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Of locustae and dangerous men: Peter Damian, the Vallombrosans, and eleventh-century reform (1).

In a letter to the people of Florence in the early part of 1067, the ardent reformer, Peter Damian, denounced a group of monks as locustae. (2) These unnamed monks--whom it has long been accepted were the Vallombrosans--had been waging a campaign against their bishop, Peter Mezzabarba of Florence, whom they accused of obtaining his office by simony. Although Damian, who had been cardinal-bishop of Ostia as well as prior of the eremitical community at Fonte Avellana, readily acknowledged that Mezzabarba might have a case to answer at Pope Alexander II's forthcoming council in Rome, (3) he condemned their intrusion into matters of ecclesiastical politics that were none of their business. (4) Yet it was clearly more than a matter of inappropriate activities. For he went on to dismiss in the bitterest of terms the dangerous pretensions of these monks to a superior holiness. Referring to their sanctity as odiosa, Damian concluded by saying that if monks like the Vallombrosans wanted to be holy they should not flaunt a spiritual arrogance in the face of weaker brethren. (5) For Damian, the duty of monks was strictly defined by function: their calling was to weep for sins, not to announce them. (6)

Although Damian's denunciation has always seemed a little odd for one so committed to purifying the Church, it has been accepted that he reluctantly chose to support a potentially tainted bishop only because, on the one hand, he was committed to the canonical principle that judgment of a bishop required papal or synodal action, and on the other that his fellow monks had, in their zeal, gone a political, and especially theological, step too far--publicly claiming that their bishop's sacraments were impaired by his own personal shortcomings. (7) In other words, by challenging the efficacy of Mezzabarba's sacraments and claiming that simonists could not dedicate churches, celebrate the mass, ordain priests, or consecrate the chrism, the Vallombrosans were not only undermining the attempts of true reformers to create a purified Church set apart by function, but were also blurring the fine line between institutional and personal merit that had been at the core of his debate with Humbert of Silva-Candida during the 1040s. Phyllis Jestice in particular has argued that Damian would not have been so vehement had the Vallombrosans not moved to include the question of the validity of sacraments in their campaign against Mezzabarba, although she has also stressed that Damian's complaints against the Vallombrosans were the ones he customarily deployed against any "wayward" monks acting in the world--arguments, moreover, that he had especially developed in his rebuke of the Florentine urban hermit, Teuzo between 1055 and 1057. (8) Paolo Golinelli, however, had argued that the radicalization of Damian's position vis-a-vis the Vallombrosans needed to be seen, among other things, in the context of the situation in Milan with Pataria (where Damian had been a legate in 1059) where the fine lines between a reformist "liturgical boycott" and claims of invalid sacraments had not been drawn as sharply as in Florence. (9) Golinelli also suggested that Damian's preoccupation with monastic humility, moderation, and especially "discretion'--which he never saw as incompatible with extreme and even virulent asceticism--meant that he was condemning not simply a model of holiness but also the specific situation in which it was being followed. (10)

Although northern Italy did not have a monopoly on dangerous men in the second half of the eleventh century, the region witnessed any number of problematic, even violent clashes among ecclesiastics and laymen, and even among ecclesiastics themselves, not just in Florence, but also in Lucca and, most famously, in Milan with the Pataria. (11) While the local circumstances differed, each of the conflicts involved an attempt to translate reform ideals into practice. Yet historians, even perhaps Jestice, may have underestimated the extent to which these conflicts are important in ways other than marking critical turning points in the methods of propagating reform. For these incidents--both explicitly and implicitly--raised serious questions within the clerical sphere not only about who was authorized to undertake reform: those individuals who operated through the normal channels of ecclesiastical institutions or those individuals whose personal commitment to an ideal of purity lay behind (or at least was seen to lay behind) their efforts for promoting reform, but also about the questions of by whom or by what principle these roles were to be defined. Jestice saw these developments as part of a broader change in monasticism during the eleventh century, and her work has drawn important attention to the new emphasis on a more active role for some monks in the life of the Church, dating that change far earlier than has been previously thought. (12) That said, as I have argued elsewhere, if it is accepted that an exercise in persuasion was at the center of efforts to implement reform in the eleventh century, it is vital that we are sensitive to the ways in which the changing character of reform increasingly brought forth a rivalry--if only rhetorically--within the clergy as a whole. (13)

Peter Damian's denunciation of the Florentine monks offers an important testimony to this rivalry, and it merits further examination for the ways in which it reveals attempts to justify changing roles in the promotion of reform. By reassessing the Vallombrosan monks' struggle against their bishop, and most especially the way that these were justified in the two Lives of the order's founder, John Gualbertus, this article seeks to argue that at the center of efforts to implement reform in Italian circles was an intense, but perhaps still largely overlooked debate among contemporaries both about the objectives of reform itself as well as a growing contest between the secular clergy and those dangerous ascetics, who having left "the world," used their reputation for holiness in order to intervene in it. For just as reform lay in prescribing the increasingly distinct spheres of duty for ecclesiastics and laymen, it equally involved an attempt to distinguish between the active role of the secular clergy and the contemplative role of the monastic clergy. For Damian and others, the Vallombrosans could not be true reformers because they failed to adhere to these distinctions and had become dangerous anomalies--even locustae--who contravened their vision of social order. For Hildebrand/Gregory VII and the Vallombrosan apologists, however, the overwhelming need to effect reform throughout the Church and Christian society meant redefining both the scope of reform as well as the roles of those who promoted it.


The Vallombrosan congregation always seems to have been somewhat unsettling for many contemporaries despite evident admiration and support from individuals as diverse as Pope Leo IX, Humbert of Silva-Candida, Beatrice of Tuscany, and Gregory VII. (14) Moreover, traces of this ambivalent perception are evident in the early vitae of the order's founder, John Gualbertus: the first written ca. 1092-95 by the former Patarene Andreas of Strumi, the second anonymous Life written ca. 1115, probably by a monk from Settimo. (15) Yet in recounting the saint's life, both authors clearly sought to respond, though with different narrative strategies and in shifting political circumstances, to what men such as Damian regarded as inappropriate extraclaustral activities. (16) The task of these authors was not made easier by the career of their protagonist. Indeed, the Vallombrosan congregation had its very origins in a shocking act--Gualbertus's breaking of his monastic vow of obedience to his abbot. This was an event that neither author could ignore, and one which both sought to confront matter-of-factly.

