Annales Lundenses

From medieval
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by Lars Boje Mortensen

In the main extant version these annals were compiled at the Danish archiepiscopal see, Lund, around 1267. In another version they have been updated to 1307. They are introduced by Isidore’s World Chronicle and draw further on Bede and later English and Anglo-Norman annals. Various local pieces are inserted, like the Chronicle of Lejre (Chronicon Lethrense) at the year 762, and from 1130 original Danish entries are copied, edited and composed. The extant versions can be seen as a culmination of a local annalistic literature at the archiepiscopal see; it probably began in the 1130s with the > Annales Colbazenses and was followed up by three (hypothetical) redactions of the Annales Lundenses ending in 1206, c. 1225, and 1253 respectively (KRISTENSEN 1969, 116-20). It is debatable whether a coherent model for the development of Danish annals can be set up (cf. CHRISTENSEN 1981), but there is little doubt that the events selected in the Annales Lundenses are on the level of central government and that the archiepiscopal library provided the proper textual environment. In various installments the Annales Lundenses disseminated from the see to become a framework for other Danish annals (Annales Danici).


There is no manuscript evidence of any title. In the edition by Langebek 1772 they are entitled Annales Esromenses but in all later editions Annales Lundenses is adopted.


Ad inueniendum omnes annos mundi ab exordio creacionis (the Erfurt ms.).


1267. Obiit Byrgerus dux Swevorum (the Erfurt ms.). 1307. Obiit etiam domina Cecilia […]. Requiescat in pace. Amen (Copenhagen AM 841,4o).


49pp (in KROMAN’S edition).


  • LUDEWIG 1731: Reliquiæ manuscriptorum IX, 3ff. [based on the postmedieval ms].
  • LANGEBEK, J. 1772: Scriptores rerum Danicarum I, 212-250, Copenhagen [based on AM 841, 4o].
  • WAITZ, G. 1858: “Die Quelle der Annales Esromenses oder Annales Lundenses” Nordalbingische Studien 5, Kiel [discovery of the Erfurt ms.].
  • WAITZ, G. 1892: Monumenta Germaniæ historica, Scriptores 29, 185- [based on all known mss.]
  • • JØRGENSEN, E. 1920: Annales Danici medii ævi, Copenhagen, 44-62, 71-129 [complete edition, partly synoptic with other annals].
  • • KROMAN, E. 1980: Danmarks middelalderlige annaler, Copenhagen, 21-70 [complete].


  • JØRGENSEN, E. 1927: Erik Klipping og hans Sønner. Rigets opløsning. Udvalg af Kilder til Tidsrummet 1275-1340, Copenhagen, p. 1 (selection).
  • OLRIK, J. 1906-08 (Danish): Valdemar Sejrs Sønner og den store Ærkebispestrid. Udvalg af Kilder til Danmarks Historie i Aarene 1241-1274, København, [pp. 3-23, selection]

Date and place

A Danish, and more specifically Lundensian, origin of the versions transmitted in the three surviving medieval manuscripts (see below) has been met with general approval (USINGER 1861, SCHÄFER 1872, JØRGENSEN 1920 KRISTENSEN 1969, KROMAN 1980). The Erfurt manuscript contains occasional runes (KÅLUND 1909) and, more importantly, the contents of many entries clearly focus on Lund and Scania (e.g. 1172, 1180 etc., see JØRGENSEN 1920, 12 for full references). Moreover, the presence of a number of foreign and local texts (see Sources below) fits well with our knowledge of Lund as the richest Nordic library during the 12th and 13th centuries and a centre of historiographic culture (Sueno Aggonis, Saxo Grammaticus). As noted, the extant versions seem to have been edited shortly after 1267 and 1307, but according to the most thorough investigation (KRISTENSEN 1969), we should surmise a gradual accumulation of annalistic material at the archsee (rather than the excerpting from a comprehensive lost Urquelle as imagined by USINGER and SCHÄFER). KRISTENSEN suggests three editions of the Annales Lundenses prior to our extant ones, namely one from ca. 1206, ca. 1225, and ca. 1255.


