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Vita Sancti Anselmi Lucensis episcopus a Bardone scripsitMGH Scriptores 12 (1856) pp. 13-35.

There are four contemporary accounts of the Battle of Sorbara (2 July 1084).  This one is by an anonymous cleric (formerly called Bardo) who was sent by the exiled bishop  Anselm of Lucca to convey his blessing and absolve the troops before the battle.  Pseudo-Bardo may have been an eyewitness.  Compare this account to the others to see how it might have influenced them.  Can you see any difficulties with this account of the raid at Sorbara? 

23. Henry having fled the city [Rome] at once returned himself to Germany, first stirring up nearly all of Lombardy against the aforementioned lady [Matilda of Tuscany] and against her holy advisor [Anselm of Lucca], and against all the catholic unity. Behold not long afterward the bishops and marquises have joined with many others, who, having advanced with great force and fury, invaded the land of the countess, thinking to conquer all of her wealthy possessions there. Then therefore ours gathered, if few, since they had been informed scarcely one day before. Nevertheless they were very much comforted because our holy lord bishop Anselm sent his blessing to them through our smallness [pseudo-Bardo is here referring to himself], commending this to us espe­cially in [his] commissions, so that if they had communicated with the excommunicates first we would absolve them, and then we would bless them all together through the apostolic authority and his own, instructing them in what manner and with what intention (quave=vel qua?) they must do battle, and thus against the remission of all their sins we set the danger of imminent bat­tle.


24. The contest having been joined, these enemies quickly showed their backs and thereupon the bishop of Parma was captured and many nobles, and lesser men truly without number; but the number of the dead has not been counted. Three of ours died, and few were wounded, by which thing you, all the faith­ful, can perceive the glory of God and the power of the blessing of the most reverend bishop. From this time the assemblies of the heretics were disor­dered, and their lofty arrogance exceedingly fallen; however all catholics rejoiced and were comforted, especially that unconquerable house which our holy bishop Anselm guarded thereafter, and kept always for the catholic faith. . . .

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Rangerius of Lucca. Vita Sancti Anselmi Lucensis episcopus a Rangerio scripsit. MGH Scriptores 30.2 (1934) pp. 1152-1307.

      Rangerius was the successor of Anselm of Lucca who died in 1086. He may have gotten some information from Matilda herself. Like pseudo-Bardo, his purpose was to show the sanctity of his predecessor, but he devotes several hundred line of his poem to the deeds of Matilda; her military success was showed the efficacy of Anselm’s prayers; her steadfastness proved the value of his spiritual guidance. The numbers to the right are line numbers.

When these things have been carried out and spoken, as is

explained below, the clamor of battle climbed to the stars.

Spears are broken, shields are broken, it comes

to swords, they fight strongly; and the wretches

whom Satan leads, are suddenly thrown into confusion                          6550

by terror; that fear makes them blind.

They scatter, the bishop of Parma is captured, and

great lords and other distinguished persons,

Supporters of the king and kindlers of evil[.]

You would not be able to count the common herd.                                 6555

Countless perish and throughout the fields

exposed to the dogs and crows they lie.

Of the number of the faithful having been killed three bodies were given

the remaining troops, God leading, returned happy.

Thus Anselm leads, thus he fights, while praying,                                    6560

He overthrows, he conquers, he surrounds, and binds.

But indeed Gregory moves heaven and

consults with Anselm (caro) and Matilda (famulae) about the allied army.

. . .

Now let them be consumed, let them learn by battle and blood,

that gentle faith when it wishes can be mighty in war.

Book V, cap. 1.

And powerful Matilda having been cheered by the events                        6615

gains ground and is made more productive in faith.

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Donizone, Vita Mathildis. Book 2, chapter 3, lines 304-344.

     Donizone was a monk at St. Apolonio of Canossa, one of Countess Matilda’s family strongholds. He wrote the Vita just before her death in 1115. She never actually saw it, but it certainly contains an account of events that Donizone thought was acceptable to her. Among many quirks is that the Vita never mentions either of her husbands. It is, however, the only account of many of the events of the years 1090-92 when Henry IV came into Italy for the third time, to campaign directly against Matilda and her husband, Welf V of Bavaria. For the Battle of Sorbara, it is only one of four accounts. Compare it with the other three; decide if Donizone made use of them.

