20.03.01 Meens et al (eds.), Religious Franks

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Matthew Bryan Gillis

The Medieval Review 20.03.01

Meens, Rob, Dorine van Espelo, Bram van den Hoven van Genderen, Janneke Raaijmakers, Irene van Renswoude and Carine van Rhijn, eds. Religious Franks: Religion and power in the Frankish Kingdoms. Studies in honour of Mayke de Jong. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2016. pp. 584. ISBN: 978-1-5261-1854-7 (paperback).

Reviewed by:
Matt Gillis
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

This hefty volume rightly honors Mayke de Jong's significant contributions to the study of early medieval and, especially, Carolingian history. Containing no fewer than twenty-five essays alongside an introduction and bibliography, the contributors to this Festschrift explore in various ways the chief theme of de Jong's research--the intersections of religion and power in the Frankish realms. The authors include both the honoree's career-long colleagues as well as her former students. Rosamond McKitterick's introduction nicely recounts the impact of de Jong's scholarly work, stressing how throughout her career she "has staunchly maintained that all historians, and especially early medievalists, must take religion seriously as integral to politics" (2). Considering not only the essays in the volume, but also when one looks at the current state of the field, historians have indeed heeded de Jong'sadmonitio. In addition to her many collected volumes and essays, McKitterick highlights the importance of de Jong's influential monographs, including: In Samuel's Image. Child Oblation in the Early Medieval West (Leiden, 1996), The Penitential State: Authority and Atonement in the Age of Louis the Pious, 814-840 (Cambridge, 2009), andEpitaph for an Era: Politics and Rhetoric in the Carolingian World(Cambridge, 2019), the last of which was forthcoming at the time of the present volume's publication. The collection's essays are gathered thematically into five sections, which will be examined here accordingly.

Section One, "Defining Royal Authority: Religious Discourse and Political Polemic," contains four essays, beginning with Gerda Heydemann and Walter Pohl's investigation of the Franks' use of the rhetoric of election. Examining numerous sources, the authors regard such rhetoric, when combined with ethnic identifiers, as an important reservoir for "metaphors of allegiance and solidarity" (15). Like other early medieval Christians, the Franks saw themselves by virtue of their conversion asone of God's chosen peoples rather than a singular and exclusive "New Israel." In the following chapter, Rutger Kramer examines how Charlemagne and his intellectuals used the Adoptionist Controversy as an opportunity "to claim for themselves the authority to determine the difference between orthodoxy and heterodoxy" (35). Kramer assesses the Carolingian process of debating correct doctrine, emphasizing that the court succeeded in its goal because its representatives convinced the bishops to agree about orthodox doctrine through disputation rather than coercion. Janneke Raajmakers and Irene van Renswoude essay cover's a topic closely related to Kramer's. They consider Charlemagne's role during the Adoptionist Controversy as a royal arbiter of orthodoxy, one who worked in the tradition of the Visigothic ruler Reccared. Understanding the ruler as the protector of orthodoxy further developed in the ninth century, when Charlemagne was associated with Emperor Constantine as just such a figure, and Charles the Bald acted as an arbiter of orthodoxy in his reign's doctrinal debates. Bart Jaski's essay considers the image of the ruler with the sword in the Utrecht Psalter. Focusing on a series of psalm illustrations, Jaski argues that the psalter as a whole served as a mirror for princes, in which these particular illustrations taught biblically-literate court readers that becoming a good or bad ruler was fundamentally about choosing whether one would be "a member of Christ (David) or a member of Antichrist (Saul)" (90).

