The Council of Sens reconsidered: masters, monks, or judges?
The publication by Pierre Bayle of his Dictionnaire historique et critique (1695-97) announced a turning of the tide. In the article dedicated to Abelard, Bernard's role in the "Abelard case" was for the first time questioned. The ensuing Age of Enlightenment broke definitively with the traditional interpretation. Since then the roles have been reversed: Abelard is henceforth the innocent victim of a plot woven by the anti-intellectual Bernard. (5)
Even today, in the treatment of the Council of Sens, it seems barely possible to avoid the trap of a narrow, one-sided interpretation of the known information. For our simplistic view has been strengthened by a tradition of many centuries, spilling out from the scholarly field into literature, art, music, and cinema. This becomes immediately clear not only when we read through the studies dedicated to the subject, (6) but also from the reactions of readers or listeners provoked by any modification of the story. In the scholarly mind by and large, Sens 1141 was a confrontation on theological propositions between the abbot and the master, in which extraprocedural steps of the abbot snared the master. According to the presumed background of the scholar, he is then numbered among the adherents of either the monastic or the scholastic camp. (7)
Only very recently was there a first attempt to break out of the limits of tradition. Constant Mews, in a stimulating article, placed the entire confrontation in a broader perspective, laying bare the political background. Not only did he shift the emphasis away from Abelard's teaching as such to the presence of Arnold of Brescia among the master's disciples, but he also brought into the open the importance of Suger of Saint-Denis as the hidden director of the drama. (8) The time is perhaps near when it will be possible to analyze the Council of Sens in its entirety and give it its true place in the intellectual and cultural history of Europe.
Much more was involved on that Octave of Pentecost, the 25th of May 1141, than a straightforward theological falling-out between Bernard and Abelard. In truth, Western history has seldom known a comparable moment in which practically all the evolutionary developments of a period came together in one place, each represented by one of the most singular and influential personalities of the time. There was a multiplicity of tensions at all levels between all the parties involved. To be sure there was the theological or philosophical clash, in which Bernard primarily voiced the criticisms of Abelard's teaching by William of Saint-Thierry (the original instigator of the whole affair) and by Thomas of Morigny (who assisted in putting together the list of capitula). (9) However, most of the points that Bernard brought in on his own account were educational: the question, for instance, of teachers being paid by students for teaching, the responsibilities of a teacher, including his duty to give a moral example to his disciples, and so on. (10) And in, as it were, partly cleaning this canvas, Mews has uncovered the political implications of Arnold of Brescia's presence in Paris at a period of communal unrest in the kingdom of France, and Suger's reaction to him. (11)
Increasingly, the Council of Sens now resembles a test case for the claims to authority, made by the different institutions coming to maturity in twelfth-century society. Local episcopal authority was confronted with the claim to universal ecclesiastical authority of the Pope and the Roman Collegium of Cardinals, just as local claims to independence by the communes and vassals clashed with the aspiration of the kings and their advisers to a workable central authority. The archbishop of Sens found his authority as the metropolitan of the French Church in collision with the authority of the abbot of the royal monastery of Saint-Denis. The claims of powerful clans to influence at court and in the national Church were thwarted by the "reformist" movement within the Roman Church as fostered by the monasteries. (12)
The confrontation between Abelard and Bernard became the crystalization point that brought all these tensions to the fore. Only a separate study of all the different motivations, one that did not lose sight of the complexity of the whole, could hope to break through all our presuppositions and throw light on the manifold questions and obscurities surrounding this singular day at Sens. (13) It goes without saying that so many parameters, and such closely interwoven fields of tension, cannot be adequately treated in a few pages. We must limit ourselves in this contribution to one aspect only of the Council, which until now has received remarkably little scholarly attention, namely the juridical procedure of the Council considered as regular by some but simultaneously questioned by others. (14) It will become clear that even in the juristic field different movements collided, thus contributing to the atmosphere of uncertainty that is so clearly evident in the official letter from the archbishop of Sens to Rome.
A last preliminary remark is called for before we enter into our actual subject. As we will not base our conclusions on newly discovered, as yet unused sources, but rather on well-known texts in established editions, let us state clearly in what way we differ from the traditional approach. It is the case that practically all research on the Council during recent decades has been the work of historians, theologians, and philosophers. Hitherto there has been no attempt at a literary approach to the texts. Yet, almost without exception, they demonstrate a strong literary bias. For medieval sources, the implications are not slight. The rhetorical background of key terms must always be kept in mind: the possibility of intertextual references and interplays may under no circumstances be neglected if we are to grasp at the allusions by which the writer seeks to pass his secondary message to the reader. (15)
When carefully reading the sources on the Council at Sens, one is indeed embarrassed by an underlying tension that allows no simple, straightforward interpretation, no reading to the letter. On the contrary, the entire "Abaelardus" dossier appears to be fraught with snags and pitfalls, partly resulting from the nature of the texts themselves, partly from our own modern insensibility to the rhetorical and literary frameworks to which these writers refer, each in his own way.
Our greatest danger is thus to take the texts at face value. Just as for centuries Geoffrey of Auxerre's account of the Council was accepted without question, so today other sources are, without the least hesitation, taken to give an accurate and reliable picture of what happened some eight centuries ago. Especially Abelard's Historia calamitatum and John of Salisbury's Historia pontificalis, although neither of them treats the Council of Sens in se, are usually cited in this context as true and trustworthy references. Abelard's autobiography, however, is anything but an impartial account. In spite of his affected disgust for the "ornaments of rhetoric," (16) it is highly rhetorical, a skilful apology with a strong political stamp. (17) The reliability of John's account, on the contrary, unchallenged for decades, has recently been questioned. Its purpose is, crudely summarized, to demonstrate the weak leadership of Eugene III and the intellectual superiority of Gilbert of Poitiers. (18)
Careful and close reading thus proves to be one of the more important analytical methods in the heuristics of our sources. By a close adherence to the text, one may hope to uncover the stylistic and argumentative principles of the writer, thus penetrating the motives of his writing. This method will we hope lay bare as yet unnoticed parallelisms in the juridical procedure and pave the way for a fresh, unprejudiced view of what was actually happening during that famous 25th of May 1141.
I. RECONSTRUCTING THE COUNCIL
Berengar of Poitiers
No serious questions have arisen as to the procedures at the Council of Sens as we have it in the texts. Many of its elements have been questioned: the authenticity of the writings or the theological principles on the basis of which Abelard was attacked and condemned, (19) the--from a modern point of view--iniquitous condemnation of Abelard's propositions on the evening before the confrontation, (20) the reasons that impeded Abelard from taking up his defense. The Council has been labeled "a show trial," (21) which Bernard managed to turn "into his own advantage." (22) Abelard's refusal to answer the accusations brought against him has been interpreted as a result of illness (23) or as "una geniale beffa dell'accusato." (24)
What has been lacking hitherto is a close look at the formal development of the Council as presented in the texts. An initial problem, certainly, is the absence of a detailed narrative, such as can be found in John of Salisbury's report of the Council of Rheims in 1148. (25) The only extant sources for the Council of Sens are letters and writings by the parties involved and their supporters. Yet they yield precious information to a careful reading.
Perhaps the most important external text for our understanding of the progress of the Council was written by a student of Abelard, Berengar of Poitiers. In his apology for Abelard, probably written soon after the Council, (26) this apparently young man launched a vehement attack on the person regarded as the master's principal enemy, Bernard of Clairvaux. Berengar's writing took the shape of a true anti-Bernardine pamphlet, mocking Bernard's literary style and even accusing him, the advocate of orthodoxy, of heretical statements. Most of Berengar's arguments are feeble and of little value, but his wit is bright, sharp, and humorous.
This, however, makes it difficult to interpret his account of events. It is the more embarrassing in that no one else gives as full a description of the different stages through which the Council passed. Unfortunately, Berengar does not present them as a logical or narrative sequence, but in a rather confused and disorderly mixture. After an introductory parody of Bernard's eloquence, Berengar declares that the world has finally understood what is behind Bernard's apparent sanctity. To the exclusion of all other people, Abelard has been singled out to be the target of Bernard's venomous arrows. Bishops have been called together from all quarters to the Council of Sens just in order to declare Abelard a heretic and to excommunicate him. Although he was preparing to proscribe to him the entire Christian world, Bernard preached to the people that they might pray for Abelard, without however naming him. (27)
Berengar then abruptly relates how "Peter's book" is brought in after dinner and how someone is summoned "to proclaim Peter's little works with a loud voice." The reader apparently is here transferred to the assembly of the bishops on the evening before the actual confrontation. A lively satire follows on episcopal drunkenness and stupidity. (28) No less suddenly the scene changes again, and the reader is presented with the conciliar assembly of bishops, the day after, in the cathedral church of Sens. The intervention of only a single bishop is quoted, simply in order to mock it, immediately after which Abelard appeals to the Pope. Berengar closes his account of the events of the Council in deep indignation at Bernard's epistolary campaign against the master. (29) The second half of his broadside contains several attacks and sometimes rather bizarre accusations against Bernard's style and orthodoxy.
In spite of its chaotic composition, Berengar's account allows a credible reconstruction of the events immediately preceding and during the Council. Apparently Berengar was present at the public part of the Council. He doubtless followed his master's call to his students to turn out in large numbers. (30) This need not imply that he was a close confidant of the master. Abelard's appeal to the Pope seems to have been as great a surprise to him as to Bernard and the bishops. But even when we take this distance into consideration, Berengar's account offers some details of particular interest to our understanding of what happened during the Council.
According to Berengar's account, the Council passed through the following phases. On the evening before the Octave of Pentecost, the bishops assembled in a separate meeting, in which Abelard's works (or a list of selected capitula) were read, examined upon their orthodoxy, and condemned. The day after, the Council took place. First, the religious part was celebrated, as the formal occasion of the Council was the exposure and veneration of the relics. (31) Apparently Bernard was asked to deliver the sermon. Berengar says that he exhorted the people to pray for Abelard, although he neglected to name him. Berengar sarcastically asks what the people were to do, not knowing for whom to pray.
