Perceptions, interpretations, measures and consequences
Lioba Geis

Following the consolidation of Norman rule in Italy, the southern Italian Church underwent a period of profound change. Watching and guiding the transformations, Pope Leo IX and his successors were concerned with ensuring that they conformed to canon law, especially in their ecclesiastical structures. One major issue they confronted was simony, the purchase and sale of Church office.

This chapter investigates how simony was perceived and interpreted and what concrete measures were taken against it in southern Italy from the middle of the eleventh to the end of the twelfth century. In doing so, it asks what role simony played in the transformation of the southern Italian Church and whether the response to it was typical of contemporary approaches elsewhere or merely a regional peculiarity.

Through a careful examination of the available documents, it finds that the parameters for discussion of simony in southern Italy were set by the reformed papacy rather than by local clergy or secular Norman rulers. Furthermore, the battle against simony appears to have had no notable influence on the transformation of the southern Italian Church, although, as mentioned above, this process unfolded under papal guidance.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
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Urban strife and conflict management in early twelfth-century Benevento
Markus Krumm

Since the beginning of papal rule in Benevento in the mid-eleventh century, local conflicts within the urban community posed a challenge to the Pope’s authority. A good example of this is the bellum civile of 1114, which, despite being unusually well documented, has been little studied.

This chapter investigates the circumstances leading to the bellum civile, using the downfall of Archbishop Landulf II as a case study in the dynamics of conflict management in southern Italy. The main source for the event is Falco’s Chronicon Beneventanum, but Falco’s account has never been comprehensively examined, only retold and more often than not misunderstood. One reason for this is that Falco recounts the bellum civile in a nonlinear narrative. Another is that his depiction of the archbishop’s dealings is not neutral but instead paints a black-and-white picture intended to inculpate the archbishop in the escalation of violence. Despite this, Falco reports many details and offers clear insights into the conflict’s development, and a careful reading can help to shed light on the events.

The chapter concludes by arguing that the conflict leading to the ‘civil war’ in Benevento did not originate from poor relations between Pope Paschal II and Archbishop Landulf II, but rather in the context of local rivalry between papal constable Landulf of Greca and the Norman nobility.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
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Fitna in the Travels of Ibn Jubayr
Joshua C. Birk

In 1183 Ibn Jubayr, a Muslim bureaucrat from Granada, undertook a two-year pilgrimage to Mecca, a journey he subsequently recounted in a text known as the ‘Travels’ (or Riḥla). The Rihla describes a chaotic, fractured political world in which devout Muslims frequently suffer abuse. Throughout, Ibn Jubayr communicates this disorder by using the word fitna.

Commonly translated as ‘temptation’, ‘discord’ or ‘civil strife’, fitna has a wide range of connotations. This chapter traces how its meaning shifts over the course of the Riḥla, identifying three distinct phases as Ibn Jubayr travels first through polities governed by Muslims, then through the kingdom of Jerusalem, before finally arriving in the Sicily of William II. The initial, wholly negative connotation of the word eventually gives way to one that stresses the idea of fitna as a test of faith. This idea of divine testing becomes more prevalent in Ibn Jubayr’s account of Sicily, where a Christian ruler and populace coopted elements of Islamic culture and exhibited a surface-level generosity towards Muslims. Ibn Jubayr uses this final instance of fitna to praise the devotion and piety of Sicilian Muslims, even those who had publicly renounced their faith.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
Traces of redactional variants in the Chronicon of Falco of Benevento
Edoardo D'Angelo

This chapter looks at traces of redactional variants in the twelfth-century Chronicon Beneventanum by notary and judge Falco of Benevento. Though this lost manuscript has come down to us through various transcriptions, it does not pose particularly weighty problems of textual transmission. One notable exception is the passage examined here.

In 1137, as Roger II was battling to consolidate his hold on the continental Mezzogiorno, the administrators of Benevento took advantage of the situation to appeal for exemption from the fiscal exactions of the district’s Norman barons. They approached Pope Innocent II, who extended their request to Emperor Lothar III. Ultimately, the count of Ariano, Roger Drengot, consented to renounce feudal rights over the town on behalf of his vassals.

