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Chapter Two— The Origins of Courtliness
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Chapter Two—
The Origins of Courtliness

Curiales and Courtier Bishops

Although the evidence is limited, it seems clear that at least since Carolingian times a court was conceived as a formative milieu. In his highly descriptive household book De ordine palatii (A.D. 882), Archbishop Hincmar of Reims, a good authority on courts, defined the formative function of the court by calling it a school, scola, not in the sense of an institution of formal teachers (scolastici ), but of a group of leaders who by discipline and constraint, disciplina id est correctio, affect their peers' and juniors' “behavior, bearing, speech, deeds, and the general restraints of a good life.”[1] Hincmar also defined the head chaplain (archicapellanus ) as the grand chancellor in charge of secretarial and archival functions as well as of the palatine school proper. It is amply documented that from at least as early as the tenth through the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and beyond, the courts acted as centers of social education by developing a continuous ethos of curial/courtly values.

In Germany and France the period 950–1150 saw the emergence of remarkable teachers in royal courts (curiae ) as well as in cathedral schools largely influenced by the royal courts. They were “curial” teachers insofar as they issued from courtly environments, and the substance of their teaching can be called “curiality” (curialitas ) since it first aimed at the formation of good candidates for positions at court. True enough, we get little hard evidence about “government” being the Ottonian


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courtiers' original concern, nor do historians tell us much about this.[2] But the scarcity of direct documents before 1150 is a result of the “Socratic” attitude of these teachers, who left practically nothing to writing because they acted through personal and oral communication. Their numerous extant biographies share the rhetorical image of educators whose effectiveness rested on eloquence and example, even in the absence of original or substantive content. Jaeger does not hesitate to call their ideas and methods “humanistic.”[3] Pupils worshiped their masters to the point of feeling that they could acquire excellence, virtue, and personal greatness by imitating their noble and dignified bearing. Adelman, for one, praised Fulbert's student Hildegar for having taken over his master's “facial expression, tone of voice, and manners”: “magistrum referebat vultu, voce, moribus.”[4]

As Fleckenstein has emphasized, Otto the Great found a new use for scholars. No longer merely teachers, as at Charlemagne's court, nor simply erudite men of God, as the monastic schools conceived them, they became the building blocks of a solid administrative foundation for the empire. Acting through the various diocesan centers, this “royal priesthood,” regale sacerdotium, their wisdom gleaned from literary scholarship, assisted the king in matters of state: “[ut] rem publicam fide et viribus tuerentur,” “to preserve the state by their faith and strength.”[5]

As to the content of their teaching, the apparent connection with later humanism is a Platonic emphasis on ethics as the core of education and learning: even physics, cosmology, and astronomy could be conceived as proof of the divine order of the universe, which man must imitate in his moral and aesthetic behavior. Jaeger (1987: 580–591) sees this as the true reason for the popularity of Plato's Timaeus in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in both Germany and France. Typically those teachers, down to the masters of Chartres, emphasized the coupling of letters and virtue, litterae et mores, aiming at character formation rather than mere instruction or Christian doctrine.[6] According to the biographer of Abbot Angelran of St. Riquier, Fulbert of Chartres taught Angelran letters as much as virtue and manners: “hic ei monitor, hic tam morum quam litterarum fuit institutor.”[7] John of Salisbury saw a harmonious coupling of morals and aesthetics as the goal for a true rhetoric when he declared ethica the source of gratia decoris, the gracefulness of a beautiful deportment, and Onulf of Speyer professed a study of rhetoric as the source of morum elegantia.[8] Despite the dangers of uncritical superficiality, subjective cult of personality and fashion, and


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insensitivity to substance, such attitudes remind us of the most illustrious heir of this cultural approach, Francesco Petrarca. He not only managed to turn himself into the object of a Europe-wide personality cult even before his writings had become widely accessible, but also professed the clear superiority of eloquence (or rhetoric) to philosophy by extolling the power of moral improvement inherent in poetic texts such as Virgil's, in contrast to Aristotle's pragmatic aridity, even when dealing with virtue in the Nicomachean Ethics.[ 9]

Teachers of this sort were influential members of their societies and became cultural models for generations to come: “A career followed by many of the most distinguished imperial bishops since Ottonian times led from student to schoolmaster to court chaplain to bishop, with perhaps stations in between as provost or chancellor” (Jaeger 1987: 589). The masters of curialitas, future imperial bishops, had typically been, first, magistri scholarum or headmasters, namely the practical teachers subordinated to the scholasticus (Fr. écolastre ), administrator of all religious schools in the diocese starting with the cathedral school. If the magister's main concern was boni or nobiles mores, that is, the moral content of indoctrination, he had to reach it through the propaedeutic curriculum of the liberal arts, more specifically the arts of the Trivium which were centered on the reading of literary auctores. The substance of the curriculum was a combination of litterae and mores in varying degrees. This formula remained the staple of courtly education even as late as Castiglione, for whom “good masters teach children not only letters, but also good and seemly manners in eating, drinking, speaking and walking, with appropriate gestures.”[10]

By the twelfth century, cathedral schools like the one at Chartres had overtaken imperial chapels and episcopal courts as the primary centers of education for statesmen and bureaucrats through the instillation of the curial ideology. The nomenclature consistently employed in all these centers can rightly be regarded as humanistic, and contained clear echoes of the “Carolingian Renaissance”: in Alcuin's Dialogus de rhetorica et virtutibus, for example, the coupling, even in the title, of rhetoric and ethic, in the best Aristotelian, Ciceronian, and Quintilianean tradition, contrasted with the dialectically-grounded reduction of rhetoric to style and ornament at the hands of the later Scholastics. Alcuin typically addressed himself to those who aimed at civil manners, “civiles cupiat cognoscere mores,” and at inner and outer moral beauty, gesture and manners included: “disce, precor, juvenis, motus moresque venustos” (Patrologia Latina, hereafter PL, 101: 919, 950).


