material remains found in the nuns' enclosure are that more evidence of artisanal production has been found than one would have expected from inside the enclosure of a house of nuns (451).

Luc Bourgeois, "La mise en défense des établissements religieux à l'époque caroligienne: les exemples de Saint-Hilaire de Poitiers (Vienne) et de Saint-Maixent (Deux- Sèvres)" (473-502), has mapped the ninth- and tenth-century fortifications of the diocese of Poitiers, suggesting that only after considerable local study like this one, which argues for five to ten monastic or canonical churches fortified before the year 1000, will it be possible to arrive at a more general picture of fortified churches in the west and the ways in which they were often taken over by secular knights, counts, or kings. For both the community of canons of Saint-Hilaire in Poitiers, and the abbey of Saint-Maixent, Bourgeois has traced the vestiges of the castrum, or fortifications specifically surrounding and protecting a specific religious community, in the case of Saint-Hilaire, once a Roman burial ground. Such burial, but early medieval monastic burial, is the focus of Gisella Cantino Wataghin and Eleonora Destefanis, "Les espaces funéraires dans les ensembles monastiques du haut Moyen Âge" (503-553). They begin by commenting that this is not as easy as in the idealized Saint Gall plan. They then turn to the monastic churches that grew up over the burial sites of Rome under the late Empire, then move on to a variety of other early medieval sites, many of them in Italy or Provence. Then they look at the topography of individual monastic cemeteries--where in the complex are the burials? This varies considerably, but so does who goes where. Abbots and abbesses, founders and their families, monks, nuns and familia, outside elites, others, all often have their designated places, but sometimes it is to the east of the church, sometimes to the west of the façade, sometimes inside the church, sometimes to its south. There are some excellent photographs of excavations here.

The final two articles in the volume, Nicolas Reveyron, "Morphogenèse de l'espace monastique au Moyen Âge: le rôle des héritages et des contraintes " (555-584) and Yann Codou, "Églises multiples et identité monastique dans la Provence médiévale" (585-609), describe two opposing solutions to the same problem: how to establish a new church when an older one has become too small. Reveyron explores this issue primarily in northern France, while Codou's emphasis is on Provence. Reveyron explains that churches and sites as they exist today preserve within their fabric, and particularly within the peculiarities of their fabric, vestiges of earlier churches that were expanded to accomodate new needs--for instance, pilgrimage. The examples cited by Codou on the other hand, from Provence, often show new churches replacing, but not erasing totally, smaller ones that may have been the sites of monastic origins but became associated chapels. Reveyron's examples show instead the concern to avoid abandoning an earlier structure, even if that meant some irregularities in overall plan; some of his best examples are those incorporated into figure one (568), showing a series of monastic churches often expanding to north and west from a smaller chapel that was in some way incorporated into the design.

Overall this is an impressive book, with excellent and interesting angles on its themes by each of the contributors. It is very hard to do it justice except to say that it will remain on my shelf to be consulted again and again.

Copyright (c) 2016 Constance Berman

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