Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Restoration of the Monastery of Saint Martin of Tournai

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Restoration of the Monastery of Saint Martin of Tournai

Article excerpt

The Restoration of the Monastery of Saint Martin of Tournai. By Herman of Tournai.Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Lynn H. Nelson. [Medieval Texts in Translation.] (Washington, D.C.:The Catholic University of America Press. 1996. Pp. xxix, 248. $34.95 clothbound; $19.95 paperback.)

Herman of Tournai was a mediocre historian, but Lynn Nelson is a very good translator and commentator. Herman composed the Liber de restauratione sancti Martini Tornacensis about 1142. Herman's text is confusing: there are many people with the same name, the narrative doubles back on itself, and Herman had an apparently irresistible desire to write about the politics and marriages of the great, all of which interrupted the flow of the narrative about the restoration of Saint Martin's. In spite of such problems of composition, Herman recounted the troubled history which followed the refounding of an abandoned monastery in Tournai. Herman reported that during a famine in 1090, the cathedral canons expelled from the cathedral precincts starving refugees, who took refuge at the ruined monastery. Nelson argues convincingly that the canons' act of cruelty set in motion eighteen years of ecclesiastical, clan, and urban strife until the monks and canons were reconciled in 1108.

The foundation or "refoundation" of a monastic house in an urban setting was, at least in this case, disruptive because it threatened the economic interests and religious domination of the cathedral chapter.The monks of Saint Martin's demanded the return of properties which they claimed had been "lost" centuries earlier and which they believed were in the possession of the cathedral chapter. …

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