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The considerable number of surviving biographies of bishops document the standards of morality and social conduct for court-appointed bishops and high prelates. Episcopal vitae and related tracts predicated a mixture of Christian virtues overlaid on a range of somewhat heterogeneous Ciceronian/Stoic ones. We could list them as: formositas (beauty), eruditio (education or learning), virtus (encompassing eloquence as eloquentia or facundia), mansuetudo, discretio or reticentia, amabilitas, and mensura (Jaeger: 30–48). Mansuetudo, surely an unheroic quality, included patience in the face of offense: the Roman de la rose 1.39: 1236–1237 said of the allegorical figure Cortoisie: “donc ne fut hom par li deditz, / ne ne porta autrui rancune,” “never spoke ill of anyone, nor did she bear rancor toward anyone.” Discretion or reticence was meant as calculated underplaying of talents, somewhat analogous to Castiglione's sprezzatura. Mensura —also moderamen or moderatio, originally the Aristotelian mesotes, balance between opposite extremes—also included a sort of diplomacy that allowed the subject to survive under the most trying circumstances without taking a dangerous stand on matters of principle. The whole was made effective by a cultivated personal charm of the type that we would now call charisma (Jaeger 1987: 595).

A more articulate portrait of the courtly type included, within the ethical framework of elegantia morum: disciplina (self-restraint), urbanitas (entailing eloquence), kalokagathia (harmony of inner and outer man), and, under the rubric of behavioral patterns, decorum, facetia, hilaritas/jocunditas, and curialitas, a comprehensive term.[11] We are about to see how this schema also subsumed an aptitude for connivance and a taste for intrigue. These two qualities were seldom mentioned explicitly yet they were clearly represented in the literature; they were also part of the needed self-restraint in the face of the warrior/knight's tendency to act boldly on first impulse and without regard to consequences.[12] All these courtly qualities would contrast directly with the image of the chivalrous gentleman and knight as frank, straightforward, and naively loyal.

Kalokagathia, rooted in the classical notion of symbiosis of the beautiful and the good, and deeply embedded in the Greek paideia ever since Isocrates, could be defined as perfect rectitude united with urbanity and good breeding. It implied qualities clearly at work in the images of the Ottonian and Salian royal bishops. Capellanus seemed to have such a distinction in mind when he coupled curialitas (as the outer refinement that, together with liberalitas, makes the lover socially attractive) with


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probitas (the inner virtue that makes the lover truly lovable).[13] This aestheticizing of manners and conduct as part of an ideal education remained operative through Castiglione and beyond.[14]

When, in the 1589 letter to Raleigh that became a preface to his Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser declared his intent “to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline,” this key word “discipline” was the equivalent of a medieval semantic coinage that originated in Germany both in Latin and in the vernacular.[15] Classical Latin disciplina had meant only learning and art, as in “the school disciplines.” Medieval Latin added the connotation of monastic rule and/or chastisement. But in eleventh- and twelfth-century Germany, curiales disciplinae (hövesche zühte), like the singular elegans et urbana disciplina (schöne und hövesche zuht), became common terms, all hovering around the clerical intellectual circles of towns and courts (especially about the court chapels). They signified the kind of elegant self-control that distinguishes the moral makeup and outward behavior of the sophisticated courtier.[16]

Somewhat paradoxically, the resolution of the investiture conflict in favor of the Church did not strengthen but, rather, scaled down the once lofty moral and cultural status of the bishops. The Bamberg schoolmaster Hugo of Trimberg eloquently lamented the decline of the episcopate toward the end of the thirteenth century, nostalgically evoking the imposing personalities of the past. Their likes were no longer thinkable because the Church, now free to place its own candidates, had no more reason to select strong personalities with the impressive courtly qualities once at home at the imperial court:

Sant Otten, sant Annen, sant Gothart
Und sant Thomas von Kandelberc
Brâhte ir zuht und reiniu werc
Ze hofe an hôhe wirdikeit.
(Renner 782–785; Jaeger 255)

(St. Otto of Bamberg, St. Anno of Cologne, St. Godehard of Hildesheim, and St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury attained high honor at court by their courtesy and their good works.)

These were, indeed, some of the great figures whose vitae allow us to reconstruct the court ambiance from which courtly behavior had issued. At the same time that this decay in high ecclesiastical offices was taking place, the literary romances lost their roots in social reality, among both the clergy and the laity. The thirteenth century is one of imitation and


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pessimism: King Arthur is “dead,” and the compilations of the great cycles tell of the dissolution of his once great court.[17]

A Ciceronian Connection

With its largely Stoic philosophical content, Cicero's De officiis was a major source of ethical speculation in the Middle Ages, its impact being enhanced by the important intermediary of St. Ambrose's version of it. The term officia appeared in the titles of numerous derivations from St. Ambrose, starting with St. Isidore, whose De ecclesiasticis officiis turned the focus further toward Christian cult, down to the two treatises De divinis officiis by Rupert of Deutz (twelfth century) and Durand de Mende (thirteenth). It has been noted that Cicero's officia, which can be rendered as “civic duty,” was somewhat of a mistranslation of his Stoic model, Panaitios's Perì tou kathékontos, where kathêkon meant “what is becoming” to social function, individual condition, and the status of citizen. Cicero developed his theme in a somewhat meandering way by embroidering around the cardinal virtues of justice, fortitude, temperance, and prudence, insisting repeatedly on the centrality, particularly for the public servant, of what he called honestum, a term which, in turn, can be rendered as “the moral good” or “the morally beautiful,” corresponding closely to Greek tò kalón. In book 3 Cicero argued at length that honestum and utile cannot be in conflict: when properly understood they practically coincide. Speaking of the apt use of speech (2.48), he pointed to the power of “comitas affabilitasque sermonis” in winning friendship and influence, with an interesting coupling of courtesy and affability as aspects of effective speech.[18]

