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[1] For annotation and references to further literature, see: C.J.C. Broer, Monniken in het moeras. De vroegste geschiedenis van de abdij van Sint-Laurens in het Oostbroek bij de Bilt (Utrecht 2011) 207-216; C.J.C. Broer, ‘Sporen van Cluny? De abdijen van Sint-Paulus in Utrecht en Sint-Laurens in Oostbroek-De Bilt’, in: H. van Engen en K. van Vliet ed., De nalatenschap van de Paulusabdij in Utrecht (Hilversum 2012) 23-35; and especially on this website ►Sporen van Cluny.

Traces of Cluny?
The abbeys of St. Paul in Utrecht and St. Laurence in Oostbroek-De Bilt
door Charlotte J.C. Broer

Te citeren als: C.J.C. Broer, ‘Traces of Cluny?’ (www.broerendebruijn.nl/TracesofCluny.html, versie van [datum], geraadpleegd op [datum]).

When dealing with monastic history in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, one cannot avoid also paying attention to the influence exerted by the French abbey of Cluny, and the monastic reform movement that sprang from it. This is understandable when it comes to an abbey that has quickly become important since its foundation in the early tenth century. Under the leadership of a number of powerful, politically active abbots enjoying great prestige, Cluny soon became the head of an extensive and centralized group of monasteries. By joining, these monasteries submitted to the authority of the abbot of Cluny and adopted the customs or consuetudines of Cluny in addition to the rule of St. Benedict as a guideline for monastic life. These customs, or at least part of them, were sometimes adopted, however, even without official affiliation with the Cluny monasticism and submission to the authority of its abbot.

Cluny en de paus
Pope Urban II (left) dedicates the main altar of the third abbey church of Cluny (1095). On the right is the abbot of Cluny, wearing pontificalia (signs of episcopal dignity) and surrounded by his monks. Miniature from the twelfth century. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

Anyway, as important and eye-catching as it may be, Cluny certainly represented not the only monastic reform movement at that time. And what it was aiming for was in fact not unique. It was the time when lay patrons in particular – the founders of a monastery, their descendants or legal successors, who often regarded themselves as the owners of it – exercised power and influence that could seriously damage normal regular monastic life. In response to this we see elsewhere too in monastic circles the pursuit of what is called the libertas monasterii, that is, guarantees to safeguard the monastery and especially the internal monastic life there from outside power and influences, which then gave rise to various reform and observance movements. In their aim – the freedom of the monastery – movements such as those of Cluny, Brogne, Gorze, the Lorraine monastic reform (also called the ‘Lorraine mixed observance’) and later the Siegburg observance did not differ substantially from each other. What was new and special about Cluny and its movement was the way in which one tried to achieve that goal. And – not unimportant – also from whose power and which influence exactly one wished to be liberated. Already at the foundation, by its dedication to St. Peter and thus placing it directly under the authority of the Pope in Rome, Cluny was, first and foremost, not supposed to be subject to the power and authority of the founder and his successors, so it did not have a lay patron. In addition, however, it has also always tried to withdraw from the power and influence of the (regional) bishops, and in fact even from the normal authority that they could exercise. This had of course to do with the context in which Cluny itself arose in the early tenth century and further developed: in the tenth and eleventh centuries, in (southern) France, there was not only a weak central authority, but also a close interdependence between the feudal lay world and the bishops, who, often as younger sons of the noble families, served primarily the interests of their families through their ecclesiastical positions of power, thus posing a threat to monasteries and abbeys at least as great as their lay relatives.

The way in which Cluny tried – also almost from the beginning – to defend itself against this, was to obtain exemption from the authority of the diocesan bishop, to which in principle every monastery within a diocese was subject. Through papal privileges it acquired this exemption not only for itself, but emphatically also for the monastic communities elsewhere associated with its monastic affiliation. This what might be termed anti-episcopal attitude – most succinctly expressed in the pursuit of exemption from normal episcopal authority as well – ultimately forms a very specific trait in the overall Cluniac reform and observance movement. And this trait is always reflected in one way or another in monasteries and abbeys that actually joined the Cluny congregation, but in the end often also in those that did not explicitly do so, but nevertheless adopted Cluny’s customs and oriented on that.

