The Dominican connection : Bernard Gui

Is this a Franciscan work or a work that involved a Franciscan? One of the many sources of L’Abreujamen de las estorias was a famous visual representation of the kings of France, from a mythical foundation by exiled Trojans to the last Capetians, by the inquisitor and Dominican friar, Bernard Gui (c.1261-1331). Gui’s scheme is a tree, the Arbor genealogiae regum francorum, reproduced in many surviving copies by different artists, most if not all based in the Toulouse region (see in particular the recent work by Maria Alessandra Bilotta on the illuminated manuscripts of the Toulouse school). The many copies of Gui’s chronicle (‘catalogue’) of the kings of France acquired the scheme around 1314, as the French royal family entered a series of succession problems that culminated in the end of the direct Capetian line when Philip of Valois inherited the throne in 1328. It was used as a source by the teams who produced L’Abreujamen as well as the Latin Compendium (or Chronologia magna). Yet Gui’s scheme proved too rigid for Paolino’s explosion of discontinuous, converging and cross-fertilising genealogies. It is as if the somewhat austere, politically-driven depiction of a single, patrilinear ‘tree’ clashed with the rich and diverse forest of world history.

Gui visited Avignon several times in the years 1321-23, and it is an interesting thought that he could have been in direct contact with the teams who worked with Paolino.

On Gui and his treatment of Charlemagne, see the commentary by Catherine Leglu, in a virtual exhibition, ‘Medieval Manuscripts and imagery’, in Charlemagne-Icon. I look in particular at the copy of the Arbor in Trinity College, Cambridge, Trinity College Library, MS R.4.23. I thank Marianne Ailes for asking me to contribute this commentary and for publishing it as part of her project on Charlemagne, a European Icon (on Twitter, @CharlemagneIcon).

I have completed an article that examines the reception of Bernard Gui’s work in L’Abreujamen de las estorias, now forthcoming, entitled : ‘Crowned heads and succession crises : the creation and reception of Bernard Gui’s Arbor genealogiae regum francorum‘. This is a developed version of a paper that I gave at a conference organised by Andrea Worm and Wolfgang Augustyn in Munich, in March 2016. More details will follow once the article is in press.

About Catherine Leglu

Catherine Leglu is Professor of French and Occitan Studies at the University of Reading.
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