Six Hundred Years of Reform: Bishops and the French Church, 1190-1789

By Ramsey, Ann W. | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2007 | Go to article overview

Six Hundred Years of Reform: Bishops and the French Church, 1190-1789


Ramsey, Ann W., The Catholic Historical Review


Six Hundred Years of Reform: Bishops and the French Church, 1190-1789. ByJ. Michael Hayden and Malcolm R. Greenshields. [McGiË-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion, volume 37.] (Montreal, Kingston, London, and Ithaca: McGill-Queen's University Press. 2005. Pp. xx, 604. $80.00.)

Hayden and Greenshields investigate bishop-initiated reform within the French church using synodal statutes and pastoral visitation records from the late twelfth century to the French Revolution. They bring new rigor to the exploitation of these well-known sources and propose a new chronology and a new geography of reform in France.

The authors quantified the catalogue of synodal statutes compiled by André Artonne and Odette Pontal (Répertoire des statuts synodaux). This creates our first aggregated serial database revealing the frequency of promulgations covering the entire period 1190-1789. The study finds that "changes in content [in synodal statutes] appeared exactly where the analysis of volume of promulgation predicted (p. 13)" This information on the long-term evolution of promulgations is then combined with a qualitative analysis of changes in visitation questionnaires. On this basis, the authors present their view of 600 years of continuity in church reform punctuated by periods of disruption and slowdown.

They argue for two 300-year cycles (1190-1489 and 1490-1789), characterized by enough consistency of aim (purification and universaËzation of doc- trine and practice) to constitute "a continuous reality in the history of Christianity" (p. 7). Within these cycles, they emphasize a "First Catholic Reformation," at its height from the 1490's to 1560, and a "Second Catholic Reformation," at its height from the l640's through the l690's, with two distinct phases: 1590-1689 and 1690-1789. The interpretation of their data is shaped at least in part by their critique of the vogue of "discontinuity" as a world-view and more importantly by their desire to lay to rest the Protestant monopoly of the term Reformation.

This work is most useful in remedying critical problems of method, chronology, and geography in the existing standard treatments of visitation records provided in the CNRS Répertoire des visites pastorales and the Atlas de la réforme pastorale en France de 1550 à 1790 by the Froeschlé-Chopards. …

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