Abdij van Cluny
Reconstruction of the abbey complex of Cluny in 1156.

The question I have asked myself is to what extent Cluny’s influence – directly or possibly indirectly, through, for example, other reform movements, which have been inspired by Cluny – has also made itself felt here in our regions, the diocese of Utrecht, where and when that was, but above all, where that influence has been located. In the historic literature there are often only rather general and vague remarks about Cluny’s influence and traces, without specifying exactly and even somewhat concretely what this has entailed or could have entailed. However, is there really a Cluniac influence here?


Outside France, and in particular for the areas that belonged to the former East Frankish, later Holy Roman or German Empire, the direct influence of Cluny – and in particular the extent to which there were links with its monastic organisation or filiation – has been rather relativized by historians. Long-standing and venerable abbeys there would often have been unwilling to join, as this meant giving up autonomy and their own traditions. Moreover, as mentioned, these areas also had their own reform movements and traditions, such as those of Brogne, Gorze and the ‘Lorraine mixed observance’. They partly shared the same ideal, but tried to realize this in a different way, tailored to their own situation and political-ecclesiastical circumstances. It has therefore been stated that – despite the great prestige of Cluny and its abbots in the Empire and especially with the emperors personally – its actual and, above all, direct influence has been limited; measured in any case by the extent to which there was affiliation with Cluny, but also whether or not its consuetudines were adopted in full. This would then have been mainly due to the aforementioned anti-episcopal trait – including the pursuit of exemption from the episcopal authority – which characterized Cluny and its way of working, and which – clearly determined by the situation and circumstances in France – little or not at all corresponded to the situation in the Empire, with its so-called Imperial Church (system) and the so important position of the bishops.
Hendrik III en bisschoppen
Emperor Henry III, in full regalia with crown, scepter and orb, flanked by high clergy. Eleventh century miniature from a Gospel book from Echternach. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Bremen.
These imperial bishops, who themselves had often also acted as founders of monasteries, which is why they were then regarded as ‘owners’ and thus lords of such a monastery, appear to have often promoted and even initiated monastic reforms and were often both ideally and materially supported in this by the kings and emperors. In doing so, virtually the same goal was almost always aimed at as with Cluny, to secure the libertas monasterii, for which, for example, certain guarantees – chartered confirmations of possessions and freedom to organize monastic life by the community itself– could be given. However, without at the same time also – as Cluny did – the authority of the bishop himself being tampered with, regardless of whether that was in his possible capacity as a monastic patron or that of ordinarius and head of the diocese. With the thus lack of that so-called anti-episcopal tendency in monastic reforms in monasteries and abbeys in these regions, it becomes difficult to speak with certainty of a significant and direct influence of Cluny. If it has existed – in some areas, for example in the liturgical field, inspiration and imitation cannot be ruled out – we often find little concrete evidence of it.

Before going into the specific situation in Utrecht, there is one more general observation of importance, and that is that Cluny arose and developed in a context in which the rule of St. Benedict as the exclusive rule of life for monks (monachi) is already firmly rooted and that the reform movement that emanated from Cluny was actually based in, elaborated on the monastic reforms of Benedict of Aniane in the ninth century. An attempt had been made – and this had more or less succeeded in the West Frankish Empire – to an unambiguously ordered Benedictine monastic life, which was clearly distinct from the way of life of what had come to be known as official canons (canonici). In important parts of the later German Empire, however, a completely different situation existed. This is also the case in Utrecht.

