16.11.22 , Löffler and Gebert, eds., Legitur in necrologio victorino

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Charles Hilken

The Medieval Review 16.11.22

Löffler, Anette, and Björn Gebert, eds. Legitur in necrologio victorino: Studien zum Nekrolog von Sankt Viktor . Corpus Victorinum, 3; Instrumenta, 7. Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2015. pp. 391. ISBN: 978-3-402-10441-5 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Charles Hilken
Saint Mary's College of California
chilken@stmarys-ca.edu

As Rainer Berndt explains in the forward, this work completes an eight-year research and publication project of the Hugh of St. Victor Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, on the necrology of the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris. It is the first scholarly analysis of the necrology as edited by Ursula Vones-Liebenstein and Monika Seifert. [1] Some remarks are in order about the edition that is the focus of the collected essays. It is a scholars' construction weaving together two successive necrologies, the extensive historical work done by a seventeenth-century Victorine canon, Jean de Thoulouse, in his Annales, and an edition of the second extant necrology by Auguste Molinier in 1902. The editors justify the work of drawing together the necrological notices from all available sources on the grounds of a larger prosopographical goal: "To obtain a solid foundation for a prosopography all Victorine canons, it is essential to have a complete edition of the necrology...Only the obituary as a whole can bear witness to the vitality of Augustinian tradition in Victorine Congregation from their beginnings to the dissolution in the French Revolution." [2]

Contributors to the volume of essays under review here include historians of medieval monasticism, authors who have previously published on the Victorines, and scholars in residence or associated with the Institute in Frankfurt. Eleven essays arranged under four headings follow an introductory essay. There are useful bibliographies of text editions, Victorine sources, other primary sources, and scholarly studies. Five helpful indices include scripture, authors and works, persons, places, and manuscript and archive shelfmarks.

The introductory essay, by co-editor Anette Löffler, gives a brief history of the editing of the necrologies of the Victorines over the course of the last century. Death notices span the entire history of the abbey of Saint Victor (2968 names, as Löffler reports in her second essay in the volume), from its origins in the early twelfth century until shortly before its suppression in 1790. The author casts the present essays as the first attempts at interpreting the necrology, inviting further research.

"The Necrology--Sources and Interpretations" is the title framing three essays, the first of which is by Jean-Loup Lemaitre, who gives a brief history of the uses and editing of necrologies. He identifies the first integral edition, the first time hands were distinguished, and what he calls the first edition worthy of the name (1848). The last five pages of his essay are a précis of the recent edition of the Victorine necrology. A second, very brief essay by Isabelle Guyot-Bachy is solid and true to the intentions of the book. It explores the necrology in order to identify the author of Memoriale historiarum, a thirteenth-century work ascribed to Iohannes de Sancto Victore. [3] In the end the author finds that it is uncertain which John mentioned in the necrology is the author of the Memoriale. Her conclusion is a reminder that necrologies were not composed to remember the biographical details of monks and nuns, but rather to pass on to surviving community members a sense of their own belonging to something much bigger than themselves. The last essay of this section is the second of three and the longest offered by Anette Löffler to the volume. It has as its subject the "named and unnamed in the Memoria of the Abbey of Saint Victor" and offers an excellent dialogue between the necrologies and other records, including a book recording professions of vows. It becomes clear that the necrologies are an incomplete record of the monastic constituency. How accurate is the number of names in the necrologies? Why are names in the Profession Book not found in the necrology? These questions emerge without enough contextual data to provide complete answers. This is not to fault the author's work with the texts, which yields a most detailed reading and comparison of sources. One question, though, that is not treated as well as it might have been concerns changes over time. The long use of the necrology over seven centuries belies social changes and periods of more or less religious rigor, which may have affected the maintenance of the liturgical practice. For example, Löffler observes that many names are listed simply--first names without other indications--which are known more fully from other sources and that some dates more than others show activity, but without exploring more fully the effects of time and history. One finishes reading her essay, though, with a great appreciation for the cautions and challenges facing those who work on necrologies of other monasteries for which there are not so many accompanying sources.

Three essays make up the second section titled "The Early History of the Abbey." Constant J. Mews offers an essay on William of Champeaux, "Memories of William of Champeaux: The Necrology and the Early Years of Saint-Victor," which gives the historical context for why the necrology does not name William as the founder of the abbey, even though he was popularly credited as such. The necrology is only the starting point for a well-crafted essay on William. The author notes in passing that necrology celebrates the first abbot, Gilduin, as the true founder. Joachim Ehlers considers the "Contacts of the Abbey of Saint Victor in the Romano-German Empire." Like the preceding essay, the title offers more than it delivers regarding an analysis of the necrology. This essay is fine exploration of the historical circumstances of Hugh of St. Victor's family origins and his migration west, with a few other German ties appended at the end.

