Rodulfus Glaber

Rodulfus or Ralph Glaber (which means "the Smooth" or "the Bald", 985–1047) was an 11th century French monk and chronicler.


Glaber was born in 985 in Burgundy, France.[1] At the behest of his uncle, a monk at Saint-Léger-de-Champeaux, Glaber was sent to a monastery at the age of twelve, but he was eventually expelled for disobedience.[2] He spent much of his life moving from one monastery to another.

He then entered Moutiers-Saint-Jean Abbey near Dijon, and around the year 1010, joined the Abbey of St. Benignus, also near Dijon. There he met the reform-minded cleric from Piedmont, Abbot William of Volpiano.[3] In 1028 he traveled to Italy with Volpiano, who encouraged him write what would become his masterpiece, the Historiarum libri quinque ab anno incarnationis DCCCC usque ad annum MXLIV ("History in five books from 900 AD to 1044 AD"). The chronicle was dedicated to the Abbot of Cluny, Odilo. Today a few manuscripts of the Historiarum survive, including the author's original copy.

As a second work, Rodulfus wrote a biography of Volpiano, which probably arose shortly after his death in 1031. That year, he moved to the Abbey of Saint-Germain en Auxerre. The monks at St-Germain got him to restore or compose the inscriptions on the numerous altars in their church, and on the tombs of the saints who were buried in it. When this was done his wanderings began again, and he went to Cluny.[3]

In died at Cluny around 1050.[3]

Glaber is credited with coining the phrase "white mantle of churches", describing the ubiquity of religious architecture of the times.


Glaber is best known for Historiarum, which he is believed to have started writing during his time at the Abbey of Cluny around 1026 or so, and completed at Abbey of Saint-Germain en Auxerre some time later. Initially intended to be an ecclesiastical history, Glaber's focus is on events in the center of France, but occasionally ranges as far as Scotland and Southern Italy.

Glaber's writings often sympathized with proponents of church reform of that age, including Henry II, Henry III, and Robert II of France, while criticizing others like Conrad II, and Pope Benedict IX. As a source of events, the work is of limited value due to its chronological and geographic inadequacy, but it is significant as a cultural history document for morality and customs of the 11th century.

He also wrote a hagiography of William of Volpiano, the Vita Sancti Guillelmi Abbatis Divionensis.

Large extracts from his works are cited and discussed in The Year 1000, by French author Georges Duby. Historiarum was first published in 1596 from a manuscript owned by Pierre Pithou, as part of a collection of eleven medieval chronicles.[4][5]


  2. Rodulfus Glaber, History 5.3 (ed. France, p. 221).
  3. MacErlean, Andrew. "Raoul Glaber." The Catholic Encyclopedia Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 25 June 2019 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. (facsimile reprint of 1596 edition)
  5. Included in Rodulfi Glabri Historiarum Libri Quinque by Rodulfus Glaber (Oxford, 1989) ISBN 9780198222415.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Raoul Glaber". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.


Further reading

  • Rodulfi Glabri Historiarum Libri Quinque by Rodulfus Glaber, The Five Books of the Histories [cover title: Rodulfus Glaber, Opera] ed. J. France (Oxford, 1989) ISBN 9780198222415.
  • Historiarum libri quinque ab anno incarnationis DCCCC usque ad annum MXLIV (History in five books from 900 AD to 1044 AD)
  • Les Grandeurs de l'an mille, by Pierre Riché, éditions Bartillat. (1999) ISBN 978-2702833704.
  • Chronique de l'an Mil by Raoul Glaber. ISBN 978-2913944138.
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