Adam Bremensis

From medieval

by Volker Scior

Adam of Bremen (before 1050-12 October 1081/85) is one of the most famous and important German high-medieval chroniclers and known as the author of the History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen (Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum), dedicated to Archbishop Liemar (1072-1101) perhaps in 1075, and probably revised and updated until 1081 or later (see Medieval reception and transmission).


From the text itself only a little information can be inferred, and even other sources and documents do not lead to a deeper knowledge of the author (see above all SCHMEIDLER 1917 and 1918). Adam calls himself in the praefatio to his Gesta only A. minimus sanctae Bremensis ecclesiae canonicus, but his name is known from the twelfth century’s North German chronicler Helmold of Bosau, who, in his so-called Chronica Slavorum (ch. 14), refers to magister Adam. Furthermore, it has been suggested that it was Adam who undersigned a charter of Archbishop Adalbert of Bremen, dated 11 June 1069, as Adam magister scolarum (see SCHMEIDLER 1917, LII n. 4). It seems that Adam by then had become a magister at Bremen’s school. It is commonly recognized that he originally came from Eastern Franconia or Western Thuringia, perhaps from Bamberg or Würzburg. Whether he indeed visited the then famous cathedral school of Bamberg, founded and well endowed by Emperor Henry II, cannot be assured. This has, however, been assumed because of Adam’s (probable) Frankish origin, the high education which can be ascertained from his text, and the fact that in 1065 the clergy of Bamberg were in correspondence with Archbishop Adalbert; this may have been the crucial contact which led the future chronicler to the north.


It is certain, however, that Adam came to Bremen as a stranger: apart from his self-description as proselitus et advena (praefatio), a medieval Saxon or even Bremen reader of the Gesta located Adam’s origin in Germania superiora, deducing this from expressions and proper names (see scholia 150-151 in MS C2, perhaps from 1085-1090 or later according to SCHMEIDLER 1917 and 1918). Highly educated and familiar with classic, late-antique and medieval literature (see Sources), he was invited by Archbishop Adalbert around 1066/67 to come to his see in Bremen, possibly already to write the history of the diocese (see Purpose and audience). Even though Adam did not start writing until Adalbert’s death in March 1072, he probably prepared for it quite soon after his arrival, since he mentions a visit to King Sven Estridsen of Denmark (probably 1067/68) in order to gather first-hand information about the Nordic regions, their peoples, and their Christianization. He was surely indefatigable in studying written records and questioning contemporaries (see Sources) in order to realize his historiographic ambitions and to write the large geo-ethnographic parts of his work. Adam, who probably was not well advanced in years when writing his work (epil. v. 20; see SCHMEIDLER 1917, LIII), died on 12 October in an unknown year between 1081 and 1085. Although there are only a few facts known about Adam’s life, later studies have successfully derived his intentions, ideas and attitudes from the text (see TROMMER 1957, HÄGERMANN 1985, THEUERKAUF 1988a, JANSON 1998 and esp. SCIOR 2002).

Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum

Adam’s famous work Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (Deeds of the Bishops of the Hamburg Church) covers not only the history of the archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen from the foundation of the bishopric (788 according to Adam, but mistakenly) to the death of archbishop Adalbert (1072), it also contains, in the third book, an example of a medieval “biography” (of the same archbishop) and is especially well known for the fourth book, entitled Descriptio insularum aquilonis, describing the north-eastern European territories and their peoples from today’s Denmark and Scandinavia to the edge of the known world.


Bremensium sive Hammaburgensium serie presulum (praefatio); Historia Hammaburgensis ecclesiae (I, 1); Gesta Hammemburgensis ecclesiae pontificum (Helmold of Bosau, Chronica Slavorum 14).


Beatissimo patri et electo celitus archiepiscopo Hammaburgensi Liemaro A. ...


... O Liemare pater, faveat tibi gratia Christi / Nosque tuae pecudes tibi corde et voce favemus.


283 pages.


  • VEDEL (VELLEIUS), A.S. 1579: Historia ecclesiastica continens religionis propagatae gesta, quae acciderunt in Ecclesia, non tam Bremensi, quam vicina Septentrionali ferme vniuersa. Nunc in lucem vocata, studio & opera Andreae Severini Vellei, Copenhagen (MS B2 according to SCHMEIDLER 1917).
  • LINDENBROG, E. 1595: M. Adami Historia ecclesiastica, continens religionis propagatae gesta, quae, a temporibus Karoli Magni, usque ad Henricum IIII acciderunt, in Ecclesia non tam Hamburgensi quam Bremensi, vicinisque locis septentrionalibus, Leiden (MS C2 according to SCHMEIDLER 1917).
  • LINDENBROG, E. 1609: Scriptores rerum Germanicarum septentrionalium, vicinorumque populorumque diversi, Continentes historiam Ecclesiasticam, et Religionis propagationem, gestaque Saxonum, Sclavorum, Wandalorum, Danorum, Norwegiorum, Suedorum & naturam omnium quae in Septentrione sunt regionum, ipsarumque gentium vetustis temporibus mores ac religiones (as LINDENBROG 1595, but without scholia and with some errors), Frankfurt/Main; 2. ed. 1630, Hamburg; 3. ed. 1706, publ. by FABRICIUS, J.A., Hamburg.
  • MADER, J.J. 1670: Historia ecclesiastica, religionis propagatae gesta (= LINDENBROG 1630, with annotations and more errors), Helmstedt.
  • LAPPENBERG, J.M. 1846a: Adami Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum. Ex recensione Lappenbergii, in MGH SS 7, Hanover, 267-389 (first critical edition, and the first based on MS A1 according to SCHMEIDLER 1917).
  • LAPPENBERG, J.M. 1846b: Adami Gesta... in MGH SRG 2 (= LAPPENBERG 1846a, but without variants); 2. rev. ed. by WAITZ, G. & WEILAND, L.C. 1876 (with variants).
  • MIGNE, J.-P. 1853: Mag. Adami Gesta... in PL 146, Paris, 451-662 (= LAPPENBERG 1846a).
  • SCHMEIDLER, B. 1917: Mag. Adami Bremensis Gesta... in MGH SRG 2, Hanover-Leipzig.
  • (Facsimile) CHRISTENSEN, C.A. (ed.) 1948: Adami Bremensis Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum: Codex Havniensis, Copenhagen (MS C1 according to SCHMEIDLER 1917).

