Information

Matthew Paris


Matthew Paris was born in about 1200. In 1236 Matthew took over from Roger.

St Albans abbey is situated on the main road north from London. Many travellers stopped for the night at St Albans and Matthew Paris was able to collect a lot of information from them about what was going on in the rest of the country.

Matthew's reputation as a historian grew and important people visited him, no doubt hoping that he would say nice things about them in his books. Those who visited him included Henry III. However, Matthew disagreed with Henry's policy of appointing foreign advisers and he was often very critical of the king.

As well as being a good writer, Matthew was a talented artist, and in the margins of his books he illustrated the text with drawings and paintings. Although he has been criticised for relying too much on rumour and gossip and being prejudiced against foreigners and friars, Matthew Paris is considered to be one of the most important historians of the medieval period. Matthew Paris died in 1259.

If you speak or write truth about powerful men, they become your enemies.

He (Matthew Paris)... wrote down fully in his books, the deeds of great men in Church and State... Moreover he was also a good workmen in gold and silver... in carving and in painting, that he is believed to have left no equal in this world.


Matthew Paris on the writing of history

Matthew Paris was one of the most prolific and influential historians of the central middle ages. Matthew's significance rests both on the range of his interests and the scope of his writing. Yet, even basic questions about his outlook on writing, his concept of history, or the relationship with his audience, have hardly been asked. These issues are central themes of this article, and will be used to consider wider questions about Matthew's concept of truth, his handling of information, and his view of the world around him. The article, furthermore, extends coverage beyond the Chronica majora or Matthew's vernacular writings to consider his concept of history as it emerges from the totality of his oeuvre.


Matthew Paris on the writing of history

Matthew Paris was one of the most prolific and influential historians of the central middle ages. Matthew's significance rests both on the range of his interests and the scope of his writing. Yet, even basic questions about his outlook on writing, his concept of history, or the relationship with his audience, have hardly been asked. These issues are central themes of this article, and will be used to consider wider questions about Matthew's concept of truth, his handling of information, and his view of the world around him. The article, furthermore, extends coverage beyond the Chronica majora or Matthew's vernacular writings to consider his concept of history as it emerges from the totality of his oeuvre.


Matthew Paris, Chronicler of St. Albans

During the first half of the thirteenth century, Matthew Paris recorded in words and drawings the events of world history. W.N. Bryant tells his story.

During the later middle ages many monasteries produced their own chronicles. The writing of each chronicle would normally be the responsibility of one of the monks, and when he died another brother would continue his work. These monastic writers rarely recorded their own names, and very often their chronicles are of no more than parochial interest. At the monastery of St. Albans, however, the case was different. There, a very important chronicle was begun by Roger Wendover, probably in 1201, and continued by a series of scribes until the fifteenth century. This chronicle, the Chronica Majora, was written on a massive scale it fills twenty-nine of the large volumes published in the nineteenth century as part of the Rolls Series. It covers the period from the creation of the world until 1422, but its most famous portion deals with the middle years of the reign of Henry III. This portion was written by Matthew Paris who took over the writing of the chronicle on Wendover’s death in 1235.

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Matthew of Paris Preserved History

How do we know what happened in the middle ages? Although Christians did not write modern-style histories at that time, monks kept chronicles. In England, the best chronologies came out of an old, distinguished monastery near London called St. Albans. The Benedictine monks of St. Albans had accumulated great wealth and owned many books, which allowed them the leisure and resources to document English doings. Distinguished travelers from foreign lands stopped by the place.

On this day, January 21, 1217, Matthew Paris was clothed as a novice at St. Albans. He was probably seventeen or eighteen years old and would have donned a monks dress for the first time. That step positioned him to become the most famous English chronicler of the Middle Ages.

In the previous century, Abbot Simon had established a regular position for a historian. When Matthew entered the monastery, Roger of Wendover held the post. Unlike many medieval chroniclers, Wendover wrote in a lively style and boldly criticized wrongdoing. In 1236 Wendover died and Matthew Paris took his place. He improved on Wendover's style.

