09.07.20, Englberger, Albert Behaim und die Lorcher

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Norbert Kersken

The Medieval Review 09.07.20

Englberger, Johann. Albert Behaim und die Lorcher Tradition in der Passauer Geschichtsschreibung: Die Descriptio gentium et diversarum nationum Europe. Hanover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2007. Pp. 563. ISBN: 9783775257572 .

Reviewed by:
Norbert Kersken

At the end of the 10th century Pilgrim, bishop of Passau, made efforts to separate his diocese from the Salzburg archbishopric and to form an archbishopric of Passau. For this purpose Pilgrim produced a set of charter falsifications by which he tried to prove that the bishopric of Passau was the legal successor of an alleged antique archbishopric of Lorch (Lauriacum) that was supposed to be transfered to Passau in the beginning of the 8th century. Though this project was not successful in its church-political intentions, it formed from then on the historical consciousness of the bishopric. Nevertheless it is notable that this conception was not picked up in historiography before the mid 13th century. Witness to this starting point of a Passau episcopal historiography is a set of seven texts that are all well known from editions by Georg Waitz (1880), Georg Leidinger (1915), and Paul Uiblein (1956). Yet their inner coherence hasen't been recognized, though Leidinger and Uiblein assumed that the Passau dean Albert Behaim was the author.

In an elaborate and astutely argued study Englberger tries to show the inner coherence of these seven texts, to trace the history of the emergence and transmission of this work and its parts, as well as to ascertain the author of the work and to outline the historical situation in which he wrote.

These seven texts are in sum a description of the late antique and early medieval history of the later Bavarian and Austrian territories, lists, catalogues, and commentaries concerning the bishops of Passau and the dukes of Bavaria. The first important finding of the study is the verification that these seven texts must go back to a once consistent, unitary text, a finding that is not self-evident since these texts are never handed down in the manuscript tradition in a common corpus. By a thorough analysis of the singular texts Englberger is able to show that these texts originally belonged together and beyond that gives convincing reasons for the presumed original order of the texts. This original version must have been written down and arranged about 1253/54 in Passau. Englberger suggests as a possible title of the work "Descriptio gentium et diversarum nationum Europe," though there is no evidence in the manuscript tradition for this proposal. The second important finding concerns the early textual history of the work. Englberger hypthesises that the author's original, not finished working copy had been provided by him with many corrections, annotations and marginal notices. These additions reacted partly to criticism or to rejections by one or more reader(s) to whom the text had been made accessible. By this the study provides new insights concerning the discursive character of historiography in its respective contemporary contexts. This original version must have been revised about 1266/85 by an unknown editor who integrated the marginal notices into the text but thus made false correlations that led to unclear readings. Again, the text of this assumed redaction did not came down to us; instead of this we have several copies of parts of the text which can be explained by the textual character of the work: it was not perceived as an integrated text but as a collection of independent texts.

The most important written sources for the presentation of Bavarian history were annalistic works that had been consulted by the author in the monastery Niederaltaich (about 40 km northwest of Passau); of primary importance was a copy of the Salzburg annals (Annales s. Rudberti Salisburgenses). Looking to the sources used by the author, Englberger succeeds in furnishing the proof that the author must have used an older chronicle of the bishops of Passau; this chronicle is supposed to have been written down at the end of the 11th century in Passau and was handed down in the monastery of the Augustine canons in Reichersberg (about 40 km south of Passau); until now the beginnings of the Passau episcopal historioraphy were linked to the activity of Albert Behaim in the middle of the 13th century.

A chapter of its own is dedicated to the historical method practiced by the Passau historian. Englberger analyses the sources of the singular chronicle parts and is thus able to identify a considerable number of chronicle texts used by the author, describes his historical methodology and demonstrates his disposition to falsify history because of his political interests.

