Karl Kügle (Principal Investigator) researches the role of clerics at courts of the long fourteenth century, with a focus on Savoy, Cyprus and northern Italy. The lifetime of Amadeus VIII (b. 1383, d. 1451) is without doubt one of the high points of Savoyard cultural history. During his reign, Savoy was raised from county to duchy by Emperor Sigismund (1416). The wedding of Amadeus’s son Louis to Anne, princess of Cyprus and Jerusalem, in 1434, became an instant legend in its time, and united the most brilliant courtiers of Europe and their artistic retinue in Chambéry. Guillaume Du Fay, one of the most important musicians of the fifteenth century, was associated with Savoy from 1434 well into the 1450s. When Duchess Anne purchased the shroud of Turin (1453), an important Mass may have been composed by Du Fay for the liturgy associated with the shroud. Amadeus’s own career took two unusual turns when he withdrew from government (1434) to live in spiritual retirement on the shores of Lake Geneva and later accepted the papal see offered him by the Council of Basle (1439-49). He ended his life as a cardinal (1449-51).
Such an unusual biography, criss-crossing noble and clerical status in a single individual, raises a more general question: What was the role of clerics in courtly life? Distinguished by their status from the courtiers-at-large, who were lay persons, clerics seemingly stood aside from the courtly game of perpetuating their family's lineage and power through marriage but at the same time exerted powerful social and political roles precisely through their 'neutral', clerical status. Clerics' roles at court were highly diverse, and largely contingent on their own social background and lineage, ranging from influential figures such as confessors to cogs in the wheels of courtly administrations to scientific and political experts consulted by the most powerful princes for advice in highly charged questions such as the position of the realm during the Schism. For aristocratic women, joining a convent or an abbey, often at widowhood, could be an expedient means to retain a measure of independence combined with a considerable quantity of social capital. Court chaplains included some of the best known singers and composers, but also as poets, tutors of noble children, administrators, and propagandists. Higher-level clerics at court were canons of major cathedrals and collegiate churches, providing another interface between the Church and the court, and bishops and archbishops functioned ex-officio as peers of the realm, taking the roles of functioning senior political advisers, diplomats, power brokers, and confidantes not just to the ruler but also to the nobles surrounding him (or her) and their often very extended family. Clerics also enjoyed their own quasi-courtly societies in universities, cathedral and collegiate chapters, and even monastic settings; while some of them enjoyed lightning careers due to their noble birth, others rose from undistinguished backgrounds to positions of great prominence. As the best educated social group of their time, their impact on late medieval culture cannot be overstated.
Most importantly for the MALMECC project, many of them kept courts of their own (usually called 'familia'). These 'familiae' often were important informal nodes of intellectual and cultural life, making them somewhat comparable to the salons of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Karl's research focuses on a number of case studies that explore the interface of clerics as courtiers with princes and other clerics (and their courts or communities) in the long fourteenth century. Taking musical artefacts as his cue, he explores the complex roles of courtiers like Philippe de Vitry, Guillaume de Machaut, Jehan Froissart, Pietro Filargo (Peter of Candia), or Martin le Franc in the complex, trans-national networks linking courtly and ecclesiastic societies.
See his introductory film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FArz3MZd7DY&feature=emb_logo