Chronicon Roskildense

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by Michael H. Gelting

The Roskilde Chronicle (Chronicon Roskildense) is the earliest Danish historical chronicle, having been written in 1137/38 by an anonymous author at the episcopal see of Roskilde, most probably a canon of the cathedral chapter. In its formulation a short history of the Danish Church and people, it is heavily dependent upon Adam of Bremen for its depiction of Danish history from the ninth to the mid-eleventh century, but from the foundation of the cathedral chapter of Roskilde in the third quarter of the eleventh century the chronicle becomes the main narrative source for Danish history until it ends in 1138. A short, later continuation is mainly derived from known narrative sources. It covers principally the civil wars until their end in 1157, but mentions the reigns of the three following kings, Valdemar I, Knud VI and Valdemar II (the “Valdemarians”, 1157–1241).


No medieval title is known.


Of original text: Anno dominice incarnacionis octingentesimo uigesimo VIto Haraldus rex Danorum apud Magunciam est baptizatus ab Othgario archiepiscopo, susceptus ab imperatore Luduwico, anno sexto regni sui.

Of continuation: Rex autem Hericus, firmissima pace facta in patria sua, decimo anno regni sui regnum resignauit, monasterium adijt et habitu religionis recepto mundi miserijs feliciter ualefecit.


Of original text: Ruko, quamuis electus a Scaniensi clero et populo, tamen utens consilio predicti Petri et disturbacionem et werram deuitans, Roskildensem sibi episcopatum clericis et laicis reclamantibus usurpauit.

Of continuation: Cui successit filius suus Kanutus, et post eum Waldemarus, frater eius, in regnum leuatus est.


Of original text: 18 pages. Of continuation: 1,5 page.


  • DE WESTPHALEN, E.J. 1739: Monumenta inedita Rerum Germanicarum, præcipue Cimbricarum et Megapolensium, 1, 1408–1418, Lipsiæ (Based upon Hamburg, Staatsarchiv, MS 61 fol.; extremely faulty).
  • LANGEBEK, J. 1772a: SRD 1, Copenhagen, 373–87 (Based upon AM 107 8°).
  • LAPPENBERG, J. M. 1834: “Dänische Annalen, ein Nachtrag zu Langebek Scriptores rerum Danicarum," p. 187–252 in Archiv für Staats- und Kirchengeschichte der Herzogthümer Schleswig, Holstein und Lauenburg 2, p. 194–98. Altona (Variant readings compared with LANGEBEK 1772a and corrections to DE WESTPHALEN 1739, from Hamburg, Staatsarchiv, MS 61 fol.).
  • WAITZ, G. 1892: MGH SS 29, 21–26, Hannover (Excerpts; based upon Kiel, University Library, MS S.H. 8, A. 8°).
  • • GERTZ, M.CL. 1917–1918: SMD 1, 1–33, Copenhagen (repr. Copenhagen 1970) (Based upon all manuscripts).
  • • KROMAN, E. 1962a: Codices scriptorum rerum Danicarum phototypice expressi: Primam partem cui insunt chronica, cum Britannica praefatione (CCD 4, ed. I. Brøndum-Nielsen), 26–33 (Facsimile of Kiel, University Library, MS S.H. 8, A. 8°), Copenhagen.


  • (Danish) BREDSDORFF, M. 1883: ”En gammel danmarkshistorie for år 826–1157, alm. kaldet Roskilde-krønniken,” in Nordisk Maanedsskrift for folkelig og kristelig Oplysning 1883, 1, Odense, 1–32.
  • (Danish) OLRIK, J. 1898: Den ældste Danmarkskrønike (Roskildekrøniken), Copenhagen.
  • (Danish) FANG, L. 1979: Roskildekrøniken: den ældste Danmarkshistorie, ill. by E. Hjorth Nielsen. Copenhagen (Reproduces OLRIK 1898, with modernization of the language).
  • • (Danish) GELTING, M.H. 1979: Roskildekrøniken, ill. by E. Gorst-Rasmussen, Højbjerg (Based upon GERTZ 1917–1918, but eliminating some of GERTZ’s conjectural emendations; with commentary). Revised ed. 2002.

Date and place

Original text: The last events mentioned are the transfers of Bishop Eskil of Roskilde to the archiepiscopal see of Lund and of Bishop Rico of Schleswig to the see of Roskilde (probably in early 1138; GELTING 2004, 189–202). On the other hand, the chronicle mentions a pretender to the Danish throne, Olaf son of Harald Kesje as still being alive; the date of his death is uncertain, but 1141 seems most likely (SKYUM-NIELSEN 1971, 84). This indicates a wide dating range from 1138 to 1141. However, it seems definitely unlikely that the chronicler should have omitted the murder of Bishop Rico at the hands of the pretender Olaf on 18 October 1139 (GROßE 1992, 88; WEIBULL 1928, 95–96), and since the Roskilde Chronicle was used in Lund by the compiler of the >Annales Colbazenses (see Medieval reception and transmission), it is likely that Archbishop Eskil brought it to Lund upon his accession (KRISTENSEN 1969, 39–41, cf. 121–24). The most likely date for the completion of the chronicle in its original version would thus be 1138. HEMMINGSEN 1996, 212–13, assumes that the chronicle originally ended with the murder of King Erik Emune (1137) and that the subsequent paragraph on King Erik Lam and the contested elections in Roskilde and Lund was added by the same author after Erik Lam’s death in 1146. This hypothesis is argued from the unwarranted assumption that the chronicler’s virulently negative characterization of Erik Lam was an obituary that could not have been written before the king’s death, and from the apparent change in the chronicler’s opinion of the Zealandian (Sjællandsk) magnate Peter son of Bodil from an unfavourable mention in connection with the lay campaign against married clerics in 1123 to outright praise for his resolution of the conflict over the episcopal elections in 1138. However, it seems that this praise should be understood sarcastically (GELTING 2004, 201). Nevertheless HEMMINGSEN may be right if the hypothesis is correct that the description of the conflict over the archiepiscopal see was added as a conclusion after the chronicle had lost its original purpose (see Purpose and audience).

It is virtually certain that the chronicler was a canon of the cathedral chapter of Roskilde (ARHNUNG 1937, 4 n. 3; see Purpose and audience), but the work cannot be assigned to any individual author (the arguments of HEMMINGSEN 1996, 218–21, that the author might be the German Hermann, (titular) bishop of Schleswig, are purely conjectural). KRISTENSEN 1969, 41, cf. 121, vents the possibility that the chronicler might have followed Archbishop Eskil to Lund and finished his work there, but this hypothesis cannot be substantiated; for earlier suggestions that the author might have been Archbishop Eskil himself, see Purpose and audience.

Continuation: The account of events from Erik Lam’s death in 1146 to the end of the civil wars in 1157 is stylistically dependent upon the Ordinale sancti Kanuti ducis et martyris (see Composition and style) and must thus be later than the probable date of composition of that text, 1170. The short final mention of the reigns of Kings Valdemar I, Knud VI, and Valdemar II is likely to be no later than the death of the latter in 1241. It has been argued that the continuation could not have been written before the early thirteenth century, because the continuator conflated the accession of Valdemar I as sole king in 1157 with the crowning and anointing of his son and co-regent Knud VI in 1170 (KRISTENSEN 1969, 124). But although a crowning and anointing of Valdemar I is not mentioned in any other source, this information cannot be discarded out of hand, since it would accord perfectly with the style of Valdemar’s kingship. In any case it is hardly possible to date the main part of the continuation more precisely than between 1170 and 1241 (cf. HEMMINGSEN 1996, 210). The continuation was almost certainly written at the archiepiscopal see of Lund where the Roskilde Chronicle is known to have been used at the time (KRISTENSEN 1969, 124–26).

Summary of contents

Original text: From 826 to the beginning of the reign of Sven Estridsen (1047–1076), the chronicle is mainly an extensive reworking of Adam of Bremen’s account of the Danish kings, supplemented with other information (see Sources). From the later part of Sven Estridsen’s reign onwards, the chronicle becomes a reasonably reliable source for the sequence of events.

