Arthur Westwell

in “IV Ciclo di Studi Medievali”, Atti del Convegno, Firenze 4-5 Giugno 2018, Arcore (MB) 2018, pp. 154-160.


Even before Charlemagne had conquered Lombard Italy, in 774, the Alps had never been a barrier from wider networks and transmission of knowledge in broader early medieval Europe.1 This included the passage and circulation of liturgical books, manuscripts dealing with or assisting in the performance of the religious rites of the Christian Church. But one might ask if the incorporation of Italy into a broader realm, Carolingian Francia, which had demonstrably intense interest in the liturgy at every level had some effects on Italian liturgical practice. This question must be approached carefully. Rather than speaking of a broad and universal Carolingian ‘reform’ of the liturgy, we have to understand that liturgical manuscripts do not follow a consistent pattern of development or evolution, but must each be taken on their own terms and each understood as the product of a single community or individual’s needs, an artefact of principle, agenda and intention.2 The Carolingian era saw significant and increasing diversity, not uniformity, and there is no evidence of a central imposition of anything but the most basic liturgical edicts.3 Such diversity is particularly characteristic of manuscripts known as ‘pontificals’ which carry narratives of rituals peculiar to a bishop, and, indeed, those that underpinned his authority, such as dedicating churches, ordaining clergy and so on.4 Manuscripts of episcopal ritual in the medieval period are complex, with resonances of power and functions beyond the straightforward performance or recording of ritual text.5 But because the episcopal rituals were the responsibility of only a single person in a diocese, the bishop alone, manuscripts containing these rituals do have a strong potential for variation, and this is particularly true of the earliest examples, which arise in the Carolingian era.

Pontificals are of interest, because we know that the Franks imported bishops from their own realms into Italy’s most important sees, or selected candidates for them. At Verona, three successive bishops, Egino, Ratold and Noting were all Frankish, and perhaps relatives of each other.6 They were products of the famous Alemmanian monastery of Reichenau. In 791, the abbot of Reichanau and Frankish nobleman, Waldo, was made Bishop of Pavia, but also of Basel, straddling the Alps. Milan saw two successive bishops of Frankish birth, Angilbert I and Angilbert II.7 Theodorich, bishop of Chieti, a southernmost centre of power for the Kingdom of Italy, may also have been a Frank.8 These imports did not have to be native Frankish, the Lombard grammarian and theologian Paulinus was given the Patriarchate of Aquileia, but they did have to have proven loyalties to the Carolingian family, and, most importantly, they had to have imbibed, as Paulinus had, the Carolingian programme of intense interest in cultural and intellectual production, including liturgy.9 In parallel, abbots were also appointed in key monasteries.10 It is obvious that this was an attempt to integrate these key nodes of ecclesiastical power into loyalty to the Carolingians rather than the old Lombard kingdoms, but did these new bishops also bring books with them or encourage new ones to be made?

Furthermore, several of these bishops undertook important initiatives which would have liturgical consequences, in line with movements occurring elsewhere in the Carolingian world. Bishops Ratold of Verona and Theodorich of Chieti are each directly evidenced to have founded a scola sacerdotum or canonica in their cathedral (that is, a community of secular canons).11 These activities were in line with the edicts of the 816 Council of Aachen, which demanded that secular canons differentiate themselves from monks. Even where the evidence is not so direct, is certain that communities of canons were founded across Italy in the ninth century, though at varying times.12 We must bear in mind that attempts to alter practice did not happen immediately and in the same way everywhere, but adjusted themselves to local circumstance. The founding of these communities was, however, seen as in line with the will of the Carolingian Emperors, as Theodorich of Cheiti’s foundation charter for his canonica of Saint Giustino openly stated.13 Other activities of bishops likely also had liturgical underpinnings and consequences, such as the spate of rebuilding of cathedrals, at Milan by Angilbert II, perhaps intended to incorporate a similar community of secular canons, and Lucca under Bishop Giovanni, for example.14 As the role and purpose of bishops was being worked out across Carolingian Europe, bishops in Italy enthusiastically took on their responsibilities to oversee changes in the religious life of their communities.15 This evidence attests a busy set of activities on the part of bishops which would have undeniable liturgical significance. But what do the manuscripts suggest were the nature of the liturgical consequences?

