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    M. von der Höh, Erinnerungskultur und frühe Kommune (David Foote)

    Francia-Recensio 2009/2 Mittelalter – Moyen Âge (500–1500)

    Marc von der Höh, Erinnerungskultur und frühe Kommune. Formen und Funktionen des Umgangs mit der Vergangenheit im hochmittelalterlichen Pisa (1050–1150), Berlin (Akademie Verlag) 2006, 529 p., 57 ill. (Hallische Beiträge zur Geschichte des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit, 3), ISBN 3-05-004181-1, EUR 69,80.

    rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

    David Foote, St. Paul (Minnesota)

    Over forty years ago, Craig Fisher drew attention to a fascinating collection of annals, chronicles, historical poems, inscriptions and monuments in late eleventh- and early twelfth-century Pisa, as evidence for the formation of historical consciousness and civic identity in the early communes 1 . Though his study was but a first step, leaving many difficult problems to be resolved, Fisher’s intuition for the underlying processes that bound these disparate sources together was remarkable. In the meantime, much work has been done on problems that Fisher left unresolved, especially on the Pisan cathedral and the city’s rich epigraphic sources. Likewise, research on historical consciousness and civic identity in the Italian communes has flourished over the past several decades. Marc von der Höh’s »Erinnerungskultur und frühe Kommune« represents the rich harvest of this activity. Though a local study with a chronological scope of about a century, the relevance and implications of this study for understanding the Italian communes are far-reaching. This is due, in part, to the impressive methodological scope of von der Höh’s work. In order to understand how Pisans formulated and communicated their sense of identity, von der Höh casts his nets broadly, looking both at written sources, such as chronicles, historical poems, and inscriptions and non-written sources, including ecclesiastical architecture, monuments, statues, graves, spoils of war, and trophies. Equally impressive is the broad range of disciplines he brings to bear on the interpretation of this evidence. The result is a book that integrates a wealth of detail into a broad and imaginative vision of early communal culture.

    The book is divided into two roughly equal sections. In the first half of the book, »Die frühe kommunale Geschichtsschreibung«, von der Höh examines the Pisan annals and historical poems. In Part 2, »Geschichte im Stadtraum – die Stadt als Erinnerungsraum«, he turns his attention to the public communication of civic identity and historical consciousness through inscriptions, art, and architecture. Within this framework, von der Höh delineates three related processes. First, the annals represent a consensus between Pisan lay and clerical elites regarding a canon of historical events that would function as the building blocks for civic identity. Second, members of the Pisan clergy incorporated this canon of events into historical poems that articulated a civic theology – simultaneously theological and ›secular‹ – that undergirded the consensus between lay and clerical elites. Finally, secular and clerical patrons commissioned inscriptions, monuments, and other public displays in several high-profile spaces – both ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical – in order to inscribe this identity into the tissue of the material city.

    Four texts – two annals and two historical poems – form the core of Part 1. After giving careful and judicious consideration to problems of manuscript transmission, date, and authorship, von der Höh turns his attention to an analysis of the texts themselves, arguing that they find their origin in an effort to address two principal challenges confronting the emerging commune. Internally, the commune’s ruling elite had to build consensus in the aftermath of the Investiture Controversy, which deepened social and economic divisions in the city. Externally, the commune sought legitimacy with respect to the traditional authority of the Tuscan margrave. In the ecclesiastical sphere, the commune supported its archbishop’s claims to spiritual jurisdiction over Corsica and Sardinia. In response to these challenges, lay and clerical elites sifted through the city’s past, circumscribing a limited range of events that addressed these concerns. The annals, which reduce Pisan history almost exclusively to the city’s naval expansion in the western Mediterranean during the eleventh century, represent the result of this sifting. Among the benefits of von der Höh’s careful work with issues of manuscript transmission is to illuminate this sifting process, drawing attention both to what the annalists included and to what they consciously excluded. For example, rivalries between Pisa, Genoa, and the Norman rulers of southern Italy were either muted or erased, as were factional conflicts within the city. Even legends that connected the city with the founding of Rome – a staple of civic histories in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries – were consciously excluded, as were Pisan naval victories before the eleventh century.