The chronicle opens with the baptism of the Danish King Harald and his following in Mainz in 826. St. Ansgar follows them back to Denmark as a missionary. Upon his return to Germany, Ansgar is made archbishop of Hamburg and carries out successful missionary activities in Denmark and in the lands beyond the Elbe. Upon the death of Archbishop Lyudric of Bremen, the Emperor Louis makes Ansgar archbishop of Bremen. Ansgar then returns to Denmark and converts King Harald’s brother and successor Erik, who builds the first church in Schleswig and permits those of his subjects who want to become Christian to do so. The Normans attack the Frankish kingdom and obtain Normandy, whereupon they turn their arms against Denmark and kill King Erik. He is succeded by Erik the Child, who is a violent enemy of the Christians. St. Ansgar succeeds in converting him and making him order all his subjects to become Christian, whereupon a cathedral is built in Ribe.

The king of the Northmen, Ywar son of Lothpard [the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok], and his brothers call upon the kings of the Danes to help them in destroying the Frankish kingdom. At that time there were several kings in Denmark. Ywar takes his fleet to England, kills the Northumbrian kings Ielle and Osbert, and Denunolf and Berrunolf flee before him. King Edmund of the East Saxons is martyrized. Thereupon King Ingwar (!) divided his fleet between nine other Northerns kings, sending some of them to Gaul and others to Germany, where they wrought great slaughter and destruction.

Meanwhile, King Erik had died and was succeded by Frothi who was baptized by Archbishop Unni of Bremen. The churches of Schleswig and Ribe were re-erected, and the king built a church in Århus. Some say that Archbishop Unni preached to Gorm and Harald, who were kings in Denmark at the time, and made them favourable to the Christians. Gorm was the father of Harald Blatan [Bluetooth] or Klak-Harald, who reigned as co-ruler with his father for fifteen years and for fifty years after Gorm’s death. He was a Christian. Upon Harald’s death, a Norman fugitive called Sven invaded England with a numerous army, drove out King Aldrad and seized the kingdom. His sons Gorm and Hardeknut attacked Denmark, killed the Danish King Haldan and his sons, and divided the kingdom, Gorm receiving Denmark, Hardeknut England, since their father Sven had died in the meantime. King Gorm chose Zealand (Sjælland) as his residence. His son Harald was the first to build a church in Zealand. He favoured the Christians and supported them during his father’s persecutions. After Gorm’s death, Harald became king, was made a Christian, and called in priests from England and Saxony. This endeared him to Archbishop Adaldag and to Emperor Otto, who became godfather to his son and named him Sven Otto. King Harald then asked for the constitution of bishops for Denmark, and with the agreement of king and pope, Archbishop Adaldag ordained three bishops for Denmark, in Schleswig, Ribe and Århus. The chronicle then enumerates further Danish bishops who were ordained by Adaldag, among them Othincar the White who was ordained for Sweden and governed Scania (Skåne) and Zealand. King Harald reinstated Hacon as king of Norway. Hacon’s son Trucco was subordinate (subditus) to Harald; his son was Olaf Cracaben [Crow-leg]. Harald reigned for fifty years in Denmark. His son Sven wounded him in battle and drove him out of the kingdom, and he died in the Slavic lands. His body was brought back for burial in Roskilde. In revenge, Olaf Cracaben attacked Denmark, drove out King Sven and held the kingdom himself. Sven obtained the help of the Swedish King Olaf and had a furious battle with King Olaf of Norway who was killed, having been deceived by a soothsaying. Sven, called Tyuvskeg [Forkbeard], held the two kingdoms and was a great enemy of the Christians whom he ordered to be expelled from his lands. But after having been captured thrice by the Slavs and redeemed twice for his weight in silver, the third time for his weight in gold, he came to believe in God. After the arrival of Bishop Bernard from Norway, he built a church in Scania. Bernard then went to Zealand where he died. Then Sven invaded England, drove out King Adeldrad and seized the kingdom, but barely survived for three months.

After Sven’s death, Adeldrad’s son Eadmund laid chains upon his hostages, Sven’s son Kanute and King Olaf of Norway’s son Olaf; but they escaped and went to Bremen, where they were baptized by Bremen’s holy Archbishop Unwan, whereupon they went back to Denmark. Olaf was then made king of Norway; but while he was subjecting his kingdom to Christianity for the first time, he found a martyr’s death in battle against a small force. He was succeded by his illegitimate son Magnus. Upon the English King Eadmund’s death he was succeded by his son Adeldrad. At these news Kanute invaded England with a huge army and fought Adeldrad for three years. Adeldrad died while being besieged in London; he left a son, Edward, whom he had had by Queen Ymma, daughter of Count Rothbert. Kanute married Ymma and had by her a son named HardeKnut. Kanute gave his sister Estrid in marriage to Richard [of Normandy], but having been repudiated, she married Duke Ulf without her brother’s consent. Because of this, Kanute expelled Ulf and Estrid from the kingdom. A reconciliation was patched up between them, but shortly afterwards Kanute had Ulf killed as he was going to the morning services in the church of Roskilde. His wife Estrid gave him an honourable burial and replaced the wooden church with one of stone, upon which she lavished great gifts. They had two sons, Sven and Byorn. Kanute then returned to England, where he died.

Meanwhile Archbishop Libencius of Bremen ordained Auoco as bishop of Zealand, who had previously been ordained by his predecessor Unwan [the text is possibly corrupt at this point]. Libencius also ordained Poppo and then Esyco for Schleswig, and Othincar for Ribe. Poppo was a very holy man and a great friend of Sven; as the pagans doubted the Christian faith, he proved it by a hot-iron ordeal, whereupon the people came to believe in Christ, and Poppo was considered a saint in Denmark. Upon Kanute’s death, his kingdoms were divided between his three sons: Sven, whom he had had by Aluia, reigned in Norway; Harold, another son of Aluia, had England; and Ymma’s son Hardeknut got Denmark. In his time William preached as Auoco’s successor. Hardeknut went to Flanders and collected a fleet against his brother King Harold of England, but no war ensued, Harold having died in the meantime. Then Hardeknut held both Denmark and England. Meanwhile his brother Sven had died in Norway, and the Norwegians elected St. Olaf’s illegitimate son Magnus. Thereupon Hardeknut and King Magnus of Norway made a sworn agreement that upon the death of one of them, the survivor should have both kingdoms by hereditary right. Shortly afterwards Hardeknut died, and according to their agreement, Magnus went to Denmark with a large armed force. He was resisted by King Gambli-Knut’s [Old Knut] nephew Sven, son of Estrid and Ulf; Sven was defeated and fled to Scania. As he was preparing his flight to Sweden, messengers brought news that Magnus had died. Sven immediately went back to Zealand and thereupon was also elected king by the Fionians and the Jutes; he governed Denmark for many years and had children by diverse women. Five of his sons became kings one after another, while four were prevented by death. In his reign the strong and impetuous Bishop William preached. In his time King Sven’s mother Estrid gave the church of Roskilde fifty mansi with her son’s consent, and the gift was confirmed by charter by Bishop William. Shortly afterwards Bishop William died, and King Sven appointed his own chaplain Sven as his successor; he is described as the true founder of the church of Roskilde. He erected a stone-built cloister for the canons and apportioned part of the episcopal lands to the chapter and to the church that he founded in honour of the Trinity. He also founded a monastery in honour of Our Lady in Ringsted and one in Slagelse. King Sven Magnus of Denmark died in Jutland (Jylland) in 1074, in the thirty-first year of his reign. According to his wish he was buried in Roskilde.

He was succeded by his son Harald IV, who reigned for seven years. He was an excellent king who declared the forests to be common, while they had earlier been monopolised by powerful men. Upon his death his brother Knud was made king. As he was forcing the people to pay a tax called nefgiald [nose-money], he was forced to flee from Jutland to Funen (Fyn), where he was martyrized in St. Alban’s church in Odense, in the year 1090, the eleventh of his reign. His brother Benedict was killed together with him. Knud’s brother Olaf was elected king. His reign was characterized by nine years’ continuous famine. This visitation had been predicted by Bishop Sven immediately upon Knud’s murder, but God hardened the people’s hearts against Sven’s admonitions to do penance. Bishop Sven himself went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but died on Rhodes before reaching his goal. Olaf and the clergy of Zealand then elevated Arnold to the episcopal see. He was simple and somewhat negligent, but all the same he built a stone wall around the monastery of Roskilde and renewed the monastery’s paintings. In his seventh year King Olaf died.

