Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brother Andre recognized as St. Andre -- the cult of saints continues in contemporary Canada

The pope canonized a prominent 20th century Montreal religious figure this month.  My experience is that outside of Montreal Andre is no longer that well known.  But notice in this Globe and Mail report that the Canadian prime minister and the Quebec premier both showed up; notice also the size of the "oratory" (church for praying, mainly in this case to St. Joseph).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Papacy

The Papacy

During the Age of Growth (1050-1300), the papacy experienced its most expansive period, which could be traced back to Leo IX. Alliance with the Normans, bitterness with the Greeks, the reformation of the papacy, and the increased correspondence are the foundations that Leo IX laid down for the dominance of the papacy. It was his desire to restore the papacy to the controlling role in the church that it once had. Leo and his papacy men looked to past greatness, which was destroyed by the Germans, and looked at the Donation of Constantine as a guideline to judge its greatness by. The reason why the document is cherished is because it signalled the first time a Christian emperor resigned his power and position to the pope, and recognized his religious supremacy throughout all the lands. This was very important for the papal men because it signalled the dominance of the pope everywhere, even over the emperor. The pope was subject to nobody except for God.

The problem is that by the eleventh century, the book had become largely outdated and unrecognized, and could be seen as too imperialist. The new papacy was distinct because everyone who was involved was a lawyer, and their concerns were with the enforcement of law. Ancient law in Europe had withered away, and by the 12th century papal law was increased by the rise of papal lawyers. Due to this, the papal-lawyers thought that no document of secular origin should be quotes as authoritative. Gregory VII was a controversial man who wanted to restore complete papal sovereignty in all affairs of the Christian community, and some of his rules laid out declared “the pope can be judged by no one” and “the Roman church has never erred and will never err till the end of time”. Prior to Gregory VII, popes hailed themselves as the “Vicar of St. Peter”, but under his rule, they changed their title to “Vicar of Christ”. This was done to make their claims to universal sovereignty, and that they were no longer looking backwards to ancient traditions, but were moving forward.

Southern argues that the theory of papal supremacy is among the best developed systems ever devised among human life. From 1050 the papal activity began to grow, and quickly took off after 1130. Papal Benefits are one way that legitimized and expanded papal authority. The pope would bestow honours, privileges, and exemptions on people who would support him and expand his power. This could win him support as much as it could intimidate his enemies. Throughout this, the jurisdictional supremacy of the Pope was heightened greatly, and they granted the most extensive privileges to the papacy. Aside from benefits, Papal Justice was emerged as a dominant force in everyday life, and his orders could be carried out two thousand miles from Rome. Their justice dealt with all the areas of Christian life from baptism to masses for the dead, and it also dealt with all issues for clerical life such as education and dealing with crimes and punishments. Southern describes this as the “Golden age of government, and especially of papal government”. Like any other government, the papacy could engage in war, collect taxes, and deal with legal work. Gregory VII’s dream of papal supremacy had indeed come true.

While excommunication was really the only weapon the pope possessed, which really did not demand unanimous obedience. However, during the 11th and 12th centuries, the success in the papacy was due to the support of religious communities who found the papacy was best for their own interests, and they received numerous incentives by the pope. The ecclesiastical hierarchy was won over by the papacy, and because of this, its power was legitimate. Nobody dared to question the pope, and nobody dared to deny that he had the rights over all local, religious, and secular aspects of life.

Jordan Crosby

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reflections fot Oct 7

It is easy to understand why Gregory of Tours’s The History of the Franks has become an essential reading for all medievalist historians. Over the span of his tenure, the Bishop interacted with numerous kings, queens, and fellow clergymen. His duty was first to God, and second to Saint Martin’s. Gregory was very hesitant to committing himself to mortals, least of all to impious officials. He was obliged to hold services, give council to royalty, participate on disciplinary tribunals, and generally safeguard the interests of the church against any encroachments. In The History, Gregory publishes not only a history, but also a memoir of sorts. The memoir depicts many of the frustrations he reluctantly endured as head Bishop – defrocking false profits, providing sanctuary to wanted criminals, and converting the “heathens”. His role amongst fellow Bishops is arguably the most interesting of Gregory’s duties.