Traveling and corresponding with men all over Europe, Matthew Paris gathered eyewitness accounts. He wove this information into his famous Chronica Majora, which began with creation and ended in 1259. Under the headings of the years, he told of storms and robbers, kings and popes, wars and crusades. He was well-liked, even by King Henry III, whom he criticized for ruling England through foreigners.

Although thoroughly a son of the church, Matthew Paris was also a courageous writer who rebuked the behavior of popes and kings in his pages. He denounced the corruption and greed of English and Roman churchmen who lived "daintily on the patrimony of Christ" and described the pope's agents as "harpies and bloodsuckers, plunderers, who do not merely shear, but skin, the sheep."

The Chronica Majora is made even more interesting by drawings in its margins. Historians believe Matthew Paris drew these himself. He also wrote a life of Stephen Langton, the famous Archbishop of Canterbury who helped draft the Magna Carta.

Unfortunately, this monk who preserved the past for us left almost no information about himself. Other monks kept Matthew Paris' chronicle going into the next century.


Matthew Paris's English History: From the Year 1235 to 1273 Volume 3

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been proofread and republished using a format that seamlessly blends the original graphical elements with text in an easy-to-read typeface.

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Matthew Paris: The History of St. Edward the King and The Life of St. Alban

Matthew Paris (d. 1259), monk of the English Benedictine abbey of St Albans and a knowledgeable reporter of life at the court of Henry III and of thirteenth-century Europe in general, is famous for his illustrated Latin chronicles. His French texts of the lives of British saints have been undervalued and, apart from some excellent art history scholarship on their illustrations, largely neglected.

THE HISTORY OF SAINT EDWARD THE KING (FRETS VOLUME I)

Edward the Confessor (1003-66) was the last Anglo-Saxon king and, until the late fourteenth-century rise in the prestige of St. George, patron saint of England. He was greatly culted by Norman and Angevin kings, by none so intensely as Henry III. Continuity with the regnal line of pre-Conquest England began as a legitimating strategy for the Normans and continued as a matter of dynastic identity and prestige. Paris’s French illustrated life is dedicated to “Alianor . . . reine/D’Engletere” (vv.52-3) and was probably designed for presentation to Eleanor of Provence on her marriage to Henry III in 1236, perhaps as an introduction to her husband’s dynastic traditions.

This volume includes a translation of the History and the rhymed rubrics Paris composed to accompany his text and images an introduction on the historical, cultural, literary and stylistic contexts in which Paris wrote about Edward the Confessor an appendix of passages from the original text a generous selection of suggested further reading and an index of proper names. The volume has been designed so that its translations of text and rubrics from the extant manuscript can be used in conjunction with the presentation of the manuscript at www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/manuscripts/Ee.3.59/.

THE LIFE OF ST. ALBAN (FRETS VOLUME II)

This volume presents the first translation of Matthew Paris’s Vie de seint Auban, the great thirteenth-century chronicler’s life of the patron saint of his own monastery of St. Albans. In addition to its role within the monastery, this key text in Paris’s canon was aimed at elite lay patrons from the court of Henry III. The Life, extant in a single manuscript largely written in Paris’s own hand and extensively illustrated by him, offers vivid accounts of conversion and crusading piety, and casts the Romano-Britons of early England as evil Saracens. The manuscript has not been published in detail since M. R. James’ black and white collotype prints of 1924. This volume includes a substantial introduction, the first translation of the Life a new translation of Paris’s chief source, theVita sancti Albani two essays on the manuscript and a generous selection of colour images. The volume redresses modern scholarship’s relative neglect of the Life of St Alban and will be of interest to scholars and readers of medieval literature, medieval history and culture, and the history of religion and religious literature. An appendix of original text excerpts adds to its usefulness in both graduate and undergraduate courses.


Portrait of King John from Matthew Paris's Historia Anglorum

One of the most significant works by Matthew Paris (1200&ndash59), author, illuminator and monk of St Albans Abbey, is the Historia Anglorum, a chronicle of English history from the Norman Conquest to the year 1253. This copy of that text is prefaced by a gallery of eight Norman and Plantagenet kings of England, from William the Conqueror (r. 1066&ndash87) to Henry III (r. 1216&ndash72). Each king is shown seated on a throne, holding a representation of a building of which he was a patron. Most of these buildings are monastic: King John, for example, holds the Cistercian abbey at Beaulieu, Hampshire.

