Miracula, Saints’ Cults and Socio-Political Landscapes: Bobbio, Conques and post-Carolingian society
University of Nottingham: Doctor of Philosophy, July (2012)
Despite the centrality of monastic sources to debates about social and political transformation in post-Carolingian Europe, few studies have approached the political and economic status of monasteries and their saints’ cults in this context, to which this thesis offers a comparative approach. Hagiography provides an interesting point of analysis with respect to the proposition of mutation féodale, and more importantly to that of the mutation documentaire and its relation to monastic ‘reform’, which Part I discusses.
Parts II and III consider Bobbio and Conques, and their miracula (dedicated to San Colombano and Sainte Foy) within their respective socio-political environments, since the best of the recent scholarship concerning the millennial period has emphasized the specificity of regional experience. At Bobbio the closeness of the king physically and some continuity in royal practices between the tenth and eleventh centuries shaped monastic experience. It directed and sometimes restricted monastic discourse, which maintained an older tradition of general service to the kingdom, although innovations in relic usage helped monastic negotiations with the sovereign. At Conques, the waning of royal control created space for literary and cultic advances that served to bolster the monastery’s position within local power structures. In this landscape older forms of public authority were purposefully minimized and hierarchy and landownership was negotiated between aristocrats, including Sainte Foy at the head of Conques.
Whilst the categories of the ‘feudal transformation’ debate can offer a useful framework for the analysis of two very different monasteries and their local societies, the comparison demonstrates that placing monasteries at the centre of our debate is crucial to understanding the documents they produce, and therefore questions the potential that these have to shed light on wider societal change. Concerns over land and autonomy were central to both institutions, although these operated on different conceptual planes, because of different bases of landed patrimony dating back much further than the tenth century. Each monastery negotiated hierarchy and clientele through their miracula and according to local socio-political rules. Therefore, whilst related documentary and cultic transformations were inseparable from socio-political pressures, these were not necessarily pressures simply reacting to mutation féodale, but were formative processes in the direction and shape of social change.