The Medieval Review 17.06.20


Diesenberger, Maximilian, Rob Meens, and Els Rose, eds. The Prague Sacramentary: Culture, Religion, and Politics in Late Eighth-Century Bavaria. Turnhout: Brepols, 2016. pp. xii, 261. €80.0 (hardback). ISBN: 978-2-503-54920-0 (hardback).



Reviewed by:


Leanne Good
University of South Alabama
good@southalabama.edu

Research into liturgical books has expanded our view of the creativity of liturgical production across western Europe, and emphasized the intellectual vitality of the early Middle Ages. This collection of essays on the Prague Sacramentary is an excellent example of how close study of one such work can yield insight into scribal practices, the circulation of texts and ideas, and the construction of new texts within dynamic intellectual and political currents.

The Prague Sacramentary [Prague, Archiv Pražského hradu, MS O.83] contains a sacramentary with a Mass lectionary, in addition to a penitential associated with Theodore of Canterbury and Gregory the Great's Libellus responsionum. It also contains a list of names (the nota historica) that can be dated to 791-792. Thus, the sacramentary was constructed during a pivotal time in Carolingian history, after the deposition of Duke Tassilo of Bavaria in 788. Charlemagne spent 791-793 in Bavaria, the longest period he spent in one place outside the Frankish core territories. The uncertainty of this period is reflected in the rebellion of Charlemagne's eldest son, Pippin the Hunchback, in 792. At the same time political matters were being settled in Bavaria, the Franks made preparations for attacks on the Avars, which would lead to establishment of an eastern march and intensive missionization efforts amongst the Slavs, directed by the new archbishop, Arn of Salzburg.

The manuscript not only reflects the experimental spirit of liturgical production in Bavaria, which blended Frankish, insular, and northern Italian influences, but also reveals the wide networks that ecclesiastical and secular elites depended upon. Debate continues on the exact provenance of the work, and on the degree to which Roman and Frankish liturgy homogenized the liturgical landscape of the late eighth century, yet the contributors agree that the unique elements of the Prague Sacramentary show notable creativity, in script forms and the selection of exemplars, as well as in new additions to the sanctoral cycle.

The essays of this volume are grouped by three themes. Part I, "A Book and its Users," begins with a comparative paleographic analysis by Rosamond McKitterick, who provides a technical description of the two principal parts of the work, the sacramentary with lectionary and the penitential and Libellus responsionum. The Prague Sacramentary was innovative in being one of the earliest works to use the new Caroline minuscule script, and also in its use of a variety of scripts for different purposes. For example, the headings are in uncial, while rubrics for the parts of the Mass that were not meant to be spoken are written in an original script. The scripts incorporate Frankish, insular, and Italian features, underscoring the exchange of ideas in this period. Useful images demonstrate the variety of scripts. Overall, McKitterick finds coherence to the work, reflecting its production for a single purpose. The contributing scribes were trained in Bavaria in a similar manner, judging by the four hands detected in the manuscript. Nevertheless, McKitterick reminds us that scribes moved, and thus identification of a script does not necessarily prove a place of origin.

Glosses later added to the work constitute one of the earliest examples of Old High German, and are therefore of interest to linguists. The ink glosses on the Libellus responsionum have attracted scholarly attention previously; however, Elvira Glaser is currently in the process of editing the dry point glosses (Griffelglossen) in the sacramentary section itself. She compares features of the two glosses, noting that both show clear Bavarian characteristics, and are similar in their descriptions, as well. She states that there is no clear evidence for a more specific localization, but that either Regensburg or Freising would not be far-fetched.

Maximilian Diesenberger's contribution analyzes another manuscript, Munich Universitätsbibliothek 4°3, on the basis of Bernhard Bischoff's identification of a similarity in hands with folios 131-147 of the Prague Sacramentary. He posits a similar origin for the two manuscripts, due to the paleography and the emphasis on St. Martin in both works. The Munich manuscript contains the Historia monachorum in Aegypto by Rufinus of Aquileia, the Vita Martini and two epistolae of Sulpicius Severus, and an early Gallic text, the Liber de definitionibus dogmatum ecclesiasticorum. Because these three texts do not match other Bavarian versions, he speculates that their transmission histories can help identify the scriptorium in which both the Munich manuscript and the Prague Sacramentary were composed. The Liber de definitionibus dogmatum ecclesiasticorum, for example, can be connected to a version in Lucca, and the Vita S. Martini is close to a version in Verona. Diesenberger notes the connections between Northern Italy and Freising, in the persons of Saint Corbinian, Bishop Arbeo of Freising, and Archbishop Arn of Salzburg. There were prominent laymen with cross-Alpine connections, as well, such as Count Helmoin, whose son was later comes in Verona, and Bonifacius, a Bavarian noble who became comes in Lucca.