Falco’s account of this episode contains several repetitions and redundancies, which the author of the chapter attributes to a double redaction. Seeking to render his account more solemn and authoritative, Falco inserted a fictitious speech of the Beneventans to the pope, annotations concerning the presence of the patriarch of Aquileia and various other items. Having identified the double redaction, the author proceeds to offer two hypotheses for when and why it was made and to explain its significance for other recent findings in Falconian criticism.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
A ‘Norman’ church in southern Italy?
Benjamin Pohl

This chapter focuses on the church of St Euphemia in Calabria, asking questions which have eluded scholarly attention, notably what kind of institution was the Benedictine monastery and how does it compare to other churches in Norman Italy? What drove its foundation, who were its patrons and ‘intellectual architects’ and whose vision and ambitions did it reflect?

St Euphemia’s medieval library was destroyed in an earthquake in 1638. The sole surviving document is the abbey’s foundation charter, which is reproduced in full here. Signed by Duke Robert Guiscard, the charter prima facie presents St Euphemia as a ‘ducal’ foundation whose revival and renovation on the site of a derelict church were motivated by princely piety and a concern for the salvation of souls. However, closer analysis reveals that the document was likely the work of Abbot Robert de Grandmesnil, formerly of St Évroult, and that its model was not Lombard or Byzantine but Norman. Indeed, evidence suggests that St Euphemia’s foundation charter was modelled specifically on that of St Évroult.

The chapter ultimately finds that St Euphemia followed the specific vision and aspirations of Robert de Grandmesnil and was less a ‘ducal’ church than an ‘abbatial’ one. More specifically, it was the brainchild of an exiled Norman abbot who (re)created a ‘new St Évroult’ on the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
The kingdom of Sicily, Egypt and the Holy Land, 1154–87
Alan V. Murray

This chapter offers a reassessment of the Sicilian expeditions to Egypt in 1154–87. Historians have largely assumed that these expeditions were a response to appeals for assistance from King Amalric of Jerusalem and were intended to coordinate with Amalric’s attempts to seize control of Lower Egypt and take pressure off the beleaguered kingdom of Jerusalem. This chapter broadens the discussion by undertaking a more critical examination of the expeditions in the context of the changing balance of power between the kingdom of Jerusalem and its Muslim enemies.

The chapter exposes the tensions between the king of Sicily and the king of Jerusalem, notably their disparate attitudes toward Byzantium. Byzantium was Amalric’s preferred ally in his Egyptian ambitions, whereas Sicilian hostility to the empire had continued unabated since Manuel Komnenos’ invasion of Apulia in 1155–56. William II of Sicily was keen to make his mark with an impressive foreign adventure, but he was unwilling to share the spoils with Amalric. The Sicilian attack on Alexandria in 1174 can best be understood as an attempt to derive economic gain from Egypt before Saladin became too powerful. Similarly, the attacks on Tinnīs in the following years were probably designed to hit home while Saladin and his forces were occupied in Syria and Palestine. It was not until after Saladin had overrun the kingdom of Jerusalem that William II deigned to send a fleet to aid the few remaining beleaguered Frankish garrisons.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
Urban encounters with crusading
Paul Oldfield

The complex entanglement of Norman Italy and crusading has long underpinned research on the region for the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This chapter re-examines one notable case of such entanglement: the encounter between the citizens of Messina in Sicily and the Anglo-Norman contingent stationed nearby during the winter of 1190–91 on its journey on the Third Crusade.

To date, the scholarship has primarily explored this encounter at Messina from the external perspective presented by the (mostly) Anglo-Norman narratives associated with the crusading parties. This chapter instead examines the encounter from the urban perspective. While the sources offer insight into religious, cultural and Anglo-French tensions, viewed from a different angle and situated alongside other sources, they also allow us to see how these tensions could be shaped by the dynamics of an encounter between an increasingly assertive urban community and powerful external forces.

