Manchester Medieval Sources

Abstract only
Mayke de Jong and Justin Lake

The first book of the Epitaphium covers the period from Wala’s youth at Charlemagne’s court until the years 822–5 when the great man, by then known as ‘Arsenius’, served as deputy to Louis’ son Lothar, who was king of Italy and was crowned emperor in Rome in 823. In 814 Wala, banished from Louis’ court, had retreated to Corbie, yet in 821 he and his half-brother Adalhard, abbot of Corbie, had been reconciled with the Emperor Louis. About all this, the first book is almost entirely silent. The main theme of a lively dialogue among three monks, with some additional interlocutors, is the deep grief about Wala’s recent death. We get brief hints to all this political trouble, but most of this is obfuscated by deft literary tactics, in which citations from Terence play a central part. The first book is a masterpiece of allusion, and also gives an indication of the intended audience: not just the monks of Corbie, but also a literate Carolingian leadership impressed by Radbert’s brilliance, and perhaps persuaded to look differently at Wala/Arsenius, who had died in 836 in Italy. Shortly thereafter Radbert embarked on this first book.

in Confronting crisis in the Carolingian empire
Abstract only
Mayke de Jong and Justin Lake

The second book runs from the political crisis of the winter of 828/9 to Wala’s death in August 836, but was written with emphatic hindsight. The general drift of the narrative is backward-looking: if the rulers had heeded Wala’s advice in the early 830s, the empire would not lie in ruins in the 850s. Radbert had been abbot of Corbie since 843/4. About seven years later he was forced to retire from this illustrious office. The ex-abbot added a polemical second book to his funeral oration to Wala, in which he attacked Wala’s main enemies: the Empress Judith (Justina), the chamberlain Bernard (Naso) and, to a lesser extent, Emperor Louis the Pious (Justinian). The second book is set in an imaginary late antique Christian empire, and reflects deeply on the lost unity of the Carolingian polity. It is a treasure trove of political terminology, which was derived from classical and patristic writing but imbued with new meaning in the turbulent mid-ninth century.

in Confronting crisis in the Carolingian empire
Paschasius Radbertus' funeral oration for Wala of Corbie
Authors: Mayke de Jong and Justin Lake

This book presents a new and accessible translation of a well-known yet enigmatic text: the ‘Epitaph for Arsenius’ by the monk and scholar Paschasius Radbertus (Radbert) of Corbie. This monastic dialogue, with the author in the role of narrator, plunges the reader directly into the turmoil of ninth-century religion and politics. ‘Arsenius’ was the nickname of Wala, a member of the Carolingian family who in the 830s became involved in the rebellions against Louis the Pious. Exiled from the court, Wala/Arsenius died Italy in 836. Casting both Wala and himself in the role of the prophet Jeremiah, Radbert chose the medium of the epitaph (funeral oration) to deliver a polemical attack, not just on Wala’s enemies, but also on his own.

Abstract only
Mayke de Jong and Justin Lake

This chapter focuses on the biographical, political and literary aspects of the Epitaphium Arsenii. It introduces the author, Paschasius Radbertus, who was a monk of Corbie and later its abbot, and his subject, Abbot Wala of Corbie (d. 836), who was Charlemagne’s controversial cousin. It explains the different political context in which the two books of this work originated. Whereas the first book was probably composed while the Emperor Louis the Pious was still alive, the second followed only in the mid-850s, when Louis’ son Charles the Bald ruled the West-Frankish kingdom. The changed perspective of the second book and the author’s polemical stance stand in contrast to the more reticent first book, which makes this such an interesting text. Furthermore, this introduction also explicates this funeral oration for Wala as a literary work, and comments on the author’s Latin and his use of classical and patristic sources.

in Confronting crisis in the Carolingian empire
Abstract only
C. E. Beneš

This introduction contextualises the thirteenth-century Dominican Jacopo da Varagine (also known as Jacobus de Voragine) as a historical figure and author, introducing the history and urban culture of medieval northern Italy as well as the genre of the civic chronicle. It outlines the history of medieval Genoa, an Italian city-state developing in ways that were both typical (in struggling with factional conflict) and atypical (as a hub of international trade). Finally, the introduction provides a short biography of Jacopo, reviews his vast scholarly output, and introduces his Chronicle: its transmission tradition, methodologies, main sources, and chief themes.

in Jacopo Da Varagine’s Chronicle of the city of Genoa
Editor: C. E. Beneš

This book provides the first English translation of the Chronicle of the city of Genoa by the thirteenth-century Dominican Jacopo da Varagine (also known as Jacobus de Voragine). While Jacopo is better known for his monumental compilation of saints’ lives, the Golden legend, his lesser known Chronicle of Genoa exemplifies the important medieval genre of the civic chronicle. The work mixes scholarly research about the city’s origins with narrative accounts based on Genoese archival sources, more didactic and moral reflections on the proper conduct of public and private life, and personal accounts of Jacopo’s own experience as archbishop of Genoa from 1292 until his death in 1298. Divided into twelve parts, the work covers the history of Genoa from its ancient origins up to Jacopo’s own day. Jacopo’s first-hand accounts of events in which he himself participated—such as the great civic reconciliation of 1295, over which he himself presided—provide a valuable contrast to the more scholarly and didactic sections of the work. Together they form an integrated, coherent approach to urban history, which illustrates some of the most important styles of historiography in the Middle Ages.

C. E. Beneš

Part eight offers three chapters of advice for good citizenship: citizens ought to be thoughtful and mature in making decisions; they ought to be virtuous rather than slaves to vice; and they ought to have the greatest zeal for the commonwealth.

in Jacopo Da Varagine’s Chronicle of the city of Genoa
C. E. Beneš

Part eleven presents an annalistic narrative of Genoese history from its origins to 1133, divided into nineteen chapters. Each chapter describes a single bishop of Genoa and narrates city and world events during his tenure.

in Jacopo Da Varagine’s Chronicle of the city of Genoa
C. E. Beneš

Part five reviews some highlights of medieval Genoese history by teleologically addressing the city’s nature and size (qualis et quanta) at the time of its foundation, in the time of its growth, and in Jacopo’s own day (‘at the time of its perfection’).

in Jacopo Da Varagine’s Chronicle of the city of Genoa
C. E. Beneš

Part four describes Genoa’s conversion to Christianity in late antiquity. This part has three chapters: chapter one introduces Roman polytheism (‘idolatry’ or ‘paganism’); chapter two claims that Genoa was the first city in Italy, or one of the first, to be converted to Christianity. Chapter three uses logic to make the same claim.

in Jacopo Da Varagine’s Chronicle of the city of Genoa