Cover image for Ermengard of Narbonne and the world of the troubadours
Ermengard of Narbonne and the world of the troubadours
Cheyette, Fredric L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xiii, 474 pages : illustrations; 24 cm.
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DC611.N219 C48 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Before France became France its territories included Occitania, roughly the present-day province of Languedoc. The city of Narbonne was a center of Occitanian commerce and culture during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. For most of the second half of the twelfth century, that city and its environs were ruled by a remarkable woman, Ermengard, who negotiated her city's way through a maze of everchanging dynastic alliances.Fredric L. Cheyette's masterful and beautifully illustrated book is a biography of an extraordinary warrior woman and of a unique, vulnerable, doomed society. Throughout her long reign, viscountess Ermengard roamed Occitania receiving oaths of fidelity, negotiating treaties, settling disputes among the lords of her lands, and camping with her armies before the walls of besieged cities. She was born into a world of politics and warfare, but from the Mediterranean to the North Sea her name echoed in songs that treated the arts of love.The land between the Rhone and the Pyrenees was a delicately balanced world in which honor, dispute, and the fragile communities of loyalty and family held a "stateless" society together. In Cheyette's prose there rises before us a world we had not imagined, in which women were powerful lords, moving back and forth across what we now call Spain, France, and Italy to play the harsh political games essential to the preservation of their realms. But the region was also fertile ground for religious practices deemed heretical by the Church. The attempt to eradicate them would spawn the Albigensian Crusade, which destroyed the cosmopolitan world of Ermengard and the troubadours--the world that lives again in this book.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Cheyette (Amherst College) reveals the world of "Occitania" before the Albigensian Crusade turned it into "Languedoc." The axis of this study is Ermengard, viscountess of Narbonne, reconstructed with delicacy not only by means of the meager documentary evidence of her career, but also by exploring the lives and careers of her family, friends, allies, enemies, and retainers and through the poetry whose creators she and her cohort patronized. This book defies description: lyrical and scholarly, leisurely and densely packed, it meanders through a vast range of topics while keeping to its fundamental premise, that the Occitan region had a brilliant, lively, hybrid culture in which the "traditional" Northern European relationships of lords and vassals, city and countryside, sacred and secular held little sway. And in the midst of this complex region was Ermengard: daughter, wife, widow, warrior, patron, subject, diplomat--in short, a figure whose gender was not always connected to traditional notions about her sex. This, too, was apparently lost in the aftermath of the crusade. This is a beautiful, if occasionally difficult, book that anyone interested in the period or in "post-Annaliste" historiography should read. Highly recommended. L. E. Mitchell Alfred University

Table of Contents

Mapsp. ix
Genealogiesp. x
Prefacep. xi
A Note on Money, Weights, and Measuresp. xv
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1. The Viscountess Comes of Agep. 14
Ermengard's City
Prefacep. 39
Chapter 2. Names and Titles, Histories and Mythsp. 41
Chapter 3. The Urban Marketplacep. 54
Chapter 4. City and Countrysidep. 66
Chapter 5. Cities of Mammon, Cities of Marsp. 80
Chapter 6. The Bishop in the Cityp. 103
The Sinews of Power: Lordship and Serfdom
Prefacep. 127
Chapter 7. Lordshipp. 129
Chapter 8. Serfdom and the Dues of Dominationp. 149
Chapter 9. Ermengard's Entouragep. 168
The Sinews of Power: The Culture of Fidelity
Chapter 10. Oaths and Oath Takersp. 187
Chapter 11. Anger, Conflict, and Reconciliationp. 199
Chapter 12. Giving and Takingp. 220
Chapter 13. Love and Fidelityp. 233
Dynastic Politics: 1162-1196
Prefacep. 251
Chapter 14. Raymond V Builds His Empirep. 253
Chapter 15. The Ravaging of Occitaniap. 274
Chapter 16. Sowing the Seeds of Crusadep. 286
Chapter 17. A War Like an Omenp. 308
Chapter 18. Impatient Heirsp. 331
Chapter 19. The Undoing of Occitaniap. 347
Abbreviationsp. 363
Notesp. 365
Bibliographyp. 441
Indexp. 463