Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History

Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History:

Ademar of Chabannes, 989–1034

Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1995

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 autographed manuscripts 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 suggests 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.


Times Literary Supplement
John Gillingham
The Times Literary Supplement, 1997
Daniel Callahan
The Medieval Review, March 1, 1997
John J. Contreni
The American Historical Review, April 1997
Catherine Vincent
Archives de Sciences sociales des religions, 1996
Donald Maddox
Biography, VOL 20, NO. 2, Spring 1997
Georges Pon
Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, 40e année (n°158), Avril-juin 1997
R. I. Moore
Speculum, Vol. 72, No. 3, July 1997
Bernd Schneidmüller, Bamberg

Francia, 25/1 1998 

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]

“On August 3, 1029, Ademar of Chabannes suffered a humiliating defeat when his plans for a triumphal procession of the relics of St. Martial and the chanting of his new liturgy in Martial's honor turned into a fiasco. He spent the next five years writing forgeries and fictions about his contemporaries which have misled historians up to the 20th century. He left behind more than 1,000 folios of manuscripts. This account by Professor Landes of Boston University sheds new light on the cult of saints, apocalypticism, scriptoria and their manuscripts, and historiography.”
Theology Digest

“A brilliant work which synthesizes the immense technical skills Landes has acquired with his talent as an historian. Because Ademar left so many manuscripts in so many fields of endeavor and because he was so thoroughly a part of the major historical movements in Aquitaine during the first third of the eleventh century, Landes is able to break new ground in a methodological sense with regard to the writing of various aspects of the social and religious history of the French kingdom in pre-Crusade Europe. Particular emphasis here is given to popular religion, the peace movement, apocalyptic thought and social patterns. Relics, Apocalypse, and the Deceits of History, moreover, is at once an intellectual biography, a personal biography, and a social history. Thus, Ademar the man, Ademar the monk, Ademar the scholar, Ademar the Christian, and Ademar the public figure are all thoroughly integrated in Landes' remarkable study.”

Bernard S. Bachrach, University of Minnesota

“Landes convinced me without any qualms of the importance of his approach. He is absolutely right to stress the importance of Ademar's corpus, substantial portions of it autograph. It is not just that Ademar is an important source for our writing and history. As Landes says, the fact that Ademar wrote and revised so much allows us to see into the creative process of a single man who lived at a watershed. We can see into his mind. And because Ademar was tortured and flawed, we have, as Landes also points out in a wonderful phrase, 'the autograph record of a man going mad.' Uncommon enough for any period, this is a motherlode for the middle ages.”
Geoffrey Koziol, University of California at Berkeley