(B2-14) Holiness and Demands for Political Participation in the Media of Vita, Letter, and Prophecy

In the context of authorship research, different medieval types of authors and concepts of authorship (focus on the prophetess Saint Hildegard of Bingen and her corpus of letters consisting of 390 epistles) as well as the self-expression of authors between the conflicting interests of the religious and the political in selected large epistolaries from the Carolingian period to the Renaissance were dealt with in the first funding period. Following up on this, the question now addresses a group of affine genres – vita, letter and prophecy – which contain direct statements about the relationship of religion and politics and also, each with their particular media possibilities, shape this relationship, be it in ideal figures, the protagonists and their context of effect, and living environments (desert, court, monastery, town, war) in the prophetic or other images, in dialogues of the texts’ protagonists, and many other literary strategies. Hagiographic vita literature, for instance, contains hundreds of examples which narratively unfold and justify either their ‘heroes’’ radical asceticism and detachedness from the world (hermitism) or their intervention in the political events. The martyr or anchorite like the knightly saint, the holy layman like the holy bishop, the conversi between the areas are similarly distinctive exemplary figures. Even in the case of a prominent figure of the Ottonian imperial church system – Otto I’s brother Brun, the archbishop of Cologne and duke of Lorraine – the author of his vita felt compelled to discuss in a separate chapter the question whether he as bishop was justified to meddle in political affairs (res populi et pericula belli) instead of only seeing to the salvation (animarum cura) in his parish in accordance with 2 Tim 2:4: nemo militans deo implicat se negotiis saecularibus. This underlying tension was addressed repeatedly. One century later, at the time of the Investiture Controversy and the Gregorian Reform, conversely, Petrus Damiani stylised himself very strongly as a hermit detached from the world, but he was nevertheless intensely involved in the affairs of big politics, taking his authority from that status.

The representation made by themselves and by others is similarly ambivalent in other epistolaries and in the prophetic interpretation of the present and the future, which will be traced until Joachim of Fiore (around 1200). The interdependence of the religious and the political will be presented in characteristic figurations each, from the political prophecies of the ascetic Severinus (around 500) in the Danube area and the big prophetic figures of the High Middle Ages (Saint Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux et al.) to the late medieval current political apocalypse interpretation.

Since late Antiquity, hagiography in particular developed its own rhetorical model, contrasting ancient rhetoric, which I refer to as deviance rhetoric (relating to the lexicon, stylistics and composition) and which works according to the humiliatio exaltatio principle. In practice, it was followed either adamantly or in a moderate manner so that the linguistic make of the works themselves often already sheds light on the position advanced in the text (interdependence or dissociation).

The images generated from such texts, be it in text illustrations or in a position independent of the text, will also be questioned as to their figural conception (which does not necessarily correspond to that of the text). Just like pictorial prophecies, the exemplary or the symbolic quality of particular actors, spaces or patterns of action prompted separate pictorial types and systems, which marked positions in the domain of religion and politics as regards the medial communication of the visual. On the basis of the corpus of sources and genres, comparisons can be drawn in the project group in biographics, epistolography and historiography from pagan antiquity to the early modern period (figurations of actors). The same applies to conceptions of image patterns or of specifically literary, fictional types of discourse and narratives (e.g., retreating from the world, conversion, holy warriorship et al.). The cultural significance of actors, spaces, actions, images and forms of speech of the textual transmission is to be elaborated in a comparative manner for the relationship of religion and politics.

It can be observed already that the complexity of the religious and political sphere had been known throughout and that concepts and constellations of interdependence and dissociation were also advanced side by side, according to different interests and situations.