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One of the "Becket Leaves", if not by Paris, certainly in his style
Coronation of Queen Edith, the wife of King Edward the Confessor (Cambridge University Library, Ee.3.59, fo. 11v)

Matthew Paris, known as Matthew of Paris (Latin: Matthæus Parisiensis, lit. "Matthew the Parisian";[1] c. 1200 – 1259), was a Benedictine monk, English chronicler, artist in illuminated manuscripts and cartographer, based at St Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire. He wrote a number of works, mostly historical, which he scribed and illuminated himself, typically in drawings partly coloured with watercolour washes, sometimes called "tinted drawings". Some were written in Latin, some in Anglo-Norman or French verse.

His Chronica Majora is an oft-cited source, though modern historians recognise that Paris was not always reliable. He tended to glorify Emperor Frederick II and denigrate the Pope.[2] However, in his Historia Anglorum, Paris displays a highly negative view of Frederick, going as far as to describe him as a "tyrant" who "committed disgraceful crimes".[3]

Life and work

In s

Matthew Paris, known as Matthew of Paris (Latin: Matthæus Parisiensis, lit. "Matthew the Parisian";[1] c. 1200 – 1259), was a Benedictine monk, English chronicler, artist in illuminated manuscripts and cartographer, based at St Albans Abbey in Hertfordshire. He wrote a number of works, mostly historical, which he scribed and illuminated himself, typically in drawings partly coloured with watercolour washes, sometimes called "tinted drawings". Some were written in Latin, some in Anglo-Norman or French verse.

His Chronica Majora is an oft-cited source, though modern historians recognise that Paris was not always reliable. He tended to glorify Emperor Frederick II and denigrate the Pope.[2] However, in his Historia Anglorum, Paris displays a highly negative view of Frederick, going as far as to describe him as a "tyrant" who "committed disgraceful crimes".[3]

Life and work

In spite of his surname and knowledge of the French language, Paris was of English birth, and is believed by some chroniclers to be of the Paris family of Hildersham, Cambridgeshire.[4] He may have studied at Paris in his youth after early education at St Albans School. The first we know of Matthew Paris (from his own writings) is that he was admitted as a monk to St Albans in 1217. It is on the assumption that he was in his teens on admission that his birth date is estimated; some scholars suspect he may have been ten years or more older; many monks only entered monastic life after pursuing a career in the world outside. He was clearly at ease with the nobility and even royalty, which may indicate that he came from a family of some status, although it also seems an indication of his personality. His life was mainly spent in this religious house. In 1248, Paris was sent to Norway as the bearer of a message from Louis IX to Haakon IV; he made himself so agreeable to the Norwegian sove

His Chronica Majora is an oft-cited source, though modern historians recognise that Paris was not always reliable. He tended to glorify Emperor Frederick II and denigrate the Pope.[2] However, in his Historia Anglorum, Paris displays a highly negative view of Frederick, going as far as to describe him as a "tyrant" who "committed disgraceful crimes".[3]

In spite of his surname and knowledge of the French language, Paris was of English birth, and is believed by some chroniclers to be of the Paris family of Hildersham, Cambridgeshire.[4] He may have studied at Paris in his youth after early education at St Albans School. The first we know of Matthew Paris (from his own writings) is that he was admitted as a monk to St Albans in 1217. It is on the assumption that he was in his teens on admission that his birth date is estimated; some scholars suspect he may have been ten years or more older; many monks only entered monastic life after pursuing a career in the world outside. He was clearly at ease with the nobility and even royalty, which may indicate that he came from a family of some status, although it also seems an indication of his personality. His life was mainly spent in this religious house. In 1248, Paris was sent to Norway as the bearer of a message from Louis IX to Haakon IV; he made himself so agreeable to the Norwegian sovereign that he was invited to superintend the reformation of the Benedictine Nidarholm Abbey outside Trondheim.

Apart from these missions, his known activities were devoted to the composition of history, a pursuit for which the monks of St Albans had long been famous. After admission to the order in 1217, he inherited the mantle of Roger of Wendover, the abbey's official recorder of events, in 1236. Paris revised Roger's work, adding new material to cover his own tenure. This Chronica Majora is an important historical source document, especially for the period between 1235 and 1259. Equally interesting are the illustrations Paris created for his work.

