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TMR 03.12.20, Klaniczay, Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses (Head) (fwd)

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  • jenne@fiedlerfamily.net
    FYI: -- Pani Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne@fiedlerfamily.net ... Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 13:09:13 -0500 (EST) From: tmr-l@wmich.edu To:
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      -- Pani Jadwiga Zajaczkowa, Knowledge Pika jenne@...

      ---------- Forwarded message ----------
      Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 13:09:13 -0500 (EST)
      From: tmr-l@...
      To: tmr-l@...
      Subject: TMR 03.12.20, Klaniczay, Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses (Head)

      Gabor Klaniczay. <i>Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses:
      Dynastic Cults in Medieval Central Europe</i>. Trans. Eva
      Palmai. Past and Present Publications. Cambridge: Cambridge
      University Press, 2002. Pp. xviii, 490, 91 figures, 12
      genealogical tables. $95.00 (hb). ISBN 0521420180.

      Reviewed by Thomas Head
      Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University
      of New York
      thead@...


      Gabor Klaniczay has presented, in this work originally
      published in Hungarian in 2000, an enormously ambitious and
      extremely thorough examination of the medieval cults of saints
      who belonged to royal dynasties. His chosen title is in a
      sense too narrow, for while he focuses on cults from Hungary,
      Bohemia, and other central European lands, he considers the
      larger European context so extensively that his work is quite
      simply the best study to date of the intersection of royalty
      and sanctity in medieval Europe. He presents the essence of
      the theme he will be examining as follows, "The holy ruler's
      special relationship to the powers on high . . . [which]
      guarantees his country's welfare in some mysterious way. What
      all of this adds up to is the religious legitimation of secular
      power in terms of <i>royal and dynastic sanctity</i>, the
      medieval variant of <i>sacral kingship</i>." (p. 2, emphases in
      original)

      Klaniczay uses his introduction to lay out, succinctly and
      ably, the main lines of the historiographical traditions
      concerning both royal sanctity and sacral kingship. He is
      particularly interested in and engaged with the work of the
      many twentieth-century scholars from <i>Mitteleuropa</i> for
      whom these subjects were so compelling. Often speaking "as a
      Hungarian medievalist" (see, for example, p. 13), he exegetes
      the political and ideological underpinnings of much of this
      scholarship. Klaniczay proceeds in the first chapter to
      consider how medieval ideas of royal sanctity were related to
      practices of sacral kingship in the ancient world. The opening
      pages of the book proper are thus a somewhat dull potted
      history of forms of kingship in the ancient Mediterranean
      world; essential to the overall architectonic of the argument,
      these pages are simply less interesting than the book as a
      whole, and the reader should not lose heart. Klaniczay
      sensibly argues that Christian ideas of holy rulership
      developed out of the imperial cult of the late Roman empire.
      This intermediate conclusion is essential to the very important
      second chapter where he uses a survey of the saintly kings of
      the early middle ages to debunk the old, but still potent,
      thesis of the pagan Germanic origins of European sacral
      kingship. Rather, the distinctly Roman and Christian ideas
      coalesce into the king who endures martyrdom to protect his
      church and thus the faith of his kingdom. Two late tenth-
      century texts--the passions of King Edmund of East Anglia by
      Abbo of Fleury and of Wenceslas of Bohemia by Gumpold of
      Mantua--serve as the key conduits of this model into the
      thought and practice of the high middle ages. Importantly the
      latter concerns an episode in the conversion of central
      European kingdoms to Christianity. It is there that, as
      charted in the third chapter, a new and different model of the
      "saintly institutor of Christian kingship" grew during the
      eleventh century in the cults of such kings as Stephen of
      Hungary. In this chapter, Klaniczay is particularly interested
      in showing how Christian ideas of holiness and rulership mutate
      as they are adapted in newly Christianized kingdoms.

      In the fourth chapter Klaniczay describes the development of
      two very different models of royal saint during the course of
      the twelfth century. One is the "chaste prince" such as Henry
      II of Germany, based on the earlier Christian royal martyr.
      The other is the increasingly militant patron of the
      fatherland, who adds ever more knightly values to the model of
      Stephen. While the two ideals were theoretically in tension
      with one another, Klaniczay also shows how the two categories
      in practice overlapped. He brilliantly describes how chivalric
      values came increasingly to influence the portrait of all royal
      saints, even that of the pacific martyr Edmund, as his story
      was repeatedly retold in Latin, the vernaculars, and in images.
      The main focus of this chapter is Ladislas of Hungary (+1112),
      who was apparently not celebrated as a saint until the
      inauguration of his cult under King Bela III in 1192. A
      politically useful patron emerged, yet another member of the
      Arpad dynasty, who displayed an interesting mixture of elements
      of chivalric culture borrowed from western Europe and imperial
      cult taken from Byzantium.