Meanwhile a loud cry arises for Bishop Gregory

Whom the Lord Christ bears to heaven,

Seven days before the end of May would arrive.

The monks lamented him, as he was known to have been a monk;

The priests wept over him, and the laity sorrowed greatly,

Whose pure faith is far from that of the schismatics.

When his holy body was reverently buried,

It is in the year of God 1086. [Gregory VII died in 1085.]

After this the virtuous abbot Desiderius of Montecassino,

Who lived for a short time, was made pope.

In that year after this one a shepherd was consecrated,

Urban the rhetor, formerly a monk, now a leader

of the eternal Church and of the highest word of the Father.

As Solomon says, "The just man, like the lion, keeps faith,"

He boldly condemned the acts of the king and of Guibert;

Who, falsely desiring to keep the seat of Peter,

He [Guibert] calls experienced Oddo [of Tuliore]

Against the pope, who [Oddo] often mobilizes for war.

He [Oddo] was nevertheless just, it is often permitted to have been blunted,

He remained immobile, thinking there was going to be peace.

To the faithful daughter of Peter and servant of Christ

He then directed his letters exhorting the dutiful woman,

And remembering more especially the standard of Gregory

So that she might observe it, and not be tempted to dismiss it;

Thereupon he gave her absolution for her sins.

The envoys of Gregory frequently sought out Matilda;

His [Urban's] couriers run to her more frequently.

She for her part ceases not at all to stir these fathers

frequently with letters and messages in those days,

For which things she stirred up against herself nearly the entire kingdom

of Italy, but especially all Liguria.

She holds the paved road of the Po river, whence . . .

Her soldiers fight, except by their own mistakes

they do not lose, but win the war thoroughly.

At that time many citizens from many cities

At the same time shield armed and splendidly mounted

With princely pride, straight to skilled Oberto

They lead the bishops of Parma and of Reggio.

They say themselves to be strong enough to continue to Rome.

These treacherous foes were going for the honor of the king;

Wasting the lands, roaming around and about,

These rash men in arms at length the territory of Matilda

entered, thinking to suddenly devastate it.

Sorbaria sustains the encampment of these men;

It alotted to these men, as a final battlefield, a place of standing.

Resting at night, they are catching sleep in their eyes.

The second light of July having been taken up [risen],

Behold the army of Matilda is suddenly there, shouting, "Peter!

Protect your own!" The enemies begin to rise up;

The fields are stunned by so much noise.

Many give their backs, other fight without bite [ineffectively];

There they are thrown down, more evildoers are captured.

The above-said marquis transfixes someone with a blow,

And speaking as if with the voice of an old woman, flees without honor.

This enemy at that moment bears such a grunting,

I think he will never lead a host to overcome that lady.

Eberhard bishop of Parma is held captive;

Thorn bushes concealed, naked, the bishop of Reggio,

hard-hearted Gandulf, for three days.

Some nobles are captured, others nearly fallen.

The troop of Peter rejoices, the company of the king is confounded.

Renowned Matilda was a terror to them all.

As the month came, which holds first place in order, . . .

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Bernold of St. Blasien. Chronicon. MGH Scriptores 5 (1844) pp. 400-67.

     The peripatetic Bernold (aka of Constance, of All Saints) is a German gregorian who began writing his account about 1091. His is thus the second account of Sorbara chronologically. Bernold is much admired for his orderly, straightforward approach.

At that time the soldiers (milites) of the most prudent duke (ducis) Matilda fought strongly in Lombardy against the partisans of Henry and the enemies of St. Peter, from among whom they captured the bishop of Parma and six lords (capitaneos) with another one hundred good soldiers (bonis militibus). They had (as booty) more than five hundred horses, much armor, and all the tents of the enemy, who were put into her power completely by the victory (pleniter potiti victoria).

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