The chapter finds that, while Messina was often a pawn in higher diplomatic struggles, its multicultural urban community, civic autonomy and public ritual all presented a framework within which the crusaders had to be accommodated somehow. Crucially, the fluctuating relationship between precedent and memory played a central formative role: to the Messinesi, the crusaders were prima facie the sort of transient visitors whom they had encountered for decades. In 1190–91, however, the combination of the magnitude, pre-eminence and difference of those visitors also brought a cultural threat which proved volatile at a time when the eyes of the wider Latin Christian world were watching.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
A name-list of Sicilian Muslims from the Rollus Rubeus cartulary of Cefalù cathedral
Alex Metcalfe

This chapter examines three folios from the ‘Rollus Rubeus’ cartulary of Cefalù in Sicily, held in the Archivio di Stato at Palermo. The 120-page volume was compiled in Latin between 1329 and 1330 by Roger of Mistretta, a scribe from the cathedral church of Holy Saviour. The three folios include a list of eighty-three ‘men’ given to the church by its founder, King Roger II.

The Rollus Rubeus name-list not only informs us of the church’s record-keeping practices, but it also makes rare reference to the Muslims’ response of flight, fight or conversion towards the end of their long-running revolts between 1189 and 1246. As a fourteenth-century record of a twelfth-century grant that also refers to calamitous, poorly remembered events in the thirteenth, this in-house recollection is a germane example of historiography in the making.

Through its analysis of the list, the chapter provides a clearer view of naming, identity, prosopography, community, occupations and tax obligations, data at the very heart of medieval history and historiography as viewed through a church cartulary of King Roger II’s own foundation, rather than through narratives or charter evidence, with which it can be profitably used in tandem.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
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Rethinking Norman Italy
Joanna H. Drell and Oldfield Paul

The introduction begins by acknowledging the ground-breaking work of Graham Loud in establishing Norman Italy (c. 1000–c. 1200) as a field of study. This pluralistic society where Christian, Muslim, Jew, Greek, Latin, Lombard and Norman commingled remained under-researched until the late twentieth century, but is now a fixture at academic meetings and in classrooms, journals and other publications around the world.

Moving on to the content of the volume itself, the introduction underlines the wide-ranging, holistic approach taken to examining Norman Italy’s role in some of the medieval period’s most important transitions. Emphasising socio-cultural, religious and political histories, the contributions build on a rising awareness of cross-pollination between Norman Italy and the wider medieval world, moving the field’s emphasis beyond the frontier and articulating both the region’s contribution to broader historical currents and the impact of these currents upon the region, an instance of reciprocal influence perhaps surpassing the sum of its parts.

The introduction concludes by identifying the four major strands that provide the structure of the book – ‘Historiographies’, ‘Identities and communities’, ‘Religion and the Church’ and ‘Conquering Norman Italy and beyond’ – and outlining the specific contribution of each chapter within this scheme.

in Rethinking Norman Italy
Elisabeth van Houts

Among the laws issued by King Roger II, clause xxvii is entitled ‘On the legitimate celebration of marriage’. Exceptionally for a European ruler, the king reserved the right to decide on the legitimacy of a marriage by making the exchange of property associated with the marriage bond dependent on a priest’s blessing in a church. He thereby fused what elsewhere in Europe were distinct prerogatives of the secular ruler and of the Church.

After briefly reviewing the contents of clause xxvii, this chapter sets out to investigate Roger II’s motivations for this innovative legislation. It locates them in his campaign to seek legitimation as king (and thus lawgiver), as king-priest insisting on control over a combined secular and ecclesiastical legislative clause, and as lord financially exploiting breaches of his law on marriage by confiscation of land or levying fines. Although he did not insist that his barons seek his permission to arrange marriages, his law clearly helped pave the way for his successors to do so.

A final issue is Roger II’s concern for aristocratic women. He ends clause xxvii with a warning to his barons that breaching his law would rebound particularly on women. This can be viewed as the paternal or pastoral concern of a ruler expected to take care of the vulnerable and weak. It can also be viewed as Roger making his barons responsible as fathers, brothers and husbands for their womenfolk’s destitution if they failed to have their daughters, sisters and wives wed in church.

in Rethinking Norman Italy