Only Book 4:

  • MESSENIUS, J. 1615: Historia Suecorum Gothorumque ... ad 1464, opera & studio Johannis Messenii, Stockholm.
  • STEPHANIUS, St.J. 1629: Sylloge scriptorum de regno Daniae, Leiden (possibly with a 2. ed from the same year, see SCHMEIDLER 1917, XLVI).


(only of the complete work)

  • (German) MIESEGAES, C. 1825: M. Adam’s Geschichte der Ausbreitung der christlichen Religion durch die hamburgische und bremische Kirche in dem benachbarten Norden, von Karls des Großen bis zu Heinrichs des IV. Zeiten; wie auch dessen geographische Abhandlung über Dänemark und über die daran gränzenden Länder des Nordens, Bremen (repr. 1987).
  • (German) LAURENT, J.C.M. 1850: in Geschichtsschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit, XIth c. 7, Berlin, 1-232 (First translation of a critical edition, see LAPPENBERG 1846a); rev. by WATTENBACH, W. 1888 (to accord with the ed. of WAITZ & WEILAND, see above); newly rev. by STEINBERG, S. 1926, Leipzig (following the critical edition of SCHMEIDLER 1917).
  • (Danish) CHRISTENSEN, P.W. 1862: Menigheden i Norden. Under Erkesædet i Bremen og Hamborg (788-1072) tilligemedsammes Beskrivelse af de nordiske Lande. Adam af Bremen, Copenhagen.
  • (Norwegian) KOHT, H. 1921: Den eldste Noregs-historia. Med tillegg. Meldingane frå Noreg hjå Adam av Bremen (Gamalnorske bokverk 19), Oslo.
  • (Danish) HENRICHSEN, C.L. 1930: Adam af Bremen, De Hamburgske Ærkebispers Historie, Copenhagen.
  • (English) TSCHAN, F.J. 1959: Adam of Bremen, History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, New York. [New edition 2002 with an introduction by T. Reuter].
  • (German) TRILLMICH, W. 1961 (7. ed. 2000): Quellen des 9. und 11. Jahrhunderts zur Geschichte der hamburgischen Kirche und des Reiches, hg. v. Werner Trillmich u. Rudolf Buchner (Ausgewählte Quellen zur deutschen Geschichte des Mittelalters/ Freiherr vom Stein-Gedächtnisausgabe 11), Darmstadt, 160-499 (7. ed. with an appendix by SCIOR, V., 758-64).
  • (Swedish) SVENBERG, E. (transl.), HALLENCREUTZ, C.F., JOHANNESSON, K., NYBERG, T., PILTZ, A. (comm.) 1984: Adam av Bremen, Historien om Hamburgstiftet och dess biskopar, Stockholm.
  • (Norwegian) DANIELSEN, B.T. & FRIHAGEN, A.K. 1993: Adam av Bremen, Beretningen om Hamburg stift, Erkebiskopenes bedrifter og øyrikene i Norden, Oslo.
  • (Italian) PAGANI, I. 1996: Storia degli arcivescovi della chiesa di Amburgo, Turin.
  • (French) BRUNET-JAILLY, J.-B. 1998: Histoire des archevêques de Hambourg avec une Description des îles du Nord, Paris.
  • (Danish) LUND, A.A. 2000: Adam af Bremens krønike, Højbjerg.
  • (Russian) RYBAKOV, V.V. 2008: Хроника Адама Бременского и первые христианские миссионеры в Скандинавии, Moskva.

