Martin of Opava and the treatment of imperial history in Dominican works of compilation, c. 1250-1330.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The late-thirteenth century Chronicon Pontificum et Imperatorum of the Dominican friar Martin of Opava, also known as Martin of Troppau, proved to be one of the most popular and influential universal chronicles of the later Middle Ages. It was produced at a time when the practical authority of the western empire had collapsed and the universal claims of both empire and papacy were beginning to be questioned in the universities. Despite its medieval popularity, however, the Chronicon’s concept of empire has received at best only cursory attention from scholars. It has a reputation for being derivative, unoriginal, and poorly written. This thesis explores Martin’s vision of empire through his presentation of imperial history. It examines his treatment of the character and conduct of Christian emperors and his interpretation of the empire’s role according to the ‘two swords’ theory that advocated for the dual rule of Christendom by pope and emperor. It considers Martin’s understanding in the context of the Dominican historiographical tradition in the later Middle Ages, drawing comparisons with the way imperial history was presented by his thirteenth-century contemporaries Vincent of Beauvais and James of Voragine and by two early-fourteenth century friars who consulted the Chronicon, Ptolemy of Lucca and Bernard Gui. This comparison reveals that Martin’s Chronicon presents a carefully constructed vision of empire that was distinct from those of his brethren, one that reflected a complex and developed understanding of the role of the emperor in Christendom. Furthermore, it sheds light on the transmission of political ideas within the Dominican Order’s encyclopaedic projects. It reveals the extent to which each friar’s particular context influenced his vision of empire, demonstrating, in particular, that Martin’s Chronicon represents a valuable perspective within the Dominican historiographical tradition, one that reflects his unique background as a papal chaplain and penitentiary.