Born around 1000 in or near Florence, John was a late convert to religious life, entering the monastery of St. Miniato al Monte in Florence sometime in the late 1020s or early 1030s. It is unclear how long John remained in omni obedientia at St. Miniato, whether for two or possibly up to ten years. In any event, in 1035 the election of the monk Ubertus as the new abbot per pecuniam provoked a spiritual crisis for John. According to Andreas of Strumi, John left the confines of the monastery to consult with the magnum et famossimum senem Teuzo, a recluse living in a small cell attached to St. Maria in Badia, himself a fervent opponent of simony. (17) According to Andreas, though recognizing the enormity of breaking his vow of obedience, John was terrified at the prospect of remaining at St. Miniato under a simonist abbot. (18) By contrasting true monks with those milites sub Simone mago, Teuzo supposedly advised Gualbertus to openly condemn both Ubertus and Bishop Atto of Florence. To the shock of many, John did as Teuzo advised, publicly denouncing both the abbot and the bishop in the city market, before fleeing the city to find a more rigorous observance elsewhere. (19) Following a brief monastic peregrination, John arrived at Camaldoli, where he followed a life of austerity and abstinence "for many days." (20) Urged by the prior of Camaldoli to remain and take holy orders, John refused on account of his desire for a coenobitical rather than an eremitical life. With two followers, he finally settled at Vallombrosa, some eighteen miles east of Florence. (21)

As their reputation for asceticism and holiness spread, the small community at Vallombrosa expanded as monks from St. Miniato, Settimo, and elsewhere, along with laymen, joined what was seen as the "new conversion." Originally more of an institutionalized eremiticism, Vallombrosa quickly moved towards a more traditional coenobitical existence. According to Andreas, John espoused the literal observance of the Rule of St. Benedict combined with a strong emphasis on corporal mortification and poverty. (22) Moreover, Gualbertus insisted upon stabilitas and strict enclosure--something that he himself had lacked in earlier years--and furthermore he prohibited the monks from visitation, burial, receiving chapels, and other pastoral care, which he believed to be properly the work of canons, although apparently he did not forbid preaching. (23) Conversi were used to bridge the gap between the cloister and the world, though the Vallombrosans were still required to do manual labor, often the most humble tasks. (24) This at least was the characterization of the order by later apologists. Why then had such holy men become locustae in the eyes of Peter Damian?

By the 1050s it is apparent that not only was Vallombrosa esteemed for its rigorous monastic observance, but also that it was beginning to be seen in certain quarters as a center for the active promotion of ecclesiastical reform. (25) Moreover, the reforming activities of the Vallombrosan monks, at least initially, seem to have met with more than just tacit papal approval. Indeed, according to the later report of Bonizo of Sutri, at a council in 1049, Pope Leo IX called upon monks, especially in Tuscany, to aid religious men in preaching against married clergy and other abuses. (26) An established and strict Benedictine house, whose reputation had deservedly attracted for itself new recruits and new monasteries, must have seemed to be an ideal partner in the promotion of reform for a papacy increasingly desirous of the same goals. (27) Papal support, however, would become increasingly strained with the election in 1062 of Peter Mezzabarba as Bishop of Florence whom the Vallombrosan monks actively accused of simony. This tension may have stemmed in part from the close alliance of Mezzabarba with the reform papacy's longtime supporters Beatrice of Tuscany and her husband Duke Godfrey of Lower Lotharingia. (28)

The earliest independent evidence for a campaign against Mezzabarba comes from an extant fragment of a letter of Pope Alexander II, written ca. 1064. With reference to the council of Chalcedon, which had prohibited monks from wandering in cities, Alexander ordered an unnamed group of monks in Florence--without doubt the followers of Gualbertus--to return to their cloister. (29) Not only did these monks refuse the pope's command, but they also seem to have intensified their preaching activities, openly denouncing Mezzabarba both as a simonist and a heretic. More worrying, especially for Peter Damian, the Vallombrosans apparently not only urged the Florentines to reject the sacraments of any priest ordained by Mezzabarba (as the Pataria had done with their calls for liturgical boycotts), but also claimed that the sacraments of such priests were invalid. (30) The city thus remained openly divided until sometime in 1066 or 1067, when, in an effort to silence the protests, the increasingly frustrated Mezzabarba sent armed men to the Vallombrosan house of St. Salvi to burn the monastery to the ground in the belief that Gualbertus would be there. (31) The bishop's men supposedly entered the monastery during nocturns while the monks were saying the office, and then proceeded to attack all on whom they could lay their hands before pillaging and setting fire to the monastery. This misguided attack not only attracted wide attention to the issue of simony, but also garnered invaluable support for the Vallombrosans. With the status of quasi-martyrs and considerable lay support, the monks redoubled efforts to oust their bishop. Alexander II's response was first to send Peter Damian to prepare the way for the council in Rome. The Vallombrosans, however, did not stop the denunciations even after the council condemned their activities. The conflict continued to escalate and was resolved only after an unauthorized ordeal by fire at the Vallombrosan house of Settimo in Florence proved the bishop's guilt and made further inaction by Alexander II untenable. (32)


It is useful here to consider in more detail the account of these events by Gualbertus's hagiographers. Both Lives are valuable on any number of levels, and Jestice is perhaps hasty in dismissing the accounts of the attack on St. Salvi, the Council at Rome, and the resolution of the struggle as nothing more than hagiography or apologia written between twenty and forty years after the events. (33) Andreas's Vita, even if unwittingly, is perhaps the more important source, though unlike the Anonymous he did not personally know Gualbertus, only joining the Vallombrosan congregation after the saint's death. (34) On some levels, it must be conceded, this Life is an unexceptional text. There is little use of the Fathers, and while the Rule, Gregory I's Dialogues, and the Regula Pastoralis are employed, allusions are infrequent and imprecise. (35) The Life is full of the customary topoi of noble birth, early piety, profession, parental displeasure, and extreme asceticism that resulted in a debilitating stomach illness. Even the many miracles are conventional, indeed quite basic, tending largely toward feeding miracles such as the miraculous discovery of a pike in fetid water at Passignano needed to feed Pope Leo IX and his entourage. (36) Even in the anonymous Life, where the saint, despite being personally known to the author, seems curiously absent, Gualbertus is depicted as a good, but unremarkable man; the Anonymous does not describe any miracles, seeking instead to provide an elegy. (37)

