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Chronicle of Henry of Livonia

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The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia (Latvian: Indriķa hronika, Latin: Heinrici Cronicon Lyvoniae) is a historic document describing the history of Latvia and Estonia from 1180 to 1227. It is the oldest known written document about the history of Latvia.

Contents

Background

In the 13th century, simultaneously with well-known Crusades towards Jerusalem and Middle East, Northern Crusades took place. The Northern Crusades are less celebrated in English-language popular history, but were more successful in the long run. Before the crusades, the region of Livonia (present-day Estonia and Latvia) was a mixed outpost, a pagan society where merchants from the Hanseatic League encountered merchants of Novgorod, and where Germanic, Scandinavian, and Russian trade, culture, and cults all mingled. Scandinavian rulers and German military knightly orders led by the Prince-Bishops conquered and settled the Baltic world and drew it into the Western orbit.

Content

The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia provides eyewitness accounts of the events, with an invaluable and deeply human history. It reveals the complexities of religious motives enmeshed with political aims. The other famous early Livonian text, the Rhymed Chronicle has less historical value, as it was essentially intended as a patriotic and Christian courtly entertainment.

The chronicles consist of 4 books. The first two books, "On Livonia" and "On bishop Berthold", describe the arrival of the first two German bishops, Meynard and Berthold and their failed attempts to establish influence in Latvia. The third book, "On bishop Albert" describes the third bishop, Albert of Buxhoeveden, the foundation of the order of Sword Brethren and the conquest of Livonia. The fourth book, "On Estonia", describes the conquest of Estonia by Albert and Sword Brethren.

The original manuscript of the chronicles has not been preserved. There are 16 different copies, dating from 14th to 19th century, the oldest of which is Codex Zamoscianus. Similarily, online material on the chronicle is rather scarce, though there are some excerpts [1] (http://www.ut.ee/klassik/lat/chindex.html) and the image of a page from one of the copies can also be viewed [2] (http://estonica.org/failid/406/henriku_kroonika_papp.jpg).

Author

The author of the chronicles is Henry (Latvian: Indrikis, Latin: Henricus Lettus). The chronicles say that he was a Catholic priest who witnessed most of events described. Henry is thought to have been born between 1180 and 1188. It is unclear whether Henry was from Livonia or Germany but he had a thoroughly German and Catholic education and as a youth was attached to the household of the Prince-Bishop Albert of Buxhoeveden, was ordained a priest in 1208, founded a parish and lived out his life in peace.

His Chronicles are written from the point-of-view that the history of the Church was the essential history of Livonia. The Chronicles may have originated as a report to the papal legate William of Modena, to whom he was assigned as interpreter in 1225 through 1227. The legate, one of the papacy's most able diplomats, was in Livonia to mediate an internal church dispute between the Christian knightly Order, the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, and the territorial claims of the Catholic bishops of Livonia.

Reference

sv:Henrik av Lettlands krönika

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