The qualities analyzed in De officiis (especially 1.93–1.113) that bear more directly on the new curial ideal were those of urbanity (urbanitas ), modesty, moderation, restraint, considerateness (verecundia ), and self-control in the sense of subjection of passion to reason, all subsumed under the rubric of temperantia, the fourth cardinal virtue, like the other major quality of decorum, which also includes reverentia or reverence toward deserving men (116 f.). All these qualities, together with affabilitas and iocunditas or hilaritas, affability and good disposition, win friendship, and act both through decorous speech, which includes facetia, iocus, and urbanitas (Gr. eiróneia ), and decorous bearing, which includes a beautiful appearance (formositas ), grace (ornatus ), and cleanliness in dress (munditia ). Once again, we can think ahead to the German terms schöne sîte and schöne zuht as well as to


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Castiglione's grazia. Cicero ascribed this type of behavior particularly to the statesman, whose public service it aids and enhances, thus making him a more valuable member of society and a more heroic citizen than the warrior with his military prowess (115 f.).

Let us look at some key passages (1.27.93–94, 98, 107):

We must next speak of the one remaining part of honestas, wherein we find reverence (verecundia ) and a certain ornament of life, temperance, modesty, and all restraint of the perturbations of the soul, together with a sense of measure in all things. Here is contained what Latins call decorum, the Greeks prepon. The force of this quality is such that it cannot be separated from honesty: indeed, what is becoming is honest, and what is honest is becoming . . . . Similar is the nature of fortitude. For what is done with a manly and great soul appears worthy of a man and dignified, whereas whatever is contrary to this is morally ugly, hence unbecoming.

Hence poets will see what is becoming in the great variety of their characters, even the vicious ones; as to ourselves, whatever nature has given us in the form of constancy, moderation, temperance, and reverence, and since nature teaches us not to overlook the manner in which we act toward others, it is clear how wide the realm of dignified behavior (decorum ) is, to wit what is part and parcel of honesty as a whole, as well as what pertains to every single kind of virtue.

We all partake of reason and of that quality by which we are above the beasts, from which we derive all honesty and dignity (honestum decorumque ) as well as the method of finding out what duty is.[19]

Note this gathering of key concepts: verecundia, ornatus, temperantia, modestia, decorum, fortitudo, animus magnus, constantia, honestum, ratio, and also the closeness of decorum (or its synonym decor ) and honestum, yielding an insight into their ethical and social connotations. These terms constitute an important segment of the broad semantic field of Latin decorum/decor/decus. The term “decoration,” still applied today to a social status or dignity that is added for its display value as “an ornament of life,” is etymologically and semantically derived from decor and decus. It first appeared in this acceptation in medieval French décorement, with its allied adjective aournez.

Besides the De officiis, Cicero's Disputationes Tusculanae was the source of ethical teaching for a number of didactic tracts from Germany and, later, France between 1000 and 1150. Acclaimed by Meinhard of Bamberg as the foremost work of philosophy from ancient Rome, it was a suitable source for teachers of state administrators, inculcating the twofold message that we must make ready for the trials of public life


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and be able to find ascetic consolation in the contemplation of higher wisdom and philosophical truths in case of serious upsets.[20] There the medieval moralist could find pagan confirmation for an Augustinian attitude toward the state, respecting authority as worthy of service and obedience while being prepared for the worst excesses of tyrants and perverts in power. Furthermore, in that work Cicero assessed the originality of Roman practical ethics in terms that suited the great moral teachers of curiality in the eleventh century, since teaching by doing and by example kept both early Romans and medieval masters too busy to write philosophical speculations. Thus Cicero's recipe for a successful public career accorded with another characteristic of eleventh/twelfth century thinking and speaking on the primacy of the practical versus the merely intellectual, and the moral versus the merely cognitive. It did so by stressing, as the medieval literature of curiality repeatedly did, the coupling of virtue and beauty, the moral and the aesthetic, inner and outer behavior. The life of the wise public man was perceived as beautiful in itself and successful precisely by virtue of its aesthetically attractive and persuasive qualities. Likewise, Heraclius of Liège (d. 971), his mid-twelfth-century biographer tells us, was equal to the greatest philosophers not only for his mastery of human and divine learning, but especially because “his splendid manners gilded his physical beauty,” “presertim cum venustatem corporis mores etiam inaurarant splendidi.”[21] He was a forerunner of the mentality that students of fifteenthcentury Italian humanism have labeled “civic humanism” ever since the studies of Hans Baron and Eugenio Garin, a mentality that harmonized with Cicero's emphasis on the life of the public servant as morally beautiful if based on honestum, decorum, and tò kalón.[22]

Admittedly, the tenor of the De officiis is rather remote from the specific context of the courtier's behavior: a comparative reading of pertinent works bears out the originality of the literature of courtliness and courtesy. The more concrete traits of the courtier bishop could hardly be derived from the rather non-specific, relatively vague compilatory lucubrations of the great orator and influential moralist. Yet, the impact of Cicero's ethical framework on later developments concerning civil service is clear and widespread.[23] More generally, we must be aware that all established educational methods, the ancient, the medieval, and those of the Renaissance (as well as the ancient Chinese and Japanese, as examples of non-Western ones), have traditionally aimed at producing civic leaders, orators, and bureaucratic officials rather than, say, creative writers. This explains how, even while a liberal education was tra-


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ditionally centered on the extensive reading of the classical literary heritage, the curricula favored works with a moral and civic content, thus emphasizing oratory and historiography and slanting the reading of poetic or narrative texts by interpreting them for their presumed ethical content. The Homeric cycles and Virgil, for example, were annotated as allegories of civic wisdom and social leadership. What we perceive as original, individual poetic qualities were downplayed or ignored.

