The Medieval Review 16.07.02


Bousquet-Labouérie, Christine, and Youssi Maurey, eds. Espace sacré, mémoire sacrée. Le culte des évêques dans leurs villes (IVe-XXe siècle): Actes du colloque de Tours, 10-12 juin 2010. Hagiologia, 10. Tunhouts: Brepols, 2015. pp. 352. €85.00 (hardback). ISBN: 978-2-503-54531-8 (hardback).



Reviewed by:


John Ott
Portland State University
ott@pdx.edu

The biennium 2009-2010 was a good year for bishops, particularly saintly ones. In addition to the volume under review here, which gathers together the proceedings of a conference held at Tours in June 2010, the Croatian Hagiography Society, Hagiotheca, held its own congress the month prior on "Saintly Bishops and Bishops' Saints," the collected essays of which were published in 2012. In 2009, Franҫois Bougard and Michel Sot published the proceedings of a June 2007 conference organized by the Centre d'études médiévales d'Auxerre, entitled Liber, Gesta, Histoire. Écrire l'histoire des évêques et des papes de l'Antiquité au XXIe siècle. The organization of episcopally-themed meetings and thematic strands continues apace down to the present day under the auspices of various research groups in Europe and North America.

Devoted formally to studies of episcopal cults in their urban settings--although not every essay delivers on this theme--Espace sacré, mémoire sacrée is the tenth volume to appear in the well-regarded Hagiologia series. One appealing aspect of this series, present since its inception, has been its editoral board's willingness to include in edited collections essays treating post-medieval periods alongside those consecrated to the Middle Ages proper (the series to date has published conference proceedings, monographs, and one Festschrift). This volume is no different; a full third of the contributions focus on the sixteenth through twentieth centuries. For medievalists this comparative element is a valuable and often neglected avenue to understanding and contextualizing hagiography and saints' cults--which hardly died out with the Reformation, and which have experienced important resurgences throughout the modern era--over the longue durée. Following the editors' introduction, the nineteen essays in this volume, in French and English, are divided into four sections: (I) Tensions et rivalités / Tensions and Rivalries; (II) Naissances idéologiques des communautés urbaines / Constructing Ideas of Urban Communities; (III) Reliques, édifices, images / Relics, Architecture, Images; and (IV) Cultes épiscopaux dans quelques communautés urbaines et rurales / Episcopal Cults in Urban and Rural Communities.

The centrality of bishops, both holy and non-, to their urban environs has long been established by scholars. The conference's theme was apparently suggested by the seventieth anniversary of the "débacle" of 1940, in which French civil authorities fled advancing Nazi troops while many bishops remained behind in their communities. Its location in Tours paid homage both to St. Martin's role as an archetypal holy bishop in western Europe and to the city's distinguished episcopal past, the subject of essays by Yossi Maurey ("Saint Gatien où l'importance d'être le premier à Tours") and Jean-Franҫois Goudesenne ("L'Office de saint Brice [VIIIe-IXe siècles], protoype de l'office épiscopal 'dynastique' dans l'histoire du chant grégorien?") (5). Classifying the bishop-saint as a "particular category" of holy person given his spiritual and temporal occupations, the editors identify several issues the volume is organized to address, including the historical conditions and privileges that favored the survival of episcopal cults, and the social tensions that episcopal cults generated locally and nationally as they competed for devotional space with other saintly figures.