Electronic Text


  • (Latin) ASMUSSEN, J. 1834: De Fontibus Adami Bremensis Commentatio, Kiel.
  • (German) SCHMEIDLER, B. 1917 (see Editions).
  • (German) SCHMEIDLER, B. 1918: Hamburg-Bremen und Nordost-Europa vom 9. bis 11. Jahrhundert. Kritische Untersuchungen zur Hamburgischen Kirchengeschichte des Adam von Bremen, zu Hamburger Urkunden und zur nordischen und wendischen Geschichte, Leipzig.
  • (German) WEIBULL, L. 1931: “Geo-etnografiska inskott och tankelinjer hos Adam av Bremen,” Scandia 4, 210-223 (= WEIBULL, L. 1933: “Geo-ethnographische Interpolationen und Gedankengänge bei Adam von Bremen,” Hansische Geschichtsblätter 58, 3-16).
  • (German) OTTO, A. 1932: “Beiträge zur Textgeschichte des Adam von Bremen,” Neues Archiv der Gesellschaft für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 49, 10-55 (repr. 1957).
  • WATTENBACH, W., HOLTZMANN, R. (1938-1943), newly ed. F.-J. SCHMALE 1967: Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen im Mittelalter. Die Zeit der Sachsen und Salier, part 2, Darmstadt (with additions in part 3, 1971).
  • (German) SCHMEIDLER, B. 1939: “Adam von Bremen und das Chronicon breve Bremense,“ Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 3, 499-512.
  • (German) BOLIN, S. 1949: “Zum Codex Havniensis G. Kgl. S. 2296 (Hs. C1 der Chronik des Adam von Bremen),” Classica et Mediaevalia 10, 131-58.
  • (German) KRISTENSEN, A.K.G. 1975: Studien zur Adam von Bremen Überlieferung (Skrifter udgivet af det Historiske Institut ved Københavns Universitet 5), Copenhagen.

See also the introductions and commentaries in modern translations (TSCHAN, TRILLMICH, SVENBERG et al., DANIELSEN & FRIHAGEN, PAGANI, BRUNET-JAILLY).

Summary of contents

Enclosed by praefatio and epilogue, the work consists of four books. The first three deal with the history of the archbishopric Hamburg-Bremen and its leading role in the Nordic mission. Here, basically, the archiepiscopal pontificates form the chronological order of the narrative. The fourth book is famous for the eleventh-century exceptionally rich geo-ethnographic description of the north-eastern European regions. It follows a spatial rather than a chronological order. Adam starts with a geo-ethnographic description of Saxony (ch. 1-7), and an outline of Charlemagne’s war against the Saxons and missionary actions until the foundation of the Bremen bishopric (according to Adam in 788) (ch. 8-13). He deals with the church politics of Louis the Pious, including the crucial archiepiscopal reception of papal rights to Christianize the North (legatio gentium). After its foundation and rise the Normans destroy Hamburg and cause the first fall of the archbishopric (845) (ch. 15-23). The unification of the sees of Bremen and Hamburg (848) (REINECKE 1987, WAVRA 1991) and the glorified life and exaggerated deeds of the first archbishop, Ansgar (TROMMER 1957), stand in the centre of ch. 24-34. After having given a mixture of “facts” concerning the North, and some account of the history of the regnum (ch. 35-53), Adam turns to the pontificate of Unni (918-936), who reinforced Ansgar’s earlier missionary activities during the reign of Henry I (ch. 54-62). Finally, Adam praises the necessity of doing the necessary duties resulting from the legatio gentium (63). Book 2 begins with the pontificate of Adaldag (937-988) (ch. 1-28). Perhaps through a lack of sources Adam sandwiches it in between several other topics, such as the history of the dukes of Saxony, the Slavs (geo- and ethnographic description in ch. 16-22, partly after Einhard, Vita Karoli Magni 12), and King Harald of Denmark. In the following section (until ch. 46) Adam describes, clearly in favour of the archbishopric, the setback in the mission after the death of Emperor Otto II, and events in the Northern kingdoms. He takes sides against King Sven Forkbeard of Sweden (see SAWYER 1991) and against the missionary activities of others like King Olaf Tryggvason of Norway. Referring to archbishop Unwan (1013-1029) (ch. 47-62), Adam mentions his struggle against King Knut the Great (ch. 51-59). The picture of St. Olaf of Norway (61) (TIMONEN 1996) is perhaps influenced by the hostile attitude of his Danish sources. There is only a little information about the following archbishops (62-82), and Adam inserts reports about political relations in the reigns of Northern monarchs, such as under the successors of Knut the Great (77-79).