The author of the "Descriptio" imbedded his history of the bishopric of Passau in a presentation going far back to the early history of the Roman provinces of Moesia and Pannonia. The starting point of his delineation is the Roman conquest and the concept that nearly all European peoples descended from the Goths. To the Goths he attached Herkules who again is presented as father of Noricus, the heros eponymos of the Norics, the inhabitants of the Roman province Noricum. Into this geographical-ethnographical exposition the author integrated the early history of the bishopric Passau. Certainly, as Englberger can show, not knowing Pilgrim's charter falsifications, the author fell back on the concept of tracing back Passau's proper history to Lorch (Lauriacum) a tradition that must still being alive in clerical circles in Passau. According to this, in the year 47 AD in Lorch, an alleged heathen religious center of Pannonia-Moesia, was founded an archbishopric by pupils of Saint Peter. While the author cannot note any historical incidents for the next 200 years, he continues to report the story of the so-called Donation of Philip the Arab, the Roman emperor (244-249) who was believed in medieval tradition to have been the first Christian Roman emperor. He should have assigned to the church of Lorch a patrimony as manorial property in 249, surely a pure fiction of the author. The parallel to the Donation of Constantine is highly visible but the argument should be even stronger because of its greater age. A decisive break in historical development took place with the withdrawal of the Romans from their provinces caused by the invasions of the Huns. This gives the author the opportunity to explain the fact that there are no existing documents on the early history of the Passau bishopric: the reason is that the withdrawing Romans took all their written documents with them to Rome where they were lost--an analogous conclusion to the reported (vita Severini) entrainment of relics of saints. The following historical period starts with the first, fictitious, Bavarian duke, Theodo, dated to the year 508, whilst the next crucial point in the narrative is in the 8th century, when Salzburg was elevated to an archbishopric. The author states that still bishop Vivilo, the first historically authenticated bishop of Passau (739-744/45) had been consecrated as archbishop as had all his predecessors, of whom he names some, and that Lorch-Passau lost the dignity of an archbishopric only with the consecration of Arn as an archbishop of Salzburg (798). To make the transferring of the archbishop's see--an event that is not dated by the author though it is put in the time of Vivilo--plausible the author refers to similar instances in church history: the transferring of the bishop's see from Hamburg to Bremen and--though historically not appropriate--from Worms to Mainz and from Paris to Reims.

The authorship of most of the texts that form the "Descriptio" has long been attributed to the Passau dean Albert Behaim, though doubts have ben expressed about it. Englberger compiles carefully all known details of the life of this dean, an active church politician, who received a canonicate at the cathedral in Passau already as a young man, about 1212, and became archdeacon in Lorch--surely a circumstance that provoked his interest in the history of Lorch. After 1239 he played a role in the greater political scene of his time when he staunchly maintained and represented the papal position in the fight against Emperor Frederick II; in this context he even anathematized the then bishop of Passau, RĂ¼diger, and some Passau canons, his colleagues, forcing him to escape from Passau three times. His historical interests are documented by a notebook from the years 1245/50 wherein he also wrote excerpts from historical works he had consulted and which has been edited recently (Thomas Frenz/Peter Herde 2000); here should only be mentioned his notices concerning early Roman history and a summary of Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Historia regum Britanniae" that conceptually influenced his presentation of the early history of Bavaria. These observations reveal that the author of the reconstructed "Descriptio" and the Passau dean Albert Behaim, defined by his political activity and his historical interests, must be identical. Furthermore Englberger gains new insights looking at the factors leading to the composition of the "Descriptio." He supposes that Albert wrote his work under the influence of the 11th century history of the archbishops of Lorch-Passau which he must have read shortly before in Reichersberg. The "Descriptio" was meant to be a historically-argued memoir whose topic was the rise and downfall of the church of Lorch-Passau in the context of the European history of peoples. It was directed to the new, since 1250, bishop Berthold of Passau, intending to develop a program for the future politics of the bishop against the background of the old and venerable tradition of the bishopric. This political interest disposed the author to form his presentation regardless of his sources and even to manipulate history. In the short term Albert's efforts were without success: bishop Berthold died in 1254 and Albert came into conflict with his successor, Otto of Lonsdorf, and Otto had put Albert under arrest when Albert died, probably in 1260. In the long term, however, the historioraphical propaganda of the Lorch-Passau tradition was much more effective than the charter falsifications by Pilgrim.

The volume is concluded by an edition of the "Descriptio" in two variants: firstly the reconstructed compilation by the late 13th century editor (461-510), followed by the reconstructed original version of Albert's text (511-542).

The importance of the volume can be summarized thus: Englberger gives a convincing example of the capability of the historical-analytical method by reconstructing a text preserved only in parts of a later redaction. A thorough compilation of all textual and biographical arguments leads to the verification--that furthermore will be difficult to challenge--that the author of the work was the Passau dean Albert Behaim. The study gives a demonstration of the constructive character of historiographical texts using an analysis of the author's working method. Finally, the critical edition of a text important for medieval Bavarian history, as well for the history of medieval historiography, a text that up to now has not been recognized as a textual unit, offers important new material for historical research.

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Norbert Kersken