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  • Generations in the Cloister: Youth and Age in Medieval Religious Life/Generationen im Kloster: Jugend und Alter in der mittelalterlichen vita religiosa
  • Mary Marshall Campbell
Sabine von Heusinger and Annette Kehnel, eds. Generations in the Cloister: Youth and Age in Medieval Religious Life/Generationen im Kloster: Jugend und Alter in der mittelalterlichen vita religiosa. Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2008. Pp. 200. ISBN: 9783825811730. €29.90 (cloth).

Generations in the Cloister grew out of a panel of the same name at the 1995 International Medieval Congress in Leeds. In this essay collection, according [End Page 129] to the editors, two basic problems are considered: (1) the constitution of generations and the attribution of an identity to those generations and (2) the dynamics of relations between and among different generations. A bilingual volume, Generations comprises three essays in German and four in English, as well as a thought-provoking and thorough introduction (presented in both languages) in which the editors loosely stitch together the seven essays. Here, Heusinger and Kehnel divide the volume into two sections, the first focusing on "real" and "virtual" children and the second comprising case studies on various topics related to generational relations in the cloister. Additionally, the volume concludes with a useful index.

In the first section, the three essays—(1) "Die Mönche—Besondere Gotteskinder?" by Hubertus Lutterbach, (2) "Parvulus : The Idea of the Little Child Medieval Preaching and Commentary" by Tim Gorringe, and (3) "Im Spannungsfeld zwischen Spiel und Ernsthaftigkeit: Einige Bemerkungen zum Kinderbischofsfest in England" by Tanja Skambraks—grapple with the meaning of youth and childhood in a medieval religious context. Lutterbach's essay traces the development of the changing concept of the second Gotteskindschaft (childhood in God) from the fourth-century inception of monasticism to the concept's demise in the twentieth-century proclamations of Vatican II. Since the embryonic years of monasticism, newly professed monks have been given a hood to wear, which, because of its contemporaneous association with children, symbolized the new monk's entrance into a special and spiritually higher second childhood in God, one subsequent to the first Gotteskindschaft in baptism. Lutterbach makes a cogent case for the importance of this second Gotteskindschaft as an ideal in monastic life and expatiates on ways in which this ideal manifested itself. Lutterbach's essay has ramifications far beyond the insights it provides into medieval monastic culture; for instance, it raises questions concerning the relationship among metaphor, theology, and religious life. In his essay, Gorringe explores the meaning of parvulus in the Gospel of Matthew and—using commentaries by Jerome and Aquinas, among others—attempts to tease out the medieval Church's understanding of the term. His conclusion—namely, that age was not at stake in the privileging veneration of parvulus but, rather, that the term incarnated an abstract ideal of childlike humility and innocence—enhances the claims made by the other two authors in this section. Gorringe's essay concludes with the interesting observation that Augustine's view of children as bearing the marks of original sin, which stands in sharp contrast to the biblical exegetes' [End Page 130] use of the child as a figure for innocence and humility, is completely absent in the commentators' works. In future research, it might prove interesting to explore in depth "this deep inconsistency … in Christian anthropology" regarding these competing conceptions of childhood (73). The final essay of this section by Skambraks analyzes a practice that Lutterbach adduces in making his case for the significance of the second Gotteskindschaft: the feast of the boy bishop. Skambraks's goal is to identify the function, meaning, and origin of this end-of-the-year clerical celebration in which a choirboy was selected to take on the role of bishop. Drawing from extant manuscripts, with a focus on England, Skambraks comes to the conclusion that the boy bishop's feast, in terms of its liturgical function as well as the boy's material outfitting, constituted a real transfer of authority to the boy and true reversal of status; furthermore, she pinpoints the origins of this feast in three cults—the Roman Saturnalia festival, the biblical story of the slaughter of the Innocent Children, and finally, the...


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