Godfrey of Viterbo and his Readers : Imperial Tradition and Universal History in Late Medieval Europe book cover
1st Edition

Godfrey of Viterbo and his Readers
Imperial Tradition and Universal History in Late Medieval Europe

Edited By

Thomas Foerster

ISBN 9780367880347
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
210 Pages

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Book Description

This collection provides a systematic survey of the wide readership the works of Godfrey of Viterbo enjoyed in the late Middle Ages. In the last years of the twelfth century this chronicler and imperial notary wrote a series of historical collections that gained considerable and lasting popularity: between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, his works were copied in elaborate manuscripts in almost all of Latin Europe. This wide distribution is particularly surprising for an author like Godfrey whom modern historians have never credited with any importance at all, as they considered his works chaotic and historically unreliable. Yet Godfrey was certainly one of the most daring historiographers of his time. In his works, the lineage of the Hohenstaufen emperors Frederick Barbarossa and Henry VI is traced directly to Charlemagne and Augustus, to the kings of Troy and of the Old Testament, and to Jupiter and everyone who, in his view, wielded imperial power in the past. Godfrey was a herald of the new political ideas the Hohenstaufen developed after the years of defeat against the papacy and the Italian communes, but also a universal chronicler whose interests reached far beyond the political issues of his day. Bringing together a group of specialists on manuscripts and historical writing in late medieval England, Spain, Italy, Germany, Bohemia and Poland, this volume aims to revive Godfrey’s reputation by demonstrating how his works were understood by medieval readers.

Table of Contents

Godfrey of Viterbo and his Readers: introduction.  Modern readers of Godfrey.  The distinctive elements among Godfrey of Viterbo's political ideas.  Godfrey of Viterbo: historical writing and imperial legitimacy at the early Hohenstaufen court.  Twilight of the emperors: Godfrey's Pantheon and the Hohenstaufen inheritance in 13th-century Castile and England.  Godfrey of Viterbo and his readers at the court of Emperor Charles IV.  A textbook for emperors? Godfrey and imperial traditions in the two Italies.  Purposeful pasts: Godfrey of Viterbo and later medieval imperialist thought.  Godfrey of Viterbo and his perception in Poland in the 14th and 15th centuries.  Godfrey of Viterbo and his many readers: an example from 14th-century Aragon.


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Thomas Foerster studied at Heidelberg University where he was awarded his PhD in 2008 and has since worked in different postdoctoral positions in Norway, France, and since 2013 at the Norwegian Institute in Rome, Italy. He is author of Conquest and Political Culture: Hohenstaufen Sicily and Capetian Normandy, c.1185-1215 (forthcoming) and Vergleich und Identität: Selbst- und Fremddeutung im Norden des hochmittelalterlichen Europa (2009).