Whereas Books 1 and 2 represent the genus of the Gesta, Book 3 is rather a historia, a contemporary history dedicated entirely to the pontificate of Archbishop Adalbert (1043-1072). This famous medieval “biography” (MISCH 1956, BAGGE 1996, SEEGRÜN 1986) can almost be regarded as a psychological study. Adam gives a lively impression of Adalbert’s influential personality and, partly from his own observations, draws the detailed portrait of a controversial figure. Adam condemns the archbishop for weakness of character, but also mentions a warm sympathy and understanding. The legatio gentium, the topic of Christianization and church-organization in the North are still of utmost importance, but Adam does not conceal Adalbert’s outstanding role in political policy. Two major parts, enclosed and divided by three short and different characteristics of the archbishop, mainly feature Adalbert’s rise and fall (ch. 1-2; 36-40; 69-71). In the first part Adam treats the years between 1043 (beginning of the pontificate) and 1054 and 1056 (deaths of Pope Leo IX and Emperor Henry III), describing the relationship between the archbishop and the Saxon princes, the mission, events in the diocese, and relations between Emperor and Pope. Adalbert’s plan to establish a patriarchate in the North (ch. 33) fails (LUDAT 1952, FUHRMANN 1955). The deaths of Pope and Emperor as well as the unfortunate reign of Agnes, mother of the young Henry IV, coincide with the beginning of Adalbert’s failures. In Part Two, Adam rather emphasizes his dismal traits: his lack of moderation, violent temper, his failure in political policy lead to a disaster. Difficulties increase and, in 1066, cause his dismissal as advisor to Henry IV (ch. 47), followed by setbacks in the mission (ch. 48-54), and problems in the diocese itself (ch. 55-58). Adalbert, re-established at the court, (unsuccessfully) makes plans to regain success for his see (ch. 59-68). A balanced obituary of the lonely archbishop (ch. 69-71), whose deathbed Adam attended, marks the end of Book 3. Ch. 72-78 already introduce Book 4 (see Medieval reception and transmission) and outline Adalbert’s missionary achievements; it contains a list of consecrated Nordic bishops, a plan of a Nordic synod, and a plan to travel through the regions claimed by Hamburg-Bremen. Even though the fourth book, the Descriptio insularum aquilonis, follows more a spatial than a chronological order, it is not a mere appendix to the “actual chronicle”. Adam gives a geo- and ethnographic description of the North-eastern regions and peoples for which the archbishopric claimed rights concerning mission and Church organization. Adam’s description follows an almost exact geographical order from south-west to north-east: mentioning Denmark (ch. 1-9), the Baltic Sea (especially the Slavs, ch. 10-20), Sweden (ch. 21-30) (with the famous chapters about the temple of Uppsala, ch. 26-27, see especially JANSON 1998, HULTGÅRD 1997, GRÄSLUND 2000), and Norway (ch. 31-34) to the islands in the world-surrounding ocean – the Orkneys, Thule/Iceland, Greenland, Halagland, and Winland (ch. 35-39), ending in an account of the discovery of an unnamed island by some Frisians looking for land in the ocean (ch. 40-41). Final stressing of the large space claimed by the see, which ends only with ubi mundus terminum habet (ch. 43), and praises of the archbishopric’s achievements in the Nordic mission conclude the work.

This spatial order is strongly related to the aspect of time, since Adam leads his readers not only from the closer regions to the far edge of the world, but also, at the same time, from areas Christianized a long time ago to contemporary and possible future activities (see SCIOR 2002). In his descriptions of the strange North (including the monstra) Adam is nearly always interested in the same topics: the state of Christianity among a people, their attitude towards Hamburg-Bremen and its missionaries, geography, religion, the look of the people, characteristics, customs and traditions. The richness in detail is extraordinary, but varies and depends not only on Adam’s interests, but also on the sources.


Adam had a broad knowledge of literature (overviews in SCHMEIDLER 1917 and 1918, TRILLMICH 1961, MANITIUS 1931). Apart from quoting the Bible, Church Fathers, and antique poets (BUCHNER 1965, BRUGNOLI 1994), he refers in the Descriptio to what one may call “scientific” literature (Solinus, Martianus Capella, Macrobius, and Orosius), but he also uses texts of medieval authors like Bede and Einhard. In the whole work the references to medieval narrative sources in historiography and hagiography are quite frequent, among others the Historia Francorum of Gregory of Tours, the Annales Fuldenses, and several vitae. In addition Adam mentions several letters and documents of popes and emperors (e.g. the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals, Burchard of Worms’s decretum, and the (lost) Liber fraternitatis Bremensis ecclesiae) and uses charters of the archbishopric. Although he is quite an important witness for the criticism of papal and imperial charters related to the complicated early history of Hamburg-Bremen, which is paved with false documents (and has produced quite an amount of scholarly literature, see DRÖGEREIT 1975, REINCKE 1960, SEEGRÜN 1976, THEUERKAUF 1988b, WAVRA 1991), he does not mention Henry IV’s charters for Adalbert.

Besides this, Adam gathered information from personal interviews. He introduces King Sven Estridsen of Denmark as the main witness for his knowledge of the Nordic world and its history. Sven serves as a main link between Adam’s own world and the regions beyond Denmark, called alter mundus: Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and several islands up to the edge of the world (see SCIOR 2002). Adam interviewed Archbishop Adalbert and other bishops, priests and missionaries sent out to the North, thus referring at last to some oral traditions related to Bremen. He must also have talked to merchants and sailors returning from the Baltic Sea, who made Bremen a place of exchange of information about the North. That is why Adam’s knowledge exceeds by far that found in other written sources. A famous example is the mention of Winland (ch. 39), a region later identified as Newfoundland.

