Shaping a Monastic Identity: Liturgy and History at the Imperial Abbey of Farfa, 1000-1125

Overview

During the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, the imperial abbey of Farfa was one of the most powerful institutions on the Italian peninsula. In this period many of the lands of central Italy fell under its sway, and it enjoyed the protection of the emperor until the 1120s, when it passed gradually into the control of the papacy. At the same time, the monastery was an influential religious center, and the monks of Farfa filled their days with the celebration of the liturgy through prayers, processions, ...
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Overview

During the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, the imperial abbey of Farfa was one of the most powerful institutions on the Italian peninsula. In this period many of the lands of central Italy fell under its sway, and it enjoyed the protection of the emperor until the 1120s, when it passed gradually into the control of the papacy. At the same time, the monastery was an influential religious center, and the monks of Farfa filled their days with the celebration of the liturgy through prayers, processions, sermons, chants, and hymns.Susan Boynton, a historian of medieval music, addresses several of the major themes of present-day medieval historiography through a close study of the liturgical practices of the abbey of Farfa. Boynton's findings are a striking demonstration of the local nature of liturgical practices in the centuries before church ritual was controlled and codified by the papacy. Boynton shows that the liturgy was highly flexible, continually adapting to the monastery's changing circumstances. The monks regularly modified traditional forms to reflect new realities, often in the service of Farfa's power and prestige. Equally fascinating is Boynton's examination of the process by which Farfa, like other monasteries, cathedral chapters, and royal houses, constantly rewrote its history—particularly the stories of its founding—as part of the continuous negotiation of power that was central to medieval politics and culture.
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Editorial Reviews

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"Boynton's book is original, interesting, meticulously researched, and cogently argued. . . . She shows, elegantly, in detail, how . . . local adaptations of the majestic monastic liturgy can reveal a great deal about how monasteries viewed themselves and promoted their interests. . . . A traditional historian could have done much of Boynton has accomplished. But only an expert musicologist like Boynton could have identified and interpreted some of the critical subtleties in the liturgy."—Thomas F. X. Noble, Church History, March 2007

"Susan Boynton's book is an interdisciplinary tour de force, combining a masterful command of the liturgical material with close attention to the manuscripts. Taking into account the most recent methodological trends in history and without neglecting the political, institutional, and artistic aspects of Farfa's past, Boynton restores the liturgy to its central place in the monastic life."—Isabelle Cochelin, University of Toronto

"At a time when many churches are trying hard to recover the connection between liturgy and community, this book offers a compelling account of how an important medieval monastery used worship and hymnody to negotiate its own shifting identity over many centuries of political change and power struggle. I couldn't put it down."—Peter Jeffery, Scheide Professor of Music History, Princeton University, Benedictine Oblate of St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota

"Shaping a Monastic Identity, which straddles the traditional genres of liturgical study and monastic history, is innovative, accurate, and well written. Susan Boynton valiantly brings liturgy out of the 'background.' In viewing the history of a particular monastic house through its liturgy, Boynton's book is unique."—Marios Costambeys, University of Liverpool

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