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  • Bonds of Wool: The Pallium and Papal Power in the Middle Ages by Steven A. Schoenig, SJ.
  • Fabrice Delivré
Bonds of Wool: The Pallium and Papal Power in the Middle Ages. By Steven A. Schoenig, SJ. [Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Canon Law, Volume 15.] (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. 2016. Pp. xiii, 545. $75.00. ISBN 978-0-8132-2922-5.)

This book traces the long-term history of the pallium. Dealing with a liturgical vestment—a band of white wool encircling the shoulders—the author sheds new [End Page 760] light on the growth of papal power and on the changing relationship between pope and bishops in the Middle Ages, from the eighth to the twelfth century.

First granted to apostolical vicars and to missionaries, the pallium was exclusively conferred, since the Carolingian era, on metropolitans/archbishops and on very few privileged bishops. The work relies heavily on papal letters, with long citations translated from Latin into English, and the same material is often reconsidered along the book, according to the topic. In an anthropological perspective, gifts, transactions, networks, ties, and bonds are taken into account. One of the major achievements is to show at what point the textual basis of the medieval tradition on the pallium was anchored in the letters of Popes Gregory the Great (590–604) and John VIII (872–882), such as the instructions sent to Augustine of Canterbury (601) and the legislation promulgated at the synods of Rome (875) and Ravenna (877). The author also captures the transition of the pallium, always a demonstration of the special link to the Roman Church, from a sign of distinction to a badge of the metropolitan office. From the mid-ninth century onwards, and more clearly in the Gregorian age, the bestowal of the pallium can be seen as a tool for ecclesiastical reform and a means to control the episcopal hierarchy. Deep insights are offered on the rules that concerned the amount of time allowed to request the insigne (within three months), the way to receive it (in person or through envoys or papal legates) and the conditions of its use (inside churches and during pallium-days, i.e., feasts when the garment could be publicly worn). For metropolitans, the pallium was needed to consecrate bishops and to hold councils. Becoming necessary to reach plenitudo officii, the possession of the pallium had its counterparts— denial and deprivation—and the woolen stole created a permanent tension between the person in charge and the church honored or, at another level, between privilege and routine. Great attention is paid to formulas related to the pallium, from the old Liber diurnus until the innovations of the papal chancellor John of Gaeta, later Gelasius II (1118–1119), as to liturgical exegesis of the insigne (shape, color, decoration). Rituals are not neglected. The pallium’s stay on the altar located near the tomb of St. Peter, in the crypt of the Vatican basilica, the prayers transcribed in the ordines of the pontificals or the burial of the pallium with its holder are submitted to careful analysis.

Divided into three chronological parts (741–882, 882–1046, 1046–1119), the book does not go beyond the death of Gelasius II. Even though the period (eighth to twelfth centuries) has its own logic, this option leaves aside, for instance, the case of Calixtus II (1119–1124), mentioned at page 278, and the series of false privileges associated with his former metropolitan church (epistolae Viennenses). For the same reason, twelfth- and thirteenth-century liturgists stand in a rather unconfortable situation. Moreover, it seems to the reviewer that the thirteenth century also had “pallium-stories” to tell, many of them documented in papal registers. It would have been useful to include the « golden age of episcopal election (1100–1300) » (Kenneth Pennington), eventually since the author regards the concession of the pallium as a step in the “making of the highest churchmen” (p. 55). The reader will not find too much on the diplomatics of pallium grants (solemn privileges), except [End Page 761] formulas, and the iconography of the insigne required further examination. If canon law is conveniently gathered at the...


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