Mediating the frequent squabbles between fellow Bishops, many clergymen sought his allegiance time and time again. I had no idea that the Bishops were so competitive. From what I have gathered from The History, these men-of-the-clothe would backstab anyone if given an incentive. Often enough, kings would accuse various Bishops of plotting coup d'├ętat or even assassinations. King Chilperic accused Bishop Praetextatus of such crimes, and King Guntram later accused Bishop Theodore likewise. Whenever secular and clerical authority clashed, Gregory often worked as a referee between the sides. As far as I can tell, kings did have the authority under canon law to punish traitorous Bishops, but only after consolidating with a tribunal of clergymen. Common punishments for such betrayals included revoking the right to communion, exile, or imprisonment.

Providing the monarch with council was clearly an important function of the Bishop. Along with advising kings on matters regarding canon law, Gregory also provided spiritual guidance. On the cover of The History, a painting depicts Bishops placing a king into a cauldron and boiling him to death. This occurrence never happened, but was a “vision” Gregory experienced from God. The unfortunate king was Chilperic, the brother of King Guntram. So, with the aid of such “visions”, Gregory often gave council to the various royalties. And of course, when a ruler was approaching his/her mortal departure, that was when Gregory really got busy. For example, the aging Queen Ingoberg wanted to “set things right” before she passed on. She called on Gregory, and together they divided up her wealth and designated portions for the Tours Cathedral, the St. Martin monastery, and the Le Mans Cathedral. Apparently, the Queen was very fearful of God (Gregory’s words). I can only imagine that donating large sums of money to “the church” provided her with some solace before her death.

Sterling and Whitney present: Wives and Queens in History of the Franks

The following is a summarized analysis of wives in Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks. Many of the events in Gregory represent norms as understood through Salic Law. Salic Law: Originating in the time of Clovis, the Salian-Frank Law, sought to establish norms of family law. Overarching themes in patterns of behaviour exist for both wives and Queens, the former being primarily dealt with in this entry. In particular, there is a clear divide in gender roles that is outlined throughout Gregory’s HF.

As per Salic Law, no portion of inheritance was for a woman, all male heirs to property must be exhausted (should there be any) before a daughter can lay claim to an inheritance. Gregory depicts this in his History of the Franks most viciously in the story of Domnola and Bobolen (8.32). These two argued over a vineyard that Domnola believed she had rights to, as it was her fathers. Bobolen then started an affray (public battle) and had her, and most of those who travelled with her, murdered. Bobolen claimed the vineyard was his and stole all moveable property. While not a direct example of a sibling conflict over inherited properties, it does depict the standing of the female sex in gaining family inheritance.

Similar discriminatory measures were used in determining heirs to Kingdoms – often daughters were bypassed for male heirs of relation (cousins, brothers, etc.).

Sexual promiscuity appears to have been the norm for many male members of society in Gregory’s HF. What is of note is the tendency for males to be considered loose, as with Duke Bepolen’s son (9.13), who was understood to have had intercourse with servant girls as the mood struck him and while of immoral behaviour, do not face ostracization. In Paris, a woman was accused of living with another man after leaving her husband. (5.32) Her father swore that his daughter was innocent but the belief was he had purgered himself and as such she should go to trial. For whatever reason, guilt/shame/both, she committed suicide before the trial. Many instances exist of such acts being perpetrated by males with little discourse; the gendered differences in terms of social and sexual norms further demonstrate the distinct roles each gender was to play in society.

Book 9, chapter 33 presents a story of interest. Here Berthegund is encouraged by her mother (Ingritrude) to live with her as an Abbey in the nunnery that she has founded. Berthegund (stupidly says Gregory) agrees and has her husband accompany her to the nunnery before sending him home explaining that she has no intent on returning home. Berthegund claimed, “no one who is married will ever see the Kingdom of Heaven.” Gregory, sought out by the husband, visited Berthegund and read aloud, “If any woman abandons her husband and scorns the married state in which she has lived honourably, saying that no one who is married will ever see the Kingdom of God, let her be accursed.” Afraid of excommunication she returned home, only to be convinced by her mother to return. After arriving her mother cannot receive her for she had brought one of her two sons and many possessions so she sent her to her brother. Her brother sent her to St. Martin’s and she remained there quarrelling with her mother over her father’s estate after she realized that she had lost her children, husband, and brother.