The Dublin MS (see below) contains interesting notes, which shed light on Paris' involvement in other manuscripts, and on the way his own were used. They are in French and in his handwriting:

  • "If you please you can keep this book till Easter"
  • "G, please send to the Lady Countess of Arundel, Isabel, that she is to send you the book about St Thomas the Martyr and St Edward which I copied (translated?) and illustrated, and which the Lady Countess of Cornwall may keep until Whitsuntide"
  • some verses
  • "In the Countess of Winchester's book let there be a pair of images on each page thus": (verses follow describing thirteen saints)

It is presumed the last relates to Paris acting as commissioning agent and iconographical consultant for the Countess with another artist.

The lending of his manuscripts to aristocratic households, apparently for periods of weeks or months at a time, suggests why he made several different illustrated versions of his Chronicle.

Manuscripts by Matthew ParisApart from these missions, his known activities were devoted to the composition of history, a pursuit for which the monks of St Albans had long been famous. After admission to the order in 1217, he inherited the mantle of Roger of Wendover, the abbey's official recorder of events, in 1236. Paris revised Roger's work, adding new material to cover his own tenure. This Chronica Majora is an important historical source document, especially for the period between 1235 and 1259. Equally interesting are the illustrations Paris created for his work.

The Dublin MS (see below) contains interesting notes, which shed light on Paris' involvement in other manuscripts, and on the way his own were used. They are in French and in his handwriting:

It is presumed the last relates to Paris acting as commissioning agent and iconographical consultant for the Countess with another artist.

The lending of his manuscripts to aristocratic households, apparently for periods of weeks or months at a time, suggests why he made several different illustrated versions of his Chronicle.

Manuscripts by Matthew Paris

Dissolution. These MSS seem to have been appreciated, and were quickly collected by bibliophiles.[citation needed] Many of his manuscripts in the British Library are from the Cotton Library.

  • Chronica Majora. Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Mss 26 and 16, 362 x 244/248 mm. ff 141 + 281, composed 1240–53. His major historical work (see below), but less heavily illustrated per page than others.[5] These two volumes contain annals from the creation of the world up to the year 1253. The content up to 1234 or 1235 is based in the main on Roger of Wendover's Flores Historiarum, with additions; after that date the material is Paris' own, and written in his own hand from the annal for 1213 onward. There are 100 marginal drawings (25 + 75), some fragmentary maps and an itinerary, and full-page drawings of William I and the Elephant with Keeper. MS 16 has very recently had all prefatory matter re-bound separately.[c 1][c 2]
A continuation of the Chronica, from 1254 until Paris' death in 1259, is bound with the Historia Anglorum in the British Library volume below. An unillustrated copy of the material from 1189 to 1250, with much of his sharper commentary about Henry III toned down or removed, was supervised by Paris himself and now exists as British Library Cotton MS Nero D V, fol. 162–393.[6]
  • Flores Historiarum. Chetham's Hospital and Library, Manchester, MS 6712. Only part of the text, covering 1241 to 1249, is in Paris' hand, though he is credited with the authorship of the whole text, which is an abridgement of the Chronica with additions from the annals of Reading and of Southwark. Additional interpolations to the text make it clear the volume was created for Westminster Abbey. It was apparently started there, copying another MS of Paris' text that went up to 1240. Later it was sent back to the author for him to update; Vaughan argues this was in 1251-2. The illustrations are similar to Paris' style but not by him. Later additions took the chronicle up to 1327.[7][c 3]
  • Historia Anglorum. British Library, Royal MS 14 C VII, fols. 8v–156v.[8] 358 x 250 mm, ff 232 in all. A history of England, begun in 1250 and perhaps completed around 1255, covering the years 1070–1253. The text is an abridgement of the Chronica, also drawing on Wendover's Flores Historiarum and Paris' earlier edited version of the Chronica. Bound with it is the final part of Paris' Chronica Majora, covering the years 1254–1259 (folios 157–218), and prefatory material including an itinerary from London to Jerusalem and tinted drawings of the kings of England. All is in Paris' own hand, apart from folios 210–218 and 154v-156v, which are in a hand of the scribe who has added a note of Matthew Paris' death (f. 218v). The Chronica concludes with a portrait of Paris on his death-bed, presumably not by him.[9] By the 15th century this volume belonged to Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, son of Henry IV, who inscribed it "Ceste livre est a moy Homffrey Duc de Gloucestre". Later it was held by the bishop of Lincoln, who wrote a note that if the monks of St Albans could prove the book was a loan, they should have it back. Otherwise it was bequeathed to New College, Oxford. The fact that the book was acquired by a 16th-century Earl of Arundel suggests that Duke Humphrey's inscription was not entirely accurate, as New College would probably not have disposed of it.[10][c 4]
  • Abbreviatio chronicorum (or Historia minor), British Library Cotton MS Claudius D VI, fols. 5–100.Stephen Langton. Various other works, especially maps.

