The Medieval Review 12.03.19

Baumgärtner, Ingrid and Christian Presche. Kaufungen 1011: Die urkundliche Ersterwähnung im Kontext. Kassel: Euregioverlag, 2011. Pp. 32. 14.90 EUR. ISBN: 978-3-933617-45-3.

Reviewed by:

John W. Bernhardt
San Jose State University

On the occasion of the one thousandth anniversary of a royal charter issued by Henry II of Germany and dated 10 August 1011 for the royal monastery Hersfeld, which also contains the first mention of the place Kaufungen near Kassel and documents the king's presence there, Ingrid Baumgärtner and Christian Presche have written this useful and handsomely produced short volume. Shortly after issuing this charter, King Henry II had a second charter produced on 20 August 1011 for the archbishopric of Magdeburg, which also documents Henry II's presence at "Coufungon." These constitute the first two mentions of the place, Kaufungen, at which later Henry II and his wife, Kunigunde founded a significant royal convent.

In addition to the mere commemoration of these two charters--the first of which exists in the original (Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg, Urk. 56)--as the first documented instances for Kaufungen and the explanation of the background and context of their issue, this volume has a much more didactic purpose. First, it provides a primer on royal charters and contains facing Latin-German texts of the documents. Second, it provides a brief summary of the place Kaufungen in its geographical and historical context and of the early foundational history of the like-named royal convent. Thus, in Germany, Gymnasium teachers could use this volume to instruct advanced Gymnasium students or, more likely, instructors and professors could employ it usefully in an Ubung, or introductory graduate practicum, to teach the fundamentals of royal charters and to discuss their specific historical context. In the English-speaking world this volume could serve the same purpose, perhaps even with enhanced value, in introductory university graduate classes, which demand a knowledge of German, for the volume contains proper modern German that, however, is not particularly difficult. Thus, the shortness of the volume, the ease and clarity of the German, and the information contained in it, combine to make it a fine choice to introduce royal charters in a specific historical context in a beginning graduate class, regardless of the teaching language of the university.

The authors begin by providing a short background to the two charters that they address and describing the historical context and the actual contents of the charters. Next, they give a detailed explanation of the structure and components of a royal charter using partial blow-up pictures from the Hersfeld charter to illustrate each part. They examine the initial protocol, which includes the Chrismon, the invocation, and intitulation, discuss the arenga and notification, and then move to the actual "body" or text of the charter, which contains the exposition and disposition of the document, meaning the history and conditions behind the request, the person(s) or petitioner(s) requesting the grant and those supporting them, and the legal content of the charter. Finally they explain, discuss, and illustrate the three-part final protocol or eschatacol of the charter, which comprises the authentication by the ruler with his monogram, the recognition by the notary or chancellor, and the three-part dating formula with localization, followed sometimes by an apprecation or pious words of benediction. The authors explain and illustrate each of these components clearly, provide a beautiful photograph of the original royal charter and seal (27, with an additional zoomed photo of the seal on 12), and append Latin-German facing translations of both charters (28-31).

In the second part of this short tome the authors attempt "to describe the development of the convent Kaufungen in its early phases under Henry II and Kunigunde." Wilhelm A. Eckhardt and Karl Heinemeyer wrote the seminal books and articles on this complex topic to which the authors refer along with newer German scholarship. Yet, in the opinion of this reviewer, they present this section in a somewhat disorganized and segmented fashion. Consequently, while they devote ample space in a small book to some important technical problems in the founding--such as the assessing the relationship between the old royal center at Kassel and the new center at Kaufungen and the issue of whether or for how long the convent was a Benedictine nunnery as opposed to a convent of canonesses--this treatment of specific topics tends to obscure the more interesting and dynamic story of Henry and Kunigunde's foundation of this religious institution from Kunigunde's forfeiting of marriage properties for the creation of the bishopric of Bamberg to her compensation with those in and around Kaufungen. Thus, how did this foundation fit into their familial dynamic as well as the political, religious and economic context of the realm? For instance, they provide a one-page sidebar on itinerant kingship and royal residences and a nice description with a excellent map and list of the possessions and markets that Kaufungen came to hold mainly from royal munificence. Yet, they fail to tie the two aspects adequately together to show the mutual interactions between Kaufungen's location, its properties, its trading opportunities, and the royal itinerary. [1]

Despite this reviewer's qualms with the focus and structure of the last part of this book, nevertheless, this is a neat little volume that is lavishly produced as German books so often are. The first didactic section provides a fine brief introduction for German students or Anglophile graduate students to royal charters, and the section devoted to the convent Kaufungen gives decent overview of its early foundation and some of the problems surrounding it and its later existence. The book stands out in terms of its excellent illustrations and maps, the reproduction of the original Hersfeld charter, and the facing Latin-German translations of the two charters addressed. These features enhance its value for teaching. Moreover, the authors provide an up-to-date and extensive bibliography.



1. For a summary in English of these aspects of the foundation of Kaufungen, one can refer to my Itinerant Kingship and Royal Monasteries in Early Medieval Germany (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 222- 34, which the authors apparently did not consult.

Copyright (c) 2012 John W. Bernhardt

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