Sexual Urges
As mentioned before, sexual promiscuity was a typically male thing. When the woman from Paris was accused of living with another man she committed suicide. In 1.44 a Bishop and his wife lived apart according to the custom of the Church. The woman, Gregory tells us, was “filled with Devil’s own malice which is always hostile to holiness” and turned her into a second Eve. One night she was overwhelmed with temptation and seduced the Bishop. This sexual desire, so strong in the woman, was considered an act of the Devil. Males are typically those who are understood to have a vulnerability to temptation and sexual desires. Gregory also presents this gendered model in 1.47 with an arranged marriage of two families only children. The female is brought to tears at the thought of consummating the marriage. The husband agrees to abstain in the name of God, which surprises the woman, as this is a very difficult charge for a man. This example shows the cultural and societal allowances for each sex – women are to remain pure for God and men are unable to fight the temptation and thus while understood to be morally loose it is accepted as a gendered norm.

Marriage and Control

There are many general patterns of behaviour that are present in Gregory's accounts of the lives of Frankish queens and wives. The first major pattern that is the control that men have over the lives of their wives and queens. They have the ability to take on as many wives as they want, and dismiss them just as easily. This action of 'dismissing' wives makes queens appear to be dispensable in the of the kings, for once they are bored of their wife or she does something to offend him he can replace her very easily. Throughout Gregory's narrative, he mentions many kings who were blatant polygamists, such as King Chilperic who takes on multiple wives and dismisses many as well. This pattern continues until he meets Galswinth, whom he considers his social equal and dismisses all of his other wives to be with her. Unfortunately, she was not happy in the marriage and asked for a divorce, but Chilperic would not allow this to happen. He subsequently sent his servants to punish her for her insubordination, and he
later found her dead in her bed (IV.28).

Household power of queens

Although both queens and non- royal wives were under the power and control of their husbands, queens were given sanction to make decisions for and have control over their households when the kings is absent. For instance, in V. 39, Queen Fredagund has the power to order Clovis to his death over comments that he makes about her. In her fury, she also took the women whom Clovis was infatuated with and murdered her and had her placed on his doorstep. After Clovis was taken away,the Queen had her servants trick Clovis's sister into a nunnery, and subsequently took hold of all of his possessions. This power is usually on reserved for men in the Middle Ages, but, as proved above
by Gregory, queens were the exception to this equation. However, once the men returned home, their power diminished.

Gregory of Tours and Miracles/Wonders

In the readings this week, I had the good fortune of reading of all the miracles and wonders that Gregory of Tours is said to have witnessed. All of the miracles/wonders are narrated by Gregory, in some he is directly involved, and almost always it comes coupled with a religious message that is meant to encourage or rekindle belief in the faith. But this raises a plentiful number of questions about the validity Gregory’s writings as a historian.
Consider the following miracle outlined in Glory of the Confessors, chapter 109. This is the story of an old man who asks for some charity, and a wealthy merchant greedily explains that his stores contain nothing but stones. Behold, all of the mans stores are turned to stone, the man asks for repentance but is unable to find any. The morale here being: do not be greedy! All miracles are equally as unbelievable (by today's standards), and all contain the same morals found in Aesop’s fables. So at what point are these recounts of miracles witnessed meant to be taken as fact, or do they exist simply to justify the moral, or religious belief?
It is here that I would like to comment on my shifting opinions on Gregory of Tours as a historian. I feel the need to compare him to the personage of Sulpitius Severus, and the genuine authenticity I felt reading his work describing “The Life of St. Martin”. Even though the events that surrounded the life of St. Martin at times strained credulity, the voice was authentic and one suspected that the author was a smart man. I do not get the same feeling about Gregory of Tours. Perhaps Gregory is a smart man, but one cannot help but notice that he is fibbing, and that his writing is extremely biased in favour of Christianity. To his defense, who can blame him? Consider is role in the time, a prominent religious figure trying to keep the people on a righteous path. Gregory is not attempting to write an subjective free, objective history that will stand the test of time. This is clearly written for his contemporaries, and he is trying to educate and en-shrew/keep/rekindle faith, and the morals that go along with it. We therefore can not give him a positive rating as a historian, but we can read this critically with the understanding that he was a politician and a bishop, and then glean some understanding about the times he was living.
One can guess that Gregory is writing out of need. One can assume that Gregory of Tours is living in a society that needs a constant reminder of the religious faith and the ways of living that it suggests. In conclusion, consider the following miracle outlined in The Glory of the Martyrs, chapter 10 which explains that an old mans cottage is on fire. This fire has been fought with no avail by the is old man and his family by throwing water on it. Gregory who just so happens to be walking by, notices the fire and holds up his cross. Upon doing so, the fire immediately stops. Any person would be skeptical of the validity of the event, but the message is very clear.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chilperic: The Original Gangsta'

