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    N. Schroeder, Les hommes et la terre de saint Remacle (Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld)

    Francia-Recensio 2016/4 Mittelalter – Moyen Âge (500–1500)

    Nicolas Schroeder, Les hommes et la terre de saint Remacle. Histoire sociale et économique de l’abbaye de Stavelot-Malmedy, VIIe–XIVe siècle, Bruxelles (Les éditions de l’université de Bruxelles) 2015, 357 p. (Histoire), ISBN 978-2-8004-1587-1, EUR 30,00.

    rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

    Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld, Tilburg

    For more than a century now, the history of the landed property and lordship of abbeys in north-western Europe has been a widely researched topic. This investigation generally started with the analysis and edition of the vast amount of available sources, mostly charters and registers of revenues, since the end of the 19th century. In the case of the imperial double abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy, founded in 648/649, it were Joseph Halkin and Charles-Gustave Roland who, between 1909 and 1930, edited its charters in a way still seen as exemplary. Subsequently, for several decades, a number of both clerical and secular historians wrote histories of monastic Grundherrschaft, mostly focussing on legal aspects and the period of acquirement of landed properties, tithes, churches, et cetera in the Early and Central Middle Ages. No wonder, then, that most of them regarded the gradual decline in the number of grants and purchases of landed property and other economic resources in the course of the 12th century as indicating a crisis in traditional Benedictine monasticism, an idea challenged long since. From the 1960s, historians such as the late Adriaan Verhulst and Jean-Pierre Devroey, Doktorvaterof the dissertation under review here, adopted an economic perspective. Since the late 1970s, the German researchers Ludolf Kuchenbuch, Eberhard Linck, and Werner Rösener looked at the social developments among the personnel, serfs, and farmers on abbeys’ estates and of their management and administration. At the end of 1980s, mainly American scholars, such as Barbara Rosenwein and Stephen D. White, introduced yet another approach that is inspired by anthropological concepts, about gift giving, »legal«and property arrangements, and family structures.

    This book, the reworked version of a 2012 doctoral thesis defended at the Université libre de Bruxelles, aims to integrate a socio-political and an anthropological approach in the analysis of the monastic lordship’s economic structure. The author adopts an audacious longue durée perspective, from the abbey’s Merovingian origins in the 7th century all the way up to about 1400. In doing so, Schroeder not only underlines the continuity of the early-medieval legacy of property management and again debunks of the »Benedictine crisis of the 12th century«, but also highlights another caesura, namely the major reorganisation of monastic economic management and administration in the Late Middle Ages.

    The abbey of Stavelot-Malmedy consisted of two houses of monks, situated in the northern part of the Ardennes region east of Liège, one in the diocese of Liège (Stavelot), the other in the archbishopric of Cologne (Malmedy), under the leadership of a single abbot. Because of its geographic position and its close connections to the ruling dynasties as well the neighbouring bishops, the abbey was often at the mercy of their conflicting political interests and at the same time constituted an important factor of power in itself. Time and again, the shifting political balance determined its economic policy and religious position. Schroeder’s dissertation builds on a vast amount of earlier research, above all the dispersed studies by Philippe George, published between 1984 and 2005.

    The book is divided in two parts, the first of which is a chronological and purely historical overview of the double abbey’s history in four consecutive periods, from its foundation by the Pippinids – that is, at the behest of mayor of the palace Grimoald – to the Carolingian reorganisation around 840, during the period of lay abbots and Norman incursion (9th century), in the times of early reform, of the »imperial church«, and of Gregorian reform (10th to 12th centuries), to the period during which the abbey established itself as a principality (13th and 14th centuries). In these chapters, Schroeder shows a mastery of sources typical of the current Brussels school’s tradition of source criticism, leading to many new and intriguing insights. Founded on and endowed with fiscal lands, the abbey was under continuous Pippinid, royal, or imperial control until the end of the 12th century. The promotion of the cult of its first abbot, St Remaclus, buried at Stavelot, made this house profit most from donations from the middle of the 8th century. This also led to an increasing separation between the two houses and mainly of their properties in two separate mensaeby the middle of 9th century.

