Types of Sources
Understanding the Sources
The Study of Documents
The Study of Seals
"I have often pondered the mutability and instability of earthly things, their fickle, chaotic occurrence (...) The Roman Empire, handed on from Rome to the Greeks [Byzantines], from the Greeks to the German Franks, from the Franks to the Lombards and from the Lombards back to the German Franks, is not merely weak with age and decrepit, it has also, because of its instability, contracted (...) much filth and various kinds of damage ", according to Bishop Otto of Freising (1112-1158) in his "Chronica sive Historia de duabus civitatibus" [Chronicle or History of the Two Cities].
The bishop divided the history of humanity into seven ages, reaching from the creation of the world to his own time. Otto identified both continuities and breaks between the history of the ancient Empire and the Roman-German [′Holy Roman′] Empire, and justified the point of view that this produced by reference to God´s superordinate plan for redemption. So Otto von Freising was, therefore, to some extent a historian, and thought about events that concern medieval historians today. Just as we do, he attempts to distinguish them from each other in space and time. Yet the world-view and concepts that underlay his understanding of the past differed in many ways from our own. This difference begins with the concept ′Middle Ages′ itself, which was unknown to Otto and his contemporaries.
Otto von Freising, detail of a triptych (around 1490), Stift Klosterneuburg