    A panel painting on oak of St Peter, the only surviving part of a tabernacle shrine (1850 x 750 mm), in the Museum of Oslo University has been attributed to Paris, presumably dating from his visit in 1248. Local paintings are usually on pine, so he may have brought this with him, or sent it later.[22]

    Paris as an artist

    Framed tinted drawing of Heraclius taking down the head of Saint Alban, from the Trinity College, Dublin Life

    In some of Paris' manuscripts, a framed miniature occupies the upper half of the page, and in others they are "marginal" – unframed and occupying the bottom quarter (approximately) of the page. Tinted drawings were an established style well before Paris, and became especially popular in the first half of the 13th century. They were certainly much cheaper and quicker than fully painted illuminations. The tradition of tinted drawings or outline drawings with ink supplemented by coloured wash was distinctively English, dating back to the Anglo-Saxon art of the mid-10th century, and connected with the English Benedictine Reform of the period. A strong influence on one branch of the style was the Carolingian Utrecht Psalter, which was at Canterbury from about 1000 to 1640. This was copied in the 1020s in the Harley Psalter, and in the Eadwine Psalter of the mid-12th century.

    Recent scholarship, notably that of Nigel Morgan, suggests that Paris' influence on other artists of the period has been exaggerated. This is likely because so much more is known about him than other English illuminators of the period, who are mostly anonymous. Most manuscripts seem to have been produced by lay artists in this period. William de Brailes is shown with a clerical tonsure, but he was married, which suggests he had minor orders only. The manuscripts produced by Paris show few signs of collaboration, but art historians detect a School of St Albans' surviving after Paris' death, influenced by him.

    Unframed marginal drawing of Richard Marshal from the Corpus Christi College Chronica

    Paris' style suggests that it was formed by works from around 1200. He was somewhat old-fashioned in retaining a roundness in his figures, rather than adopting the thin angularity of most of his artist contemporaries, especially those in London. His compositions are very inventive; his position as a well-connected monk may have given him more confidence in creating new compositions, whereas a lay artist would prefer to stick to traditional formulae. It may also reflect the lack of full training in the art of the period. His colouring emphasises green and blue, and together with his characteristic layout of a picture in the top half of a page, is relatively distinctive. What are probably his final sketches are found in Vitae duorum Offarum in BL MS Cotton Nero D I.

    Paris as a historian

    From 1235, the point at which Wendover dropped his pen, Paris continued the history on the plan which his predecessors had followed. He derived much of his information from the letters of important people, which he sometimes inserts, but much more from conversation with the eyewitnesses of events. Among his informants were Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King Henry III, with whom he appears to have been on intimate terms.

    The king knew that Paris was writing a history, and wanted it to be as exact as possible. In 1257, in the course of a week's visit to St Albans, Henry kept the chronicler beside him night and day, "and guided my pen," says Paris, "with much goodwill and diligence." It is curious that the Chronica majora gives so unfavourable an account of the king's policy. Henry Richards Luard supposes that Paris never intended his work to be read in its present form. Many passages of the autograph have written next to them, the note offendiculum, which shows that the writer understood the danger which he ran. On the other hand, unexpurgated copies were made in Paris's lifetime. Although the offending passages are duly omitted or softened in his abridgment of his longer work, the Historia Anglorum (written about 1253), Paris's real feelings must have been an open secret. There is no ground for the old theory[citation needed] that he was an official historiographer.

