Godfrey Of Viterbo - Encyclopedia




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GODFREY OF VITERBO (c. 1120 - c. 1196), chronicler, was probably an Italian by birth, although some authorities assert that he was a Saxon. He evidently passed some of his early life at Viterbo, where also he spent his concluding days, but he was educated at Bamberg, gaining a good knowledge of Latin. About 1140 he became chaplain to the German king, Conrad III.; but the greater part of his life was spent as secretary (notaries) in the service of the emperor Frederick I., who appears to have thoroughly trusted him, and who employed him on many diplomatic errands. Incessantly occupied, he visited Sicily, France and Spain, in addition to many of the German cities, in the emperor's interests, and was by his side during several of the Italian campaigns. Both before and after Frederick's death in 1190 he enjoyed the favour of his son, the emperor Henry VI., for whom he wrote his Speculum regum, a work of very little value. Godfrey also wrote Memoria seculorum, or Liber memorialis, a chronicle dedicated to Henry VI., which professes to record the history of the world from the creation until 1185. It is written partly in prose and partly in verse. A revision of this work was drawn up by Godfrey himself as Pantheon, or Universitatis libri qui chronici appellantur. The author borrowed from Otto of Freising, but the earlier part of his chronicle is full of imaginary occurrences. Pantheon was first printed in 1559, and extracts from it are published by L. A. Muratori in the Rerum Italicatum scriptores, tome vii. (Milan, 1725). The only part of Godfrey's work which is valuable is the Gesta Friderici I., verses relating events in the emperor's career from 1155 to 1180. Concerned mainly with affairs in Italy, the poem tells of the sieges of Milan, of Frederick's flight to Pavia in 1167, of the treaty with Pope Alexander III. at Venice, and of other stirring episodes with which the author was intimately acquainted, and many of which he had witnessed. Attached to the Gesta Friderici is the Gesta Heinrici VI., a shorter poem which is often attributed to Godfrey, although W. Wattenbach and other authorities think it was not written by him. The Memoria seculorum was very popular during the middle ages, and has been continued by several writers.

Godfrey's works are found in the Monumenta Germaniae historica, Band xxii. (Hanover, 1872). The Gesta Friderici I. et Heinrici VI. is published separately with an introduction by G. Waitz (Hanover, 1872). See also H. Ulmann, Gotfried von Viterbo (Göttingen, 1863), and W. Wattenbach, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen, Band ii. (Berlin, 1894). (A. W. H.*)

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