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Reviews 211 Herman of Tournai, The Restoration of the Monastery of Saint Martin of Tournai, translated with an introduction and notes by Lynn H. Nelso (Medieval Texts in Translation), Washington, D C , The Catholic University of America Press, 1996; paper; pp. xxv, 248; 2 maps, 3 charts; R.R.P. US$19.95. Herman of Tournai (c.l090-c.H47) is not as well known an author as Guibert of Nogent. Yet, as a record of contemporary events, Herman's account of the restoration of the monastery of St Martin under the inspiration of Master O d o deserves to be recognised for its precious testimony not just about blfe in the town of Tournai at a time of great civic unrest, but about the situation of Flanders as a whole in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. Like Guibert of Nogent, Herman of Tournai is a great story teUer, with an eye for the dramatic. His passing anecdotes often shed Ught on aspects of behaviour never mentioned by chroniclers. Herman lived through a period of much questioning of traditional reUgious and political structures throughout Flanders. H e sympathised with the frustration of many of the townspeople of Tournai with the wealthy canons of their cathedral and was excited by the way the monastery of St Martin emerged as an alternative focus of loyalty within the city. The central figure of Herman's narrative is O d o of Orleans, a teacher at Tournai cathedral'who decided to give up that way of life and estabUsh a community dedicated to a life in common. O d o was persuaded by the bishop of Tournai to rebutfd the church of St Martin when citizens smitten by an outbreak of ergotism afflicting the city were turned away by cathedral canons. Not the least intriguing aspect of Herman's narrative is his account of h o w his o w n parents decided to join Odo's community, bringing with them their o w n children. H e remembers the simple life-style of that early community with affection as an age of heroic virtue. Herman's concern is not just with the history of the monastery of St Martin and its long standing rivalry with the cathedral of Tournai. WeU informed about the political affairs of Flanders, he provides a valuable perspective on the murder of Count Charles the Good in 1127 and the efforts of Louis VI to establish William Clito as Count in 212 Reviews Charles' place in the face of widespread popular insurrection against brutal aristocratic poUcies. There are difficulties in the chronological flow of Herman's narrative as he alternates between the history of Flanders or of England and the account of his o w n abbey. H e has a fondness for interesting detaU, of value for constructing social history. W e learn that Countess Clemence of Burgundy, sister of the archbishop of Vienne (subsequently Pope CalUxrus II) employed 'female art' to Umit the size of her family after the birth of three sons in less than three years. His reproof for her behaviour did not prevent him from acknowledging her important role as a benefactor to the community. Nelson's translation isfluent,and matches the story-telling tone of the chronicle, without faUing into pedantry. Nelson provides a number of appendices to Herman's account, exploring various themes evident in the narrative: the n e w learning, cloister and cathedral school, family history, etc. His analysis is often directed more at beginners in medieval history than graduates w h o wish to explore the narrative in more depth. His endnotes supply valuable historical commentary on individual chapters, necessary for a student's full appreciation of Herman's text. It is much to be regretted that there is no index to the volume, which deserves to become as famiUar as Guibert's Memoirs or Suger's Deeds of Louis the Fat (both available in exceUent EngUsh translations). Constant M e w s Dept of History Monash University Historical and Religious Writers of the Latin West (Authors of the Middle Ages, Vol. II, 5-6), ed. Patrick J . Geary: No. 5, Constant J . M e w s...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 211-212
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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