Chronicle of Fredegar

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Page from a manuscript of Fredegar

The Chronicle of Fredegar is a chronicle that is a primary source of events in Frankish Gaul from 584 to around 641. Later authors continued the history to the coronation of Charlemagne and his brother Carloman on 9 October 768.

John Michael Wallace-Hadrill notes that this work "occupies a vital position in the history of Frankish Gaul ... first, because of the intrinsic importance of the information it contains; and secondly, because it is the only source of any significance for much of the period it covers. Together with the Decem Libri Historiarum of Gregory of Tours and the Neustrian chronicle known as the Liber Historiae Francorum, it constitutes a nearly continuous history of Gaul from the end of Roman rule to the establishment of the Carolingians, a period of three centuries."[1]


The question of who wrote this work has been much debated, although Wallace-Hadrill admits that "Fredegar" is a genuine, if unusual, Frankish name.[2] The Vulgar Latin of this work confirms that the Chronicle was written in Gaul; beyond this, little is certain about the origin of this work. As a result, there are several theories about the authorship of this work:[3]

  • The original point of view was that this Chronicle was written by one person, which was asserted without argument as late as 1878.
  • Bruno Krusch, in his edition for the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, first proposed (1883) that this Chronicle was the creation of three authors, a theory later accepted by Theodor Mommsen, Wilhelm Levison, and Wallace-Hadrill.
  • Ferdinand Lot critiqued Krusch's theory of multiple authorship, and his protests were supported in 1928 by Marcel Bardot and Leon Levillain.
  • In 1934, S. Hellman proposed a modification of Krusch's theory, arguing that this Chronicle was the work of two authors.
  • In 1963, Walter Goffart renewed the notion of a single author.

Fredegar is usually presumed to have been a Burgundian from the region of Avenches because of his knowledge of the alternate name Wifflisburg for this locality, a name only then coming into usage. This is further confirmed by the access he had to the annals of many Burgundian churches. He also had access to court documents and could apparently interview Lombard, Visigoth, and Slavic ambassadors. His awareness of events in the Byzantine world is also usually explained by the proximity of Burgundy to Byzantine Italy.

Fredegar was alive around 660 and, within the text, references to events as late as 659 occur. Fredegar refers to his plans to treat those further but he did not continue the chronicle past 642.


The actual Chronicle is composed mainly of five prior works: Liber Conversationis of Hippolytus;[4] the chronicle of Hydatius; the Chronicle of Eusebius in Jerome's translation; the writings of Isidore of Seville; and the edition in six books of Gregory of Tours's Historiae - generally comprising the first six of the total 10 books of the 'Historiae' - down to the death of Chilperic I.[5][6]

A brief on the Chronicle

To the compilation and editing of these major prior works - and also an excerpt from the Vita Columbani by Jonas Bobiensis - Fredegar gave his own interpolations and supplements, and, noteworthy, two chronologies: A computation from Adam to Sigebert II - then in the first (and only) year of his reign (613) - and a list of popes down to Theodore.[7] But most original and very influential was his genealogy of the Frankish kings, going back to the heroes of Troy and connecting the Franks to Aeneas, Macedonia, and the Turks.

Finally there is a more contemporary section. This was initially the addition of a small set of local annals continuing Gregory to 604 and then a subsequent original work down to 613. It is often supposed that this part was written by a different person from the Fredegar who wrote the major portion of the chronicle beginning around 623. Fredegar's writing is sparse from 613 to that date, when it picks up and forms the major source for the remaining period to the death of Flaochad in 642. For those two decades, the Chronicle is a near contemporary source for the events it describes.


The Chronicle's continuation similarly relied upon other sources:

The Continuations of the Chronicle of Fredegar are based on the Liber Historiae Francorum up to the year 721 when the latter's account effectively breaks off. Thereafter the chronicle was continued up to the year 751 on the orders of Charles Martel's half brother Count Childebrand, and then Nibelung, Childebrand's son, had the work carried on to 768 when it ends.

—Fouracre, Continuations of Fredegar, 2000, p. 7

Textual transmission and printed editions[edit]

This Chronicle exists in thirty-four manuscripts, which Krusch and Wallace-Hadrill group in five families. The original chronicle is lost, but exists in an uncial copy made late in its century by a Burgundian monk named Lucerius. However, most of the chronicles are Austrasian copies made late in the eighth and early in the ninth centuries. Wallace-Hadrill based his translation upon the text of MS Paris 10910.

The editio princeps was published by Flacius Illyrius at Basel in 1568, who used MS Heidelberg University Palat. Lat. 864 as his text. The next published edition was Antiquae Lectiones by Canisius at Ingolstadt in 1602. Freherus was the first to call the author "Fredegar" in his edition published in Hanover in 1613, although the name was first used in 1599 by Claude Fauchet in Antiquités gauloises, who said that it was used "through ignorance of the real author."[8]


  1. ^ Wallace-Hadrill, The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar, p ix. He notes that his translation is the first of any part of this work into English, p lxiii.
  2. ^ Wallace-Hadrill, The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar, p xv.
  3. ^ This description of theories is taken from Wallace-Hadrill, The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar, pp xvi–xxv.
  4. ^ Also called the Liber Generationis.
  5. ^ On the six-book edition, see (Reimitz 2006) . On Fredegar also (Heydemann 2006), with good notes on the use of Gregory of Tour .
  6. ^ This version may also be called Historia Epistomata .[citation needed]
  7. ^ Wallace-Hadrill, The Long-Haired Kings, p 73.
  8. ^ PD-icon.svg "Fredegarius". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 


  • Collins, Roger, Early Medieval Europe 300–1000. London: MacMillan, 1991.
  • Collins, Roger. Die Fredegar-Chroniken. Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2007 (Monumenta Germaniae Historica Studien und Texte, 44).
  • Goffart, Walter, "The Fredegar Problem Reconsidered," Speculum 38 (1963): 206-41. JSTOR Reprinted in his Rome's Fall and After (London, 1989), 319-54.
  • Heydemann, Gerda (2006), "Zur Gestaltung der Rolle Brunhildes in merowingischer Historiographie", in Corradini, Richard, Text & identities in the early middle ages, Denkschriften (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse), 344. Band . Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 12, Wien: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, pp. 73–85, ISBN 978-3-7001-3747-4 
  • Krusch, Bruno. "Fredegarii Scholastici libri IV cum Continuationibus." Fredegarii et aliorum chronica. Vitae sanctorum (generis regii). MGH SS rer. Merov. I, 2, II. Hannover: 1888. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
  • Reimitz, Helmut (2006), "The art of truth . Historiography and identity in the Frankish world", in Corradini, Richard, Text & identities in the early middle ages, Denkschriften (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse), 344. Band . Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 12, Wien: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, pp. 87–103, ISBN 978-3-7001-3747-4 
  • Wallace-Hadrill, J. M., translator. , The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar with its Continuations. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1960.
  • Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. The Barbarian West. London: Hutchinson, 1970.
  • Wallace-Hadrill, J. M. The Long-Haired Kings. Butler & tanner Ltd: London, 1962.