18.09.16, Demontis, Enrico di Castiglia senatore di Roma

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Isabella Lazzarini

The Medieval Review 18.09.16

Demontis, Luca. Enrico di Castiglia Senatore di Roma (1267-1268): Diplomazia, guerra e propaganda tra il comune di "popolo" e la corte papale. Medieovo. Roma: Pontifico Ateneo Antonianum, 2017. pp. 218. ISBN: 978-88-7257-101-9 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Isabella Lazzarini
University of Molise

The troubled age that followed the death of Frederick II, and the years of the advent of Charles I of Anjou as king of Sicily have been massively investigated in many ways and by many scholars: the tragic end of the Swabian dynasty and the parallel ascent of the Angevin domain in the South have since the thirteenth century itself generated many long lasting grand narratives of opposite sign (the reciprocally positive and negative Swabian and Angevin myths among others). Demontis' volume devoted to the Castilian prince Henry (1230-1303), the younger brother of Alfonso X of Castile-Leon, and his political actions in the crucial years 1267-1268 offers another piece of such an intriguing and complicated political puzzle. Henry's behaviour and choices are commented and contextualized within the heated debate on the respective roles of the last Swabian heirs and the papal champion, Charles I of Anjou, during the struggle for the Sicilian crown in the aftermath of Frederick II's death (1250-1268). The sources on which the research is grounded are a selection of mainly unpublished diplomatic letters and agreements between Henry and the Ghibelline factions in Lazio and Tuscany, and a small group of published and unpublished sermons written by the French cardinal Eudes/Odo de Chateauroux. The edition of these different groups of unpublished sources contributes to a better understanding of the complex political and ideological conflicts that lied behind the succession to the Sicilian throne.

The volume, published by the Pontificio Ateneo Antoniano in its medieval series (Medioevo), after a short introduction is divided into four parts. In the first half of the book, chapters 1 and 2 are devoted to the political choices of Henry of Castile and to the content of Eudes' sermons on the war between Charles of Anjou and the last Swabian heirs, Manfredi and Corradino, while in the last two chapters a significant group of unpublished documents and a relevant selection of partly unpublished sermons are introduced, edited and commented. The book is completed by the primary and secondary sources, and by two separate indexes for persons and places.

In chapter 1, Demontis follows Henry in his life and career: a prince in search of a domain, Henry of Castile took part to most of the main political events of his age by moving from Castile and Aragon to England, the Hafsid sultanate of Tunis, and then Italy. His mobility was linked to his personal restlessness and military prowess, and was facilitated by the width of his royal dynastic networks. In particular, Demontis focuses on Henry's role in Rome in the years between Benevento (1366) and Tagliacozzo (1368), when--disappointed by Charles I of Anjou--the Castilian prince changed side in the dispute about the Sicilian crown and passed from the Angevin to the Ghibelline front. After being elected senator by the "popolo" of Rome (the Pope was in Viterbo), Henry chose to support the Swabian heir, Corradino, against Charles I. He ended up in paying a high price for his choice, even though he survived the bloody end of Corradino's expedition. His role in the peninsular politics, his alliance with the Ghibelline pars in Tuscany (that is, the league gathering under the imperial banner the cities of Siena, Florence, Pistoia and Pisa), and his action as Roman senator are very telling of the complex and sometimes contradictory dynamics that were at the basis of the clash between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Moreover, Henry of Castile represents an excellent case study for investigating the mobility, expectations, and political networks of a significant group of princes and high aristocrats within the extremely fluid context of the second half of the thirteenth century. Chapter 2 moves to a different scenario: here, Demontis follows the unfolding of the same clash from the ideological point of view of one of the most relevant intellectuals of the Church, cardinal Eudes/Odo de Chateauroux (c. 1190-1273). Professor of theology and chancellor of the University of Paris, and among the most vocal protagonists of the papal politics in those years, Eudes de Chateauroux was a prolific writer. In particular, he wrote more than a thousand sermons organised in three collections: Demontis focuses on eleven of them (included in the second collection written between 1257 and 1268), all centered on the conflict between the papacy and the Swabian heirs (both Manfredi and Corradino). In chapter 2, Demontis presents and analyses one by one such sermons, retracing their sources, revealing their stylistic features, and reconstructing their compositive structure, political thesis and rhetorical qualities. Of eight among these eleven sermons the book provides a first (or a renovated) edition. The overall celebration of the divine will that favoured the just Charles with his noble barons and lords against the sacrilegious and cruel Manfredi, Corradino and their followers, together with the didactical methods used by the cardinal and his attention to historical events, clearly emerge from the textual analysis of the group of sermons that are at the heart of the chapter.