In both Lives though, John Gualbertus is associated at least textually with broader ecclesiastical reform. Indeed, it can be argued that his entire persona is constructed as existing within a clerical reform milieu. This is not to deny the importance of John as a monk for both authors. Andreas especially was at pains to emphasize John's solicitude for the monks and houses under his headship, his severe but fraternal corrections, and his determination for rigorous observance of the Rule. (38) For Andreas, these attributes were essential not only for establishing Gualbertus's credibility as a holy man and abbot, but in essence were precisely what permitted the saint to expand his field of action beyond the cloister when occasion demanded. Moreover, throughout this Life, Andreas suggests that it was the fear that his monks would be compromised by contact with unworthy (that is, unreformed) clergy, or at least that it was the need for reform in general that provided the catalyst for John's actions. For instance, he left St. Miniato from fear of contamination by the simonist abbot Ubertus, but his subsequent status as a gryovage or wandering monk was justified by a miraculous multiplication of bread and eggs for a poor beggar, a sign of divine favor on his public denunciation of abuse. (39) Not in orders himself, John esteemed the priesthood so much that he would not allow himself, and by extension Vallombrosan monks, to accede to holy orders for fear that they might be ordained by a simonist. (40) He went so far as to instruct Bishop Hermann of Volterra on the need to fight against simony and clerical concubinage, reminding him in good (if anachronistic) Gregorian fashion that if he failed in his pastoral duties, he would be acquiescing in the spread of sin. (41) Indeed, John's regard for "good" clerics was sharply brought home by his efforts to supply untainted priests for Milan in response to requests from that city, when he arranged to have them ordained by the irreproachable Bishop Rudolf of Todi, thus circumventing the simonists Peter Mezzabarba and Archbishop Guido of Milan. (42)

In the anonymous Life, where there are fewer details of the saint's career, this reform context is possibly even more prominent. There is much discussion of how the order was asked to undertake supervision of monasteries where observance had lapsed, and the anonymous author in fact stresses that John only agreed to accept and reform Settimo in the context of the struggle against simony. (43) In this Life there is also the somewhat curious but understandable digression (given the author's likely origins) about the faultless earlier eleventh-century abbot of Settimo, Guarinus, and his struggles against Bishop Hildebrand of Florence and especially the bishop's wife, Alberga--that symbol of the unreformed Church, who was famously condemned as much for speaking as existing. (44) Guarinus in many ways acts as a proto-Gualbertus in the evolving narrative of the Life, and the digression, in textual terms, formed the context not only for John's foundation of Vallombrosa, but also for the subsequent struggle against Peter Mezzabarba.

In both Lives, it is the clash with Mezzabarba that is the most important--indeed the most revealing--incident not simply in terms of the justification of John's persona, but also in the construction of his very sanctity. Although the Anonymous set out the prehistory, including "precise" details of Mezzabarba's simoniacal acquisition of the bishopric of Florence, his principal concern was with describing the Vallombrosan legation sent by Gualbertus to the Roman Council of 1067 in an effort to persuade Alexander II to condemn Peter Mezzabarba. (45) The resolution of the struggle and the ordeal by fire are only briefly mentioned in this Life, though the author does refer explicitly to the earlier Life by Andreas. (46) Although Gualbertus was largely absent from the entire discussion of these events, his impetus and indeed presence were affirmed by the repeated mention of his vicem, Rodulf, who represented him in Rome and who would later succeed him as head of the Vallombrosan congregation.

In Andreas's much fuller account of the struggle, though Gualbertus does go unmentioned in the discussion of the actual ordeal that proved Mezzabarba's guilt (that is, the letter to Alexander II from the Florentines included in the Life as c.75, where the denouement is described), he at all times effectively shapes the narrative of the evolving struggle. Andreas begins by describing the many monks, clerics, and also laymen from Milan, Cremona, and Piacenza, who came to Vallombrosa on account of its "odor tantae sanctitas." According to Andreas, some came to make a pilgrimage, some to learn the new way of monastic life, some to flee simoniacal superiors, and others, having heard that John and his monks publicly denounced simony, to be instructed about how to avoid it. (47) Like the Anonymous, Andreas described Mezzabarba's acquisition of the bishopric in 1062 by simony, and then went on to note John's public denunciations. (48) As civil unrest grew, Mezzabarba looked, according to Andreas, for ways to intimidate the clergy and people of Florence, ultimately ordering that St. Salvi be set on fire and that the monks who had first spoken against him be killed. (49) Then, in vivid detail, Andreas depicted the attack against the monks, the wounds inflicted by the bishop's men, the sacrilege that they committed that even included robbing the abbot of his amice, emphasizing that throughout the attack the monks continued to chant in complete humility and passivity. (50) The sacrilegious attack, as noted above, had the opposite effect of that intended by Mezzabarba, and it effectively transformed St. Salvi into a sacred site where the people flocked to obtain relics. (51) When John finally arrived at the monastery, he extolled the brothers as true monks and martyrs, and supposedly expressed regret that he had been unable to share the experience of wholly unmerited persecution that they had undergone. (52) The text then continued with a description of the escalating struggle, the interventions of Duke Godfrey and Alexander II, as well as a brief mention of the synod. Andreas concluded his Life with the full text of the letter of the Florentines dated February 13, 1068 about the trial by fire and the resolution of the controversy. (53)

