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As I mention in the “About” page on this blog, I have been working for a long time on a PhD dissertation on the subject of Pope Formosus, who was Pope from 891 to 896, but had a long and very interesting career before that as Bishop of Porto (the port of Rome).   Most people I talk to about this have never heard of Pope Formosus, but if someone has it is always because of what happened to him after his death. I have put it this way in the introduction to several papers I’ve presented on the subject:

“Sometime near the beginning of the year 897, a shocking spectacle took place in Rome, as the sitting Pope put one of his predecessors on trial. That the predecessor was dead was only one unusual fact about the trial. What shocked contemporaries even more was that Stephen VI actually had the body of Formosus removed from its tomb and placed on the papal throne to face the charges against him! The contemporary Annales Fuldenses report the event in spare terms:

‘At Rome pope Formosus died on the holy day of Easter [April 4]; in his place Boniface was consecrated, who was attacked by gout and is said to have survived for barely two weeks. In his place a pope called Stephen [VI] succeeded, a man of notorious reputation, who in unheard-of fashion turned out his predecessor, Formosus from his grave, had him deposed by proxy and buried outside the usual place where popes are buried. (Annals of Fulda, trans. by Timothy Reuter (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1992), under the year 896, p. 135.’”

When I came upon this event many years ago, I found it interesting enough to investigate further. But I was not satisfied with the existing explanations for the ghastly trial, known commonly as the “Cadaver Synod.” So I began to do more research into the subject, and I determined that one cannot really understand the trial without looking at the entire context, including the long career of Formosus, which no one had done in about a hundred years. Many fine historians had investigated various aspects of the subject, as they related to issues they themselves were studying, such as the deposition of popes, or the question of who might judge a pope, but they always accepted the basic assumptions of a hundred years before (which was a natural thing to do in such cases). Over the past ten years and more, I have presented nine papers on various aspects of the career of Formosus, and on the Cadaver Synod, and have reached very different conclusions. I am currently attempting to stitch these papers (listed below) together into a dissertation, but because I get inquiries about this topic, I would like to present the conclusions I have reached, and how they differ from the earlier assumtions that one generally finds in the literature.

The general story can be found in Wikipedia, much of which is based on the work of Horace Kinder Mann, which was based on the work of Louis Duchesne. Duchesne was a great historian of early Christianity and of the papacy, and his work was extremely good, but suffered from some biases not unusual for his day.    In the next post, I will address how my conclusions differ from the generally accepted story.    Meanwhile, here is a list of the papers I have presented over the years that have brought me to those conclusions.

A Synod of Ravenna Confirming the Cadaver Synod?” Paper presented at the XIV International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Toronto, 5-11 August 2012.     (In publication)

“The Cadaver Synod and the Unmaking of Saints,” A paper presented at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2011.

“The Synod of Ravenna of 898 as a Witness to the Cadaver Synod,” A paper presented at the 45th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 2010.

“Renovatio redux: A New Look at the Libellus de imperatoria potestate in urbe Roma,” A paper delivered at the 12th Annual Mediterranean Studies Congress, Università di Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy May, 2009.

“Pope Formosus and Hamburg-Bremen,” A paper delivered at the 11th Annual Mediterranean Studies Congress, Lüneburg, Germany, May 29, 2008.

“A Failed Crusade? Pope John VIII and the Arabs Reconsidered,” A paper presented at the 41st International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2007.

“The Role of the Latin Missionaries in Ninth-Century Bulgaria,” a paper presented at the 40th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 2006.

“Who was Auxilius? Ethnic Identity in Carolingian Italy,” a paper presented at the 38th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 2004.

“Invitation or Imitation: The Justification of Arnulf’s Invasion of Italy in 895/896,” a paper presented at the 5th Annual Congress of the Mediterranean Studies Association, Granada (Spain), May 29-June 1, 2002.

“The 898 Synod of Ravenna, and the Rehabilitation of Pope Formosus,” a paper presented at the 37th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 2002.

 

Just over twenty years ago, I published my first article on a medieval topic.  It was in a very prestigious publication — a book commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Cloisters Museum, and published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  But it fell into the pond of medieval scholarship with nary a splash or a ripple.  So far as I know, it was cited only by a Yale University doctoral dissertation about True Cross reliquaries.  What I attempted to do in this article (and in the talk on which it was based, presented at the fiftieth anniversary symposium) was to examine a True Cross reliquary triptych then exhibited at the Cloisters to see what it could tell us about attitudes toward law and justice at the time and place in which it was produced.  I was drawn to this topic when I first noticed the reliquary, with it’s central figure of Iusticia after taking Robert Somerville’s graduate seminar on medieval canon law at Columbia University.