Olaf’s brother Erik the Good succeded to the kingdom, and immediately the famine ceased; however, neither Olaf nor Erik deserved what they got. Erik had three illegitimate sons, Harald, Benedict and Erik, and one legitimate son of most noble descent, Knud. In Erik’s fifth year, 1100, Jerusalem was taken by the Christians. In 1103 Erik went to Jerusalem with his wife Botild, but died in Cyprus before reaching his goal. Upon the news of Erik’s death his brother Nicholas was made king; he was mild and simple and no leader. In his twentieth year occurred a great persecution of the clergy: at the instigation of his chaplain, the later bishop of Ribe Nothold, Peter son of Botild [a magnate of Zealand] demanded that the clergy should respect the obligation of celibacy. The clergy was unable to defend themselves, as Bishop Arnold was old and ailing; some were maimed, some killed, some sent into exile. The following year Bishop Arnold died, and King Nicholas replaced him with his own son Magnus’s chaplain Peter. He was a learned man and the most eloquent and steadfast of the Danish bishops of those days, and he succeeded in defending the clergy and in introducing separate ecclesiastical jurisdiction for them. But though he favoured good clerics, he was of scant utility to his church, preferring to build on the episcopal estates and participating in political life. However, he did found an abbey at St. Clement’s church. But the Devil sowed such discord among the Danes that no greater hardship for clergy and people had been seen since the first days of Christianity in Denmark. In 1130 King Nicholas’s only son Magnus deceitfully killed King Erik’s son Knud. Because of this, Knud’s brothers Harald and Erik fomented a revolt against Nicholas and Magnus, intending to depose King Nicholas and to kill Magnus.

Having collected a gang of criminals, Erik persuaded part of Jutland’s people to make him king. At this news, Harald went over to King Nicholas’s side, as he was unwilling to serve his younger brother and had to think of his fifteen sons and the immense wealth he had amassed by indiscriminate robbery. King Nicholas went to Jutland and defeated Erik, who withdrew to Schleswig. Next year Magnus suffered severe losses in a naval battle by Sejrø (Syra) when he was attacked by surprise by Erik. In the third year of the war, King Nicholas came to Zealand with a hundred ships. He was supported by the majority of the people led by Bishop Peter, and Erik was defeated in the battle of Værebro, whereupon Nicholas devastated Roskilde. Erik sought to gather help in Scania, but was expelled, and he went to Norway to ask for help from King Magnus son of Syward. Magnus feigned to support him, but then imprisoned him, took his money and expelled his followers. Erik simulated severe illness in order not to be transferred to Konghelle [the southernmost border fortress of Norway; presumably the transfer would have been in view of delivering Erik to the Danes] and sent a messenger to his Danish friends. The latter arrived with a ship and succeeded in liberating Erik, who fled to Scania. The Scanians (skåninger) now changed their minds and unanimously supported Erik. At that time Ascer was archbishop of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, a sharp and bitter man, equally wise and fickle, swaying hither and thither in the internal conflicts. Erik ordered the city of Lund to be fortified. Meanwhile Nicholas had ordered the army to be assembled and called all the magnates to a meeting in Scania at Whitsun. Upon disembarking, they were taken by surprise by Erik and his army; the chronicler laments the death of Magnus and records the deaths of “dukes” and of five bishops, among them Peter of Roskilde. A sixth bishop, Eskil, had been killed in a church by Erik two years earlier, as he was serving matins. Seeing the massacre of his men, King Nicholas barely escaped to a ship together with Harald. Returning to Zealand, he tried to hearten his men. He then went to Jutland, where he made Harald his co-ruler. But on 25 June, as Nicholas came to Schleswig, the citizens killed him and his remaining magnates, violating their oath; Harald, who had warned the king against the Schleswigers, had found a pretext for leaving the court. Upon these news, Erik went to Schleswig and amply rewarded the Schleswigers for their crime, and there he appointed new bishops instead of those who had been killed at Whitsun; one of the new bishops was Eskil as Peter’s successor in Roskilde.

Erik spent the following Christmas in Scania, while Harald stayed in Jutland and gained the support of many of the inhabitants. For this reason, Erik staged a nocturnal surprise attack upon his brother in the village of Skibet (Scipyng). Harald was taken prisoner and beheaded; his sons were held captive in Scania until the month of August, when Erik let them all be killed, except Olaf who managed to escape by disguising himself as a beggar. Olaf went to King Swerki of Sweden, who gave him his support in the hope of getting some profit for himself. Two further sons of Harald had been drowned the year before, in a castle by the port of Schleswig. The twelfth son had been killed in the same battle as King Nicholas’s son Magnus. Thus all Harald’s sons died an untimely death, except Olaf whom the chronicler says was still living and calls a many-headed monster. Meanwhile Archbishop Ascer of Lund had died on 13 May. The chronicler then depicts King Erik’s overweening haughtiness, his brutality, cruelty and injustice; but his death was worthy of his life. In a court session near Ribe, a man named Plouh dealt the unsuspecting king a mortal wound. The chronicler stresses the parallel between the misshapen, short and uncouth killer and David’s fight against Goliath. After Erik’s burial in Ribe, the magnates took his sister’s son Erik III as king. He was simple, fickle and duplicitous, a disaster for kingdom and clergy. In his days Bishops Ruko of Schleswig and Eskil of Roskilde quarrelled over the archiepiscopal see of Lund. However, Peter son of Botild negotiated a peace whereby Eskil got the archbishopric, while Ruko usurped the see of Roskilde.

Continuation: After having assured the peace of the realm, King Erik abdicated in his tenth regnal year, withdrew to a monastery and shortly afterwards died. After his death, the Jutlanders (jyder) elected Knud, son of Magnus son of King Nicholas, but the Scanians elected Sven, son of Erik Emune. Thus arose twelve years’ conflict between the two kings. In the tenth year of this war, the Danes convened to obtain peace by electing two kings, the aforementioned Knud and Valdemar, son of St. Knud the duke and martyr. Sven was driven out of Denmark and lived for three years with his brother-in-law the duke of Saxony. But on the third year he returned to Denmark, pretending to desire peace. The three kings agreed to divide the kingdom equally between them, and a peace treaty was made. As they were having a meeting in Roskilde on 9 August, Sven had Knud and his kinsman Constantine killed, while Valdemar escaped severely wounded. Valdemar went to Jutland and gathered support, and in a battle on the moor of Grathe Sven was killed; he was buried in a village church. Then Valdemar was elected king, anointed by Archbishop Eskil and crowned, in the year 1157. He reigned for twenty-six years and was succeded by his son Knud, and after him his brother Valdemar was made king.

Composition and style

Original text: The text is a plain chronological narrative. It has neither preface nor epilogue. The chronicle breaks off abruptly, but there is no hint of missing text or of an originally intended continuation. There are no internal divisions; the division into chapters of the edited text was made by GERTZ (1917–1918, 14).

The Roskilde chronicle begins with the indication of the incarnation year of the first King Harald’s baptism; otherwise the incarnation year (often erroneous) is used sparingly, as a marker of particularly important events: the death of King Sven Estridsen (1074; 1076 according to other sources), the murder of the sainted King Knud (1090, recte 1086), the conquest of Jerusalem (1100, recte 1099), the death of King Erik the Good (1103), the murder of the sainted Duke Knud (1130, recte 1131). In the later part of the chronicle, events are sometimes dated by regnal years. Regnal years are also indicated for most kings since the tenth century (and for every king from Sven Estridsen to Nicholas). The chronicle’s dating conventions are thus akin to those found in Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum (GREENWAY 1996, LXIII–LXIV), an early version of which the chronicler may have used (see Sources).

