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Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History

Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History

Ademar of Chabannes, 989–1034

Richard Landes

ISBN 9780674755307

Publication date: 05/17/1998

This unusual biographical work traces the life and career of Ademar of Chabannes, a monk, historian, liturgist, and hagiographer who lived at the turn of the first Christian millennium. Thanks to the unique collection of over one thousand folios of autograph manuscript that Ademar left behind, Richard Landes has been able to reconstruct in great detail the development of Ademar's career and the events of his day, and to suggest several major revisions in the general picture held by current medieval historiography.

Above all, the author's research confirms and elaborates the realization (first articulated over sixty years ago by the historian Louis Saltet) that in 1029 Ademar suffered a humiliating defeat at the height of his career and spent his final five years feverishly producing a dossier of forgeries and fictions about his own contemporaries that has few parallels in the annals on medieval forgery. Not only did that dossier of forgeries succeed in misleading historians from the twelfth century right up to the twentieth, but few historians have been willing to explore the implications of so striking a revision in Ademar's biography. Richard Landes is the first to systematically examine the evidence and the implications for our understanding of the period, and he offers an explanation of how these remarkable developments might have occurred.


  • Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History is an intelligent and imaginative study of an author who accounts for a large proportion of the surviving narrative sources for Aquitaine in the first third of the eleventh century and is consequently central to our understanding of important movements such as the Peace of God, pilgrimage, and the cult of saints. Ademar left a substantial corpus, much of it autograph. This provides the cornerstone of Landes's challenging methodology whereby he calibrates shifts in Ademar's literary identity--as copyist, historian, liturgist, and mythographer--against a detailed biographical reconstruction which is in turn interwoven with the religious, social, and political currents affecting the 'millennial generation'. Landes excels in applying skilled palaeographical, codicological, and textual analysis to wider issues...This is an ambitious, original, methodologically exciting, and closely argued work of great interest.

    —Marcus Bull, English Historical Review [UK]


  • Richard A. Landes is Senior Fellow at the Center for International Communication, Bar-Ilan University.

Book Details

  • 416 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press