Bettelorden in Stadt und Land: Die Strassburger Mendikantenkonvente und das Elsass im Spätmittelalterby Andreas Rüther (review)
- The Catholic Historical Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 84, Number 4, October 1998
- pp. 758-759
- View Citation
- Additional Information
758BOOK REVIEWS Bettelorden in Stadt und Land: Die Strassburger Mendikantenkonvente und das Elsass im Spätmittelalter. By Andreas Rüther. [Berliner Historische Studien, Band 26; Ordensstudien XI.] (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. 1997. Pp. 517; 17 graphs and maps. DM 138 paper.) Since the publication ofJacques Le Goff's famous charge in the Annales in 1968,"ApostoIat mendiant et fait urbain dans la France médiévale," scholars have sought to situate the friars in the late-medieval city. Andreas Rüther has expanded the inquiry to the countryside. He selected Strasbourg because all four mendicant orders settled in the city in the thirteenth century and because of the extensive extant documentation. At the heart of Rüther's work is an analysis of the property transactions in which the brothers were involved: the date, the location, the type (anniversary, testamentary bequest, purchase of a rent, etc.), the amount, the person(s) involved, and the citation. His findings are summarized in a ninety-three-page appendix and plotted on seventeen graphs and maps. In actuality most of his evidence concerns the Dominicans and, to a lesser degree, the Franciscans. For example, for the entire 300 years of the convents' existence, Rüther obtained the names of 640 brothers; of these, 380 were Dominicans , 160 Franciscans, but only seventy Augustinians and thirty Carmelites (p. 124). Similarly, more than half ofthe 500 transactions Rüther investigated involved the Dominicans and a quarter the Franciscans (p. 130). The Dominicans were by far the wealthiest mendicant order; the Dominicans' annual income in 1419 was £511, compared to £.250 each for the Franciscans and Augustinians, and only £90 for the Carmelites. However, even the Dominicans' income was modest compared to the £1 ,182 ofthe secular canons of St. Thomas (p. 320). As these facts suggest, many of the Friars Preachers were the sons of the Strasbourg elite. The Franciscans enjoyed the support of a broader spectrum of society , especially after 1349, when the guilds gained a greater voice on the Rat. Both orders, in contrast to the Augustinians and Carmelites, had a network of terminal houses and holdings in the countryside. Rüther argues that these are indirect evidence for the friars' rural apostolate. The property transactions are a testimony to the friars' integration into Alsatian society but also to their abandonment of their original ideal of poverty. Not surprisingly, there were already bitter confrontations in the thirteenth century, the worst in Germany, between the friars and the secular clergy and the Rat. By the fifteenth century both the Dominicans and Franciscans,who resisted all efforts at reform, had lost much of their popularity, if the decline in donations and members is a gauge; and all four houses quickly succumbed in the 1520's. Rüther devotes only twenty-five pages to the cura monialium, much of it a discussion of the orders' changing stance on the problem. I believe that the friars ' involvement with women is central to understanding the peculiarities of their position in Strasbourg. By 1237, thirteen years after the Dominicans' arrival , there were five Dominican nunneries in Strasbourg; there is no comparable case anywhere else in Europe. The Dominicans must thus have had from the beginning extensive ties to the urban and rural elites, even if they have left no BOOK REVIEWS759 trace in the records. For their part the Franciscans cared for two houses ofPoor Clares and many béguines; neither the Augustinians nor Carmelites shared in this apostolate. By omitting the women, Rüther has told only half the story. John B. Freed Illinois State University The Register ofJohn Waltham, Bishop of Salisbury, 1388-1395- Edited by T. C. B. Timmins. [The Canterbury and York Society, Vol. LXXX.] (Woodbridge , Suffolk, and Rochester, NewYork: The Boydell Press. 1994. Pp. xxiv, 331.$45.00/£25.00. The Register of William Melton, Archbishop ofYork, 1317-1340, Volume TV Edited by Reginald Brocklesby. [The Canterbury and York Society, Vol. LXXXV] (Woodbridge, Suffolk, and Rochester,NewYork:The Boydell Press. 1997. Pp. vii, 246. $53-00/£29.50.) These episcopal registers are but two recent achievements in the Canterbury and York Society's longstanding efforts to make original source collections more accessible to students of medieval English...