This paper looks to assess the attitude of the so-called ‘Gregorian’ reformers to penance by considering the transmission of Burchard of Worm’s influential Liber decretorum within Italian ‘reform’ circles, focusing chiefly on the so-called Italian Order of Worms version B (e.g., Lucca, Biblioteca Feliniana MS. 124; Padova, Biblioteca del seminario vescovile, MS.529; Pistoia, Archivio Capitolare del Duomo, MS.C.124 and MS.C.140). With particular attention devoted to the use of supplements from different traditions in reform-era penitentials to complement Burchard’s treatment of penance, it looks thus explore some of the reasons why Burchard’s collection was seen by reformers as being deficient as the guide on penance.
Confession and penance played and important role in the early 11th-century collections, such as the Decretum of Burchard of Worms or the South Italian Collection in Five Books and the Collection in Nine Books. These collections often include a remarkable variety of texts on penance – penitentials and conciliar material, patristic and even liturgical texts. The Collection in Five Books and the Collection in Nine Books, in addition, contain a wealth of instructive texts, which cannot be found in earlier sources. These texts provided priest-confessors with instructions for hearing confession and, more importantly, for giving penance. This paper examines some of these guidelines for confessors, which, albeit based on older conceptions of penance taken from the penitentials, also look ahead to new ideas of penance in the Reform era.
Sometime in the first half of the 12th century, an anonymous compiler assembled an important collection of patristic texts on penance. Preserved in five canonical/canonico-theological collections, this florilegium was an important source for three early scholastic works: the treatise Baptizato homine, the Summa sententiarum, and the tract De penitentia of Gratian’s Decretum.