Purpose and audience

With regard to the purpose and audience of the Gesta, two crucial facts have to be considered. Firstly, the stressing of Hamburg-Bremen’s supremacy over the Nordic regions, which forms a constant feature of the work; secondly, the addressing of the chronicle to Liemar (praef. and epil.), archbishop since 1072. Connecting this with the time of writing, 1072/75-1081, one can, without exaggeration, speak of a situation in which it was almost necessary to propagate the archbishopric’s rights and supremacy, and to emphasize its successes in the Nordic mission. The work reflects an actual historical-political crisis of the see which involved the need to defend its claims against persons and institutions disputing them. The Nordic kings had tried to gain independence from the archbishopric – and thereby from German kings – by striving for their own church organizations: Sven Estridsen in Denmark, Harald “Hard-ruler” in Norway, and Emund in Sweden (NYBERG 1986; on Bremen’s view of Scandinavia see also SCHMIDT 1989). Adam’s negative views on everyone contradicting the rights of his see – be it kings, missionaries, or bishops sent out or consecrated by others than its own archbishops – become delicate when focusing on the pontificate of Liemar, since Pope Gregory VII then supported the striving for independence in the Nordic reigns. Liemar sided with Henry IV in the investiture contest (GOEZ 1983, JOHANEK 1991, JANSON 1998). His close relationship to the king is only one example of the almost traditional “Königsnähe” of Hamburg-Bremen’s archbishops (especially as the kings’ mediators in Nordic policies, see GLAESKE 1963, JOHANEK 1991). Liemar also attacked papal policy towards the episcopacy. In 1074/75, when Adam wrote the Gesta, he called Gregory a periculosus homo, and was excommunicated in 1075 (ROBINSON 1978). In two letters from 1075 (when Adam justified the legatio gentium of his diocese), Gregory tried to pull the Danish king on to his side in the conflict against Henry IV, and in a letter from 1080 to the Swedish king (while Adam was probably still adding scholia to his chronicle), the Pope legalized the influential activities of bishops not sent out by Hamburg-Bremen (see especially JANSON 1998). From Adam’s point of view the archbishopric was threatened with losing the legatio gentium and at the same time its honor (GOETZ 1993, cf also GELTING 2004 & 2010). Archbishop Liemar, who had been appointed only recently and without acceptance of Bremen’s cathedral chapter, was to be informed and prepared for the diocese’s ambitious and disputed tasks. This has been regarded as the work’s causa scribendi (ALTHOFF 1988), a purpose which embraces the fourth book as an integral part of the chronicle. By inserting information about spatial aspects as well as travel distances, Adam proverbially sketched out what had been reached in the past and what was reachable in future, concerning expanse and mission (SCIOR 2002). The work defends the intrinsic rights and interests of an already perishing diocese. The creation of a Danish archbishopric in Lund in 1104 embodied the loss of Hamburg-Bremen’s legation and influence; its supremacy by then was history. It is very possible that these endeavours were already foreseen in 1075.

Medieval reception and transmission

Since the original manuscript is lost and since the lengths of the transmitted versions of the Gesta differ greatly, the reconstruction of the original and its transmission has caused problems (SCHMEIDLER 1917 and 1918). Nearly every manuscript bears so-called scholia: later additions, corrections, explanations, or small excurses, written at the edge or integrated into the main text, of which about 113 are estimated to derive from Adam himself (SCHMEIDLER 1917, TRILLMICH 1961). Although we have the editor’s statement that he has solved all contradictions and is able to lead us to a true history of the text (SCHMEIDLER 1917, XXXVI), this is hardly the case. However, SCHMEIDLER’s results (1917 and 1918) are accepted widely, so that modern translations are usually based on his edition. According to his studies, Adam had been working on his “original” (A), when, in 1075, he dedicated one version to Archbishop Liemar (a). However, owing to Adam’s additions and corrections up to 1081/85(?), A reached a new state (X), into which, after Adam’s death, some canon of Bremen inserted diverse errors. All these versions are lost.

Searching for the original, SCHMEIDLER divided the twenty-two existing manuscripts into three classes, A, B, and C, of which B and C stand closer to each other than to the shorter version A. This A-version SCHMEIDLER concluded, because of its shortness, was closer to the original than B and C. Assuming that later writers added more scholia, SCHMEIDLER postulated that the manuscript A1, the shortest of all the existing manuscripts, dating from around 1200, was closest to version A. In contrast to all other manuscripts A1 was not revised by others, but only by Adam. Thus for SCHMEIDLER the question of later revision was limited to BC-versions. He tried to prove that class C was derived from a (lost) archetype (C), a posthumous copy of X. Also, according to SCHMEIDLER, the B-manuscripts (which are the most ramified) must have been drawn from X, again after Adam’s death in Bremen. The B-class, for an unknown reason, was widespread in Denmark.

Whereas SCHMEIDLER’s critical studies convinced most scholars, there has still been some criticism, last stated by KRISTENSEN (1975, 49 f.) who argued against the central position of A1 in the transmission: its shortness would not result from its closeness to the original, but from a different handling by the redactor using the many scholia. Instead of A1, KRISTENSEN argues in favour of putting the oldest transmitted manuscript, A2, dating from about 1100, into the centre (Univ. Library Leiden, Cod. Vossianus Lat., no. 123: Excerptum de Gestis pontificum Hamaburgensis sive Bremensis ecclesiae consists of only ten sheets, Book 2, ch. 16-22, and Book 4; see SCHMEIDLER 1917, XII f., and KRISTENSEN 1975, 18 f. and 48-52). Furthermore, KRISTENSEN disputed the fact that Adam had dedicated a copy to Liemar in 1075/76.

Since it is still impossible to reconstruct the original text definitely, the state of transmission is not at all as certain as SCHMEIDLER claimed. Possibly Adam’s original manuscript was revised and commented on by others before being transmitted to us (KRISTENSEN 1975, 36). There is, however, at least in my opinion, one point in which KRISTENSEN’s critical analysis is striking: following the history of transmission, it is necessary to take chapters 72-78 of Book 3 as introducing Book 4 (KRISTENSEN 1975, 40 ff., against SCHMEIDLER 1917, 219 n. 2 f. and 1918, 56 f. and 121 f.).