Boesch-Gajano and others have seen this section of the text, and especially the inclusion of the Florentines' letter as an aside, as a parenthetical part of Andreas's Vita. (54) It must be conceded that, on one level, this is a fair assessment: the monks are not explicitly described as Vallombrosans. Although the ordeal did take place at Settimo, as indicated above, there are questions concerning its place within the congregation both in John's lifetime and subsequently. (55) Moreover, as it also must be conceded, Gualbertus had no role whatsoever and was not even mentioned in the text of the letter from the Florentines to Alexander II. That said, in the only extant copy of Andreas's Life (Florence, Archivio di Stato, Conventi soppressi MS. 260 n.259), a marginal annotation does specifically name him as the abbot who blessed and then commanded the unnamed monk to walk through the fire; a role that is also corroborated by Desiderius in his Miracula sancti Benedicti. (56) This shows that at least in contemporary perception, Gualbertus was intimately associated with the final unfolding of the struggle. Furthermore, in the textual construction of the vita itself, John surrounds and shapes the narrative of the ordeal. Moreover, at least in Andreas's Life, the ordeal narrative follows on directly from a series of chapters in which a number of Gualbertus's miracles are described. In textual terms, thus, the reform" struggles against Mezzabarba and the miracle of the ordeal itself are not simply associated with John's miracles, but actually constitute more of them. In Andreas's Life, therefore, the dramatic liturgical ordeal and subsequent deposition of Mezzabarba are effectively presented as deriving ultimately from John Gualbertus: both events were "signs" of how much his example and fight against simony, his commitment to righteous action even beyond the cloister, and even his model of holiness had been infused in his disciples. (57)


In his treatise on the validity of sacraments, the Liber gratissimus, written ca. 1040, Damian had made the distinction between a person who was called holy on the merits of a ministerial position and a person who was said to be holy on the merits of his life. (58) In other words, he drew a distinction between institutional holiness and the personal holiness granted from God or derived from the way one's life was lived. This idea figures prominently throughout Damian's writings. For instance, in his letter chastising the hermit Teuzo between 1055 and 1057, Damian wrote of his disciple Dominic Loricatus that "his life is a better tool for edification [as] he preaches by living deeds." (59) In his Vita Dominici Loricati, Damian was even more explicit. Concerned that his audience would not believe or understand Dominic's extraordinary ascetic feats, Damian wrote that deeds were far better than miracles "for a miraculous life exacted imitation, [whereas] miracles only engendered admiration." (60) In the Vallombrosan case, it seems that it was not simply a matter of monks acting in the world--which he believed to be inappropriate in almost every instance--but more importantly how, or by what principle, monks claimed the right to act in the world.

Damian himself was no stranger to the vagaries and lifestyles of irregular, gyrovage monks. Indeed his own career might well be brought into consideration. However much he may have crossed the boundary into the secular church as Cardinal-bishop of Ostia (a position from which he repeatedly tried to retire), he remained at heart a hermit and a monk, styling himself to the end Petrus peccator monachus. This tension is most apparent in his Vita beati Romualdi written in 1042, where--not unlike the Vallombrosan hagiographers--he was presented with the difficult task of reconciling what he understood as the monastic simplictitas, humilitas, and sanctitas of Romuald with what was an unmistakably irregular existence. Romuald's foundations did not often survive, and his reform attempts frequently faltered. Although his ambition, in Damian's classic words, was to make "the whole world a hermitage and to associate the whole multitude of people with the monastic order," he seems to have been incapable of sustained organization. (61) Even more challenging was the need to justify Romuald's active participation in clerical reform. (62) For, according to Damian, Romuald not only rigorously promoted the communal life for canons and clerics in the world, but he also openly and publicly denounced as heretics those secular clerics and bishops who obtained their offices through simony, even at risk to himself. (63) This of course sounds rather similar to what the Vallombrosans had done in Florence after 1062. Yet, unlike the Vallombrosans, who dangerously and most especially publicly used their asceticism and their reputations for sanctity as instruments for reform, Romuald's sanctity, at least in Damian's construction, was simple, private, only once becoming indiscreet. (64) The example of a holy but also active life that was commendable in Romuald and others was condemned in the Vallombrosans, who were locustae. (65) Ironically, at the Roman council of 1067, monastic simplicitas would become a mitigating factor. In the midst of further attacks by Damian, who again, according to the Anonymous, called the Vallombrosans "locusts," Alexander II excused the monks for their simplicitas, noting that they did not know what they were saying. (66)

The choice of the word locustae in itself is even more revealing. In fact in Damian's extensive correspondence, the word occurs just two other times, once in the Liber gratissimus, where it was used in a strictly literal sense to refer to pests. (67) The other occasion, however, merits closer examination. In a letter written ca. 1060 to his subsequent biographer John of Lodi, Damian allegorically interpreted the ten plagues of Egypt, equating them with ten vices or temptations to vice. (68) Here the sin attributed to the locusts is that of false witness, pride, and spiritual arrogance:
 To whom can we better compare these animals that destroy young
 plants and devour the crops with their ravaging teeth than to those
 who slander their brothers and falsely accuse them of crime? They
 consume, as it were, another's growing crops when they not only
 suppress the good deeds of their brothers, which they should be
 proclaiming, but, what is more, defame them by bringing specious
 charges against them. They disparage them, not only by enviously
 covering up the truth about their good deeds, but also by branding
 them with the stigma of fictitious wickedness. Did not those gnaw
 like locusts, of whom the Apostle said. "If you go on fighting one
 another, tooth and nail, all you can expect is mutual destruction"?
 The commandment that states "You shall not give false evidence,"
 aptly opposes this plague. So that every giver of false witness (who
 will not go unpunished) may refrain from defaming another's life, he
 must discard the teeth of the locust and not gnaw away at the
 growing crops in another's field. (69)

Unlike that other laudatory ascetic Romuald, whose restlessness, wandering and even rebuke of others was shown to be providential, and whose sanctity thus lay in his ability to be a focal point of righteous action for the noneremitical members of the Christian community, the Vallombrosans, like locusts, devoured the greenness of the Church. Illicitly attacking their brother and superior, they used their holiness, their asceticism, and separation from the world to act within it and defame others. Moreover, whereas Damian characterized Romuald as acting and denouncing error under divine sanction, he never even remotely explored the full allegorical symbolism that the Vallombrosans might also have been acting as a divinely sent scourge to liberate God's people from an unworthy leader.

