This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on biblical mediation, a concept both widely familiar in practice if not in as an explicit theory and surprisingly elusive. It seeks to explore the mundane uses of the Bible, the daily contact with the divine in four instances: liturgical spectacles, talismanic uses, the layout of biblical manuscripts, and sermons. The book begins with Palm Sunday, an important liturgical celebration, which provided an opportunity for many to integrate joy and participation into the biblical narrative. It continues to examine the Bible in liturgical spectacles, but in another manifestation. Innovative forms of biblical manuscripts emerged at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The book finds a prime audience of these manuscripts among late medieval preachers. It concludes with an appreciation of biblical mediation at large.
This chapter examines Bibles as the combined creation of scribes, rubricators, and illuminators. It continues with a survey of biblical addenda and traces how biblical manuscripts were made personal, facilitating a variety of reading strategies. Biblical addenda to most Late Medieval Bibles commonly simplify or summarise the Bible. The chapter demonstrates how Late Medieval Bibles became the precursors of early modern Bibles, not only in their wide dissemination and uniformity but also in the interest displayed in biblical origins and ancient languages. The paratext of Late Medieval Bibles facilitated a very specific understanding of the biblical text. The Interpretations of Hebrew Names was affixed to the majority of Late Medieval Bibles and served to highlight the Bible's textual qualities and complexities. Late Medieval Bibles display a remarkable uniformity of layout. The most significant variant of the biblical layout is within the Book of Psalms.
This chapter begins with an exploration of preachers' own understanding of sermons as biblical media, which draws also on ars praedicandi treatises to question the link between Bible, preacher, and audience. In order to present a faithful account of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century preaching, the chapter engages with three sermons for the same liturgical occasion, all relying on the same pericope. The liturgical occasion of the three sermons is Advent Sunday. The first sermon under examination was written before 1219 by Odo of Cheriton. The second sermon dates to the late thirteenth century, and its sole copy exists in an early fourteenth-century Franciscan collection. The third sermon was written by John Waldeby, an Augustinian friar, for use both on Advent Sunday and on Palm Sunday. The chapter ends with a discussion of the role of liturgy in late medieval sermons: supplying preachers with text, context, and rationale.
This chapter focuses on the admonition of an abbot of Frankish origin who came from southern France and made his monastic career in southern Italy. The innovative idea presented in the Sermo de cupiditate, written between 777 and 778, was the political use of the discourse of corruption: a discourse that would play a crucial role all over the Frankish empire shortly afterwards. According to his own account, Ambrose Autpertus recorded in the Sermo over eighty passages from Scripture, confronting his readership with a comprehensive repertoire of such criticism. Despite this impressive diversity the author remains sceptical with regard to the success of his efforts. In the very beginning of the Sermo he refers to the praedicatores of the Old and the New Testaments, whom he compares with strong peasants who try to reclaim land with their tools.
Dealing with the Adoptionist controversy at the court of Charlemagne
This chapter shows that the Carolingian way of dealing with the Adoptionist challenge was to allow a conversation between the Spanish bishops and their Frankish opponents to take place. It also explores some of the ways in which the Carolingians used this controversy to claim for themselves the authority to determine the difference between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. In so doing, the Adoptionist controversy helped them further to consolidate a sense of ecclesiastical unity with the sacrum palatium at its centre out of the many different visions of community within the emerging empire. Among the rulers who could serve as an exemplary arbiter to Charlemagne, Constantine's place in both Spanish and Frankish ecclesiastical history represented the risks and rewards inherent in such an involvement. Both sides in the Adoptionist controversy wanted to make sure that Charlemagne would follow in Constantine's footsteps without making the same mistakes.
This chapter explores the content of the volume sent by Alcuin to Charlemagne, in an attempt to get a better understanding of Alcuin's aims and objectives in making this gift. Alcuin chose two exceptional apocryphal texts, the so-called Collatio Alexandri and Dindimi and the correspondence between St Paul and Seneca, both of which were composed at the dawn of the patristic era. The Collatio Alexandri et Dindimi stands at the crossroads of two intellectual traditions that swept the Christian world in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. On the one hand, the Brahmins of India and their ascetic way of life fascinated numerous patristic authors from a fairly early stage. On the other hand, the history of Alexander the Great and the various legends associated with him became a prominent feature of the historiographical and intellectual culture of the Latin West.
From self-representation to episcopal model. The case of the eloquent bishops Ambrose of Milan and Gregory the Great
Bishops were expected to live up to high standards. Since the earliest Christian centuries this had triggered the need for the definition of models that the holders of the episcopal office could take as both worthy and powerful examples. Ambrose's and Gregory the Great's self-representations, the testimonies of their contemporaries and their Carolingian biographies show that one particular feature stood out as a required and appropriate episcopal skill: the mastery of speech. Despite the labels Ambrose and Gregory the Great used to describe themselves as holders of the episcopal office, their fama relied first and foremost on their skills as eloquent speakers. This chapter is dedicated to self-portrayal and deals with contemporary testimonies of Ambrose's and Gregory's episcopate. It focuses on the Carolingian re-shaping of their memory as examples of life and morality to be presented to bishops.
Errors in early Carolingian copies of the Admonitio generalis
This chapter considers the 'errors' or 'variant readings' in the early Carolingian copies of the Admonitio generalis. In 789, 23 March, the day the Admonitio was promulgated, was a Monday, and quite possibly on that very day a coordinated effort was made to make copies for distribution in Charlemagne's realms by the missi. Probably this was done by dictation, as is suggested by the no-fewer-than-seven independent strands in the tradition of the text that can be traced back to the end of the eighth century. These strands stand for independently made copies after the dictation of the authentic edictum that had been promulgated that day. The early copies of the Admonitio are written by experienced scribes, who wrote clear hands. These scribes have to be looked for among the elite of their monasteries' scriptoria.
This chapter addresses the question of how monks and monastic reformers dealt with the disconnect between the content of the Regula Benedicti and their own reality. Normative observance has its history and its genesis, and it is certainly not productive to reduce it to any modern legalistic understanding. The chapter suggests a typology of four basic models of textual techniques to bridge the gap between regula and reality: exegesis, selective reading, 'objectivation' and embodiment. None of these practices can be correctly described as a 'symbolic' reading of the Regula Benedicti (as Pius Engelbert phrased it) or using the Regula Benedicti simply as a metaphor (as Josef Semmler suggested it). All of them demonstrate an intensive engagement with its content but also a variety of attempts to get around its normative character.
This chapter explores how far episcopal action is better viewed in terms of individuals, rather than regional groupings, or collectively realm-wide. It also explores whether the character and tempo of bishops' activities changed in the course of the reign, with longer-run effects apparent after 814 as well. The chapter argues that bishops as an ordo in a huge realm had not reached a critical mass of collective self-consciousness. Bishops in local civitates and local landscapes, on the receiving end of the responses of lay folk and those of lesser clerical rank, adopted a version of Pope Gregory's condescensio. This or that local encounter or exchange connected the bishop with another royal agent or with Charlemagne himself. Only seldom is collective episcopal self-consciousness visible in the reign of Charlemagne, for the very good reason that contexts for any such manifestations were few and far between.