The medieval reception of the Gesta was almost completely limited to the diocese of Hamburg-Bremen and to Denmark. In the twelfth century the Gesta were used by the author of the Vita Heinrici IV, by Annalista Saxo, Helmold of Bosau, in the Historia Danorum by Anonymus Roskildensis, in the Annales Magdeburgenses, the lost Annales Nienburgenses, and the Gesta archiepiscoporum Magdeburgensium; in the thirteenth century in the Annales Lundenses, by Albert of Stade and in Saxo Grammaticus’s Gesta Danorum; in the fourteenth century in the Historia archiepiscoporum Bremensium (see TRILLMICH 1961, 155 f.).

The geo- and ethnographical passages seem to have evoked an especially strong interest. They were copied separately as soon as ca. 1100 and added by several scholia: see in addition to the manuscript A2 (mentioned above), the manuscripts A3a, a‘, and b, which are limited to Book 4 (SCHMEIDLER 1917, TRILLMICH 1961, 151). Later copies of Book 4 date from the end of the seventeenth or beginning of the eighteenth century (SCHMEIDLER 1917, XIV on the manuscripts A3a´ and b, and XXV on the manuscripts B3d, e, and f).


Part I: Literature on Adam and his chronicle:

  • ALTHOFF, G. 1988: “Causa scribendi und Darstellungsabsicht: Die Lebensbeschreibungen der Königin Mathilde und andere Beispiele,” in Litterae medii aevi. Festschrift für Johanne Autenrieth, ed. M. Borgolte, H. Spilling, Sigmaringen, 117-33.
  • BAGGE, S. 1996: “Decline and Fall. Deterioration of Character as Described by Adam of Bremen and Sturla Þórdarson,” in Individuum und Individualität im Mittelalter, ed. J.A. Aertsen, A. Speer (Miscellanea Mediaevalia 24), Berlin-New York, 530-48.
  • BRUGNOLI, G. 1994: “Modelli classici in Adam di Bremen,” in Tra testo e contesto. Studi di Scandinavistica medievale, ed. C. Santini (I Convegni di Classico-norroena 2), Rome, 5-12.
  • BUCHNER, R. 1963: “Die politische Vorstellungswelt Adams von Bremen,” Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 45, 15-59.
  • BUCHNER, R. 1965: “Adams von Bremen geistige Anleihen bei der Antike,” Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 2, 96-101.
  • BUDESHEIM, W. 1994: “Der ‘limes Saxoniae’ nach der Quelle Adams von Bremen, insbesondere in seinem südlichen Abschnitt,” in Zur slawischen Besiedlung zwischen Elbe und Oder, ed. Budesheim (Beiträge für Wissenschaft und Kultur 1), Neumünster, 28-41.
  • DRÖGEREIT, R., 1975: “Erzbistum Hamburg, Hamburg-Bremen oder Erzbistum Bremen? Studien zur Hamburg-Bremer Frühgeschichte,” Part 1, Archiv für Diplomatik 21, 136-230 (Part 2 not publ.).
  • FRAESDORFF, D. 2004: Der barbarische Norden. Vorstellungen und Fremdheitskategorien bei Rimbert, Thietmar von Merseburg, Adam von Bremen und Helmold von Bosau (Orbis mediaevalis. Vorstellungswelten des Mittelalters 5), Berlin 2004.
  • FUHRMANN, H. 1955: “Studien zur Geschichte mittelalterlicher Patriarchate III: Der Patriarchatsplan Adalberts von Bremen,” Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Kan. Abt. 41, 120-70.
  • GELTING, M.H. 2004: "Elusive Bishops: Remembering, Forgetting, and Remaking the History of the Early Danish Church", in The Bishop: Power and Piety at the First Millennium, ed. Sean Gilsdorf, Münster, Lit, 2004 (Neue Aspekte der europäischen Mittelalterforschung, 4), 169-200.
  • GELTING, M.H. 2010: "Poppo's Ordeal: Courtier Bishops and the Success of Christianization at the Turn of the First Millennium", Viking and Medieval Scandinavia 6, 101-133.
  • GLAESKE, G. 1963: Die Erzbischöfe von Hamburg-Bremen als Reichsfürsten (937-1258) (Quellen u. Darstellungen zur Geschichte Niedersachsens 60), Hildesheim.
  • • GOETZ, H.-W. 1993: “Geschichtsschreibung und Recht. Zur rechtlichen Legitimierung des Bremer Erzbistums in der Chronik Adams von Bremen,” in Recht und Alltag im Hanseraum. Gerhard Theuerkauf zum 60. Geburtstag, ed. S. Urbanski, Chr. Lamschus, J. Ellermeyer, Lüneburg, 191-205.
  • GOEZ, W. 1983: “Das Erzbistum Hamburg-Bremen im Investiturstreit,” Jahrbuch der Wittheit zu Bremen 27, 29-47.
  • GRÄSLUND, A.-S. 2000: “New Perspectives on an Old Problem: Uppsala and the Christianization of Sweden,” in Christianizing Peoples and Converting Individuals, ed. G. Armstrong, I. N. Wood (International Medieval Research 7), Turnhout, 61–71.
  • HÄGERMANN, D. 1985: “Buten und Binnen im 11. Jahrhundert. Welt und Umwelt bei Bremens erstem Geschichtsschreiber Magister Adam,” Bremisches Jahrbuch 63, 15-31.
  • HULTGÅRD, A. (ed.) 1997: Uppsala och Adam av Bremen, Nora 1997.
  • • JANSON, H. 1998: Templum Nobilissimum. Adam av Bremen, Uppsalatemplet och konfliktlinjerna i Europa kring år 1075 (Avhandlingar från Historiska institutionen i Göteborg 21), Göteborg.
  • • JOHANEK, P. 1991: “Die Erzbischöfe von Hamburg-Bremen und ihre Kirche im Reich der Salierzeit,” in Die Salier und das Reich, ed. St. Weinfurter, 2, Sigmaringen, 79-112.
  • LAMMERS, W. 1981: Das Hochmittelalter bis zur Schlacht von Bornhöved (= Geschichte Schleswig-Holsteins, ed. O. Klose, 4,1), Neumünster.
  • LÖFSTEDT, B. 1979: “Einige Notizen zur Sprache des Adam von Bremen,” Acta Classica. Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa 22, 162-64.
  • LÖNBORG, S.E. 1897: Adam af Bremen och hans skildring af nordeuropas länder och folk, Uppsala.
