15.05.10, McCarthy, ed. and trans., Chronicles of the Investiture Contest

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Uta-Renate Blumenthal

The Medieval Review 15.05.10

McCarthy, T.J.H., ed. and trans. Chronicles of the Investiture Contest: Frutolf of Michelsberg and His Continuators. Manchester Medieval Sources. Manchester: Manchester University Presss, 2014. pp. xiv, 324. ISBN: 9780719084690 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
Uta-Renate Blumenthal
The Catholic University of America (emerita)

The fact that Frutolf's chronicle, covering events from the beginning of the world to 1099, and its continuations to 1125, is now available in an excellent English translation for the years 1000 to 1125, is by itself very welcome. The chronicle is a major contemporary narrative-annalistic source for the period of the struggle over preeminence between the reformed Roman Church and the monarchies of eleventh- and twelfth-century Europe, often briefly described as the period of the investiture contest. Historians too rarely devote their time to a task such as translating which is laborious to say the least and might seem unexciting, but actually has many rewards, primarily of course for the audience, but also for the translator. Frutolf's text will now be accessible to English-speaking historians, both students and professionals who are not at ease with Latin, and therefore unfamiliar with the sources for this crucial period of medieval history. But the translator has done far more than one would ordinarily expect from a translation. The modest and annotated by on the title page next to the translator's name hides a significant accomplishment. McCarthy provides in the long introduction of eighty pages a succinct, knowledgeable and clearly written survey of the historical background of the last hundred years or so of the chronicle that is up-to-date and focused on English secondary sources, but includes older essential bibliography in languages other than English as well. The volume also includes an extensive bibliography divided into primary and secondary sources (286-311).

The introduction discusses the universal or world chronicle as literary genre, the manuscripts and the complicated editorial history of Frutolf's chronicle--until 1896 attributed to Ekkehard of Aura, who actually was one of Frutolf's continuators--and describes clearly the general intellectual atmosphere of Frutolf's lifetime (he died presumably in 1099 when his own work ended) and the next decades. The period was dominated by pro-imperial and pro-Gregorian propaganda. These polemics represent a new element in medieval historical writings that differentiated contemporaries of Frutolf of Michelsberg as well as the continuators of the chronicle in the early twelfth century. McCarthy points out the "considerable partisanship" (14) coloring these younger additions, as readers will gratefully note. The biographies of both Frutolf who seems to have moved from the Abbey of St. Emmeram in Regensburg to the monastery of Michelsberg in Bamberg (15-19) as well as of Ekkehard of Aura are investigated with a careful evaluation of the relevant sources, based whenever possible on surviving manuscripts--some are autographs--of Frutolf's musical and computistic works as well as of the chronicle to 1099 itself, which is fortunately also preserved at least partially as an autograph (Jena, Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek MS Bose q.19). Last but not least, the text of the translation itself is carefully annotated with bibliographical and cross references. Very helpful will be the three maps provided (xv-xviii), the tables, the bibliography (286-311) and the index (312-324).

A scholar worth his salt would not and should not work on the basis of translations. However, in the case of the Chronicles of the Investiture Contest it would be a serious error not to consult McCarthy's work, at least as long as Dr. Christian Lohmer's planned critical edition of Frutolf of Michelsberg's chronicle (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Munich) has not appeared. Lohmer's edition is to replace the 1844 edition of Georg Waitz as well as the 1972 edition of Franz-Josef Schmale and Irene Schmale-Ott. [1] The latter was the basis for McCarthy's translation, but he does not accept all of the classifications of the Schmales who identified four recensions as well an eventually independent account of the crusade of 1102, the Hierosolimita in addition to the Kaiserchronik (42-43). In 1844, Georg Waitz had assumed that the original chronicle itself as well as all of its continuations were the work of Abbot Ekkehard of Aura (d. 1126), and had classified the manuscripts known to him into six recensions (41-42). In 1896, however, Harry Bresslau unequivocally identified Frutolf of Michelsberg and the Jena manuscript as Frutolf's rather than Ekkehard's autograph (42). McCarthy tentatively--he intends to pursue further studies (44, 83 n. 367)--takes the revisions of Bresslau and of the Schmales yet another step forward. Largely on the basis of the starkly contrasting attitudes towards the papacy and the empire expressed by the different continuators of Frutolf's chronicle, McCarthy identifies Ekkehard of Aura only as the author of book five of the chronicle (= recension 3 of the Schmale edition), the first continuation of Frutolf's work, covering the period 1106 to 1116. Like Schmale and Schmale-Ott, McCarthy doubts that Ekkehard was the author of the recension dubbed Kaiserchronik (annals for 1095-1114) and presented to Emperor Henry V in 1114. He cautiously calls it the Anonymous imperial chronicle and only hesitantly ascribes the final continuation, the 1125 Continuation to Ekkehard, "though this has not yet been established with certainty" (44). McCarthy's tentative arguments, based on the thorough investigation and analysis of all manuscripts, are very reasonable, and I look forward to confirmation in McCarthy's future work and in the expected new critical edition by Dr. Christian Lohmer. T.J.H. McCarthy's "translation" is a great boon to medieval historians and he is to be congratulated.



1. MGH Scriptores in folio 6 (Hannover, 1844), 33-211, and Frutolfs und Ekkehards Chroniken und die Anonyme Kaiserchronik, Ausgewaehlte Quellen zur deutschen Geschichte des Mittelalters 15 (Darmstadt, 1972), 48-121.

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