In essence, the medieval civic ethos derived, through Cicero and other authorities, from the classical (mostly Stoic) system of the cardinal virtues of prudence, fortitude, justice, and temperance as reinterpreted by the Christian fathers. This civic ethos would later be extended from the formation of the curial courtier to that of the knight. In the process, in both courtly and chivalric ethics, prudence was commonly defined as knowing what is fitting and acting accordingly; temperance as moderation from excess and pride; fortitude as valor and bravery; and justice as service to the weak and the needy, especially if they were victims of injustice. Prudence came to include cunning in courtliness while fortitude became daring adventurousness in chivalry, as a means to prove one's true worth. Of course, the classical, traditional sense was betrayed here, since the typical excesses of the knights' adventurousness defied prudence and also contravened the attendant virtue of moderation or measure. Nevertheless, the knight who exceeded (i.e., when the story explicitly presented his behavior as excessive) was punished with failure. Moderation, in turn, was a standard virtue in the Middle Ages. One explicit example is John of Hauteville's Architrenius, a moral allegory of 1184–1190 dedicated to John of Coutances, bishop of Lincoln, and dealing with Architrenius's search for Nature to overcome the evils of the world. After visiting, in vain, the Palace of Venus, the University of Paris, the Mount of Ambition, the Hill of Presumption, and even “Ultima Thule,” Architrenius manages to find Nature, who happily ends his quest by giving him Moderation as wife.

Evolution of the Curial Ethos

From the late tenth century on, a pattern of behavior appropriate to a successful life at court was a prerequisite for the pursuit of an episcopal seat.[24] Despite the traditional inclination not to go further back than twelfth-century French and Provençal vernacular literature, the origins of courtliness are Latin rather than vernacular: it suffices to take a look


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at Du Cange and the indices to the Scriptores Series in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica.[25] The symbiosis of outer and inner honesty is reflected in a persistent terminology of elegantia morum, venustas morum, gratia morum, and pulchritudo morum, which moves alongside the allied perception of decor and disciplina. Another term, humanitas, also occurs early in contexts that betray their Ciceronian heritage with a ring of later humanistic perceptions. In the mid-eleventh century Meinhard of Bamberg spoke of lepor humanitatis: “Est enim vir ille omni genere virtutis instructus, omni lepore humanitatis mirifice conditus.”[26] Hugh of St. Victor (ca. 1096–1141) spoke of disciplina as an inner habit that keeps instincts and passions in check and as an outer form which confers a convenient dignity on appearance, gesture, speech, and behavior in public, specifically at the table.[27] Hugh saw gestus, habitus, gressus, incessus, motus corporis, locutio, cibus, and potus, namely gesture, comportment, gait, way of walking, movements of the body, speech, and ways of eating and drinking, as signs of inner virtue (De institutione novitiorum ). These were not mere rhetorical topoi conventionally repeated, since they occur within specific pragmatic contexts.

This emphasis on the aesthetic aspects of virtue and on the importance of outer signs of inner dispositions was clearly part of the political dimension of the special ethos for public administrators and social leaders. The idea was powerful enough to affect the sensibilities of contemporaries in other social and intellectual spheres. Performing exegesis upon the line “The Lord desireth your beauty” in Psalm 92, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) wondered: “What is beauty of soul (decor )? Is it perhaps what we call moral beauty (honestum )? But whenever the luminosity (claritas ) of this beauty fills the heart's inner depths, it must needs overflow and surge outward,  . . . and then the beauty of the soul will become outwardly visible.”[28] We are struck by the precise echoes of Cicero, and we also note the artistic-sounding and sensuous term claritas, destined to become a key term in Thomas Aquinas's aesthetic.

In his Dialogus de vita Sancti Ottonis episcopi Babenbergensis, Herbord of Michelsberg (1159) attributed to Otto of Bamberg a composicio, or harmonization, between the inner man and his outward behavior—elegans et urbana disciplina —where we can note the aestheticizing notion of the beauty of manners as a distinguishing trait of the élite, to be admired, imitated, and respected. Similarly, in a letter of Guido de Basochis (cleric of St. Stephen of Châlons, d. 1203) to Archbishop Henry of Reims, two qualities are singled out as pertinent “to


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the elegant bearing of a person of high status,” “ad elegantiorem personae dignioris ornatum,” that is, “high birth and a shining appearance of manners,” “imperiosa generis dignitas  . . . et lucidior morum venustas.”[29] Such notions would play a role in courtly societies to come.

In consequence of these advertised prerequisites, the courtier became “the master of his every word and act, of his diction and gestures . . . . The mask and the disguise became major psychic vestments of the courtier” (Jaeger: 7). The courtly code is an assurance of the courtier's aptitude or fitness (idoneitas ) for the fulfillment of his political function. The amabilitas of the Ottonian chaplain, hence of the courtier bishop, included the attitude of affability, which in Castiglione aimed at winning and maintaining the favor of the prince—the cortegiano' s raison d'être according to the conclusive fourth book (Jaeger: 43).

