Reformist Hagiography: The Life of St Roding of Beaulieu and the Struggle for Power in Early Eleventh-Century Lotharingia
By Koen Vanheule
Journal of Medieval History, Volume 42, Number 5, 2016
Abstract: This paper explores an example of ‘reformist’ hagiographic production in early eleventh-century Lotharingia by focusing on the Life of St Roding of Beaulieu, a small monastery in the diocese of Verdun. Until recently, this text was interpreted exclusively in terms of the scant information it provides on this institution’s early medieval history and in terms of its ideological message regarding monastic discipline and leadership.
By integrating the redaction of this text into the then current regional geography and political context, this paper proposes a new approach to its interpretation and to the understanding of Beaulieu’s ‘monastic reform’ in general. Close analysis of the narrative reveals that its redaction was inspired by specific issues relating to local and regional politics in the mid-1010s, and that parts of the institution’s recent history were allegorically veiled behind the portrayal of Roding.
However, rapid changes in power relationships rendered those aspects of the text outdated within a few years. This raises significant questions regarding the long-term relevance of such hidden stories and the degree to which their various ideological, political and other messages remained accessible to medieval audiences.