The entries from the creation of the of the world up to 762 are ordinary brief notes with some expansion on Roman emperors from Augustus to Constantine the Great as well known all over Latin Europe. From 762 to 1054 the annalist has made an effort of merging his main text of Anglo-Norman origin with local history. This results in a mixture of very brief skeleton notes with more narrative inserts. At 762 he has entered the > Chronicon Lethrense, now considered a work in its own right from the end of the 12th century, 1170 at the very earliest. At the entry of 856 one finds an anecdote not attested elsewhere about three Danish brothers fighting against the Emperor Arnulf. One of them instructs another how to fight, and, raging around in his tent, pretends to be a polar bear. The other replies “you know how to fight, but you will never be victorious”.

His knowledge of Nordic history and chronology up to 1054 mainly depends on Adam Bremensis from whom a number of substantial excerpts have been made. We hear of the figures of Gorm, Harald Bluetooth, Swein Forkbeard, Canute the Great and others, and the turning points of the Christianization of Denmark are quoted from Adam (without reference).

From 1054 till 1128 the entries are again of a very summary nature. Some attention is drawn to the martyrdom of St Canute (the King) in 1086 and this section ends with the murder of his son, Duke Charles the Good of Flanders in 1128 (really in 1127).

From 1130 up to 1267 (where the earliest extant version ends) and further up to 1307 the Annals leave aside the Anglo-Norman model and now rely only on a papal list to supply the universal framework. Instead Danish entries now make up the backbone of the narrative. Some entries are related to the > Annales Colbazenses, some draw on notes on the foundation of Cistercian houses, many entries are related to other Danish Annales (Annales Danici, Annales Ryenses), and, finally, a good deal of information is unique for the Annales Lundenses. From around 1250 the entries are considered to have been entered on a running basis contemporary with events (or to have been copied from another text of this kind) and are of special historical value (JØRGENSEN 1920, 13-14). This holds true of the entries describing the turbulent events connected with the conflicts between Archbishops Jacob Erlandsen and Jens Grand with kings Christopher, Erik Glipping, and Erik Menved. The Annals are also an important, if brief, text on the murder of Erik Glipping in 1286 by a group of magnates and the subsequent alliance between them and the Norwegian king Erik Magnusson against the murdered king’s son, Erik Menved.

Composition and style

The Annales Lundenses is a compilation from a number of other texts and, true to the genre, make no attempt to unify different styles. The later entries composed by a number of clerics from Lund are written in a simple annalistic manner. Danish names are often represented in a non-latinized Danish spelling.


As a basis for the initial world chronicle the Annales Lundenses used a copy of Isidore of Seville’s epitome which is closely related (or identical) to the one used by > Annales Colbazenses. The same holds true for the version of Anglo-Norman annals used up to 1130 also excerpted in the Annales Colbazenses. But in addition the Annales Lundenses paste passages from Bede’s Chronicon maius and from his Historia ecclesiastica as well as a number of English entries of unidentified origin. For Danish and Nordic history up to 1054 excerpts from Adam of Bremen’s Gesta episcoporum ecclesiae Bremensis are incorporated. After 1130 the local entries dominate. Up to ca. 1250 they share a lot of information with other Danish Annals either due to common sources or to the spread of the Annales Lundenses themselves.

Purpose and audience

Lund was clearly a centre of information for other parts of Denmark, for monasteries and bishoprics (KRISTENSEN 1969). The Annales Lundenses basically reflect a national, royal vision of history (with local notices added) in their 12th- and early 13th-century installments as well as in the extant versions from the later 13th and early 14th centuries. The enemies are Swedes, Norwegians and Germans, and there is no detectable preference for rebellious archbishops or other kind of ecclesiastical bias. The Annals thus confirm (together with Saxo Grammaticus) that in the 12th and 13th centuries the library and learned clerics of Lund played the role of official Danish memory.