Courtoisie, hövescheit, and cortesia are the vernacular code words for a type of conduct that the medieval cleric/courtier had fashioned for himself on the basis of ancient ideals of the Greek asteîos anér (= urban, hence urbane < ástu “town”) and the Roman urbanus, endowed with urbanitas, as opposed to the rusticus (Gr. agroîcos ).[30] The concept of urbanity as synonym for civilized behavior extended with greater force of logic to the culture of the burgher towns, while its etymological counterpart of rusticity was reflected in that scorn for the peasant which pervades medieval lyrics and chivalric romances and which is implied in the frequent references to the rusticus (Fr. vilain, G. dörperlich ). We are dealing here with a shifting code for the ruling classes. The Greek city states had set off the ideal of the asteîos anér against the mores of the subjected countryside. In the Middle Ages clerical commoners protested their inner nobility and nobility of manners against the privileges of the aristocracy. In the Renaissance, this elegantia morum became the distinguishing trait of a new, non-feudal court nobility.

The perception of the courtier's role is a chapter in the history of the ancient, medieval, and Renaissance debate on the relative merits of vita activa and vita contemplativa. A relevant text is a small treatise from the 1220s in the genre of education of princes, to wit Johannes of Limoges's Morale somnium Pharaonis. When Joseph fears that entering the king's service will cause envy and lead to worldly distractions, Pharaoh admonishes him: “Is it not worse for you to fear the loss of life than to fear the extinction of justice and fairness in the kingdom? Is it not more glorious to die in the active struggle for justice than to wait passively for sickness and old age to produce the same effect?” (Epistolae 8, 8 ff.).[31] This was a positive view of the active duties of rulers


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and counselors, who must leave contemplation and prayer to those who do not carry the burden of government. This ethic of worldly service developed by court clerics eventually contributed to the civilizing of the nobility and the formulation of the type of knight and lover that we find in the courtly lyric and the chivalric romance; it is still detectable as background to the model Renaissance courtier.

Monastic Reactions

Orthodox ascetic monasticism took a critical stance of varying sharpness against the worldliness of these attitudes, with Peter Damian (Petrus Damiani) as the foremost among such early critics (Contra clericos aulicos, ca. 1072).[32] Reformers' tracts turned the virtues of aulici and curiales on their heads and treated them as canonical vices, seeing modesty as false submissiveness, affability as obsequiousness, and zeal as downright ambition, leading to intrigue. All along, clerics had been exerting their civilizing influence by functioning as court educators, so that when chivalry was adopted by the nobles, it was also a sublime ideal resulting from intellectual education and character formation. But with typical sarcasm, Peter of Blois would charge that the courtly clerics' pretense of aiming at “the alleged correction and instruction of kings” (“ad correctionem et instructionem regum, inquiunt, missisunt”) was nothing but a cover for their true motive: ambition.

The canonical literature of court criticism was part of the large motif of the topsy-turvy world that in the seventeenth century would become a major topic of baroque literature. One must, however, keep in mind that this distaste for courtly ways did not affect the reformers' attitudes toward secular authority's divinely-sanctioned role, which the Church viewed as an essential part of the social order. Peter Damian, for one, displayed full respect for the role of milites saeculares, including the need for bellatores as defensores of Church people, and he regretted that, in the absence of adequate defense from the weak secular authorities, clerics were forced into the distasteful task of defending themselves by bearing arms.[33]

A most prolific center of court criticism was the court of Henry II of England (1154–1189), with such authorities as Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis, De principis instructione ), Nigel Wireker (Tractatus contra curiales et officiales clericos ),[34] Herbert of Bosham, Walter Map (ca. 1140—ca. 1210: De nugis curialium ),[35] and especially John of Salisbury (1115/20–1180)[36] and his disciple, Peter of Blois. To this im-


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pressive list we must add, as court critic in deed rather than word, the unfortunate Thomas Becket, Henry II's chancellor and archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1170). After a lively and contrasted career as a courtier, Peter of Blois spoke of envy and avarice as the scourges of courts, and of himself as their victim. It was he who coined the phrase miseriae curialium, later borrowed by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini as title for his own anticourt tract, the De curialium miseriis epistola.[37]

The orthodox ascetic milieus had always held to an austere view of moral life that took issue with one distinct feature of courtliness: hilaritas or iocunditas. Whereas praiseworthy courtiers, bishops, and rulers were regularly described as always ready to show good humor and jolly temperament, St. Bernard of Clairvaux sternly reminded his monks of Ecclesiastes 7.5: “Cor stultorum, ubi laetitia,” “gaiety dwells in the heart of the fool,” even associating laetitia with the most heinous sin, pride: “Proprium est superborum, laeta semper appetere et tristia devitare.”[38] This was part of his general condemnation of the world of chivalry as a synthesis of all worldly vices: “they spout abominable mimes, magic and fabulous tales, obscene songs, and idle spectacles, like vanities and lying insanities.”[39] We shall see how within the rigoristic monastic circles this distrust of courtly ways accompanied an underlying suspicion of chivalry that had a powerful political motivation: that is, the strong alliance that tied some leading monasteries and cathedrals to centralizing, antifeudal monarchic policies. Cluny, Chartres, and Saint-Denis (this latter under the formidable leadership of the great Abbot Suger) were firmly collaborating with monarchy.[40]

From Curiales to Courtiers

Interestingly enough, the strong reaction in courtly circles to his Epistle 14 soon compelled Peter of Blois to recant in his Epistle 150 (PL 207: 439–442): “Indeed, I acknowledge the sanctity of assisting our royal lord.” He went on quoting Horace: “Having pleased our leaders is not the last of merits,” adding, for good measure: “I deem it to be worthy of not simply praise but glory to be of help to a royal lord and to the state, to be unconcerned about one's own self, and to belong completely to all people.”[41] The last phrase was a recurrent topos of the literature on the courtly cleric, ultimately derived from Paul's omnia omnibus factus sum, “a man for all seasons.”

