Hortulus 13.2 (Spring 2017)
During the thirteenth century, the Norwegian royal hirð underwent a significant change – developing from an unruly band of bodyguards into a European-modelled court. This development was instigated by King Hákon IV Hákonarson, by introducing courtly culture to his hirð. This article focuses on two texts that were used as tools in this process: Konungs skuggsjá, an educational text that dealt with politics and morality, and Hirðskrá, a legal codex that concerned the laws and actions of the hirð. The aim of this article is to support the idea of the Norwegian kings making use of these texts as didactic tools in a conscious attempt to develop their hirðmenn into a more sophisticated, devoted group. The article examines the texts’ pedagogic natures in order to analyse the didactic methods used to entice the king’s men to more devotedly serve their monarch, and subsequently assesses how the texts sought to use courtly culture as a method to make aristocrats voluntarily segregate themselves further from the rest of society, centring themselves around the king. Ultimately, this article intends to contribute further knowledge to our understanding of how both these texts were aimed at and applied to the royal hirð, and showcase how the hirðmenn were encouraged to voluntarily alter their attitudes and isolate themselves on the premise of gaining closer relations to the king.
The historiography of Byzantine history and culture contains myriad topics of interest to historians. The historiography of the Fourth Crusade in particular deserves attention, as it highlights the origins of Byzantine studies. As a discipline, the study of Byzantium has not been analyzed in terms of the profoundly negative perceptions of the Byzantine state that were shaped by its early historians. In this essay, I examine a centuries-long swath of Byzantine historiography relating to the Fourth Crusade, the defining event in the thirteenth century in the Eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, I argue that Enlightenment-era philosophes aped Crusader narratives to shape their histories, thereby distorting perceptions of the Byzantines; these biases would trickle down in many pervasive forms into the Western historiography of the Eastern Romans. I also analyze the relevant primary sources with a particular focus on how these shaped the metanarratives of later historiography. While the historians who studied the Fourth Crusade in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made monumental leaps forward in the professionalization and perfection of methodologies of history, their tainted portrayal of the Byzantines as cowardly Oriental theocrats led to a turn towards objective and empirical histories of the event beginning in the nineteenth century as well as corresponding pro-Byzantine backlash dynamic in the twentieth century. The damage done to the popular vision of Byzantine identity and the study of Byzantium by Edward Gibbon, Voltaire, and Montesquieu is still being undone today.
This paper argues that Matthew Paris’s Vie de seint Auban (Life of Saint Alban) creatively reimagines the history of St. Albans abbey as a series of visual encounters. Matthew Paris, the sole author and illustrator of the manuscript (Dublin, Trinity College Library, MS 177), was in a unique position to control every visual effect of the manuscript’s layout, text, and image. I posit that he embeds hagiography and history into a visual narrative in order to legitimize St. Albans monastery’s hold of their namesake’s relics. This paper contextualizes Paris’s Anglo-Norman work in terms of medieval thought on sight and visuality, emphasizing the idea that sight could lead both to deception and to holy knowledge. Through a series of reflections, refractions, and repetitions throughout the Vie de seint Auban, Paris links the monastery’s visual culture to its legitimate holding of the St. Albans Cross, which appears multiple times throughout the manuscript. The history of the monastery depends upon the gaze and the desire to gaze upon this holy relic, stained with Alban’s own blood. The narrator at the end of the Vie promises to “display in [his] book written on vellum” (musterai i mun livre escrit en veeslin) the tale of St. Alban’s martyrdom. This emphasis on display, the layout and design of the manuscript, and the narrative attention to vision all point to the work’s historiophotic effect: it is a history bound up with the act of seeing, where the act of looking is a pathway to historical truth.