    Another elephant from the Chronica Maiora II, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

    Naturalists have praised his descriptions of the English wildlife of his time, brief though they are: in particular his valuable description of the first irruption into England in 1254 of the common crossbill.[23]

    Paris as cartographer

    Outstanding among his other maps were (four versions of) a pilgrim itinerary charting the route from London to Rome in graphic form.[24] A sequence of pictures of towns on the route marked the terminus of each day's travel, enabling the viewer to envisage and follow the whole journey rather like a comic strip - an achievement unprecedented elsewhere in the medieval world.[25]

    Studies of Matthew Paris

    The relation of Matthew Paris's work to those of John de Celia (John of Wallingford) and Roger of Wendover may be studied in Henry Richards Luard's edition of the Chronica majora (7 vols., Rolls series, 1872–1881), which contains valuable prefaces. The Historia Anglorum sive historia minor (1067–1253) has been edited by Frederic Madden (3 vols., Rolls series, 1866–1869).

    Matthew Paris is sometimes confused with Matthew of Westminster, the reputed author of the Flores historiarum edited by Luard (3 vols., Rolls series, 1890). This work, compiled by various hands, is an edition of Matthew Paris, with continuations extending to 1326.

    He wrote a life of St Edmund of Abingdon, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury.[26]

    He also wrote the Anglo-Norman La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei (the History of Saint Edward the King), which survives in a beautifully illuminated manuscript version, Cambridge, Cambridge University Library MS. Ee.3.59. The manuscript has had a varied publication history.[

    A panel painting on oak of St Peter, the only surviving part of a tabernacle shrine (1850 x 750 mm), in the Museum of Oslo University has been attributed to Paris, presumably dating from his visit in 1248. Local paintings are usually on pine, so he may have brought this with him, or sent it later.[22]

    In some of Paris' manuscripts, a framed miniature occupies the upper half of the page, and in others they are "marginal" – unframed and occupying the bottom quarter (approximately) of the page. Tinted drawings were an established style well before Paris, and became especially popular in the first half of the 13th century. They were certainly much cheaper and quicker than fully painted illuminations. The tradition of tinted drawings or outline drawings with ink supplemented by coloured wash was distinctively English, dating back to the Anglo-Saxon art of the mid-10th century, and connected with the English Benedictine Reform of the period. A strong influence on one branch of the style was the Carolingian Utrecht Psalter, which was at Canterbury from about 1000 to 1640. This was copied in the 1020s in the Harley Psalter, and in the Eadwine Psalter of the mid-12th century.

    Recent scholarship, notably that of Nigel Morgan, suggests that Paris' influence on other artists of the period has been exaggerated. This is likely because so much more is known about him than other English illuminators of the period, who are mostly anonymous. Most manuscripts seem to have been produced by lay artists in this period. William de Brailes is shown with a clerical tonsure, but he was married, which suggests he had minor orders only. The manuscripts produced by Paris show few signs of collaboration, but art historians detect a School of St Albans' surviving after Paris' death, influenced by him.

    Recent scholarship, notably that of Nigel Morgan, suggests that Paris' influence on other artists of the period has been exaggerated. This is likely because so much more is known about him than other English illuminators of the period, who are mostly anonymous. Most manuscripts seem to have been produced by lay artists in this period. William de Brailes is shown with a clerical tonsure, but he was married, which suggests he had minor orders only. The manuscripts produced by Paris show few signs of collaboration, but art historians detect a School of St Albans' surviving after Paris' death, influenced by him.

    Paris' style suggests that it was formed by works from around 1200. He was somewhat old-fashioned in retaining a roundness in his figures, rather than adopting the thin angularity of most of his artist contemporaries, especially those in London. His compositions are very inventive; his position as a well-connected monk may have given him more confidence in creating new compositions, whereas a lay artist would prefer to stick to traditional formulae. It may also reflect the lack of full training in the art of the period. His colouring emphasises green and blue, and together with his characteristic layout of a picture in the top half of a page, is relatively distinctive. What are probably his final sketches are found in Vitae duorum Offarum in BL MS Cotton Nero D I.

