- New Monks in Old Habits: The Formation of the Caulite Monastic Order, 1193–1267 by Phillip C. Adamo
Phillip C. Adamo’s New Monks in Old Habits: The Formation of the Caulite Monastic Order, 1193–1267, is the most extensive and most scholarly examination of the Caulite order to date. Throughout his study, Adamo connects the features of Caulite monasticism to the “context of an evolving religious discourse” (p. 4) of monastic reform in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. From the founding of their first monastery at Val-des-Choux in northwest Burgundy in 1193, the Caulites worked to create their own unique monastic practices that, according to Adamo, distinguished the Caulites from their Benedictine, Cistercian, Carthusian, and Franciscan counterparts.
New Monks in Old Habits is a monograph on the Caulite order in the traditional sense, focused exclusively on the various facets of the order’s history. The introduction provides a brief but helpful historiography of the scholarship on the Caulites. Chapter 1 introduces the reader to the list of the sources available to scholars studying [End Page 916] the order: customaries, charters, cartularies, vidimuses, inventories, seals, funerary reliefs, architecture, and even the “lacunae” in the source record are discussed. In chapters 2 and 3, Adamo pieces together the foundation story of the Caulites, weighing whether or not the founder was one of three men: the Carthusian monk Viard, Duke Hugh III, or Duke Otto III of Burgundy. Carefully considering several sources, including an unpublished Caulite foundation legend written by a seventeenth-century Maurist, Pope Innocent III’s Bull of 1205 approving the forms of Caulite monasticism, and Jacques de Vitry’s Historia occidentalis (c. 1219–21), Adamo expertly nuances the history of the foundation of Val-des-Choux as it has heretofore been written. Adamo moves on to explore the Caulites’ economic and social/political relations in chapter 4, reflecting on how their initial aversion to owning property outright in the twelfth century nevertheless evolved to active property acquisition by the mid-thirteenth century. Chapter 5 maps the locations and benefactors of Caulite houses across Europe and uses photographs, maps, and charts to help explain the political, economic, spiritual, and even crusading impulses that spread Caulite monasticism around France and even as far as Scotland. The strongest chapters (6 and 7) read the Caulite customary against its Cistercian, Carthusian, and Benedictine sources to show how the Caulites were explicitly refining traditional monastic organization and daily ritual to critique other monastic models and to construct their own identity. Chapter 8 then moves on to reconstruct the physical plan at the monastery at Val-des-Choux, relying mainly on textual sources (there has been no major archaeological excavation). Adamo closes the book with an epilogue, where he shifts his tone to narrate a reverie, imagining Viard at the earliest moments of the Caulite foundation. He uses this imaginative story in order to reflect ultimately on the priorities of the Caulite order, its unfortunate decline and fall, and the ways in which historians have reconstructed its history.
New Monks in Old Habits is a passionate, articulate, and thorough study of a neglected order of medieval monks. The book is a model case study for graduate students on how to perform research on monastic topics (source issues and lacunae, manuscript difficulties, and essential secondary bibliography are instructively detailed). Although readers may close the book wishing that Adamo had connected this small monastic order to some of the larger topics of the history of monasticism, of France, or of thirteenth-century Europe, historians of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Christianity would be remiss in ignoring Adamo’s careful reading of the Caulites’ distinctive approach to monastic reform.