Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

When Ego Was Imago: Signs of Identity in the Middle Ages

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

When Ego Was Imago: Signs of Identity in the Middle Ages

Article excerpt

When Ego Was Imago: Signs of Identity in the Middle Ages. By Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak. [Visualizing the Middle Ages, Vol. 3.] (Boston: Brill. 2011. Pp. xxix, 295. euro127,00. ISBN 978-90-04-19217-1.)

The study of seals is not ordinarily a topic that arouses great enthusiasm, least of all among scholars likely to read this journal. But everyone should be enthusiastic about the publication of Brigitte Bedos-Rezak's long-awaited book, including students of medieval Catholicism. For especially in its central chapters, When Ego Was Imago makes a number of very important arguments about the way eleventh- and twelfth-century bishops and schoolmen thought about the Eucharist and the Trinity. Although most of the chapters present material published in earlier articles, the author has so thoroughly reworked it that the old articles no longer provide a suitable entry into her complex thought. In brief, Bedos-Rezak shows that the use of seals in so-called "private" charters first began with the bishops of northern France after c. 1040, and that even when the use of seals spread to the charters of the kingdom's lay aristocracy shortly thereafter, the practice was still consistently mediated by churches and abbeys closely associated with bishops, their schools, and their chanceries. She further demonstrates, quite convincingly, that the bishops and episcopal chancellors who introduced and promoted the sealing of charters were the very ones most deeply involved in the Eucharistic controversies surrounding Berengar of Tours. Accordingly, Bedos-Rezak argues that the sealing of nonroyal charters did not result from any of the reasons usually alleged (such as the revival of commerce and Roman law or the need of new administrations to authenticate documents) but from a relatively sudden conjuncture that led to a complete rethinking of the relationship between signs and signified. …

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