Friday, June 14, 2013

Ansgar and Rimbert Revisited, Part II: In Which Henrik Janson Suffers from Adjectival Confusion

Additionally, there is a sequence of empirical problems that the author has overlooked, or at least not taken sufficiently into account. The present context prevents a detailed discussion of these, but a couple of rather insurmountable problems in the material, which arise if one adopts Knibbs’s interpretative model, must be mentioned. Ansgar’s documentary dossier says that Gregory IV had extended the assignment of Ebo of Reims as papal legate in the north by honoring Gauzbert (Simon) and Ansgar with the papal pallium, and advancing [them] to the honor of the archiepiscopate. Since Knibbs maintains that Ansgar did not get any pallium until 864, he must reject this source; he therefore claims that the summary is “obviously confused.” For he finds it highly unlikely that Gauzbert ever got the pallium; according to Knibbs, he was certainly not an archbishop. [Knibbs] does not have any arguments for this cocksure claim. Other scholars, such as A. D. J Jørgensen and Lauritz Weibull, have had the opposite opinion, but Scandinavian scholarship has probably not been available to Knibbs for linguistic reasons. It has, however, here been pointed out that the claim about Gauzbert’s award of the pallium is actually confirmed by the Vita Anskarii (ch. 14), where Rimbert relates that Ebo selected his relative Gauzbert to be legate for the sueones [or Swedes] in his place, and that he sent him to these regions pontificali insignitum honore. Here Knibbs’s thesis encounters problems, since he claims that Rimbert is trying to make Gauzbert into Ansgar’s suffragan, and it is correct that, contrary to the wording of this passage, he is trying to make Ansgar’s position more prominent at the expense of Gauzbert, but had his purpose been to [revise] these circumstances he would not have made up [the story] that Gautbert was dressed in the papal honorific, viz. the pallium. This would have contradicted the strategy that according to Knibbs...[he employed], when he [revised] the history of Hamburg-Bremen. That Rimbert nevertheless writes this means, without doubt, that Gauzbert in fact had received this papal confirmation, and the second part of the passage is therefore also supported—namely that [part] which also makes Ansgar an archbishop with the pallium during Gregory IV’s time, and thus Knibbs’ entire construction falls.
The logical convolutions of this paragraph—particularly those afflicting its second half—weary the mind of your intrepid blogger. 

Behold, Janson’s argument reconceptualized as a cactus:

As two snakes:
These are not the kinds of knots we can hope to untie. Instead, we will explore the two “insurmountable problems” (for me) on which this argument runs. These are 1) that Rimbert’s Vita Anskarii attests to Gauzbert as a recipient of the pallium, and 2) that “Ansgar’s documentary dossier” shows that Ansgar and Gauzbert were both archbishops.

1. Rimbert, Gauzbert and the Pallium

When Janson says that “It has...been pointed out that the claim about Gauzbert’s award of the pallium is actually confirmed by the Vita Anskarii,” he means that he wrote an article claiming as much. That is unfortunate, because it forces us to conclude that Janson has mistaken the plain meaning of Rimbert’s words not once, but twice.

These words occur, as Janson notes, in chapter 14 of the Vita Anskarii, where Rimbert says that Gauzbert was “pontificali insignitum honore”— “inscribed with pontifical honor.”

As always when confronted with words, we must ask: What do they mean? What is pontifical honor? Is it papal honor?

However tedious it sounds, we must apply ourselves to the fundaments of Latin vocabulary. We begin by noticing that pontificalis is an adjective, and like many adjectives, it is very closely related (and even good friends with) a noun. In this case, that noun is pontifex (“pontiff”). If you are pontificalis, you smell like, look like, or otherwise enjoy the attributes of a pontifex. So what is a pontifex, you ask? In the classical period, before the whole Jesus thing took off, a pontifex was a pagan Roman high priest. After Christianity became a hit, a pontifex was a bishop. And pontifex could also be used to indicate one bishop in particular, namely the pope. Both ecclesiastical definitions remained active throughout the medieval period, and they apply to pontificalis just as much as they do to pontifex, because the noun and adjective are so very close. Like, shopping together close. So if you are pontificalis, you smell like or look like or in some way are like either a bishop or a pope, depending upon the author’s aims and the context. If you doubt this point, betake yourself to a medieval Latin dictionary, where you will find that pontificalis—again, like many adjectives—has multiple meanings. For Niermeyer (Mediae Latinitatis Lexicon Minus), the first and most basic meaning is episcopal. The second is papal.