Chapters 1 to 9 in GERTZ’s edition are stylistically largely dependent upon Adam of Bremen. However, the chronicler usually rearranges and paraphrases Adam rather than just abbreviating his text; e.g. part of the description of the destructions wrought by the Vikings in the late ninth century (transl. by Peter Fisher): Deinde Traiectum oppidum inuadunt urbemque solo tenus prosternunt, in qua Rabodo tunc claruit episcopus. Ad ultimum Renum transeunt, Coloniam et Treueros incendunt, Aquisgrani stabulum equis suis fecerunt, urbes cum ciuibus, mulieres cum infantibus in ore gladii trucidauerunt, ecclesias sanctas cum fidelibus aut incenderunt aut subuerterunt. Maguncia ob metum eorum instaurari cepit. Tunc Fresia eciam a Danis depopulata est (GERTZ 1917–1918, 17 lines1-9, without GERTZ’s emendations). (Next they attacked the town of Utrecht, in which Radbod was then the illustrious bishop, and razed it to the ground. Finally they crossed the Rhine, burnt Cologne and Trier, made a stable for their horses in Aachen, and slaughtered these towns’ citizens, men, women and children at the point of the sword; they also burnt and destroyed the holy churches, together with the faithful. In Mainz the people began to build fortifications for fear of the enemy. At that time Frisia too was laid waste by the Danes.); cf. Adam 1:38 in the B1 version (see Sources):

Tunc Fresia depopulata est, Traiectum civitas excisa. Sanctus Rabodus, urbis episcopus, cedens persecutioni Dauandrie sedem constituit, ibique consistens anathematis gladio in paganos ultus est. Tunc piratae Coloniam et Treveros incendunt. Aquasgrani palatium stabulum equis suis fecerunt. Mogontia vero propter metum barbarorum instaurari cepit. Quid multa? Urbes cum civibus, episcopi cum toto (g)rege simul obruti sunt. Ecclesiae illustres cum fidelibus incensae sunt (SCHMEIDLER 1917, 4 lines 13–11 with apparatus).

(At that time Frisia was laid waste and the city of Utrecht razed. Saint Radbod, bishop of the town, retired before the persecution, fixed his see at Deventer and, taking his stand there, took vengeance on the pagans with the sword of anathema. Then the pirates set fire to Cologne and Trier. They stabled their horses in the palace at Aachen. The people of Mainz began to erect fortifications for fear of the barbarians. Why say more? Cities with their inhabitants, bishops wih their whole flocks were struck down at one time. Stately churches were burned with the faithful. [TSCHAN 1959, 37-8, slightly modified by author])

The chronicler similarly rearranges Adam’s text when re-using a rhetorical passage from the latter’s panegyric of Archbishop Bescelin Alebrand for his own characterisation of Bishop Sven of Roskilde (cf. STEENSTRUP 1892–1894, 690; BREENGAARD 1982, 61):

Terror male faciencium, remuneracio beniuolencium, pater patrie, cleri et salus populi, egregius pietate et qui omnia uellet ad perfectum ducere (GERTZ 1917–1918, 23 lines 7–9, without GERTZ’s emendations). (A terror to evil doers, recompense for the benvolent, father of his country, salvation of clergy and people, outstanding in his piety and one who wished to bring all things to perfection.); cf. Adam 2:69 in the B1 version (see Sources):

... pater patriae fuit, decus cleri et salus populi, terror male potentium, exemplar benivolentium, egregius pietate vel qui omnia vellet ad perfectum ducere (SCHMEIDLER 1917, 130 lines 11–14 with apparatus).

(He was the father of his country, the splendor of the clergy, the salvation of the people, the dread of powerful evildoers, an exemplar for the benevolent, surpassing in piety and in wishing to bring everything to perfection.[TSCHAN 1959, 103-4])

For the intentions behind the chronicler’s re-arranging of Adam’s text, see Sources and Purpose and audience.

In chapters 10 through 29, the Vulgate Bible is the main stylistic inspiration, especially for moral characterization of the main protagonists, while the classics are virtually absent (for a doubtful instance of inspiration from Lucan, see GERTZ 1917–1918, 31 lines 15–16 with apparatus). Famous in Danish historiography is the chronicler’s lamentation on the death of King Nicholas’s son Magnus:

Heu crudelis annus, dies amara, dies mortis, dies tenebrarum, doloribus plena, singultibus onerata! Heu dies, in qua Magnus occiditur, flos Danie deprimitur! Pulcherrimus iuuenum, fortis robore, hylaris dator, et sapiens et constancie amator, Magnus occiditur.... (GERTZ 1917–1918, 29; cf. e.g. JØRGENSEN 1931, 26; PALUDAN 1967, taking its title from this passage; NIELSEN 1969, 427).

(Alas, cruel year, bitter day, a day of death, a day of darkness, full of woes, laden with sobbing! Alas the day on which Magnus was slain and the flower of Denmark sank low! Fairest of young men, mighty in strength, a cheerful giver, wise and devoted to steadfastness, Magnus was slain!)

This passage has strong echoes of Joel 2,2, Esth. 11,8, Soph. 1,14 f., 2 Cor. 9,7, and possibly of Eccl. 2,23 and Job 9,4. It is one of the points where the Roskilde Chronicle takes on an eschatological flavour (BREENGAARD 1982, 67). For discussion of the chronicler’s use of Esther 16,13 in his characterization of kings St. Knud and Oluf (Hic [Kanutus] cum populum quadam noua lege et inaudita ad tributum ... coegit, a Iucia in Fiuniam fugatus Othinse in ecclesia sancti Albani martyris ante altare magna confessione cordis martyrizatus est .... Conuenientibus igitur regni primatibus Olauum ... in regem assumpserunt consortemque tocius regni Danie fecerunt; GERTZ 1917–1918, 23–24. With a new, unheard-of law he forced the people to pay tribute and, having fled from Jutland (Jylland) to Odense on Funen (Fyn), in the church of St. Alban the Martyr he made a deep, heart-felt confession and was martyred before the altar ... When the kingdom's magnates gathered, they therefore adopted Oluf ... as monarch, making him a partaker of the whole realm.), see GELTING 1979, 46–47, who maintains that the citations are meant to cast a slur over the sainted King Knud by implicitly linking him to the biblical villain Haman; in opposition to this interpretation, BREENGAARD 1982, 56, thinks that the chronicler intends nothing more than an objective description of the cause of the revolt against Knud, while the strange characterisation of Olaf’s kingship as consors regni is seen as an indication that he was a weak ruler under the sway of the lay aristocracy (BREENGAARD 1982, 161–162).

Continuation: The continuation picks up the thread of the narrative where the original text breaks off. Its final characterisation of King Valdemar I’s reign, with its series of contrasting word-pairs (Qui regnum Danorum uiginti sex annis nobiliter rexit. Nam paganos ad fidem, fideles ad pacem, pacificos ad securitatem prouocauit; odium in dilectionem, dolorem in gaudium, bellum in pacem et egestatem conuertit in opulenciam, GERTZ 1917–1918, 33 lines 24–28. He ruled the kingdom of Denmark nobly for twenty-six years. For he invited the heathens to faith, the faithful to peace, the peaceful to safety; he turned hate into love, grief into joy, war into peace and poverty into wealth.), followed by the terse mention of the reigns of Valdemar’s two sons, gives the impression of being intended as a final conclusion to the chronicle. Using the incarnation year as a marker in the same way as the original text, the chronicler conveys the impression that Valdemar I’s accession as sole king in 1157 constituted the passageway between the tribulations of the Danish Church and people in the earlier centuries and the full maturity of Valdemar’s reign. Otherwise, like the Ordinale sancti Kanuti ducis et martyris upon which a large part of the continuation is textually dependent (STEENSTRUP 1892–1894, 681–82), the continuator is particularly fond of alliteration (e.g. in the mention of the compromise between the three contending kings: .... fideiussoribus interpositis, in unum conuenerunt, et prudentum consilio paci consulentes sedicionem regni sedare satagebant. Tali ergo condicione confederantur cognati ...., GERTZ 1917–1918, 337–10. ...when intermediaries had been introduced to give sureties, they all came together, consulted together for peace with the counsel of prudent individuals, and devoted themselves to diminishing discord in the kingdom. Consequently under such a compact the kinsmen became confederates.)


