Posted by Matthew Hoskin on 29th June 2018

Law as Theology: Hypothesising about one of Durham’s canon law manuscripts

DCL B.IV.18, fol. 1r. 
Durham Cathedral Library, MS B.IV.18, written in the early twelfth century, begins with what canon law scholars call the ‘Canterbury Abridgement’ of Collectio Lanfranci, which would be the canonical collection Lanfranc of Bec brought with him to England and dispersed whilst Archbishop of Canterbury (1070-1089). This manuscript and the other one that contains the abridgement, Lambeth Palace MS 351, were written at Christ Church, Canterbury, based on palaeography. The abridgement is followed by a selection of letters from Gregory the Great. As Martin Brett has discussed (see bibliography at bottom), the Canterbury Abridgement is not especially useable. The excerpts from papal letters and conciliar canons all just run together with no headings to help guide the interested reader. Not only this, I would also say it is not particularly useful, not, at least, the way we might expect a canon law book to be used by a reader. Living in an age of reference works, handbooks, and manuals, we expect an abridgement of Lanfranci to be something that someone could take up, skim through, and find interesting bits of canon law, perhaps to help him in an upcoming trial or to sort out whether he could marry his deceased brother’s widow. Unfortunately for such a reader, not only is the Canterbury abridgement entirely unsuited to this task, it is likely to be completely useless, including as it does such unhelpful pieces of church regulation as Leo the Great’s statements on what to do if someone has been captured by pagan barbarians and forced to participate in feasts in honour of pagan gods. My hypothesis is that the Canterbury Abridgement is not canon law. It is theology. It is very common to say that canon law did not exist as a separate discipline from theology before Gratian and the rise of the schools of law, starting in Bologna in the mid-1100s. Yet we continually treat the pre-Gratian canonical collections and the body of church canons as ‘canon law’. Perhaps this is the wrong way of going about it. The first step in testing this hypothesis is actually reading all of the Canterbury Abridgement (I’ve yet to do this). The second step I have already taken — considering the rest of the contents of the manuscript. These contents are what made my hypothesis arise. After the regulatory material, which also includes the Concordat of Worms (1122), DCL B.IV.18 includes the Cena Cypriani, which is a long, biblical allegorical amusement piece, the Canterbury Forgeries, Hugh of St Victor in a later hand, excerpts from Augustine, then more ‘canon law’ material. What does all this regulatory material have in common with the Cena and Augustine? That is a theological question. The canons of the church are the application of theological principles to concrete human situations, are they not? Theology, such as Augustine on the Trinity, is the application of human reason to the questions of God. Both of them seek order. The former seeks the right ordering of human relationships. The latter considers the ordering of divine relationships. They interact with each other more than one would think. (On this, think on Wei, Gratian the Theologian.) Iustitia and rectitudo — these are part of the divine oikonomia, are they not? And they are meant to be part of the human oikonomia operating out of divine gratia. What that means in the context of this manuscript — that remains to be seen. Bibliography Image provided by Durham Priory Library Project – a collaboration between Durham University and Durham Cathedral Brett, Martin. ‘The Collectio Lanfranci and Its Competitors’, in Intellectual Life in the Middle Ages: Essays Presented to Margaret Gibson, ed. Lesley M. SmithBenedicta Ward (London 1992), 157-174, at 161. Evans, G. R. Law and Theology in the Middle Ages. London, 2002. Wei, John C. Gratian the Theologian. Washington, D.C., 2016.
Posted by Matthew Hoskin on 14th June 2018

Sorting out your Fulgentii

In the old catalogue of Durham Cathedral Library, Codicum manuscriptorum Ecclesiae Cathedralis Dunelmensis catalogus classicus from 1825, you will find the following Fulgentius entries:

The Homilia of page 56 is in DCL, A.III.29, folio 313, part of the Homiliary of Paul the Deacon (not the manuscript I blogged on before, that was B.II.2). The Homiliae of page 98 are the afore-blogged Homiliary in B.II.2 — two homilies this time, starting on folios 4v and 29r. The third set of homilies is in another Homiliary, B.II.31, three homilies starting on folios 26, 30, and 47 according to the catalogue. These are homilies of St Fulgentius of Ruspe, who lived c. 467 – c. 532.

