Religious and Laity in Western Europe, 1000-1400: Interaction, Negotiation, and Power

Article excerpt

Religious and Laity in Western Europe, 1000-1400: Interaction, Negotiation, and Power. Edited by Emilia Jamroziak and Janet Burton. [Europa Sacra, Volume 2.] (Turnhout: Brepols. 2006. Pp. xiv, 399. euro80.00.)

This volume gathers together nineteen essays exploring the broad topic of relations between religious communities and the laity in the high and late Middle Ages. With few exceptions, the contributions focus on the twelfth century and later, and on northern Europe, with England, northern France, and the Low Countries particularly well represented. The editors divide the essays into three sections: the first focuses on patrons and benefactors, the second on various other aspects of lay-religious interaction, and the third on confraternities and the towns they inhabited. The disparate essays draw some unity from the shared methodological conviction that in-depth case studies are a profitable way to approach such a sweeping topic. There are also certain themes that recur in various pieces, particularly the negotiation between the expectations of benefactors on the one hand and the lives and prayers of the religious on the other, as well as the overlap between the seemingly distinct categories of religious and laity, cloister and world.

The essays in the collection are generally strong and will be of interest to specialists in their respective fields. To note only a few pieces: Belle Stoddard Tuten examines the ramifications for gift-giving to long-established houses when a new and popular community-in this case, Fontevraud-appears. Tuten elucidates a variety of factors, including social class, marriage, and existing ties to communities, that led some in Anjou to patronize Fontevraud while others did not. In his analysis of a land dispute between a noble laywoman and the house of Sainte Foy at Conques, Stephen D. White shows how the author of the miracle story describing the quarrel shaped events to fit the expectations of that genre, and yet with his customary sharp eye White shows the value still to be gleaned from the text. …