I have mentioned that the courtier's aptitude for calculation and intrigue was conspicuous in the literature though seldom defined as a spe-


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cific psychological quality. The Facetus de moribus et vita, a mid-twelfth century versified manual of behavior which established a minor genre of didactic poems known by the same title, can boast a sort of priority in setting a canon of prudent dissimulation in public behavior for the sake of avoiding unnecessary offense.[42] It admonishes us to use restraint and be considerate of others by lying at the proper time, for to speak the truth at all time is counterproductive: “Esto verecundus, falsum quandoque loquaris, / Nam semper verum dicere crede nephas.”[43] Once again, we are bound to think ahead to Castiglione's advice concerning a prudent dissimulation as an essential part of the art of surviving and thriving at court.

Even more intriguing is that the Facetus conceived of both humanity and the civilized state as products of human “art,” art being innate in man as a potentia, which it is up to the individual to bring forth into actuality: “Ars hominem format” (86), and “habet omnis homo quo se possit fabricare.”[44] A remarkable thought indeed, with a clear “pre-humanistic” sound. Jaeger (168) may be overstressing it when he speaks of an “aesthetic of ethics,” attributing to the author a “measure of humanity” in this degree of “aestheticization.” The “art” of which the author speaks is not necessarily aesthetic, though it includes the aesthetic moment of human activity: it is rather the broad concept of “human activity,” homo faber, common to antiquity and the Middle Ages as well.

At the hands of the Ottonian and Salian clerics, courtliness was clearly not “art” but, precisely, “civilization”: culture was at the service of society, not, as it became in some extreme forms of Romanticism, a tool to subvert society and reject its given order. In this Germany made an original early contribution, and it may well have been “next to Christian ideals, the most powerful civilizing force in the West since ancient Rome” (Jaeger: 261) if, as Jaeger postulates, the “curial” ethos of state service spread from Germany to France and England and was eventually accepted by the knightly class, probably first in France. But before we accept this genetic process, further investigation is in order to supply some missing links (more on this later). The current state of our knowledge allows us to proceed on the assumption that further developments were entirely possible on the basis of the natural evolution of regional situations. Between courtier clerics and knights at court Jaeger sees a community of interests, which urged both to discipline themselves and to “behave” for success, while he wonders (264–265) why the free high nobility would have felt any need to tame their warrior ways. He suggests, in one word, fashion, with a strong role for literature in it. For


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the time being, it appears reasonable to assume that the chivalric code which ripened in France spread to Germany by inserting itself into the rich underlying structure of the native ethical and social traditions. It was thus that the literary superimposed itself upon the practical.

German scholarship has experienced “agony” over the genesis of German chivalry (Jaeger: 174 f.). The ensuing polemic between Gustav Ehrismann and Ernst R. Curtius, as reflected in the miscellany Ritterliches Tugendsystem (1970), focused on the unnecessary postulate of Wernher von Elmendorf's translation (ca. 1170–1180) of the Moralium dogma philosophorum (perhaps wrongly attributed to Guillaume de Conches) as the intermediary between a creative, original French system of courtoisie and German adaptations.[45] But both “Guillaume” and Elmendorf were “compilers, not innovators,” and even the Ciceronian content of Elmendorf's tract was not a necessary importation, since it corresponded to the preexisting German substratum derived from court practices. These widely circulating compilations showed that a summary presentation of ethical wisdom tended to encompass Stoic criteria: John Holmberg's valuable edition of the Moralium dogma and its vernacular versions (1929) showed 165 quotations from Cicero's De officiis, along with 92 from Seneca, 104 from Horace, 40 from Juvenal, and so on. Jodocus Clichtoveus, publisher of the 1511 Paris edition, remarked that it “collected, among others, copious sentences on the four sources of the moral duties (officia ) according to the Stoic division that is called the four cardinal virtues.”[46] In any event, a close critical analysis of the Moralium dogma shows that it has no direct bearing on courtly/chivalric ethos.[47]

The fact remains that the tradition of courtesy and courtly love spread throughout the western lands under the impact of twelfth-century French literature, through the reinforcement and reinterpretation that came about with Dante and, even more, with Petrarca and then with Ficino's Platonism. Jaeger thus does not appear to succeed in his attempt to displace the origins of this phenomenon from France to Germany. But he does succeed brilliantly in locating an important background element of that literary phenomenon in the earlier curial ethos of imperial Germany.

The German/French Connection

Jaeger has proposed to read the historical documents of medieval curialitas as evidence that the German imperial chapels were the fountain-heads of later developments of courtliness, courtesy, and to some extent,


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chivalry. Questions arise from the fact that he isolates the German world from that of other monarchical courts, like the English (he does mention the court of Henry II), the Italian, and most important, the Frankish ones. True enough, France was under German influence in the tenth century, and the Saxon emperors controlled Alsace and Lorraine as well as parts of Flanders. They had strong allies among bishops who were close to the Carolingian center of power, like Archbishop Adalbero of Reims, a Lorrainer by birth. German reaction to attempts by the late Carolingians to interfere in Lorraine has been regarded as one of the causes for the fall of that house. When the young Louis V died unexpectedly, German interests were strong enough to place Hugh Capet on the throne, in opposition to Duke Charles of Brabant, the last Carolingian descendant. Hugh was consecrated in Reims by the man who had played a major role in the selection, namely Adalbero (July 987). In the eleventh century the house of Saxony, though weakened, still could manage to succeed to the “kingdom” of Burgundy, vacant in 1032, thus acquiring the Romance area of Switzerland, the Franche-Comté, the region of Lyon, and that part of the southeast that came to be called the kingdom of Arles. But the trickling in from Germany of administrative and educational standards of curialitas through these or other channels remains to be proved.