Next, probably after the religious celebration had ended, a bishop opened the juridical proceedings. Berengar did not have a very high opinion of this man, who had in the meantime died: "Against the precept of the psalm, a bishop of celebrated memory resided in this congregation of vanity. For their assent, most of those present referred to his authority. Still burping from the last evening's dinner, he poured out the following speech." (32) Berengar seems to quote his words rather accurately (a matter to which we will have to return), but interrupts the record of this speech with a sarcastic exclamation at the eloquent brilliance of the bishop's discourse. Then he continues his quotation and, according to his account, Abelard now immediately appeals to the Pope, calling out: "I am a son of the Roman Church. I do not want my case to be judged as that of an unbeliever." Berengar ends this quotation with the words of St. Paul: "I appeal unto Caesar," which opens the door for a vehement attack on Bernard, who has proved to be less indulgent than Paul's judges, since he wants to deny Abelard the chance of appealing to the Pope. (33)
By placing Abelard's appeal immediately after the words of "the bishop of celebrated memory," Berengar goes too fast. Other sources show that Bernard was first given the floor and that the abbot was reading aloud the condemned capitula, when Abelard interrupted him with his appeal. (34)
Thus, in brief, the Council falls into the following episodes: a separate assembly on the evening before the true Council, during which Abelard's propositions were examined and condemned; the religious celebration, containing a Holy Mass with exhibition and adoration of the relics, during which Bernard preached and alluded to Abelard without naming him; the opening of the juridical procedure by a "bishop of celebrated memory"; Bernard's reading of the condemned propositions; and, finally, Abelard's appeal and departure.
Councils and Synods
Before entering into each of the details, we might shed new light on the event as a whole to place it beside other similar Church assemblies during the eleventh and early twelfth centuries that treated dogmatic or scholastic problems. A first comparison, of course, can be made with the Council of Rheims in 1148, during which Bernard had to confront another renowned master of the schools, Gilbert de la Porree, consecrated bishop of Poitiers in the summer of 1142. An account of the Council of Rheims has been preserved from the hand of John of Salisbury. (35)
The parallels between the two Councils have long been noticed. In Rheims, too, a separate assembly took place before the examination of Gilbert's orthodoxy at the Council proper, during which the bishop's propositions were discussed. Their examination took place towards the end of the Council as a separate matter not to be treated in public. This time, however, Gilbert took the opportunity to speak first, even before the reading of the capitula. His speech took so much time that the Council postponed its examination until the following day. (36)
The Council then ordered someone to read aloud the errors of the bishop as they had been found in his works. Gilbert, however, "cried out that he ought to be judged on his own works, not the works of others; and that no one, least of all a bishop, ought to be condemned unless he had either confessed or been convicted of a crime. He was not, he said, a heretic and never would be, for he was and always had been ready to recognize truth and respect apostolic doctrine." (37) Gilbert's words and action resemble exactly those of Abelard, with the difference that Gilbert could not appeal to anyone, as the Pope himself was presiding at the Council. Eugene III, a former monk of Clairvaux, showed the greatest discretion in dealing with a painful question by closing the discussion with a sentence that was not humiliating for any of the disputants.
The Council of 1148 thus seems to have been almost a rehearsal of that in Sens: a preceding assembly in which the capitula were discussed and condemned; the official examination being placed towards the end of a more public event; the reading of the capitula (qualified as errores by one of the members of the jury); the interruption by the accused; the sentence of the president. Now, of course, Bernard was involved in both cases. We could thus conclude (as many have concluded before) that he determined the development of both. His true role, however, as well as several other important elements, were altogether different, as we hope to demonstrate. It might first be illuminating to glance at some other cases from which Bernard was absent.
The first to come to mind is the assembly that pronounced a first condemnation on Abelard's theological statements: the Council of Soissons in 1121. Unfortunately, the only exhaustive account of this Council is to be found in Abelard's own writings, in his all but impartial Historia calamitatum. According to this account, the Council was called together solely in order to examine his propositions and book. (38) Despite the high coloring of Abelard's version of the events during the Council, a logical sequence can still be distinguished.
Abelard is summoned to the Council (39) and has to surrender his book to the archbishop of Rheims who entrusts it to his scholars, Alberic of Rheims and Lotulfus of Novara. Abelard considers them to be his primary adversaries and rivals. They look through it in order to check for anything written that goes against orthodoxy. During the last day of the Council, a separate meeting takes place in which the papal legate and the assisting bishops discuss the teaching of Abelard as it is expounded in his book. According to the master himself, no heterodox statements were discovered in his writing, and for this reason he is defended by Geoffrey, bishop of Chartres. The opposition however is apparently too strong, and Abelard is summoned to appear. He is ordered to throw his book into the flames without any defense. Someone--Abelard does not specify a name--quotes a proposition from the book in which Abelard states that only the Father is omnipotent. Then the master has to read out the Credo, and he is entrusted to the abbot of St. Medard. (40)
If we put aside for the moment the highly egocentric and defensive tenor of Abelard's account, remarkable similarities appear with the Councils of Sens in 1141 and of Rheims in 1148. First, the book in question is handed over to scholastic specialists in order to check its dogmatic orthodoxy. In Soissons these scholars are Alberic and Lotulfus, in Sens the work is done by William of St. Thierry and Thomas of Morigny, in Rheims by Godescalc, abbot of the Praemonstrian monastery of St. Martin in Arras. (41) In Soissons, this examination takes place during the Council, which must have been assembled for other reasons than Abelard suggests. His case is postponed towards the end of the ecclesiastical meeting, as is Gilbert's case in Rheims and in a certain sense also Abelard's case in Sens, where it is held over until the religious ceremony is finished.
Before the case is opened, a separate meeting takes place in which the book is discussed. Probably the scholars present their opinions on some excerpted propositions, as does Bernard during the assemblies preceding the actual confrontations in Sens and in Rheims. According to Abelard, nothing is found, but his words have to be taken with much precaution. As we shall see, Geoffrey of Chartres's intervention shows strong similarities with the accusations against Abelard at Sens.
That Abelard is not telling the entire truth becomes clear also from the actual process. According to the master, he was merely summoned to appear and immediately ordered to burn his book. However, he has to admit that someone murmured an accusation. Probably this may be understood as the reading out of a condemned capitulum from his book, just as we see it done in Sens and in Rheims. Such an interpretation of Abelard's account is suggested by the fact that at Sens Abelard will be accused once again of having taught the heterodox statement on the unique omnipotence of the Father. Next, a small discussion followed on the tenor of this proposition, in which Thierry of Chartres apparently took Abelard's part. Abelard himself wanted to explain his words, but he was forced to limit himself to reciting the Credo.
With the exception of the conclusion (the recitation of the Credo and Abelard's condemnation), the procedure of the Council in Soissons is characterized by the same elements as those in Sens or Rheims. And it must be admitted, even for the last part a parallel can be found in yet another case on the orthodoxy of a scholastic teacher: the successive Church assemblies dedicated to the case of Berengar of Tours.
Berengar was summoned before several Councils and synods of local and of universal character. Of one of them, a more or less coherent reconstruction can be deduced from the writings of Berengar himself and of his opponent Lanfranc de Bec. (42) In 1059 Berengar was summoned to Rome for an examination of his dogmatic teaching on the Eucharist. Although the details of the different accounts are somewhat confused, the procedure seems to have been the following. Berengar appears in front of an assembly of 113 bishops. The entire procedure is presided over by Cardinal Humbert de Moyenmoutier, who, apparently, first gives a concise history of the case, after which some excerpts from Berengar's writings are read aloud, either by the cardinal himself or by someone on his orders. The reading appears to provoke commotion among the bishops, which causes Berengar to renounce any defense. He throws himself to the ground in a gesture of submission. Humbert hands him the text, written beforehand, of a Credo. After reading it aloud, Berengar is ordered to light the fire himself and to throw his book into it. (43)
Once more, the same elements are present as in the assemblies of Soissons, Sens, and Rheims. Here no separate meeting preceding the actual Council is mentioned, but something must have gone before, since Humbert had prepared material: a list with statements taken from Berengar's writings, and a text of the Credo that had been specially written for the occasion. During the Council, the history of the controversy was first given, then the statements were read aloud. Apparently this reading sufficed to persuade Berengar. He did not use his right to defend his position (as Lanfranc clearly states (44)), but rather chose to submit himself to the Cardinal's authority.
The similarities between all those ecclesiastical assemblies are noteworthy and cannot be wholly coincidental. Rather, they all appear to conform to some ecclesiastical custom in dealing with heterodox teaching within the Church. (45) The procedure consists of the following elements:
1. The books or texts discussed are entrusted to two or more scholars or specialists who are to study them and check their orthodoxy. The intermediary is always an ecclesiastical dignitary (Cardinal Humbert de Moyenmoutier in 1059, the papal legate Cono of Praeneste in 1121, Pope Eugene III in 1148. The case of 1141 must be treated separately).
2. After a lapse of time that varies (unknown in 1059, several days in 1121, several weeks or even months in 1141, a year in 1148), the list, which has been made up by the scholars, is discussed at a separate meeting (not mentioned in 1059, on the same day of the official examination in 1121, the day before in 1141 and 1148), and the heterodox statements are singled out in a new list.
3. The actual juridical procedure is opened by a high prelate (Humbert de Moyenmoutier in 1059, Cono of Praeneste in 1121, the "bishop of celebrated memory" in 1141, the Pope in 1148). A short history is given, and the accusation of heterodox teaching is pronounced (by Humbert in 1059, by Geoffrey of Chartres in 1121, (46) by the "bishop of celebrated memory" in 1141, apparently by the Pope in 1148, although this is not clear from John's account).
4. The discussed and condemned excerpts or capitula are read aloud for the assembly: by Humbert or on his orders in 1059, by "some one of Abelard's adversaries" (quidam de adversariis meis) in 1121, by Bernard in 1141, by the Roman subdeacon Henry of Pisa in 1148.
From this point onward, the story of the Councils diverges. In 1059 and 1121, apparently, the possibility of protesting did not occur or was perhaps unthinkable. Of course, Berengar of Tours could not appeal to the Pope, as the Pope himself was presiding at his case. Perhaps Abelard could have done so in 1121, though his case was presided over by the papal legate. Neither of them, however, protested in the way that Gilbert did in 1148 in the presence of the Pope. It may be that Gilbert felt that he had some support from those cardinals who saw in Bernard's behavior an attempt to undermine their authority. (47) Nevertheless, in spite of Abelard's fame as a turbulent master, ill disposed to all forms of authority, (48) he apparently did not feel sure enough of his ground to shout down his rivals or to protest against his being silenced. Nor was Abelard's reaction in 1141 in character with his fame. One would have expected him to defend his position, to attack his opponent. He chose instead a juridical solution and appealed to the Pope. This tactic seems to have been suggested to him by the juridical expert Hyacinth Bobone. So once more, Abelard did not himself protest against a procedure that threatened him with condemnation for heresy.
II. ANALYZING THE COUNCIL
The Council of Sens, then, can only be given its full meaning when considered against the background of its conformity to an apparently existing juridical custom. With that in mind, we can now turn to its several elements in order to see to what extent they conform to the procedures as distinguished in the other Councils and, especially, to what extent they do not.