Original text: From the first baptism of a Danish king in 826 until the early years of Sven Estridsen (chapter 1 through 9), the chronicler has largely used Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, apparently in a manuscript belonging to the Danish tradition (SCHMEIDLER’s group B; SCHMEIDLER 1917, XL n. 3, cf. DANSTRUP 1943, 6, and KRISTENSEN 1975, 20; cf. below, and see Composition and style). However, on some points the chronicle’s paraphrase of Adam is closer to the A version than any of the extant B texts (e.g. the name of the first bishop of Schleswig: Chron. Rosk. Hericum (GERTZ 1917–1918, 18 line 23); Adam 2:4, A text Horitu or Haredum; B and C texts Haroldum (SCHMEIDLER 1917, 64 line 15 with apparatus); and Poppo’s ordeal: Chron. Rosk. ferrum candens in manu gestauit (GERTZ 1917–1918, 21 line 19) Adam 2:35, A text, ferrum ignitum gestasse manu; B text ferrum ignitum tractasse manu; C text ignitum ferrum manu tulisse (SCHMEIDLER 1917, 96 lines 4–5 with apparatus); cf. KRISTENSEN 1975, 21–22), and some cases of correspondence with the C version have also been noted. DANSTRUP 1943, 6, 75, and KRISTENSEN 1975, 20–22, suggest that the Roskilde chronicler may have used the exemplar of the crucial twelfth-century Sorø manuscript of Adam that was lost in the fire of Copenhagen in 1728; generally, however, the Roskilde chronicle is closer to SCHMEIDLER’s MS B1b. In all likelihood the Adam manuscript used by the Roskilde chronicler was the ancestor both of the Sorø manuscript and of the rest of the manuscripts in SCHMEIDLER’s B group (this seems more likely than Bolin’s hypothesis that the different branches of the purely Danish B transmission of Adam should each be descended directly from the archetype; BOLIN 1948, 155: although the B1 transmission was based presumably on a now lost late medieval manuscript in Schleswig where direct textual transmission from Hamburg might be a distinct possibility, that manuscript seems to have contained additional material of purely Danish relevance; KRISTENSEN 1975, 86–87).

The chronicler has treated Adam’s text quite freely (see Composition and style). The main thrust of the changes is to present the Danish kingdom in a more favourable light than in Adam’s history, stressing the continuity of Christianity in the kingdom since St. Ansgar’s mission in 826 and eliminating the participation of Danish kings in the great Viking assaults upon the Carolingian empire, and to reduce the role of the see of Hamburg–Bremen in the conversion of Denmark (HEMMINGSEN 1996, 221–72). A case in point is the final Christianization of Denmark under Harald Bluetooth (BOLIN 1931, 45, 50, 80; HEMMINGSEN 1996, 257–59): Adam 2:3 describes Harald’s baptism and Emperor Otto’s standing as godfather to his son Sven (Forkbeard) as part of the conclusion of peace after a bloody war in which Harald was subjugated and received his kingdom back at the emperor’s hands (SCHMEIDLER 1917, 62–64); the Roskilde Chronicle instead presents Harald as already a Christian before the death of his father Gorm, building churches and calling in priests from England and Saxony, thereby gaining the archbishop’s and the emperor’s friendship and the latter’s becoming godfather to his son:

Vnde uenerabili Adaldago episcopo et Ottoni Augusto amicus et ualde familiaris fuit, adeo ut filium eius baptizatum a sacro fonte <leuauerit> et Swen Otto uocauerit (GERTZ 1917–1918, 18 lines 16–18). (Hence he was a very intimate friend of the venerable Bishop Adaldag and Emperor Otto, so much so that the latter raised Harald's son from the sacred font after he had been baptized and named him Sven Otto.)

Cf. Adam: Nec mora baptizatus est ipse Haroldus cum uxore Gunhild et filio parvulo, quem rex noster a sacro fonte susceptum Suenotto vocavit (SCHMEIDLER 1917, 63 line 15–64 line 1 with apparatus). (Not long after Harold himself was baptized together with his wife Gunnhild, and his little son, whom our king raised up from the sacred font and named Sven Otto. [TSCHAN 1959, 56])

In other cases the transformation may be no more than a confusion through hasty reading of Adam, e.g. the wars between Sven Forkbeard and the kings of Norway and Sweden, where the Roskilde chronicler inverts the roles of Olaf of Norway and Olaf of Sweden (GERTZ 1917–1918, 19 lines 12–20, cf. Adam 2:39–41, SCHMEIDLER 1917, 99–101). The chronicler’s assigning to specific sees of some of the missionary bishops mentioned by Adam (GERTZ 1917–1918, 18 line24–19 line 3, cf. SCHMEIDLER 1917, 85 line 9–12, 118 line 22–119 line 2) is likely to be pure conjecture (thus GELTING 1992, 67 n.42, for Ribe; the Roskilde chronicle is accepted on this point by RADTKE 1992, 101–2 n.61, on the basis of copious but hardly conclusive discussion in earlier research).

In a few cases, however, the changes to Adam’s version include additional information which must be derived from other sources. The date 826 for King Harald (Klak)’s baptism at Mainz (GERTZ 1917–1918, 14 lines 1–2) is not in Adam and must depend on an annalistic source. Adam’s tale of the Vikings’ depredations in the Frankish kingdom in the later ninth century (Adam 1:37–39) has in part been replaced by a version of the story of Ragnar Lothbrok’s sons, probably from an English source, since several English names are mentioned, though in part disfigured beyond recognition (GERTZ 1917–1918, 16 lines 12–14: Ibi reges Nordumbrorum Ielle atque Osbertus ceciderunt, ac Denunolf et Berrunolf de prelio fugerunt); in this part of the chronicle, the martyrdom of St. Edmund at the hands of the Vikings (GERTZ 1917–1918, 16 lines 14–18) is also given in words different from the only Adam text that mentions it (SCHMEIDLER’s text B1b; SCHMEIDLER 1917, 40 lines 21–28). The re-erection of the churches in Schleswig and Ribe and the founding of a church in Århus are ascribed to a King Frothi who is unknown to Adam (GERTZ 1917–1918, 17 lines 10–14).

MUNCH 1851–1852, 52–55, showed that the likely explanation of the appearance of this King Frothi is a misunderstanding by Henry of Huntingdon in his Latin translation of the Anglo-Saxon poem on the battle of Brunanburh: in Henry’s Historia Anglorum the original poem’s epithet for the Scottish King Constantine, froda (wise), has been rendered as the name of a “Norman” King Froda (book 5, ch. 19; GREENWAY 1996, 312). Munch was not aware that the last chapter of the Roskilde chronicle was a later continuation and thus dated the chronicle as a whole to the reign of Valdemar I (1157–1182) (MUNCH 1851–1852, 48). As the original text of the chronicle should be dated 1138 (see Date and place), MUNCH’s hypothesis might now be considered problematic, since the earliest versions of Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum do not seem to have been circulated until after March 1133 (GREENWAY 1996, LXVII–LXX; KRISTENSEN 1969, 123, does not seem to be aware of this problem), and HEMMINGSEN 1996, 249–50, assumes that the Roskilde chronicler only knew of Henry of Huntingdon’s King Froda orally from an English informant. However, several elements in the Roskilde chronicle’s tale of the sons of Ragnar Lothbrok are closely cognate to Henry of Huntingdon, book 5, ch. 2, 5 and 33–34 (GREENWAY 1996, 276, 280–82, 334), even though there is no verbal correspondence: the killing of the Northumbrian Kings Osbricht and Ælla (Historia Anglorum, 5:5, cf. 5:33) is immediately followed by the martyrdom of St. Edmund (Historia Anglorum, 5:5). The Roskilde chronicle says of the ravages of Lothbrok’s sons: Hec prima Nordumbrorum plaga taliter gesta est in Anglia (GERTZ 1917–1918, 16 lines 18–19); this numbering of the scourges of Northumbria has no parallels in the rest of the Roskilde chronicle and appears rather pointless, but it corresponds to an important interpretive theme in Henry of Huntingdon’s work (PARTNER 1977, 22–28; GREENWAY 1996, LIX). Finally, the Roskilde chronicle’s Denunolf and Berrunolf who were put to flight by Lothbrok’s sons (GERTZ 1917–1918, 16 lines 13–14) seem to be scribal corruptions of Kings Æthelwulf of Wessex and Berhtwulf of Mercia (the sixteenth-century collector Petrus Olai’s complete copy of the Roskilde chronicle has the names as Denuuolf and Berruuolf, but in his excerpts from the chronicle he gives the names as Ethewald or Adelwolff and Bertimwald or Berthwolff; Petrus Olai may have used an otherwise unknown manuscript of the chronicle; GERTZ 1917–1918, 16, cf. 9 and 11, cf. LANGEBEK 1772b, 114); the source is likely to be Henry of Huntingdon’s regnal list in ch. 5:34, where Berhtwulf’s flight is mentioned just after the killing of Osbricht and Ælla (GREENWAY 1996, 334), conflated with his account of the wars in 843, where Berhtwulf’s defeat is linked to Æthelwulf’s fighting against the Danes (Historia Anglorum, 5:2; GREENWAY 1996, 276). Henry of Huntingdon’s work immediately gained a wide audience in England (GREENWAY 1996, LXI–LXII), and the Roskilde chronicle’s account of the English wars of Lothbrok’s sons and its introduction of the unhistorical King Frothi open a strong likelihood that a copy of Henry’s work (or perhaps only of book 5) had been brought to Denmark by 1138.

