19.05.04 Naß, ed., Codex Udalrici

Main Article Content

T. J. H. McCarthy

The Medieval Review 19.05.04

Nass, Klaus, ed. Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Codex Udalrici, Teil 1 and 2. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2017. pp. cxxvi, 747. ISBN: 978-3-447-10946-8 (hardback).

Reviewed by:
T. J. H. McCarthy
New College of Florida
tmccarthy@ncf.edu

The Codex Udalrici, compiled by Udalric of Bamberg in 1125 and revised in 1134, stands as one of the most significant literary monuments of the twelfth century. Its two books comprise a collection of 395 verses, epithets, formal salutations, letters, synodal acta, polemics and diplomas. This great work survives today in seven manuscripts. Two of these--the mid-twelfth-century Zwettl, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 283, and the late twelfth-century Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 398--transmit the full text. Five others transmit partial texts: Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 611 (mid-twelfth century); Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4594 (second half of the twelfth century); an Admont manuscript once part of the palace library at Mladá Vožice but now in a private collection (last quarter of the twelfth century); Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Sal. X 48 Nr. 18 (second half of the twelfth century); and Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 2475 (twelfth century).

Until now, the Codex Udalrici has primarily been accessible through two problematic editions: Johann Georg Eccard's Udalrici Babenbergensis codex epistolaris, published in his Corpus historicum medii aevi 2 (Leipzig, 1723), and Philipp Jaffé's edition in Biblioteca rerum Germanicarum 5: Monumenta Bambergensia (Berlin, 1869). The publication of Klaus Naß's critical edition by the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, therefore, is to be welcomed by scholars of the intellectual, ecclesiastical, cultural and political history of the central middle ages.

Historians have viewed Udalric and his compilation differently. In the late nineteenth century Jaffé and others identified Udalric as a monk of Michelsberg in Bamberg, while in the early twentieth Hans Hirsch, who suggested that Udalric was somehow connected with a royal notary called Henry, saw the collection as an important witness to the practices of the late-Salian royal chancery. Perhaps most influential was the work of the great intellectual historian Carl Erdmann, who in the 1930s identified Udalric as the cathedral scholasticus (schoolmaster) in Bamberg and stressed the importance of the work as a schoolbook. Influenced by the fact that Udalric also wrote an Ars dictandi, Erdmann emphasized the stylistic and didactic basis of much of the collection. Subsequent historians extended this interpretation substantially: Franz-Josef Schmale, for example, claimed that numerous items in the Codex Udalrici were literary fictions composed by Udalric himself.

Naß's introduction of fifty-three pages provides a clear and concise guide to the Codex Udalrici and its historiography. It is divided into eleven sections: beginning with a brief synopsis of the current state of research, it discusses in more detail topics such as manuscript transmission, Udalric's identity and work methods, the collection's purpose, structure and models, as well as the history of its editions and the text version presented by this new edition. Naß modifies and refines much of the earlier work on the Codex Udalrici. Unlike Erdmann, he identifies Udalric as the Bamberg Domkustos--an officer loosely equivalent to cathedral treasurer and the third most senior chapter member after the provost and dean (xx). He also shies away from seeing the collection simply as a formulary or as a stylistically driven schoolbook. While acknowledging that the collection has many facets, he ultimately sees it as an ecclesiastical administrative sourcebook: a collection of historical examples on topics likely to be of interest and of use to a future bishop, provost or abbot.

Naß's view of the collection's purpose is ultimately grounded in his belief in the historicity of its letters as well as the in circumstances of its composition. As with most medieval documents, the Codex Udalrici was produced for a specific purpose: its dedicatory verses make clear that Udalric compiled it in the months before Christmas 1125 for the young Count Gebhard of Henneberg, who early in 1122 had been elected as bishop of Würzburg and invested by Henry V. The aftermath of Gebhard's election, however, was far from simple, for in the summer of 1122 opponents elected a rival bishop in the person of a Würzburg canon named Rugger. Rugger was consecrated by Henry V's implacable enemy Archbishop Adalbert of Mainz, who promptly excommunicated Gebhard. From then until 1125 each candidate struggled in vain to control the bishopric of Würzburg. With Rugger's death on 26 August 1125, it seemed that Gebhard might eventually establish his episcopacy; and though Archbishop Adalbert held out this prospect, renewed politicking eventually led to the investiture and consecration of Embrico, the head of Lothar III's chancery. (It was only in 1150--after the death of both Embrico and his successor Siegfried--that Gebhard finally became the undisputed bishop of Würzburg.) Naß argues that Udalric's use of presul Gebeharde in the dedicatory verses can only point to the period after Rugger's death when it seemed that Gebhard might indeed be consecrated, and thus he dates the compilation to between September and Christmas 1125 (xxi). This date is in line with his view that the Codex Udalrici is not a partisan contribution for Gebhard in his struggle with Rugger and thus cannot be dated to earlier in 1125.

Udalric's dedication of his collection to Gebhard raises the tantalizing question of his relationship to the bishop-elect of Würzburg. Rejecting as unproven the idea that Gebhard had been a cathedral canon at Bamberg, Naß instead suggests a range of potentially overlapping possibilities: that there was a family connexion; that their relationship arose from the fact that the parish church of St Killian in Buttenheim, where Udalric's near relations were buried, was under the patronage of the bishop of Würzburg; or that Gebhard had been a student at the distinguished cathedral school in Bamberg. While Naß proceeds cautiously owing to the incomplete nature of the evidence, the fact that the Codex Udalrici as well as several other contemporary sources attest to close relations between the neighbouring bishoprics of Bamberg and Würzburg lends distinct plausibility to his suggestions. Whatever the exact relationship, the dedication to Gebhard confirms Naß's view of the collection: the Codex Udalrici is just the sort of thing that would be incredibly useful to a churchman embarking upon his new office as a bishop.

Naß's edition is executed to a high standard, and presents the individual items clearly with a full critical apparatus, the identification of individuals and the citation of relevant literature. His text is closer to the surviving manuscripts of the Codex Udalrici than the editions of Eccard and Jaffé. Whereas Jaffé attempted to reconstruct the original Codex Udalrici of 1125, which is no longer extant, Naß presents the revised and expanded versionof c. 1134, which is the version from which all the surviving manuscripts stem. Naß's ordering of the material also differs from either Eccard or Jaffé: he follows the order of the earliest surviving full manuscript (Zwettl, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 283) and provides a helpful concordance to the numbering systems of the two earlier editions (pp. 687–97).

Thanks to Naß's fine work, the Codex Udalrici is now easily available in a reliable, clear and scholarly edition. This is a considerable achievement. Udalric's compilation is important and useful on many levels: as an indicator of what early twelfth-century clerics thought useful for a bishop to know, as a repository of style and example, as a palimpsest of earlier sources and letter collections that themselves no longer survive, but perhaps most significantly as a witness to the stimulating intellectual life of late eleventh- and early twelfth-century Bamberg. Naß's purpose, as he himself states, has not been to say the last word on the Codex Udalrici, but to allow others to study this remarkable collection in ever deeper ways. He has certainly achieved this goal, and in doing so has allowed scholars to begin to rewrite the intellectual history of the early twelfth century in a more holistic and pan-European way.

Article Details

Section
Reviews