Chronologically, then, the evening before the Council must be considered first. Berengar's mention of it in his Apology for Abelard finds confirmation in the above-mentioned letter from the bishops, which was sent to the Pope after the end of the Council. (49) This letter is signed by the archbishop of Sens, Henry de Boisroques, surnamed Aper, (50) by the papal legate, Geoffrey bishop of Chartres, and by the bishops of Autun, Auxerre, and Meaux. When we take into account the high dignities of both of the first subscribers, this letter might well pass muster as the official record of the Council. It mentions the meeting on the evening before, at which Abelard's sententiae had been condemned, and thus confirms Berengar's statement. (51)
That this evening session is considered an integral part of the juridical procedure might be concluded from the fact that neither Berengar nor the bishops feel constrained to make any further comment on the verdict on the sententiae, which had been pronounced the day before the Council. Berengar gives a lively parodic picture of the bishops judging Abelard's statements under the influence of a sumptuous meal and copious supplies of wine. He mocks their great ignorance, which is offended by anything and everything new to their ears. But he nowhere seems to tilt at the assembly itself, or its right to discuss and judge Abelard's statements in the absence of the master. (52)
The same must be said of the bishops. They do not seem to have considered their evening verdict as open to challenge by Abelard's sudden appeal to the Pope. According to them, his statements had already been judged and condemned. The Council only had to pronounce a sentence on the orthodoxy of the master himself. The entire paragraph, in which their meeting and condemnation on the evening before the Council are mentioned, addresses only the great influence of the master's personality and asks the Pope to put an end to its dangerous effects. (53) The bishops rather insist on the irregularity of Abelard's appeal, which in their eyes goes against canon law, and they make mention in the same breath of the evening meeting, not as if they feel obliged to excuse it but rather as if to show that, as far as they themselves are concerned, juridical procedures have been respected.
A comparison with the separate meetings at Soissons and Rheims--nothing being known about any similar event for the Council of 1059--will show once more a parallelism, which seems to point in the direction of juridical regularity. The best account is offered by John of Salisbury's Historia pontificalis: Abelard's rendering of the facts in his Historia calamitatum seems too highly colored by his personal objectives. John clearly states that the initiative for the separate meeting on the evening before the true confrontation lay with Bernard, and that the assembly took place in his private lodgings. (54)
Bernard opened the assembly with a short and elegant speech, reminding those present of their duty to remove any scandal from the Church. He closed by asking them to refute him if he seemed to err in his case against master Gilbert of Poitiers:
If he had pressed his argument foolishly, it was because he had been carried away by charity and zeal for the faith. But if he was not mistaken, he asked them to do their duty and preserve the purity of the faith. For cases such as this were the business not of monks and hermits, but of the prelates of the church who were bound to lay down their lives for their sheep. And to help them in judging whether he was right or wrong, he asked them to listen to the articles in which he differed from the bishop, and then approve or reject them. (55)
Then Bernard started to read aloud one by one several articles of faith that bore on Gilbert's capitula, a list which had been worked out, probably as a whole, by Godescalc, abbot of St. Martin at Arras. (56) The abbot's words were written down verbatim by his secretary Geoffrey of Auxerre, who re-read the article, concluding with the question: "Do you agree?" (Placet vobis?). This procedure calls forth a telling remark from John, comparing it to "the fashion when decretals or laws are promulgated." (57) The juridical element is here explicitly emphasized.
The assembled bishops and scholars replied: "We do" (Placet). Bernard then continued with the following article, proceeding in the same way. John remarks that "the more thoughtful men did not approve of this method: but they feared offending the abbot and his followers if they did not fall in with his wishes." (58) At the reading of the fourth article on the identity of the properties of the divine Persons with the Persons themselves, master Robert de Bosco protested because of the difficulties connected with this problem. His protest was accepted and the assembly dispersed. (59)
The procedure during the meeting at Sens is altogether similar. In Berengar's account, we find the same elements. Someone reads the statements aloud one by one and then asks the bishops, "Do you condemn this?" (Damnatis?). They respond: "We do" (Damnamus), although, according to Berengar, the wine has made them incapable of understanding very well what is going on, and their answer sounds more like "We swim" (Namus). (60)
As well as these similarities, however, there are remarkable differences. At Rheims, Bernard was charged only very late with the opposition to Gilbert, as the abbot Godescalc was, either through illness or some speech impediment, incapable of responding. (61) This might explain yet another difference. At the meeting in Rheims Bernard read aloud some articles of faith, whereas Berengar of Poitiers mentions the reading of capitula, taken from Peter Abelard's works themselves. There can be no doubt, indeed, that during the Council of Sens, Bernard read the condemned statements and no generally accepted articles of faith. (62)
The difference between reading questionable excerpts from an existing work or reading affirmative statements on much discussed questions of faith is indeed great enough to explain the different reactions of those present on the two occasions. During the separate meeting in Sens, the bishops heard statements, apparently written by Abelard himself, which they simply considered to be heterodox. In Rheims, the masters and bishops had to subscribe to statements that were presented as articles of faith, but which actually touched on problems that were widely discussed in the schools without yet having found a generally accepted solution. Or, to put it more simply, at Sens the bishops were asked to give a decision on Abelard's writings, at Rheims the masters and bishops were expected not to give a verdict but rather to profess their faith in accordance with the articles as pronounced by Bernard.
Again, during the separate meeting in Soissons, all attention seems to have been concentrated on Abelard's book. There is no hint of any profession of faith by anyone other than Abelard himself, at the end of the Council and as a sign of submission to the ecclesiastical authority. The same can be said of the Council of 1059, in which Cardinal Humbert read aloud some excerpts or capitula from Berengar's writings, which caused commotion among the assembled churchmen. In both cases, the writing of each master was quoted, examined, and judged. Only in Rheims was a different procedure followed.
Opening of the Court--the Appeal
The next element of the Council is the opening of the court at the end of the religious celebration. In each assembly this role seems to belong to the highest ecclesiastical dignitary present. In 1059 Humbert de Moyenmoutier delivered the opening speech. In 1121 it was Cono of Praeneste. Abelard is not very clear about it, but his contempt for the illiteracy of the papal legate might be inspired by the rather passive--while wholly functional--part Cono played throughout the process. (63) In Rheims it was the Pope himself who opened the case against Gilbert. Thus, it becomes highly plausible that in Sens also the opening of the juridical part was entrusted to the highest ecclesiastical authority present. The unnamed "bishop of celebrated memory" would then undoubtedly be the archbishop of Sens, Henri de Boisroques, who still was metropolitan of the French Church. (64)
Henri's opening speech at Sens is of a most official and impersonal character. Berengar seems to give a rather accurate quotation when he makes the archbishop say, "Brethren, fellows in the Christian religion, in every danger you ought to prevent faith in you from being disturbed and the sincere eye of a dove from being clouded by the stain of swollen pride. For it will be of no avail to possess all the virtues when faith is failing, according to the words of the Apostle: 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.' (65)" (66) These words evoke a satirical exclamation by Berengar about high eloquence, but there seems no reason for his sarcasm. They correspond perfectly to the opening words of a lawsuit, in which the president admonishes the court to keep in mind its responsibilities. (67)
Henri continues, according to Berengar, with what seems to be the accusation proper: "Peter always disturbs the Church. He always invents something new." (68) Bernard repeats these same words in his letters to the Pope and the Roman Curia to show them the danger that Abelard presents for the Church. (69) Bernard furthermore emphasizes strongly Abelard's widespread influence. He points out the master's popularity among the cardinals of the Curia, (70) accuses him of discussing questions of faith with his youngest disciples (71) and of vulgarizing and simplifying the mysteries of faith. (72)
Both accusations recur in the letter to the Pope by the bishops. They also mentioned the dangerous influences of Abelard's teaching, linking it to the widespread discussions in France about questions of faith and to the emergence of "profane inventions." (73) The same concern had been pronounced twenty years before by one of the signatories, Geoffrey of Chartres, during the Council of Soissons and, with regard to Berengar of Tours, by Humbert de Moyenmoutier in 1059. Both expressed their anxiety concerning the rapid diffusion of teaching that had not yet received any ecclesiastical approbation or even examination. For Geoffrey, Abelard's influence was a reason to treat his case with much care and procedural accuracy in order to prevent his being considered a victim of jealousy or injustice. (74) Humbert, on the contrary, wanted to nip what he saw as a pernicious doctrine in the bud. The bishops in Sens give the impression that they thought they had answered both obligations. By condemning the capitula, they wanted to put an end to the spread of a heterodox teaching. By allowing Abelard to appeal to Rome, although they doubted its canonical regularity, they nonetheless demonstrated their wish to act according to correct juridical procedure.
This last element, the accuracy of the procedure followed, constitutes one of the underlying principles in their letter. For perhaps the most intriguing observation in it is the hesitation of the bishops over the canonical regularity of Abelard's appeal. It seems to them to be not quite canonical (licet appellatio ista minus canonica videretur), yet they do acknowledge it. Their doubt shows that uncertainty still reigns over the exact procedure to be followed. (75) And indeed, we might expect it to be more regular that an appeal is made after sentence has been pronounced.
The reason for the bishops' doubt can be discovered in the Panormia by Ivo of Chartres. Here, an entire chapter is dedicated to the right of appeal (appellationes), (76) but it is limited to the cases of bishops who are accused. Panormia IV.120 specifies when a bishop may appeal to Rome before a verdict is pronounced: "If a bishop mistrusts his judge and senses that he is put at a disadvantage, he may feel free to appeal to the Apostolic See." (77) Abelard not being a bishop and having himself chosen place and court, as Bernard puts it in his letter 191, written in the name of the Archbishop of Rheims, (78) there were indeed all reasons to doubt if Abelard's appeal, made before judgment had been pronounced, corresponded to canonical custom. (79)
Now the bishops seem to have been most anxious to demonstrate in their letter that, as far as they were concerned, all canonical prescriptions had been observed. They emphasized strongly the regularity of the procedure. First Bernard had studied Abelard's works. Next he met him, first in private, then "in the company of two or three witnesses, conforming to the biblical prescription." This is indeed the procedure laid down in Ivo's Panormia. (80) What is more, Bernard had urged Abelard "in a friendly and confidential way" to correct his writings and to keep these teachings far away from his audience. (81) Bernard's attitude is confirmed by Abelard in the letter to his students. The master there accuses Bernard of having been "always an enemy in secret, yet to have feigned until this moment to be a friend, yes even the best of friends." (82)
The denuntiatio evangelica
In Bernard's action can be recognized, indeed, the different stages of a very traditional ecclesiastical procedure, which would come to be known under Innocent III as the denuntiatio evangelica, but to which contemporaries of the Council refer as the correptio or correctio fraterna. (83) This procedure is wholly based on Matthew 18:5-17: "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."
