This ample volume collects and presents conveniently "a complete set of source materials germane to the study of the feast of Corpus Christ" (dust-jacket). The three main parts are an overarching introduction, the source materials, and a critical edition of poems from the Mosan Psalter. As the volume consists of good measures of sociological theory, musicology, paleography, and medieval French, this reviewer is admittedly incompetent to judge its contents; further, its completeness as a scholarly tool could be assessed justly only by one who, irrespective of discipline, has delved into this particular solemnity of the Roman Calendar. Experts in each of these fields may take issue with transcriptions and translations and even the sociology.
Walters's introduction to the feast itself delivers more even than the dust-jacket promises. It summarizes the surprisingly tumultuous life of Saint Juliana of Mont Cornillon as derived from her vita. Saint Juliana, moved by direct revelation, is the undisputed promoter of the feast. Walters helpfully points out how Juliana varies from the typical pattern of women prophets of the day, but seems ambivalent on how she related to ecclesial structures. Juliana, in exalting reserved Communion, the focus of the feast, both bolstered respect for the exclusively male priesthood (who alone could confect the sacrament) and transcended this by persuading a patriarchal Church to adopt a feast on account of a mere prioress's efforts.
This introduction also recounts how the feast eventually attained universality. Reference works usually state that one Jacques Pantaléon of Troyes, a contemporaneous Archdeacon of Liège (Juliana's hometown) became Pope and disseminated the feast to the whole church by the bull Transiturus de hoc mundo (1264), and Walters reports the inner workings over many years of this move from a local innovation to an international civic and public expression of faith. Historians will enjoy reading how the theological wrestling about the precise nature of Holy Communion, and the Dominican order, energized its establishment.
The medieval manuscripts, sources of the official prayers for the feast of Corpus Christi are described in Walters's second introduction, particular to Part II. She also summarizes the numerous scholarly investigations concerning these documents. Her collaborator, musicologist Vincent Corrigan prepared the critical edition of these seven manuscripts.
Get a sense of the contents of this section of The Feast of Corpus Christi by this description of one manuscript. The Hague, National Library of the Netherlands, MS 70.E.4 consists of almost equal parts doctrine and music. Thirty-three pages are lections for the liturgical celebration, commentaries on the doctrine of the Eucharist. These readings extensively quote Gratian and, to a much smaller extent, Peter Lombard. In addition to this material, Part L iii here, authorship unspecified, argues in favor of the feast and refers to its approval by Pope Urban IV (Jacques of Troyes; 119). All of these texts come with translations. The remaining thirty-six pages are transcriptions of chants with translations of their words. The chants are mainly of the antiphons, responsories, and versicles of the office, and their words are usually theological rather than Biblical. While I am not a paleographer, Corrigan's notations give the impression of thoroughness. For example, Corrigan declares All that follows [in the Strahov Abbey Manuscript D.E.I.7] is written by a later hand and is very difficult to read. Thus, much is conjectural" (238). Similarly, he uses boldface to indicate "two note ligatures" over certain syllables in certain lections —for example, 1 Cor 11 (307).
The other manuscripts—Brussels, Brigham Young, and Edinburgh—are virtually all chant; the Graz, in contrast, is represented in this transcription / translation entirely by texts because the musical notation is admittedly unreadable.
Walters argues that the third section, the poetic selections from the Mosan Psalters, is a "central component" of this volume about the feast of Corpus Christi. (Mosan is an adjectival form of the name of the Meuse River.) But, as a student of the liturgy, I would see this critical edition only as a welcome ancillary. Books of this sub-genre, all from the area of Liège in the 1200s, "functioned largely as lay breviaries" (429) for affluent women of piety, and included "calendar, psalter, canticles, litany and prayers, hours of the Virgin, and office of the dead, . . . Easter tables, a calendar of health rules, and a cycle of full-page illuminations with vernacular poems of Latin prayers, . . . Mass devotions . . . [and] the psalter of the Virgin" (J. Oliver, Gothic Manuscript Illumination in the Diocese of Liège (c. 1250-c. 1330), Leuven: Uitgeverij Peter, 1988, cited by Walters, p. 430). The narrative poems from these psalters seem worth including because they "reveal the eucharistic fervor" of persons like Juliana (436). Usefully, the introduction elucidates connections between the Eucharist and such recurring motifs as wisdom, apple and tree of life.
Professor Ricketts provides the critical edition and translation of the twenty historia from fourteen manuscripts of this sub-genre. An historia is "a biblical narrative or musical setting of such narrative as part of an office" (434). Poems are introduced with labels about their MS sources, their prosody, and their earlier published editions, and are followed by translations and critical apparati and notes. While the originals and the translations include marginal line counters, the translations do not follow line by line.
Tables may well help make this daunting volume more helpful to various specialists. For a simple example, Ricketts tabulates all twenty Mosan historia by their MS, so that, at a glance, a reader can see that poem seventeen has the most witnesses, and that many have only a single source. Right before the transcriptions of the Corpus Christi MS and after several pages whose tables describe particular manuscripts, ten pages constitute a "Title Index," which is alphabetical by incipits (unnumbered pages, 106-115). Here, a numerical system for indicating pitches allows quick comparison of the chant melodies, etc.
The Feast of Corpus Christi is a monument to the tenacity of Doctor Walters, who, after her doctorate in sociology, enrolled as a student of music in order to pursue this twenty-year project. Its readership will likely be Medievalists who can use it both as a handy reference for chants and for vernacular devotional manuals and, if perused globally, as a glimpse of Christendom through the lens of conflicted thirteenth-century Liège.