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BOOK REVIEWS 293 Eva Luise Wittneben. Bonagratia von Bergamo. Franziskanerjurist und Wortführer seines Ordens im Streit mit Papst Johannes XXII (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, 90). Leiden, Brill, 2003. 424 pp. Bonagratia of Bergamo’s name has long been familiar to historians, although the specifics of his career have remained hazy. As the Franciscan order’s legal expert, he belonged to the group around Michael of Cesena that put an end to the Spirituals of southern France and then fought off Pope John XXII’s campaign against the order. As procurator (that is, as the one responsible for the order’s relations with the papal curia), Bonagratia was always involved in the action. Eva Wittneben has now shown how central and how influential he was in defining that action. However important his role in the removal of the Spirituals, it was as Michael of Cesena’s legal mind as well as public voice in response to Pope John XXII that Bonagratia put his mark on the events of his day. Here in the pages of this study he emerges from the shadows cast by our ignorance into the light of Wittneben’s compelling scrutiny of the relevant sources. Bonagratia entered the Franciscan order around 1309. He had already completed his formal study of canon and civil law. Soon he was assigned to help Raymond of Fronsac, the procurator of the order, then negotiating the Community’s interests in its struggle against the Spirituals. Bonagratia continued in that capacity until he was named procurator in 1319. By 1319 a sequence of events was underway which would offer the pope his long-desired chance to settle with the order. In 1322 Pope John XXII seized the occasion of a discussion on the poverty of Christ and the apostles to censure as heretical a key principle of Franciscan self-understanding. In prosecuting his campaign, the pope, an able jurist in his own right, with a stable of learned men at beck and call, had to do immediately and constantly with a legal mind every bit equal to his own and then some. Although he focused his ire and his exigencies on the minister general of the order, Michael of Cesena, the pope heard and BOOK REVIEWS 294 answered, as well as he could, arguments legal and ecclesiological supplied Michael by the order’s procurator. Wittneben begins by bringing Bonagratia into the story, soon pauses to explain his way of working, and then gradually elaborates the elements of a Franciscan argument that will reach full form in the 1328 appeal from Pisa. By that time the efforts of the Franciscans to reach a compromise with an obstinate Pope John have proven hopeless. In Pisa, safe in the company of Louis of Bavaria, Michael and his confreres follow the logic of their disagreement with John XXII to its conclusion. They accuse him of heresy and therefore ipso facto deposed from the papal throne. Wittneben has affixed an English summary to her text (393-397). She also offers three indices, a general one, along with one of persons and one of places. The book is broken down into sections, with regular introductions and summaries. She writes with precision and her judgments are balanced. The result is excellent and accessible scholarship. Once Wittneben has set the scene for Bonagratia’s contribution to the proceedings against the Spirituals in 1317 and read several pieces authored by him, she has enough in hand to pause and examine Bonagratia’s way of working. She sums it up on page 80, basing her remarks first of all on the presence of Bonagratia’s handwriting in the sources. He gathered and used, glossing many of them, legal collections, processes, reports and treatises to produce new texts. With tight legal arguments in mind rather than novel theories and considerations, as publicist rather than poet, he readily adapted the material at hand to fashion a message that fit the moment. In the Libellus of early 1317, for example, he used an argument from the appeal of 1311 against the Spirituals’ exemption. He combined it with an indictment drawn from a case on which he had worked. In this way, while sharpening his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 293-296
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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