Sacri canones editandi: Studies on Medieval Canon Law in Memory of Jiri Kejr.
Jiri Kejr (1921-2015) was an outstanding scholar and an individual of sterling character and humanity. His long life was marked by numerous achievements and he is known principally for his work on the history of the Hussite movement and for his acumen as a specialist in medieval canon law. The present volume is a posthumous tribute devoted to the latter subject. The editor is an authority on the history of ecclesiastical law and administration in the Middle Ages. His study of the synods and statutes of the medieval Moravian diocese of Olomouc (Prague Institute of History, 2014) is a model of textual scholarship. The present volume consists of a foreword by the archbishop of Prague, an introduction by Pavel Kraf outlining Kejr's life and works, followed by ten chapters; one in German, the rest in English. The contributors come from Germany, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Italy, Poland, the Canary Islands, United States, and Argentina. Despite significant contributions to medieval canon law, Kejr is not well-known beyond Czech-language scholarship. This is regrettable, and some of the details of this major figure can be accessed in this volume. Kejr's work avoided overt confessional bias; he was neither motivated by political commitments nor did he become enmeshed in the Marxist interpretation of history which dominated Czech historiography between 1948 and 1989. As the title reveals, the volume focuses on editions of canon law, a preoccupation which interested Kejr.
The studies which honour Kejr will appeal mostly to specialists. Close reading of manuscripts reveals scribal errors which, as Przemyslaw Nowak points out, alter the meaning of the text. We also encounter discussions of palaeography, examination of manuscripts, proprietary annotations, colophon puzzles, and related technicalities. But there are also some useful findings and arguments that will appeal to the non-specialist. Two of the chapters are noted for their brevity; those by Peter Landau, on a decretal of Pope Celestine III relating to a wooden ceiling in a German church (pp. 176-80), and Nicholas Coureas, on a cartulary connected to a cathedral in Nicosia (pp. 181-85). A third chapter by Martin Bertram and Uta-Renate Blumenthal is by far the longest (pp. 81-134), examining the interesting fragments of a twelfth-century decretal of Gratian extant in Rieti (central Italy). Jose Miguel Viejo-Ximenez draws attention to the important notion of the medieval quaestio. Quaestiones are legal issues not incorporated into account by the law but which are decided following the weighing of options and a variety of outcomes. Hence, a matter might be advanced as an actual situation accompanied by hypothetical questions for consideration with options of resolution, for or against, followed by a solution (p. 72). In this sense, quaestiones were academic exercises, sometimes oral, other times written, with affinities to the university disputations or quodlibets, which were the most popular academic exercise of the medieval university. Martina Sarovcova discusses a hitherto unknown illuminated fragment of the Decretum, noting the miniatures that visualize each of the thirty-six lawsuits under consideration (p. 142). The thirty-second case examines a man requesting separation from his infertile wife, also complaining that she is a whore. Giovanna Murano considers a list of paleae (interpolations) in a Vatican Library manuscript of the Decretum. Bradley Franco draws attention to fourteenth-century legislation which reveals eager bishops pledging to excommunicate any one practising simony, including clerics, while similar laws tried to regulate clerical behaviour and ameliorate public perception. He also notes that because clerical misconduct was considered a leading cause of anticlericalism, priests were forbidden to enter taverns, warned to stay away from disreputable women telling jokes in or around a church, and the like.
One of the compelling expositions is the chapter by Andrea Vanina Neyra on the topic of women in Burchard of Worms (pp. 40-63). Burchard's collection of laws may be the most important before Gratian. Here, we find comment on superstition, night-riding, the devil, pagan Diana, practice of the evil arts, and the need to expel such practitioners as heretics in order to preserve the faith from the plague of heresy. Connections with the later witch-hunts are possible. In another essay, Paola Maffei notes that in 1385 an anonymous wealthy man in Padua, who had no children, donated his current and future assets to a sacred painting. The lawyers were fummoxed over the validity of the gift and the question of who should enjoy the assets.
As Bradley Franco reminds us, law is prescriptive and has limitations as a window into the past. Its impact on the lives of medieval people requires additional research with different sets of material. This book raises as many good and interesting queries as Jiri Kejr did in his own publishing career that spanned fifty-five years. I suspect he would be pleased.
THOMAS A. FUDGE, University of New England
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|Author:||Fudge, Thomas A.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2018|
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