There was an ancient and important monastic tradition here. After all, it was in a monastic institution that the Utrecht church had its base: the monasterium or missionary monastery, founded around 695 by Willibord and primarily dedicated to St. Saviour (St. Salvator), of which he himself was the head. Certainly the rule of St. Benedict must have been known here; however, it is unlikely that this was also the exclusive rule of life then. In view of the partly Irish religious education of Willibrord itself, as well as the missionary character of the church and monastery in Utrecht, the application of a monastic (perhaps Irish-Anglo-Saxon) mixing rule may be regarded as more obvious. In the later eighth and early ninth centuries – at the time of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious, when Utrecht became the seat of a real diocese and the then abbot of the monasterium also became a bishop – such unmistakably monastic institutions, however, in which not (exclusively) the rule of St. Benedict was prescribed for monks, were no longer regarded as abbeys and monastics no longer as monks (monachi). These institutions then often developed into what came to be called chapters, whose members – to distinguish them from monks – were called canons (canonici), who were expected to live according to their own rule of life, the so-called institutio canonicorum or Aachen rule for canons. The aim was thus to arrive at a clear division between the different ordines of monachi, monks, and canonici, each living in its own communities according to clearly distinct rules, and ultimately with its own specific tasks. Presumably, however, those measures prescribed by higher authorities that were to lead to this either did not have full effect in Utrecht; or – perhaps more probably – the strict, but here still little rooted in tradition separation was lost again in the subsequent period, when the bishop and the clergy associated with his church had to flee to safer areas for the danger of the Vikings. There are clear indications that, after the bishop’s return to Utrecht around 920, until the end of the tenth century, certainly in the old monastery of St. Saviour, later also called Oudmunster (‘Oldminster’), there was a community, of which even the bishop, as its traditional head, could still be a normal part and in which – in addition to what would later be called canons – a monastic element also seems to have been present. However, this does not alter the fact that at the same time, around the transition from the tenth to the eleventh century, efforts were again made – from above, this time by the German kings and emperors, together with their imperial bishops – to have within the Empire, also where this had not really happened until now, to arrive at that clear distinction between the different ordines of monks and canons, each living in separate communities according to the Benedictine rule and the Aachen rule respectively.

In Utrecht, with regard to the existing institutions there – the old monastery of Sint-Salvator or Oudmunster, but perhaps also the community that was in the meantime associated with the Sint-Maartensdom (or ‘Newminster’) – it will have been urged – as far as that had not happened explicitly and completely – to actually make a choice for one or the other way of life, according to one rule of life or the other, as a chapter or abbey. Also at that time – around the year 1000 – following the example of the then Utrecht bishop Ansfried several people withdrew to lead a real monastic life in relative solitude on the Hohorst, a hill near Amersfoort. These were probably in the first place people, mainly from the oldest monastery, and perhaps even both monasteries in Utrecht, who – unlike their fellow-brothers within these communities – expressly wished to retain, probably even redesign, to a more completely turned away from the world as a monk.

Both the origin of the first monks from Utrecht and the fact that the initiative to settle on the Hohorst enjoyed the support and personal sympathy of bishop Ansfried himself, made the new community on the Hohorst count as his foundation and therefore also as episcopal convent. Ansfried – perhaps formally still bishop-abbot of the old monastery in Utrecht – was therefore in principle also considered head of the subsidiary institution on the Hohorst; there he would have regularly, and more and more towards the end of his life, been part of this community as a simple monastic without, for that matter, renouncing his episcopal office. He died there in 1010.

Under his successor Adelbold, a few years later, probably around 1020, with the help of Poppo van Stavelot – to whom Adelbold had at one point entrusted the administration of the diocese – the still young monastic community on the Hohorst was also reportedly reformed. This Poppo van Stavelot was regarded as a representative of the monastic reform movement that is referred to as the Lorraine mixed observance and of which it is sometimes stated that – in addition to the older observance movement of Gorze – it also borrowed some things from the customs and ideals of Cluny; hence the name mixing observation.

Regel van Benedictus
Monks gathered in the chapter house, listening to the reading by the abbot of (a chapter of) the Rule of Benedict. During such meetings the abbot and the monks also discussed all kinds of matters concerning the abbey. Stedelijke Bibliotheek, Kortrijk.

