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  • Papst Urban II. (1088–1099), Teil 3: Ideen, Institutionen und Praxis eines päpstlichen regimen universale by Alfons Becker
  • Uta-Renate Blumenthal
Papst Urban II. (1088–1099), Teil 3: Ideen, Institutionen und Praxis eines päpstlichen regimen universale. By Alfons Becker. [Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Schriften, Band 19,3.] (Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung. 2012. Pp. lxxxvii, 750. €95,00. ISBN 978-3-7752-2200-6.)

This magisterial work appeared a few months after the death of its author, who had devoted most of his scholarly life to the study of Pope Urban II. It concludes a trilogy: part 1, published in 1964, dealt with the early life and career of Odo of Châtillon until his election as Urban II; part 2 followed in 1988 and addressed Urban’s relationship with the Byzantine East and the crusades. On the basis of an exhaustive analysis of all of Urban’s known correspondence and documents, with particular attention to recently discovered texts and canons from Urban’s councils as published by Robert Somerville1 and from canonical collections such as the Collectio Sinemuriensis attributed to Reims, Becker investigates here in this third and final volume the pontificate as a whole, with a special focus on the innermost ideology of Urban and the motivation that made the former canon of Reims, monk and prior at Cluny, a very successful pedissequus of Pope Gregory VII, whose pontificate had ended in seeming failure. It was Urban II, as Becker shows convincingly, who rescued the ideals of the eleventh-century church reform and carried them forward on a sounder foundation to the threshold of the twelfth century. [End Page 592]

The volume is divided into five chapters, beginning with Urban’s conception of his office and analyzing (often on the basis of arengas) the interchangeable relationships among Petrine papacy, Ecclesia Romana and Sedes Apostolica, the papal primacy, and the papal universal episcopacy. The subtle shadings and cautious judgments found here and throughout Becker’s arguments are illustrated, for instance, in his brief discussion of whether the emphasis on hierarchical obedience, inherited from Gregory VII and insisted on by Urban on innumerable occasions “almost as a kind of ecclesiastical constitutional principle” (pp. 92f.) could be described as creating a monarchical papacy. Becker rejects this terminology despite obvious analogies to political monarchies, because we are dealing in the case of Urban with an ecclesiological concept that did not have dominium as its aim. Urban II certainly never considered himself as above the law, notwithstanding the fact that he unhesitatingly assumed the right of the papacy to issue new laws whenever necessary (p. 94). As the representative of St. Peter and his earthly vicar, the pope is at the head of a strictly ordered hierarchy, where not only priests but all clerics down to the lowly doorkeeper rank above all members of the laity, including emperors and kings, as Urban declares most clearly in his interpretation of the Gelasian statement Duo sunt (JK 632) in a letter to King Alfons VI of Castile (JL 5367; pp. 607–09).2

Chapter 2 deals more concretely with the papal administration in Rome such as the connection between pope and cardinals, at a time when the cardinalate was still very fluid in its composition and its duties, the Curia, legates and vicars, and papal councils. More significant from the perspective of the particular characteristics of the pontificate of Urban II is chapter 3 with a focus on the relationship between the papacy and bishops, because it has been generally assumed that Urban strengthened the episcopate in particular. Becker shows that Urban indeed focused on the episcopate, chief recipient of papal letters and privileges, but in the context of the schism when a loyal episcopate subordinate to Rome was absolutely essential to the pope. One interesting contrast to the policy of Gregory VII, among others, is Urban’s prohibition for legates to depose bishops. Legates may suspend a bishop but a final decision is to be left to the pope, a policy that returns to ancient canon law (Anhang 2, #11, pp. 694–95). Urban also limited the exemption of monasteries, emphasizing episcopal rights and jurisdictions in dioceses whenever circumstances permitted (pp...


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