19.01.06 Portnykh/Vande Veire, eds., Humbertus Romanis

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Jessalynn Lea Bird

The Medieval Review 19.01.06

Portnykh, Valentin and Christine Vande Veire, eds. De predicatione crucis (Humbertus de Romanis). Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols , 2018. pp. lxxiii. ISBN: 978-2-503-57563-6 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Jessalyn Bird
Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN

In 1991, when publishing her much-referenced monograph on the preaching of the crusades, Penny J. Cole identified what she believed to be perhaps the earliest surviving manuscript of Humbert of Romans' treatise on preaching the crusade, De predicatione crucis (Vatican, Bibliotheca Apostolicana, Vat. lat. 3847), and signaled that she was planning an edition based on that manuscript. [1] However, as other duties prevented Cole from completing her edition, until recently, Humbert's treatise has remained relatively inaccessible and therefore little-consulted, with several notable exceptions: Edward Tracy Brett's monograph on Humbert of Romans, [2] Cole's own articles, [3] Christoph Maier's oeuvre, [4] the terribly useful digital transcription of an early printed edition by Kurt Villads Jensen, [5] and Portnykh's own recent edition of a truncated version of Humbert's work. [6] The advent of a rigorously conducted critical edition of the longer version of Humbert's work is to be applauded and should trigger a surge of interest in Humbert of Romans as a key contributor to the reappraisal of the goals of both crusading and missionary ventures in the later thirteenth century.

And yet it was probably during his retirement at the Dominican house in Lyons (1263-1277) that Humbert compiled De predicatione crucis and many of his other surviving works. Humbert was one of many pivotal figures, many of them Paris-trained masters, who helped to draw the mendicant orders into scholastic activities in support of their primary mission of preaching and confession. Before entering the Dominican order and serving as a regional leader (1237-1254) and then head of his own order (1254-1263), Humbert had studied in Paris. It is clear that the Dominican library at Lyons included, in addition to a clutch of popular histories of the First Crusade (190, 192, 195, 196), and Pseudo-Turpin (197), standard Parisian texts including Peter the Chanter's Verbum abbreviatum (195) and Peter Comestor's Historia scholastica (195). Humbert was also familiar with pastoralia from the Cistercian milieu (Bernard of Clairvaux, Caesarius of Heisterbach) (190-191) and was clearly enamored of the eastern histories, sermons, and life of Mary of Oignies written by the charismatic and prolific preacher Jacques de Vitry (194-195), as well as works by contemporary Dominicans including Hugh of Saint-Cher (194), Stephen of Bourbon (196-197), and Vincent of Beauvais (197). It was these works on which Humbert drew while composing a manual for preachers, presumably his fellow Dominicans, to use in composing their own crusading excitatoria. Humbert probably drafted the work between 1266 and 1268, as he mentions the capture of Saphed (1266), but not that of Antioch (1268) and spoke of Louis IX as still living. Certainly, Humbert's De predicatione crucis predates his sermones ad status (1266-77) and his Opusculum tripartitum (c.1274), one of many responses to Gregory X's call for written information and proposals as briefs for the Second Council of Lyons (1274).

Although some have questioned the validity of attempting to create a conglomerate textural edition in an age of scholarship that increasingly recognizes the value of elucidating the experience of individual variant texts as navigated by various readers, this reviewer does believe that there is a place for evaluating the manuscript tradition and transmission of a given work. Portnykh and Vande Veire's tracing of the manuscript tradition and stemmata is meticulous. They note the existence of the "long version" of the treatise (with 44 to 45 chapters), which in Vat. lat. 3847 has the addition of an extract of miracles from the First Crusade's siege of Antioch from Stephen of Bourbon (published as an appendix in the current edition). In contrast, in three manuscripts the treatise ends, in medias res, in the midst of chapter 27. The addition of the text from Urban II's speech at Clermont from Baldric of Bourgueil appears to be original (it was referred to by Humbert in his Opusculum), but it was viewed as a separate treatise by some copyists and therefore omitted (xxiv-xxv). Portnykh and Vande Veire have also valiantly addressed the fascinating "problem" of why it is that most texts of Humbert's treatise survive in fifteenth-century copies, often teamed with either material on the First Crusade or with anti-Hussite and/or anti-Turk propaganda (xviii-xx, lix). The recycling of Humbert's material for usage in later crusades was not an isolated incident; surviving later copies of Jacques de Vitry's Historia Orientalis are copied or bound with material intended for use in crusades against the Hussites and/or Turks. [7]

