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  • Geschichte des Kardinalats im Mittelalter Edited by Jürgen Dendorfer and Ralf Lützelschwab
  • Patrick Nold
Geschichte des Kardinalats im Mittelalter. Edited by Jürgen Dendorfer and Ralf Lützelschwab. [Päpste und Papsttum, Band 39.] (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann,. 2011. Pp. xiv, 608. €198,00. ISBN 978-3-777-21102-2.)

This book, produced by a team of ten scholars coordinated by Jürgen Dendorfer and Ralf Lützelschwab, is an ambitious and successful attempt to provide a history of the cardinalate from the eleventh through the fifteenth centuries. The editors note that, although there are many studies of individual cardinals, the only real precedent for such an undertaking are some old legal-historical surveys that did not flesh out the cardinals in full. And so decades of French, German, Italian, and English scholarship are synthetized in this book that serves as both a readable history and a comprehensive reference work. Fundamental questions addressed here are the following: Who became a cardinal? How did collaboration (whether by consensual affirmation or collegial limitation) between pope and cardinals develop in the form of consistories and administrative offices? In what way were the roles of the cardinals legitimized through explicit arguments by canon lawyers and theologians, and how did the theory of normative texts correspond to day-to-day reality? Where did the money come from, and how did the cardinals spend it? Since the answers to these questions changed over five centuries, the editors have divided the book chronologically into seven sections, preceded by a survey of primary sources and modern historiography.

The first period begins in 1049 with pontificate of Leo IX and the initial formation of the College of Cardinals with its new exclusive right to elect a pope. The second section, running from 1143 to 1216, charts the ascent of the cardinals in step with the institutional rise of the Roman Church itself. The third period (1216–1304) contains a high point for the oligarchical ambitions of the college in Nicholas IV’s 1289 concession of half the curial income to the cardinals. The fiscalization of the papacy in Avignon (treated in the book’s fourth section) and new sources of revenue gave the cardinals still more power, enabling some to become patrons of the arts and giving the whole group the gumption to produce the first conclave capitulation in 1352. The rejection of Urban VI by the French cardinals and the ensuing Great Western Schism from 1378 to 1417 (section 5) altered the college by internationalizing it and enhanced its status by confirming its role in conciliar discussions. The sixth period (1417–71) saw the cardinals grapple with reform ideas in the time of the councils of Constance and Basel, and witnessed ever more conclave capitulations. It is only in the final section of the book that one sees [End Page 588] decline: the college’s loss of significance as a corporation in the face of a restored papacy, combined with its negative image as part of a decadent Roman Curia at the dawn of the Reformation. The book ends with an annotated bibliography and, usefully, a list of cardinals. Geschichte des Kardinalats im Mittelalter is an excellent addition to the Päpste und Papsttum series. It also is an apt one, since a main contention of the editors and authors is that the history of the medieval papacy cannot be understood without the cardinals.

Patrick Nold
University at Albany, SUNY


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