The Heroic Age – A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe, Issue 12 (May 2009).
Abstract: This article will focus on the literature and letters of Archbishop Hincmar of Reims. Although past scholarship has underscored the juridical nature of Hincmar’s sources, the influence of some, such as the 829 Council of Paris, has gone almost virtually undetected. Concurrently, past studies have portrayed Hincmar as a mere verbatim copyist, his writings a mere reflection of his sources, as his treatment of the Council of Paris seems to confirm. However, as Celia Chazelle has demonstrated, many of Hincmar’s writings still exist in older editions such as the Patrologia Latina and the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, while the originality of Hincmar’s exegetical methodology, in his treatment of scriptural, monastic, and patristic sources has not been adequately explored nor assessed in recent scholarship (Chazelle 2003, 7, 179). Nevertheless, Hincmar’s original adaption of sources such as the Regula s. Benedicti (Rule of Saint Benedict) and Ambrosiaster’s late fourth century Commentarius in epistulas Paulinas (Commentary on the Letters of Saint Paul) illustrates the need for more recent critical editions of Hincmar’s writings and for further studies which will enable us to assess more precisely the full extent of his literary and epistolary exegesis.
§1. Archbishop Hincmar of Reims (845–882) was perhaps one of the most influential authors in Carolingian history. He donned the humble cloth of a monk only to transcend that humble destiny in his mission to bring spiritual perfection to an errant temporal sphere. Scholars have traditionally focused on Hincmar’s role as a jurist and theologian. However, in my examination of his various sources of inspiration—monastic regulae, church canons, patristic literature, and Christian Roman law—I have uncovered a juridical source, the 829 Council of Paris, that has remained virtually undetected in Hincmar’s writings. This source will provide the preliminary discussion for the study.
§2. First, I must note that juridical sources do not sufficiently explain the nature of Hincmar’s political ecclesiology. In addition to his extensive reliance on the Council of Paris, other monastic, ascetic, and patristic sources played a prominent role in Hincmar’s personal and political spirituality, as they did in the writings of other earlier Carolingian authors. Thus, Hincmar’s attempt to promote spiritual ideals through the use of the Council of Paris as well as his unique and original exegetical adaptation of theRegula s. Benedicti and Ambrosiaster’s Commentarius in epistulas Paulinas will provide the major themes for this study.