The next item is the Epistola de Fide. This text is in B.IV.12, starting folio 1r:

Provided by Durham Priory Library Project – a collaboration between Durham University and Durham Cathedral

This is an anti-Arian tract by Fulgentius of Ruspe, Ep. 8 of his correspondance.

Then we have Comm. in Mythologiae, found in B.IV.38, starting folio 92, the Commentarius in Fulgentii Mythologias. This is a commentary on the Mythologiae of Fabius Planciades Fulgentius, a fellow African who live around the same time as the Bishop of Ruspe but is a different person altogether. Some have previously thought them the same, but, as I understand it, scholarly consensus today divides our two Fulgentii.

What is strange about this index is that, after the commentary on the other Fulgentius, we are directed to the De Fide ad Petrum in DCL B.II.27 by Fulgentius Ruspensis, as though this were a work by a different person. I assume the index was compiled by someone different from the catalogue itself, since it gives the impression that we have two Fulgentii, but divides the works wrong.

Why does this matter? Well, I have an interest in Fulgentius of Ruspe as someone who was influenced by the theology of Leo the Great and engaged in what some call ‘the Arian controversy 2.0’ — he shows the sixth-century synthesis of earlier theology. I am, perhaps, less interested Fulgentius the mythographer, but he is still worthy of interest for me as an intellectual historian whose work, when not analysing mediaeval canon law, looks at the fifth century.

For both Fulgentii, mansucripts are important. In fact, manuscripts are important for all pre-print authors. Studying them helps us understand the authors better. Textual criticism brings us closer to their own words as well as showing us how they were read and interpreted in history. Furthermore, in a library like Durham’s, it is worth knowing which authors were transcribed and read. One of my hypotheses I want to test is the idea of canon law as theology, and the only way to do that is to consider the non-canon law books from the same library.

If we can’t keep our Fulgentii straight, we’ll have trouble understanding the history of ideas and manuscripts.

Anyway, all of this to say: I do look forward to Richard Gameson’s catalogue when it is finished. And I look forward to the day when all of these opera Fulgentii are digitised and can be worked on from the comfort of my own office.

Posted by Matthew Hoskin on 30th May 2018

Dates, Popes, and Emperors

A common feature of many manuscripts of canon law is the papal catalogue. These catalogues list every pope from St Peter onward, either to the incumbent of the Roman see at the time of writing, or the incumbent at the time the document collection was put together, if the collection pre-dates the manuscript. They are not always interesting documents, and probably among the most overlooked aspects of canon law manuscripts. Nonetheless, they can give us insights into the world of these books.


Durham Cathedral Library, C.III.1, is a canon law book from the late 1100s that contains a papal catalogue amongst a small canon law collection at the beginning of the volume. The manuscript begins with a variety of canons (regulations) from the Decretum of Burchard of Worms (c. 1012ish) and, I think, some others, then the papal catalogue, followed by decretals of Pope Alexander III, a table of consanguinity (arbor consanguinitatis), then canons of the Council of Tours (1163) and more decretals.


The papal catalogue is on folios 7v-8r, a tidy two-page spread. It runs from St Peter to Pope Alexander III (pope, 1159-1181), who provides much of the decretal material in the volume. The episcopates of the popes are dated by emperor, from the death of Jesus under Tiberius and the death of Peter under Nero through the episcopate of Alexander III under Frederick. It also includes marginal numbers, I-X, then every ten popes for a while until the rubricator gives up. Moreover, certain events are noted in the margins in red, such as the Council of Nicaea or a ‘Romanum concilium’.


The feature I find most interesting in this particular papal catalogue is the choice of emperors included. First, after the death of Valentinian III, no western Roman emperor is included. One wonders what the source for the emperors is — is it eastern? Why no mention of at least Anthemius (r. 467-472), the only western emperor after Valentinian III whom we can definitively say had eastern support? He overlapped with popes Hilarus (461-468) and Simplicius (468-483), after all.