Damian, of course, was unsuccessful in achieving his desired ends. The Vallombrosans did not stop in their campaign against Mezzabarba, and their gamble with an unauthorized ordeal did in the end remove their opponent. Although later they would encounter firmer resistance from Pope Urban II, who would more sharply remind the monks of the boundaries of their sphere of action, (70) their model of action--like Romuald not so much in retreat from the world but acting from that position--found considerable support. That other most famous periculosus homo, Hildebrand, staunchly defended them at the Council of 1067, and his letter to the congregation after Gualbertus's death in 1073, urging the monks to show themselves as their leader's true sons, makes it clear that he looked to promote their continued active role within the world. (71) Others also saw nothing anomalous in the Vallombrosans' actions. In his Miracula sancti Benedicti, another crossover from the monastic to the secular Church--Desiderius--matter-of-factly depicted the Vallombrosans' activities, even thoughtfully providing John with a speech denouncing the bishop. (72)

In the end, the Vallombrosans' struggle against Mezzabarba and especially the variety of reactions that their activities produced within reform circles underlines the fact that in the second half of the eleventh century boundaries between various parts of the ecclesiastical community were shifting, however imperceptibly. As in reformist episcopal hagiography, where bishops were increasingly depicted not only as practical men of action but also as true "religious" successfully negotiating the tension between active and contemplative lives, (73) the urgency of promoting reform had entailed a new role for some members of the regular clergy. However unsettling for men such as Peter Damian, "dangerous" ascetics were seen as having a vital contribution to make in terms announcing error, and were either being called back into the world for active roles, or else were receiving considerable approbation for their own initiatives, even if retrospectively. The increasing conviction of the righteousness of their actions held by some reformers, and especially Gregory VII, would ensure that holiness would not only increasingly be found, but also depicted, in terms of militant action in the service of the Church, thereby breaking the mold of contemplation and retreat from the world as the only criteria for sanctity long before St. Francis disrobed in Assisi.

(1.) This article is dedicated to Alexander Murray in recognition of the tremendous breadth and quality of his scholarship, both of which never stood in the way of his willingness to engage at length in conversation about medieval church history and the reformers with young researchers.

(2.) Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani, ed. K. Reindel, 4 vols., Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Briefe der deutschen Kaiserzeit, 5/1-4 (Munich: Monumenta Germaniae Historica, 1983-93), 146, 3.532-42, here 541-42.

(3.) Ibid., 3.534-35. Cf. J. J. Ryan, Saint Peter Damiani and His Canonical Sources: A Preliminary Study in the Antecedents of the Gregorian Reform (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1956), 113, n. 227; K. M. Woody, "Damiani and the Radicals" (Ph.D. diss, Columbia University, 1966), 39 ff.; and R. Knox, "Accusing Higher Up," Zeitschrifi der Savigny-Stifiung fur Rechtsgeschichte, Kanonistische Abteilung 108 (Weimar: H. Bolau, 1991), 1-31.

(4.) Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani, 146, 3.535.

(5.) Ibid., 542: "Reprimatur Jam praesumptio tumida, exaequet se fratribus sanctitas onerosa. Qui vult esse sanctus, sit sibi coram Deo, nec per arrogantiam fratri praeferatur infirmo."

(6.) Ibid., 540-41. Cf. 165, 4.223.

(7.) P. Golinelli, "Indiscreta sanctitas: Sull'uso polemico della santita nel contesto del movimento riformatore," in Golinelli, "Indiscreta sanctitas": Studi sui rapporti tra culti, poteri e societa nel pieno medioevo, Studi storici, fasc. 197-98 (Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il medio evo, 1988), 157-91, here, 161.

(8.) P. G. Jestice, Wayward Monks and the Religious Revolution of the Eleventh Century (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997), esp. 217-24, 235, 236, 239. Cf. Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani, 44, 1.7-33, to Teuzo. On the dating, see Reindel, 2.7-8.

(9.) Golinelli, "Indiscreta sanctitas: Sull'uso polemico della santita," 159-60.

(10.) Ibid., esp. 165-68, 184.

(11.) On Lucca, see H. Schwarzmaier, Lucca und das Reich bis zum Ende des 11. Jahrhunderts (Tubingen: M. Niemeyer, 1972); C. Wickham, "Economia e societa rurale nel territorio lucchese durante la seconda meta del secolo XI: inquadramenti aristocratici e strutture signorili," in Sant' Anselmo, Mantova e la lotta per il investiture, ed. P. Golinelli (Bologna: Patron, 1987), 391-422; K. G. Cushing, Papacy and Law in the Gregorian Revolution: The Canonistic Work of Anselm of Lucca (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998), 55-63. On the Pataria, see C. Violante, La pataria milanese e la riforma ecclesiastica (1048-57), Studi storici 11 (Rome: Istituto storico italiano per il medio evo, 1955), 15 ff.; H. E. J. Cowdrey, "The Papacy, the Patarenes and the Church of Milan," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 18 (1968): 25-48; O. Capitani, "Storiografia e riforma della chiesa in Italia: Arnolfo e Landolfo Seniore di Milano," in La storiografia altomedioevale, Settimane di studio del centro Italiano di studi sull'alto medioevo, 17 (Spoleto: Presso la sede del Centro, 1970), 2.557-629; and B. Stock, The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983), 174-214.

(12.) Jestice, Wayward Monks, 210-47, esp. 210-17, 224-27.

(13.) See K. G. Cushing, Reform and the Papacy in the Eleventh Century: Spirituality and Social Change (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2005), 35-36, 111-33.

(14.) For the support of Leo IX, Humbert--who consecrated the new church at Vallombrosa in 1058, and Beatrice, who apparently sought to bring John to Lombardy "causa sanctitatis," see Andreas of Strumi, Vita sancti lohannis Gualberti, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, vol. 30, parts 1 and 2 [hereafter MGH, SS] (Hannover: Hahn, 1926-34), 30:2, 1080-1104; 28, 1087; 38, 1088. John's prayers brought about a storm that prevented Beatrice's soldiers from coming to seize him. For Gregory VII's support, see The Epistolae vagantes of Pope Gregory VII, ed. H. E. J. Cowdrey, ep. 2, 4-7; and Iohannis Gualberti auctore discipulo eius anonymo (MGH, SS, 30/2: 1104-11), 5, 1107. Cf. Y. Milo, "Dissonance Between Papal and Local Reform Interests in Pre-Gregorian Tuscany," Studi Medievali, 3rd ser., 20 (1979): 69-86; and the fundamental study of S. Boesch-Gajano, "Storia e tradizione vallombrosane," Bullettino dell'Istituto Storico Italiano per il medio evo e Archivio Muratoriano, 76 (1964): 99-215, here 170-73; and Jestice, Wayward Monks, 231-32, 240-41, though Hildebrand's status as a monk has recently been questioned by U.-R. Blumenthal, Gregor VII: Papst zwischen Canossa und Kirchenreform (Darmstadt: Primus, 2001).

