(A2-4) The Implementation of Written Norms in the Early Middle Ages Between Religion and Politics

The debate about the significance of written norms in Europe’s Early Middle Ages is characterised by a narrowing to the field of politics and secular law. Between the closing years of antiquity and the turn of the millennium, laws and other normative texts had no essential significance for a kingship as political action was above all guided by unwritten rules and not by recorded customary law. The relevance of those normative texts that survived (the so-called leges gentium, capitularies) is questionable as they seem to be an expression of a normative discourse without a basis in reality. Up to the most recent publications, however, the substantial corpora of religious texts with a normative claim from the Early Middle Ages, notably monastic rules and synodal records, have not received proper attention in the debate about the significance of normative writing in early medieval culture. This mirrors the separation of religion and politics that has been dominating the science of history ever since the 19th century. However, against the backdrop of the systematic dedifferentiation of politics and religion since late Antiquity, which was shaped by Christianity, this separation is anachronistic.

The subproject investigates the significance of religiously motivated normative writing for early medieval culture and politics. In the first application phase, research focused on the justification and staging of normativity in early monasticism. In the second phase, synods will be brought into focus that lie at the intersection of religion and politics. Rulers presided, enacted the canons by way of their edict, or had synods confirm laws. Fundamental questions as regards the structure and the distribution of power were also negotiated and staged in synods. Thus, synods are at the same time central moments of the production of normative writing and of the endeavour to implement it. Assuming the interleaving of politics and religion in the synodal events, the characteristics of this cooperation of rulers and churches will be enquired about in the synodal records. Comparison with the monastic rules will document the variety of ways that textual authority could be based on within the Christian tradition and implemented into social action. The synopsis of the two types of written record will make it possible to identify the peculiarities of religious objectives and contexts of reasoning as independent factors between the poles of politics and religion, and to analyse the implementation of normative discourse into social practice.

The Project is part of coordinated project group The implementation and enforcement of norms.