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  • Memory and Community in Southern Medieval Italy: The History, Chapter Book, and Necrology of Santa Maria del Gualdo Mazzocca by Charles Hilken
  • Kathleen Olive
Hilken, Charles, Memory and Community in Southern Medieval Italy: The History, Chapter Book, and Necrology of Santa Maria del Gualdo Mazzocca (Studies and Texts, 157), Toronto, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2008; hardback; pp. 332; R.R.P. CA$79.95; ISBN 9780888441577.

Charles Hilken’s Memory and Community in Medieval Southern Italy is an edition and study of the necrology of Santa Maria del Gualdo Mazzocca (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vaticanus latinus 5949, fols 232r–248v), [End Page 306] but also takes into consideration the chapter book in which it is found and offers a history of the monastery and its culture of commemoration.

John of Tufara’s (d. 1170) original community in rural Puglia was to become a priory and important Benedictine abbey. Nevertheless, it was removed from the grand historical narrative that caught up the region, a favoured stronghold of the Hohenstaufens. It grew conventionally from acquisitions and donations, incorporated other institutions, and declined in part thanks to successive waves of plague – and a catastrophic earthquake in 1456.

Hilken takes the thirteenth-century chapter book, with its Rule of St Benedict, lessons, martyrology, and necrology, as a study of the monks’ daily rituals for intercession and commemoration. The necrology was actively used for 300 years and is of key historical significance, listing monks from the 1156 foundation to its final period c. 1497. While it has been intensely studied by others, Hilken’s thorough study of it offers new critical apparatus that are widely useful. The community’s holdings are detailed, for example, and the manuscript’s capitular lessons are compared with coeval exemplars for affinities.

Santa Maria’s establishment and growth are also examined, with descriptions of moveable goods oriented especially towards sheep farming (p. 23). There are tantalizing glimpses of possible interactions with southern Italy’s Muslim colonies: a recipe for soap that may have originated at Lucera (p. 97); and perhaps the disappearance of Rivo Mortuo’s Christian community after Muslim resettlement (p. 172). The monastery’s intellectual range is indicated by the text’s numerous vibrant and often zoomorphic illuminations, completed by one Sipontinus (pp. 107–08 – if only more reproductions were possible!).

The biographical register is of great interest: it lists the necrology’s names and their biographies, thus permitting a reconstruction of whom the monks remembered and a network of associations that could have united them. The necrology’s repetition of fratres nostri throughout suggests the community’s broad definition of itself and its interactions. This aspect of the study is most persuasive, although its conclusions are not always explicit. The work is thus useful for Hilken’s exemplary palaeography, and for studies of monastic acquisition and organization of land in rural southern Italy, but primarily for its study of commemoration. [End Page 307]

Kathleen Olive
Writing and Society Research Centre
University of Western Sydney


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pp. 306-307
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