Rodulfus Glaber

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Rodulfus (or Ralph) Glaber (which means "the Smooth" or "the Bald") (985–1047) was a monk and chronicler of the years around 1000 and is one of the chief sources for the history of France in that period.


Glaber was born in 985 in Burgundy. At the age of 12, his uncle, a monk at Saint-Léger-de-Champeaux, found him a place in the monastery,[1] but he was expelled for bad behaviour. In one of his own writings, he tells us that by pride, he resisted and disobeyed his superiors, and quarreled with his brothers. Later he joined the monastery of St. Benignus near Dijon where he met reforming Piedmontese cleric William of Volpiano in about 1010. In 1031, he moved to the Abbey of Cluny, headed by Abbot Odilon de Mercœur, and finally to the Abbey of Saint-Germain en Auxerre in 1039, where he remained until his death.[citation needed]


His works include a hagiography of William of Volpiano, the Vita Sancti Guillelmi Abbatis Divionensis,[2] but it is for his history that he is best known. The history, entitled the Historiarum libri quinque ab anno incarnationis DCCCC usque ad annum MXLIV (History in five books from 900 AD to 1044 AD), was begun at the Abbey of Cluny, probably around 1026 and no later than 1027, and completed at Abbey of Saint-Germain en Auxerre.

Initially intended to be an ecclesiastical history (universal), Glaber's histories cover events in the center of France, but occasionally range as far as Scotland and Southern Italy. Especially significant is his treatment of the end of the first millennium. He is the primary source for claims of widespread fear and divine omens (famines and eclipses) anticipating the end of the world. Some historians of the 19th century (who relied too heavily on this one monk of ill repute) popularised the notion that the people of the late 10th century lived in superstitious fear of apocalyptic non-events.[citation needed]

Glaber is also the source for the phrase "white mantle of churches" describing the ubiquity of religious architecture in his age. Large extracts from his works are cited and discussed in the book The Year 1000 (1966–67, first edition in three separated volumes, in French) by Georges Duby.[citation needed]

The Historiarum libri were first published in 1596 from a manuscript owned by Pierre Pithou, as part of a collection of eleven medieval chronicles.[3]


  1. ^ Rodulfus Glaber, History 5.3 (ed. France, p. 221).
  2. ^ Included in Rodulfi Glabri Historiarum Libri Quinque by Rodulfus Glaber (Oxford, 1989) ISBN 9780198222415.
  3. ^ (facsimile reprint of 1596 edition)

Further reading[edit]

  • Rodulfi Glabri Historiarum Libri Quinque by Rodulfus Glaber, The Five Books of the Histories [cover title: Rodulfus Glaber, Opera] ed. J. France (Oxford, 1989) ISBN 9780198222415.
  • Historiarum libri quinque ab anno incarnationis DCCCC usque ad annum MXLIV (History in five books from 900 AD to 1044 AD)
  • Les Grandeurs de l'an mille, by Pierre Riché, éditions Bartillat. (1999) ISBN 978-2702833704.
  • Chronique de l'an Mil by Raoul Glaber. ISBN 978-2913944138.

External links[edit]