As a juridical procedure, it consists of the notice of an offense against the Church, as declared before and examined by religious men, their "fraternal admonition" of the guilty, first in private (privata correptio), then with two or three witnesses (privata denuntiatio). (84) These meetings aim at a remedium of the trespass by a confession and voluntary penitence. (85) They may only proceed out of affectus caritatis and amor disciplinae, testifying the bonus zelus of the denuntiator. (86)
If nevertheless they remain unsuccessful, the actor ecclesiasticus has to proceed to the final step in the evangelical precept, that is the Dic Ecclesiae, which consists once more of two elements: the publica correptio and the publica denuntiatio. (87) As far as the denuntiator is concerned, his action has to stop here. If the ecclesiastical authorities are convinced that the fault denounced requires punishment, it will be their task to start a true juridical procedure. (88)
Now the preliminaries to the confrontation at Sens conform to all these different steps. First, William of Saint-Thierry denounces Abelard's teaching to Bernard and Geoffrey of Chartres, both men of religious authority. Next, the quaestio or inquisitio takes place, that is to say, Bernard asks Thomas of Morigny to verify the inquiry that William had made into Abelard's books. Only then is he willing to meet the master, first in private (privata correptio), next with witnesses (privata denuntiatio). Abelard himself testifies that these meetings took place in a most amicable mood. (89) As Abelard is willing neither to make changes to his books nor to warn his students against heterodox teachings, Bernard admonishes the students in a sermon, without naming Abelard (publica correptio). (90) Finally, he denounces Abelard's teaching and stubbornness to the ecclesiastical authorities within the French Church (publica denuntiatio).
Bernard advances in his letters yet another argument to confirm the regularity of the procedure followed. Abelard himself had chosen the place and the court to judge his case. (91) Ivo acknowledges the right of a bishop under accusation to choose the place where he wants to be judged. (92) At this point, however, the regularity of the procedure goes awry. For Abelard did not choose a court to judge his teaching. On the contrary, he was looking for a scholastic disputation with Bernard.
It is not clear, however, to what extent Abelard realized that a traditional juridical procedure had been followed against him. Either he did not see the juridical implications of Bernard's proceeding, or he deliberately chose to overlook them and give the whole confrontation another, scholastic bent. In fact, in his letter to the students, he confirms that he is willing to "respond to Bernard," if the abbot wants to continue his accusatio. Yet Bernard had only denounced, not accused, Abelard: an apparently slight difference perhaps but with far-reaching implications. An accusation ought to be made in writing and obliged the accuser to appear personally in court. A denunciation, however, was made orally as an act of charity without obliging any of the parties to continue with a juridical procedure. (93)
Abelard's provocation of Bernard at this stage of the affair must thus be seen as an attempt to prevent the ecclesiastical authorities from starting a juridical procedure and to launch a scholastic debate instead. His misuse in his letter of the juridical terminology might indicate that he was less conversant with practical jurisdiction.
III. THE POLITICS OF JURISDICTION
Hesitations and Concessions
After these comparisons with other and similar ecclesiastical assemblies, with the prescriptions given in Ivo's Panormia and with the ecclesiastical custom of the denuntiatio evangelica, the conclusion must be that the Council of Sens was perfectly canonical and that no irregularities occurred, with the possible exception of Abelard's appeal. But by acknowledging the master's right to appeal to the Roman See, the bishops took no risk. They knew that they were open to no reproach.
This conclusion on the canonicity of the Council, however, does not give an answer to all our questions. Was there really nothing wrong with the Council? Why for instance the bishops' acquiescence in Abelard's appeal, when it did not seem canonical to them? And why did Abelard not simply object to his critics, as he had proposed to do? I think the mystery of this Council can be resolved when the questions are posed in a different way. Is it not remarkable how the regularity of the juridical procedure is demonstrated in such an emphatic way? The reason for this emphasis may well be not that there had been any irregularity from a juridical viewpoint, but rather that the propriety of the juridical procedure itself could be questioned.
And indeed, when taking all the documents and sources into consideration, we are struck by the painstaking efforts to prove the canonicity of the juridical procedure, to demonstrate that everything went according to canonical custom and that nothing went against the most recent developments in the field of ecclesiastical jurisprudence. These efforts, however, are wholly out of place, as no one, not even Abelard, seems ever to have questioned any of the steps of the procedure from beginning to end.
The situation changes, however, as soon as the juridical proceeding itself is called into question. For the greatest difference with the other cases discussed here is the fact that Abelard was not summoned to appear in court as he was in 1121, (94) as Berengar was in 1059 and Gilbert in 1148. On the contrary, it was he who had been challenging Bernard to appear, not in a lawsuit but for a scholastic disputation. Both his own letter to his students and the letter of the bishops to the Pope confirm the original point of departure for the confrontation. Abelard writes that he asked the archbishop of Sens to write to Bernard "that, if he wanted to persevere in his accusation, he would find me ready on the Octave of Pentecost to answer him on the statements to which he objected." (95)
It is clear that the master hoped for a degree of rehabilitation. He disappeared from the Mont Sainte-Genevieve in 1137, the same year that his lifelong protector Etienne de Garlande was definitively put out of action by the new king Louis VII. Etienne retreated to the monastery of St. Victor, and Abelard disappeared from the scholastic scene in Paris, probably retreating to some place nearby such as Melun, where he had been teaching some decades before. More than likely the master hoped to be honorably rehabilitated by means of the discussion with the abbot in the presence of all the magnates of the kingdom of France. (96)
The words in the bishops' letter could not be plainer: "Master Peter ... started to press us frequently and would not desist until we wrote to the abbot of Clairvaux about it and urged him to appear before us in Sens on the assigned day, that is the Octave of Pentecost, on which Master Peter professed and declared himself ready to prove and defend the statements, on the grounds of which the abbot of Clairvaux had reproached him, as has been said." (97)
It must be observed that the wording of this letter, written after the Council, once more has a strong juridical connotation. The day for court is assigned (assignato die). One of the opponents is summoned to appear (ante nostram submonuimus venire praesentiam). Ironically enough, however, it is Bernard who is summoned, not Abelard. Yet Bernard's reaction, as described by the bishops, is quite unlike what might be expected in the case of a true juridical writ. "The abbot answered that he would neither appear on the assigned day, nor debate against Peter." (98) It is in the highest degree doubtful whether Bernard would have enjoyed such freedom had he received a formal summons from the archbishop. (99)
Bernard's refusal to appear is also known from his own letters. (100) In his letter 330, which may have been the true missive that was sent to the Pope before the Council instead of the famous letter 189, (101) Bernard quotes all manner of excuses to demonstrate his inability to appear at Sens. (102) His reluctance to accept the challenge of a disputation with Abelard already becomes clear in his first letter dedicated to the case: the response to William of St. Thierry's admonition to act. (103) According to these letters, which he omitted from his final epistolary corpus, as he himself left it, Bernard was afraid to confront the master in public. (104)
Eventually he accepted the challenge, and it is legitimate to ask what made him change his mind. The bishops explain his changed attitude by the great surge of students who responded to Abelard's call to support him with their presence. The abbot feared that his absence could only lend strength to the "insanities" of the master. (105) In his letter 189, written after the Council and probably only for incorporation in the epistolary file, (106) Bernard alludes to these words of the bishops. He gives, however, a second reason for his acquiescence: he mentions "the advice of friends" urging him to change his mind. (107) His secretary and later biographer, Geoffrey of Auxerre, even says that it was "mighty men" who persuaded him. (108)
Thus pressure was exerted on the abbot to appear in Sens and to confront the master. Yet Bernard still refused to dispute questions of faith, not only at Sens but also later at Rheims. (109) Which argument, then, may have persuaded him? I think at this point it is time to bring in the illuminating analysis of the historical and political situation by Mews. (110) The general commotion in France, and the presence of Arnold of Brescia among Abelard's pupils, had drawn the possible consequences of the master's teaching to the attention of the great. Among the "magni viri" of Geoffrey's account must surely be reckoned Suger of St. Denis, who, besides, was a friend of Bernard. As the right hand of the young king, Suger must have observed with alarm how Abelard's teaching was attracting dangerous followers of the calibre of Arnold of Brescia, whom the Pope had expelled only recently from Italy. The elimination of Abelard from the school scene had suddenly become a matter of public interest. (111)
In his letters, Bernard somewhat unexpectedly introduces Arnold of Brescia. In the earliest letters he is not mentioned at all. Only in letters 189 and 330, which must be read together, does his name appear. In letter 330, undoubtedly the earlier, (112) Bernard's accusations against the revolutionary cleric are sharp. Arnold is closely linked to Abelard. They are represented as deliberately joining forces in order to attack Christ and the Lord. Together they evoke the image of the biblical Leviathan:
Scale is joined to scale and no air can come between them. (113) They are corrupt and they have done abominable works, (114) and from the leaven of their corruption they corrupt the faith of the simple, they disturb the order of customs, they stain the chastity of the Church. In the image and after the likeness (115) of him who transforms himself into an angel of light, (116) having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, (117) they are adorned all around after the similitude of a temple, (118) that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart (119). (120)
This highly emotional evocation is much tempered in letter 189. The image remains similar, but the language has become quieter, more balanced and evenhanded, which points to a composition at a more tranquil moment. (121) In both letters, however, Arnold seems only to be mentioned to demonstrate to the Pope the danger of Abelard's teaching. For the development of the formal argument against Abelard, he remains irrelevant.
Setting up a Case
How, then, in the end, is the background of the Council to be reconstructed? During Lent 1140, Bernard received a passionate letter from his friend William of St. Thierry, in which the teaching and writings of Abelard were indicted for heresy. (122) Bernard answered in a cautious way and proposed a meeting after Easter. (123) On Bernard's request, several lists of heretical excerpts from Abelard's works were drawn up, one by William, another by Thomas of Morigny. (124)
Bernard merged these lists into one with nineteen capitula. This he showed to Abelard during a private meeting, (125) which must have occurred in Autumn 1140, perhaps shortly before a second meeting with one or two witnesses. Probably at All Saints' Bernard preached a first time to the students in Paris. This sermon still survives as one of the many versions of De conversione. It contains scarcely any allusions to Abelard and his teaching. (126)
This changed in the period of Advent and Christmas. Bernard rewrote the entire sermon, amplifying it to almost double its length. (127) The broad thrust of the new sermon remains the same, but many remarkable changes have occurred. Some fragments are preserved, others are adapted beyond recognition. New elements have been introduced. Striking are some references to Boethius, thus demonstrating that he is addressing a dialectically schooled audience. (128) Besides, the difference is strongly emphasized between knowledge and experience, between learning and acting. (129) Nowhere does Bernard refer openly to Abelard, but some slight allusions can be discovered. He stresses in a very emphatic way the unity of the Son, the Word, the glory, and the substance of the soul, thus making an indirect criticism of Abelard's attempt to differentiate within the Trinity. (130) Similarly, Bernard quotes Christ's prayer on the cross for those who crucified him. Those who hold back their disciples from knowledge and respect for authority cannot be included in this forgiveness. (131) Finally Bernard openly condemns those who teach Holy Scripture for money, without so much as caring if its precepts are obeyed. (132)
These changes will date partly before and partly after a second preaching before the Paris students at Epiphany 1141. (133) It will have been at this second preaching that Bernard knew a moment of despair, because of the apparent impotence of his words. (134) And it will have been this second preaching that caused Abelard to write his first draft of the Apology against Bernard. (135) Shortly afterwards, Abelard will have launched his challenge.