(15.) Andreas of Strumi, Vita sancti Iohannis Gualberti (as in n. 14; hereafter Andreas, Vita G.); Vita Iohannis Gualberti auctore discipulo eius anonymo (as in n. 14; hereafter Anon., Vita G.). Andreas's Life is extant in only one contemporary manuscript, Florence, Archivio di Stato, Conventi soppressi 260, n. 259. It is in a late-eleventh- or early-twelfth-century hand and is missing folios 1, 2, 7, 9, and 16, which are rewritten probably in a sixteenth-century hand. The text is supplemented, as in the MGH edition, by the twelfth-century Life by Atto of Pistoia, which will not be considered here. The letter to Alexander II from the Florentines, included as c. 75, had a much wider diffusion: see G. Miccoli, "La lettera dei fiorentini ad Alessandro II e la sua tradizione manoscritta," in Miccoli, Pietro Igneo: Studi sull'eta gregoriana (Rome: Nella sede dell' instituto, 1960), 139-57. The anonymous Life also is extant in just one contemporary manuscript, Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, Conventi sopressi, C. 4.1791, written in a twelfth-century hand at lois. 178-84v.

(16.) Writing in the context of the contentious case of the irregular and simoniacal election of Bishop Daimbert of Pisa, Andreas was reticent about the Vallombrosans' actual position on the validity of the sacraments of simonists and nicholaists, a reflection of the Church's refutation of more radical positions, whereas the Anonymous clearly underlined their opposition. See the letter of Urban II in G. Vedovato, Camaldoli e la sua congregazione delle origini al'1184: Storia e documentazione, Italia Benedettina 13 (Cesena: Badia di S. Maria del Monte, 1998), 3.3, 178-80.

(17.) Andreas, Vita G., 8, 1081. Cf. Anon., Vita G., 1, 1105. The Anonymous then goes on to justify this man's unusual existence as a city-dwelling hermit: "quamvis in civitate manerat plena populo, tamen, quia nullus locus est remotus compunctae menti, separatus erat a populo et ad Dei servitium solus manebat in cella ieiuniis, vigiliis et orationibus vacans."

(18.) Andreas, Vita G., 8, 1082: "sub simoniaco patre vivere timeo valde."

(19) Ibid., 8, 1082: "Qui eius [Teuzo] monita complens, ad forum dies, quo sciebat omnes adesse, veniens episcopum et abbatem appellavit simoniacos." Cf. Anon., Vita G., 1, 1105: "Quem cum venerabilis Iohannis pro certo comperisset per pecuniam prelationis arripuisse dignitatem, detestabilem perhorrescens heresem meditari cepit, qualiter hanc vitando posset effugere." Here, Teuzo's role is subdued, and there is no mention of a public denunciation. While both hagiographers described the simoniacal election of Ubertus as John's motive for leaving, it is clear that there was some real problem at St. Miniato around 1035-37, as a number of other monks seem also to have left the monastery: see G. Spinelli and G. Rossi, Alle origini di Vallombrosa: Giovanni Gualberto nella societa dell'XI secolo (Novara: Europa, 1984), 36.

(20.) Andreas, Vita G., 10, 1082. There is no mention of John's peregrinations or the sojourn at Camaldoli in the anonymous Life, which gives the impression that John went straight to Vallombrosa after leaving Florence.

(21.) Andreas, Vita G., 10, 1083: "et ut stabilitatem daret, renuit quia eius fervor nonnisi in cenobitali vita erat, ut beati Benedicti regula indicat." In the anonymous Life (3, 1105), a quasi-role for Gualbertus's settling at Vallombrosa is given to Abbot Guarinus of Settimo, whose prominence in the text is probably due to the anonymous author's having been a monk there at one time. The author is careful, however, to emphasize that two monks from Settimo who were living at the site were not living "together" in a community, and thus that John truly was the founder of a community at Vallombrosa. On the foundation charter, see Boesch-Gajano, "Storia e tradizione vallombrosane," 167-68, n.1.

(22.) Andreas, Vita G., 15-21, 1084-86 (for "rule" and new converts); cf. Anon., Vita G., 3, 1106. John, however, often mitigated corporal mortifications after numerous fasts and vigils ended in severely debilitating his own health: 17, 1084. A miraculous example of the Vallombrosan antipathy for wealth is seen in the case of the Vallombrosan dependency, St. Peter in Moscheta, founded ca. 1050 and headed by one of John's most important disciples Rudolf, who would succeed him as head of the Congregation. St. Peter's was miraculously destroyed on two occasions, apparently on account of its wealth and ostentatious buildings: see Andreas, Vita G., 43-44, 1089. This wealth, however, was apparently no impediment to Rudolf's promotion. Cf. Boesch-Gajano, 101 ff.

(23.) Andreas, Vita G., 19, 1085: "quod aliquando a monachis regi deberent; canonicorum, non monachorum hoc esse officium dicebat."

(24.) Ibid., 21, 1085-86 (conversi); 14-15, 1083 (manual labor). For instance, one of John's early disciples, Peter, who was the first abbot of St. Michael in Passignano, then abbot of St. Salvatore in Fuecchio, and later Cardinal-bishop of Albano, was the cowherd at Vallombrosa. The conversi followed almost as strict a regime as the monks, though they were exempted from the vow of silence and were permitted to wear linen in the summer.

(25.) See Boesch-Gajano, 171-73; Jestice, Wayward Monks, 231-34. Cf. K. G. Cushing, Reform and the Papacy in the Eleventh Century, 130-33.

(26.) Bonizo of Sutri, Liber ad amicum, 5 (MGH, Libelli de Lite, 1:568-620), 589: "Haec synodus gladium in viscera mersit inimici. Nam non solum Romae incontinentes sacerdotes et levitae ab altaris prohibeantur officio, sed etiam per vicinas circumquaque regiones et per omnem Tusciam, adiuvantibus monachis, viris religiosis et verbo praedicationis insudantibus." Cf. Boesch-Gajano, 115 ff. See also Jestice, Wayward Monks, 217-18.