However, Henry of Huntingdon cannot account for every detail in this part of the Roskilde chronicle. Henry ignores that the Danish chieftains Hinguar and Ubbe were Lothbrok’s sons, and he only knows these two names, while the Roskilde chronicle names five sons of Lothbrok, of which two, Ywar and Ingvar, are obviously a duplication of the same name. Adam of Bremen says that Ingvar was the son of Lodparch (SCHMEIDLER 1917, 40 lines 2–5) and is thus a likely source of the Roskilde chronicle’s form of Lothbrok’s name, Lothpardus (GERTZ 1917–1918, 16 line 2; HEMMINGSEN 1996, 295); but Adam makes no mention of Ingvar’s brothers. Moreover, the Roskilde chronicle is the earliest extant text to mention the legendary feature that Ingvar/Ivar was “boneless” (HEMMINGSEN 1996, 295–97). Thus the Roskilde chronicle must have had access to some additional, but as yet unidentified, source for these details (HEMMINGSEN 1996, 295, suspects influence from William of Jumièges, but it cannot be demonstrated that the Roskilde chronicler knew this text). The Roskilde chronicle’s description of St. Edmund’s martyrdom, that he was flagellatus ac deinde sagittatus, ad ultimum decollatus (GERTZ 1917–1918, 16 lines 16–17), has more details than Henry of Huntingdon’s sagittis impiorum ad stipitem undique transuerberatus (with no mention of flagellation or decapitation; GREENWAY 1996, 282–83 with n. 37). The story cannot have been taken from Adam of Bremen: though the only Adam manuscript to mention the death of St. Edmund is SCHMEIDLER’s MS B1b (SCHMEIDLER 1917, 40 lines 21–28) which probably is derived indirectly from the Adam manuscript used by the Roskilde chronicler, the passage in question is likely to have been a marginal note added to the late fourteenth or early fifteenth-century manuscript from which B1b was copied (cf. OTTO 1930, 17). At this point the chronicler may have drawn directly upon Abbo of Fleury’s Life of St. Edmund (WINTERBOTTOM 1972, 78–79; HEMMINGSEN 1996, 238, although HEMMINGSEN’s argument from the existence in Copenhagen of an early manuscript of Abbo’s text is unwarranted: the manuscript in question, Copenhagen, Royal Library, GKS 1588 4°, came to Copenhagen through the collections of the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein at Gottorp from the French abbey of Saint-Denis, where it was still in the fifteenth century; JØRGENSEN 1926, 189–90). Abbo’s Life might also explain why the Roskilde Chronicle says of the invasion of England by Lothbrok’s sons: Hec prima Nordumbrorum plaga taliter gesta est in Anglia (This first plague of the Northumbrians ocurred in England thus), while Henry of Huntingdon counts the Danes as England’s fourth scourge (GREENWAY 1996, 14); this might be based upon Abbo’s predicti duces Hinguar et Hubba Nordanimbrorum primitus aggressi expugnare prouinciam graui depopulatione totam peruagantur ex ordine (WINTERBOTTOM 1972, 72). (The aforesaid leaders, Ingvar and Ubbe, began to subdue the province of Northumbria for the first time and ranged over the whole of it progressively, wreaking severe devastation.)

The Roskilde chronicle’s phrase may be understood as a somewhat inept attempt to reconcile Abbo with Henry of Huntingdon’s scourge theme.

Generally the chronicler had difficulties in reconciling the fragmentary information found in his various sources; this may account for his doubling of the Danish Kings Gorm and Harald (Bluetooth) and his trebling of King Ethelred the Unready of England (GERTZ 1917–1918, 17–18, 20), just as for the above-mentioned duplication of the Danish chieftain Ingvar.

From the turn of the millennium, the Roskilde chronicle obviously begins to rely increasingly on the traditions of the church of Roskilde. The first instance of this seems to be the surnames of Kings Harald Bluetooth (Blatan; GERTZ 1917–1918, 17 line 20) and Sven Forkbeard (Tyuvskeg; GERTZ 1917–1918, 19 line 20), which are not mentioned by any extant earlier source and may be the product of local tradition in Roskilde which claimed to be the burial place of Harald (GELTING 1979, 40; the veracity of this tradition, which stems from Adam of Bremen, is questioned by LUND 1998, 53–58). This is followed by the otherwise unrecorded assertion that the missionary Bishop Bernard, whose preaching is placed late in the reign of Sven Forkbeard, was active not only in Scania (Skåne), as stated by Adam, but afterwards in Zealand (Sjælland), where he died (GERTZ 1917–1918, 20 lines 1–2; however, this may be a confusion with Adam’s report of the activities of the first bishop of Roskilde, Gerbrand, who is not mentioned by the Roskilde chonicle, cf. GROßE 1992, 80 with n. 69; GERTZ 1917–1918, 21 lines 13, suspects that Gerbrand has dropped out through a lacuna in the chronicle). The story of the murder in the church of Roskilde, at the king’s behest, of Knut the Great’s brother-in-law Duke Ulf, is unknown to Adam and was obviously tied to the story of Ulf’s widow Estrid’s building and dotation of the first stone church in Roskilde (GERTZ 1917–1918, 21 lines 2–9).

From the point where Adam of Bremen’s chronicle ends, in the last years of Estrid’s son King Sven, the Roskilde chronicle seems independent of any now extant source, and local written and oral tradition may be assumed to be the chronicler’s main source. In general, the chronicler appears extremely well-informed as to the history of the buildings and the landed possessions of the church of Roskilde; a reference to a charter of Bishop William (Villelmus) confirming Estrid’s last donation to the church shows that he had access to the capitular archives (DD 1, 2, no. 9, 18–19, there dated 1072/73, but more probably 1072/75). Probably this charter was the oldest document in the archives, as the chapter was founded before the death of Estrid’s son King Sven (d. 1076) (ARHNUNG 1937, 4–5; cf. HELVEG 1855, 12). It is difficult to accept ARHNUNG’s speculative arguments for pushing the creation of the chapter back to the foundation of the see (ARHNUNG 1937, 6–7); a date in the 1060s or early 1070s seems most likely.

Apart from the capitular archives, it is doubtful whether the chronicler had access to any other written sources for this part of his work. It was formerly thought that the Roskilde chronicle’s numerous indications of regnal years and, more sparingly, of years according to the Christian era (see Composition and style) were derived from an early list of Danish kings akin to those which are known in several versions from the twelfth century onwards (Catalogus regum Danie, Nomina regum Danorum, Reges Danorum, Series ac brevior historia regum Danie, Series regum Danie ex Necrologio Lundensi, Catalogi regum Danorum). However, the hypothesis that these indications in the Roskilde chronicle and the earliest king-lists from Lund were derived independently of each other from a lost, common source (BOLIN 1931, 120–21, cf. JØRGENSEN 1871, 210–11, and WEIBULL 1923, 45 n. 3) has been called into serious doubt by KRISTENSEN 1969, 122–23, who has shown that the Roskilde chronicle is the most probable source of the Lund king-lists. The chronicler may have known Ailnothus’s Gesta Swenomagni regis .... et passio gloriosissimi Canuti regis et martyris (cf. BREENGAARD 1982, 56), but his account of the reasons for the revolt against Saint Canute is entirely different from Ailnoth’s.

Continuation: The main source of the continuation of the Roskilde chronicle is the >Ordinale sancti Kanuti ducis et martyris. Sporadically the continuation has parallelisms with the Chronica Slavorum of Helmold of Bosau, the chronicle of Radulfus Niger and the Brevis historia regum Dacie of Sueno Aggonis. It has been suggested that the chronicler was drawing upon an hypothetical, lost chronicle written ca. 1180, favouring the royal line descended from King Nicholas, which is assumed to be the common source of Radulfus Niger and the Series ac brevior historia regum Danie (Catalogi regum Danorum) (KRISTENSEN 1969, 125; cf. KRISTENSEN 1968–1969). However, serious doubts have been raised about the necessity of supposing such a lost common source in order to explain the correspondences between Radulfus Niger and Sueno Aggonis (MÜNSTER-SWENDSEN, forthcoming). It has also been suggested that the continuation was dependent upon the Series ac brevior historia regum Danie (OLRIK 1898, 3; cf. GERTZ 1917–1918, 3–4, 32), but actually the relationship seems to have been the opposite way (GERTZ 1917–1918, 149–50; cf. KRISTENSEN 1969, 125 n. 26, 131; and see Medieval reception and transmission).