    Paris as a historian

    From 1235, the point at which Wendover dropped his pen, Paris continued the history on the plan which his predecessors had followed. He derived much of his information from the letters of important people, which he sometimes inserts, but much more from conversation with the eyewitnesses of events. Among his informants were Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King Henry III, with whom he appears to have been on intimate terms.

    The king knew that Paris was writing a history, and wanted it to be as exact as possible. In 1257, in the course of a week's visit to St Albans, Henry kept the chronicler beside him night and day, "and guided my pen," says Paris, "with much goodwill and diligence." It is curious that the Chronica majora gives so unfavourable an account of the king's policy. Wendover dropped his pen, Paris continued the history on the plan which his predecessors had followed. He derived much of his information from the letters of important people, which he sometimes inserts, but much more from conversation with the eyewitnesses of events. Among his informants were Richard, Earl of Cornwall and King Henry III, with whom he appears to have been on intimate terms.

    The king knew that Paris was writing a history, and wanted it to be as exact as possible. In 1257, in the course of a week's visit to St Albans, Henry kept the chronicler beside him night and day, "and guided my pen," says Paris, "with much goodwill and diligence." It is curious that the Chronica majora gives so unfavourable an

    The king knew that Paris was writing a history, and wanted it to be as exact as possible. In 1257, in the course of a week's visit to St Albans, Henry kept the chronicler beside him night and day, "and guided my pen," says Paris, "with much goodwill and diligence." It is curious that the Chronica majora gives so unfavourable an account of the king's policy. Henry Richards Luard supposes that Paris never intended his work to be read in its present form. Many passages of the autograph have written next to them, the note offendiculum, which shows that the writer understood the danger which he ran. On the other hand, unexpurgated copies were made in Paris's lifetime. Although the offending passages are duly omitted or softened in his abridgment of his longer work, the Historia Anglorum (written about 1253), Paris's real feelings must have been an open secret. There is no ground for the old theory[citation needed] that he was an official historiographer.

    Naturalists have praised his descriptions of the English wildlife of his time, brief though they are: in particular his valuable description of the first irruption into England in 1254 of the common crossbill.[23]

    Paris as cartographer

    Outstanding among his other maps were (four versions of) a pilgrim itinerary charting the route from London to Rome in graphic form.[24] A sequence of pictures of towns on the route marked the terminus of each day's travel, enabling the viewer to envisage and follow the whole journey rather like a comic strip - an achievement unprecedented elsewhere in the medieval world.Outstanding among his other maps were (four versions of) a pilgrim itinerary charting the route from London to Rome in graphic form.[24] A sequence of pictures of towns on the route marked the terminus of each day's travel, enabling the viewer to envisage and follow the whole journey rather like a comic strip - an achievement unprecedented elsewhere in the medieval world.[25]

    Studies of Matthew ParisThe relation of Matthew Paris's work to those of John de Celia (John of Wallingford) and Roger of Wendover may be studied in Henry Richards Luard's edition of the Chronica majora (7 vols., Rolls series, 1872–1881), which contains valuable prefaces. The Historia Anglorum sive historia minor (1067–1253) has been edited by Frederic Madden (3 vols., Rolls series, 1866–1869).

    Matthew Paris is sometimes confused with Matthew of Westminster, the reputed author of the Flores historiarum edited by Luard (3 vols., Rolls series, 1890). This work, compiled by va

    Matthew Paris is sometimes confused with Matthew of Westminster, the reputed author of the Flores historiarum edited by Luard (3 vols., Rolls series, 1890). This work, compiled by various hands, is an edition of Matthew Paris, with continuations extending to 1326.

    He wrote a life of St Edmund of Abingdon, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury.[26]

    He also wrote the Anglo-Norman La Estoire de Seint Aedward le Rei (the History of Saint Edward the King), which survives in a beautifully illuminated manuscript version, Cambridge, Cambridge University Library MS. Ee.3.59. The manuscript has had a varied publication history.[27] Sections were printed in Francisque Michel's Chroniques Anglo-Normandes. Luard's editon for the Rolls series[28] was severely criticized;[29] it was re-edited for the Anglo-Norman Text Society by K. Y. Wallace.[30] A facsimile for the Roxburghe Club was edited by M. R. James,[31] and the whole manuscript has been digitalized and can be seen online.[32]

    Paris House at St Albans High School for Girls is named after him.