And yet, what the reader misses from an otherwise valuable edition is ultimately a sense of context. How did Humbert's selection of materials and opinions compare with those of other contemporaries, including whose who submitted treatises to Lyons II and also preached the crusade, such as Guibert of Tournai? A short consideration of the papacy of Gregory X, the environment leading up to Lyons II, and second crusade of Louis IX (1270) is crucial for understanding the tone of and initial reception of Humbert's work, and yet there is little evidence that Portnykh and Vande Veire care to cite crucial scholarship in English on these topics. [8] Similarly, although in an editorial sense, Portnykh and Vande Veire have faultlessly traced the sources Humbert utilized, very little effort has been made to piece together for the reader the kind of library Humbert might have been using and the ways in which he adapted and modified writings by earlier authors associated with the crusade, including Fulcher of Chartres, Baldric of Bourgueil, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Jacques de Vitry. Similarly, no attempt has been made to connect to current strains of historiography which have fruitfully complicated the traditional binaries of crusade and mission (a crucial category for Humbert as the somewhat disillusioned former head of an order deeply embroiled in both), and have stressed the symbiotic nature of the promotion of contemporary campaigns and the deliberate curation of a selective memory of past "crusades." [9] Moreover, at multiple points the editors make the claim that Humbert's is the first treatise produced for crusade preachers, despite the existence of a long and varied scholarship on the annoyingly anonymous, yet invaluable early thirteenth-century Brevis ordinacio, an edition and translation of which is forthcoming in Crusades (2019). [10]

In fact, a comparison of the Brevis ordinacio to Humbert's treatise might have been tremendously illuminating for tracing individual, chronological, and regional differences in and re-conceptualizations of how best to promote the crusade. What, thanks to the labors of Portnykh and Vande Veire, the reader now has access to is the crusade preacher's equivalent of a vademecum chocolate box: as Humbert himself emphasized, the preacher was meant to pick and chose appropriate themes for his audience (5-6). Humbert includes material for constructing arguments on why one should take the cross, including the meaning behind taking the crusade vow and the cloth cross which symbolized this legally binding commitment. He then describes the various positive motives and incentives (temporal and spiritual) for taking the cross, followed by sections with ammunition to counter potential objections to taking the cross. Then follows material for the consolation of armed pilgrims and a list of biblical theme verses for constructing crusade sermons. In the truncated versions, copyists stopped at this point, but the fuller version of Humbert's treatise also included excerpts from hagiography and histories envisaged as useful for preaching the crusade--instances of previous success in and divine support for holy war and the crusade, exemplars for crusaders to follow and emulate, all key to the cultivation of crusading memory and commemoration--ranging from the Maccabees, Constantine, Helen, and Charlemagne to the First Crusaders, Saint Bernard, and anti-heretical "martyrs." The preacher too, Humbert admonishes, must know about what he preaches: the Holy Land (including mappa mundi), the origin and life of Muhammad, Peter Alfonsi's Contra iudeos and other polemical writings, and the history of the rise and expansion of Islam and efforts to contain it (whether in Pseudo-Turpin or crusading histories). Humbert's treatise thus presents a bewilderingly rich array of materials which should prove fruitful for historians of crusade preaching and the impact of crusading on Latin Christian identity and devotion in the thirteenth century. An English translation would be desideratum, perhaps for the Routledge series of crusading sources (formerly Ashgate), so that this essential and captivating text could be made accessible to undergraduate students without a firm command of Latin.



1. Penny J. Cole, The Preaching of The Crusades to the Holy Land, 1095-1270 (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), 194-217, esp. p. 202, note 88.

2. Edward Tracy Brett, Humbert of Romans. His Life and Views of Thirteenth-Century Society (Toronto, 1984).

3. Penny J. Cole, "Humbert of Romans and the Crusade," in The Experience of Crusading, 1: Western Approaches, eds. Norman J. Housley and Marcus Graham Bull (Cambridge, 2003), 157-164.

4. Christoph T. Maier, Crusade Propaganda and Ideology. Model Sermons for the Preaching of the Cross (Cambridge, 2000); idem, Preaching the Crusades: Mendicant Friars and the Cross in the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge, 1994), esp. 114-116.

5. Humbertus de Romanis, Liber de predicatione sct. Crucis, ed. Kurt Villads Jensen (2007), http:/www.jggj.dk/saracenos.htm, accessed Dec. 24, 2018.

6. As the editors point out, the question of who truncated the work and for what end remains unsolved (xxviii-xxx).

7. Jessalynn Lea Bird, "The Historia Orientalis of Jacques de Vitry: Visual and Written Commentaries as Evidence of a Text's Audience, Reception, and Utilization," in Essays in Medieval Studies (2003): 56-74.

8. Philip P. Baldwin, Pope Gregory X and the Crusades (Woodbridge, 2014); Michael Lower, The Tunis Crusade of 1270: A Mediterranean History (Oxford University Press, 2018); Jessalynn L. Bird, Edward Peters, and James M. Powell (eds.), Crusade and Christendom, Annotated Documents in Translation from Innocent III to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291 (Philadelphia, 2013), pt. 10, esp. sections 69-71; Penny J. Cole, The Preaching of The Crusades to the Holy Land, 1095-1270 (Cambridge, Mass., 1991), 194-217.

9. E.g. Jessalynn L. Bird, "Preaching and Crusade Memory," in Remembering the Crusades and Crusading, ed. Megan Cassidy-Welch (Routledge, 2017), 13-33, esp. 16-18, 25.

10. E.g. Cole, Preaching of the Crusades, 110-112, 117-126, 132, 139; Maier, Preaching the Crusades, 114, n. 21.

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