Hélinand of Froidmont  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Helinand of Froidmont (ca. 1160—after 1229 (probably 1237) was a medieval poet, chronicler, and ecclesiastical writer, best-known for his Chronicon and his "Verses of Death".


He was born of Flemish parents at Pronleroy in Oise in France c. 1150; his date of death is said to be 3 February, 1223, or 1229, or 1237. His talents as a minstrel won the favor of King Philip Augustus, and for some time he freely indulged in the pleasures of the world, after which he became a Cistercian monk at the monastery of Froidmont in the Diocese of Beauvais about the year 1190. From being a self-indulgent man of the world he became a model of piety and mortification in the monastery. Whatever time was not consumed in monastic exercises he devoted to ecclesiastical studies and, after his ordination to the priesthood, to preaching and writing. The Church of Beauvais honors him as a saint and celebrates his feast on 3 February.

Helinand's Chronicon

Helinand is most remembered for his Chronicon, a world-chronicle in Latin containing forty-nine books (of which only less than half have survived), which he compiled from 1211 to 1223. Helinand incorporated several of his treatises and letters into his Chronicon. These include moral treatises such as De cognitione sui, and De bono regimine principis, twenty-eight sermons on various Church festivals; one epistle entitled De reparatione lapsi, in which he exhorts a renegade monk to return to his monastery. The Chronicon itself is largely a compilation of texts taken from a wide range of sources.

Vincent of Beauvais on his turn based his Speculum Historiale, which provided a history of the world down to his time, on the Chronicon of Helinand.

Surviving parts of the Chronicon include Books 1-18, covering the period from the creation to the death of Alexander the Great; fragments from Books 19-44, surviving as copies in the Speculum Maius of Vincent of Beauvais; the text of books 45-49, which deal with the period from 634 to 1204. Books 45-49 of the Chronicon serve as a source for the chronicle by the Cistercian monk Aubri de Trois-Fontaines (Alberic of Trois-Fontaines) (ca. 1241).

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "his chronicle is not sufficiently critical to be of much historical value." Yet it would be unfair to call Helinand an uncritical writer - or rather, compiler - of history, as from time to time he interrupts the narrative to alert the reader where his sources diverge from each other, often trying to harmonize them in much the same fashion as a scholastic treatise. The structure of the Chronicon is mainly chronological, although Helinand frequently digresses from the historical account to comment on Scripture, include a treatise against astrology, write about saints and their legends, examine the animal world, or incorporate material from Latin literature or vernacular traditions. He is frequently quoted as a medieval authority on the meaning of the word "graal," i.e. the Holy Grail.[1] In this sense, the Chronicon's value is not based on its existence as a work on history. He is cited, for example, as a source of the description of the flight of Eilmer of Malmesbury.

Other works

  • As a well-known preacher, he wrote more than sixty Latin sermons. His sermons, written in a neat Latin style, give evidence of a remarkable acquaintance with the pagan poets as well as with the Fathers of the Church.
  • He wrote some Latin poems
  • A Martyrium of Saints Gereon, Victor, Cassius, and Florentius, martyrs of the Theban Legion used to be attributed to Helinand, but it is unclear whether he is the true author.

Helinand of Froidmont is sometimes confused with the Cistercian Hélinand of Perseigne, the author of a commentary on the Apocalypse and glosses on the Book of Exodus, although there are no arguments for this identification.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hélinand of Froidmont" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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