Chilperic, the “Nero and Herod of our time” as quoted by Gregory of Tours, was the king of Soissons from 561 until his assassination in 584, an event Gregory seems to cherish, as it ended the reign of “this wicked man”. Gregory’s description of him is very unfavourable throughout the book. From the onset, Chilperic is described as a greedy man who inherited his late father’s treasury, and bribed all the prominent Franks to his side. (IV. 21) He also lusted after women, as he asked for the hand of Galswinth, the sister of his brother’s wife, even though he had a number of wives. He told his messengers to inform the people that he had gotten rid of the other wives, in order for him to marry someone with his own ranking, and with a large dowry. He went back and forth between Galswinth and his other trophy wife Fredegund, before ultimately choosing Galswinth. Ultimately, Galswinth died and within a couple of days, he was asking Fredegund to sleep with him again, and there was strong suspicion he killed Galswinth. (IV 27-8) He charged outrageous taxes for people under his control, and felt no contempt for the poor, rather burdened them with more debt, and banned them from the churches. (VI.46)

Chilperic was also described by Gregory of Tours as being a man of uncontrollable rage and violence. He burned much of the districts around Tours, and marched on Rheims burning and destroying almost everything in his path. (IV. 47) When his brother Sigibert was killed, Sigila, who was associated with Sigibert’s death was captured by King Chilperic was burned by red hot pincers, and had his limbs torn limb by limb. (IV. 51) Obviously not trying to win a father of the year award, Chilperic had his son Clovis stabbed to death, had his wife Fredegund brutally murdered, and had his daughter thrown into a monastery. (V.1 ) And the woman who testified against Clovis was burnt alive. People who attempted to desert his city would be cut down and slaughtered by the thousands, and he even poked out people’s eyes for disobedience. In an exceedingly cruel act, Leudast, a man who had fallen on the King’s bad side, and was not allowed to take residence in the city, had his scalp chopped off. Still alive, Chilperic ordered that he receive medical attention until he healed, and then would be tortured to death, done by having a block of wood wedged behind his back while being bludgeoned to death by being repeatedly hit in the throat by another block of wood. (V1.32)

Chilperic was also described as an intolerant man, as he forbade his son Merovich from seeing Sigibert’s widowed wife, whom the King had banished to the city of Rouen and stole her treasure. When they refused to come out of church, Chilperic lied to them in order for them to come out, and took his son home with him, refusing the two to coalesce. When he still chose to defile his fathers wishes, Chilperic had his son held in exile in a narrow, roofless tower for two years. After these two years, Merovich was forced to become a priest and sent to live in a monastery. Merovich decided to take his life rather than allow his father to constantly dominate his life, so he had his friend Gailen kill him. In retaliation, Gailen was taken by Chilperic and had his hands, feet, ears and nose cut off, and was tortured to death. Anyone who was associated with Merovich were also tortured to death. (V1-18)
One aspect of judgement that Gregory of Tours holds against Chilperic is in regards to religion. Chilperic attacked and destroyed churches along the way, and made a mockery of the Lord. He even argued Gregory’s religious views by stating to him that there should be no distinctions of Persons in the Holy Trinity. For him, they should all be referred to as God, as if he was a Person, and the Holy Ghost, Father, and Son were one. Gregory of Tours viciously debated his assertion, stating that anyone who agreed with Chilperic would be a fool. Chilperic even begged to the Bishop of Albi to believe his views. (V.44) Gregory of Tours dislike of Chilperic also stems from the fact that the King accused him of levelling wild accusations about his wife. Gregory shows that his judgements of Chilperic are due to the fact that he has been a victim of the Kings outrage. (V.49) Chilperic eventually turned towards Gregory and asked for a blessing to be performed on him. This newfound religious aspect, moved Chilperic to convert a great number of Jews to be baptized, and even carried out a number of baptisms. However, many “converted” Jews resorted to their old faith. He even gave to the churches, and the poor in an effort to show good grace. (V.34)