So we have good reason to tag Janson’s argument with yet another question mark. And we can restate our initial question with a bit more specificity: When Rimbert says that Gauzbert was “inscribed with pontifical honor,” does he mean that this honor was episcopal, or does he mean that it was papal?

Happily, this question has an answer, and it lies in Rimbert’s own words in chapter 14, which we will need to quote a little more fully than my cautious and considered critic:
Verum post ordinationem domni et patris nostri sanctissimi Anskarii superius comprehensam, visum est illis de eadem legatione inter se conferentibus necessarium esse, ut aliquis illi ordinaretur adiutor, qui in partibus Sueonum ministerii episcopalis officio fungeretur, quoniam in regione tam longe posita praesens adesse deberet pontifex, et ipse solus ad utrumque locum minus sufficeret. Cum consensu itaque et voluntate praedicti imperatoris venerabilis Ebo quendam propinquum suum Gauzbertum nomine ad hoc opus electum et pontificali insignitum honore ad partes direxit Sueonum.
Which might be translated:
But after the consecration of our most holy lord and father Ansgar, described above, it struck them, as they discussed this same legation among themselves, that it was necessary that someone should be consecrated as Ansgar’s assistant, who might exercise the office of bishop in the land of Swedes, because in a region so far away it was necessary that a pontiff [pontifex] be present, and [Ansgar] by himself hardly sufficed for both places. And so with the consent and will of the aforementioned emperor, Ebo chose a relative of his, named Gauzbert, for this task, had him inscribed with pontifical [pontificali] honor, and sent him to the land of the Swedes.
As you, dear reader, can now appreciate, Rimbert not only uses the adjective pontificalis; he also avails himself of the services of this adjective’s close relative and friend, the noun pontifex. We might even suppose that Rimbert did this on purpose. When Rimbert remarks that Ebo and Ansgar needed to have a pontifex in Sweden, he is sadly not discussing the desirability of kidnapping Pope Gregory IV and shipping him off to the pagans. He means—and says quite clearly—that the northern mission required “ exercise the office of bishop” in the land of the Swedes; Sweden was so far away that it needed its own pontiff. Ebo’s relative Gauzbert was therefore chosen and “inscribed with pontifical honor.” This means neither that Gauzbert became an antipope nor that he received the pallium. It is, rather, Rimbert’s way of saying that Gauzbert was consecrated a bishop—a point that Rimbert goes on to restate a few lines later, clarifying that Ansgar and Rimbert were themselves the consecrators.

Your blogger admits that he has not worked out the exact implications of all of this for the Gordian argument advanced in Janson’s aforequoted paragraph, but he thinks it’s fair to say that the line of attack has begun to suffer from certain...technical difficulties.

2) Ansgar’s Documentary Dossier

Rimbert does not, therefore, substantiate Janson’s suspicion that Gauzbert was an archbishop. Among all of our sources for ninth-century Europe, only one claims that Gauzbert received the pallium and enjoyed archiepiscopal rank. According to Janson, this source is “Ansgar’s documentary dossier,” and it claims that Ansgar and Gauzbert were both archbishops. In the depths of my degenerate cocksurety (WHOAH, do NOT run a Google image search on that vocabulary item unless nobody can see your screen), I dismiss this deeply valuable and unique evidence without any argument.

Once again, Janson has taken a wrong turn. To see why and where, we need to revisit the end of Ansgar’s life. As our cheerful but perhaps not entirely honest archbishop began to die, he put together a little pamphlet containing documents relating to his legation, and he circulated this pamphlet among the bishops of Louis the German’s kingdom (Vita Anskarii, c. 41). This is the documentary dossier that Janson is talking about. Unfortunately, it barely survives. The most complete manuscript copy was once available in the so-called Hamburger Codex. Though this manuscript disappeared sometime in the eighteenth century, its contents were printed by Philipp Caesar at Cologne in 1642.