Literary models

Original text: It is usually thought that the Roskilde chronicle used Adam of Bremen not only as its main source for Denmark’s early history, but also as a model for the concept of the later part of the chronicle, which has been understood as an episcopal chronicle enriched by other material (JØRGENSEN 1931, 25–26). However, even though the bishops of Roskilde figure prominently, the narrative is structured by the reigns of the Danish kings, a feature which does not fit the definition of the episcopal chronicle as a genre (SOT 1981, 13–31). BREENGAARD 1982, 68–72, dismisses the idea that the chronicle should be understood as an episcopal or local chronicle, describing it instead as a general history aimed at showing the distress of the Danish church at the time of its writing (see Purpose and audience). The concept of the Roskilde chronicle, then, might be better described as a “History of the Danish Church and People”. This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that the chronicler chose to begin his excerpts from Adam of Bremen with the first instance of the baptism of a Danish king, omitting Adam’s earlier references to pagan Danish rulers (cf. KRISTENSEN 1968–1969, 433). If the chronicler did indeed have access to an early version of Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum (see Sources), that work would be a likely source of inspiration for such a concept, even though Henry of Huntingdon substantially modified the Bedan model (PARTNER 1977, 22–27, cf. GREENWAY 1996, LVII–LXVI). Henry of Huntingdon’s disapproval of the church reformers’ campaigns for clerical celibacy (PARTNER 1977, 39–47) would certainly have been germane to the Roskilde chronicler (GELTING 1979, 61–62), but there is no trace in the chronicle of Henry’s lofty theme of contemptus mundi (PARTNER 1977, 28–39).

Continuation: The literary model of the continuation of the Roskilde chronicle is the >Ordinale sancti Kanuti ducis et martyris (see Composition and style).

Purpose and audience

Original text: In nineteenth and early twentieth-century historical writing, the Roskilde chronicler was seen as an old-fashioned churchman, incomprehensive or hostile towards the goals of the reformers of his day, a frustrated outsider (JØRGENSEN 1871, 208; STEENSTRUP 1907–1908, 33–36, cf. STEENSTRUP 1897–1904, 564–65; STEENSTRUP 1932–1934, 376–78). This interpretation was thoroughly reversed by WEIBULL 1928, who interpreted changes in the characterization of kings and members of the royal family in the Necrologium Lundense as showing the same evaluation of them as the Roskilde chronicler’s, and both as expressing the views of a “Gregorian”, anti-monarchic party around Archbishop Eskil (1138–1177). It was even suggested that the author might have been Eskil himself during his time as bishop of Roskilde (1134–1138) (WEIBULL 1928, 104–6; JØRGENSEN 1931, 27), and while this suggestion was not followed by later scholars, it was for long generally assumed that the chronicle represented Eskil’s point of view (KOCH 1936, 25–31; cf. e.g. BOLIN 1931, 51; KOCH 1950, 141; KRISTENSEN 1969, 40–41). Dissenting opinions were voiced in the 1970s: SKYUM-NIELSEN 1971, 14, 37, 86–87, dismissed the idea that the Roskilde chronicle mirrors the opinions of Archbishop Eskil on the grounds that the chronicle severely criticizes Archbishop Asser, who was Eskil’s paternal uncle, and whom Eskil seems to have remembered with veneration; SKYUM-NIELSEN instead presented the chronicler as a client of local, lay magnates. DISSING 1975, 10–19, denied that the Roskilde chronicler’s characterization of kings and bishops could be interpreted as the ideologically consistent expression of the point of view of a “Gregorian” party, pointing out in particular the chronicler’s disapproval of a campaign against unchaste clergy and his complete acceptance of the king’s right to appoint bishops (DISSING 1975, 15). GELTING 1979, 60–62, 69–74, revived the nineteenth-century view of the chronicler as a somewhat provincial representative of earlier ecclesiastical ideals in the Carolingian tradition, though without totally discarding WEIBULL’s linking of the chronicle with Archbishop Eskil’s political sympathies. Through a detailed and radical critique, BREENGAARD 1982, 13–81, finally demolished WEIBULL’s arguments for linking the Roskilde chronicle, the necrologies of Lund and a “Gregorian” party around Eskil, interpreting the chronicle instead as an anxious, intensely localist expression of the young Danish church’s predicament in an indifferent or hostile society dominated by violent aristocratic kindreds (BREENGAARD 1982, 71–72). However, while the exact nature of the relationship between the chronicle’s views and Archbishop Eskil’s positions is thus open to question, KRISTENSEN’s demonstration that the Roskilde chronicle was probably brought to Lund by Eskil upon his accession speaks in favour of his endorsement of the chronicler’s views, at least to a certain degree (KRISTENSEN 1969, 39–41, 121–24). This is not incompatible with BREENGAARD’s critique of WEIBULL’s thesis, since BREENGAARD’s interpretation divorces Eskil from the radical “Gregorian” policies ascribed to him by WEIBULL (BREENGAARD 1982, 326–27).

An attractive hypothesis, based upon an extensive analysis of the chronicler’s reworking of Adam of Bremen (see Sources), is that the Roskilde chronicle was written in the context of the endeavours of the archbishop of Hamburg–Bremen in the 1130s to obtain the subjection to his see of the Scandinavian church, and in order to refute Hamburg–Bremen’s claims (HEMMINGSEN 1996, esp. 260–62; cf. BREENGAARD 1982, 237–39). The result of the chronicler’s subversive use of Adam was in effect a history of a Danish kingdom which had been ruled continuously, albeit with short lapses, by Christian kings ever since the baptism of Harald “Klak” in Mainz in 826 – that is, before the see of Hamburg had even been founded (GELTING 2011, 49-53).

However, neither BREENGAARD’s nor HEMMINGSEN’s interpretations of the chronicle are able quite to account for its strongly local emphasis. To BREENGAARD 1982, 68, the chronicle simply emphasized local conditions at the church of Roskilde by way of example and for want of adequate sources from the rest of the kingdom. But from the foundation of the bishopric of Roskilde ca. 1020 (GROßE 1992, 77), and particularly from the creation of a cathedral chapter there in the later part of the reign of King Sven Estridsen (d. 1076), the chronicle focuses intensely upon the history of that bishopric and evaluates both kings and bishops according to their utility to the cathedral (GELTING 1979, 44–49; BREENGAARD 1982, 51–72).

It has been suggested that since the chronicle was written while the Danish archbishopric was effectively abolished (from the death of Archbishop Asser in May 1137 to Eskil’s reception of the pallium in August 1138), its original purpose was to bolster Roskilde’s claim to the metropolitan dignity in the event of a future restoration of the archbishopric. According to this hypothesis, the end of the chronicle, describing the strife over the archbishopric of Lund in 1138, would have been added as a conclusion after the restoration of the archbishopric had been precipitated by the death of Emperor Lothar III in December 1137, thus depriving the chronicle of its original purpose. However, no other sources support the existence of such plans at the see of Roskilde, although Roskilde’s grudge against Lund for having obtained the metropolitan dignity is well attested (GELTING 2004, 192–98; cf. Gelting 2002, 78–86, critically reviewed by PAJUNG 2003).

It is likely that beyond its possible utility in the negotiations for the Danish church’s independence of Hamburg–Bremen, the primary intended audience of the Roskilde chronicle was the clergy of Roskilde. Still, its immediate adoption as a basic source of annalistic and historical writing at the archiepiscopal see of Lund for more than a century (see Medieval reception and transmission) speaks in favour of its reception by contemporaries as a “History of the Danish Church and People”, rather than just of the church of Roskilde.

Continuation: The continuation’s fairly elaborate account of the civil wars until 1157 is textually dependent upon the liturgical office created for the translation of St. Knud Lavard in 1170 (STEENSTRUP 1892–1894, 681–82; >Ordinale sancti Kanuti ducis et martyris). In the early thirteenth century, the Roskilde chronicle was apparently still considered a standard historical work (see Medieval reception and transmission), and the intended audience may be assumed to have been anyone wishing to get information about Denmark’s early history.