If in the light of the question at hand with regard to the influence of Cluny and its reform movement in Utrecht we try to get an idea of what the actions of Poppo van Stavelot meant here, it is mainly because of the limitation and also vagueness of the specific Utrecht sources not equally easy in all respects. It seems that Poppo, however, expressly invited to do so by bishop Adelbold, has also established the clear distinction between the various ordines in Utrecht, as advocated from above by the emperors and their imperial bishops; this was done by introducing the rule of St. Benedict as the exclusive rule of life in the monastic community on the Hohorst, but probably also by making the older communities of Oudmunster and the cathedral (Dom) in Utrecht officially chapters with the introduction of the Aachen rule for canons. For the Hohorst we learn concretely in this regard of measures that mainly concerned a further organization of the abbey and a regulation of the relationship with the bishop: this last one – originally in the old Utrecht monastery and therefore also initially in the monastic daughter community on the Hohorst head of it (the ‘abbot’) – since then came to be outside the organization and could no longer – at least as a bishop – be part of that community, which was now organized as a Benedictine abbey, under the leadership of its own abbot. At the same time, certain measures have probably also been taken in the material sphere, whereby the community could dispose of its own assets, which would enable it to live up to the monastic ideal more independently and in freedom. Although now officially placed outside the organization and at a distance, the bishop did, however, not lose all power, influence and authority over the abbey. Practically unabridged, both his power as a monastic patron and his authority as head of the diocese were maintained.
    Nowhere in the measures do we finally find anything concrete of references to affiliation with Cluny, the adoption of certain customs, or – especially important here – that specifically Cluniacensian striving for exemption from the power and overall authority of the bishop. Rather, therefore, there seems to have been a clearly different reform and observance movement here, with goals tailored to its own circumstances and the general context within the Empire, and above all also a way to it, in which close cooperation with the (imperial) bishop was involved, who proved willing to take certain measures deemed necessary to protect monastic life from outside influence and to give certain guarantees for this. These measures did not imply any further harm in principle to the power and influence of the bishop, neither in his possible capacity as monastic patron nor in that of head of the diocese. In particular therein lies, as said, a very fundamental difference between various monastic reform and observance movements within the Empire on the one hand, which were also expressly active in Utrecht, and the monastic reform movement of Cluny on the other, whose influence here in the early eleventh century was probably small or perhaps rather limited.
Bisschop Bernold
Bishop Bernold. This portrait is included in the oldest obituary or 'book of the dead' of the chapter of Saint Peter. Het Utrechts Archief, Sint-Pieter, inv. no. 74.
That the now Benedictine abbey on the Hohorst was in any event not an exempt institution, and in fact simply remained as before a episcopal monastery, is apparent from the power and influence that the bishops, as their monastic patrons, also afterwards exercised over the abbey. This did not only apply to abbot appointments, that is to say that bishops would have appointed them directly or that at the very least their consent would have been required in the event of a choice made by the monks themselves. Initially, the bishop probably also simply had the abbey possessions at his disposal on occasion. And this far-reaching influence of the bishop was of course also evident in the relocation of the abbey from Hohorst to the city of Utrecht around 1050 at the initiative of Adelbold’s successor Bernold, in the context of his ecclesiastical foundation and building activities there. Known since then as Saint Paul’s Abbey, which continued to maintain a fairly exclusive relationship with the bishops still working closely with the emperor, it has developed further into a considerable and also wealthy institution: throughout the eleventh and part of the twelfth century, alongside and together with the two older Utrecht chapters and the three younger Utrecht chapters founded around the same time, it also continued to share in the then (through numerous royal donations) strongly growing general wealth of the Utrecht church, and often acquired important parts of it. Such donations in the context of what is called the ‘division or distribution of goods’ (‘goederendeling’)  within the assets of the Utrecht church can certainly not be separated from the general pursuit of monastic reform, since in principle they were always also intended to make possible monastic life and thus the fulfillment of the task that monks saw before themselves, that’s to say a life completely aimed at bringing praise to God and at extended prayer, for the benefit also of the world and especially the benefactors of the community.

