Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Godfrey of Viterbo

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 6
Godfrey of Viterbo

by Franz Kampers


German writer of the twelfth century. Nothing is known as to the place or date of his birth, but he received his education at Bamberg, whither he was taken by Lothair in 1133. At an early age he displayed great activity as one of the clergy at the court of Conrad III and later Frederick I, accompanying the latter on many of his campaigns, and frequently fulfilling for him diplomatic missions. As a reward for his services at Court, lands were bestowed on him in fief at Viterbo, probably in 1169. During his forty years as notary and chaplain to the Emperor Frederick, he displayed a multifarious activity at Court. Among the personages there he was particularly attracted towards the youthful Henry VI. He lived much in Italy, spending his last days at Viterbo. The year of his death has not been ascertained. In the politico-ecclesiastical conflicts of his time he sided with the emperor, without, however, declaring himself inimical to the pope. He blames Pope Alexander's predecessor, Hadrian, for the schism, inasmuch as the latter had allied himself with the Greeks and Normans against the emperor. His works were for the most part composed during journeys. About 1183 he compiled for the use of schools his "Speculum regum", a history of the world beginning with the deluge, intended to reconcile the Romans with the Germans. His metrical account of the achievements of Frederick (Gesta Friderici), extending to 1181, is a separate work, which, though not free from confusion, contains some valuable information. His "Memoria Sæculorum" is a history of the world written partly in prose and partly in verse, and was completed in 1185. In the same year he began work on his "Pantheon", a history of the world which enjoyed an unmerited fame during the Middle Ages. The author, delighting as he does in fables, has gathered much material for the history of folk-lore. His works - some of them only in extracts - are to be found in the "Monumenta Germaniæ historica: Scriptores", XVII.

ULMANN, Gottfried von Viterbo, dissertation (Göttingen, 1863); WATTENBACH, Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im M. A. (6th ed., Berlin, 1894), II, 290 sqq.

Franz Kampers.