The second part of the book aims at presenting the documentary and textual dossier on which the first part is based. Chapter 3 contains a documentary dossier on Henry's activities in Rome, and chapter 4 presents eight out of the eleven sermons commented in chapter 2 (six among them are published for the first time). The mostly unpublished documentary sources in chapter 3, preserved in the Tuscan and Roman archives, are precious not only for interpreting the events of the two-year period 1367-1368, but also for a better understanding of diplomatic relations and practices in the second half of the thirteenth century. As for the sermons, Demontis introduces their edition with the description of the manuscript Roma, Santa Sabina XIV.3.32 (preserved in the Archivio Generale dell'Ordine dei Predicatori: the collection includes 184 sermons), where he has found the two unpublished sermons related to the Angevin victory at Benevento (1-2: respectively the sermons LXXXVIII and XCIV of the manuscript). The other sermons (the two already published by Iozzelli [3-4: XXV, XXVI], and the four unpublished [5-8: XXVII, XXVIII, XXIX, XXXIX]) are recorded in the ms. Pisa, Cateriniana 21. The sermons that are published in chapter 4 constitute a coherent group of texts, and their interest lies on many different levels, from the theological and rhetorical to the historical one.

Demontis has a good familiarity with the context and period investigated in this book, and often crosses the boundary between political history and a multidisciplinary approach to political theory and propaganda, as his previous research focused both on the political and on the ecclesiastical side of the Duecento clearly shows (I am referring here mainly to his books on the patriarch Raimondo della Torre [2009] and on Alfonso X and Italy [2012]). Such a familiarity allows him to offer to scholars, with this volume, an interesting case study and a precious documentary dossier, both of which fit easily and naturally into the most recent research on Italian and European Duecento, whose main themes the author knows very well. In this sense, the volume is a useful contribution to more than one complex theme: the political trajectories of a restless European elite of princes and high aristocrats; the multi-layered conflicts derived from the fall of the Swabian domination on the Italian peninsula (we should not forget that in the same years many contrasts and wars were troubling the ancient regnum Italiae: the Po plain and Tuscany); the composition, circulation and use of many different texts--from poems to treatises--directly involved in the Italian and European political conflicts; the powerful rhetorical arsenal of the Church, refined by the years of war against Frederick II; the role of the highest Roman prelates, whose agency was conditioned by their birth as well as by their personal and intellectual identity, and political stance.

That said, the reader is somehow left unsatisfied. The narrative part of the book in fact is cut short at the end of chapter 2, with no conclusions nor any visible effort at framing the research within a more general interpretation of the whole story, or at suggesting new directions of investigation. The two main themes--Henry's trajectory and Eudes' political and ideological use of sermons--do not really intersect as they could, sometimes simply overlapping instead of mutually combining in a more ambitious vision of the events or in a more refined analysis of the different contexts (such as the socio-political physiognomy of "popular" Rome, or the Tuscan Ghibelline world). In this sense, the potential of Henry's experience as a case-study is not entirely fulfilled, while the analysis of Eudes' sermons, in its finesse, remains partly unrelated both to the Castilian prince's case and to the broader rhetorical and ideological picture. While representing an interesting addition to what we know about the years of the Angevin conquest of the kingdom of Sicily, the volume falls short of an ultimate interpretative effort, and that is regrettable.

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