Florence of Worcester

The Chronicon ex Chronicis (Chronicle of Chronicles) was composed, in Latin, at Worcester during the early-12th century. Its author used a universal chronicle compiled at Mainz, by Marianus Scotus, as the platform on which to build his work – expanding it, from the 5th century onwards, with material pertaining to English history, a major source being a now lost version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

Traditionally, the author of the Chronicon ex Chronicis is identified as the monk Florence of Worcester. The reason for this view is a notice that appears in the entry for 1118:

On the Nones of July [7th July], the Worcester monk Florence died. His meticulous learning and scholarly labours have made this chronicle of chronicles outstanding among all others.
His body is covered by earth, his soul searches the skies.
There in the sight of God may he reign among the saints forever. Amen.

During the entry for 1138 appears the verse:

May every Christian rest in total bliss!
Let the reader here correct John if he errs!

It would seem to be clear – after Florence’s death in 1118, the work was continued by this John of Worcester. That, indeed, is the traditional view, but there is a fly in the ointment. Orderic Vitalis concludes Book III of his Historia Ecclesiastica (Ecclesiastical History) with the coronation of William the Conqueror on Christmas Day 1066. In the closing passages, Orderic, who had visited Worcester (he doesn’t say when, but it would appear to have been no later than 1124) and seen John’s work, writes:

John, an Englishman by birth who entered the monastery of Worcester as a boy and won great repute for his learning and piety, continued the chronicle of Marianus Scotus and carefully recorded the events of William’s reign and of his sons William Rufus and Henry up to the present.

Orderic proceeds to say that John had been instructed to continue Marianus’ chronicle by Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester, who died in 1095, and makes no mention of Florence. Moreover, the Chronicon ex Chronicis exhibits no change of style after its notice of Florence’s death in 1118, and entries before that year include material taken from Eadmer’s Historia Novorum in Anglia (History of Recent Events in England), which was not finalized until c.1123. The modern tendency, therefore, is to see John as the creative force behind the Chronicon ex Chronicis, and to diminish Florence’s role to little more than a labourer (carrying out the preliminary spadework). The fact remains, however, that Florence’s obituary indicates his contribution to the project was certainly not inconsiderable.

The main manuscript of the Chronicon ex Chronicis (Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS 157) is believed to be the working copy of John of Worcester himself. Up to part way through 1128 it is a fair copy (to mid-1101 it is the work of a single scribe). The entries 1128–1131 have been rewritten, and the chronicle extended to 1140 (during which year the manuscript, as it has survived, ends), by a hand which is thought to be John’s.[*]

Copies were, though, released at earlier stages in the work’s development – Symeon of Durham makes use of a copy to 1118,[*] and most copies end with 1131.

Chronicon ex Chronicis translated by P. McGurk
Orderic Vitalis Historia Ecclesiastica translated by Marjorie Chibnall

The Irish monk and hermit Mael Brigte, known as Marianus Scotus, according to his own testimony, was born in 1028 and left Ireland in 1056. He lived on the Continent until his death, at Mainz, in 1082/3. He compiled a chronicle, encompassing the whole known world, from the Creation to his own times. (Marianus probably completed his chronicle in 1076, but the recension employed in the Chronicon ex Chronicis was extended to 1087.)
Marianus argued that the conventionally accepted date of the Incarnation, established in the 6th century by Dionysius Exiguus (see Anno Domini), was twenty-two years too late. Consequently, he dated events according to his own reckoning as well as according to Dionysius – his own dates being twenty-two years later than the conventionally accepted, Dionysian, dates. The Chronicon ex Chronicis also adopts dual dating – years are given according to both the conventional system and Marianus’ scheme (which, needless to say, did not catch on).
In the rewritten entry for 1128 is the comment: “if I were not afraid that the royal majesty would harm John’s head, I would assert that all oath-takers are guilty of perjury.”
Corpus Christi College MS 157 can be viewed online (Digital Bodleian website).
The last event mentioned by Eadmer is the death of Ralph d’Escures, archbishop of Canterbury, on 20th October 1122.
The second of the two chronicles embraced by the title Historia Regum – traditionally attributed to Symeon of Durham – is based on the Chronicon ex Chronicis to 1118. Antonia Gransden (Historical Writing in England, c.550 to c.1307, 1974, Chapter 8) comments: “The only independent evidence that there was a change of authorship [of the Chronicon ex Chronicis] in 1118 is the fact that the Durham chronicle, the Historia Regum (History of the Kings), used a version to 1118.”
The internal evidence indicates that, having concluded Book III, Orderic moved on to Book IV in 1125.