- William Durand, On the Clergy and Their Vestments: A New Translation of Books 2 and 3 of the Rationale divinorum officiorum
The Rationale divinorum officiorum, compiled c. 1292-96 by William Durand, bishop of Mende, was the high-medieval synthesis of a long and important tradition of liturgical commentaries. From the Carolingian era, these commentaries were a key tool in the education and formation of the Western clergy. Their production was closely linked to reform initiatives, and Durand compiled his Rationale after a particularly fruitful period in the development of the genre. He drew heavily on treatises by Lothario of Segni (the future Pope Innocent III), Sicardus of Cremona, and William of Auxerre. The comprehensiveness of Durand's Rationale made it a medieval "best seller"; Durand himself issued two editions that survive in more than 139 manuscripts.
This new translation of an important part of a very important work, therefore, is most welcome. The translator, Timothy M. Thibodeau, worked on the critical edition of the text with Anselme Davril, O.S.B., in the series Corpvs Christianorvm Continuatio Mediævalis and so knows this material intimately. He published a translation of the prologue and book I, which treats church buildings and furnishings as well as their dedications and consecrations (New York, 2007). He now provides this volume, covering book II on the ecclesiastical orders and their offices (from cantor to bishop) and book III on vestments, insignia, and other liturgical equipment. Thibodeau gives a straightforward historical introduction that should be easily comprehensible to undergraduates and seminarians alike. The translation is faithful to Durand's own workmanlike prose and errs only in some minutia of ecclesiastical vesture (e.g., p. 172: compagi are not "boots," but elegant black leather slippers depicted in numerous late-antique mosaics). Scholars using this translation will want to keep two things in mind. First, for anything regarding ecclesiastical vestments, the learned Jesuit Joseph Braun's Die liturgische Gewandung (Freiburg, 1907) is still essential (for example, on compagi or campagi, p. 385). This encyclopedic and erudite guide is far superior to anything published in any other language on vestments, and its numerous indices ease consultation. Second, the annotation here—although perfectly appropriate to its primary audience of students and seminarians—does not convey the full richness of Durand's sources. That is available in the apparatus of the critical edition, and any scholarly use of Durand should rely on it and not the abbreviated notes here.
This translation certainly makes a salutary contribution to the study of medieval ecclesiastical history. Those interested in the history of Holy Orders, clerical education, and the material culture of Western Christendom will find [End Page 781] it particularly rewarding. Thibodeau has provided, moreover, an inviting gateway to the rich and important genre of liturgical commentaries. One can only hope that many enter it.