Second, on folio 8r, column a, western rulers return with Pippin III, the first Carolingian King of the Franks (r. 751-768), listed alongside east Roman (‘Byzantine’) Emperor Constantine V (r. 741-775). Constantine V is the last Byzantine emperor included; after the accession of Charlemagne (r. 768-814), son of Pippin, none of Constantine’s successors are listed in the catalogue.


Now, these emperors are not themselves listed exhaustively. They are listed as a device to date the popes. Using them, however, also serves to root the papacy firmly in the history of the Empire. In a way, it may even be seen to help legitimise papal authority.


What the removal of the Byzantines and the inclusion of the Carolingians shows us is how western Europe viewed its own imperial world — from Charlemagne to Frederick Barbarossa. It viewed this imperial lineage in the same manner as it viewed Roman Emperors from Tiberius to Constantine V. It saw them as the legitimate successors of Augustus. The Byzantines, however, it did not.


This may reflect twelfth-century views of the Byzantine Empire. It certainly reflects two shifts of the eighth and ninth centuries. The first of the shifts occurs in the first half of the eighth century, and it is the movement of papal attention from the eastern Mediterranean to northern Europe, from Constantinople to the activities of the Majordomos of the Merovingian palace (the future Carolingians) and the workings of papally-sponsored missionaries such as Boniface in Germania.


The second shift occurs in the reign of Charlemagne. Famously, on Christmas day in the year 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor at St Peter’s in the Vatican. When we consider this alongside the Byzantine self-styling of the Carolingians, the late Roman-style art of various types (in mosaic, ivory, gold) made by the Carolingians, we can see their aspirations very clearly. They are thrown into sharp relief by the fact that from 797 to 802, the throne of Constantinople was in the hands of Irene who had overthrown her own son. Not only this, regardless of papal policy in this regard, Charlemagne was an iconoclast, whereas Irene was an iconodule.


Clearly the Carolingians did not consider Irene legitimate. And the popes, who needed Charlemagne’s help but who had long maintained at least the appearance of loyalty to the Byzantine emperors, did not either.


So maybe a list of popes is more interesting to reflect upon than you might think at first glance, after all.


Posted by Matthew Hoskin on 10th April 2018

Robert Grosseteste and the Science of Canon Law

I had the opportunity this past Friday to give a paper entitled, ‘Robert Grosseteste and the Science of Canon Law’ at the conference Science, Imagination, and Wonder: Robert Grosseteste and His Legacy at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. The conference was part of a different Durham-aligned project, The Ordered Universe. Nonetheless, our work on the priory manuscripts was relevant.

How is it that Durham Cathedral’s manuscripts are relevant to our understanding of a bishop of Lincoln who was likely educated at Hereford? Well, my research question was, ‘What was the landscape of English canon law (esp. manuscripts) at the time of Grosseteste’s education (1190s)?’

This question cannot be answered at Hereford, whose cathedral library has only one manuscript of the right period, O.II.10, that was probably actually in Hereford at the time.

It can be answered at Durham, which is why people get so excited about Durham Cathedral Library — we still have so many of the books and can trace down many of the wanderers.

And in Durham, we find a good collection of canon law manuscripts of this era (hence why I study them) — six copies of Gratian’s Decretum (all glossed: DCL C.IV.1, C.III.1, C.I.7, C.II.1, C.I.8, and Cambridge, Sidney Sussex 101), two/three post-Gratian decretal collections (DCL C.III.1, C.III.3 [mentioned below], and C.III.4), Johannes Faventinus (C.III.7), and the Panormia falsely attributed to Ivo of Chartres (Cambridge, University Library, Ff.4.41), as well as, a few years after the dates chosen for my study, a copy of the Glossa Palatinia of Laurentius Hispanus (DCL C.III.8) and an evolutionary manuscript, DCL C.III.3, that starts with Bernard of Pavia’s Compilatio Prima, to which was added the collection of Gilbert, and then a decretal collection scholars call the Dunelmensis secunda.

Interestingly, Durham’s copy of Huguccio (DCL C.I.20) is from the fourteenth century, although he wrote c. 1190.