Previous scholarship proposed the cella of Isen, an episcopal foundation of Freising, as a possible location for the Prague Sacramentary, due to Isen's devotion to Saint Zeno, a saint featured in the sacramentary's sanctoral cycle. However, Diesenberger argues against Isen for a point of production, as it was not known to possess a scriptorium. Nevertheless, he notes the families of at least two Freising scribes were associated with Isen, which suggests it could have been copied at Freising by scribes with an Isen connection. The emphasis on St. Martin, in the sanctoral cycle of the Prague Sacramentary and in the Vita Martini of the Munich manuscript, might indicate the two works were used together at one of the few Bavarian churches with a dedication to that saint. One possibility is Biberbach, a church that was under the authority of Bishop Erembert of Freising.

The second triad of essays focuses on the Prague Sacramentary as a source for understanding the religious culture of the late eighth century. Yitzhak Hen argues against the view that western liturgical practice was dominated by the Roman rite, noting that although the first two Carolingian kings introduced new types of sacramentaries (Pippin III launched the Eighth-Century Gelasian and Charlemagne brought in the Gregorian or Hadrianum), older Gallican books were still used. Hen finds that the Prague Sacramentary does not fit any of these categories, noting that it is about 60% Old Gelasian, with some Eighth-Century Gelasian and Gregorian elements. Rather than view it as a copy of a western exemplar, he proposes that it was a parallel and independent production (87). The Eighth-Century Gelasian Sacramentary and its Prague counterpart both drew on the same building blocks of the Old Gelasian and Old Gregorian, thus accounting for both the similarities and the differences between the two eighth-century liturgical texts. This shows the diversity in the practice of liturgy and the creativity of the era. Hen adds, however, that though innovative, the Prague Sacramentary is relatively unpretentious, and does not contain liturgy needed for an episcopal or monastic church. He views it as a sacramentary created for a priest at a small parish church, in a community that venerated St. Martin.

Els Rose approaches a similar question about sources by examining the sanctoral cycle. She agrees that overall it is eclectic in drawing from the three major traditions of the Old Gelasian, Eighth-Century Gelasian, and Gregorian, but differs from Hen in accepting Eighth-Century Gelasian as having replaced the earlier Gallican liturgies. She finds the sanctoral cycle of the Prague Sacramentary to be closest to the Eighth-Century Gelasian. In particular, she notes six saints added to both sacramentaries. A full cycle of apostolic feasts was not developed until the end of the eighth century, so the addition of apostles Bartholomew and Matthew to the cycle, and the addition of James the Greater on 25 July, represented innovations. Rose theorizes that the expansion of the apostolic feast days was related to an interest in the Acts of the Apostles. The text Virtutes apostolorum (formerly known as the collection of Pseudo-Abdias) was circulated in Bavaria; many of the oldest known manuscripts were located in Salzburg and Regensburg. Another unusual feature of the Prague Sacramentary is that it contains three masses in honor of Saint Martin: two for his natale, and one for his translation. The inclusion of the translation mass is very unusual for the time. The two natale masses depart from the Eighth-Century Gelasian, in that one is drawn from a Gregorian mass, and the other from a compilation of older Gallican sources. In particular, the second natale mass contains unusual linguistic elements drawn from the Old Gallican Gothic Missal, which Rose compares to the Prague Sacramentary version in a chart. In copying these Old Gallican prayers, it appears the scribes regularized some of the colloquial expressions, but not all. The use of Gallican sacramentaries suggests some exchange with south-east Gaul.

Richard Corradini tackles the first quire, which contains a two-and-a half page text headed Dein finem saeculi. The Prague Sacramentary is the only example of this unfinished text, which never gets around to the end of the world, but concentrates on its creation. The inclusion of this short fragment is one of the more puzzling in the Sacramentary, but in Corradini's hands it proves a fascinating problem. He considers the precedents for the treatment of time in the text, citing Bede's De temporum rationum. He also investigates the theological background for the fragment's description of the creation of angels and the creation of light, and provides an exposition on the significance of the numerical symbolism that links the four rivers of Paradise, the four winds, the four corners of the earth, the four angels of the Apocalypse, the four evangelists, and the letters of the name Adam. Corradini speculates that inclusion of this short text, which comprised core ideas in Christian dogma, makes sense in the context of the baptism of new Christians, and may have formed the draft for a proposed homily. He suggests that the noted problems with orthography, and some outright errors in common biblical passages, may have been due to a scribe struggling with a complex model text in insular script.