Overall, by bestowing the unfortunate name of “Nero and Herod” of our time, Gregory of Tours is claiming that King Chilperic was an evil, demonic tyrant, who lusted for power, and reviled in torturing others. His standard of judgement is being a victim himself of Chilperic’s outrage, and having witnessed grave atrocities. Personally, I see a direct link between Chilperic and a later tyrant, and the first tsar of Russia, Ivan Grozny. Ivan IV was a man similar in many ways, in that he had numerous wives, some whom strangely disappeared, but lusted after one in specific, Anastasia Romanov. More than that, he was a man who disliked the woman whom his son was dating, beat her until she had a miscarriage, and murdered his own son “accidentally”. He even set up the “oprichnina” and had thousands of fleeing citizens to Novgorod cut down and massacred. He was fascinated by torture, and seeing others in grave pain. Much like Chilperic, he would remove people’s eyes, much like he did with the two architects who made a beautiful church monument that outshone all others, and Ivan even found religion later on in life. Aside from my ramblings about similarities, overall I think Chilperic was a brutal man, who committed many acts of greed, gluttony and death, in order to elevate his status, and force obedience from other people. Too call him Nero is a very harsh comparison, but by looking at many of his acts, including the murder of Leudast, it may be deserved, as he was a man not afraid to torture, maim, and kill for his own personal enjoyment. Overall, Gregory is correct in looking down upon Chilperic, as he was a bad man.

The "Good King" Guntram

King Guntram was a son (third eldest, second eldest surviving) of King Lothar and Queen Ingund. After the death of his father (A.D. 561) Guntrum received the kingdom of Chlodomer with its capital at Orleans, a fourth of the kingdom of the Franks divided between him and his three brothers (IV. 22).

Gregory’s portrayal of Guntram is very favourable, who showed himself on occasions generous towards the church. Gregory almost always calls him “good king Guntram,” and in his writings the reader finds phrases such as “good king Guntram took as his servant a concubine Veneranda” (IV. 25). The character of Guntram is portrayed as being a kind one, and Gregory also dedicates much of his writing about him listing his interventions in the wars of his relatives in order to maintain the balance of power in the Frankish territories (IV 30, IV. 46, IV. 49). After the death (575) of his brother King Sigebert I of Austrasia he aided Sigebert's son Childebert II, to whom he eventually left his domains. Supposedly good to his people, he was later made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Much of what Gregory praises Guntram for is his deference to the authority both the (Catholic) Church and God, as well as for his piety (IX. 2, IX. 21). For example, when Bishop Atherius of Lisieux was expelled from his diocese due to the greed and jealousy of the archdeacon and priest, King Guntram “kindly as ever, and swift to pity, loaded the Bishop with presents…and wrote…to all the bishops in his own kingdom, telling them for the love of God to do what they could for this exile” (VI. 36) This donation of worldly good fulfills part of the gospel that Guntram would have believed in (Romans 8, 28), and demonstrates the good Christian ethos that Gregory would have respected in a king. Another passage indicating Gregory’s judgment that Guntram was “good” concerned the election of Sulpicious to the bishopric of Bourges. Many apparently tried to bribe the King to elect them to the vacant position, but rejected their bribes claiming that “I have no intention of incurring the same of accepting filthy lucre…” (VI. 39).

However, I find that Guntram was really no better than the other kings of his age; he was cruel and licentious and was known to use torture in order to secure confessions and other relevant information to ensure his continuance of power. For example, during a conversation with messengers from Gundovald (his brother), Guntram was so incensed by the message that he “ordered the men to be stretched on the rack…” (VII. 32). This hardly seems to be the generous and kind king that Gregory would have us believe him to be.

Another interesting passage concerning a less noteworthy flaw in Guntram’s character is the affair with the former queen Theudechild, who after losing her husband during his excommunication, was told that she could come to live with Guntram. Upon her arrival Guntram informed Theudechild that her treasure ‘should fall into my hands than that is should remain in the control of this woman who was unworthy of my brother’s bed.’ (IV. 26) Though Theudechild was later beaten and locked inside her cell after being caught attempting to flee with ‘a certain Goth,’ this does not fully explain the confiscation of her treasure by Guntram, though certainly it could be seen as an attempt to garner more wealth for his own treasury, or that of the kingdom.

Gregory’s consistency within the narrative as it concern Guntram seems to be on the whole consist with his naming him “the good king.” However, Gregory does place himself within the narrative of Guntram on several occasions, all of which took place prior to his appointment as Bishop of Tours. Gregory also interjects his own personal opinion of what transpires, including an occasion of Guntram falling ill, which he believed to be “God’s providence, for he was planning to send a great number of the bishops into exile” (VIII. 20). This does indicate some personal bias with the story, which can skew the reader’s opinion of Guntram himself.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Medieval History Geek

Medieval History Geek is an amateur historian but a very well read one, and no dummy either. He is currently rereading Gregory of Tours, his comments may be worth your while. Drop him a note while you are at it.