- Survival and Success on Medieval Borders: Cistercian Houses in Medieval Scotland and Pomerania from the Twelfth to the Late Fourteenth Century by Emilia Jamroziak
Emilia Jamroziak's splendidly researched monograph, presents case studies of six medieval Cistercian houses in the borderlands, Pomerania-Neumark, and Scotland-Northern England, synthesizes a wealth of recent Polish and German scholarship, and orders into a fluent narrative a mass of complex archival material that offers the reader fresh insights into the dynamics of the Cistercian Order, particularly as it developed in East and Central Europe and in 'Germania Slavica' - Eastern and Western Pomerania and Neumark.
Houses in the Scottish network are the royal foundation, Melrose Abbey and Dundrennan - both from the mother house Rievaulx (Yorkshire) - and Holm Cultram, a daughter house of Melrose just across the border in an area of Cumbria won from England. The Neumark-Western Pomeranian network comprises Kolbacz (Kolbatz) Abbey - from the motherhouse Esrum (Denmark) - and Kolbacz's filials, Marienwalde (Bierzwnik) and Himmelstädt (Mironice) in the duchy of Szczecin (Stettin). There is no record of any contact between these two networks.
Jamroziak starts with an extensive Introduction, her longest chapter. It covers concepts of border and frontier in medieval historiography, political background relevant to the two regions, a critical survey of the older literature on monastic colonization. She then provides a description of extant written sources and of the current archaeological state of each site. She [End Page 255] crisply summarizes and debunks the polemics and nationalistic biases that have characterized much of the earlier historiography.
Courting patrons, creating lasting connections, and the protocols surrounding hospitality and burials, all matters taken up in the first chapter ('Foundations and Founders') are connected one way or another with topics covered in the second ('Making and Keeping Benefactors and Friends'), namely, lay and cross-border networks, confraternities, friendships, spiritual services, and the burial of benefactors. Weaving her way effortlessly through this welter of detail, Jamroziak makes insightful comparisons and highlights contrasts between her chosen monasteries: Melrose's stable and committed royal patrons, Kolbacz's 'predatory manner towards its founder's kin'; Holm Cultram and Marienwalde Abbeys, both symbols of territorial control; Kolbacz's large community of conversi with accommodation akin to a fashionable castle hall, Melrose's small number of lay brothers locally recruited with families in the area. For all houses, the fundamental reality, irrespective of their endowments, was that patron loyalty could never be taken for granted. As Jamroziak makes clear, the nature of their networks largely shaped the fortunes of Cistercian houses. The future for a house like Himmelstädt, which failed to secure a sufficiently extensive network of benefactors at its establishment, would be precarious at best.
Information derived from monastic chronicles, particularly regarding the nature and extent of houses' lines of communication and, by deduction, their 'knowledge horizon', forms the central topic of Chapter 3. Inevitably Jamroziak's coverage is slanted towards Kolbacz and Melrose since these are the only houses for which chronicles survive. Entries in Kolbacz's chronicle convey a sense of siege mentality with numerous entries on attacks sustained by the abbey and on its property. Engagement with other houses of the Order was apparently not a significant focus of its strategies and consequently Kolbacz's 'knowledge horizon' was decidedly limited. In the Melrose chronicle, on the other hand, references to other houses and their personnel abound. Information is derived from a wide variety of sources: from visitors, abbots' travels to the General Chapter, and from mortuary rolls that circulated between houses for the purpose of collaborative commemorations. In short, Melrose was an outward-looking, well-connected member of the Cistercian family.
Jamroziak's study concludes with richly detailed chapters on the role of bishops and Cistercians-as-bishops (Chapter 4), and the vicissitudes and physical threats faced by the six monasteries and the strategies they adopted to...