The final trio of essays looks at the inclusion of particular texts within the wider context of the period. Rob Meens explores the Iudicia Theodori, a penitential based on the teachings of Theodore of Canterbury, and the Libellus Responsionum, a response by Gregory the Great to questions posed by Augustine of Canterbury. Both texts discuss ecclesiastical organization, marriage, and ritual purity, but the Liber Responsionum is more liberal in its interpretation of degrees of consanguity and the state of impurity of menstruating or postpartum women. Other Bavarian manuscripts also combine these two works, suggesting these issues were the subject of relevant debates in Bavaria. One Munich manuscript, BSB, MS Clm 14780, contains the same combination of both texts as the Prague Sacramentary, as well as a text from the Roman council of 743, which attempted to restrict the liberality of Gregory's attitude towards consanguity. Meens contextualizes the issues in light of Boniface's reorganization of the Bavarian church in 738/9, and the establishment of an archbishopric in Salzburg in 798, after the Carolingian takeover. When Pope Leo III sent a letter to the Bavarians, urging them to accept the authority of Arn as archbishop, he specifically mentioned that people were using the Liber Responsionum to defend marriages in the third degree and pointed out its rebuttal by the Roman council of 743. As Meens notes, the disruption of aristocratic marriage connections and the disputation of the legality of succession and inheritance were powerful political tools that may have been deployed in Bavaria during these two periods.

Another anomaly of the Prague Sacramentary is the inversion of the order of the mass for kings and prayers in time of war from that found in the Gelasian sacramentaries. Philippe Depreux sees this inversion as an attempt to harmonize with Charlemagne's 778 capitulary of Herstal. Prayer for the king was prayer for peace. The peace for which people prayed was both spiritual and temporal, and thus had a political dimension. For example, the prayer on the feast of Saint Quiriace asks for deliverance from sin and from enemies ("Libera [me]...a peccatis et hostibus") (187). Depreux includes several charts and appendices that compare the language and content of the two types of masses, illustrating their treatment across a selection of sacramentaries and building a picture of the concerns inherent in these prayers.

In the final chapter, Stuart Airlie examines the nota historica, in which the names of the Agilolfing ducal dynasty do not appear, but Charlemagne's eldest son, Pippin the Hunchback, is given the title rex. The Prague Sacramentary is the only contemporary source that refers to him by this title (206). The conquest of Bavaria brought rivalry between the royal sons to the fore, as seen by Pippin's rebellion there. The Carolingian takeover of Bavaria had coincided with the introduction of Charlemagne's sons by Queen Hildegard, Charles and Louis, onto the political stage, and Airlie notes that around 791-792, Pippin of Italy also had hopes of ruling Bavaria. He was well-positioned geographically and had connections with key kin-groups from Alemannia. Another key player must have been Queen Hildegarde's brother Gerold, whom Charlemagne appointed as the prefect of Bavaria.

The names on the nota historica, were entered between September 791 (dated by the inclusion of the new bishop of Regensburg) and the conspiracy of 792, showing that Pippin was prominent right up until his fall. It is not clear if his cause was being advanced by a group of noble supporters, or if there was an attempt by Charlemagne to give recognition to Pippin. Ultimately, we cannot be certain what Pippin's inclusion in the nota historica signified, but that is as it should be, Airlie argues, as it reflects a moment in time when the political players themselves did not know the outcome of the various rivalries and opportunities that emerged after the takeover of Bavaria.

In the work of these contributors, this relatively modest codex, probably the possession of a parish priest, unfolds a macrocosm of scribes, bishops, reformers, nobles, and kings, each seeking to make a difference in a world in flux. The essays animate the juxtaposition of scribes fretting over the best script for rubrics, a parish priest wondering how to transmit the complexities of doctrine to his congregation, an archbishop contemplating how to establish his envisioned order in the mission fields to the east, and at the apex--in perhaps the most unstable and uncertain positions of all--the royal rivals. Individual essays will of course interest linguists, paleographers, liturgists and historians of the early Middle Ages. Nonetheless, the essays work together as a coherent whole. An understanding of the multiple sources required to produce the Prague Sacramentary and the creativity of its production is the fundamental to the emerging picture of vibrant exchange, movement, and development in intellectual, ecclesiastical, and political spheres. This book reminds us that the Frankish peripheries were not simply receivers of Carolingian culture, but loci of production in their own right.



Copyright (c) 2017 Leanne Good



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