Clerics in the Early Middle Ages: Hierarchy and Image / Clerical Orders in the Early Middle Ages: Duties and Ordination

Article excerpt

Clerics in the Early Middle Ages Hierarchy and Image. By Roger E. Reynolds. [Variorum Collected Studies Series.] (Brookfield, Vermont: Variorum, Ashgate. 1999. Pp. x, 334. $110.95.)

Clerical Orders in the Early Middle Ages- Duties and Ordination. By Roger E. Reynolds. [Variorum Collected Studies Series. I (Brookfield,Vermont: Variorum,Ashgate. 1999. PP. x, 334,$106.95.)

The last thirty or so years have witnessed a growing fascination on the part of medievalists and social historians with lay and religious movements in the Middle Ages. Popes, cardinals, bishops, and monks, on the other hand, have all enjoyed a perennial appeal among scholars. Amazingly little research, however, has focused on priests and on the clerical grades preceding ordination to the priesthood. This is particularly ironic in view of the vast number of men and boys who were tonsured and admitted to various degrees of clerical status throughout the medieval period and beyond.

These companion volumes bring together some twenty-three articles of varying length on clerics and clerical orders as reflected in patristic and medieval texts. Roger Reynolds draws upon a wide spectrum of sources, including letters, sermons, treatises, liturgical commentaries, ordination instructions, and canon law materials from the fifth to the twelfth centuries. Most of the articles have appeared elsewhere over the past three decades and hence Ashgate/Variorum has maintained their original pagination wherever possible, assigning to each a Roman numeral in order of appearance, as listed in the table of contents. Some articles have been so thoroughly revised or else now appear in much lengthier, unabridged form that any attempt to retain their original pagination would have proven impossible. Clerics in the Early Middle Ages: Hierarchy and Image contains four studies which appear for the first time; one of the articles in Clerical Orders in the Early Middle Ages: Duties and Ordination is likewise a first publication.

Reynolds begins the first volume by mapping out as it were the clerical landscape of the early Middle Ages, describing the clerical grades and their functions in the various western European systems: Roman, Spanish, Irish, and Gallo-Frankish. Another study, entitled "Christ as Cleric: The Ordinals of Christ," examines the widespread phenomenon of identifying Christ, through his words or actions, with each of the clerical grades. In an essay on the mathematics of sacred orders, the author shows that the 'traditional' seven ecclesiastical grades were by no means as fixed or as consistent in the patristic and early medieval periods as later scholastic theologians would have preferred. Several medieval systems of sacred orders in fact ran as low as six and as high as eight or nine clerical grades. A fourth article discusses the status of the subdiaconate as a sacred or `major' order. "Patristic Presbyterianism" explores the relationship of the priesthood to the episcopate in the writings of theologians from Jerome and Ambrosiaster to the Master of the Sentences, Peter Lombard. The highest of the ecclesiastical orders, Peter maintained, is the priesthood. Indeed, Lombard cited Isidore of Seville to the effect that, according to ancient authorities, bishops and presbyters were originally the same. This equation of the priesthood with the order of bishop naturally would give rise to 'presbyterian' consequences in the Reformation period.

In discussing the origins, duties, conferral, and arrangement of sacred orders, Reynolds does a good job of linking text with image, as in the case of the Raganaldus Sacramentary, the Landulf Pontifical Roll, and the Drogo Sacramentary. These studies feature clear, attractive black and white reproductions of the manuscript sources. Again juxtaposing medieval accounts and a generous selection of artistic depictions of clerics arrayed in attendance at church councils, Reynolds analyzes rites and signs of conciliar decisions in the Middle Ages. …