Friday, July 17, 2009

International Medieval Congress: Day One Session Two

Dangerous Doctrines, II: Heresy trials and the Limits of Learning

Parisian Pantheism or Maurice’s Magic? A Re-Interpretation of the Condemnation of 1210 and 1215
– Thomas Gruber (Merton College, University of Oxford)

In the early thirteenth century we see a number of accusations against heresy. Robert of Courson, in the Statutes of the University of Paris of 1215, lists three groups. There are the Amalricians, followers of Amalric of Bena, who preached pantheistic creed in which there is no difference between creator and created. This group managed to grow large enough to form a sect and cause enough concern to be spied upon. There is David of Dinant, another pantheist philosopher. The third person mentioned is a Mauricii hyspani, Maurice the Spaniard. This Maurice is the twelfth century anti-Pope Gregory VIII, originally named Maurice Bourdin.
Maurice was the archbishop of Braga and close to Pope Paschalis II. Sent as an envoy to Henry V, Maurice switched to the side of the emperor, who repaid this action by making him Pope Gregory VIII. Maurice’s reign as pope did not last long. As the tide turned against the emperor, Maurice was captured, put on display and humiliated. There is an image of Maurice serving as a footstool to the pope. Later the archbishop of Toledo uses this to show the supremacy of Toledo over Braga.

What was Maurice’s doctrine? It would seem that Maurice was accused of necromancy. We have a magical text sent by John of Seville to a Pope Gregory to guard against kidney stones. This recipe represented a magic tradition that was condemned in 1215. Maurice’s name was added in order to add an element of menace to it. This would add an element to 1215 besides for Aristotelianism and pantheism.

Indians, Demons, and the Death of the Soul: Necromancy and Talismanic Magic at the University of Paris in 1277 - Matthias Heiduk (Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat)

We see a condemnation of magic in Paris in 1277 besides for the more famous attacks on Aristotle by Bishop Stephen Tempier. Who were the targets? Why would people in the Middle Ages have been interested in magic and why would the Church be against it. We possess several geomancy books which start with Estimaverunt Indi. The sorts of crimes of things we see listed are Nigromancy, a term often conflated with necromancy, invocation of demons, and talismans. We do not know if magical books were at the University of Paris or if magic was being taught to the students, but we do know that they were being read in the thirteenth century. William of Auvergne mentions that he studied magic in his youth before he became Bishop. These rituals involved the veneration of demons.

‘Ruditas et brevitas intellectu illorum’: Meister Eckhart against the Inquisition - Alessandra Beccarisi (Universita del Salento)

Charges of heresy were often used for political reasons. The move against Meister Eckhart was a good example of this. The Political situation in Germany in 1325-26 played a critical role in this, particularly in regards to the papal representative, Nicholas of Strasbourg. In 1324 Pope John XXII excommunicated Ludwig of Bavaria. Dominicans had to decide where they going to side. John decided to interfere directly with the Dominicans. There were sympathizers with Ludwig in the order. Nicholas of Strasbourg visited Cologne which was a particular delicate situation. Eckhart was a Dominican closely in the public eye so he became a target. His preaching in the vernacular about poverty came to be seen as an attack on the papacy. Nicholas served as the pope’s vicar and ended up defending Eckhart. We see a shift in the Dominican order and monks friendly to the pope are put in charge. Once Eckhart is on trial at Avignon away from his enemies the charges are relaxed and the charges of heresy are dropped.

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