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Five lives from twelfth-century Germany

Noble society in the twelfth-century German kingdom was vibrant and multi-faceted, with aristocratic families spending their lives in the violent pursuit of land and power. This book illuminates the diversity of the aristocratic experience by providing five texts that show how noblemen and women from across the German kingdom, from Rome to the Baltic coast and from the Rhine River to the Alpine valleys of Austria, lived and died between approximately 1075 and 1200. The five subjects of the texts translated here cut across many of the strata of German elite society. how interconnected political, military, economic, religious and spiritual interests could be for some of the leading members of medieval German society-and for the authors who wrote about them. Whether fighting for the emperor in Italy, bringing Christianity to pagans in what is today northern Poland, or founding, reforming and governing monastic communities in the heartland of the German kingdom, the subjects of these texts call attention to some of the many ways that noble life shaped the world of central medieval Europe.

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Jonathan R. Lyon

This introduction provides historical background and a discussion of the translated texts. The book aims to illuminate the diversity of the aristocratic experience by providing five texts, translated into English for the first time, that show how noblemen and women from across the German kingdom lived and died approximately during 1075-1200. Margrave Wiprecht of Groitzsch emerges from these pages as a ruthless and cunning lord, one whose fortunes fluctuated dramatically as he played the games of court politics and local lordship with varying degrees of success. The extraordinary career of Bishop Otto I of Bamberg depicts how medieval Christians sought to convert pagans and convince them of the errors of their ways. An unnamed magistra, born into a ministerial family, wrote poems that have made scholars put forward various theories, in some cases identifying a pope or an archbishop of Salzburg as a potential patron for the text. A vita of the canoness Mechthild of Diessen, who had briefly been abbess of Edelstetten, written by the Cistercian monk Engelhard of Langheim. Finally the deeds of Count Ludwig III and a history of the Premonstratensian community at Arnstein.

in Noble Society
Jonathan R. Lyon

Few if any German prelates of the twelfth century had as extraordinary a career as Bishop Otto I of Bamberg. His influence stretched from the shores of the Baltic to the papal see in Rome. As bishop of one of the most important dioceses in the German kingdom, he founded and endowed numerous monastic communities while also pursuing territorial strategies that strengthened significantly his bishopric's control of the region in and around Bamberg. The life of Bishop Otto of Bamberg by a monk of Prüfening survives in three manuscripts from the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. All three of these codices include portions of the Magnum Legendarium Austriacum (MLA), an extensive collection of saints' lives compiled and copied at several Austrian monasteries around the year 1200.

in Noble Society
Jonathan R. Lyon

According to the translated text in this chapter, the unnamed magistra was born into a ministerial family belonging to the archbishops of Salzburg. She belonged to one of the most important Benedictine communities in the south-east of the German kingdom: the double monastery of monks and nuns at Admont in the march of Styria (today a part of Austria). During the twelfth century, the male community played an active role in reform circles, and many Admont monks were sent to other Benedictine houses across the south-east of the German kingdom to improve monastic practices in other communities. The chapter offers its readers a deeply personal account of the anonymous nun's life, written by another Admont nun who seems to have known her quite well.

in Noble Society
Jonathan R. Lyon

At some point around the year 1200, a noblewoman asked the Cistercian monk Engelhard of Langheim to write a vita of the canoness Mechthild of Diessen, who had briefly been the abbess of Edelstetten. At the time of Pope Anastasius IV, she reluctantly agreed to become the abbess of Edelstetten, a convent desperately in need of reform in Engelhard's version of events. She successfully improved the religious practices and commitment to the spiritual life at Edelstetten, but her time there seems to have been relatively short. The descriptions of Mechthild's interactions with people inside and outside the religious houses are a rich source for the thin grey line that separated the ecclesiastical and secular spheres in the German kingdom during the twelfth century.

in Noble Society
Jonathan R. Lyon

In many ways, the opening years of Count Ludwig III of Arnstein's life seem to have been typical ones for a twelfth-century German count. The text translated in this chapter combines an account of Ludwig's life with a history of the Premonstratensian community at Arnstein. As it shows, Ludwig did not disappear from the world of the secular nobility after joining his religious foundation. On the contrary, his reputation amongst the local laity seems to have grown after he bound himself to the Premonstratensians. People flocked to his side, offering properties to Arnstein and asking Ludwig to help reform other monastic communities in the neighbourhood. This was because there was much spiritual capital to be gained by following a count who had dedicated himself to the religious life.

in Noble Society
Jonathan R. Lyon and Lisa Wolverton

This chapter translates the vivid description of the life of the noble lord Wiprecht of Groitzsch. It then offers a very different perspective on Henry IV and Henry V's reigns than the typical pro-Salian or pro-Saxon narrative sources. For understanding the political, social, religious and economic developments in the region between Saxony and Bohemia during the early twelfth century, it is a rich, almost unparalleled source. Wiprecht of Groitzsch has earned a reputation in modern scholarship as the social climber par excellence of the late Salian period. The turning point in Wiprecht's career seems to have been Henry IV's first Italian campaign during the early 1080s; according to the Deeds, Wiprecht led the Czech contingent alongside Czech king Vratislav's young son, Borivoj. Thereafter, Wiprecht of Groitzsch would be an increasingly prominent player in Saxon and imperial politics until his death.

in Noble Society