Now a paper on a work of medieval art presented as a historian, and not an art historian, and giving little attention to its aesthetic value was probably bound to fall upon deaf ears in a symposium attended mostly by medieval art historians, and then published in a book written mostly by medieval art historians (and published by an art museum).   So I have not been terribly surprised by this lack of reception.  So I was pleasantly surprised last year to be contacted by a Belgian art historian who discovered the article and asked me whether I had written anything else on the subject.  Alas, no, I have moved on to other subjects.  But he has now sent me an article that he has just published in a French journal of medieval studies, wherein he picks up the topic where I left it, and carries it further.  In so doing, he gives me great credit for pursuing the topic in a new way.  The author is Philippe George, and his article is: “‘Sur la terre comme au ciel’ : L’évêque de Liège, l’abbé de Stavelot-Malmedy, le droit, la justice et l’art mosan vers 1170,” Cahiers de civilisation médiévale,”  56 (2013): 225-253.

As he says, my article “paru en 1992, … est resté curieusement sans écho.”  In a note at the end of his article, he quotes from my conclusion: “… more research into both the politics and the patronage of the bishops of this period is necessary for a better sense of who might have commissioned this reliquary and for what purpose.”   Philippe George has now done this, and I thank him for taking up this thread and stitching it into something useful.

My own article:  William Monroe, “The Guennol Triptych and the Twelfth-Century Revival of Jurisprudence,” in The Cloisters: Studies in Honor of the Fiftieth Anniversary, ed. by Elizabeth C. Parker and Mary B. Shepard (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992), p. 166-177, can be found on Google Books, here:

http://books.google.com/books?id=e6XCPEr2LzIC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

Just back from a week at Rare Book School, at Yale University.   This was my fifth RBS course, all of them having to do with medieval books, mainly in manuscript, but also in print.   I took Barbara Shailor’s Advanced Seminar on Medieval Manuscripts, which was very good, especially since we got to use manuscripts from the Beinecke Library, which has a large and varied collection.  Also having the expertise of Barbara Shailor, herself, and that of my fellow students in the course, who all came with a variety of experience with this kind of material, was very enlightening.   Anyone who works with rare books or special collections, whether as their primary work as a librarian, or directly as a scholar should check out RBS for it’s course offerings, as they are really very useful.

Having just returned, I was also pleased that someone posted (on the Medieval History Discussion List) a link to this blog entry on marginalia in medieval manuscripts.

I participate in another blog as part of my work.  The Brown University Library has begun a blog about “Mobile Apps for Scholarship,” to which I have contributed two posts, the latest being “Reflections on Apps for Medieval Studies.”   Here is a link to it, for anyone who might be interested:

http://blogs.brown.edu/mobile-apps-for-scholarship/2013/01/15/reflections-on-apps-for-medieval-studies/

Tam Lin

I don’t often get to sing this song, partly because it’s long.

But since Halloween just passed, I’ve had the occasion to sing it a couple of times, most recently as part of the “Hoot” at Stone Soup Coffeehouse.   It’s one of my favorites, and my version is learned from the singing of the great Frankie Armstrong.

 

 

I’ve recorded some new songs, which I’ll add to the music page as soon as I can remind myself how.

Meanwhile I can link to them here:

“Roving Gambler” is a traditional song I recently heard from Drybranch Firesquad at the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

“By the Water’s Edge” is my latest original, written for the 375th birthday of Providence, RI.

Which leads me to the upcoming concerts:

Friday, Nov. 11, at the College Hill Cafe in the Brown University Bookstore — “Folk Music Night”, the regular monthly series that I host, will feature Charlie Cover and Kate Katzberg.  It’s free, and should be a really nice show — I think these two complement each other quite well.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=131722620263579#!/event.php?eid=278292395544179

The next night, Saturday, Nov. 12, I’ll be playing with Matteo Casini at the Church Street Coffeehouse in Warren, RI.

http://www.churchstreetcoffeehouse.com/

This will be a full-length show, and will be the only such show this year, as Matteo will be spending the spring semester in Italy.    The show is 8-10:15.

And then, Tuesday, November 22, I’ll be part of the gala Providence 375 Birthday Party at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC).  

http://www.goprovidence.com/375events/bash/

6-10 in the evening.  Should be fun!   And we’ll be releasing a CD of songs about Providence recorded for the birthday.  I perform three songs on the CD, including two of my own.

Music added

Thanks to the Forum, I was able to upload some music, with an audio player.  Please have a listen under the “Music” tab.

I’ll be adding new songs as I record them.  I’m planning to put out a solo CD within a few months as I get enough songs recorded.

Matteo Casini and I will be playing this Friday (Sept. 16) at the monthly “Folk Music Night” that I host in the College Hill Cafe in the Brown University Bookstore.   We will be joined by a very entertaining young songwriter, Pete Avitable.