Bernard refused to accept, as we saw, because he had fulfilled his duty of denuntiator, until he changed his mind on the advice of (or perhaps we must say, under pressure from) some mighty friends, the most important of whom will have been Suger. The reason is now known. In 1139, at the Second Lateran Council, Arnold of Brescia was expelled from Italy. At some time within the next year, he turned up around Paris and associated himself with the school of Abelard. (136) It is not at all certain that Abelard himself was aware of this dangerous new disciple. The master nowhere shows a true concern for or familiarity with his pupils. It might very well be that he did not have the least suspicion of the whirlpool into which the attendance of this pupil would hurl his challenge.
Suger must have known of Arnold's movements. Yet given the communal commotion, it seemed not the most diplomatic way to assail him directly. So it was decided to render him harmless by eliminating Abelard, of whose influence Arnold might take advantage. Besides, Abelard's questioning of authority as a valid source of knowledge threatened to strengthen the anti-authoritarian disposition of the communes. Now Suger will also have known about the master's challenge and the abbot's refusal. Bernard, however, was the only authority to hand capable of confronting the master. For Suger, it thus became a matter of capital importance to have the confrontation take place, but to leave no way out for the master. It was thus entirely out of the question to launch a dialectical disputation. It had to be replaced by another sort of confrontation, which would obviate all Abelard's advantages. Suger's solution was to bring about not a scholastic debate but a juridical court. Thus, dismissing Abelard's provocation, Suger put the juridical procedure into motion, which necessarily followed Bernard's denuntiatio evangelica.
Bernard was informed of the new perspectives and was urged to play his part, not as the unschooled opponent of a trained dialectician, but as the public prosecutor in a lawsuit. The rest of the story is known. Abelard appeared in the cathedral unaware of the changed situation. He only realized the trap in which he was caught when Henri de Boisroques opened the session with a juridical introduction. It seems that he was not well enough versed juridically to hit back immediately. As we have remarked, the appeal to the Pope will have been suggested by Hyacinth Bobone, thus allowing him to counter Suger's juridical scenario with a legally valid juridical response. (137)
This step also unleashed the frantic activity of his opponents. Bernard bombarded the papal court with his letters, hoping to force a verdict before Abelard reached Rome. The bishops wrote their one letter, but in it they did everything to demonstrate the regularity of the procedure, without in any way concealing the kind of initiative that Abelard had taken. Innocent II, however, had no need of urging. His verdict followed very quickly in two documents: a short letter which shows clearly that his concern was in the first place the elimination of Arnold, (138) and a more official sentence on Abelard alone, which was then included in the epistolary file that Bernard was creating. (139)
For even after Abelard had been judged and condemned, Bernard still did not let the case drop. He constructed a model case out of it by composing and partly rewriting the letters that constitute the final "Abaelardus" dossier. Elsewhere I have shown how these eight letters (187-94) form a perfect lawsuit, composed according to the classical rules of discourse. They open with the exordium, containing the captatio benevolentia to the members of the court, that is the bishops who were going to assemble at Sens (letter 187), and a propositio of the facts, addressed to the Curia as the highest Court (letter 188). Then follow the narratio (letter 189) and the argumentatio (letter 190), both addressed to the Pope as the highest judge. Letter 191 rehearses the entire case but in the name of the archbishop of Rheims and thus forms both the peroratio and the record of a lower judge to the higher instance. The letters 192 and 193 contain the exhortations, and they are addressed to two members of the Curia as members of the jury. The file is closed by the papal verdict in letter 194. (140) Letters that did not fit into the general plan were left out, thus allowing the epistolary file to maintain a strictly juridical structure, in conformity with all rhetorical rules. (141)
IV. CONCLUSION" THE CLASH OF INTERESTS
What can be concluded from this analysis? First, scholarly attention may have been too closely fixed on the theological debate between the opponents. This, however, seems to have constituted only one part of the controversy. Mews has demonstrated that the Council itself had quite different aims of a political nature, that the mastermind behind it was Suger of St. Denis and that this cunning politician aspired, by silencing Abelard, to disarm Arnold of Brescia before he could recruit followers. The best and fastest way to do this was to condemn Abelard in court for heresy.
But there is more. William of St. Thierry opened the theological discussion, and Bernard entered into it only reluctantly. He clearly did not want to break a lance with the renowned dialectician. Apparently he saw himself only acting as an intermediary, reporting to Abelard the theological objections of some scholastic critics. He stepped fully into the ring only after his preaching to the students in Paris. The changes he introduced into the text of his sermon De conversione show that he had become conscious of and alarmed by the nature of the schooling as it was received by the students. Abelard already had for some fifteen years been to him the image of the modern master. Thus his sermon for All Saints' 1140 became, around Epiphany 1141, a vehement criticism of the new pedagogics. (142) The personal controversy between Bernard and Abelard thus proves to be first of all a dispute on education and schooling. (143)
Different and opposing motives, then, were driving all the parties involved. Suger acted out of political interest, hoping to prevent the general situation from becoming still more explosive. He did not want to give Arnold of Brescia time and opportunity to set the communes on fire yet again. Jurisprudence offered him the most efficient and discreet means to do so. His plans were only countered by the presence of the lawyer Hyacinth Bobone, who alone knew how to find the correct response, thus playing out the refined juridical practice of the day against Suger's political use of justice. These two were the true directors of the event, remaining of course backstage from first to last.
The protagonists on whom attention has always been focussed were almost mere actors on a scene and in a drama of which the scope entirely escaped them. Bernard, though his opposition to Abelard was based on pedagogical grounds, accepted the juridical role offered him by the politician Suger. From a pedagogic rival and opponent, he became the public prosecutor of Abelard, lending himself "for a just cause" to a scene that he knew to have been arranged in order to sentence the master. In order to emphasize the regularity and the exemplary nature of this "case," Bernard reconstructed a model version in his epistolary corpus.
And, finally, what of Abelard himself? Can he still be labeled a victim of the machinations of the others? In truth, he fell into the proverbial trap in which he hoped to ensnare his opponent. He wanted to open a scholastic discussion on theological theory with the dialectically unschooled abbot, but he remained blind to the procedural toils in which he himself was caught. He strove for a public rehabilitation and did not notice that his mastery of scholastic knowledge had long been bypassed by the exigencies of another time, by the requirements of central government, and by the utility of practical jurisprudence. In 1141 Abelard already belonged to an almost legendary past. (144) Neither the schools nor active politics now felt any great need for him. He could easily be sacrificed, and the more readily because of his blindness to what was happening.
Yet the historical significance of the Council is not in these various individual motives. In truth, the Council constitutes a visible crystalization point in medieval history. It shows that the time of charismatic personalities and of uncontrolled individual initiatives, a period of slowly unfolding individualism, covering the century between 1050 and 1150, is coming to an end. (145) In its place another world is taking shape, a world attuned to institutions and to a common, rationalized pragmatism, the epoch of national governments (as opposed to the tendencies towards independence of the local lord and commune), of organized schools and universities (as opposed to the individual teaching of the master attended by his personal following of students), of a strongly theocratic and jurisprudential Church (as opposed to the local episcopal church jealous of its own customs). For this reason, the Council of Sens might be labeled the first political lawsuit of modern Europe, in which individual rights are asked to yield to the needs of political structure and authority.
(1.) Traditional dating of the Council on June 2, 1140, has been convincingly challenged and adapted by Constant J. Mews in "The Council of Sens (1141): Abelard, Bernard, and the Fear of Social Upheaval," Speculum 77:2 (2002): 342-82. The Octave of Pentecost 1141 had already been suggested by S. Martin Deutsch in 1880, Ferruccio Gastaldelli in 1989, and Pietro Zerbi in 1988, 1990, and 1992. In modern scholarly literature, however, Peter Dinzelbacher had followed this dating uniquely in his biography of Bernard, Bernhard von Clairvaux: Leben und Werk des beruhmten Zisterziensers (Darmstadt: Primus, 1998), 236-48. After the article by Mews, however, the new date seems to be more widely accepted, so Guy Lobrichon, Heloise: L'amour et le savoir (Paris: Gallimard, 2005), 359 (where, however, the month of June is retained, whereas the Octave of Pentecost in 1141 fell on May 25th). For an overview of the redating, the scholarly literature, and an extensive argumentation, see Mews, "The Council of Sens," esp. 345-54. In a wholly independent study, founded on the analysis of certain literary texts reflecting the reaction to the conciliar sentence, I also came to the conclusion that the date of 1140 was untenable. See Wim Verbaal, Een middeleeuws drama: Het conflict tussen scholing en vorming bij Abaelardus en Bernardus [A Medieval Drama: The Conflict Between Schooling and Formation in Abelard and Bernard] (Kapellen-Kampen: Pelckmans-Klement, 2002), referred to by Mews, "The Council of Sens," note 156, under its working title Niet als meester maar als moeder [Not a Master but a Mother].
(2.) The bibliography on the Council and the confrontation between Bernard and Abelard is indeed enormous. For some recent studies with bibliographies, I refer to the article by Mews, "The Council of Sens," and to Pietro Zerbi, "'Philosophi" e "logici": Un ventennio di incontri e scontri: Soissons, Sens, Cluny (1121-1141), Istituto Storico Italiano per il Medio Evo: Nuovi Studi Storici 59 (Milan: Vita and Pensiero, 2002).
(3.) Vita prima III., 13-14, in J. -P. Migne's Patrologia Latina [hereafter PL] (Paris, 1855), 185, col. 311-12.
(4.) Such remains the view in the most recent biographies and studies; see Peter Dinzelbacher in his biography, esp. the introduction, 2, and Pierre Aube Saint Bernard de Clairvaux (Paris: Fayard, 2003), 13.
