On October 28 and 29 (Thursday-Friday) 2021 an international conference entitled Authority and Consent in Medieval Religious Communities took part at the Faculty of Croatian Studies, University of Zagreb. The conference was organised as a part of activities anticipated by the project “Enterprising humility: The Cultural Imprints of Religious Communities in Croatia and Europe” (2020-2026). The co-workers at the project are: assistant professor Marko Jerković (the principal investigator), professor Mirjana Matijević-Sokol, professor Stipan Tadić, assistant professor Lucija Krešić, Petar Bilobrk, Marko Marina and Petar Ušković Croata. The intention of the project team is to continue with the research of the religious culture in Croatian and European territories, which started at the Faculty of Croatian Studies already in 1999/2000. The project team would like to research the way of life of religious communities, their intellectual and spiritual horizons, and institutional development throughout history. The results will be published in three volumes within the bibliotheca “Tihi pregaoci”, which already comprise seventeen volumes dealing with religious communities and individuals. Since monasteries were among the main generators of both conceptual-spiritual and organisational forms of the Christian society, the project would like to analyse how the general structures reflected themselves in Croatian religious life. By using comparative approach, the project tends to provide deeper understanding of the trends in building both European and Croatian national culture.
This conference was organised in cooperation with the University of Technology of Dresden, The Research Centre for Comparative History of Religious Orders (Dresden), Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig, and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. Professor Ivo Džinić, the Dean of the Faculty of Croatian Studies, opened the conference and greeted all the participants and audience in Croatian, German, Italian, and English language. Professor Gert Melville (Dresden-Leipzig) and assistant professor Marko Jerković (Zagreb) addressed everyone on behalf of the organising committee, and introduced the objectives of the conference.
The conference included three major sessions, with the first two taking part on Thursday and the last one on Friday. The first session was entitled Authority and Consent: Theory and Spirituality, with Marko Jerković (University of Zagreb) as the moderator. The papers were presented by Pietro Silanos (University of Bari), Mirko Breitenstein (University of Dresden), Julia Becker (University of Heidelberg) and Marcus Handke (University of Dresden). They were discussing the theoretical models in the studies of religious communities, and the application of the Papal authority regarding the vita religiosa. After each of the paper (25 minutes per paper), the immediate discussion followed (20 minutes), the principle which was applied in the work of all the other sessions.
The second session was entitled Authority and Consent: The Benedictine Tradition, with Daniela Bianca Hoffmann (University of Bochum) as the moderating person. Within the session, the participants dealt with the conceptions of authority and consensus in medieval Benedictine tradition, using examples from the broader European territories. The papers were presented by Szigeti Kikuchi (University of Tokyo), Nicol Angelo Dacono (Catholic University of Milano-Brescia), Steven Vanderputten (University of Gent) and Mayke de Jong (University of Utrecht). The participants of this session focused themselves on various understandings and manifestations of authority in early and high Middle Ages, with the special attention on the position of the Abbot and his cooperation with the community.
On the second day, one session took part. It was entitled Authority and Consent: The 12th and 13th Centuries, with Jörg Sonntag (University of Dresden) as the moderator. The papers were presented by Marko Jerković (University of Zagreb), Guido Cariboni (Catholic University of Milano-Brescia) and Daniela Bianca Hoffmann (University of Bochum). This last session was focused on the religious communities in the 12th and 13th centuries, and on the conceptions of authority within the process of institutionalization of religious orders. In the very end of the session, the Director of the Heidelberg academy of sciences Professor Bernd Schneidmüller gave the summary presentation within which he pointed out the conclusions of the conference. The conference was closed by assistant professor Marko Jerković and professor Gert Melville who once again expressed their appreciation and gratitude to all the participants for presenting their research experiences and results, as well as to the organisers, especially the Faculty of Croatian Studies for its initiative and support in organising this important venue. Professor Melville expressed his satisfaction about the organisational and research-topics aspects and invited all the participants to nourish further cooperation of Croatian and international scholars.
At the conference the participants discussed various manifestations and forms of authority and consent in religious communities. Concerning early medieval times, the questions about the interpretation, perception and manifestations of the superior’s authority were in the focus: how the relations between the superiors and community functioned in theory and practise, and in which aspects of the religious life the consent was required? The participants were discussing the implications of the invocation of common will on the identity and a sense of unanimity within the community. By analysing the performance of authority and consensus within the institutionalised orders the authors tried to understand better how the impersonal “rule of law” was invented, understood, and sustained. The research of the constitutional aspects of the consent provided the insights into the strategies and institutional mechanisms of the normation and validation of the novel conceptualisations of authority, as well as with the understanding of the reforming efforts aiming at preserving stability, cohesion, and transpersonal character of the legal ordo. Some of the topics touched the question of how consent functioned in the communities where the cohesion depended on the charismatic authority of a leader or on the charisma of office. Finally, the participants opened the question on the connections between the religious orders and ecclesiastical structures, and discussed their overlapping in the sphere of decision-making concerning the episcopal promotions of religious persons.
The presentations at this conference showed that the religious culture was the basic fundament on which both the Christian spirituality and its innovative organisational systems were built and evolved. Those systems served to enable stability of religious communities and orders and also they showed a way to other, both ecclesiastical and secular, European institutions how to frame their internal organisation. The scholars gathered at the conference presented innovative ideas and theoretical frameworks for studying religious structures, as well as the novel methodological principles in approaching medieval sources. Besides, the conference successfully promoted the Faculty of Croatian Studies, which – as emphasised by Professor Bernd Schneidmüller – now became one of the new centres in the research of European monasticism.
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