  1. H. Beumann, W. Schröder (eds), Die Transalpinen Verbindungen der Bayern, Alemannen und Franken bis zum 10.Jahrhundert, Sigmaringen 1987.
  2. Following the example of recent scholarship: Y. Hen, The Royal Patronage of Liturgy in Frankish Gaul to the death of Charles the Bald (877), Woodbridge 2001, p.14; H. Gittos, S. Hamilton (eds.), Understanding Medieval Liturgy: Essays in Interpretation, Farnham 2015; H. Parkes, The Making of Liturgy in the Ottonian Church: Books Music and Ritual in Mainz 950-1050, Cambridge 2015; On problems with terminology ‘reform’ cfr. J. Barrow, The ideas and application of reform, in J.M.H. Smith, T. Noble (eds), The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. III, 600-1100, Cambridge 2008, pp. 345-362.
  3. R. McKitterick, Unity and Diversity in the Carolingian Church in R.N. Swanson (ed.), Unity and Diversity in the Church, Cambridge Massachusetts 1997, pp. 59-82; Y. Hen, The Romanization of the Frankish liturgy: ideal, reality and the rhetoric of reform, in C. Bolgia, R. McKitterick and J. Osborne (eds), Rome Across Time and Space: Cultural Transmission and the Exchange of Ideas c.500-1400, Cambridge 2011, pp. 119-123.
  4. C. Vogel, Medieval Liturgy: An Introduction to the Sources, translated by W. Storey, N. Rasmussen, Washington 1986, pp. 225-230.
  5. S. Hamilton, The Early Pontificals: the Anglo-Saxon evidence reconsidered from a continental perspective, in D. Rollason, C. Leyser, H. Williams. (eds.), England and the Continent in the Tenth Century: Studies in Honour of William Levison, Turnhout 2011, pp. 411-428.
  6. G. Meersemann, E. Adda, J. Deshusses (eds.), L’orazionale dell’archidiacono Pacifico e il carpsum del cantore Stefano, Freiburg 1974, pp. 3-4; U. Ludwig, Transalpine Beziehungen der Karolingerzeit im Spiegel der Memorialüberlieferung: prosopographische und sozialgeschichtliche Studien unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Liber vitae von San Salvatore in Brescia und des Evangeliars von Cividale, Hannover 1999, pp. 130-1.
  7. P. Borella, Influssi carolingi e monastici sul Messale Ambrosiano, in Miscellanea Liturgica in honorem L. Cuniberti Mohlberg, vol. I, Rome 1948, pp. 73-115.
  8. F. Ughelli, Italia Sacra siue de episcopis Italiae, vol. 6, Venice 1720, p.679.
  9. G. Cuscito, Prospettive ecclesiologiche nella riforma liturgica di Paolino d’Aquileia (787-802), in Culto christiano: politica imperiale carolingia, Todi 1979, pp. 221-263.
  10. M. Ferrari, Libri liturgici e diffusione della scrittura Carolina nell’Italia settrionale, in Culto christiano: politica imperiale carolingia, Todi 1979, pp. 273-275; M. Zoboli, Il Monasterio di San Silvestro di Nonantola all’epoca dell’abbaziato di Pietro (804 824/825), Centro Studi Storici Nonantolani, Nonantola 1997, pp. 37-44.
  11. V. Fainelli, Grandi benefattori: Il vescovo Ratoldo e l’arcidiacono Pacifico, in Zenonis cathedra Miscellanea di Studi in onore di S. E. l’Arciv. Mons. Giovanni Urbani, Verona 1955, pp. 23-28; C. La Rocca, Pacifico di Verona, il passato carolingio nella costruzione della memoria urbana, Istituto storico italiano per il Medio Evo, Rome 1995, pp. 2, 4, 54, 178; A. Werminghoff (ed.), Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Concilia Aevi Karolini, vol. 2, pars.1, Hannover 1906, pp. 788-791 includes the account of Theodorich’s founding of a canonica at Chieti.
  12. R. Witt, The Two Latin Cultures and the Foundation of Renaissance Humanism in Medieval Italy, Cambridge 2011, pp. 38-39.
  13. A. Weminghoff (ed.), Monumenta Germaniae Historica Concilia II, cit., p.789: «ibi inter caetera cum conseunsu omnium praedictorum canonicam instuere certauimus, habentes normam firmitatis, eo quod a domino imperatore Augusto per diuersa episcopia iam diu ea fieri praeceptum est».
  14. G. Bornetti, Appendice I: Pensiero e vita a Milano e nel Milanese durante l’etá carolingia, in Storia di Milano, vol. 2, Milan 1954, p. 726; B. Brand, Holy Treasure and Sacred Song, cit., pp. 30-31.
  15. S. Patzold, Episcopus: Wissen über Bischöfe im Frankenreich des späten 8. bis frühen 10. Jahrhunderts, Ostfildern 2008.

In foto: Incoronazione di Pipino il Breve (Paris, Bibl. Sainte-Geneviève, ms. 0782, f. 107)


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