  • LUDAT, H. 1952: “Die Patriarchatsidee Adalberts von Bremen und Byzanz,” Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 34, 221-46.
  • MANITIUS, M. 1931: Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters (Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft 9.2), 3 vols., München (repr. 1964).
  • MISCH, G. 1956: Studien zur Geschichte der Autobiographie III: Das Bild des Erzbischofs Adalbert in der Hamburgischen Kirchengeschichte des Domscholasters Adam von Bremen (Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen; I. philolog.-hist. Kl. 7), 203-80.
  • NOWAK, J. 1971: Untersuchungen zum Gebrauch der Begriffe populus, gens und natio bei Adam von Bremen und Helmold von Bosau, Münster.
  • NYBERG, T. 1986: Die Kirche in Skandinavien. Mitteleuropäischer und englischer Einfluß im 11. und 12. Jahrhundert. Anfänge der Domkapitel Børglum und Odense in Dänemark (Beiträge zur Geschichte und Quellenkunde des Mittelalters 10), Sigmaringen.
  • NYBERG, T. 1987: “Adam av Bremen och terminologi,” Fornvännen 82, 115-26.
  • REINCKE, H. 1960: “Zur Geschichte des Hamburger Domarchivs und der Hamburger Fälschungen,” Beiträge zur Geschichte des Staatsarchivs der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg (Veröffentlichungen aus dem Staatsarchiv der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg 5), Hamburg, 57-78.
  • REINECKE, K. 1987: “Bischofsumsetzung und Bistumsvereinigung. Ansgar und Hamburg-Bremen 845-864,” Archiv für Diplomatik 33, 1-53.
  • ROBINSON, I.S. 1978: “’periculosus homo’. Pope Gregory VII and Episcopal Authority,” Viator 9, 103-31.
  • SAWYER, B. & P. 1992: “Adam and the Eve of Scandinavian History,” in The Perception of the Past in Twelfth-Century Europe, ed. P. Magdalino, London-Rio Grande (Ohio), 37-51.
  • SAWYER, P. 1991: “Swein Forkbeard and the Historians,” in Church and Chronicle in the Middle Ages. Essays presented to J. Taylor, ed. I. Wood, G.A. Loud, London-Rio Grande (Ohio), 27-40.
  • SCHMEIDLER, B. 1914: “Neuere Literatur über Adam von Bremen,” Zeitschrift des Vereins für Lübeckische Geschichte und Altertumskunde 16, 111-21.
  • SCHMEIDLER, B. 1917: Mag. Adami Bremensis Gesta... in MGH SRG 2, Hanover-Leipzig.
  • SCHMEIDLER, B. 1918: Hamburg-Bremen und Nordost-Europa vom 9. bis 11. Jahrhundert. Kritische Untersuchungen zur Hamburgischen Kirchengeschichte des Adam von Bremen, zu Hamburger Urkunden und zur nordischen und wendischen Geschichte, Leipzig.
  • SCHMIDT, H. 1989: “Skandinavien im Selbstverständnis der Bremer Kirche vom 9. bis zum 11. Jahrhundert,” in Bremen. 1200 Jahre Mission, ed. D. Hägermann (Schriften der Wittheit zu Bremen, n.s. 12), Bremen, 33-59.
  • • SCIOR, V. 2002: Das Eigene und das Fremde. Identität und Fremdheit in den Chroniken Adams von Bremen, Helmolds von Bosau und Arnolds von Lübeck (Orbis mediaevalis. Vorstellungswelten des Mittelalters 4), Berlin.
  • SEEGRÜN, W. 1976: Das Erzbistum Hamburg in seinen älteren Papsturkunden (Studd. u. Vorarbb. z. Germania Pontificia 5), Köln-Wien.
  • SEEGRÜN, W. 1986: “Erzbischof Adalbert von Hamburg-Bremen. Persönlichkeit und Geschichte,” in Mit Ansgar beginnt Hamburg, ed. Katholische Akademie Hamburg (Publikationen der Katholischen Akademie Hamburg 2), Hamburg, 67-90.
  • STILLE, P. 1988: “Adams av Bremen användande av termen goter,” Fornvännen 83, 104-7.
  • SVENNUNG, J. 1953: Belt und Baltisch. Ostseeische Namenstudien mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Adam von Bremen (Uppsala Universitets Ǻrsskrift 4; Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis), Uppsala.
  • THEUERKAUF, G. 1986: “Zur kirchenpolitischen Lage des Erzbistums Hamburg-Bremen im 9. Jahrhundert” in SEEGRÜN 1986, 91-98.
  • • THEUERKAUF, G. 1988a: “Die Hamburgische Kirchengeschichte Adams von Bremen. Über Gesellschaftsformen und Weltbilder im 11. Jahrhundert,” Historiographia Mediaevalis. Studien zur Geschichtsschreibung und Quellenkunde des Mittelalters. Festschrift für Franz-Josef Schmale, ed. D. Berg, H.-W. Goetz, Darmstadt, 118-37.
  • • THEUERKAUF, G. 1988b: “Urkundenfälschungen des Erzbistums Hamburg-Bremen vom 9. bis zum 12. Jahrhundert,” Niedersächsisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte 60, 71-140.
  • TIMONEN, A. 1996: “Saint Olaf‘s ‘cruelty’: violence by the Scandinavian King interpreted over the centuries,” Journal of Medieval History 22, 285-96.
  • TRILLMICH, W. 1961 (seventh ed. 2000): Quellen des 9. und 11. Jahrhunderts zur Geschichte der hamburgischen Kirche und des Reiches, hg. v. Werner Trillmich u. Rudolf Buchner, Ausgewählte Quellen zur deutschen Geschichte des Mittelalters/ Freiherr vom Stein-Gedächtnisausgabe 11, Darmstadt, 160-499 (seventh edition with an appendix by SCIOR, V., 758-64).
  • • TROMMER, A. 1957: “Komposition und Tendenz in der Hamburgischen Kirchengeschichte Adam von Bremens,” Classica et mediaevalia 18, 207-57.
  • WATTENBACH, W. 1933/34: “Zur Entstehung und zum Plane der Hamburgischen Kirchengeschichte Adams von Bremen,” Neues Archiv für ältere deutsche Geschichtskunde 50, 221-28 (repr. 1957).
  • WAVRA, B. 1991: Salzburg und Hamburg. Erzbistumsgründung und Missionspolitik in karolingischer Zeit, Berlin.