Bernoldoorkonde 1050
Vidimus from 1307 (from a vidimus from the same year) from the charter from 1050, in which Bishop Bernold first of all confirms the abbey of St Paul in Utrecht in possession of its goods donated by his predecessors Ansfried and Adelbold; in addition – on the occasion of the relocation of the abbey to Utrecht and the consecration of the monastery church there – he himself also makes a new donation. Het Utrechts Archief, Sint-Paulus, inv. no. 43.
Bisschop Anno en Siegburg
Archbishop Anno of Cologne (1056-1075) with the churches founded by him, including the abbey church of Siegburg. The manuscript containing this image is the oldest manuscript of the Vita Annonis, which was produced in Siegburg itself circa 1183. Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek, Darmstadt, Hs 945, fol. 1-v.

Bisschop Godebald (penning)
Silver denarius or penny, minted in Utrecht, depicting Bishop Godebald.

Abdij van Affligem
The Belgian Abbey of Affligem in its present form.

Zegel Sint-Laurens (rooster)
Oldest seal of the abbey of St Laurence, depicting Laurentius martyred on the grid. This seal was certainly in use as the seal of the abbey from the fourteenth century.

Even afterwards, as far as is known, there has never been any question of exemption and the pursuit of it in and around St. Paul’s, and the close bond with the bishop has always remained unquestioned. In fact, in the second half of the eleventh century, in the midst of the Investiture Controversy, which was also intense in Utrecht, St. Paul’s position as an episcopal monastery was once again confirmed when it joined the reform and observance movement that originated from Siegburg, an abbey founded by the archbishop of Cologne in the late eleventh century.

Not much is immediately known about what this movement – apart from again the general ideal of the libertas monasterii – specifically advocated, and how exactly it intended to realize this; this is partly because no written consuetudines have been handed down. Yet it is also said of this observance movement that – apart from Gorze and also the aforementioned Lorraine mixed observance – it especially borrowed certain things from Cluny, at least in the way abbeys were organized, with regard to the clothing of the monks, but possibly also from a liturgical point of view. One even speaks – in the apparent need to categorize – of ‘Young Cluny’. However, with regard to the relationship with the bishop, the movement of Siegburg appears to be characterized above all as being closely connected with and faithful to the same bishop, both as head of the diocese and as patron of the monasteries; and together with the same bishops, one initially always sided with the emperor in the Investiture Controversy, in other words the Siegburg reform movement was regarded as especially loyal to the emperor and the ‘imperial church’.

In itself, the latter does not seem so surprising, when we consider that many of those episcopal monasteries and abbeys within that ecclesiastical context and relationships had not just become important; they had often also benefited materially from it, because they had very literally shared in the growth of ecclesiastical wealth, through donations of goods and guarantees with regard to clear assets of their own, which was to support the orderly monastic life. This is probably also partly why in Siegburg, in the end, hardly anything can be discerned of that anti-episcopal trait so typical for Cluny, and – subject to what may have been adopted in further customs from Cluny, about which, however, we ultimately know little or nothing concrete – at least on this important point of the relationship with and attitude to the bishop we are inclined to characterize ‘Siegburg’ more as ‘Jong-Gorze’ than as ‘Jong-Cluny’.

Thus, assuming that with this affiliation with the observance movement of Siegburg, St. Paul’s abbey has remained formally an episcopal convent until at least the end of the eleventh century and perhaps even longer, it is also questionable whether this has ever formally come to an end. My firm impression on this point is that that close ecclesiastical bond between bishop and abbey was never officially dissolved – with any monastic reform or affiliation with any observance movement – but probably simply dissolved in the course of the twelfth century.


While throughout the eleventh and early twelfth centuries the successive Utrecht bishops remained loyal to the emperors in the dragging Investiture Controversy, in 1116 we finally find Godebald, who had been appointed bishop a few years earlier, in the reformist camp led by, among others, the archbishop of Cologne. Remarkable, this step (or switch) does not seem to have nullified Godebald’s otherwise good relationship with the emperor.

