- Order & Exclusion: Cluny and Christendom face heresy, Judaism, and Islam (1000–1150)
Dr. Iogna-Prat's book, Ordonner et exclure (1998), which here appears in a very satisfactory English translation, has two themes. One is the evolution from a loosely-structured medieval society to one dominated by an order that was strictly conceived and repressive to dissent. The other, which the author sees as closely connected with the first, is the spirituality and thinking of the order of Cluny. At its heart lies the discussion of treatises of Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny until 1156. Contra Petrobrusianos was written in response to one of the heresies which had emerged out of the tension between the Gospels and the changing organization of the Western Church. Contra sectam Sarracenorum belonged to the world of the crusades and the wars in the Iberian peninsula. Adversus Iudaeos was an important example of the growing anti-Jewish propaganda. With these more formal controversial texts the author associates an examination of the De miraculis, one of Peter's most revealing works, and more briefly of his Sermo de Sepulchro Domini, perhaps the finest medieval work on the theology of the Holy Sepulchre. The discussion is set within a deep understanding of Cluniac tradition, which introduces us to features in the thought of the period such as the evolution of liturgy and the understanding of sacred space. Although there has been so much work on Cluny in the past fifty years, this is a book which will deepen understanding further.
Peter's treatises represented a new type of polemic, and it is not easy to assess their impact on the thought of contemporaries. Peter was a conscientious writer, who was concerned to understand his opponents. His systematic criticism of the Petrobrusians has no precise precedent in the analysis of medieval heresy, and his discussion of the Saracens was vastly superior to the nonsense circulated in existing Lives of Mahomet. It rested on what, by contemporary standards, was a major research programme into the Koran and associated literature. All the same, much of Peter's work in these areas looks like a first investigation rather than a major contribution to the understanding of those who dissented from the Latin West. Inevitably, he was providing a "starter pack" to subjects, some of which were quite unfamiliar. The Petrobrusians can be linked to a growing wave of evangelical heresies, and (more dubiously) to dualist [End Page 307] movements which were emerging at the end of Peter's life; but the scene was going to change beyond recognition in the next generation. What is more, although Christianity and Islam had been born within the same Syriac culture, the Latin West had traveled a long way in its own distinctive direction. Mutual understanding was always going to be difficult, and Peter was at the beginning of the process. The rhetorical approach within which he was working (and which is well analyzed here) functioned as the tool of a repressive society, and gave license to extreme and unbalanced statements. Peter, famously, emerges as a savage enemy of the Jews, whom in one passage he denied to be human beings, and a champion of dialogue with the Saracens, claiming to approach them with love rather than with weapons. Both remarks, well adapted as they are to quotation, misrepresent what he was attempting to do. Iogna-Prat is very much at home within Cluniac literature and the development of controversy.
The examination of the restructuring of Christian society is less convincing. Barbara Rosenwein, in her foreword, comments that the author "builds on R. I. Moore's Formation of a Persecuting Society," but Moore is rarely mentioned in the text. In contrast, the author traces a jerky progress toward the later structured society. He holds that "the Christendom defined by the eleventh- and twelfth-century clerics was a unitary whole with a centre, Rome," but the term 'Christendom' was rare before 1100, and the idea of Rome as...