The second section, entitled "Royal Power in Action: Correctio," is the longest in the collection with eight pieces. Ian Wood's essay covers the reform of the Merovingian church, arguing against the polemical tradition--developed in the later Merovingian period--that the church was always overly-worldly and constantly in need of reform. Wood stresses that we must read Irish and English reformers' tendentious sources with some healthy skepticism, since such worldliness and intense political-mindedness only developed in response to the church's increasing land-based wealth over the course of the seventh century. Marco Mostert's essay next considers the strange irony that some early copies of Charlemagne's famous Admonitio generalis, which called upon the faithful to corret their books, needed corrections themselves. Mostert argues that some apparent errors were variant readings of texts, while others were based on the limited resources and abilities of scribes outside the most influential and wealthy centers of book production. Therefore, the errors in the Admonitio reveal the layers of literacy existing in Charlemagne's empire. Next, Els Rose examines how two eighth-century prayer manuscripts, the Missale Bobbiense and the so-called Prague Sacramentary, were corrected in order to increase the effectiveness of their prayers. Both contain elevated speech, the former displaying poetic language, while the latter text was "sternly stylized" (132). Though both manuscripts betray different tendencies in their style of correction, she argues that each demonstrates how the correctors drew from authoritative models and made vocabulary changes to their texts in order to adapt them to particular liturgical needs rather than to improve them grammatically. Yitzhak Hen's study examines a set of letters Alcuin gifted to Charlemagne, containing alleged exchanges between St. Paul and Seneca, and Alexander the Great and the Brahmin King Dindimus. Analyzing the collections' moral and spiritual contents, Hen argues that Alcuin sent these patristic-era texts to Charlemagne at a time of political and personal turmoil in the years just after his imperial coronation to reassure the emperor that he had been a good ruler despite his present difficulties. Carine van Rhijn's essay studies texts written to instruct local priests how to live properly and guide their lay charges. These works especially demanded that priests had a proper scriptural knowledge for teaching the laity, celebrating Mass and baptizing people into the faith. Furthermore, manuscripts made for priests allowed for considerable degree of variation in correction and instruction at the local level. The essay finishes with an edition of one of these texts, an examination for priests, the Dic mihi pro quid. Robert Flierman's essay argues that the infamous Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae called for "calculated brutality" against Saxon rebels (191) in the year 792, when other rebels received a similar response from Charlemagne's regime. Focusing on the text's biblical language and its pastoral side, he argues that the capitulary likewise called for priests (sacerdotes) to monitor the Saxons so that they might shun criminal activities or as offenders they might accept correction to avoid capital punishment. Thereafter follows Maximilian Diesenberger's essay on Ambrosius Autpertus's sermon on cupiditas, written for a lay audience. Diesenberger highlights Ambrosius Autpertus's rich rhetorical strategies and impressive psychological understanding of greed, revealing how his methods foreshadowed later Carolingian developments. Furthermore, Diesenberger dates the text to late 777 or 778, while simultaneously situating it within the historical context of Charlemagne's growing power and influence in Lombard and papal Italy. The section finishes with an essay on Frankish marginal notation practices by Mariken Teeuwen. She examines a series of manuscripts in order to demonstrate both diversity of practice as well the shared customs of these notators. Teeuwen indicates that through their marginalia they engaged with copyists and readers to hash out correct readings and to discuss a text's proper transmission. Their shared practices spanned both secular texts--such as Seneca's letters--and religious ones.

Section Three contains four essays on the topic of "Monastic Powerhouses and Centres of Learning." Albrecht Diem's chapter on the Carolingians and Benedict's Rule starts things off, emphasizing how reformers made the Rule central to monastic life, regarding it as a text worthy of exegesis and commentary, while selectively reading it as an authority to suit their particular concerns. Furthermore, Diem reveals that the Rule itself functioned conceptually as a holy object, one which the most holy of monks--such as Saint Benedict of Aniane--were thought to embody themselves. Thereafter follows Régine Le Jan's essay on how Reichenau's monks used their confraternity book to highlight their house's links to the Carolingians and Agilolfingians, shaping their own history and identity while presenting their house as a "leading mediator in great Carolingian politics" (267). Yet, as Le Jan reveals, Reichenau's ability to shape Carolingian politics through its living friends, who came from great families and were powerful office holders, diminished once the empire ceased to be a single political entity in the 840s. Sven Meeder's essay considers how Saint Benedict's monastery of Monte Cassino, refounded in the early eighth century after its destruction by the Lombards, came to be seen as the source of a "pure" version of Benedict's Rule during Charlemagne's reign (279). Meeder argues that, as Charlemagne's influence in Italy grew, the Frankish Abbot Theodemar of Monte Cassino sent him a copy of Benedict's own version of the Rule with an introductory letter intended to interpret the Rule and to heighten his house's prestige in the process. Meeder concludes, however, that Monte Cassino failed to remain a leading interpreter of the Rule when its links with Charlemagne weakened later in his reign. Erik Goosmann and Rob Meens contributed the section's final essay, arguing that Regino of Prüm's accounts of royal monastic conversions were meant to offer instruction on a ruler's responsibilities. His chief lesson was that royal sins brought down divine chastisement, which could only be abated by royal penance. The eighth-century Mayor Carloman--a repentant murderer who revealed his piety by entering Monte Cassino--served as a positive example, whereas rebellious princes and especially the controversial Lothar II were his antithesis.