    Concurrent with this process of sifting was the formation of a narrative to convert the bare list of events found in the annals into a story with meaning. Implicit is the idea that as the narrative took shape, it became a tool for distinguishing the relevant from the irrelevant in the city’s past. This is where the historical poems enter into the picture. The earlier and shorter of the two historical poems, the Carmen in victoriam Pisanorum , which was written shortly after 1087, celebrates the victory of the Pisan-led coalition against Mahdia, a Saracen stronghold in North Africa. The second poem, the Liber Maiorichinus , written between 1119–1126, celebrates Pisan victories against Saracens in the Balearic Islands. Von der Höh provides wonderfully nuanced interpretations of these poems, sensitive to their distinctive theologies, while drawing attention to the ways in which the authors combined their theological readings of history with traditional and not-so-traditional heroic motifs. Each poem, a fascinating hybrid of civic chronicles, the Song of Roland, and Old Testament historical narratives and Roman history, conveys an image of the Pisans as selflessly surrendering to God’s call to defend Christendom from the onslaught of the Saracens. In their selfless surrender and their courageous sacrifice, the Pisans stood in typological relation to the people of Israel and to the Romans. God’s call is simultaneously a call to internal concord and a sign of legitimacy to external authorities.

    Several important points emerge from von der Höh’s reading of these historical poems. The formation of a highly developed historical consciousness, as expressed in the annals and historical poems, would not have been possible without cooperation between Pisan clergy and laity. One interesting expression of this cooperation is a subtle tension, especially evident in the Liber Maiorichinus , between a traditional heroic ethos celebrating the glorious deeds of the protagonists, and a theology that emphasized surrender of narrow self interest (like the desire to win glory and fame in battle) to a higher, more noble cause. This is significant, for in describing the cooperation between laity and clergy and the tensions that emerged as they sought to articulate the relative importance of the sacred and mundane in communal life, von der Höh has put his finger on one of the defining and creative tensions of communal culture.

    In Part 2, »Geschichte im Stadtraum – die Stadt als Erinnerungsraum«, von der Höh turns his attention to three important urban spaces – the Porta Aurea (the city gate opening up to the Arno), the church of San Sisto, and the Cathedral – where Pisan ruling elites communicated these ideas through inscriptions, monuments, statues, spoils, and trophies. While showing great facility in working through a host of paleographical, archaeological and architectural details in his interpretation of the evidence, von der Höh is most impressive in his ability to integrate these details into his compelling account of historical consciousness and civic identity presented in Part 1. He accomplishes this, in part, by paying close attention to ways in which inscriptions and architectural motifs echoed themes found in the annals and historical poems. More important, he draws on the work of Armando Petrucci, who argued that when interpreting inscriptions, one must take into account the spazio grafico , that is, the context of written and non-written signs where inscriptions were placed. One must also consider the role of the dominus dello spazio grafico , the person(s) commissioning the inscription and network of signs surrounding it. These interpretive principles prove especially fruitful as von der Höh turns his attention to the cathedral, allowing him to integrate the complex and sometimes difficult relations between the bishop, cathedral chapter, and laity into his interpretation of inscriptions and, more broadly, into his reading of the historical sources in Part 1. In 1064, Pisans began construction of a new cathedral. The dominus dello spazio grafico was the laity, whose control over the cathedral was institutionalized in the Opera Sancte Marie , the legal entity in charge of financing and directing the construction project. The same cooperation between clergy and laity that shaped the Pisan annals and historical poems also finds expression in the spazio grafico of the cathedral. Thus, in the cathedral’s program of inscriptions and architectural themes, we find ideals of concord, pride in Pisan naval victories, and a celebration of the accomplishments of Pisan citizens.

    Following Part 2 is an extensive bibliography, index, and thirty-five pages of maps, diagrams, and pictures presenting much of the visual evidence upon which von der Höh’s work in Part 2 is based. This meticulously researched and methodologically sophisticated work is a significant contribution to our understanding of historical consciousness and civic identity in the early communes.

    1 Craig B. Fisher, The Pisan Clergy and an Awakening of Historical Interest in a Medieval Italian Commune, in: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History 3 (1966), p. 143–219.

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    PSJ Metadata
    David N. Foote
    M. von der Höh, Erinnerungskultur und frühe Kommune (David Foote)
    CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0
    Hohes Mittelalter (1050-1350)
    Theorie und Methode der Geschichtswissenschaften
    6. - 12. Jh.
    4046151-8 4020531-9 4200793-8
    Pisa (4046151-8), Geschichtsschreibung (4020531-9), Kollektives Gedächtnis (4200793-8)
    PDF document von-der-Hoeh_Foote.doc.pdf — PDF document, 110 KB
    M. von der Höh, Erinnerungskultur und frühe Kommune (David Foote)
    In: Francia-Recensio 2009/2 | Mittelalter – Moyen Âge (500–1500)
    URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2009-2/MA/von-der-Hoeh_Foote
    Veröffentlicht am: 11.09.2009 10:20
    Zugriff vom: 22.01.2020 18:25
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