(5.) This opinion is most harshly expressed by Schiller in a letter to Goethe, quoted by Adriaan H. Bredero in his Bernardus van Clairvaux: Tussen cultus en historie (Kapellen-Kampen: Pelckmans-Kok, 1993), 202-3. As the opinion of a convinced supporter of enlightened rationalism, this need not surprise. More remarkable is the oversimplified account by Jacques Le Goff in his still widely popular Les intellectuels au moyen age (Paris: Seuil, 1957), 49-50.
(6.) Not even the highly consistent account by Mews, "The Council of Sens," escapes entirely from this presupposition, in giving Bernard the final responsibility over the procedure. This, however, clashes somewhat with his basic thesis that Suger was the moving spirit behind the confrontation.
(7.) As the opposition is labeled since the successful and thorough study by Jacques Verger and Jean Jolivet, Bernard-Abelard ou le cloitre et l'ecole (Paris: Fayard, 1982).
(8.) Mews, "The Council of Sens," n. 1.
(9.) This aspect of the confrontation has received most of the scholarly attention: see the references in Zerbi, "Philosophie" e "Logici," and by the same scholar, "Teologie a confronto: I1 Concilio di Sens," in Il secolo XII: la "renovation" dell' Europa cristiana, ed. Giles Constable, Giorgio Cracco, Hagen Keller, and Diego Quaglioni (Bologne: Il Mulino, 2003), 381-92. See further Nikolaus Haring, "Thomas von Morigny: Disputatio catholicorum patrum contra dogmata Petri Abailardi," Studi Medievali, 3rd ser., 21:1 (1981): 299-376; Verger and Jolivet, Bernard-Abelard; Constant Mews, "The Lists of Heresies Imputed to Peter Abelard," Revue Benedictine 95 (1985): 73-110; Pietro Zerbi, "Bernardo di Chiaravalle e le controversie dottrinale," in Ecclesia in hoc mundo posita (Milan: Vita and Pensieri, 1993), 453-89, and Zerbi, "Guillaume de Saint-Thierry et son differend avec Abelard," in Saint-Thierry, une abbaye du Vie au XXe siecle: Actes du Colloque international d'Histoire monastique Reims-Saint-Thierry, 11 au 14 octobre 1976, ed. Michel Bur (Saint-Thierry: Association des amis de l'abbaye de Saint-Thierry, 1979), 395-412. See also the recapitulation by Constant Mews of his studies on the creation of the list with the capitula in the introduction to his edition of the Theologia Scholarium, Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis 13 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1987), 278-86.
(10.) This aspect is the subject of my book; see Verbaal, Een middeleeuws drama.
(11.) Mews, "The Coluncil of Sens."
(12.) These are only a few of the manifold tensions that sought release at the Council. An additional tension was the artistic rivalry between Henri Sanglier and Suger of Saint-Denis, who both strove to found a new epoch-making architectural style, the building of the choirs of the cathedral Saint-Etienne of Sens and of the church at Saint-Denis occurring simultaneously and being finished about the same year 1144. And is it mere coincidence that the abbey church of Clairvaux, whose building started shortly after 1135 (that is, almost simultaneously with the building of the occidental parts of Saint-Denis and the preparations in Sens), must have been largely completed and consecrated just before 1145? For Saint-Denis, see the introduction by Francoise Gasparri in her edition of Suger's works: Suger OEuvres (Paris: Les belles lettres, 1996), 1:XXXII-XLVI. For the Cathedral of Sens, see Jacques Henriet, "La cathedrale SaintEtienne de Sens: le parti du premier maitre et les campagnes du XIIe siecle," Bulletin monumental 140:1 (1982): 81-174. For Clairvaux, see Dinzelbacher, Bernard yon Clairvaux, 171-75, and Aube St. Bernard de Clairvaux, 319-34.
(13.) These are the aims of my own research on the Council, of which a preliminary result was presented at the international conference at Ghent University on "Rhetorics, Politics, and Ethics," April 21-23, 2005, in a paper under the title "The Birth of Academic Reproduction and the Sacrifice of Freedom of Thought: The Council of Sens (1141) According to Pierre Bourdieu."
(14.) Only two attempts have been made to throw light on the procedural aspect of the Council: Jurgen Miethke, "Theologenprozesse in der ersten Phase ihrer institutionellen Ausbildung: Die Verfahren gegen Peter Abaelard und Gilbert von Poitiers," Viator 6 (1975): 87-116; and Lothar Kolmer, "Abaelard und Bernhard von Clairvaux in Sens," Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung fur Rechtsgeschichte 98 (1981): 121-47. Their approach, however, although they draw attention to important aspects that have been remarkably neglected by later scholarship, still remains captive to the presuppositions of traditional research, as we hope to demonstrate.
(15.) An attempt has been made by the contributors to Ernst Breisach, Classical Rhetoric and Mediaeval Historiography (Kalamazoo, Mich.: Medieval Institute, 1985).
(16.) As expressed in his dedicatory letter to Heloise, which is reproduced at the head of his collection of sermons for the Paraclete. See PL 179, col. 379.
(17.) One has only to remember Abelard's concealment of his lifelong protector, Etienne de Garlande, the mightiest man in the kingdom of France, although the peripatetics of the master can only be understood when brought into relation with the fluctuating fortunes of his protector. Robert-Henri Bautier irrefutably demonstrated this in "Paris au temps d'Abelard," in Abelard en son temps: Actes du Colloque international organise a l'occasion du 9e centennaire de la naissance de Pierre Abelard (14-19 mai 1979), ed. Jean Jolivet (Paris: Les belles lettres, 1981), 21-77. The shadow of Etienne de Garlande, who retired in 1137-38 to Saint-Victor, where he died only after 1142-45, still weighs heavily on the events at Sens.
(18.) See the stimulating article by Clare Monagle, "The Trial of Ideas: Two Tellings of the Case of Gilbert of Poitiers in 1148," Viator 35 (2004). I thank her for allowing me to consult her article before publication. Mrs. Monagle makes a strong case on the limits of modern historiography when confronted with the particularity of some medieval texts; see especially her note 7.
(19.) See the references mentioned in note 9.
(20.) See Le Goff, Les intellectuels, 49-50.
(21.) Michael Clanchy, Abelard: A Medieval Life (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 307.
(22.) John Marenbon, The Philosophy of Peter Abelard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 31.
(23.) First advanced by Joseph Jeannin, "La derniere maladie d'Abelard," in Melanges St. Bernard (Dijon: Marilier, 1954), 109-15, where he suggested a brain cancer.
(24.) Zerbi, "Teologie a confronto," 390.
(25.) See for the text Marjorie Chibnall, Ioannis Sarisburiensis Historia Pontificalis (London: Nelson, 1956), and for an evaluation of John's objectivity in comparison with the other contemporary sources, Laura Cioni, "Il concilio di Reims nelle fonti contemporanee," Aevum 53 (1979): 273-300. But see now also Monagle, "The Trial of Ideas."
(26.) R. M. Thomson, "The Satirical Works of Berengar of Poitiers: An Edition with Introduction," Mediaeval Studies 42 (1980): 89-138, with the text on 111-30.
(27.) Ibid., 111-12.
(28.) Ibid., 112-15.
(29.) Ibid., 115-17.
(30.) See Abelard's letter published by Raymond Klibansky, "Peter Abailard and Bernard of Clairvaux: A Letter by Peter Abailard," Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies 5 (1961): 1-27.
(31.) Undoubtedly as a way of fundraising for the reconstruction of the cathedral. See Mews, "The Council of Sens," 355.
(32.) Thomson, "The Satirical Works," 115, with an allusion to Ps. 25:4.
(33.) Thomson, "The Satirical Works," 116.
(34.) See the accounts by Geoffrey of Auxerre in the third book of Bernard's life, Vita prima III.14 (PL 185, col. 311), and (more important) the account by the bishops in their letter to the Pope, published in Migne's Patrologia Latina among the letters of Bernard of Clairvaux as Epistola 337 (PL 182, col. 542); reedited by Jean Leclercq, "Autour de la correspondance de s. Bernard," in Sapientiae doctrina: Melanges de theologie et de litterature medievales offerts a Dom Hildebrand Bascour O.S.B. (Leuven: Imprint Orientaliste, 1980), 185-98; reprinted in Jean Leclercq, Recueil d'etudes sur saint Bernard et ses ecrits IV (Rome: Storia e letteratura, 1987), 335-48, esp. 335-42. We will have to return to this letter.
(35.) See Cioni, "Il concilio di Reims," 298-299, and Monagle, "The Trial of Ideas."
(36.) Chibnall, Ioannis Sarisburiensis, 21.
(37.) Historia pontificalis 10, in Chibnall, Ioannis Sarisburiensis, 21-22. Translation by the editor.
(38.) See the Vita Norberti, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores [hereafter MGH SS] 12 (Hannover: Hahn, 1856), 663-706, esp. 681, which stipulates that the Council was held against priests living in concubinage: "Interea concilium celebratur, in quo, ne missae presbiterarum, qui uxores habent, audiri debeant, decretum promulgatur."
(39.) Abelard says that he was "invited" to the Council: "meque invitarent quatenus illus opusculum ... mecum afferrem": Jacques Monfrin, ed., Abelard: Historia calamitatum (Paris: Vrin, 1962), 83.
(40.) Ibid., 83-89.
(41.) For a survey of the events that led to the Council of Rheims in 1148, see Nikolaus Haring, The Commentaries on Boethius by Gilbert of Poitiers (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1966), 4-7.
(42.) The best comprehensive account still remains the monograph by Jean de Montclos, Lanfranc et Berenger: La controverse eucharistique du XIe siecle (Leuven: UCL, 1971). In my book Een middeleeuws drama, I have tried to give a more up-to-date reconstruction of the entire conflict (67-79).
(43.) See Montclos, Lanfranc et Berenger, 167-70, and Verbaal, Een middeleeuws drama, 73.
(44.) Lanfranc, De corpore et sanguine Domini 2 (PL 151, col. 411).
(45.) It should be noted that the assembly considered none of these masters a heretic. They all submit to ecclesiastical authority.
(46.) According to Abelard, this intervention by Geoffrey took place in his absence during the separate meeting. Thus, one cannot expect a literal quotation. At all events, Geoffrey's words show a remarkable similarity to the letter that the bishops sent to the Pope after the Council in 1141.
(47.) This is suggested by John, Historia pontificalis 9: Chibnall, Ioannis Sarisburiensis, 20.
(48.) See Le Goff, Les intellectuels, 41-42.
