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The Catholic Historical Review 88.4 (2002) 756-758

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Vitae Episcoporum: Eine Quellengattung zwischen Hagiographie und Historiographie, untersucht an Lebensbeschreibungen von Bischöfen des Regnum Teutonicum im Zeitalter der Ottonen und Salier. By Stephanie Haarländer. [Monographien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters, Volume 47.] (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann. 2000. Pp. xiii, 691. DM 398, -.)

Lives of Bishops constitute a category of sources for medieval European history that has been and still is neglected—unjustly, as this impressive book makes abundantly clear. It originated as a dissertation, defended in 1993/94 at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, written under the guidance of Professor Friedrich Prinz, but it evidently has been re-written and greatly expanded since then. Haarländer defends the translation of vita as biography, arguing that the differentiation between a life as it is lived and a life as it is described applies to modern authors just as much as it applies to the medieval authors of the lives she examines in her study (p. 1). This basic approach shapes her book. She resolutely rejects the use of episcopal vitae as quarries for snippets of presumably factual information, distinguishing the vitae from the genre gesta or deeds accomplished by bishops (p. 17, pp. 397-398) as well as from other contemporary documents, be they authentic or forged. She freely admits and emphasizes repeatedly that the vitae were composed with hagiographical intent and that they were designed exclusively for liturgical readings and edification—not in order to preserve historiographical details (p. 25). It is worth noting, therefore, how greatly this excellent study adds nonetheless to our positive, factual knowledge and understanding of crucial centuries of medieval history, not to mention the biographies of the bishops themselves. As the author discovered in the course of her work, the majority of the vitae included in the book presented contemporary, detailed sketches of very recognizable individuals, quite apart from the obligatory catalogue of virtues, regularly filled with topoi and even meaningless platitudes.

The volume is based on the study of fifty-five vitae, composed by fifty-four authors, celebrating the lives of thirty-six bishops, beginning with Ulrich of Augsburg (923-973) and ending with the biography of Archbishop Albero of Trier (1131/32-1152). All of them were members of the church of the Ottonian/Salian Empire, and all of the vitae are available in print. This vast amount of material—even though Haarländer calculated that only 6.09% of the 591 bishops reigning in the period under consideration were celebrated in still extant biographies (p. 462)—is examined in eleven main chapters. They are arranged thematically. The Introduction (pp. 1-30) is followed in Part 1 (pp. 31-163) by the inquiry into authors and their intentions. Part 2 turns to the biographies themselves, analyzing the bishop in his relationship to monks and clergy (pp. 163-199); the bishop as builder (pp. 200-224); the character of the bishop (pp. 225-263); the origin and career of the bishop (pp. 264-311); the bishop and his relationship to rulers, including a discussion of episcopal obligations—the servitium regis—(pp. 312-378); bishop and nobles (pp. 379-414); the bishop and his colleagues (pp. 415-440); bishops and the pope (pp. 441-460). All sections are carefully subdivided and conclude with a brief summary. The over-all [End Page 756] summary of the author's findings (pp. 461-474) is followed by a most welcome appendix, listing the episcopal vitae used in the book both under the name of the bishop to whom they are dedicated and the name of the author if he can be identified (pp. 475-565). The book concludes with indices of abbreviations, sources and literature as well as a tripartite register for persons, places, and general matter (pp. 564-691).

All readers, not just this reviewer, will be grateful for the great care expended on these indices, the labor of love. Clever as well as considerate is also the system used...


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