Each of these manuscripts has a story to tell, showing us something about the world of canon law in England on the cusp of the thirteenth century. All of them together also tell a story, especially if we break the bonds of my paper and extend our survey to 1234 at the end of the ‘classical’ period of medieval canon law, for here we see the history of English medieval canon law in microcosm, from Gratian to Gregory IX (six of Gregory IX as well, if I remember correctly), with the general contours of canon law in the period at large, but some English particularities as well — the presence of early decretal collections, for example, and particular sets of glosses to Gratian, particularly in C.II.1 and C.I.7.

The highlight of the set is the manuscript chosen by Richard Gameson for Manuscript Treasures of Durham Cathedral, C.I.7, which has some very beautiful illuminations (incl. 29 illluminated initials), in particular the letter H that starts the text (Gratian begins with the words ‘Humanum genus’). This H has a bishop (the pope?) in the top, being handed the law by Moses and the Gospel by Christ. In the bottom half is an emperor being handed scrolls about law by kings. Here is an ordered universe, a hierarchy — if not quite a celestial hierarchy! 😉 — with canon law at the top and civil/Roman law at the bottom.

I wonder what impression it would have made on a reader such as Grosseteste?

Posted by Elizabeth Biggs on 21st February 2018

The Terrific Tudors!

The Terrible Tudors is a fabulous book in the Horrible Histories series, but I like Durham Cathedral’s version better- the Tudors were terrifically interesting. There’s a new exhibition just opening at the cathedral to show off some of the amazing objects in their collections while also explaining why the Tudor dynasty were so very important for the history of the region. Go see the exhibition- it has some of my very favourite things in it! Details are here.


One of the questions I’ve been asking myself recently is what effect would the immense changes of the sixteenth century have on people living in County Durham. I’ve been trying to think through the scraps of information we have to see what the vast changes did to people’s lives. There’s been lots written about charity and changing attitudes to the poor during this period, which would massively have affected people’s social safety nets. When Henry VIII got rid of monasteries, he was also getting rid of the almonries operated by monks, which provided care for people who needed it, often the sick and the elderly. At Durham Cathedral the almonry fell into disrepair quite quickly and removed one possible source of help in the city. Did other unofficial groups grow up to fulfil the need that the almonry had addressed? Did the new canons try to help? I don’t know the answer, but it’s a question I’d like to think more about.


In addition to practical needs, I’ve also been thinking about the purpose of a cathedral. What did the orders from London about the Reformation do to people’s experiences of worship, both in the parish churches and at the cathedral? In 1536 the cathedral bought new service books with a slightly different order of service- could worshippers probably standing in the nave hear the difference in the Latin texts? Possibly not. From 1534 onwards, the bishop preached throughout the diocese against the Papacy. People would have heard about the new religious settlement, but it was not yet part of the common experience of worship. The Bible in English followed in 1536, as did the first of the dissolutions of the monasteries. St Cuthbert’s shrine was pulled down in 1538, what did that mean for visitors? After 1541, the cathedral would have felt very different with half of the monks gone, and the rest no longer wearing monastic habits in their new roles as cathedral canons. But the services would still have sounded much the same.


It was at some point after 1549 that Cranmer’s new Book of Common Prayer was introduced in Durham. That would have marked a completely different experience of worship- it was all in English, and it rearranged the material of the older services. It would have felt, I think, like a complete break from the past at that point. Mary’s reign from 1553 to 1558 saw a return to the old Latin mass books. Durham Cathedral didn’t bother to dig out their old copies, but instead bought completely new sets, maybe because the old ones had been burned or given away. Elizabeth’s regime went back to the Book of Common Prayer in 1559. As much as anything else, the 1549, 1553 and 1559 changes in the service books would have marked out to listeners in churches the changes in religion that were mandated by Henry VIII’s very different children.


If you do go see the exhibition in Durham Cathedral, stop by John Brimley’s tomb in the Galilee Chapel. He was master of the choristers from the 1540s until his death in 1576, and would have taught them very different music during each of the four reigns that he saw. We have payments for music to be bought for him and his singers from Westminster in Henry VIII’s reign. I would love to be able to ask him what he thought about the Tudors kings and queens and their impact on the city that he lived in.