Medieval reception and transmission

According to the research of A.K.G. KRISTENSEN, the medieval reception and transmission of the Roskilde chronicle was exclusively centred at the Danish archiepiscopal see of Lund and essentially limited to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Soon after its completion, the chronicle was used there as the backbone of the annals from 1130 to 1137 in the so-called >Annales Colbazenses (KRISTENSEN 1969, 39–41). It continued to be used by the annalists of the archiepiscopal see throughout the twelfth century (KRISTENSEN 1969, 57–58, 60) and, now supplemented by its continuation, well into the thirteenth, culminating with the Annales Lundenses ca. 1265 (KRISTENSEN 1969, 49 n. 64, 125–26). In the late twelfth century, the historical information of the original text was used by Sueno Aggonis, Saxo Grammaticus and the Series ac brevior historia regum Danie (Catalogi regum Danorum) (WEIBULL 1915, 36–44, 111–12, 122–24, 168–76; KRISTENSEN 1969, 124). The Roskilde chronicle also served as a stylistic model for the legendary >Chronicon Lethrense, which is now considered to have originated in Lund rather than in Roskilde (KRISTENSEN 1969, 124 n. 21, refuting OLRIK 1899–1900, 224–27, OLRIK 1900–1901, 3–5, and GERTZ 1917–1918, 35–36); for the hypothesis that the Chronicon Lethrense was written to serve as a continuation backwards into heathen times of the Roskilde chronicle, see >Chronicon Lethrense. The Roskilde chronicle was still occasionally copied in the decades around 1300 (cf. below), but it cannot be shown to have had any further influence on Danish historiography until it was “rediscovered” by sixteenth-century historians, beginning with >Petrus Olai (GERTZ 1917–1918, 8).

On several important points the stance of the Roskilde chronicle was at variance with the interpretation of Danish history that became dominant towards the end of the twelfth century with the works of Saxo Grammaticus and Sueno Aggonis. This is particularly noticeable in the evaluation of the reign and sanctity of King Knud IV (d. 1086): both Saxo and Sueno polemicise against the opinion that Knud was a tyrant whose sanctity was due solely to his deep contrition in the hour of death (FRIIS-JENSEN & ZEEBERG 2005, vol. 2, 58-60; GERTZ 1917–1918, 126 lines 4–8, 127 lines 5–9), an opinion which corresponds to the Roskilde chronicler’s account of his reign (WEIBULL 1915, 86–90; GERTZ 1917–1918, 8; GAD 1961, 162; cf. WEIBULL 1928, 98; GELTING 1979, 45–47; denied by BREENGAARD 1982, 53–56), or which at least might be easily deduced from it (BREENGAARD 1982, 55). It is true that BREENGAARD is largely justified in his criticism of the WEIBULL brothers’ schematical alignment of the Roskilde chronicle with a “Gregorian” and “democratic” party as against Saxo’s and Sueno’s allegiance to a royal, “absolutist” party (see Purpose and audience). Still, contemporaries certainly had difficulties with reconciling the chronicle with the then dominant interpretation of late eleventh- and early twelfth-century Danish history. This is even reflected in the manuscript transmission of the Roskilde chronicle itself. The only surviving medieval manuscript, Kiel, University Library, S.H. 8 A 8° (cf. below), shows an interesting tampering with the text in the characterization of King Erik the Good, bringing it into line with the current view of Danish history in the thirteenth century: the chronicle’s multas iniquas et iniustas leges adinuenit has been partly erased and transformed into multas bonas et iustas leges adinuenit (GERTZ 1917–1918, 25; KROMAN 1962a, 30 (fol. 57v); GELTING 1979, 75). That the Roskilde chronicle continued to be copied at all may have been due to the huge bulk and stylistic difficulty of Saxo’s Gesta Danorum. If this were so, the appearance of the Compendium Saxonis & Chronica Jutensis in the 1340s might be the reason why there is no trace of the Roskilde chronicle having been copied in the later fourteenth and the whole of the fifteenth centuries.

The Roskilde chronicle has survived in four manuscripts, only one of which is medieval; Kiel, University Library, S.H. 8, A 8°, a manuscript of the late thirteenth century, containing the >Ordinale sancti Kanuti ducis et martyris, the Roskilde chronicle (lacking the end of the continuation due to the loss of one leaf) and the legend of the monk who was lured away from his monastery by the song of a little bird and upon his return found that he had been away for 200 years (from Maurice de Sully, Latin version B) (GERTZ 1908–1912, 176–78, cf. GERTZ 1917–1918, 8–9; KROMAN 1962b, XIV–XV). The provenance of this manuscript is unknown; GERTZ’s and KROMAN’s assumption that it must have been written in Zealand, probably at the centre of the cult of St. Knud the Duke at the Benedictine abbey of Ringsted or at the see of Roskilde, was founded upon the assumption that the Roskilde chronicle had remained in Roskilde; since A.K.G. KRISTENSEN’s demonstration that the entire medieval reception of the chronicle was based in Lund (cf. above), this assumption is no longer tenable, and the manuscript is likely to have been written at the archiepiscopal see. This manuscript has overall the best text, but is corrupt at some points (GERTZ 1917–1918, 11; cf. above).

Two early modern manuscripts represent a transmission independent of the Kiel manuscript. A seventeenth-century copy by the royal historiographer Stephanus Johannis Stephanius (1599–1650) (Uppsala, University Library, DG 25–29 fol.) reproduces the text of a medieval manuscript in the University library of Copenhagen, shelf-mark Capsa Cypriani ordo 3, E 39, which was destroyed in the great fire of Copenhagen in 1728 (GERTZ 1917–1918, 9–10). The latter manuscript was written at the Benedictine monastery of Skovkloster by Næstved in Zealand, probably in the first decade of the fourteenth century under Abbot Jens (appointed ca. 1298, replaced before 1309; HELMS 1940, 257, cf. KRISTENSEN 1969, 130 n. 15) who had previously been abbot in Lund; thus it is highly probable that the exemplar of this copy of the Roskilde chronicle had been brought from Lund (KRISTENSEN 1969, 127–32, refuting the earlier dating of E 39 to the fifteenth or early sixteenth century by OLRIK 1898, 7, GERTZ 1917–1918, 9, and KROMAN 1962b, VIII, which was due to an erroneous identification in BIRKET SMITH 1882, 149 n. 6; cf. KRISTENSEN 1975, 22, 92; JØRGENSEN 1920, 19–20).

Another copy of the Roskilde chronicle is to be found in a sixteenth-century manuscript in the Arnamagnaean Institute, Copenhagen, shelf-mark AM 107 8°. This manuscript contains the “Collectanea” of the Danish Franciscan historian >Petrus Olai (ca. 1490–ca. 1570), collected from a wide variety of written sources over a period stretching from the late 1510s to the early or mid-1540s (NYBO RASMUSSEN 1976, 149–50). On fol. 145r–159v, Petrus Olai’s Collectanea brings a text of the Roskilde chronicle which is close to that of the Stephanius manuscript, but distinctly superior to the latter (GERTZ 1917–1918, 9–13). Since Petrus Olai is probably to be identified with a Per Olufsen who was guardian of the friary of Næstved in 1531 (NYBO RASMUSSEN 1976, 116), GERTZ was no doubt right in his conjecture that Petrus Olai’s text of the chronicle is a copy of the above-mentioned, lost Næstved manuscript E 39 (GERTZ 1917–1918, 11), which would at the time still have been at its original home in Skovkloster abbey close by. The copy is not in Petrus Olai’s own hand, but it is certainly contemporaneous with the rest of the Collectanea (NYBO RASMUSSEN 1976, 13, 15, 20). However, Petrus Olai may have known another, otherwise unknown manuscript of the Roskilde chronicle, since other parts of his Collectanea contain excerpts of the chronicle with possibly significant variants that cannot be explained from the existing text versions (GERTZ 1917–1918, 16, cf. NYBO RASMUSSEN 1976, 13–14; see Sources); these parts of the Collectanea have not yet been studied adequately (NYBO RASMUSSEN 1976, 9–11; JØRGENSEN 1920, 203-05; JØRGENSEN 1931, 84) and have generally been considered to be of little value (GERTZ 1917–1918, 9). The discovery that they contain name forms closer to the presumed source, Henry of Huntingdon, than any of the extant complete manuscripts of the Roskilde Chronicle suggests that this depreciation is unfounded (see Sources).

A fourth manuscript, Hamburg, State Archives, fol. 61, is a copy of Stephanius’ text of the chronicle (GERTZ 1917–1918, 10).


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