Jaeger does not investigate whether the portraits of bishops outside Germany were really essentially different from the German ones. If records are silent in other areas in the form of episcopal vitae, the thriving contemporary Latin tradition of praise of kings and abbots should be contrasted with the Ottonian texts in order to assess the relative originality of the latter. In the tenth century St. Odo of Cluny's Vita Geraldi (Life of St. Gerard of Aurillac, 1.15, 24, 30, etc.) similarly attributes to his subject affability, facetia, and good temper in adversity. What did such praiseworthy qualities mean in Ottonian Germany that they could not also mean in the Frankish-descended entourages of Flanders, Anjou, and Aquitaine? How exactly did personal virtues become social prerequisites? One area of intense chivalric activity in early periods that Jaeger does not cover in detail is that of the Flemish provinces of Hennegau (Hainaut), Brabant, and Flanders; a host of political and literary historians have pointed out their influence on Germany in addition to the impact of Burgundian mores on the Hohenstaufen rulers.[48] Before one can argue for imperial origins, one has to take a close look at such French texts as Odo of St. Maur, Galbert of Bruges, and Flemish genealogies.


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If the German episcopate was a training ground for manners, we are not told what happened to it after the civil wars of the late eleventh century. Yet, there is no lack of evidence for episcopal prosopography, and to idealize the German imperial court outside Germany after 1100 would presumably have struck a note of novelty. What I find most persuasive in the documentation brought forward by Jaeger is, rather, the suggestion that, without necessarily deriving from German sources, the ways of curiality combined (independently and spontaneously in various regions) with those of courtliness and chivalry in a dynamic interplay of far-reaching consequences.[49]

Most important for the literary historian, Jaeger fails to do justice to the uniquely creative power of the Provençal and French poets of love lyric and romance, who need to be seen together for their fashioning, in strikingly different ways, of the ideal of the amorous courtly knight. This historical reality introduced decisive secular elements that could be, and undoubtedly were, conditioned by clerical elements but had little to do directly with episcopal models. One text that he neglects would have corrected his emphasis on the ecclesiastical and shown the coexistence of the secular and the religious, of the courtier-knight as a contemporary of the courtier-bishop: the Ruodlieb. A Latin poem written before 1070 (but variously dated even as early as 1030–1050), probably by a Bavarian monk who was close to the court of Henry III and who showed political and secular concerns, it focuses on a noble lord rather than a bishop.[50]

The standards of education for civilized and noble behavior lived on in other than the ecclesiastical spheres as their principal source and nurturing agent: just as the centers of this new pedagogy had first shifted from imperial chapel and episcopal courts to the cathedral schools in the eleventh century, so the second half of the twelfth century witnessed a new shift from the latter to the secular and high ecclesiastical courts. In France the influence of the cathedral schools was diminished by the so called “Battle of the Seven Arts,” in which the army of dialecticians and scholastic logicians carried the day. The triumph of Paris was the undoing of Chartres and Orléans, but Petrarca would once again resume the battle, and for even higher and more systematic goals. In the meantime, his future message was foreshadowed in Alan of Lille's (d. Cîteaux 1203) Anticlaudianus. Alan presented the allegory of a New Man who was to be read as a model man of court, guided in his progress by Copia (Bounteousness), Favor, Fame, Youth, Laughter (we are reminded of liberality, the currying of social success, the troubadours'


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joven, and facetia ), Chastity, and then Modesty and Constancy, who together discipline his behavior according to the principle of moderamen (the golden mean) in his action, speech, gestures, and general external bearing; finally come Reason and Honestas. Most significantly, Reason teaches the New Man not purely intellectual pursuits but the practical ones that befit the public figure and the administrator, that is, the eminent domain of ethical and practical philosophy. These are not the virtues of monks or contemplators but of men of the world, and they are such as to have an outer, visible beauty, “down to dress, personal grooming, and table manners.”[51]

Later texts offering full portraits of a suitable courtier also testify to the continuity of the ethical framework. As Jaeger (108) tells us,

In an English Fürstenspiegel from 1445, one of many that went under the title of Secretum Secretorum,[52] we find the following list of requirements for a “truw counseiler or servaunt” of the king: (1) “perfeccion of lymmes” [limbs]; (2) “godness of lernyng and wille to understonde”; (3) a good memory; (4) a clear and level head in difficult situations; (5) “courtly, faire spekyng, of swete tonge,  . . . sped in eloquence”; (6) learned; (7) “of good manners and complexion, softe, meke and tretable” (here follows a list of vices to be avoided in a counselor); (14) composed and moderate in his manners, “yevying himself curiously to men benyngly tretyng.” Many tracts on the counselor, the legate and ambassador from the Renaissance, could be cited here, but this passage gives us a concise and remarkably comprehensive list of the chief characteristics of our type. The Latin vocabulary for most of these is readily at hand: moderamen, eloquentia, and lineamentorum gratia. “Softe, meke and tretable” are the counterpart of mansuetus, mitis et tractabilis; “men benyngly tretyng” is benignitas and affabilitas. The tract predates Castiglione by more than half a century.