The book's twin thematic poles are "space" and "memory." These are undeniably vast and quite elastic categories. The strongest essays here combine and circumscribe these categories within clearly defined social-spatial frameworks. Most often these are cities, parishes, and/or religious institutions. A substantial minority of essays, however, namely those by Stéphane Mouré, Ewa Szałek, Anna Tüskés, A. Joseph McMullen, and Ásdís Egilsdóttir, expand the spatial range of their analyses to dynasties, nations, cultures, and "landscapes." In at least one case, Mary S. Skinner's "Respected Bishops and Holy Women: Caught between Cities and Ascetic Communities in the Western Empire (350-450 CE)" (145-169), the author examines the "classic tension" between four pairs of bishops and contemporary ascetics, particularly holy women, nominally with respect to how these relationships configured bishops' urban roles and authority. But apart from a few broad allusions to bishops' embrace of ascetics as a means of unifying their cities, Skinner makes no attempt to locate these relationships spatially or mnemonically. Mouré ("Saint-Denis et saint Denis: de la capitale du royaume la tête d'un corps politique"), Szałek ("Saint Adalbert--A Patron of Gneizo, Poland, and Europe"), Tüskés ("Le culte de saint Louis d'Anjou [ou saint Louis de Toulouse] en Hongrie au XIVe-XVIIIe siècles"), and Egilsdóttir ("Constructing Space, Cult, and Identity: Saintly Bishops in Medieval Iceland") examine episcopal cults within "national" or regnal contexts of, respectively, France, Poland (and more broadly, Europe), Hungary, and Iceland, the latter of which had no cities, large towns, or surviving medieval churches. Still more broadly, in "Re-locating Sacred Space: Creating Place through Nature Miracles in Early Irish Hagiography" (243-258), A. Joseph McMullen examines miracles set in the Irish landscape in three Irish saints' lives: Adomnán's Life of Columba, Muirchú's Life of Patrick, and Tírechán's Patrician Miscellany (247). In a piece which, as the author acknowledges in the very first line (243), sits somewhat uneasily with the book's focus on bishop-saints and urban spaces, McMullen assesses how the miracles found in these works displayed the saints' connection to the natural landscapes of Ireland, a bond pagan priests also enjoyed, and which in turn became the arena for contested religious authority between representatives of the different religious traditions.

A further subsection of essays focuses on cultic renewals in the early modern and modern eras. Contributions by Antoine Coutelle ("Le culte de 'Monsieur Saint Hilaire' à Poitiers au XVIIe siècle"), Gwenaël Riou ("Quimper et les fêtes de saint Corentin entre 1886 et 1914: Renouvellement d'une dévotion"), Thierry Issartel ("Les saints évêques de Beneharnum [Lescar]: enjeux religieux et politiques de la mémoire épiscopale dans la souveraineté de Béarn [XVIe-XVIIe siècles]") aim at pinpointing the moment at which local episcopal cults fade from--and reappear because of--local devotional practices and civic energies. Not surprisingly, cultic disappearances and restorations often attend moments of crisis, such as the Huguenots' destruction of Hilary's relics in 1562 (74). In the case of Poitiers, the return of fragments of the saint from other churches in 1657 marked the temporary re-ascendance of the canons of Saint-Hilaire in the cultic and civic landscape from which they had gradually receded in the sixteenth century.

Three essays take architectural and sculptural programs as their focus. Sara Lutan-Hassner ("Candes-Saint-Martin: Sacred Space, Fateful Memory") examines the sculptural programs at the church of Saint-Martin of Candes, overshadowed by the more popular Martinian shrine at Tours, for their depictions of Plantagenet royal ideology. Dominique Barbe ("Saints évêques bâtisseurs et recherche d'unité en Italie et en Gaule [IV-VIIe siècles]") considers the symbolic meaning for early Christian communities of basilicas dedicated to the apostles. Maile Hutterer ("Sculpted Processions: Flying Buttresses and the Delineation of Sacred Space in the Thirteenth Century") assesses the often-overlooked sculptural programs of bishops and angels displayed on the buttresses of gothic cathedrals in northern France. She argues persuasively that the carved prelates synecdochally "buttress" the churches, while spatially linking the terrestrial Christian community with the celestial one (214).

Two further contributions present tangential, but for medievalists engaging, analyses of, respectively, infant naming patterns in Lyon and the transformation of the early modern built environment in Braga. In his informative "De civitate Dei: The Architectonic Campaigns of Saint Friar Bartolomeu dos Mártires in Braga (1559-1582)" (301-314), Milton Pedro Dias Pacheco describes the post-Tridentine building campaigns of Bartolomeu dos Mártires, which eliminated much of Braga's medieval cityscape and replaced it with new schools, seminaries, and hospices. These, he argues, reflected in their architecture the pastoral simplicity, humility, and purity of Trent's reforms, although whether they resulted in an elevation of clerical discipline is unclear. (Bishop Bartolomeu's sanctity is, however, quite incidental to the analysis of Braga's urban space proper.) Étienne Couriol ("Quand tous les enfants que Claudy Gay tenait sur les fonts baptismaux étaient prénommé Nizier ou Niziere...: saints évêques lyonnais et dation des prénoms aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles") examines parish baptismal records in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Lyon for evidence of infant naming practices. He finds that, while in a clear minority, local saints like Nizier and Ennemond offered families an alternative focus for religious devotion, one that derived at least in part from their parish affiliation.

