Widukind of Corvey

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Widukind of Corvey was a Saxon historical chronicler, named after (and possibly a descendant of) the Saxon duke and national hero Widukind who had battled Charlemagne. Widukind the chronicler was born in 925 and died after 973 at the Benedictine abbey of Corvey in East Westphalia. His three-volume Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres is an important chronicle of 10th-century Germany.

Widukind entered the monastery at Corvey around 940. He left very important historical accounts of the times of Henry I the Fowler and Otto I the Great. Widukind wrote as a Saxon, proud of his people and history, beginning his annals, not with Rome but with a brief synopsis derived from the orally-transmitted history of the Saxons, with a terseness that makes his work difficult to interpret. He omitted Italian events in tracing the career of Henry the Great, nor does he ever mention a pope, but one of the three surviving mss. of his Gesta was transcribed at Beneventum, the Lombard duchy south of Rome. [1]. A manuscript of Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres was first published in Basle in 1532 and is today in the British Library. There are two other surviving manuscripts. The best edition was published in 1935 by Paul Hirsch and Hans-Eberhard Lohmann in the series Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum editi. A German translation appears in the Quellen zur Geschichte der sächsischen Kaiserzeit published by Albert Bauer and Reinhold Rau in 1971. An English translation is found in an unprinted doctoral dissertation: Raymond F. Wood, The three books of the deeds of the Saxons, by Widukind of Corvey, translated with introduction, notes, and bibliography (University of California, Berkeley, 1949).

Widukind of Corvey starts with the wars between Theuderich I, King of Austrasia, and the Thuringii, in which the Saxons played a large part. An allusion to the conversion of the Saxons to Christianity under Charlemagne brings him to the early Saxon dukes and details of the reign of Henry the Fowler. The second book opens with the election of Otto the Great as German king, treats of the risings against his authority, omitting events in Italy, and concludes with the death of his wife Edith in 946. He dedicates his writings to Matilda, Abbess of Quedlinburg, daughter of Emperor Otto I the Great, a descendant of the Saxon leader Widukind.

Widukind is credited with a vita of St Paul and St Thecla doubtless based on the 2nd century Acts of Paul and Thecla , but no traces of it now remains.

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