Book Series Studies in the Early Middle Ages, vol. 21

Duelling with the Past

Medieval Authors and the Problem of the Christian Era (c. 990-1135)

Peter Verbist

  • Pages: 366 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:69 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2010

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-52073-5
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55898-1
  • E-book
  • Available

An intriguing volume exploring eight medieval authors who each attempted to correct the date of Christ's incarnation according to the Easter tables of the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus (c. 540).


"Die Arbeit ist klar und verständlich geschrieben." (E.-D. H., in: Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters, Bd. 67-1, 2011, p. 261)

"Duelling with the Past will likely be most interesting to specialists in medieval computistics, though the book will also reward scholars who work on medieval theology, philosophy and historiography with many important insights in to how medieval scholars used time as a concept in pragmatic applications." (D. Defries, in: The Medieval Review, 11.02.19)

"Duelling with the Past is an innovative work that offers a valuable insight into the complex, technical world of computus studies in the central Middle Ages. (...) The value and implications of this timely work are profound." (George House, in: Early Medieval Europe, 2012, N° 20 (1), p. 108-110)

"L'ouvrage de Verbist ne manque pas de qualités et ouvre des perspectives sur l'histoire de la pensée critique et de la liberté de pensée." (Michel de Waha, dans: Revue Belgde de Philologie et d'Histoire, 88, 2010, p. 1325-1330)

"(...) cet ouvrage présente un intérêt qui dépasse de loin son propos technique et qui devrait retenir l'attention de tous les médiévistes." (Jean Meyers, dans: Le Moyen Âge, 120 (3-4), 2014, p.798-800)


This volume discusses the controversy surrounding the dating of the Christian Era in the Middle Ages and its effect on the ‘emergence’ of the individual in medieval society. It focuses on eight medieval authors (Heriger of Lobbes, Abbo of Fleury, Marianus Scottus, Gerland the Computist, Hezelo of Cluny, an anonymous author in Limoges, Sigebert of Gembloux, and Heimo of Bamberg), all of whom attempted to correct the date of Christ’s incarnation according to the Easter tables of the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus (c. 540). As this volume argues, these authors entered into a duel with the past, attempting to reassign the year of Christ’s birth and in the process negotiating contradictory authoritative traditions. On a superficial level these scholars appeared to be unsuccessful in their attempts to reconstruct history, as none of their proposed corrections replaced the existing (erroneous) Christian era that had been established in the Latin West. On a practical level, however, this defeat can be counterbalanced by the conclusion that the corrections provided by these authors acted as an important step in the increasing movement of medieval authors towards intellectual autonomy. In Duelling with the Past, Verbist’s analysis explores the links between computistical sources and the ‘emergence’ of the individual in the Middle Ages.








Chapter 1. Heriger of Lobbes (d. 1007)


Chapter 2. Abbo of Fleury (d. 1004)


Chapter 3. Marianus Scottus (d. 1082)


Chapter 4. Gerland the Computist (d. after 1093?)


Chapter 5. Sigebert of Gembloux (d. 1112)


Chapter 6. Hezelo of Cluny (d. 1123)


Chapter 7. Anonymous of Limoges


Chapter 8. Heimo of Bamberg (d. 1139)