The predominantly good, maybe even friendly but in any case cooperative relationship between Godebald and Henry V, and not to forget his wife, the empress Mathilda, is apparent, among other things, in the official foundation of a new, also Benedictine abbey in the vicinity of Utrecht, the abbey of St. Laurence in Oostbroek, in the early twenties of the twelfth century.

After some pious knights (milites), no doubt with the approval and support of Godebald himself, had withdrawn as hermits and settled in the peat and marshland to the east of the city, and had created a church and small community of followers there, it was empress Mathilda who – probably also on behalf of her husband, Henry V – officially founded an abbey on 14 May 1122 and provided it with a first donation. This donation was furthermore repeated and supplemented by bishop Godebald in (May) 1125, whereby the further organization of the community under the leadership of a recently appointed abbot and, above all, its relationship with the bishop were also regulated.

Mathilde met monnik
Empress Mathilde with a monk kneeling before her who receives a charter. Mathilde later, as a widow and pretender to the English throne, back in England, favored several Benedictine abbeys. This miniature refers to a donation to an English abbey, probably somewhat similar to that made to the monks of the still young abbey of St. Laurence in 1122. Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Particularly striking with regard to the origin and early development of St. Laurence, is – apart from the united cooperation of the imperial couple and the bishop – the apparent complete lack of any relationship and contact with that other, traditionally important, also Benedictine abbey in Utrecht, St. Paul’s. This quite remarkable fact suggests that although both St. Laurence’s and St. Paul’s were communities for which the rule of St. Benedict was the rule of life, there have also been considerable differences of opinion between the two with regard to what the monastic life should actually entail and how it should be lived, in other words of significant observational differences. But what were they, and what determined them?

With regard to St. Laurence’s, it is known that its first abbot, Ludolf, originally came from the abbey of Affligem in Brabant and was furthermore for a long time prior of Affligem’s subsidiary St. Andrew’s in Bruges. Now the extent to which Cluny’s influence has been exerted in Affligem (also) has been subject to extensive, complex and sometimes confusing considerations. Initially I thought that they could set us on a track for St. Laurence’s, which through Ludolf’s contribution with some reason could be regarded as a subsidiary of Affligem. But even more or less regardless of how at the moment one thinks about the developments with regard to Affligem, in respect of St. Laurence’s I have come to the conclusion that all in all it makes the most sense to look at what is is precisely known about the origin and early development of this abbey itself, to assess this, placing it in an overall context, and then finally see whether or not elements can be found that may be characterized as typically ‘Cluniacenzian’.

In short, this has led to the following findings and considerations. First of all, neither the hermit ideal nor that of the vita apostolica, by which the knights and their followers in Oostbroek were guided, seems to be directly associated with what Cluny and the monasteries and abbeys influenced by it stood for and aimed at. Precisely at that time – the twenties of the twelfth century – there were indeed heated conflicts in Cluny itself, which it has been argued also concerned the course to be followed for monastic life. But that battle would then have been settled in favor of the proponents of the old, well-known Cluniac way of life and not that which was based on the vita apostolica ideal. It is therefore ultimately impossible to assume that the influence and impact of this ideal in St. Laurence should be interpreted in the slightest as ‘Cluniacensian’. More important in this context is moreover the influence – great influence one might say – of bishop Godebald on ‘his’ abbey. In that respect, too, the overall context in which the new monastic community arose and developed thereafter certainly does not appear to be one in which Cluny’s ideas, or even the ideals derived from his movement, were obvious to serve as a guideline. This is also very clear and unequivocal from the charter of bishop Godebald of 1125, in which – probably at the instigation of Ludolf, because the charter shows many features of a ‘destinary production’ (a charter drawn up by the person or institution for which it was intended) – the further organization of St. Laurence and especially its relationship to the bishop himself was arranged. It is true that important freedoms for the abbey and emphatically restrictions for the bishop with regard to the abbey were laid down, but if we look at it precisely, it always concerns the power and influence that the bishop – on the basis of Godebald’s role as co-founder – could assert as a potential monastic patron, possibly even as a secular lord; for example, regarding the appointment of the abbot, but also the imposition of certain charges. At the same time, reservations have been made with equal emphasis on the power and role of the bishop as head of the diocese, that is to say he retained, among other things, the authority to judge the suitability of the abbot-elect and ordain the candidate abbot! So here too there was no question of exemption at all and we have never been able to establish anything about the striving for it with regard to St. Laurence afterwards either.

