CITATION,  issued at the awarding of the American Catholic Historical Association's John Gilmary Shea Prize, 1998, to John Howe, for Church Reform and Social Change in Eleventh-Century Italy:  Dominic of Sora and His Patrons (Philadelphia:  University of Pennyslvania Press, 1997):

"The book is an original and insightful analysis of the social, political, and ecclesiastical development of tenth- and eleventh century Italy.  John Howe employs a case study of the life and work of St. Dominic of Sora, an influential Italian abbot and founder of monasteries, to illuminate the little-known world of religious revival among ordinary people in central Italy in the eleventh century.  Through Dominic, Howe is able to trace the establishment of towns and monasteries and to analyze crucial property and ecclesiastical reforms.  Drawing on an oral tradition and hagiographic materials, he reveals not only the importance of charismatic leaders like Dominic in initiating these reforms, but also the essential role of the community—familial, religious, political, and social—in their implementation.

“Although the rhythms of higher level reform, especially Gregorian and monastic, are well known, this book examines the popular perceptions and expectations that made Dominic of Sora (d. 1032) a revered figure among lay people.  The author extracts from difficult and taciturn sources a wide range of information depicting the religious, social, and political environment in which Dominic lived and acted.  For example, Howe shows how the patronage of warrior aristocrats, so important for Dominic’s building program, came from a desire both for spiritual comfort (often in the form of miraculous cures) and the political consolidation that came from monasteries established in their lands and associated with their names.

“In this erudite and perceptive study, John Howe has provided his readers with evidence that sanctity is to a considerable degree a social construct.  He shows too how the cult of a saint, in this case one promising protection against snakebites and rabies, can arise out of a life that is at best only marginally associated with such phenomena.  The memory of Dominic has survived in a local cult high in the Italian mountains that were his domain, but through this book he will take his place among the forgers of medieval culture.  Because Howe amply demonstrates that a good historian can ferret out the life and impact of an obscure man who lived a millennium ago, Church Reform and Social Change in Eleventh-Century Italy eminently merits the 1998 John Gilmary Shea Prize.”


                    --Dr. Frederic J. Baumgartner, Chair
                      John Gilmary Shea Prize Committee, 1998