Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

God's Scribe: The Historiographical Art of Galbert of Bruges

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

God's Scribe: The Historiographical Art of Galbert of Bruges

Article excerpt

God's Scribe: The Historiographical Art of Galbert of Bruges. By Jeff Rider. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press. 2001. Pp. viii, 360. $59.95.)

Jeff Rider is perhaps the ideal reader and interpreter of Galbert of Bruges's intriguing account of the murder in the castral church of Bruges of Charles the Good, Count of Flanders, since Rider earlier published a new translation of the Latin text which is the subject of this present book. He here demonstrates the sort of mastery of the text in all its details that is the rich reward for his work of translation.

Charles the Good was assassinated in 1127 by a clique of Flemish nobles at whose center lay the Erembalds, men whom the Count had cited to his court to defend their "liberty," acting on the rumor that their aristocratic status was a fiction and their true descent not noble at all, but instead servile. Had they been determined to be of servile status, the Count was legally entitled to degrade them of their nobility and offices and retract their privileges, a process of recuperating rights over serfs that Charles the Good was pursuing throughout the lands under his control. The Erembald clan, however, resisted the Count's claims, with all the ensuing disastrous results: for Charles, his assassins, and ultimately the citizens of Flanders in general and Bruges in particular, since the murder of the Count was followed by political upheaval, killing and counterkilling leading to the death of the traitors, and civil war occasioned by two subsequent changes of regime, culminating finally in the election of Thierry of Alsace as the new count in 1128. As a secular cleric and minor official in the Flemish comital administration, Galbert was ideally situated to record these happenings and did so for the benefit, Rider argues, of his fellow citizens of Bruges. Unfortunately, his De Multro, traditione, et occisione gloriosi Karoli comitis Flandriarum, which reports the full course of these events, remained unknown in the Middle Ages and seems to have been discovered only in the fifteenth century, when a French translation was made. The only other extant account of the events reported by Galbert is that of Walter of Therouanne's, whose contemporary Vita Karoli comitis lacks the vitality and detail of Galbert's far superior effort. …

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