The remaining essays bind their analysis of episcopal cults to specific urban locales. In the conceptually tightest section of the book, Samantha Kahn Herrick, Yossi Maurey, and Maureen Miller examine the fortunes of urban cults dedicated to "founding" or "apostolic" bishops: Gatien, first bishop of Tours, in the case of Maurey; Zenobius, first bishop of Florence, in Miller's essay; and a clutch of episcopal founders--Fronto of Perigueux, Nicasius of Rouen, and Martial of Limoges--in Herrick's contribution. All faced long odds for cultic preeminence in their respective cities, largely because established traditions of devotion to other saintly patrons had gained wider acceptance among the cities' religious institutions and populations. Gatien lived in Martin's shadow at Tours, at least until the later thirteenth century, when, as Maurey explains, the cathedral of Saint-Maurice introduced a new office (Liquet, dilectissimi) for him and assigned him apostolic origins. Unlike Gatien, Zenobius hardly lacked for a cult in Florence, and he was buried in the cathedral. Devotion to John the Baptist predominated there, however, largely, as Miller argues (60), because the baptistery of San Giovanni was the site at which Florentine bishops staged their authority; the episcopal palace was attached to it. The sites associated with Zenobius were, conversely, diffused across the urban landscape and lacked a physical center of gravity. In "La protection de Grégoire le Grand sur la Ville au IXe siècle," Bruno Judic continues his ongoing examination of Pope Gregory I's Nachleben in Europe by focusing on the efforts of the saint's namesake, Pope Gregory VIII (828-844), and his ninth-century papal successors to promote their predecessor's holiness in the city of Rome. John the Deacon's depiction of Gregory is a major focus; John displays the saint's ongoing connection, through a series of apparitions, to his former monastery of Sant'Andrea. Although not devoted to an apostolic saint, Judic's essay is of a piece with those of Miller, Herrick, and Maurey in their linkage of foundational saintly figures to urban sites and institutions.

In assessing the volume as a whole, it is not surprising to find that many of the contributions extend or elaborate on their authors' existing publications and research projects. Readers may find that these snippets therefore point them in the direction of the contributors' more substantial work. One consistent (and hardly novel) takeaway here is that saints' cults tend to thrive--or at least stand a chance of long-term survival--where active patronage exists. Devotional relevance is further enhanced when cults are tied to specific places, practices (e.g., liturgical observance), and to the material presence of relics. None of these guarantee survival in the face of crisis or indifference, of course, but a loss of one or more of these factors greatly diminishes a cult's chances of maintaining a strong local standing. A more difficult question to answer is whether the saints' status as bishops was in any way relevant to the long-term success or failure of their cults. Episcopal or apostolic founders probably had the best odds, tied as they were to the origin stories and Christian foundation myths of a given locale. But as Thierry Issartel shows, even obscure bishop-saints such as Galactorius of Lescar could, after centuries of obscurity, find themselves in no less prominent a place than the Panthéon of Paris immortalized in the murals of Joseph Blanc as a companion of Clovis, and somewhat less predictably bearing the face of the leftist George Clémenceau (299-300). Issartel's study of the bishop-saints of Lescar demonstrates that a focus on obscure saints often repays scholars' efforts. In the same way Espace sacré, mémoire sacrée reminds us that bishops haunted odd corners of sight and memory, both lofty and humble, as well as more prominent sites.

The volume is capped by twenty-five color plates and photographs pertaining to the contents of various of the essays, and includes indices of names, places, and codices cited. The plates are a welcome addition, and the publisher is to be congratulated for including them in the volume. One of the persistent frustrations of this collection is, however, the dearth or total absence of illustrations in essays whose arguments depend heavily on visual evidence. Two in particular, by Barbe ("Saints évêques bâtisseurs") and Lutan-Hassner ("Candes-Saint-Martin"), are bound to leave readers wanting to see more visual evidence for the decorative and sculptural programs they describe, sometimes in great detail. (103-107, 222-225) Happily, Hutterer's essay on the sculpted flying buttresses of the gothic cathedrals at Reims, Chartres, and Saint-Quentin ("Sculpted Processions") is furnished with several in-text, black and white figures, which permit comparison among the sculptural programs. The volume's editorial quality is generally sound, although there are typographical bobbles and syntactical issues here and there, the most distracting being a reference to the "vitreous dynasty" of the Angevins, where presumably "virtuous" is meant (227).



Copyright (c) 2016 John Ott



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