(27.) Between 1040 and 1046, at the request of Count William Bulgarellus, John reluctantly undertook to reform St. Salvatore in Settimo, even though he was loathe to undertake existing houses because of the difficulties of imposing a new observance: 33, 1088: "Erat nimis inflexibilis ad sumenda vetera sub suo regimine monasteria, sed accepta constans nimis ad retinenda erat, etiamsi dura acciderent adversa." Other early foundations included: St. Salvi (1048), St. Peter in Moscheta (ca.1050), St. Paul in Razzuolo (1047), and St. Cassian in Montescalari (1040). John also assumed headship of the existing houses of St. Michael in Passignano and St. Reparata in Marradi. Cf. Y. Milo, "Dissonance Between Papal and Local Reform Interests," 69-86.

(28.) See Golinelli, "Indiscreta sanctitas: Sull'uso polemico della santita," 186-91. For Beatrice's apparent personal regard for Gualbertus, see Andreas, Vita G., 38, 1088.

(29.) P. Jaffe, ed., Regesta Pontificum Romanorum, 2nd ed., ed. S. Loewenfeld, F. Kaltenbrunner, and P. Ewald, 2 vols. (Berlin: Lipsiae, Veit, 1885-89), JL 4552.

(30.) Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani, 146, 3.533 ff. Damian of course had taken the Augustinian position (against Humbert) in his Liber gratissimus (40, 1.384-509), arguing that sacraments freely received were valid for an untainted recipient. See below.

(31.) It is difficult to be precise about the chronology of these events, especially as to whether the burning of St. Salvi took place before or after Damian's visit and letter, though likely before. Andreas, for obvious reasons, ignores Damian's legation. The Anonymous's use of "locustae" in his account of the Council of 1067 might suggest that he, at least, knew of Damian's letter to the Florentines: Anon., Vita G., 5, 1106-7: "'domine pater, isti sunt locustae quae depascuntur viriditatem sanctae ecclesiae"; Cf. Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani, 146, 3.332, on the dating of the letter.

(32.) The place of Settimo in the Vallombrosan congregation is unclear. It appears to have been only temporarily affiliated during John's lifetime as the later charter of Urban II (April 6, 1090) does not include it as being among the Congregation: see Italia Pontificia sive Repertorium privilegiorum et litterarum a Romanis pontificibus ante annum 1197, ed. P. Kehr (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1908), 3:88, n. 6.

(33.) Jestice, Wayward Monks, 238-42.

(34.) See Andreas, Vita G., 42, 1089; 57, 1091; 84, 1102, where witnesses are noted, though this was a common hagiographical topos.

(35.) This may be a reflection of Andreas's desire to depict Gualbertus as a simple holy man, whom on one occasion he described as inscius litterarum et quasi idiota before illness constrained the saint to bed where he had an opportunity to read holy books, thereby becoming peritissimus: 32, 1087.

(36.) Andreas, Vita G., 28, 1087. For other feeding miracles: 27, 1086-87; 36-37, 1088; 53, 1091. Occasionally, there is an interesting social element to these feeding miracles: on one occasion (52, 1091), John's presence caused cows in the field to drop dead, thereby providing for the poor, until the owners requested that he return and stay inside the monastery. On another, a bear eating the cows of the poor was miraculously killed by John's order: 55, 1091.

(37.) Anon., Vita G., 6, 1107: "quia non est michi nunc intentio proprias eius narrate virtutes, sed locis communionibus laudare defunctum."

(38.) For example, Andreas, Vita G., 17, 1084; 22, 1086: "Erat Iohannes pater tantae austeritatis et increpationis contra delinquentes, ut, cui irascebatur, sibi irasci terra et celum, immo ipse Deus videretur. Sed post paululum tanta benignitate et tanta tranquillitate ad increpatum et correptum convertebatur, ut non nisi materna habere videretur viscera"; and 26, 1086: "Quae vero corrigenda erant, sollicite corriebat, et quae ordinanda, caute et provide ordinabat."

(39.) Ibid., 8-9, 1081-82.

(40.) Ibid., 24, 1086.

(41.) Ibid., 66-67, 1093-94; here 67, 1093: "Unde oportet vestram vigilare sollicitudinem"; 1094: "Taliter enim episcopo faciente populus cum clero apud Deum salvabitur et idem eiscopus a Deo renumerabitur. Si autem contra haec fecerit vel pecuniam requisierit symoniacus hereticus iudicabitur atque dampnabitur."

(42.) Ibid., 78, 1100: "Venerunt clerici catholici per idem tempus et fideles laici de civitate Mediolanensi ad senem patrem, illius terrae referentes miseriam, scilicet per multos retros annos innumerabilis multitudo tam virorum quam mulierem illius civitatis pro timore symonicae heresis nec penitentiam nec comrnunionem ab aliqua sumpserat persona mortali. A quibus se profitebantur esse missos ad pietatem senis patris, ut pro caritate, qua isdem in ceteris flagrabat, animabus eorum auxilium pro posse impenderet." Andreas is the only source for this. Cf. Jestice, Wayward Monks, 244-45.

(43.) Anon., Vita G., 4, 1106: "Sed cum hoc tempore certamen monachorum ceterorumque catholicorum cepisset contra symoniacos exurgere, cuius pugnae venerabilis Iohannis princeps videbatur existere, videns predictum locum [Settimo] satis ad hac rem utilem fore, cepit flectere animum ad consentiendum postulationi eorum."

(44.) Ibid., 2, 1105.

(45.) Ibid., 5, 1107. Cf. Boesch-Gajano, "Storia e tradizione," 175-76.

(46.) Anon., Vita G., 6, 1107: "qualiter etiam per ignis examen hereticorum audacia confusa, catholicorum vero pars adepta fuerit palmam."

(47.) Andreas, Vita G., 68, 1094.

(48.) Ibid., 69, 1094. Cf. Desiderius, Dialogi de miraculis sancti Benedicti (MGH, SS, 30/2), 3.4, 1147.

(49.) See Vita G., 70, 1094-95, where Andreas notes that John was expected to be at St. Salvi.

(50.) Ibid., 71, 1095. Andreas conveniently fails to note that no monk died in the attack.

(51.) Ibid., 72, 1095: "Felicem se quisque credebat, si aliquem monachorum videre valebat vel ex eorum sacro sanguine ex terra, lapidibus et lignis suis pannis possent extergere, volentes ilium pro magnis reliquiis habere."

