The twelfth-century Chronicle of Petershausen, composed over the course of more than thirty years, opens a rare window on the life-world of a medieval monastery as it struggles to grow and survive within tumultuous spiritual and temporal landscapes. From its founding by St. Gebhard II of Constance as a proprietary episcopal monastery in 992 through the aftermath of the great fire that ravaged the community in 1159 and beyond, Petershausen encountered both external attacks and internal disruption and division. Across the pages of the chronicle, supra-regional clashes between emperors and popes play out at the most local level. Monks struggle against the influence of overreaching bishops. Reformers arrive and introduce new and unfamiliar customs. Tensions erupt into violence within the community. Advocates attack. Miracles, visions, and relics link the living and the dead. Through it all the anonymous chronicler struggles to find meaning amid conflict and chaos and forge connections to a distant past. Along the way, this monk enlivens his narrative with countless colorful anecdotes – sometimes amusing, sometimes disturbing – creating a history for the monastery with its own unique voice. Intended for specialists and students alike, this volume presents the first translation into English of this fascinating text, which offers a unique glimpse into the lived experience of medieval monasticism and its interactions with the society around it.
that suggested a name much more pleasing to the bishop: Petershausen, literally the house of Peter. To secure that land, Gebhard arranged for an exchange with the present owner, the powerful monastery of Reichenau (f. 724). He endowed the community with lands from his own inheritance, travelled to Rome to secure relics and a papal privilege, and presided in person at the consecration in 992. Even after his death, Gebhard continued to watch over and protect his beloved monastery, working miracles at his tomb, 4 heroically rescuing a drowning monk from a head
Book Three begins with the arrival at Petershausen of the Hirsau reformers in the year 1086. The anchor of the reform at Petershausen, from the chronicler’s perspective, was the charismatic Theodoric, whose thirty-year abbacy (1086–1116) represents a golden age for the monastery. After the monks reject Otto as abbot in the first rocky days of the reform, 1 it is Theodoric who restores a certain amount of stability to the community. Quickly reversing the decline of monastic discipline that the chronicler laments, Theodoric, a “truly venerable
Book One, more than any of the other books that comprise the CP, is a work of creative memory. Writing around 1136, in the wake of a tumultuous period of reform, political disruption, and even exile, the chronicler weaves an historical narrative that answers his community’s need for continuity with the past and security in the present.
The focus of Book One is the story of Petershausen’s foundation by Bishop Gebhard II of Constance. The narrative is structured around the figure of Gebhard himself, with the chronicler first offering an account
Between 1136 and 1161, the chronicler added additional material ad hoc to the manuscript. The entries that follow the Translation are preceded neither by a new book number nor an incipit. It is almost as though, having completed the original work, he simply could not resist adding further material to the manuscript, including a seven-chapter excursus on the Life of Blessed Ratpero, 1 a saint whose oratory was located on land then owned by Petershausen. Some of this added material comes in the form of annals, in chronological order in 1139
later, another entry records the deposition of Abbot Gebhard and the laying of the cornerstone for the eastern part of church. 4 After this entry for 1173, a single scribe prepared two dated lines for each of the years from 1174 to 1211. Except for brief notices for 1202 and 1203, all of these lines were left empty. The will to continue the CP seems simply to have run out. On the verso of the last of these three blank pre-dated leaves, a fourteenth-century hand has added the names of Petershausen’s abbots, a list that was updated into the sixteenth century.
chronicler’s assertion that Ulrich I died a miserable death, his eyes ejected from his head, may have been intended as a powerful warning about what happens to bishops who repeatedly threaten the monastery’s rights. 3
Book Four also offers further witness to the struggles over investiture that continued to lead to division and violent conflict in the broader region, and particularly to their impact at the local level. When Archbishop Albert of Mainz, who first appears in CP 3.43, demands the expulsion from Petershausen’s cemetery of an enemy who happened to be a patron
Book Two covers the early years of the monastery, from the death of Bishop Gebhard II of Constance in 995 to the ascent of Bishop Gebhard III in 1084, and closes by setting the stage for the arrival at Petershausen of monks from Hirsau. Book Two does not present a coherent narrative account of the history of the monastery in these early years, which would probably have been beyond what the sources available to the chronicler could support. The first half of the book is rather an eclectic collection of privileges, anecdotes, and stories of
The translation in 1134 of the relics of Petershausen’s episcopal founder Gebhard II is represented as a high point in the history of the monastery, the culmination of all of the history that has come before. 1 Through the ritual relocation of the holy body in the hands of the present bishop, Gebhard II was made a saint. 2 The event itself, as the Chronicle tells us, was preceded by extensive and vital repairs to the basilica that Gebhard himself had constructed over 150 years before. Employing the common rhetoric of monastic reform, the
penned in response to feedback from the original chronicler, if he indeed had handed the work over to a continuator when and if he became abbot.
25 cf. CP A.35.
26 i.e., Bishop Herman I of Constance.
27 Abbot Conrad is commemorated in Petershausen’s twelfth-century necrology on 28 June. MGH Nec. Germ. 1, 672.