Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Presentation of Clerical Characters in Hartmann's Gregorios and in the Vie Du Pape Saint Gregoire

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Presentation of Clerical Characters in Hartmann's Gregorios and in the Vie Du Pape Saint Gregoire

Article excerpt

I

As with so much medieval literature, nothing can be known for certain about the historical situation in which the narrative works of Hartmann von Aue were composed. There is no reliable evidence to indicate where they were written, for whom, or under what precise social or intellectual influences. Hence, any attempt to situate Hartmann (and with him the origins of secular narrative fiction in German) in the context of late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century culture is inevitably wholly dependent on the interpretation of any clues which may be embedded in the works themselves.

In the case of Gregorius, a text which evinces intense spirituality and religious seriousness, but in which the institution of the Church plays a relatively minor role, some valuable clues may perhaps be found in the ways in which Hartmann presents his clerical characters. Several scholars have argued that, in Gregorius, Hartmann adopts a critical, or at least an ambivalent, attitude towards the Church and its representatives. This view has been expressed most strongly, if somewhat simplistically, by Hans Bayer, in a monograph which appeared in 1978.1 The thrust of Bayer's argument is that Hartmann's spirituality was profoundly influenced by that of the Waldensian heretics, and he sees an aspect of this influence in a consistent, if necessarily implicit, critique of the institutionalized Church. Moreover Ulrich Ernst, whose study, published in 1978/9,2 is primarily concerned to reveal the dualism of the vita carnalis and vita spiritualis which he sees as pervasive in Gregorius, also points to a possible attempt by Hartmann at least to distance himself from the Church and its practices. Ernst refers to certain passages which arguably attack the 'Feudalisierung christlicher Institutionen wie Kirche, Mönchtum und Papsttum, deren Korruptheit und Erneuerungsbedürftigkeit sich vornehmlich im Streben nach Reichtum dekuvrieren' (p. 102).3 Finally, Hermann Henne, writing in 1982/ argues that Hartmann consistently portrays his clerical characters, and in particular the abbot,5 as representatives of an institution in urgent need of moral regeneration and spiritual renewal. Reasonably enough, he interprets this critical perspective as evidence to suggest enthusiasm on Hartmann's part for the various initiatives to reform the Church which were so influential during the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries.

As yet, however, no study of Gregorius has attempted to shed light on the extent of Hartmann's anticlericalism by means of a systematic comparison of the relevant sections of his poem with those of his Old French source, the Vie du pape Saint Grégoire.6 This is perhaps symptomatic of a certain slowness on the part of Germanists to take advantage of the Significant and valuable progress which has been made over the past fifteen years or so by those of their Romanist colleagues who have worked on the Old French Vie. Since 1977, for example, we have at last had access to a reliable edition of the work, in which Hendrik ?. Sol offers not only transcriptions of each of its six surviving manuscripts, but also critical texts of the two redactions (A and B) to which these manuscripts bear witness.7 Moreover, Brigitte Herlem-Prey has made a meticulous and compendious comparison of the readings of two representative French manuscripts (Ai and Bi) with those of Hartmann's text, which has enabled us to develop a far clearer picture both of the precise nature of his source and of his techniques of adaptation;11 and, more recently, Eugenio Burgio has subjected Herlem-Prey's conclusions to rigorous further analysis, and proposed plausible and useful modifications of them.9 Germanists have by no means entirely ignored these developments, but the number and scope of recent studies devoted to illuminating the preoccupations and methods of Hartmann on the basis of detailed comparison of Gregorius with its French precursor have arguably been disappointing.10

The present article seeks to make a modest contribution towards remedying this lack by discussing the passages in the Vie du pape Saint Grégoire and in Gregorius in which clerical characters appear, with a view to establishing whether Hartmann adapts his source in such a way as to suggest a coherent critique of the Church and its clergy. …

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