- Die Lebensbeschreibungen Bischof Burchards von Würzburg: Vita Antiquior—Vita Posterior—Vita Metrica
Burchard is one of those important but shadowy figures who dot the eighth-century historical landscape. He was an Anglo-Saxon, possibly of noble birth, and perhaps educated at Malmesbury. It is remotely possible that he was related to Boniface. He was on the Continent by 738 and was named the first bishop of Würzburg in 741 or 742, most likely by the Carolingian mayor of the palace Carloman on Boniface's nomination. He participated in a series of important church councils in the 740s, and visited Rome at least twice, in 748 as Boniface's envoy and in 751 as Pippin's. Although the Christianization of the land around Würzburg was initiated by Kilian and possibly advanced by Willibrord, there was much work for Burchard to do. On the left bank of the Main, at the foot of the Marienburg, Burchard founded a monastery dedicated to Mary and Andrew. Erecting a monastery in support of a bishopric was a fairly typical Anglo-Saxon measure. The Life of Gregory of Utrecht says that Burchard died before Boniface, who was murdered in 754. His date of death may be February 2, 753.
The vitae expertly edited in this volume—on which, more below–tell only some of this and never follow strict chronological order. Consequently, one must use Boniface's correspondence, other saints' lives, conciliar records, and various narrative sources to piece together an account of Burchard's eventful life. Unlike many people in the orbit of Boniface and Willibrord who received roughly contemporary vitae, Burchard did not. His three vitae are late and of very limited value as historical sources.
Barlava's is the first complete edition of all three vitae. The vita antiquior was edited by Canisius, Mabillon, Brea, and Holder-Egger on the basis of different manuscripts; all manuscripts were collated for this edition. The vita posterior has never before been edited and printed fully, largely because its first book repeats the vita antiquior. The vita metrica was first printed in 1741, but Barlava's is the first critical edition.
The vita antiquior was probably composed in conjunction with the translation of Burchard's relics to the monastery of St. Burchard in 986. The text [End Page 134] bears sufficient similarity to the Passio Maior Kiliani that some have supposed that the two texts were written by the same author. This might have been Stephen of Novara. St. Gall, Reichenau, and Würzburg have been named as places where the text was written. The author of the vita posterior seems to have been an "E" who wrote on behalf of Abbot Pilgrim and the monks of St. Burchard. "E" appears to have been Ekkehard of Aura. Abbot Pilgrim was probably abbot of St. Burchard from 1130 to 1146 and Ekkehard was in Würzburg between 1108 and 1113. Quite possibly Pilgrim became abbot well before 1130. The vita metrica was written by John of Lauterbach from Erfurt in about 1350.
The vita antiquior made very little use of known sources. Much of what it says, for example that Burchard was noble, may be hagiographical topoi. In preparing the vita posterior Ekkehard used the vita antiquior, the Passio Kiliani, the Life of Boniface, the latter's correspondence, and Anglo-Saxon sources, for example Bede. As a result the text has virtually no independent historical value. Nevertheless, Ekkehard seems to stress the legitimacy of Würzburg's foundation and Burchard's enthronization as well as Burchard's "public" activities: missions to Rome, founding bishoprics, elevating Kilian's relics, and founding a monastery, for example. The vita metrica, written in rhymed hexameters in versus concatenati (verses with alternating end and internal rhymes) possesses no independent historical value. Barlava provides precise details on all surviving manuscripts, earlier editions, and relevant scholarship.
The two prose vitae can inform today's reader about...