From Caesar’s edition, we know that Ansgar’s dossier must have looked something like this:
1. Prefatory letter from Ansgar, in which Ansgar says he wants his fellow bishops to know all about his mission. He particularly wnats them to know about Ebo of Reims, and how he got the initial legatio privilege from Pope Paschal I in the time of Louis the Pious, but he also wants them to know how Louis the Pious furthered this missionary project, and so on.
2. Paschal I’s legatio privilege for Ebo, as promised in the prefatory letter.
3. Louis the Pious’s privilege for Ansgar, as alluded to in the prefatory letter. Today, scholars agree that this copy of the privilege contains significant falsifications.
4. Pope Gregory IV’s privilege for Ansgar, which I also argue has been heavily falsified.
5. Pope Nicholas I’s privilege for Ansgar, which I further argue suffers from serious falsifications.
6. A letter from Pope Nicholas I to Horik II of Denmark.
A second , rather more fragmentary copy of this dossier survives today in Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Codex Guelferbytanus 35 (Helmstadt. 32), a tenth-century manuscript originally copied at Hildesheim. The Hildesheim connections are important, because Ebo of Reims eventually ended up at that see after his treachery at the Field of Lies. This explains why the Hildesheim Codex contains Ebo’s Apologeticum Ebonis. It also carries a stripped-down version of the dossier above—so stripped down, in fact, that it omits everything but the Paschal privilege (item 2), presumably because this was the only bit of Ansgar’s dossier that related to Ebo, and whoever copied the Hildesheim Codex had limited and rather provincial interests.

This mysterious copyist was not, however, entirely ungenerous. Instead of committing non-Ebonian material to oblivion, he added two brief notes, in rather challenged Latin, before and after the Paschal privilege. These notes summarize the contents of two other documents available at Hildesheim—at least one of them (item 4 above, as we'll see below) known from Ansgar’s dossier.

It is in these notes—not in Ansgar’s dossier—that Janson claims to find evidence of an archiepiscopal Gauzbert. What do these notes say, you ask? The one preceding Paschal’s privilege is fairly bland, but it does mention “the authentic privileges...of three successive popes, namely Paschal I, Eugenius II and Gregory IV.” The one following Paschal’s privilege provides a little more information about the Eugenius and Gregory documents that the copyist decided to leave out. My translation is faithful to the meaning, if not quite literal (because, as I said, the Latin suffers from some confusion):
And by [a similar privilege], the bishop Ansgar, together with his companions, was added to this legation by the confirmation of the subsequent Pope Eugenius [II]. And when he succeeded [Eugenius], Pope Gregory [IV], with [a similar] confirmation [roboratio], increased their number and adorned the archbishop Simon [i.e., Gauzbert], together with Ansgar, with the pontifical pallium....  
That, dear reader, is the beginning and end of the evidence for Gauzbert as Ansgar’s fellow archbishop in the North. At least we finally get to see pontificalis referring to the pope! Be that as it may, we know from one other source that Pope Eugenius II did indeed confirm Paschal I’s legatio privilege for Ebo of Reims, probably in 826. Yet astute readers keeping score at home will have noted that, even according to Henrik Janson, Ansgar did not become a bishop until after Eugenius’s pontificate. Our annotator is therefore mistaken in claiming that Eugenius added Ansgar, as a bishop, to Ebo’s operation.

Perhaps he is confused about the Gregory privilege he describes as well? Here we come to the reason that many, many august historians, including disinterested luminaries like Bernhard Simson and Ernst Dümmler (of Pilgrim fame), but also committed adherents of the traditionalist narrative like Georg Dehio, Theodor Schieffer, and Wolfgang Seegrün, have declined to argue that Gauzbert was an archbishop on the strength of these lines. Set aside Gauzbert for a moment. The annotator had before him Ansgar's dossier (which we know most fully from Caesar's edition), and he describes a roboratio from Gregory IV that ceded Ansgar the pallium and granted him archiepiscopal status. If we accept the dictates of Occam’s Razor, we have no trouble seeing that this document is no. 4 in the list above. So the Gregory privilege in question survives (though in falsified form, according to me), and it says nothing about Simon or Gauzbert. This is why Schieffer and Seegrün go so far as to ask whether the Hildesheim copyist has somehow screwed up and mistaken Simon/Gauzbert for Ebo. Because the Gregory privilege in question does associate an archbishop with Ansgar —but that archbishop is not Gauzbert/Simon. It is Ebo of Reims, who had been in charge of the mission from the beginning.

To be continued...

Back to Part I
On to Part III
Back to Intro

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