Authority and Consent in Medieval Religious Communities

Authority and Consent in Medieval Religious Communities

Faculty of Croatian Studies (University of Zagreb) / Projekt: "Klöster im Hochmittelalter" (Sächsische und Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften)
Campus Borongaj, Borongajska c. 83d
Vom - Bis
28.10.2021 - 29.10.2021
Forschungsstelle für Vergleichende Ordensgeschichte (FOVOG), Technische Universität Dresden

The tension between authority and consensus is a recurring theme in the history of religious life and its institutions. This international conference in Zagreb (28 – 29 October 2021) aims to decipher for the first time the structural entanglement of vertical and horizontal rule within the medieval vita religiosa in theory and practice.

Authority and Consent in Medieval Religious Communities

Even though the rules of religious communities anticipate primarily the vertical form of authority, with the superiors occupying quasi-monarchical position, the medieval reality demonstrates complex dynamics in power relations and continual efforts of monks/canons to transform their right of advice into that of consent. During the institutional formation of the religious orders in the 12th and 13th centuries, the structure and understanding of monastic authority was even more redefined. The most important influence in that process was the Cistercian model of shared responsibility and the transpersonal form of governance and normation. Besides, the highly personalised systems of authority demonstrate also that apart from the “passive” communal consent to follow the leader’s example, the necessity to balance the charisma and impersonal structures based on the active will was significant part of the community’s quotidian. Within that context, the consent in religious communities (i.e. in communities that strive to follow the Christ’s example of perfect obedience) becomes an interesting historical phenomenon. How consent could be performed and validated; what were its symbolical manifestations; how it generally influenced the spiritual, organizational, normative, and daily aspects of the vita religiosa? We believe that by grasping into the research of these (initial) and various other questions related to the issue of consent, our views and understandings of medieval monasticism can be additionally enriched or reconceptualised.
Within that context, the research project “Monasteries in the High Middle Ages“ of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and the Saxon Academy of Sciences (Leipzig) in cooperation with the FOVOG (University of Dresden) have included the topic of “authority and consent” into its broader structural research of the formation of religious communities and institutionalised orders. The first workshop took part on 25-26 July 2019 at the FOVOG, Dresden. Now we would like to continue the discussion on the topic in cooperation with the University of Zagreb. For that reason we organise this workshop on 28-29 October 2021 at the Faculty of Croatian Studies, in Zagreb, Croatia.
We intend to discuss various manifestations and forms of consent in religious communities. Concerning early medieval times, the questions about the interpretation, perception and manifestations of the superior’s authority arise. We can ask ourselves how the relations between the superiors and community functioned in theory and practise, and in which aspects of the monastic life the consent was required. Also, which implications did the invocation of the common will had on the identity and a sense of unanimity within the community?
By analysing the performance of authority and consensus within the institutionalised orders we can understand better how the impersonal “rule of law” was invented, understood, and sustained. The research of the constitutional aspects of the consent provides us, furthermore, with the insights into the strategies and institutional mechanisms of the normation and validation of the novel conceptualisations of authority, as well as with the understanding of the reforming efforts aiming at preserving stability, cohesion, and transpersonal character of the legal ordo.
How consent functioned in the communities where the cohesion depended on the charismatic authority? How to relate the sacralised authority of the leader’s word, the efforts to provide the community with the written rules, and the desire to remain loyal to the initial propositum? Can the model of the “routinization of charisma” explain adequately the active form of consent (the creation of the mechanisms of stability overcoming the charismatic authority) which aimed at preserving the passive form of consent (the subordination to the authentic regula vitae provided by the leader)?
Finally, we would like to connect – where possible – the religious orders and lay or ecclesiastical structures, and to open the discussion on their mutual impacts in the sphere of decision-making and the exercise of power.
We hope to provide the conceptual frameworks for better understanding of the intriguing dynamics of the process in which the human will and transcendental desire collided and coalesced.


Thursday, 28 October

I. Introduction

Marko Jerković (Zagreb) and Gert Melville (Dresden): Opening Remarks

Pietro Silanos (Bari): “In sede apostolica specula constitute”: Papal Authority and Normative Religious Texts between XII and XIII Centuries.

II. Authority and Consent: Theory and Spirituality
Chair: Marko Jerković (Zagreb)

Mirko Breitenstein (Dresden): The Authority of Conscience

Coffee break

Julia Becker (Heidelberg): Aspects of Authority and Consent in the Regular Canon Monastery of Reichersberg based on the Theoretical Ideas of Gerhoch and Arno

Marcus Handke (Dresden): The Superior next to God. On the Triadic System of Hierarchy and Obedience in the “Formula novitiorum” (David of Augsburg)


III. Authority and Consent: The Benedictine Tradition
Chair: Daniela Bianca Hoffmann (Bochum)

Shigeto Kikuchi (Tokyo): Authorities and “Consensus Building” in the Carolingian Monastic World

Nicolangelo D’Acunto (Milano-Brescia): Negotiated Consent: Monastic Communities between the Rule and the Autocracy of the Abbot in the 10th and 11th Centuries

Coffee break

Steven Vanderputten (Gent): The Limits of Fraternal Love. Integration Processes and the Debate over Authority and Consent in Monastic Governance (Late Eleventh-Early Twelfth Centuries)

Mayke de Jong (Utrecht): Authority and Consent: Child Oblation Revisited

Friday, 29 October

IV. Authority and Consent: The 12th and 13th Centuries
Chair: Jörg Sonntag (Dresden)

Marko Jerković (Zagreb): Towards the Rule of Law: Consensus and Constitution in the Formation of Religious Orders

Guido Cariboni (Milano-Brescia): From abbas abbatum to General Chapter: The Relationship Between Abbots and the Development of a Common Consent

Coffee break

Daniela Bianca Hoffmann (Bochum): Between the Monastery and the World: The Authority of Cistercian and Carthusian Monk-Bishops

V. Conclusion
Bernd Schneidmüller (Heidelberg): Final Remarks

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