- Vie et miracles de Bérard, évêque de Marses (1080–1130) by Jacques Dalarun
Bishop Bérard was of the ruling family of Marche, a region in central Italy north of Abruzzo and east of Rome. Nominally within the Papal States, Marche was controlled by strong local rulers who accrued landed wealth and power by alliances [End Page 612] created by kinship, clientage, and patronage. Bérard’s career was part of the reform movement initiated by Pope Gregory VII (r. 1073–85). Gregory VII endeavored to expand the authority and autonomy of the Church by imposing clerical celibacy, abolishing lay investiture and simony, and prohibiting “incestuous” marriage. Over a century of struggle was required to achieve its objectives, and the papacy frequently compromised with annulments, dispensations, and settlements. The Church’s weapon of excommunication dissolved oaths of fealty and precipitated leadership struggles. King Henry IV of Germany (r. 1070–1108) retaliated for his humiliation at Canossa by exiling Gregory VII in 1085. Later reformers like Bernard, abbot of Tiron (c. 1050–1116), and Peter II, bishop of Poitiers (r. 1087–1115), fell victim to violence and imprisonment. The hagiography of Bérard sheds further light on the difficult process of imposing the reform on religious and secular leaders.
Writing in the 1130s, John, bishop of Segni, shares his reminisces at Bérard’s tomb with his colleague John Furatus, prior of the chapter of the cathedral of Santa Sabina in modern San Benedetto dei Marsi. Bérard was a member of the comital family of Marche, educated at the cathedral of Saint-Sabina and at Monte-Cassino, and was made subdeacon and count of the province of Campania or southern Latium by Paschal II (r. 1109–18). Bérard was captured, thrown into a cistern, and rescued. He became deacon of Sant’Angelo in Pescheria and cardinal priest of San Crisogono in Rome before becoming bishop of Marche. His posthumous healing miracles reflect devotion to the poor and afflicted. Perhaps because of Bérard’s closeness to the papacy, he fought simony with exceptional rigor and suffered severe reprisals. He survived attempted poisoning and was repeatedly expelled from and recalled to his see.
Dalarun’s work is based on manuscripts of Vita beati Berardi episcopi Marsorium et miracles by John, bishop of Segni (Jean de Segni), and his continuators, which can be found in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, the Biblioteca nazionale Vittorio Emanuele III in Naples, and the Biblioteca apostolica Vaticana in Vatican City. They are the basis for the F. Ughelli editions in Italia sacra, published in Rome in 1644 and in Venice in 1717, and the J. De Backer edition published in Acta Sanctorum Novembris, II/1, in Brussels in 1894. In the comprehensive introduction Dalarun establishes a meticulous stemma of manuscripts, skillfully resolves their variants, and presents the life and miracles of Bérard of Marche, introduced by a letter of dedication and concluded by a hymn. Dalarun has prepared a well-annotated and faithful French translation of John of Segni’s rough and unbridled Latin text, with its exceptionally lengthy sentences with numerous subordinate clauses disrupted by parenthetical discourse. This life of Bérard of Marche is an important contribution to a corpus of contemporary saints’ lives that deepens our understanding of the turbulent process of the twelfth-century reform. [End Page 613]