Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Noble Bondsmen: Ministerial Marriages in the Archdiocese of Salzburg, 1100-1343

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Noble Bondsmen: Ministerial Marriages in the Archdiocese of Salzburg, 1100-1343

Article excerpt

Noble Bondsmen: Ministerial Marriages in the Archdiocese of Salzburg, 1100-1343. By John B. Freed. (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. 1995. Pp. xvi, 304.)

For more than twenty years John B. Freed has devoted most of his scholarly energy to an intensive investigation of the ministeriales of the archbishopric of Salzburg from the tenth to the fourteenth century; this book is the cumulative result of those long labors. Ministerials were those of unfree origin who through their service to princes slowly rose up to become the core of the lower nobility of the late Middle Ages. This development is usually regarded as a peculiarity of Germanophone Europe, although Otto of Freising, for instance, noted with apparent admiration an analogous northern Italian practice of knighting serfs. The difference lay perhaps in the determination of German princes to keep their ministerials in their servile legal position, regardless of their accomplishments. The resulting tensions could sometimes be highly explosive, as is revealed in Galbert of Bruges' famous account of the assassination of Charles the Good, count of Flanders (1109-1127), at the hands of the powerful Erembald clan.

Freed's book represents an illuminating contribution to the literature on this vexing problem of medieval legal and social history. While acknowledging Benjamin Arnold's achievement in German Knighthood, 1050-1300 (1985), Freed finds Arnold's definition of ministerial as"servile knight" inadequate for the AustroBavarian part of the Empire. Freed also seeks to supplement the classic work on this region, Land and Lordship by Otto Brunner, who chose to ignore the ministerial origins of the lower nobility and hence skewed our understanding of the full picture. …

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