- Crutched Friars and Croisiers: The Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross in England and France by J. Michael Hayden
Michael Hayden, professor emeritus of history at the University of Saskatchewan, is a distinguished expert on the medieval and early-modern history of the religious order known as the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross, also known as Croisiers (in France), Crutched Friars (in England), and Crosiers. Since the 1960s, Hayden has published extensively on the history of the Croisiers and the Crutched Friars; he is also able to approach his research from the point of view of a former insider, as he was a Crosier novice in the United States in the 1950s.
At the request of a member of the order, Hayden brought together in book form his previously published work with some new research and a chapter containing personal reflections on the state of the order today. Indeed, this book was edited and published by the Crosier Generalate in Rome, using the self-publishing Web site Lulu.com.
Given the state of scholarly publishing and the challenges of finding a home at an academic press for a book with a potentially limited audience, it is not surprising that Hayden and the Crosiers chose the self-publishing route. This book clearly shows, however, the value of professional editors, copyeditors, and book [End Page 594] designers who work at scholarly presses. Unfortunately, there are typographical errors throughout the book, and even the title on the cover (Crutched Friars Croisiers in England and France) does not match the title on the spine or title page. Historians consulting this book would probably prefer a greater number of footnotes to assist them in locating the author’s sources (there is a tendency here to group all the references for several paragraphs into one footnote, which this reviewer feels is not ideal).
The first chapter investigates the legends and theories regarding the medieval origins of religious orders focused on devotion to the Holy Cross. The repetition of content and confusing organization of the material in this section impedes the development of a clear analysis. Chapters 2 and 3—the portions of the book most closely based on Hayden’s previously published work on the Crutched Friars in England and the Croisiers in France—are easier to follow. It is surprising, however, that despite the author’s argument that central to the identity of the Crutched Friars and Croisiers is the fact that they were regular canons, there is no evidence that the author consulted recent scholarship regarding the roles of medieval regular canons (see, for example, The Regular Canons in the Medieval British Isles, ed. Janet Burton and Karen Stöber, Turnhout, 2011). The final portion of the book consists of reflections on the recent past and future of the order with reference to the author’s own experiences with the Crosiers. Greater discussion here of contemporary issues such as the growth of the order in countries such as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as more extensive treatment of how the Crosiers in the United States have dealt with sexual abuse scandals, would have been welcome.
Hayden is clearly highly knowledgeable about the history of the Crosiers, especially in the medieval and early-modern periods. Academic historians interested in this subject might find it more satisfying to consult the author’s articles in scholarly journals on this topic, however. This book will likely be most appreciated by the Crosiers themselves, who will find it convenient to be able to find in one volume both discussion of the historical origins of the order and reflections on the current state of the order and possible directions for its future.