      Each of the last two chapters weighs in at a hefty one-hundred
      pages, almost the size of a short monograph in itself. First
      comes a detailed analysis of the nine women from royal or
      princely families who were beatified over the course of the
      thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the most famous and
      popular of whom was Elizabeth of Hungary. These women, a
      combination of pious widows who patronized convents and
      princesses who avoided marriage by taking the veil, were the
      chief means by which the mendicant orders entered central
      Europe. They used their family resources to establish
      mendicant convents in which they practiced a life of simplicity
      and poverty which was a conscious and effective foil to the
      ostentatious court life of their families. They blended the
      two most important currents of late medieval holiness, female
      sanctity and mendicant poverty, and thus adapted ideals of
      Italian origin to the realities of kingdoms of the eastern
      "periphery" such as Hungary. While these central European
      women constituted the great majority of "royal saints" in these
      centuries, Klaniczay does offer a comparison to their west
      European contemporaries, most importantly Louis IX of France.
      In the final chapter Klaniczay describes how the cults of these
      women flourished during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
      in their native countries where the cults were encouraged and
      patronized by the ruling dynasties as a sacred confirmation of
      their power and authority. Thus the women who had self-
      consciously rejected court life became in a sense the
      cornerstones of those very courts in later generations. Their
      cults also flourished in the western lands of Europe,
      particularly France and Italy, through the mediation of the
      Angevin dynasty which married into central European ruling
      families. There various traits common to female Italian
      saints, such as mystical visions and stigmata, were added to
      the portraits of Elizabeth of Hungary and the others, even
      though they had not actually exhibited those traits in their
      lives. Throughout these chapters, Klaniczay carefully crafts
      his argument in light of and response to Andre Vauchez'
      magisterial <i>Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages</i> (French
      second edition, Rome, 1988; English translation, Cambridge,
      1997).

      Klaniczay ends the book with a sixteen-page conclusion which is
      new to the English translation. Here he evaluates new
      developments in scholarship since the original composition of
      the book, considers how he might proceed to rewrite the book in
      the light of those developments, and argues for the importance
      of the so-called "periphery" of Europe in the history of the
      so-called "mainstream."

      One aspect of the book worthy of separate comment is the use of
      art historical evidence. The cults considered in this book
      were the inspiration for many illuminated manuscripts,
      reliquaries, and sumptuously decorated chapels. Klaniczay
      makes extensive use of this evidence and has provided the book
      with ninety-one black-and-white illustrations, mostly of very
      good clarity and quality. He is very attuned to the importance
      of the symbolic representation of both holiness and royal
      authority, yet he mostly considers the visual evidence as
      simple illustrations of the texts which he has read, and not as
      independent texts. This is a failing among historians commonly
      decried by art historians. To his credit, Klaniczay notes in
      the conclusion that he wishes he had incorporated art
      historical scholarship and evidence more fully into his
      argument.

      I am, not unsurprisingly, completely unable to judge the
      specific merits of the actual translation from the Hungarian
      presented in this volume. The English reads quite fluidly and
      gives the general impression of being of high quality. There
      are, for example, surprisingly few inconsistencies or oddities
      in the rendering of personal names and other proper nouns,
      problems often rampant in translated volumes (but see Gerald of
      Aurillac and Geraud d'Aurillac on p. 115; "Gratianus" for the
      author of the <i>Decretum</i> on p. 188; the complexly
      macaronic "the Cathari, the Waldenses, the <i>Umiliati</i>" on
      pp. 195 and 200; and "Poor Clare" beside "Clariss" on pp. 238-
      9). English translations of scholarly works, and some but not
      all primary sources, are regularly noted in the footnotes.
      There are a handful of errors of fact which have probably been
      introduced in the translation process (see, for example, the
      identification of St. Jerome et al. as "Apostolic Fathers" on
      p. 196, and the introduction on p. 60 of St. Augustine,
      presumably instead of members of the imperial family, into the
      discussion of the endlessly enigmatic Trier Ivory). Another,
      even smaller, handful of errors of fact must be laid at the
      door of the author himself: it was, for example, the relics of
      St. Faith alone, not yet placed in the glorious reliquary
      statue, which were stolen by the monks of Conques from Agen in
      the ninth century (cf. p. 146). There is one persistent
      problem of worthy note which may be the fault of the translator
      or of the author himself. Throughout the work, the words
      "canonise" and "canonisation" are used in an inconsistent
      manner (see, for example, pp. 79, 98, 111, 125, 133, 148, 158,
      171, 185, 195, etc.). At times they appear to refer
      specifically to a papal authorization of a saint's cult, at
      other times the use appears to be intentionally more general.
      So much for the reviewer's duty of reporting problems and
      errors, which remain acceptably small in number for a
      translated volume of this size and complexity.

      Cambridge University Press is to be congratulated on making
      such an important work--particularly one published not in
      French or German, but in a language not read by the great
      majority of western scholars--available in translation so soon
      after its initial publication. And, it should be noted in
      conclusion, the importance of Klaniczay's study reaches far
      beyond the bounds of the history of Christian hagiography, or
      even of medieval religious history. As he succinctly notes,
      "St. Stephen, whose canonisation was occasioned by state policy
      consideration, continues to be a saint for state and political
      occasions to this day." (p. 147) Stephen's relics have indeed
      played an important role in the public theater of Hungarian
      politics since the euphoric upheavals of the late 1980s.
      Klaniczay's own thoughts on the contemporary implications of
      this very impressive and welcome study are succinctly noted in
      the conclusion.
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