(49.) Epistola 337 among the letters of Bernard: PL 182, col 542; Leclercq, "Autour de la correspondence," 337-41. The reliability of the letter is even enhanced by Henri's rather problematic relationship to Bernard. For Henri belonged to the "clients" of the de Garlande clan, Abelard's protectors, who had been in constant rivalry with Suger (and consequently with Bernard). Such tensions around the crown, based on family-founded networks, figure among the important hidden features of the Council.
(50.) Although there are some indications that Sanglier was his true family name. See Mews, "The Council of Sens," 354, n. 39. Also Eric Bournazel, Le gouvernement capetien au XIIe siecle (1108-1180: Structures sociales et mutations institutionnelles (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1975), 36, mentions a Pierre Sanglier acting as a witness together with the de Garlandes.
(51.) Cf. Epistola 337.4: "Ceterum sententias pravi dogmatis ipsius, quia multos infecerant et sui contagione ad usque cordium intima penetraverant; saepe in audientia publica lectas et relectas, et tam verissimis rationibus quam beati Augustini aliorumque sanctorum Patrum inductis a domino Claraevallensi auctoritatibus, non solum falsas, sed et haereticas esse evidentissime comprobatas, pridie antefactam ad vos appellationem, damnavimus": PL 182, col. 542C; Leclercq "Autour de la correspondence," 340 (italics added).
(52.) This must be particularly stressed because almost every modern scholar has read in Berengar's sarcasm a criticism of the procedure, while it in truth reveals a critical attitude towards the incapacity of the dignitaries involved.
(53.) These words resemble strongly the words of Geoffrey of Chartres during the Council at Soissons in 1121. We will return to them.
(54.) John wants to emphasize his reliability in an explicit way by assuring us: "Quod vidi loquor et scribo, sciens mihi apud Deum et homines conscientie et fame dispendium imminere, si falsitas presertim de re tanta fuerit in ore et opere meo." Cf. Chibnall, Ioannis Sarisburiensis, 17. His statement has to be understood in the light of his opposition to the writings of Geoffrey of Auxerre against Gilbert.
(55.) Historia pontificalis 8: Chibnall, Ioannis Sarisburiensis, 17-18, translation by the editor.
(56.) Haring, The Commentaries on Boethius, 4-7.
(57.) Historia pontificalis 8: Chibnall, Ioannis Sarisburiensis, 18, translation by the editor.
(59.) This protest and the immediate dispersal demonstrate once more that those present disapproved in the first place of the intellectual purpose of the statements, treated as if they were legal enactments. They did not disapprove of their being assembled without Gilbert in order to try his case.
(60.) Thomson, "The Satirical Works," 114.
(61.) Geoffrey of Auxerre calls him nimis elinguis in his letter to Albinus III.15 (PL 185, col. 589). See Haring, The Commentaries on Boethius, 9, n. 25 on 6, and 72, who demonstrates that it had been impossible for Bernard to occupy himself with Gilbert's case before the Council of Rheims. John's silence on the preparatory steps in Gilbert's case can be explained by his absence during the synod of Paris, the year before, when the examination of Gilbert's book was handed over to Godescalc. The omission may also serve to heighten the contrast between the well-learned master and the "unschooled" abbot.
(62.) See on the list of capitula, which may have been read during the Council, the many articles dedicated to the problem, summarized by Constant Mews in the introduction to his edition of the Theologia Scholarium, Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis 13 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1987), 278-86.
(63.) It might be compared to Berengar's irony on the bishop's eloquence.
(64.) David Luscombe proposed this identification in The School of Peter Abelard (Cambridge: Cambridge,University Press, 1970), 33, n.1. The other candidate proposed, Geoffrey, bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne, seems less likely for the reasons given here. David Luscombe sees a difficulty in Henri being an archbishop and not, as Berengar writes, a bishop. As Berengar is not always especially accurate, this seems no great objection. The identification of the unnamed bishop with Henri de Boisroques might be of more importance than David Luscombe wishes to admit. For as everything points to a redaction of Berengar's text not very long after the events he describes, the identification of "the bishop of celebrated memory" with the archbishop of Sens seems to indicate that Henri had died in the meantime. Berengar, then, finished his Apology after January 10, 1142, which makes it more than plausible that the Council took place on the Octave of Pentecost 1141 and not in 1140. This, however, has further consequences. Written in the same vein as Berengar's Apology is the anonymous poem Metamorphosis Golye episcopi, ed. R. B. C. Huygens, "Die Metamorphose des Golias," Studi Medievali 3:3:2 (1962): 764-72. It gives a list of Parisian masters around 1140. One of them is Gilbert de la Porree, who had however retired, according to the poet, from the schools, as he had been consecrated bishop of Chartres. This happened in summer 1142, thus pointing also to the year 1141 for the Council. For further arguments against 1140, see Mews, "The Council of Sens," passim. Furthermore, both Berengar and the anonymous poet suggest that Abelard is still living. Abelard's death is, however, traditionally dated April 21, 1142. See Michael Clanchy, Abelard: A Medieval Life (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 324-25. David Luscombe, The School of Peter Abelard, 33, n. 1, already expresses doubt about this date. Even if Berengar's Apology could still be dated between January and April 1142, the anonymous poem simply cannot. Abelard's death thus seems to have occurred on April 21 of the year 1143.
(65.) 1 Cor. 13:1, 3.
(66.) Thomson, "The Satirical Works," 115.
(67.) The absence of all grounds for Berengar's scorn seems to suggest that he is quoting the bishop more or less word for word.
(68.) Thomson, "The Satirical Works," 116.
(69.) See especially his letters 190 ([section] 2) and 330 in Jean Leclercq and Henri-Marie Rochais, ed., Sancti Bernardi Opera VIII [hereafter SBO] (Rome: Editiones Cistercienses, 1977), 19 and 268: although letter 190 especially has to be read with caution, as we will demonstrate.
(70.) Letter 330, 331, 333, and 338: SBO VIII (1977), 268, 270, 273, and 278.
(71.) Letter 331: SBO VIII (1977), 270.
(72.) Letter 332: SBO VIII (1977), 271.
(73.) Letter 337.1: PL 182, col. 540C-541A; Leclercq, "Autour de la correspondence," 337-38.
(74.) Historia calamitatum: Monfrin, Abelard, 85-86.
(75.) This uncertainty has everything to do with the true issue at stake: the final juridical authority. Must this be situated at the local level of the "national" Church, assembled under the leadership of its metropolitan? Or rather at the level of the Collegium of Cardinals and the Pope? Bernard appears as the champion of the local jurisdiction, not only at the Council but also in his letters (see, for example, Ep. 178). Hyacinth Bobone shows himself already to be influenced by the more recent developments in jurisprudence as found in the first edition of Gratian's Decretum around 1140. In his opinion, the final judgment belongs to the Pope advised by his cardinals. This will be the same opinion, as expressed by the cardinals at the Council of Rheims, where they protest in person against the "local" settlement of the "Gilbert" case by Bernard and the leading dignitaries of the French Church. Their accusation that Bernard is causing a schism is better seen as another step in the internal tug-of-war for authority in ecclesiastical matters. Miethke, "Theologenprozesse," 111-12, has rightly pointed out that the Councils concerning Berengar of Tours and the Council of Soissons in 1121 can still be characterized as more local procedures ("synodale Entscheidung"). At Sens and Rheims, however, this local character has according to him been quite discarded. He does not notice that the tension between traditional local jurisdiction and the new centralized juridical authority as advocated by the cardinals creates the uncertainty and agitation among the participants. For the two editions of Gratian's Decretum, see Anders Winroth, The Making of Gratian's "Decretum" (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
(76.) Panormia IV, ch. 120-36: PL 161, col. 1207-11.
(77.) PL 161, col. 1207D.
(78.) Letter 191.2: SBO III (1977), 42--although Abelard rather tried to give the entire procedure another, nonjuridical twist, as will be demonstrated.
(79.) Cf. also Panormia IV.100, which specifies the difference between secular and ecclesiastical courts. In secular courts the appeal can only follow the verdict, in ecclesiastical cases it may precede it: PL 161, col. 1202D.
(80.) See Panormia IV.34 and 95, referring to the same biblical precept in Matt. 18, 16: PL 161, cols. 1190D and 1202B.
(81.) Letter 337.2: PL 182, col. 541B; Leclercq, "Autour de la correspondence," 338.
(82.) Klibansky, "Peter Abailard and Bernard of Clairvaux," 6.
(83.) This has been noted before by Kolmer, "Abaelard und Bernhard," 127-30, who, however, remains wedded to the idea that Bernard is introducing extra-procedural elements. This causes him to read facts into the texts that are quite absent, for example, the presence of Hyacinth Bobone at the meeting on the evening before the confrontation. For the denuntiatio evangelica, see Lefebvre, "Contribution a l'etude des origines et du developpement de la 'denunciatio evangelica' en droit canonique," Ephemerides Iuris canonici 6 (1960): 60-93, and Piero Bellini, "Denunciatio evangelica e denunciatio judicalis procata (con particolare riferimento alla transgressio promissionis)," Ephemerides Iuris Canonici 18 (1962): 152-210 and 20 (1964): 39-109. Lefebvre, "Contribution l'etude," 64, n. 3, quotes a fragment from the Decretum Burchardi Wormatiensis (around 1027) in which this procedure is already evoked. Similarly, he points to the description of it by Sicard of Cremona (+ 1181) as a consuetudo, a custom: ibid., also 69, n. 4.
(84.) Bellini, "Denunciatio evangelica," 167-69. The witnesses are present not to testify to the fault but to testify to the admonition: Lefebvre, "Contribution a l'etude," 68.
(85.) Bellini "Denunciatio evangelica," 173, and 184-85; Lefebvre, "Contribution a l'etude," 65.
(86.) Bellini "Denunciatio evangelica," 194-97.
(87.) Ibid., 167-69.
(88.) Lefebvre, "Contribution a l'etude," 64.
(89.) Klibansky, "Peter Abailard and Bernard of Clairvaux," 6.
(90.) As we will see later, Bernard preached twice to the students in Paris, once at All Saints' 1140 and later at Epiphany 1141. These sermons can be partly reconstructed as different versions of the sermon De conversione. See below.
(91.) Letter 191.2: SBO VIII (1977), 42.
(92.) Panormia IV.119: PL 191, col. 1202D.
(93.) For the difference, see Willibald M. Plochl, Geschichte des Kirchenrechts, 2 vols. (Wien-Munchen: Verlag Herold, 1960 and 1962), 1:361. A similar equation of denuntiatio and accusatio takes place in the Summa "Quoniam status ecclesiarum" (1160-71); see Lefebvre "Contribution a l'etude," 65-66. Bellini, "Denunciatio evangelica," 209-10, emphasizes the difference.
