- The Cistercian Order in Medieval Europe, 1090–1500by Emilia Jamroziak
Emilia Jamroziak has written an ambitious book about the Cistercian order in medieval Europe that will on many issues replace Louis J. Lekai’s The Cistercians, Ideal and Reality(Kent, OH, 1977). Her study is unusually strong in its inclusion of Cistercians on the periphery of medieval Europe as well as those in the center, and the linguistic abilities that allow that to be done are impressive. This work has also begun to incorporate the history of the order’s nuns, citing an unusually complete series of recent studies in a separate chapter, but one that is admirable as more than an “add-on.” Although the author begins the task of integrating the history of Cistercian nuns into chapters on economies, architecture, and relations with donors, much more could be said on buildings built for Cistercian nuns, on their women donors and patrons, on their record-keeping and management of resources, and on their creation of devotional images and needlework. [End Page 810]
It was pleasant to find that this reviewer’s notion of the gradual development of the Cistercians from “ordo” to order had been incorporated into the opening chapter on Cistercian origins. 1Jamroziak goes beyond the argument that Cistercian abbeys were rarely founded in the wilderness, rejecting both the “ideal and reality” notions that we associate with Lekai and the notion of “golden age” followed by decline that has been the traditional way of telling the history of monastic reform for centuries. Yet this leads to a certain blandness, for Jamroziak refrains from describing the complex individuals involved in what history inevitably has to be—the account of change over time—when she lumps together the twelfth and thirteenth centuries throughout Europe in a narrative of a “multinational” religious group; attributes the late-medieval order’s difficulties to outsiders like the papacy; or presents Stephen of Lexington, Arnaud Amaury, and Jean of Cirey as flawless. Sadly, some errors mar this fine book such as “utility” for “futility” and “Cherlieu” for “Châalis,” which no doubt could have been addressed through more diligent copyediting. Readers also may wish that the book could have included additional images of Cistercian buildings, manuscripts, and landscapes.
Less convincing for Jamroziak are this reviewer’s arguments that solid dates for foundation accounts must be based on the careful dating of a manuscript in Trent once dated to c. 1135, but which was remade for Cistercian use considerably later. 2Indeed, Jamroziak defers a little too much to M. Chrysogonus Waddell’s “sound methodological principles” (p. 25). In “The Myth of Cistercian Origins,” 3Father Waddell disagreed with this reviewer regarding methodology, but many Cistercian scholars now recognize that this reviewer had examined the original twelfth-century manuscripts under discussion and thus had a legitimate basis for her argument. Given the importance of Jamroziak’s book and the ways in which she incorporates new views of the order, that record should be set straight.
1. Constance H. Berman, The Cistercian Evolution: The Invention of a Religious Order in Twelfth-Century Europe(Philadelphia, 2000).
2. See Constance H. Berman, “The Cistercian Manuscript, Trent 1711, Version One and Its Exemplar,” in Scraped, Stroked, and Bound. Materially Engaged Readings of Medieval Manuscripts, ed. Jonathan Wilcox (Turnhout, 2013), pp. 159–76, and color plate 7, p. 231; the latter considerably clarifies that argument.
3. Chrysogonus Waddell, “The Myth of Cistercian Origins: C. H. Berman and the Manuscript Sources,” Citeaux: Commentarii Cistercienses, 51 (2000), 299–386.