Canon Law in the “Century of the Individual”: Revolution and Continuity



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The Influence of Ivo of Chartres
In considering the genesis of canonistic jurisprudence in the Roman church of late antiquity, Peter Landau identified three crucial features: unity, logical order and consistency, ability to change to meet new circumstances.48 These shaped the theory and practice of canon law down to the appearance of university-based legal science in the twelfth century. This Biblical, patristic, papal inheritance formed ius commune, a common heritage that admitted no contradiction, deficiency, inflexibility.49 No author better conveyed this tradition than Bishop Ivo of Chartres.

Ruling Chartres from 1090-1115, Ivo was a central figure in the Investiture Contest.50 Letters, sermons, and canonical collections demonstrate his prominent role in affairs of church and state.51 Ivo was a steady leader amid the storms of ecclesiastical and political strife. Here was a pastor firmly committed to his church and the ideals of reform. Ivo had carried the reform initiatives of Urban II to northern France.52 He labored to establish regular life among his clergy.53 The bishop was also, unavoidably, a politician, a leading figure in local and regional affairs.54



Above all, Ivo was famed for his jurisprudence, expertise increasingly prized by those engaged in the ongoing reform of church and society.55 To study his canonistic works is to engage the thought of one of the most seminal minds of the central Middle Ages. He turned his expertise to a variety of purposes. He compiled twin collections, the Decretum and Panormia,56 the latter by far the most successful compilation preceding Gratian's Decretum.57 He anticipated the eventual compromise between Empire and Papacy.58 His letters answered a myriad of legal and pastoral concerns, from violence against the church to sexual relations.59

In sheer number of manuscripts, Ivos Prologue ranks among the most significant texts of medieval Church. For centuries, others had written on its themes of legal sources, terminology, reconciliation of apparently discordant texts, dispensation theory. Around 1100, Ivo united them in this treatise.60 It appears in a variety of settings, from the introduction to both his canonical collections, also found among his letters and as an independent treatise.

Modern study began with Paul Fournier's landmark essay, Les collections canoniques d'Yves de Chartres' (1896-97). He argued persuasively that the Prologue originated with the Panormia.61 He subsequently considered the text in its own right, and highlighted its contribution to twelfth-century jurisprudence.62 Fournier's later writings reflect continuing esteem for the text, though he never again attempted a major analysis.63


Throughout the twentieth century, scholars commented on the Prologue's contribution to the evolution of canon law and theology during the Investiture Contest and the early twelfth century. Yet there was comparatively little progress beyond Fournier's analysis. Ivo secured a place alongside Bernold of Constance and Alger of Liège, each famous for his contribution to the development of dialectical jurisprudence.64 Scholars echoed Fournier's praise of the Prologue, but have neither posed new questions to the text nor considered its reception during the twelfth century.65 Typical of this limited approach, which anticipates Bermans obsession with the revolution of dialectic, is Martin Grabmann's description of Ivo as the surveyor' for those who would later erect the scholastic method;66 the Prologue became, above all, the tool used to shape the Church's legal and theological landscape.

The core theme of Ivos Prologue is caritas,67 which guides both the severe and merciful sides of discipline. Caritas illuminates the opening of the Prologue, establishing from the outset a pastoral tone. Its initial thematic section extending to the introduction of the description of legal categories makes an extended gloss on this most important of all Christian ideals. Through two striking metaphors, Ivo illustrates the fundamental role of caritas in canon law. First he compares the body of ecclesiastical law to a house, whose mistress is caritas.68 She heals those who dwell there. Next he compares the judge to a doctor who must always discern between severity and moderation when healing. With cleansed eye of the heart (oculus cordis)69 and proper diligence, caritas will guide his judgment.

Thanks to Rolf Sprandel, Ivos most recent biographer, we understand the importance of this medical imagery..70 Sprandel points out that language of disease and healing was far from simply metaphorical to Ivo and his audience; the sick and dying came to the cathedral,71 and Ivo himself complained of illness as he grew older.72 Such images came naturally to Ivo and his readers. By choosing this language to express the active, dynamic role of caritas in judgment, Ivo introduced his treatise in a powerful and vivid way, in language simultaneously reflecting both tradition and experience.73


Ivo's contemporaries only rarely invoked the language of caritas and remedy when discussing canonical tradition and its application as discipline.74 In the opening to his Prologue, Ivo has recalled, however, a legal language evoking the Fathers75 and early-medieval penitential collections.76 Ivo's mixture of theory and practice in his imagery of healing in the Prologue thus looks back to an earlier vision of canon law more evocative of late-antique bishops77 and Carolingians like Hincmar of Rheims,78 than with the collections of the Gregorian reform.

Yet such appeal to healing caritas was not anachronistic. Rather, it reflects Ivo's unique vision of canonical tradition, one that emphasizes both continuity and practicality. One should not distinguish between the "medicinal" and "juridical" functions of the bishop, with the former a sign of a more primitive, less sophisticated conception of law.79 Caritas and the conception of the bishop as "doctor of laws" are indeed ancient features of canon law embedded in the Prologue that recall the spirit of an earlier age,80 but also stress the profoundly pastoral tone of the text. The twelfth century would not change the need for caritas. Such pastoral concern was hardly anachronistic.




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