The Archaeology of Frankish Church Councils, AD 511-768


Despite growing scepticism concerning the evidentiary value of normative legal sources, scholars continue to mine the legislative acts of ecclesiastical councils for insight into political, religious, and quotidian life in Frankish Gaul. Between the reigns of Clovis and Charlemagne (AD 511-768) at least eighty councils assembled, often on royal command, to discuss issues of concern to the episcopal and clerical attendees. Their published canons were intended to communicate ecclesiastical policy in the Frankish regnum. However, scholars have paid comparatively slight attention to the institution responsible for this body of legislation. This book remedies this lacuna by delineating the functions and modus operandi of the Frankish church council as an administrative body.

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Gregory Halfond, Ph.D. (2007) in History, University of Minnesota, is Assistant Professor of History at Framingham State College. He has published on the history of the Frankish Kingdom and include Cum Consensu Omnium: Frankish Church Councils from Clovis to Charlemagne(2007).
"...The book is clear, richly and thoroughly documented, and includes handy bibliographical tabulations of the councils. I could well wish that this book had already existed long ago. The practical assistance it provides to researchers will now be widely appreciated, and certainly every research library should obtain a copy. " - Michael Edward Moore, in: Annuarium Historiae Conciliorum 42, no. 1 (2010).
"...Gregory Halfond's book considers the practical and logistical aspects of Merovingian and early Carolingian councils and gives human texture to the creation and implementation of conciliar decisions…In general, Halfond's interpretations are rooted in common sense and often have insightful nuances. In this, his work could help to wean scholars from a traditional narrative sometimes lacking in both sense and nuance. " - Abigail Firey, in: Speculum 87, no. 1 (2012)
"...Instead of entering into old debates about the extent of episcopal authority and the position of ‘law’ in Frankish society, Halfond draws our attention to the fact that many clerics knew their canon law as a result of an ongoing project of ensuring that they were familiar with these decisions. In a similar, refreshing, way, he shows how decisions that seem to be repeated over and over again in a series of councils can sometimes be tied in with developing, ongoing debates. In these, but also in other instances, it is clear that the author’s use of a wide range of sources pays off. In the end it is not so much an ‘archaeological’ approach of digging ever deeper, but rather a careful contextualization of conciliar texts that Halfond appears to advocate – and this is a plea that should be heard... " - Carine van Rhijn, in: Early Medieval Europe, Vol. 19, issue 4
"...he sets out to answer questions that few historians have ever considered: how exactly was a council called, who decided where it might meet, how did the attendees get there, who set the agenda, and what actually happened in the week or two that the council was sitting. These are all questions that are crucially important to understanding exactly what a council was, and how it saw itself, but have been very rarely addressed in scholarly literature. ... Thus the author makes an important contribution to recent work on the rise to power of the Carolingians, arguing that they were not so much innovators as wily manipulators of preexisting traditions. ... The Archaeology of Frankish Church Councils makes a significant contribution not just to our understanding of the institutional history of the Merovingian and early Carolingian church but also to our knowledge of the impact of Christianity in early-medieval Francia." - M.A. Claussen, in: The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 97, no. 3 (July 2011)
"...This is a book that needed to be written.... This is certainly where anyone wanting to read about the Merovingian church councils in English will need to start...." - Ian Wood, in: The American Historical Review, Vol. 116, No. 3 (June 2011), pp. 854-855
"...From now on, our skepticism about Carolingian characterization of their Frankish predecessors must also be extended into the institution of church councils. Halfond is to be commended for this work of much-needed revision..." - Dennis P. Quinn, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in: Religious Studies Review, Volume, Number 4 (December 2010), pp. 297-298
Abbreviations and Note on Translations

Introduction: A Roman Institution in a Post-Roman World
1. Sources of Conciliar history
2. The Physical World of the Frankish Councils
3. The Reflection of Reality in Conciliar Legislation
4. The Enforcement of Conciliar Rulings
5. From Councils to Canon Law
6. Continuity and change in the Eight Century

All those interested in religious history, ecclesiastical history, legal history, and the history of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.
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