Young Church in God´s New Vineyard The Motifs of Growth and Fertility in Henry´s Chronicle of Livonia

Young Church in God´s New Vineyard The Motifs of Growth and Fertility in Henry´s Chronicle of Livonia

By Linda Kaljundi

Ennen Ja Nyt, Vol.4 (2004)

Introduction: The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia (Heinrici Chronicon Livoniae), written in about 1224-1227, is the most valuable source of information concerning the crusade to Livonia and Estonia in the early 13th century. The chronicle covers a period of about forty years, as it starts with the arrival of the missionary bishop Meinhardus to Livonia in about 1184 and ends with the final conquest and conversion of Estonia in 1227.

Even though the author remains anonymous, it is widely accepted that he was the parish priest Heinricus, who is mentioned several times in the text and who participated actively in the described events.

The text is above all a missionary chronicle, as the author treats the conversion of the heathens as the ultimate goal and evaluates all the events and characters from this point of view. However, in the beginning of the 13th century there were several missionary forces (German, Danish, Swedish and Russian) that tried to establish their power over the lands of Livonia and Estonia. In regard to these Henry´s chronicle is clearly onesided, as it focuses on the German mission, the centre of which was in Riga, and aims to describe the Rigan mission as the only legitimate mission in this area.

The conquest of Livonia and Estonia was part of the spread of Christianity to the North, which had involved the successful missions to the Slavic nations and to the Scandinavian kingdoms. Therefore Henry´s chronicle can be treated as part of the tradition of Northern missionary chronicles, the most exemplary works of which are the Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum by Adam of Bremen (d. around 1085), Chronica Slavorum of Helmold of Bosau (around 11201170) and Chronica Slavorum by Arnold of Lübeck (d. around 1211-1214).  The chronicles were written by clerics and missionaries and represent missionary ideology. Above all, they stress the concerns related to conversion and the care for the newly baptized people, as well as the opposition of secular and clerical power. A stong emphasis on both the territorial and spiritual interests of the church each author belongs to, is evident in all the texts. Henry´s text shares all these features.

My analysis focuses on one of the characteristics of Henry´s chronicle. Firstly, it has a great number of quotations from the Vulgata and liturgical texts. The total amount of them is about 1100, which is unique even in the context of missionary chronicles. This results in a high level of intertextuality as Henry´s own text is continuously interrupted by biblical or liturgical words, sentences, and phrases. Some of these quotations occur in the text repeatedly. Secondly, the chronicler´s own language is also full of repetitions, as he uses similar phrases and sentences for similar situations. I believe that an in depth analysis of these textual elements, their function and dynamics in the text would contribute significantly to the interpretation of the text as a whole.

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