Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Odiosa Sanctitas: St Peter Damian, Simony, and Reform

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Odiosa Sanctitas: St Peter Damian, Simony, and Reform

Article excerpt

Odiosa sanctitas: St Peter Damián, Simony, and Reform. By William D. McCready. [Studies and Texts, 177; Mediaeval Law and Theology, 4.] (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. 2011. Pp xii, 321. $85.00. ISBN 978-0-88844-177-5.)

St. Peter Damián has long been acknowledged as an ardent champion both of monastic and clerical reform in the eleventh century but also as a man who struggled to balance the demands of his conflicting roles as cardinal-bishop of Ostia in the service of the reform papacy and as prior of the eremitical community of Fonte Avellana. This new volume by William McCready looks to re-examine Damián 's life and thought by focusing on a key controversy- that of Pietro Mezzabarba, bishop of Florence, who was accused of simony and was finally deposed after a trial by fire at Settimo in 1068 proved his guilt.The case of Mezzbarba brought into confrontation a range of protagonists: Pope Alexander n,Vallombrosan monks, and Damián himself, all of whose different reform principles and methods meant that the ramifications of the case would reverberate long after the events.

The volume opens with a short introduction that justifies the focus on the Mezzabarba controversy for exploring the development of Damian's thought on the issues of simony and the promotion of ecclesiastical reform. Chapter 1 sets out the sociopolitical and religious context of Florence at this time, and covers the key events of the controversy: the election of Mezzabarba; the campaign promoted against him by the Vallombrosans that resulted in an attack on their community at San Salvi; and the subsequent Roman synod of 1067, where Damián argued against the monks in support of Mezzabarba. Chapter 2 assesses the role of Duke Godfrey of Lotharingia and Damian's relationship with him, exploring the earlier contention that this may have conditioned Damian's position on the controversy. Chapter 3 focuses on Damian's position on simony and the validity of sacraments performed by simoniacal clergy as against more radical positions developed first by Humbert of Silva-Candida that were taken up by the Pataria and the Vallombrosans. …

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