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ANONYMOUS OF CAMBRAI, Chronicle of the Bishops of Cambrai (Gestes des évêques de Cambrai), French translation and adaptation of the Latin Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium and Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium

In French, with some Latin, manuscript on paper
France (French Flanders), Hainaut or Artois (Cambrai or Arras?), c. 1475-1500

TM 405


29 ff., (collation impracticable, but clearly some leaves missing between ff. 15 and 16), on paper (no perfect match, but watermarks close to Briquet, “Lettre P,” no. 8615, Bar-le-Duc, 1477-1486; no. 8625, Douai, 1486; Brussels, 1490), written in light brown ink by a single hand in a semi-bâtarde script, on up to 46 long lines, no apparent ruling (justification 210 x 140 mm.), a few pen flourishing consisting mainly in larger loops extending in the upper margins, some marginal notes, in a later 16th c. hand. Bound in a late nineteenth- or early twentieth-century binding of small-grained maroon morocco over pasteboard, covers with frame of quadruple gilt filets, gilt arms placed at the center of boards (a crowned fleur-de-lys, likely stylized heraldry), gilt fleur-de-lys and initial “B” at angles, smooth gilt spine tooled with a fleur-de-lys alternating with an initial “B,” gilt lettering: “Geste des evèques de Cambrai,” gilt turn-ins, endpapers of gold and dark red paper patterned with a semé of fleur-de-lys, binding unsigned but clearly the work of an excellent craftsman (Restorations to paper, especially outer edges, but with no apparent loss of text on most leaves except last leaf f. 29; a few minor scuffs to covers). Dimensions 295 x 223 mm.

Fifteenth-century copy of a French thirteenth-century adaptation and translation of the Latin Chronicle of the Bishops of Cambrai, a serial biography of the bishops commissioned by Gerard I, Bishop of Cambrai, in the eleventh century with its twelfth-century continuation. Only two other extant manuscripts contain parts of this translation, and the present version begins with an unpublished section on the activities of the earliest bishops of Cambrai from c. 500 to c. 976. Further research would promote a better understanding of the transmission of the vernacular version of the Latin chronicle but also its context in the rich tradition of historical writing in Flanders.


1.Subject matter and codicological details all support a French Flanders (Hainaut or Artois?) origin for this manuscript. Linguistic particularities also confirm this origin.

2. Owned by Firmin Fourment, vicar of the Cathedral of Cambrai, as confirmed by a Latin inscription found on f. 1: “Firminus Fourment magnus vicarius in metropolitana ecclesia camberacensis me utitur.” Below, one reads the following motto: “Saturitas e frumento”. The hand that copied this inscription is a late 15th or early 16th hand, so Frimin Fourment must have been an early owner of this manuscript. The fact that one of the two other known copies of this translation was once a chained book in the Church of Cambrai (now Cambrai, Bib. Mun., MS 986 (884); see Bethmann, 1846, p. 400) is interesting.

3. European Private Collection.


f. 1-1v, Numerous notes and pentrials, including an ownership inscription of Firmin Fourment (see Provenance above), all in brown ink. Amongst the inscriptions, some are in Latin, others in French, such as “Memore de demander en no[tre] maison s'il y a .ii. ou .iii. Pandettes un [or “bien”?] abegié en franchois ou en roman et un acheté en latin”; “Je me recommande de bien a vous” (f. 1). This first leaf has a fold in the paper, suggesting it might have served as a protective leaf or flyleaf of some sort;

f. 2, [Gestes des évêques de Cambrai] [French adaptation and translation of the Latin Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium and Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium], List of Bishops of Cambrai, heading, “Les noms des evesques de Cambray”; heading, “A icel tamps fu departie li evesques d'arras de cellui de cambray l'an de grace mil iiii. xx. xv. [1095]” and next heading, “Comment le evesques de cambray fu departié de l'evesques d'arras”;

Placed at the outset of the work, the list of bishops includes, first, those of the dual bishopric of Cambrai-Arras and, second, those of the sole bishopric of Cambrai after 1095 once the diocese of Arras was created. It begins with Saint Vaast (bishop in 500-540) and ends with Enguerran de Crequy (1273-1292). This means that the work, although ending chronologically in 1135 (with a clear explicit at the end of this manuscript), was nonetheless composed in the thirteenth century, since the list includes bishops whose prelatures took place in the thirteenth century. Thirteenth-century bishops included are Godefroy de Fontaines (Bishop of Cambrai in 1219; died in 1237); Guy de Laon (Guidonus de Lauduno, 1238-1247); Nicole de Fontaines (Nicolaus III de Fontanus, 1249-1273) and finally Enguerran de Crequy (or Ingelranus de Crequy, Bishop from 1274-1286). On the bishops of Cambrai see Gallia christiana, III, cols. 36-39; and also a complete list of the successive bishops of Cambrai and Arras and then of Cambrai alone in Chartier, “Cambrai. Diocèse,” in Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, Paris, 1949, vol. XI, cols. 560-562.