(94.) Abelard, in an obvious attempt to minimize the event of Soissons and to ridicule the ecclesiastical court, tells us that he was "invited" to bring his book to "the little assembly" (conventiculum). See Monfrin, Abelard, 83.
(95.) Klibansky, "Peter Abailard and Bernard of Clairvaux," 7: "Dominus itaque archiepiscopus iuxta petitionem nostram litteras ad euna direxerat: si in accusatione mei perseverare vellet, me paratum habere in octavis Pentecostes super his quae obiecit capitulis respondere." For the improper use by Abelard of the juridical term accusatio instead of denuntiatio, see above.
(96.) For the political background to Abelard's life and actions, see Bautier, "Paris au temps d'Abelard," 21-77, for the situation around 1137, esp. 77. In my book Een middeleeuws drama, 91-143, I have tried to set the latter part of Abelard's life against the background of Bautier's analyses.
(97.) Letter 337.2: PL 185, col. 541B-C; Leclercq, "Autour de la correspondence," 338-39: "Quod magister Petrus minus patienter et nimium aegre ferens, crebro nos pulsare coepit, nec ante voluit desistere, quoad ad dominum Claraevallensem Abbatem super hoc scribentes, assignato die, scilicet octavo Pentecosten, Senonis ante nostram submonuimus venire praesentiam, quo se vocabat et offerebat paratum magister Petrus ad probandas et defendendas, de quibus illum dominus Abbas Claraevallensis, quomodo praetaxatum est, reprehenderat, sententias." Abelard's provocation cannot be disconnected from his confidence at finding in the archbishop of Sens a loyal partisan. They both belonged to the entourage of Etienne de Garlande, who, although retired from the world, still used his influence in 1145 to get his nephew Manasses nominated bishop of Orleans. See Bournazel, Le gouvernement capetien, 39.
(98.) Letter 337.2: PL 185, col. 541C; Leclercq, "Autour de la correspondence," 339: "Ceterum dominus Abbas nec ad assignatum diem se venturum, nec contra Petrum sese disceptaturum nobis remandavit."
(99.) See the articles 105-7 in Ivo's Panormia concerning the refusal to appear in court after being summoned: PL 161, cols. 1203C-6B.
(100.) I have analyzed the epistolary file on Abelard as composed by Bernard's letters in "Sens: une victoire d'ecrivain: Les deux visages du proces d'Abelard," in Pierre Abelard, ed. Jean Jolivet and Henri Habrias (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2003), 77-89. Here I will only rehearse the results.
(101.) See ibid., 86-87.
(102.) Letter 330: SBO VIII (1977), 268.
(103.) Letter 327: SBO VIII (1977), 263.
(104.) Besides, Bernard saw his task as fulfilled after he had denounced the sinner to the Church. From then on, each further initiative had to be taken by the ecclesiastical authorities.
(105.) Letter 337.2: PL 185, col. 541C; Leclercq, "Autour de la correspondence," 339.
(106.) As I have tried to demonstrate in Verbaal, "Sens: une victoire d'ecrivain," 86-87.
(107.) Letter 189.4: SBO VIII (1977), 14-15.
(108.) Vita prima III.13: PL 185, col. 311B: "tamen magnorum virorum monitis flexus."
(109.) See his letter 189.4: SBO VIII (1977), 4.
(110.) Speculum 77 (2002): 342-82.
(111.) Here I sketch out the results of Constant Mews's analysis of the complex and charged situation in 1141. See Mews, "The Council of Sens," 361-75.
(112.) See Verbaal, "Sens: une victoire d'ecrivain," 86-87.
(113.) Job 41:15 and 16.
(114.) Ps. 14:1.
(115.) Gen. 1:26.
(116.) 2 Cor.11:14.
(117.) 2 Tim. 3:5.
(118.) Ps. 144:12.
(119.) Ps. 11:2.
(120.) Letter 330: SBO VIII (1977), 267.
(121.) Letter 189.3: SBO VIII (1977), 14.
(122.) For an edition of the letter, see Jean Leclercq, "Les lettres de Guillaume de Saint-Thierry a saint Bernard," in Revue Benedictine 79 (1969): 375-91; reprinted in Recueil d" etudes sur saint Bernard et ses ecrits 4 (1987) : 349-70. Text on 351-53. For the date, see Mews, "The Council of Sens," 364-65.
(123.) Letter 327: SBO VIII (1977), 263.
(124.) For the complicated history of the lists of contested statements, see the conclusive contributions by Constant Mews, "The Lists of Heresies Imputed to Peter Abelard," in Revue benedictine 95 (1985): 73-110; reprinted in Mews, The Legacy of Peter Abelard (London: Ashgate, 2001), and Eligius-Marie Buytaert and Constant J. Mews, ed, Petri Abaelardi Opera Theologica III, Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio Mediaevalis 13 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1987), 277-92.
(125.) Thus starting the denuntiatio evangelica or correptio fraterna.
(126.) SBO IV (1966), 69-116, edited in the Apparatus under the title In festivitate Omnium Sanctorum. In fact, this edition already consists of two successive versions. In my book Een middeleeuws drama, 278-83, 1 have tried to uncover Bernard's editorial reworking of the sermon against the background of the confrontations with Abelard.
(127.) This is the "standard" version of De conversione, as edited in SBO IV (1966).
(128.) De conversione 13-14, in SBO IV (1966), 88.
(129.) See De conversione 1, 4, 25, in SBO IV (1966), 69, 74, 99-100.
(130.) De conversione 3, in SBO IV (1966), 73.
(131.) Ibid., 109. In this passage is a criticism not only of Abelard's way of teaching but also of his theory about the guilt or innocence of the Jews, for crucifying Christ.
(132.) De conversione 39, in SBO IV (1966), 115.
(133.) The dating of both sermons has been done by Ferruccio Gastaldelli, "Le piu antiche testimonianze biografiche su San Bernardo," Analecta Cisterciensia 45 (1989): 3-80, esp. 60-61.
(134.) See the account in Herbert of Sardinia's Liber Miraculorum II.17, in PL 185, cols. 1326-27, according to the testimony of Rainald of Foigny.
(135.) Abelard apparently wrote the Apologia in two phases. Abelard seems to have thought that a simple refutation would suffice, but then he may have observed that Bernard's preaching reached farther than his pamphlet could hope to go. He probably then decided to continue his apology. See my analysis of the work in Verbaal, Een mid-deleeuws drama, 31-32.
(136.) Mews, "The Council of Sens," 364-65, with the references to John of Salisbury and Otto of Freising, who mention Arnold's adherence to Abelard's school.
(137.) Hyacinth's initiative is indicative of how quickly jurisprudence was developing in Italy. Whereas Gratian in the first edition of the Decretum (around 1140) is still largely reliant on the ancient canonical collection, the second redaction, which must have been finished before 1150, already incorporates large amounts of Roman jurisprudence, based on the study of Justinian's Corpus, rediscovered around 1070. Hyacinth seems to base his advice, emphasizing the central authority of the Pope, on these Roman antecedents. Later, as Pope Celestine III, he establishes his fame as a jurist. For the history of Italian juridical studies at the beginning of the twelfth century, see Paul Fournier, "Un tournant de l'histoire du droit, 1060-1140," Nouvelle revue historique de droit francais et etranger 41 (1917): 129-80, and Stephan Kuttner, "Harmony from Dissonance. An interpretation of Medieval Canon Law," in The History of Ideas and Doctrines of Canon Law in the Middle Ages (London: Variorum, 1980), 1-16. For the development of Gratian's Decretum, see Winroth, The Making of Gratian's "Decretum."
(138.) Innocent II, Letter 448: PL 179, col. 517.
(139.) Letter 194: SBO VIII (1977), 46-48.
(140.) See Verbaal, "Sens: une victoire d'ecrivain," 80-86.
(141.) For an evaluation of these letters outside the corpus, see ibid., 86-87. Furthermore, the dossier "Abelard" in Bernard's corpus forms part of an entire block of letters treating juridical topics, one of them being the allowance to appeal to the Pope, esp. letter 178, in SBO VII (1974), 397-400, thus closely preceding the Abelard case. The other "cases" treated concern some bloody conflicts between the clan around Etienne de Garlande (involving Henri de Boisroques) and the reformatory faction, conducted by the bishop of Paris, Etienne de Senlis (moreover member of a competing family around the king). See Bautier, "Paris au temps d'Abe1ard," 69-71. The two letters on Arnold that follow the actual file demonstrate how closely the two names were linked, although, for Bernard, Abelard constituted the present danger. Arnold was someone else's case.
(142.) For the analysis of the text against this background, I refer to my book Een middeleeuws drama, 276-83. For the earlier confrontations between Abelard and Bernard on the pedagogical field, concerning the period of the Paraclete, see ibid., 256-71.
(143.) See Verbaal, Een middeleeuws drama, passim.
(144.) Both Abelard and Bernard may be counted among the last representatives of what has been called "the charismatic culture" by C. Stephen Jaeger in The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994). See his characterization of Charismatic as opposed to Intellectual Culture on 4-9. At the same time, I think the charismatic culture can be viewed much as it is by Mia Munster-Swendsen in her stimulating paper, "Medieval "Virtuosity"--Classroom Practice and the Transfer of Charismatic Power in European Scholarly Culture c. 870-1200," delivered at The Cultural Heritage of Medieval Rituals III: Confronting the Heritage, Copenhagen, December 10-13, 2004. She gives the following definition of "charisma": "designating a certain immanent force, which is seen to emanate from certain people endowed with special virtues. Charisma is mainly connected to a face-to-face bodily presence, but it may also be seen to be conveyed (and so preserved) through written or pictorial signs, though here in an indirect form which calls into remembrance the direct real-life experience.... Hence, the charisma of the schoolmen ... is a result of deliberate, methodical cultivation." I thank Mrs. Munster for her willingness to give me a copy of her paper. That this time of "charismatic teaching" had really come to an end is shown by John of Salisbury's account in his Metalogicon: he admits to having hung on Abelard's lips, but when Abelard leaves Paris (1137), he does not follow him, as did the students a decade earlier, to the Paraclete. Instead he continues his studies in Paris under other masters. Students are no longer traveling through France in order to find the best teachers, as did Abelard himself: they come instead to Paris where they can go from one teacher to another.
(145.) In my paper, "De tekst en zijn lezer. Stille lectuur en de vorming van het individu" [The text and Its Reader: Silent Reading and the Formation of the Individual], delivered for the Flemish Workshop of Medievalists at the University of Leuven, March 31, 2004, I have tried to connect the individualism of the early twelfth century with the general spread of silent reading. Part of my argument will be published in Millennium.
Wim Verbaal is an assistant professor of Romance Languages at Ghent University.
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|Date:||Sep 1, 2005|
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