Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bruno the Saxon

Henry challenging the power of the church
Little is known of the figure called Bruno the Saxon, except that he was a monk attached to the household of Archbishop Werner of Magdeburg. Werner was an enemy of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, even joining a revolt against him. After Werner's death in 1078, Bruno joined the household of another Werner, this one the Bishop of Merseburg (because of which Bruno is sometimes called Bruno von Merseburg). Bruno's Historia de Bello Saxonico ["History of the Saxon Wars"] is dedicated to Werner of Merseburg.

The Historia recounts the struggles between the Saxons and Henry IV. Although Bruno is a Saxon, he seems to treat Henry more fairly than some other historians and figures of the time. Although he characterized the young Henry as arrogant and as someone who should have listened to his mother more, he also attributes problems with him to the evil influence of others, notably Adalbert, Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen. Adalbert was sub-regent under Henry's mother, Agnes. Bruno felt it was good that Henry came under the influence of Archbishop Anno of Cologne (after Anno staged the Coup of Kaiserswerth), but eventually Adalbert once again replaced Anno in henry's eyes as a chief influence.

This is not to say that Bruno was impartial: in the conflicts between Henry and the papacy (mainly, the Investiture Controversy), Bruno unsurprisingly takes the pope's side. When the excommunication was lifted by Pope Gregory VII, it was conditional upon Henry's good behavior: particularly, he had to forego wearing his regalia for a year to show humility, and avoid the company of the men who has counseled him to overreach himself. Unfortunately,
But when he began to exclude these men from his company, they started to make a great fuss, telling him that if he now drove away those by whose wisdom and courage he had up to now held his kingdom, the pope would be able neither to restore it to him nor to obtain another for him. These words and others like them led him to change his mind, and he wickedly returned through their evil counsel to his customary ways. He placed upon his head the diadem of gold and kept in his heart the anathema, stronger than iron. He mixed in communion with the excommunicate, and this wretched man was thrust out from communion with the saints. He now made it clear to all that what he said, that he preferred the kingdom of Heaven to earthly things, was untrue. Had he remained obedient for [even] a little while, he would have held his earthly kingdom in peace, and at some future time would have come into possession of the heavenly and eternal one. But now, for his disobedience, he would not have the one that he loved without great toil, and would never receive the other without a complete change in his way of life. [link]
Bruno seems to want to give Henry the benefit of the doubt and explain his failings as the evil influence of others.

Despite obvious biases, however, Bruno provides some valuable history by giving us a taste of life at the time and by including other sources in his Historia, such as letters from Saxon bishops and other original documents.

No comments:

Post a Comment