ff. 2v-15v, Chronicle of the Bishops of Cambrai [Gestes des évêques de Cambrai] [French 13th c. adaptation and translation of the Latin Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium and Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium], years c. 500 to c. 976; “Chius fu le premiers evesques puis celle partie des evesques”; followed by “Cy commenche le vie saint vaast le premier evesque de cambray et d'arras” (f. 2v); next headings, De dominikes et de vedoul (f. 3v); De saint gery (f. 3v); De l'evesque bertrand (f. 4v) etc.; explicit, “[...] il passeroit meismes la riviere contre lui et a qui dieu donroit...” (text breaks off here, missing the end of the prelature of Bishop Thedes or Theodotus (972/973-976) and texts relative to the prelatures of Rothardus (977-995) until that of Gerardus II (1076-1092)). This portion of the text is perhaps unpublished since it is not found in Bethmann, 1946, which begins in 1092 with the prelature of Gualterus (1093-95): “Apres la mort l'evesque Gerard ot dissention et grant discorde....” Nor is this portion of the text in Delisle, 1869, p. 476ff., which begins in 1076 with the prelature of Bishop Gerardus II (1076-1092): “Apres S. Liebert fu evesques Gerars li secons....” ;

ff. 16-29, [Gestes des évêques de Cambrai] [French 13th c. adaptation and translation of the Latin Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium and Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium], years c. 1093-1135 so covering part of the episcopate of Gualterus (1093-1095) until that of Liebert (1131-1137), incipit, “[...] et iluec estoit evesque et le pape li ramanda moult admiablement qui lui aideroit...” (beginning imperfectly with Bishop Gualterius (1092-1095)); explicit, “[...] puis chanter messe et maudi tous ceulx qui yroient contre le privileges de la prevosté...(text interrupted, ending abruptly in 1135). Explicit” [in another hand in capitals, “Initium”], published in Bethmann, 1946, pp. 513-525: “Gestorum versio Gallica”; also published in L. Delisle, 1869, pp. 482-497, ending with the same explicit];

f. 29v, Pentrials, inscriptions in Latin and a few drawings (two moons with anthropomorphic faces, one with a phallic symbol?), a bearded man drawn in profile; amongst the inscriptions one reads: “Nec te noster amor ne te data dextra quondam”; “Et in terra pax hominibus bene voluntatis”; “Sanctorum et sanctarum, qui in sacre canone missel / nominatum recensentur catalogus historicus / A Juliano de Lingne p. compositus / Reverendissimo atque illustrissimo domino.”

This last inscription refers to Julien de Ligne, a priest who was also an author of works of historical and local interest such as his “Histoire des evesques et archeveques de Cambrai ... composée a Cambray en l'an de grace 1614 par I. D. L [Julien de Ligne] (Cambrai, Bib Mun., MS 740 (674); CGM, Cambrai, XVII, p. 276).

This manuscript contains substantial fragments of the Chronicle of the Bishops of Cambrai (Gestes des évêques de Cambrai), a thirteenth-century French translation and adaptation of – according to the literature – the Latin Chronicle of the Prelates of Cambrai (Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium [Paris, BnF, MS n.a.l. 264], see TM 406) that was discovered in the late 1870s by De Backer and De Smedt and published by De Smedt in 1880. The Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium was itself a continuation of the eleventh-century Latin Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium traditionally attributed to Baldericus of Therouanne or Noyon but now thought to be by a canon of Cambrai (called the Canon of Cambrai in the scholarly literature). However, it appears to us that the first portion of this French Gestes des évêques de Cambrai (here on ff. 1-15v) is rather an adaptation-translation of the Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium. The present Gestes des évêques de Cambrai, a vernacular version of the Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium (and presumably also of the earlier Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium), has been attributed to the author identified as the Anonymous of Cambrai (the “Anonyme of Cambrai”) by Delisle (1869, p. liv), not to be confused with the Canon of Cambrai who wrote the Latin version.

The Gestes des évêques de Cambrai is known to scholars and editors of the Cambrai Chonicle tradition: some excerpts from this translation were published by Delisle (1969, pp. 476-82) and again by Bethmann (1846, pp. 510-525). Bethmann discusses the two manuscripts known to the editors at the time. The first manuscript is: “C[odex] S. Sepulchri Cameracensis, iam deperditus” (Codex from the Abbey of Saint-Sepulchre, now lost?). This may be Cambrai, Bib. Mun., MS 862 (766), pp. 34-35 (see CGM, Cambrai, XVII, p. 343). On Cambrai MS 862, see also Muzerelle, 2000, p. 102. The second manuscript is: “C[odex] ecclesiae Cameracensis catenatus[chained], iam bibl. publ. Cam 884, ... post catalogum episcoporum usque ad Enguerrandum de Crequi continet Gestorum versionem Gallicam....” This is Cambrai, Bib. Mun. MS 986 (884) (see CGM, Cambrai, XVII, p. 412) ; and Bethmann, 1846, p. 400). Another manuscript found in the Vatican and once belonging to Christina of Sweden is cited by De Smedt as containing this French version (De Smedt,1890, pp. iii-iv). However, we have been unable to verify a Vatican shelfmark for this codex.