    Schroeder skilfully describes the abbey’s position vis à vis royal power and regional aristocratic interests and the successive religious and property reforms – with Poppo of Stavelot (978–1048, abbot between 1020 and his death) and abbot Wibald (abbot 1130–1158) as the towering figures. The former managed to recuperate lost properties and reorganized the abbey’s domains, among other things through exchanges of remote domains with other abbeys. Schroeder adds some nuance to Wibald’s fame as an exceptional administrator, giving more credit to his predecessors, who did a better job than the reform discourse from Wibald’s days suggests. He essentially continued the administration policy and practices developed under imperial tutelage the century before, having the abbey’s property confirmed in charters and bulls issued by consecutive emperors and popes. Schroeder is the first to investigate the period after 1192, during which the abbey managed to diminish imperial influence to the benefit of papal protection. For several decades (1248–1278), the bishop of Liège headed the abbey as a pawn of the pope’s policy. Gradually, the succeeding abbots managed to carve out a territorial principality of their own, under the secular protection of the count of Luxemburg, a process accomplished by 1350. At the same time, a gradual economic decline hit the abbey, forcing the limitation to only twenty monks in 1355.

    The second part of the book sheds light on the role of the abbot and the monks as landowners, ruling over the familiaor community of secular dependants of St Remaclus. First, Schroeder raises the issue of the definition of monastic lordship (la seigneurie monastique). He opts for an approach highlighting the social organization and exercise of power as well as the production and circulation of material goods, as a way to address the »economic« issues without anachronistic reasoning. This means he sees the relations between the abbot, the monastic communities, the dependants, and donors as being economic neither always nor in the first place. One of the functions of the levies raised and paid was the reproduction of social hierarchy: to give the lord his due meant first of all recognizing the social position of all involved.

    In a second chapter, the author deals with monastic lordship as a social and power structure. He provides stimulating insights into the origins, composition, and role of the familiaof dependants – who were socially and functionally heterogeneous –, into the role of the advocates – who in the predominantly monastic sources generally received a bad press, not always deservedly –, into the administration of justice, and into the role of »intermediaries«such as mayors, bailiffs, aldermen, and ministeriales. For the later period, of the 13th and 14th centuries, he focuses on the constitution of rural communities vis à vis the prince-abbot. The third chapter then elaborates on the economic structures, which were not geared toward profit maximization but to supply the abbey’s material and human necessities. For this, Schroeder first analyses accounts of revenues and expenses for housing, building, feeding and clothing the monks, and hospitality. He goes on to reconstruct the composition of the abbey’s landed estates and their internal organization between the 9th and 12th centuries, during the flourishment of the so-called domanial or manorial system. For the 13th and 14th centuries, he looks at the gradual changes in production and distribution on the central domain of Malmedy and at the development of a lease system. As in the first part, Schroeder summarizes his findings in clear and concise conclusions which provide an easy access to the book as a whole.

    Besides a number of maps, this book is not illustrated at all. In these days, that is an austerity I consider out of date. As for the announced inspiration on anthropological paradigms, this remains mostly implicit. This does not alter the fact that this is a book which should be highly welcomed as a thorough, refreshing, and at times innovative contribution to the study of monastic lordship and landed property and its lasting social and economic impact on medieval society. It happily integrates ideas and concepts from earlier Belgian, German, French, British, and American scholarship and as such will hopefully stimulate renewed research into the monastic lordships of other major abbeys in the Low Countries, such as the neighbouring abbeys of Saint-Hubert, Saint-Trond, and Saint-Jacques of Liège, to mention just a few.

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    PSJ Metadata
    Les hommes et la terre de saint Remacle
    Histoire sociale et économique de l’abbaye de Stavelot-Malmedy, VIIe–XIVe siècle
    CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0
    Frühes Mittelalter (600-1050), Hohes Mittelalter (1050-1350), Spätes Mittelalter (1350-1500)
    Belgien, Luxemburg
    Kirchen- und Religionsgeschichte
    Kloster Stavelot (801566-1), Remaklusschrein (1037379667)
    PDF document schroeder_bijsterveld.doc.pdf — PDF document, 342 KB
    N. Schroeder, Les hommes et la terre de saint Remacle (Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld)
    In: Francia-Recensio 2016/4 | Mittelalter – Moyen Âge (500–1500) | ISSN: 2425-3510
    URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2016-4/ma/schroeder_bijsterveld
    Veröffentlicht am: 12.12.2016 09:33
    Zugriff vom: 27.01.2020 02:07
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