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The Dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux:

New ideas versus Old Ideals

Arnulf, bishop of Lisieux from 1141 to 1181, was a significant figure in the twelfth-century renaissance. He held a prominent position among the advisors of Henry II of England, implemented the reforms of Bernard of Clairvaux, and became a confidante of Pope Alexander III. He participated in the Second Crusade, served as an ambassador for Louis VII, acted as a papal judge-delegate and as chief justiciar for Normandy, built one of the first Gothic cathedrals in northern France, and wielded his influence during civil wars and the Becket controversy. Throughout his life, Arnulf observed a paradigm constructed in his early years—an assumption that the primary duty of a bishop was to serve both church and king.

Arnulf’s strict adherence to the ideals of his youth frequently made him unpopular with contemporaries. He forced unwanted reforms on recalcitrant abbots and lectured popes and kings alike on their failures to conform to his preconceived standards. He made a life-long enemy of John of Salisbury and alienated both sides during the Becket controversy. Only in his last days did this bishop with the temperament of a monk realize that the ideals to which he was committed were incompatible with the new ideas taking root around him.

This book investigates the sources and consequences of Arnulf’s paradigm. Evidence comes from Arnulf’s correspondence, from charters and court decisions, and from the cathedral at Lisieux, into which Arnulf carved a statement about the world as he thought it should be. Arnulf’s discontents reveal a palimpsest beneath the surface of the twelfth-century renaissance: the ideals that suffered but refused to disappear when new ideas supplanted the old.

“Does a remarkably effective job of relating Arnulf to the changing times in which he lived, so that the reader gains not just new insight on an obviously much misunderstood bishop, but a new perspective on the ‘Renaissance of the 12 Century.’”

—Janet Meisel, University of Texas

"If, after reading her book, we still feel that we fail to know Arnulf fully, it is more the fault of the bishop himself and the failure of medieval records to survive than any shortcoming of the author."

--Review by: Ralph V. Turner,

Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies

, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Winter, 1991), pp. 723-724.

"This is a satisfying and well-written book. It is based on extensive research in French and British archives and libraries, and the bibliography indicates broad familiarity with modern scholarship."

--Review by: Constance B. Bouchard,

Speculum, Vol. 67, No. 3 (Jul., 1992), p. 745.

"Sympathetic and intriguing, [Schriber's] thesis rescues Arnulf from his reputation for double-dealing and resorts him to the world of individuals who act from motives that seem credible to them."

--Review by Emily Zach Tabuteau, American Historical Review, Vol. 97, No. 1, Feb., 1992, p. 178.

"Useful analysis . . . beautifully informative . . .There are other contemporary churchmen about whom good modern monographs are lacking. All could well use treatment as thorough and wide-ranging as Schriber's on Arnulf."

--Review by Richard W. Pfaff,

Church History, Vol. 62, No. 3 (Sept., 1993), pp. 389-391.

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