Part II: Literature on Book 4:

  • ASHTOR, E. 1983: “La geografia dell’Europa nelle opere di persiani e arabi nell’undicesimo secolo,” Popoli e paesi nella cultura altomedievale (23-29 aprile 1981) 2 (Settimane di studio del Centro italiano di studi sull’alto medioevo 29, 2), Spoleto, 647-99.
  • BJØRNBO, A.A. 1910: Adam af Bremens nordensopfattelse, Copenhagen.
  • BRINCKEN, A.-D. VON DEN 1992: Fines Terrae. Die Enden der Erde und der vierte Kontinent auf mittelalterlichen Weltkarten (MGH Schriften 36), Hanover.
  • GIESEBRECHT, L. 1834: Ueber die Nordlandskunde des Adam von Bremen (without place).
  • GÜNTHER, S. 1894: Adam von Bremen, der erste deutsche Geograph (Sitzungsbericht der königlich böhmischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, Classe für Philosophie, Geschichte und Philologie), Prag.
  • HALLENCREUTZ, C.F. 1984: Adam Bremensis and Sueonia. A fresh look at Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum (Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Skrifter rörande Uppsala universitet C. Organisation och Historia 47), Uppsala.
  • JØRGENSEN, O., NYBERG, T. 1992: Sejlruter i Adam af Bremens danske øverden (Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien, Antikvariskt arkiv 74), Stockholm.
  • KOHLMANN, Ph.W. 1908: Adam von Bremen. Ein Beitrag zur mittelalterlichen Textkritik und Kosmographie (Leipziger historische Abhandlungen 10), Leipzig, 52-55.
  • • KRABBO, H. 1909: “Nordeuropa in der Vorstellung Adams von Bremen,” Hansische Geschichtsblätter 15, 37-51.
  • NYBERG, T. 1985: “Die heilige Insel Farria (gesta hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum, 4. Buch, Kap. 3),” Nordfriesisches Jahrbuch n.s. 21, 227-45.
  • PEKKANEN, T. 1974: “Adam of Bremen 4, 14: Wizzi, Mirri, etc.,” Arctos 8, 105-26.
  • ROSIK, S. 2000: Interpretacja chrześcijańska religii pagańskich Słowian wiświetle kronik niemieckich XI-XII wieku (Thietmar, Adam z Bremy, Helmold) (Acta Univ. Wratislaviensis 2235, Historia 144), Wrocław.
  • SCHLÜTER, W. 1910: “Adams von Bremen geographische Vorstellungen vom Norden,” Hansische Geschichtsblätter 37, 555-70.
  • • SCIOR, V. (see above)
  • TOORN-PIEBENGA, G.A. VAN DER 1986: “Friese ontdekkingsreizigers in de elfde eeuw,” It beaken. Tydskrift fan de Fryske Akademy 48,2, 114-26.
  • WEIBULL, L. 1933: “Geo-ethnographische Interpolationen und Gedankengänge bei Adam von Bremen,” Hansische Geschichtsblätter 58, 3-16.
  • • WITZEL, H.J. 1952: Der geographische Exkurs in den lateinischen Geschichtsquellen des Mittelalters, Frankfurt am Main.