The benign depiction of John in this miniature is in sharp contrast with the hostile treatment he receives within the pages of Paris&rsquos chronicle. Paris based his text on an earlier work by another St Albans author, Roger of Wendover (d. 1236), significantly expanding and amending it in the light of events through which he himself had lived. Shaken by the Interdict crisis of 1208&ndash13 and its aftermath, Paris denounces King John as a traitor to the English Church, an oppressive force and a &lsquotyrant rather than a king&rsquo.

This portrayal continues in Paris&rsquos chronicling of the events surrounding the granting of Magna Carta. Although his account of those turbulent years is occasionally confused, he is steadfast both in his strong criticism of the king and in his support for the barons. Paris uses a report of a conversation among the barons in 1216 to insert his own characterisation of the king, one that was to be echoed by centuries of subsequent historians: &lsquoJohn, last of kings, principal abomination of the English, disgrace to the English nobility&rsquo.


Drawings of Matthew Paris

Matthew Paris was an engaging, well informed chronicler who had contacts with leading men of the realm such as Hubert de Burgh though it appears he had a tendency to embroidering the truth a bit for the sake of a good story. But another talent were his drawings in the margins and embedded in his manuscripts, which shed a little more light or wit on the events of the day.

Here’s Paris himself, in a self portrait. he was a Benedictine monk at the abbey of St Albans, and abbey with a long tradition of historical writing.

This is an illustration about the battle of Bouvines in 1214. The defeat of Otto IV and his English and Flemish allies set the seal on the loss of the Angevin Empire, and set John up for the Baronial revolt that led to Magna Carta.

This is a picture of William the Marshal doing what he did best …

…unlike his son, Gilbert Marshal who is shown here dying in a joust. William had five sons, and would have died feeling very comfortable that his dynasty was safe. In fact all five of them died without a a male heir.

Here’s Louis of France arriving in London to help the Barons in their revolt against John.

Louis’ hopes of winning a kingdom for himself died at the battle of Lincoln in 1217. Here you can see Falkes de Breaute’s crossbow men firing on Louis’ men, while under the battlements the poor old Count of Perche dies from a dagger thrust through the eye holes of his helmet. Still, everyone was very sorry about it. For one thing it meant no ransom, and for another killing oiks was OK but noblemen? Tut tut.

The final straw was the battle of Sandwich, where Hubert de Burgh defeated the French fleet bringing reinforcements, raised by Loui’s redoubatble wife Blanche of Castile. On the right you can see Eustace the Monk losing his head.

And speak of the devil, here is Hubert de Burgh. Hubert had a long colourful career. He fought valiantly for John at Chinon, and in 1215 was made the Justiciar – because he was more acceptable ot the Barons than his competitor, Peter des Roches the Bishop of Westminster. He was eventually to fall though at Peter’s hands.

John’s successor was Henry, a 9 year old. He started off by being crowned in Gloucester, but after Louis was thrown out, he was crowned properly at Westminster by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton in this drawing looks like quite a bruiser, very square jawed. Henry looks like a bit of a drip, and so it was to prove.

The fates decreed though that Henry should marrry a woman with a good deal more strength of character than him – though it’s not clear this was a good thing. Here is the marriage of Henry and Eleanor of Provence.


How did the map come to the British Library?

It was a part of the collection begun in the 17th century by Sir Robert Cotton, a keen antiquarian. In his library, a series of busts of the Roman emperors sat on top of the bookshelves. The shelfmark of this manuscript, Cotton Claudius D vi, records its position as the sixth book on shelf D beneath the bust of Emperor Claudius.

The collection was presented to the nation by Robert Cotton’s grandson in 1700. However, the dilapidated state of Cotton’s house gave cause for concern over the collection’s safety. The library was moved first to Essex House in the Strand, then to Ashburnham House in Westminster. In 1753, the Cotton collection found a home in the newly founded British Museum. The collection was transferred to the British Library on its foundation in 1973.


Watch the video: Five Minutes With: Matthew Parris (January 2022).