Post-classical history

Livonian Rhymed Chronicle

A Middle High German verse chronicle, completed soon after 1290, dealing with the conquest and conversion of Livonia by German missionaries, crusaders, and military orders and representing one of the most important sources for the Baltic Crusades.

The Livonian Rhymed Chronicle (Ger. Livlündische Reim- chronik) is generally held to have been composed by an anonymous knight brother of the Teutonic Order, thus constituting the earliest extant example of the order’s literary output. It survives in one complete manuscript (MS. Heidelberg, Universitatsbibliothek, cpg.367, fifteenth century) and fragments, an older manuscript (MS. Riga, Bibliothek der Livlandischen Ritterschaft) having been lost subsequent to the publication of Leo Meyer’s edition.

The text consists of 12,017 lines in rhyming couplets. The language shows a few traces of Middle Low German influence and draws on earlier oral tradition and documentary sources as well as eyewitness testimony. After an introduction describing the Creation and the beginnings of the Christian faith, the narrative commences with an account of the German mission to Livonia at the end of the twelfth century. The remainder of the text is structured according to the periods of office of the masters of the Sword Brethren, and thereafter, the Livonian masters of the Teutonic Order, and describes the wars fought by the orders to defend and extend their territories in Livonia against pagans and Orthodox Russians, concluding with a description of the conquest of Sem- gallia in 1290. With its vocabulary and imagery showing influences of the vernacular heroic epic, the narrative gives a relentlessly secular, grim, and unapologetic view of war against the heathen.

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