Since its inception in 1866, the Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Latinorum (CSEL) has published over one hundred critical editions of Latin Christian authors from late antiquity, with a heavy emphasis on the works of Augustine. The volume under review appears to introduce a new thematic subseries to the CSEL—“Monastica”—that will presumably concentrate on early monastic rules and allied texts. In this book, Victoria Zimmerl-Panagl presents critical editions of three early monastic rules for women: the seventh-century Regula Donati (RD); and two fragments of near contemporary rules for female religious, one of which circulated under the name of the Irish missionary Columbanus.
Most of the volume (pp. 3–188) is given over to an examination of the RD, particularly its author and his sources, about which we already know a great deal. The RD was compiled in the middle of the seventh century by Bishop Donatus of Besançon at the request of Abbess Gauthstrude of Jussamoutier. Donatus’ text treated many aspects of early medieval monastic life familiar from other rules: the choice and qualities of the abbess, the expectations of personal discipline, the organization and orchestration of corporate prayer, etc. It survived into the Middle Ages due to the industry of Abbot Benedict of Aniane (c. 747–821 CE), who copied it into his Codex regularum, a compendium of late antique monastic rules, the earliest exemplar of which is Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek CLM 28118 (fols. 196rb–207ra) from the first half of the ninth century.1 All subsequent premodern copies and modern editions derive from this manuscript, including the most widely used study of the RD published by Adalbert de Vogüé in Benedictina 25 (1978): 219–313 under the title “La règle de Donat pour l’abbesse Gauthstrude.” A decade later, Jo Ann McNamara and John E. Halborg produced an English translation of the RD in Vox Benedictina 2 (1985): 85–107 and 181–203, entitled “The Rule of St. Donatus of Besançon,” which made this text widely accessible to a new generation of scholars and students alike.
The historical importance of the RD is twofold. First, it is a classic example of a regula mixta, that is, a monastic rule cobbled together from excerpts extracted from earlier rules, in this case Caesarius of Arles’ Regula ad virgines (composed c. 510), the early sixth-century Regula Benedicti, and rules associated with Columbanus, with very little intervention on the part of the “author.” Even so, as Albrecht Diem has recently argued, reading the RD against its source texts reveals that Donatus made deliberate choices about what to include and what to omit in the composition of his rule.2 Second and perhaps more significantly, the RD represents the earliest known evidence of the application of the Rule of Benedict in a cloistered community. But, despite its obvious importance to monastic scholars, do we really need another modern edition of this text? The point is debatable. The virtue of Zimmerl-Panagl’s new edition is primarily its up-to-date discussion of the RD in light of almost four decades of scholarship on early medieval monasticism that has appeared since the publication of de Vogüé’s study in 1978. Her introduction provides an exhaustive treatment of the manuscripts and textual history of the RD, along with a summary of Donatus’ sources and fifty or so pages of critical commentary on the text (about the same length as the Latin edition itself). But Zimmerl-Panagl proposes no radical amendments to the received textual tradition of the RD. Indeed, a random sampling of comparative readings between the two editions yielded no significant variations or improvements to the text. In one respect, despite its age, De Vogüé’s edition remains the preferable one to consult because it has the added utility of presenting the source texts for the RD in parallel columns beside the main text, a feature lacking in Zimmerl-Panagl’s edition, which relegates references to this material to the footnotes.
The last section of the book (pp. 191–240) examines two curious fragments of rules for female religious likewise found in Benedict of Aniane’s Codex regularum (fols. 215ra–216vb). A late nineteenth-century edition of these fragments by Otto Seebaß presented them as a single text, but in this volume Zimmerl-Panagl has edited them as two distinct documents. The first (named Pseudo-Columbani Regula monialium [fin.]) is the tail end of a rule for women with clear parallels with the seventh-century Regula Columbani. The second (called De accendo ad deum prompto corde orandum, after its opening line) is a much smaller portion of yet another rule for women with resonances of the Regula Benedicti. They are both so short and devoid of context that they are difficult to pin down chronologically: the seventh century is just as likely as the eighth. Unfortunately, they do not contribute much to our understanding of female monasticism in this period.
While Zimmerl-Panagl’s new edition of the RD does not offer any revelatory new insights into this well-known seventh-century rule for women, it does provide an up-to-date analysis of its author and his sources based on the most current research. The “Monastica” subseries of the CSEL is welcome news to scholars of late antique and early medieval monasticism. Volumes dedicated to monastic rules have been scarce in the long history of the series, but nonetheless influential: Rudolf Hanslik’s edition of the Regula Benedicti (1960, editio altera et correcta 1977); Fernandus Villegas and Adalbert de Vogüé’s edition of the Regula Eugippii (1976); and Klaus Zelzer’s edition of Rufinus’ Latin translation of the Regula Basili (1986) have all been important contributions to the field of monastic studies. One hopes the future installments of this subseries lend their attention to lesser known monastic texts that have not yet benefitted from modern critical editions.
1. This manuscript has been digitized and is available for consultation at: MDZ/Digitale Bibliothek Codex regularum – BSB Clm 28118.
2. Albrecht Diem, “New Ideas Expressed in Old Words: The Regula Donati on Female Monastic Life and Monastic Spirituality,” Viator 43.1 (2011): 1–38.