Whatever the observance of St. Laurence may have been – a special own observance, whether or not borrowed from Affligem, and based on the consuetudines or customs of that abbey – I certainly would not – any more than the Siegburg observance to which St. Paul belonged and which was probably opposed in St. Laurence anyway – classify it as specifically ‘Cluniacensian’. Rather, the stipulations in Godebald’s charter for St. Laurence express a more general ecclesiastical (Gregorian) attitude towards reform, in which one opposes and took certain concrete measures against (excrescences of) the old monastic system, even when the bishop himself was a monastic patron. All this, however, without there being any question of exemption from the episcopal authority, which authority was ultimately fully and emphatically maintained.

The apparent great difference between the abbeys of St. Paul and St. Laurence for contemporaries therefore seems – possibly in line with how people viewed the relationship between the monastery and the (outside) world in different ways, and opted for a more or less complete aloofness from that world – mainly to have been in the attitude towards the reform thinking at the time: in St. Paul one seems to have retained the traditions of the imperial monasticism and the pro-emperor attitude of the past, but in any case also the close and, above all, special relationship with the bishop as a monastic patron. The latter, however, turned out at a certain point to be won over by the general ecclesiastical reformist thinking and willing to renounce his own monastic rights with regard to his new foundation of St. Laurence, for himself but also for the bishops after him, albeit with explicit proviso of the powers of bishops as ordinarius and head of the diocese. It is likely that since then Godebald and his successors have also no longer made use of their time-honoured ecclesiastical rights as a patron with regard to St. Paul, as a result of which these rights simply dissolved, as it were, and were eventually no longer an issue.

Finally, with regard to the question of the influence of Cluny in Utrecht, both for Saint Paul’s and Saint Laurence’s – at least insofar as we know anything concretely about this or can reasonably assume – I come to the conclusion that this influence was probably limited. In any case, with regard to the relationship with the bishop in the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Utrecht in monastic circles there has never been a real aversion to and positioning towards the bishop, which then led to, for example, a striving for exemption. Only the position of the bishop as a monastic patron – probably much more under the influence of general ecclesiastical reform thinking than specific Cluniac ideals – eventually changed things.

It only remains for me to make a few more general remarks about such research into possible observance differences between different (traditional) Benedictine abbeys in our region in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. I am convinced that these differences, which for us – partly because the source material is not always readily available – may not always be easy to grasp, for contemporaries were nevertheless an expression of how – by placing certain accents – monastic life was ideally shaped, and therefore were of importance not to be underestimated. Knowledge of and insight into these differences are important, because they can also explain how, why, when, in which – for example political-ecclesiastical – context a monastery or abbey arose, developed, and perhaps even was reformed, whether or not also in relation to and sometimes confrontation with other monasteries and abbeys. In researching this, it does not seem very useful to work with ‘labels’, without it being concretely indicated which measures were taken in which context and which specific accents were thus placed in monastic life. Only by doing the latter, a better view will arise of how the traditional – apparently still unified – Benedictine monasticism in our regions, precisely because of these differences in observation, has for a long time offered considerable space for the realization of new ideas regarding the interpretation of monastic life and new movements; which may also explain why the spread of so-called new orders – the Premonstratensians and certainly the Cistercians – was initially very limited and generally only quite late in Utrecht. But that is an other story.
Afbeelding Van den Wijngaerde
Detail of the bird’s-eye view map by Anthonie van den Wijngaerde from circa 1558, with the abbey (church) of St. Paul in the center and in the background the abbey of  St. Laurence in Oostbroek.

© 2022 C.J.C. Broer. - Gepubliceerd 14 juni 2022; laatst bewerkt 14 juni 2022.