Patristic Sermons in the Middle Ages
The dissemination, manipulation and interpretation of late-antique sermons in the medieval Latin West
PASSIM will study the medieval reception of the Latin sermons preached by the Early Church Fathers, using a digital network of manuscripts.
The sermons of Augustine, Gregory the Great and other patristic preachers were transmitted throughout medieval Europe in the form of sermon collections, preserved in thousands of manuscripts. Nearly every manuscript contains a new combination of sermons, attesting to a continuous, widespread engagement with the authorities of the Early Church. The dynamic tradition of reorganising and rewriting the patristic heritage is largely overlooked by scholars of medieval religious practices, who concentrate on medieval preachers, and by scholars of Early Christianity, whose focus is the patristic context.
Medieval collections of patristic sermons were part of the liturgical life of the monastery, but also of an intellectual tradition. They offer unique insights into medieval attitudes toward authority, techniques of appropriation, church organisation, monastic networks and knowledge exchange. PASSIM will execute the first large-scale analysis of the formation and spread of patristic sermon collections in medieval Europe. The project will develop a digital network of manuscripts, using well-tried principles from the field of textual criticism. Building on this network, PASSIM will pursue three lines of inquiry: the customizing of standard liturgical collections as indicative of individual purposes and contexts, the impact of transmission on the popularity of patristic sermons, and pseudo-epigraphic sermons as revelatory of medieval perceptions of the Church Fathers.
PASSIM will bridge two disciplinary divides, between patristic and medieval sermon studies and between textual criticism and reception studies. Developing an interdisciplinary methodology with a wide applicability in the study of intellectual history, this project will introduce patristic preaching as a vibrant strand in the tapestry of the medieval religious tradition.
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No ERC-2018-stg 802210.
On the trail of Alanus of Farfa
Tracing the formation of Augustine’s authority in medieval sermon collections for the liturgy
Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is one of the great authorities of the Early Church. His impact on western civilisation, during the Middle Ages in particular, cannot be overstated. Today, he is associated mainly with the Confessions and City of God, staples of the western canon. However, throughout the medieval period, his most widely disseminated works were his sermons.
This project will investigate the development of Augustine’s authority and his formative role in medieval culture, not through the lens of the grand treatises that were admired by the intellectual elite, but through an analysis of the circulation, manipulation, and appropriation of his sermons, which were copied in hundreds of medieval manuscripts and read daily as part of the liturgy.
The anchor point will be the influential 8th-century sermon collection of Alanus of Farfa. Tracing its presence as part of a transnational European network of manuscripts, the project will investigate how the Augustinian nucleus in Alanus’ collection was customized in liturgical sermon collections from the 8th to the 15th century. This investigation will follow a key-thread in the tapestry of the medieval religious tradition, showing how ever-changing purposes and contexts determine the selection, alteration, and interpretation of the Augustinian heritage.
Overturning the traditional notion that medieval adaptations are a regrettable contamination of the antique original, this project will demonstrate that the dynamic medieval engagement with the authorities of Late Antiquity is the key to their perception then and now.
This project has received funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) under the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme: VENI, under grant number 016.Veni.195.127.