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The Catholic Historical Review 88.2 (2002) 343-349

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Book Review

Dal pulpito alla cattedra.
I vescovi degli ordini mendicanti nel '200 e nel primo '300

Dal pulpito alla cattedra. I vescovi degli ordini mendicanti nel '200 e nel primo '300. Atti del XXVII Convegno internazionale, Assisi, 14-16 ottobre 1999. [Atti dei Convegni della Società internazionale di studi francescani e del Centro interuniversitario di studi francescani. Nuova serie, 10.] (Spoleto: Centro Italiano di studi sull'Alto Medioevo. 2000. Pp. x, 420. Lire 90.000 paperback.)

Every year in October since 1972, members of the Società internazionale di studi francescani and the Centro interuniversitario di studi francescani gather with other interested scholars in Assisi to discuss and debate a theme germane to the study of the Franciscan movement (or, more broadly, the mendicant Orders) in the Middle Ages. The theme treated in the Assisi convegno of 1999 concerned the friars, most particularly the Franciscans and Dominicans, who served as bishops and archbishops in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries—a theme all-too-rarely treated in any systematic manner of late. Indeed, one of the primary contributions of these Assisi convegni over the years has been to illuminate the impact of the friars in the public arena of European society (through its innovations in preaching and confessing, its influence upon culture and literature, etc.) more than to explore the particular dynamics of its internal struggles. Hence, this conference brings together a wealth of materials from disparate sources and countries, adding to a fuller understanding of the involvement of the mendicants in the public ministry of the Church as its shepherds in the Middle Ages.

On the whole, most of the authors know and use the standard sources on mendicant bishops (e.g., Eubel, Gumbley, Oliger, and Pellegrini); several, not all, take advantage of the valuable research of the American Williell R. Thomson (Friars in the Cathedral), and one author has even made use of a very recent article by Rudolf Schieffer on the first Dominican bishops (in a 1999 festschrift for Kaspar Elm, Vita religiosa im Mittelalter). Nevertheless, it is the particular use that each of the ten authors makes of the various sources that constitutes their most valuable contribution to the subject of friar-bishops.

The opening presentation, by Antonio Rigon, sets out the paradox which both Orders—the Franciscans and Dominicans—had to confront in order to serve as bishops within the Church: namely, how could friars, ostensibly dedicated to the "poverty and humility of Jesus Christ," square their vocational charism [End Page 343] (which had concrete implications for their choice of social rank among the lower classes) with the desires of the papacy and, to a lesser extent, certain other clergy, that they serve as prelates which, by definition, would place them in a higher social class with an array of extraordinary powers and perquisites at their disposal? Rigon uses as his touchstone the famous account of 2 Celano 148-150 where both Francis and Dominic turned aside the request of Cardinal Hugolino (later Pope Gregory IX) that they allow their sons to serve as bishops. The author notes, contrary to expectation, that initial opposition to this evolution in both Orders was actually more vociferous among the Dominicans. Rigon then frames the uneasy coexistence of these two vocations as being between those friars who had agreed, often quite reluctantly, to become bishops (frati-vescovi) and those who were first and foremost churchmen who also just happened to be friars (vescovi-frati). Though he asserts that the former stance predominated over the latter in both Orders, resulting in a notable and positive impact upon the life of the Church, he offers no real evidence for his assertion—an assertion, moreover, belied by data presented in other presentations.

Moving to the two introductory overviews, it must be said that the primary novelty of Edith Pasztor's contribution is that she constructs a list of mendicant bishops on the basis of the Vatican registers rather than the standard edited sources. She...


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