(52.) Ibid., 73, 1095: "'Nunc vere monachi estis; sed cur sine me haec perferre voluistis?' Valde enim doluit, quod praefatae persecution defuit, in qua tamen ipse martiri obtinuit bravium."

(53.) Ibid., 75, 1096-99.

(54.) Boesch-Gajano, 179-81. Cf. Spinelli, Alle Origini, 35-36.

(55.) See above, n. 32.

(56.) See G. Miccoli, "La lettera dei fiorentini ad Alessandro II," in Pietro Igneo: Studi sull'eta gregoriana, 140-41. Cf. Dialogi de miraculis s. Benedicti, 3.4, 1147.

(57.) Andreas, Vita G., 76, 1100: "Ostendimus itaque, quam ferventissimam Iohannes pater habuerit fidem et quam indefessam contra symoniacam heresim sumpserit pugnam, immo quam obedientes et in fide ferventes educaverit discipulos."

(58.) Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani, 40, 1.418: "Aliud namque ex vitae meritis sanctum esse, aliud ex ministerio conditionis dici."

(59.) Die Briefe, 44, 2.21: "quae sane vita satis utilius ad aedificationem vivis operibus praedicat." Eng. trans. O. J. Blum, The Letters of Peter Damian, 5 vols. (Washington, D.C.: The Fathers of the Church, Medieval Continuation, 1989-2004), 2.231.

(60.) Vita venerabilis viri Dominici Loricati, Die Briefe, 109, 3.200-223, here 217: "quia uberiorem fructum praebet audientibus sanctorum virorum mirabilis vita quam ostensa miracula. Illa siquidem exigit imitationem, ista solam ingerunt ammirationem." On the reserved use of miracles in "reformist circles," see P. Toubert, Les structures du Latium medieval: Le Latium meridional et la Sabine du IXe siecle a la fin du XIIe siecle, 2 vols., Bibliotheque des ecoles francaises d'Athenes et de Rome 221 (Rome: Ecole francaise de Rome, 1973), 2.823-35; and A. Murray, "The Temptation of Hugh of Grenoble," in Intellectual Life in the Middle Ages: Essays Presented to Margaret Gibson, ed. L. Smith and B. Ward (London: Hambledon, 1992), 81-101, here 87-89.

(61.) Vita beati Romualdi, ed. G. Tabacco, Fonti per la storia d'ltalia 94 (Rome: Fonti per la storia d'Italia, 1957), 37, 78: "Tantus namque in sancti viri pectore faciendi fructus ardor incanduerat, ut effectis numquam contentus, dum alia faceret, ad facienda mox alia properaret: adeo ut putaretur totum mundum in heremum velle convertere et monachico ordini omnem populi multitudinem sotiare." Cf. 35, 75; 43, 85.

(62.) See H. Leyser, Hermits and the New Monasticism (London: Macmillan, 1984); D. Baker, "'The Whole World a Hermitage': Ascetic Renewal and the Crisis of Western Monasticism," in The Culture of Christendom: Essays in Medieval History in Commemoration of Denis L. T. Bethell, ed. M. A. Meyer (London: Hambledon, 1993), 207-23; C. Phipps, "Romuald--Model Hermit: Eremitical Theory in St. Peter Damian's 'Vita beati Romualdi,' cc. 16-27," in Monks, Hermits and the Ascetic Tradition, ed. W. J. Shiels (Oxford: B. Blackwell for the Ecclesiastical History Society, 1985), 65-77; and J. Howe, "The Awesome Hermit: The Symbolic Significance of the Hermit as a Possible Research Perspective," Numen, 30 (1983): 106-19.

(63.) Vita Romualdi, 35, 75: "Inter caeteros, autem, precipue seculares clericos qui per pecuniam ordinati fuerant, durissima severitate corripiebat, et eos, nisi ordinem sponte desererent, omnino damnabiles et hereticos asserebat. Qui novam rem audientes, occidere illum moliti sunt." Damian was, however, forced to concede Romuald's failure with bishops, grudgingly admitting that it would have been easier to convert a Jew to the faith than a simonist bishop: 35, 76.

(64.) Ibid., 50, 92. Having been accused of sodomy by a disciple at Sitria, Romuald had freely submitted to the penance of not saying mass for some six months until, by divine order, he put away such indiscreet simplicitas. Cf. P. Golinelli, "Indiscreta sanctitas: Sull'uso polemico della santita nel contesto del movimento riformatore," in Indiscreta sanctitas (as n. 7), 157-91.

(65.) For example, Damian, ca.1065/66 to Rodulf, Vital, Ariald, and Erlembald in Milan, encouraging action: Die Briefe, 129, 3.431-34. These were of course clerics and laymen rather than monks.

(66.) Anon, Vita G., 4, 1107: "Domne pater isti sunt locustae quae depascuntur viriditatem sanctae ecclesiae." Compare with Alexander's more moderate response: "quia boni homines sunt, et ea quae dicunt, simpliciter et bona intentione locuntur."

(67.) Die Briefe, 40, 1.441: "non denique locustarum laesura fruges pestis aliqua remaneret."

(68.) Die Briefi, 78, 2.394-95.

(69.) Poid., 395; trans, from Blum, 3.178.

(70.) Urban II would curtly order them in 1091 back into the cloister: see Kehr, Italia Pontificia, 3.1, 35, and G. Vedovato, Camaldoli e la sua congregazione, 3.3, 178-80.

(71.) Anon., Vita G., 5, 1107: "defendit monachos contra omnium opinionem." See also Epistolae Vagantes, 6, n. 2: "Vos itaque dilectissimi in quantum humana possibilitas permittit vitam illius sequentes et vere filios et heredes simili vos conversatione probantes."

(72.) Dialogi de miraculis s. Benedicti, 3.4, 1146-47.

(73.) See M. C. Miller, "Masculinity, Reforra and Clerical Culture: Narratives of Episcopal Holiness in the Gregorian Era," Church History, 72:1 (2003): 25-52; and K. G. Cushing, "Events that Led to Sainthood: Sanctity and the Reformers in the Eleventh Century," in Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages, ed. R. Gameson and H. Leyser (Oxford: Oxford University Pres, 2001), 187-96.

Kathleen G. Cushing is senior lecturer in Medieval History at Keele University, Staffordshire, U.K.
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