Medieval reception and transmission

Three medieval manuscripts have survived (facsimiles in CCD V, 73-212):

  • Erfurt, Universitäts- und Forschungsbibliothek Erfurt/Gotha, CE 8o 23 (part V, ff. 184-221), late 13. cent. (HEYNE 2005, 65-73).
  • København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, 843, 4o; a fragment of 13 ff. from ca. 1300.
  • København, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, 841,4 o; 41 ff., ca. 1400.

All three manuscripts were, very probably, produced in Lund. As documented by KRISTENSEN 1969 the various versions of the text existing before the Erfurt manuscript had great impact on annalistic writing throughout Denmark, but it is difficult to determine the medieval reception of the specific version transmitted in our main manuscript (Erfurt). An early version of the Annales Lundenses was also used in an annalistic compilation in Danish from around 1400, the so-called Årbog 1074-1255 (edited by JØRGENSEN 1930, 15-20 and KROMAN 1980 16-20; cf. the analysis by KRISTENSEN 1969, 21-36). In addition the text of Annales Lundenses is partly transmitted in postmedieval copies which attest to antiquarian interests in the 16th and 17th centuries, (e.g. Uppsala, Universitetsbibliotek H 112, cf. ILSØE 1965) and to lost medieval manuscripts.


  • CHRISTENSEN, K. 1981: "Om den nye udgave af Danmarks middelalderlige annaler," Fortid og nutid 29, 163-175.
  • GELTING, M.H. 1982: Review of Erik Kroman, ed., Danmarks middelalderlige annaler, København, 1980, Historie - Jyske Samlinger, Ny rk., 14, 1982, 305-312.
  • HEYNE, S. 2005: Die mittelalterlichen Codices Erfordenses in der Universitäts- und Forschungsbibliothek Erfurt / Gotha, Erfurt – Gotha.
  • ILSØE, H. 1965: "Håndskriftet H112 og de danske historikere. En studie i overlevering. Zusammenfassung," Historisk Tidsskrift, 12.rk. I, 399-437.
  • JØRGENSEN, E. (ed.) 1920: Annales Danici medii aevi, Copenhagen.
  • JØRGENSEN, E. 1930: Middelalderlig historisk Litteratur paa Modesmaalet. Indledning og Supplement til M. Lorenzens Gammeldanske Krøniker, København.
  • JØRGENSEN, E. 1931: Historieforskning og Historieskrivning i Danmark indtil aar 1800, Copenhagen.
  • KRISTENSEN, A.K.G. 1969: Danmarks œldste annalistik. Studier over lundensisk annalskrivning i 12. og 13. århundrede (Skrifter udgivet af det Historiske Institut ved Københavns Universitet 3), Copenhagen.
  • KROMAN, E. 1936: "Ueber die Herkunft des Liber census Daniae," APhS 11, 1-81.
  • KROMAN, E. (ed.) 1962: CCD 5, Copenhagen. [facsimile of mss.]
  • KÅLUND, K. 1909: ”Codex Erfordensis af de Lundske Annaler og de deri forekommende Runetegn”, Arkiv för Nordisk Filologi 25 1909, 303ff.
  • LORENZEN, MARCUS, Gammeldanske Krøniker, I-III, København 1887-1913.
  • SCHÄFER, D. 1872: Dänische Annalen und Chroniken von der Mitte des 13. bis zum Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts, Hannover.
  • USINGER, R. 1861: Die dänischen Annalen und Chroniken des Mittelalters, Hannover.
  • GERTZ, M.CL. 1917: (preface to the edition of Chronicon Lethrense in Scriptores Minores I, 34-53).
  • WAITZ, G., 1858: "Die Quelle der Annalen Esromenses oder Annales Lundenses," Nordalbingische Studien. Neues Archiv der Schleswig-Holsteinischen Gesellschaft für vaterländische Geschichte V, Kiel.
  • WAITZ, G. 1887: "Zur Kritik Dänischer Geschichtsquellen," Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde XII, Hannover.