The Terminology

The term curia for the royal court had disappeared since Charlemagne, replaced by palatium and aula. It came back into use under Emperor Henry III. Curialis first appears in Lanfranc of Bec circa 1063, and curialitas, “courtliness,” still used in a negative sense, in a text of 1080 by a chronicler of the church of Hildesheim: Azelinus, former chaplain of Henry III who nominated him bishop of Hildesheim (1044–1054), decided to increase the amenities of monastic life and allowed an ambitious courtliness (curialitas ) to creep into the monasteries, with the consequent relaxation of discipline.[53] Referring to chaplains at court, Peter Damian (Contra clericos aulicos, ca. 1072) used the (derogatory) adjec-


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tive curialis: “qui de clerico efficitur curialis.” Curialitas became positive by the mid-twelfth century. Associated with the clearly moral term of (inner) probitas, it signified the social qualities of the good chaplain and bishop, and by extension the good lay courtier. Thomas Becket, for example, was said to have received the king's son in his care in order to instruct him in manners and courtly ways, mores et curialitates.[ 54]

The terms curia, curialis and their vernacular cognates underwent a semantic shift in later times, always with direct or implied reference to the courts, which could, however, be secular or ecclesiastical (mainly the papal ones but also the episcopal). More generally, the terms denoted administrative headquarters (as in the Jesuit order's Curia Generalis), especially with juridical functions and prerogatives, as in the case of the various chanceries. The sense of “chancery” prevailed in German linguistic usage through the eighteenth century with reference to the language of the high and lower courts (idioma curialis or forensis, Kanzleisprache, Geschäftssprache —language of the court chancery and of business, i.e., administration).

The courtly code as found in German epics, romances, and lyrics is fraught with terms that were fully developed semantically even before French influence. The ideal knight was supposed to exhibit a harmonious mixture of such inner, spiritual qualities as triuwe (loyalty), milte (generosity), tapferkeit or manheit (prowess, courage, Prov. proeza, Fr. proece, hardiment ), and mâze (Prov. mezura, Fr. mesure, self-restraint or measure), and of outer ones, namely zuht (good bearing). This mixture would ensure that he deserved honor in the world (ere ) and hoher muot, a state of inner, exalted happiness of heart—what the troubadours and the French trouvères called joi.

As to France, Old French curteis is in the Chanson de Roland; Provençal cortes appears first in William IX, circa 1100. They derive from Vulgar Latin cortis (curtis in Frankish times) from the Latin cohors, farm yard, then seigniorial camp or domain, hence court of justice.[55]Courtois had its counterpart in the vilain, as the civil city-dweller would also be naturally contrasted with the rustic country-dweller in the culture of the Italian communes.[56]

Concerning Jaeger's claim of German terminological priority vis-à-vis France, we must observe that curialis and curialitas (without vernacular equivalents) precede German, French, and Italian vernacular terms of courtesy by only a few years and become positive only gradually, without ever carrying the clear and full weight of French curteis and Provençal cortes. Of Gottfried von Strassburg's (d. ca. 1210) ethical


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terms schöne zuhte and schöne sîte, the first was present in both of Gottfried's close predecessors, namely Heinrich von Veldeke (b. ca. 1140/50, d. before 1210) and Hartmann von Aue (b. ca. 1160/70, d. after 1210), and they do not seem to predate those three practically contemporary poets. To state that these terms, like their Latin equivalent elegantia morum (and Otto of Bamberg's elegans et urbana disciplina ), had no early equivalent in Old French and Old Provençal (Jaeger: 141–143) may bear further consideration: the word manières, for example, which appears perhaps as early as 1175 in the very title of the Livre des manières by the bishop of Rennes and Lisieux Étienne de Fougères, sounds very close, and it clearly addressed the world of the knights. True enough, this difficult text used the term in the medieval sense of Latin maneria, a synonym for genus that basically corresponded to the notion of social orders or ordines, but at the same time it introduced the connotation of correct behavior according to one's status and duties.[57]

Thanks to what they had in common, the ethos of curiality eventually merged with that of courtliness, and so did their respective nomenclatures, the latter being conspicuously characterized by a more marked reliance on the noble qualities of liberality (Prov. largueza, Fr. largesse ) and frankness (Fr. franchise, “frank bearing”). The key Old French words preud, proece > preudhomme, prouesse (Prov. pros, proeza; It. prode, prodezza ), “worthy, worth,” and their numerous synonyms corresponded to and actually replaced “hero” and “heroic”; in medieval and Renaissance iconography the model heroes of antiquity and of knighthood were presented as a group of characters (usually nine) called les Neuf Preux, “the Nine Worthies.”[58]

The main theme of the present study is that there was a logical as well as factual connection among curiality/courtliness, courtesy (including courtly love), and speculation on civilized manners—all the qualities, that is, of the knightly character and chivalric gentleman, later to be generalized into the civilized gentleman. It has been observed that the most famous treatise on courtly love, Andreas Capellanus's De amore (ca. 1180?), frequently uses curialitas to mean courtesy, and that one early manuscript of it bears the title “Liber amoris et curtesie.” Kenelm Foster declared this a fitting title, since “Andreas's principal theme is love as the way to acquire the qualities which should distinguish a gentleman.”[59] Curiality, courtly love, and civilized manners appear to come together naturally in this crucial text, whose ironic qualities are a symptom that the implied concepts could then already be


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taken for granted. Similarly, it has been easily shown that a rich terminology for courtesy and courtly love was, indeed, developed in the twelfth century (Prov. domnei and G. Frauendienst are some of the equivalent terms, along with the recurring terms Prov./Fr. fin'amor and G. hohe Minne ), so that not only the thing and the concept, but the words existed, too, without having to wait for Gaston Paris to invent them.[60]


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