Haskins Conference Papers: Cosmas on the See of Prague

Haskins Conference Papers: Cosmas on the See of Prague

Lisa Wolverton (University of Oregon)


This paper considers the history of the bishopric of Prague written by Comas circa 1120. Comas used historical narrative to write a stinging critique of Czech politics.  The dispute over Moravia coincided with the Investiture Contest yet Cosmas makes no mention of it in his work. The text is an account of the events occurring currently and before his lifetime; like the establishment of the independent bishopric in Moravia. The appointment of the new bishop of Olomouc leads to conflict with the See of Prague.

In 1068, Jaromir was consecrated over his brother, Vratislav, as bishop of Prague. Vratislav created a Moravian See in 1063 and instated a monk, John, as the bishop. Jaromir eliminated the new Moravian See, and assaulted Bishop John. Jaromir was ruled against by Gregory for his treatment of his brother; we learn of this from Cosmas. 1086, at the Synod in Mainz, Gregory VII responded favourably to Jaromir. Comas’s early description of Jaromir was of a  sinister figure. Cosmas neglects to mention any aspect of the Investiture Contest. It is very interesting that he refuses to discuss this controversy since it was a well known issue amongst his contemporaries. Cosmas was a very selective narrator.

The documents Jaromir produced at Mainz were forgeries. Did Cosmas know this? Cosmas implies that the Sees foundation occurs in 967 and he focuses on the role of the Bohemian monarchy. It was suggested that  that Cosmas mangled the dates of the Sees founding. There appears to have been a great deal of uncertainty of the origins of the See of Prague. The version of the Sees past marshaled by Jaromir, was partial, possibly forged and unreliable. Cosmas text, which spoke to a local audience, held competing, contradictory, complimentary memories of the ecclesiastical past.

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