Part Four, "Powerful Bishops," comprised of six chapters, begins with David Ganz's study of Bishop Wilfrid as the possible source for Merovingian gospel readings found in Northumbrian manuscripts. Wilfrid, "praised for his Roman observance" (328), had spent several years in Francia, and he could have brought the Merovingian lections back with him to England. Next follows Giorgia Vocino's essay on the memory of Ambrose of Milan and Pope Gregory the Great in ninth-century vitae composed in Italy during the reign of Louis II. Vocino argues that the Carolingian lives cast these earlier bishops as eloquent and learned teachers rather than as the saintly figures one might expect in hagiographic texts. These lives, she concludes, functioned in the manner of episcopal "mirrors for princes" (349), reflecting ninth-century concerns that bishops be eloquent moralists and political actors. Thereafter, Jinty Nelson examines Charlemagne and his bishops, arguing "that bishops as an ordo in a huge realm had not yet reached a critical mass of collective self-consciousness" (351). Nelson identifies a number of issues to support her claim: Charlemagne's interference in episcopal elections; his tendency to leave sees vacant in order to keep them in royal hands; the limited number of stately occasions attended by the entire episcopate; and the tendency for the court to see bishops as needing correction themselves before they could act as reformers throughout the realm. Overall, her essay serves as a poignant reminder not to project the ninth-century episcopate back into the previous century. Philippe Depreux's essay on the Penance of Attigny (822) next argues that Emperor Louis's public penance was instead a "collective repentance" involving the bishops, who confessed "their negligence in life, doctrine and ministry" (371) in a way unknown in Charlemagne's time. Examining the "working documents" from the political meetings in the 820s, which were probably regarded as royal capitularies, Depreux furthermore argues that the events of 822 set the stage for a more direct and visible participation of the bishops in the empire's political life. Stefan Esders and Steffen Patzold next examine the debate about church property that developed in the Carolingian Empire in the 820s. Drawing from Emperor Justinian's laws against the alienation of church property in a time of famine and conflicts over landholding, Louis the Pious's government responded with a two-fold policy that acknowledged church property's inalienablility while simultaneously asserting his royal prerogative to place the transfer of land legally under his control through documents that confirmed such exchanges. The final essay in this section is Bram van den Hoven van Genderen's study of the post-Carolingian legend of Bishop Frederic of Utrecht, who was allegedly murdered by Empress Judith's minions for having accused her of incest and adultery. The author argues that Frederic's passion--rich in filthy sins and terrible punishments--was most likely written to educate future clerics, whose "knowledge of scripture, canons and morals could be tested and discussed" (432).

The collection's final section, "Franks and Romans," contains three essays. The first is Julia Smith's study of Pippin III's links to an unusual relic, the sandals of Christ. Smith argues that Pippin acquired these sandals as a gift from Rome, though they were most likely a pair of commemorative sandals, which Pippin's inventive notary Baddilo rechristened as "Christ's sandals." Smith furthermore reveals how Carolingian exegetes showed particular interest in the scriptural tradition of Christ's sandals, contributing to the relic's wider fame. Thereafter follows Dorine van Espelo's essay on a ninth-century Cologne copy of theCodex Carolinus (Codex Vindobonensis 449), which was owned by Archbishop Willibert of Cologne. She argues that the codex, which contains eighth-century papal correspondence with Carolingian rulers, should be regarded alongside other material from the archbishop's library related to the history of Carolingian-papal relations. The texts could have aided Archbishop Willibert during his uneasy tenure to navigate his relationship with King Louis the German, who claimed for himself the dynasty's legacy as Charlemagne's "ultimate heir and legitimate successor" (471). Tom Noble's essay on Pope Nicholas I and the Franks finishes off this section and the volume as a whole. Noble dissents from the historiographical traditions that regard this pope as a "cunning politician" (487), who inserted himself into Carolingian affairs in order to increase papal power and authority. Working through a series of well-documented case studies, Noble argues that Pope Nicholas was repeatedly asked to become involved in Frankish affairs, and he did so because he "believed in unity formed by the Catholic faith and guided by Rome" (486) rather than as "a precursor of the papal 'monarchs' of the high Middle Ages" (488).

The editors and contributors to this volume should be applauded for gathering such a timely collection of essays to honor Mayke de Jong's important contributions to the field. Readers interested in familiarizing themselves with some of the current questions and approaches in this period's religious and political history should find their way to this Festschrift.

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