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Ademar of Chabannes

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Title: Ademar of Chabannes  
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Subject: Aesop's Fables, William III, Duke of Aquitaine, Bernard I William of Gascony, Wulgrin I of Angoulême, Geoffrey II (Archbishop of Bordeaux), Auctores octo morales
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Ademar of Chabannes

Adémar de Chabannes (sometimes Adhémar de Chabannes) (c.989 – 1034[1]) was an eleventh-century French monk, a historian, a musical composer and a successful literary forger.


Adémar was born at Chabannes, a village in today's Haute-Vienne département of France. Educated at the monastery of Saint-Martial at Limoges, he passed his life as a monk, both there and at the monastery of Saint-Cybard at Angoulême.


Adémar's life was mainly spent in writing and transcribing chronicles, and his principal work is a history entitled Chronicon Aquitanicum et Francicum or Historia Francorum. This is in three books and deals with Frankish history from the fabulous reign of Pharamond, king of the Franks, to 1028. The first two books are scarcely more than a copy of earlier histories of Frankish kings, such as the Liber Historiae Francorum, the Continuation of Fredegar and the Annales regni Francorum. The third book, which deals with the period from 814 to 1028, is of considerable historical importance. It relies partly on the Chronicon Aquitanicum, to which Adémar himself added a final notice for the year 1028.


He embraced the developing tale that Saint Martial, the third century bishop who Christianized the Limoges district, had actually lived centuries earlier, and was in fact one of the original apostles. And he supplemented the less than scanty documentation for the alleged 'apostolicity' of Martial, first with a forged Life of Martial, as if composed by Martial's successor, Bishop Aurelian. To effect this claim, he composed an "Apostolic Mass" that still exists in Adémar's own hand (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds latin, ms. 909), making it the earliest autograph Western musical composition that has survived. The local bishop and abbot seem to have cooperated in the project and the mass was first sung on Sunday, August 3, 1029.

Unfortunately for Adémar, the liturgy was disrupted by a travelling monk, Benedict of Chiusa, who denounced the improved Vita of Martial, as a provincial forgery and the new liturgy as offensive to God. The word spread, and the promising young monk was disgraced. Adémar's reaction was to build forgery upon forgery, inventing a Council of 1031 that confirmed the 'apostolic' status of Martial, even a forged papal letter. The reality of this pathological tissue of forgeries was only unravelled in the 1920s, by a historian, Louis Saltet. Mainstream Catholic historians ignored Saltet's revelations until the 1990s.

In the long run, Adémar was successful. By the late 11th century, Martial was indeed venerated in Aquitaine as an apostle, though his legend was doubted elsewhere. In a very direct way, Adémar's Mass shows the power of liturgy to effect worship.

Works and legacy

Adémar composed his musical Mass and office largely from the standard "Gregorian" music for St. Martial, as well as texts and music for Apostolic feasts, but he also added some of his own compositions, especially in the tropes (extended musical items added to existing liturgical texts). The composition has been recorded by the New York Ensemble for Early Music.

Adémar died around 1034, most probably at Jerusalem, where he had gone on a pilgrimage.


Primary sources



  • Chronicon Aquitanicum et Francicum or Historia Francorum, ed. Jules Chavanon. Chronicon. Collection des textes pour servir à l'étude et à l'enseignement de l'histoire 20. Paris, 1897.
  • Sermons, ed. and tr. Edmond Pognon, L’an mille. Oeuvres de Liutprand, Raoul Glaber, Adémar de Chabannes, Adalberon [et] Helgaud. Mémoires du passé pour servir au temps présent 6. Paris, 1947.


  • Holland, Tom. Millennium. London: Abacus, 2009.
  • Leyser, Karl. "The Ascent of Latin Europe." In Communications and Power in Medieval Europe. The Carolingian and Ottonian Centuries London, 1994. Inaugural lecture, first published as Karl Leyser, The Ascent of Latin Europe. Oxford, 1986.
  • James Grier, "Hoax, History, and Hagiography in Adémar de Chabanness Texts for the Divine Office," in Robert A. Maxwell (ed), Representing History, 900–1300: Art, Music, History (University Park, PA, Pennsylvania State University press, 2010),
  • Template:1911

Further reading

External links

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