Co-editor Björn Gebert offers an extensive examination of the houses affiliated with the abbey. It is titled (in translation) "Saint Victor of Paris and the Victorine Institutional Structures of a Medieval Monastic Confederation." Gebert's is the longest essay of the book and an important contribution for anyone trying to understand the meaning and history of medieval monastic congregations. The author begins with the historiography of the rise of monastic orders making the point that the Victorines, whose history is much different from the Cistercians, have been little studied. He goes on to identify the abbeys and other individual houses that can be considered as part of a congregation and finishes with a more extensive consideration of the range of expressions and possible meanings of monastic associations. Sorting out the varieties of ways that other monasteries are historically associated with St. Victor, he makes seven distinctions: abbeys founded directly from St. Victor; abbeys reformed by St. Victor or one of its foundations; churches with canons who trained at St. Victor; abbeys for which there is some evidence of following Victorine customs; houses of Victorine canonesses founded in Flanders and Hainault through the middle of the thirteenth century; priories dependent on Victorine abbeys; and cathedral foundations observing the Victorine customs. Later in the essay he cites Vones-Liebenstein’s three legal distinctions: dependent priorities; abbeys reformed by St. Victor but legally independent; and a far-flung circle of monasteries (in England, Denmark, and Italy) observing Victorine customs. There are even further distinctions made, for example, prayer confraternities without further observance or obedience (a custom found among older Benedictine houses). Gebert works the evidence of the necrologies against other sources to make his determinations. In the end, the reader is cautioned that sources leave a lot of ambiguity around the question of associated houses. The combination of caution and diligence, though, provides great insight. Useful tables of abbey and priories are appended.

Office-holders and other individual members of Saint Victor form the topic of the volume's third section. The lengthy first essay by Gesine Klintworth on the abbots of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries is, with the preceding study by Gebert, the heart of collection. The notices of the Necrology here become one piece of evidence in relation to other documentary records, including the necrologies of other houses. Klintworth, like Löffler, notes the paucity of information given about the dead. She first addresses questions of identification. There is no mention of family or geographical origins and, only with the advent of the fourteenth century are previous offices held by individual abbots mentioned. Some knowledge of family history can be gleaned from the notices of relatives and there are other sources that identify places of origin. The rest of the essay is devoted to reputation and careers. Some abbots are remembered "of venerable memory" and others are praised for their zeal, authority, or sanctity. The death notices also record contributions to buildings and revenues. A section of the essay on reforming abbots provides additional commentary to Gebert's work on what is known about the monastic confederation. The final part of the essay, drawn mostly from other documentary evidence, treats the abbots' activities beyond the community. Klintworth traces their presence at the royal and papal courts and their interest in the crusades. On the whole, the essay serves as a good history of the first two centuries of the abbey. Tables follow with the abbots' background, years of service, and a summary of the necrological notices.

Erin Jordan's essay on the canonesses traces the emergence of women's communities affiliated with Saint Victor in the thirteenth century. It ends with a list of the women named independently of men in the Necrology. The names are grouped according to canonesses; nuns or recluses; conversae; patrons; and names without further identification. The author employs charters to good purpose. Moving forward, more analysis of the names could be done. Ralf Lützelschwab considers the cardinals in the circle of St. Victor. The difficulty, noted by the author, of explaining why some cardinals, who were known to be associated with the abbey, are not named in the Necrology can lead to the question of how names in general came to be included. The author does not take this up at any length. A strength of this essay, though, is its scope over the entire history of the abbey.

The last group of essays, titled "Gifts and Their Implications," begins with an offering by Matthias Tischler related to his 2014 monograph. [4] He examines the question of the donation of a Bible as expiation for sin. A necrological entry for 22 September records the anniversary of the twelfth-century archdeacon of Paris, Theobald Notier, who left to the abbey "libros scilicet ueteris ac noui Testamenti" (259). Tischler identifies the manuscript, now preserved under three shelfmarks in the French National Library, as the oldest extant Bible for reading from Saint Victor. In addition to the historical context of Theobald's donation, the essay gives good insight into the Biblical textual tradition and Biblical scholarship active at the abbey in the time of Hugh of St. Victor. Tischler aptly concludes from this little study that prosopography can be an aid to manuscript studies.

Anette Löffler brings the collection to a close with a fine essay on book donations recorded in the Necrology. The books were all for recitation at liturgy. She observes that there are an unusually high number of book donations recorded in the Necrology and that the practice of book donations occurs throughout the long history of the abbey, constituting a tradition of personal memorials.

Much remains for the study of the later centuries of the abbey, which are addressed mainly in Lützelschwab's essay and Löffler's third essay and to a lesser extent Ehlers.' Historians who use necrologies will benefit greatly from the essays that compare the Necrology with other documents. These same historians, in turn, can also bring their own insight to some of the observations made by the authors here regarding the composition, use, and development over time of necrological notices.

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Notes:

1. Ursula Vones-Liebenstein and Monika Seifert, Necrologium abbatiae Sancti Victoris Parisiensis (Corpus Victorinum Opera, 1; Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2012).

2. Vones-Liebenstein and Seifert, Necrologium abbatiae Sancti Victoris Parisiensis, 54-55 (translation mine).

3. Iohannes de Sancto Victore, Excerpta e memoriali historiarum, in Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France, vol. 21, eds. Joseph-Daniel Guigniaut and Natalis de Wailly (Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1855), 633-676.

4. Matthias Tischler, Die Bibel in Saint-Viktor zu Paris: Das Buch der Bücher als Gradmesser für wissenschaftliche, soziale und ordensgeschichtliche Umbrüche im europäischen Hoch- und Spätmittelalter (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 2014).

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