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Reviewed by:
  • Ecclesia in medio nationis: Réflexions sur l’Étude du monachisme au Moyen Âge central ed. by Steven Vanderputten and Brigitte Meijns
  • Greg Peters
Ecclesia in medio nationis: Réflexions sur l’Étude du monachisme au Moyen Âge central, ed. Steven Vanderputten and Brigitte Meijns (Leuven: Leuven University Press 2011) 215 pp.

This volume grew out of a conference at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, in 2009, which was sponsored by International Research Network and called “Conventus: Problems of religious communal life in the central middle ages.” The purpose of this gathering was to discuss the current state of monastic studies in the central Middle Ages, an era that has never achieved a sufficient status quaestionis on the subject, unlike the later Middle Ages, which has developed a more coherent narrative to high and late medieval monasticism (even if it does not go unchallenged). Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld, in her conclusion to the volume, states that “[a]ll essays deal with the contrasting and at times contradictory monastic discourses and practices regarding the relationships formed by religious communities of monk, canons and nuns with the outside world” (211). By the editors’ own admission, the essays are of differing perspectives. Some review recent scholarship and offer suggestions for future research, others simply describe the task ahead, “while still others explored the possibilities and limitations of scholarship’s current understanding of the aforementioned paradigm” (9). Five of the essays are in French while two are in English. They are Isabelle Rosé, “Les moines et leur vie communautaire du IXe au XIIe siècle. Tour d’horizon historiographique”; Florian Mazel, “Mona-chisme et aristocratie aux Xe–XIe siècles. Un regard sur l’historiographie récente”; Nicolas Ruffini and Jean-François Nieus, “Société seigneuriale, réformes ecclésiales: les enjeux documentaires d’une revision historiographique”; Alexis Wilkin, “Communautés religieuses bénédictines et environnement économique, IXe–XIIe siècles. Réflexions sur les tendances historiographiques de l’analyse du temporal monastique”; Harald Sellner, “Les communautés religieuses du Moyen Age central et la recherché des réformes monastiques en Allemagne”; Gert Melville, “Inside and Outside. Some Considerations about Cloistral Boundaries in the Central Middle Ages”; and Diane Reilly, “The Monastic World View in the Artistic Tradition.” As the editors note, the essays are each concerned with a different task, therefore there is not an overarching theme to the work other than the conception of monasticism in the central Middle Ages. The essays that offer reviews of recent historiography on monasticism in the central Middle Ages will be greatly appreciated by readers hoping to understand where scholars have focused their energies over the last several decades. These essays, or portions of essays, allow us to map the terrain without having to do all of the leg work and, in that sense, are very useful to medieval scholars. Essays moving the conversation forward will, of course, be useful to anyone reading the volume, not only scholars of medieval monasticism.

A guiding motif of the volume is a dialectic of inside and outside that relates to the back-and-forth nature of medieval (perhaps all?) monasticism. How do monks and nuns maintain an inner life (both personally and communally) that is dedicated to the pursuit of God and achieving spiritual perfection while having to rely, sometimes heavily, on those outside of the monastery or endure outsiders forcing themselves in? Florian Mazel’s article analyses this motif in regard to written texts, such as charters and miracle stories. Having identified three perspectives from which to examine such texts, Mazel concludes that not [End Page 256] only will we be unable to understand fully monasticism’s relationship with the seigniorial classes, but a full understanding of eleventh and twelfth century aristocratic society cannot be understood apart from knowing the nature and evolution of its relations with the monastic world(s) of the era. This seems to be a helpful insight given the fact that oftentimes in the secondary literature monks and nuns are viewed as the ones on the receiving end of an aristocratic agenda as opposed to being a force that the aristocracy must take seriously. There were, of course, always large...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1557-0290
Print ISSN
0069-6412
Pages
pp. 256-258
Launched on MUSE
2013-08-09
Open Access
No
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