In their study of the work entitled Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium (Latin continuation of the eleventh-century Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium), the editors De Backer and De Smedt characterize this French translation as follows: “Enfin, une chronique en vieux français, allant de 1092 à 1135, écrite vers la fin du XIIIe siècle, et que Bethmann, après dom Brial, a regardée comme une traduction libre de l'œuvre dont le moine de Saint-Géry et le chanoine de Cambrai ont laissé un abrégé” [Finally a chronicle in Old French spanning from 1092 to 1135, written towards the end of the 13th century, and that Bethmann, after Dom Brial, considered to be a free translation of the abridged works attributed to the Monk of Saint-Géry and the Canon of Cambrai] (De Backer and De Smedt, 1879, p. 458). There is no mention of the earlier portion of this manuscript (here covering the years c. 500 to c. 976).

The portions of the French translation contained in the present manuscript are more extensive than those published by either Bethmann in 1846 or Delisle in 1869. Indeed the episcopates of Saint Vaast until that of Bishop Thedes are not found in the published editions and might be unique to this manuscript. However, the present manuscript is missing the text covering the prelatures of Rothardus (976-995) until part of that of Gaucher (1093-1095), a gap spanning the years between about 976 and 1093 (between ff. 15-16). Comparison with the manuscripts in Cambrai cited above, as well as the manuscript in the Vatican, if it can be identified, would prove instructive in the process of disentangling further the textual sources and the importance of the present version.

The textual tradition of the Latin and vernacular Chronicles of the Bishops of Cambrai needs to be studied in the context of medieval historiography in Flanders. Shopkow suggests some of the reasons for the rich historical writing tradition in Flanders between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, characterizing Flanders as preserving a veritable “treasure trove” of such writings. Flanders was a strong territory that witnessed the co-existence and cooperation between powerful rulers, monasteries that survived intact from the Carolingian era, and active episcopal dioceses. Within this context, Shopkow briefly surveys the larger picture of Flemish histories, be they monastic, episcopal, or lay, citing the present chronicle among other serial biographies of bishops (Shopkow, 2001, especially pp. 20-24; see also Giordanengo, 2007). Georges Duby is another important reader of the Gesta Pontificum, which figured in his exploration of noble and religious behavior in the eleventh and twelfth centuries (see Duby, 1980, pp. 21-27).

The tradition of medieval chronicles is often quite complex, their numerous abridgments and continuations – and here translations – rendering exact identifications difficult and sometimes impossible. However, the successive copies of medieval historical chronicles and lives of prelates, transcribed well into the sixteenth century, allowed for the preservation of some of these chronicles thought lost. The present manuscript is decidedly rare, including some text not found elsewhere, and its discovery (along with TM 406) prompts a reconsideration of the entire Cambrai Chronicle tradition within the shifting historical contexts from the its inception through the early sixteenth century.


[Cambrai] Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France. Départements. Tome XVII. Cambrai, Paris, Plon, 1891 [CGM].

Bethmann, C.L. (ed.), “Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium edente V. Cl. Lud. C. Bethmann Ph. D.”, in Monumenta germaniae historica...Scriptorum, Tomus VII, Hannover, 1846.

De Backer, Jos and C. de Smedt. “Note sur un manuscrit renfermant les Actes des évêques de Cambrai de 1076 a 1167,” Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des chartes 40 (1879), pp. 457-464.

Delisle, L. (ed.). Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France..., tome XIII, Paris, 1869 [new ed. based on critical edition offered by Brial].

Duby, G. The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined, Chicago, 1980, especially “Gerard de Cambrai and the Peace,” pp. 21-43.

Gallia Christiana, in provicias ecclesiaticas...Tomus tertius, Parisiis, ex typographia regia, 1725.

Molinier, A. Les sources de l'Histoire de France. Des origines aux guerres d'Italie (1494), Volume II, Paris, 1902 [SHF].

Muzerelle, D. Manuscrits datés des Bibliothèques de France. 1. Cambrai (I.R.H.T), Paris, 2000.

Shopkow, L. ed. The History of the Counts of Guines and Lords of Ardres. Lambert of Ardres, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

Smedt C. de, ed. Gestes des évêques de Cambrai de 1092 à 1138, texte original pour la Société de l'Histoire de France...d'après un ms du XIIe siècle, Paris, Renouard, 1880.

Online resources

On Cambrai:

Dictionnaire de la ville Cambrai:

List of the Bishops of Cambrai:

De Smedt, Gesta Pontificum Cameracensium (ed. 1880) – Edition of Paris, BnF, n.a.l 264 and study of the complex textual tradition of the abridgments, continuations and translation of the 11th c. Gesta originally attributed to Baldericus and now referred to as Gesta episcoporum Cameracensium.

De Backer and De Smedt, Note published in the Bibliothèque de l’ecole des chartes (1879):