You are here

The Deeds of Wiprecht

Judith's Death


In the same year, Emperor Henry III [IV] died. In the year of the Lord 1107. In the year of the Lord 1108.
In the year of the Lord 1109. In this year, Henry, the fourth [fifth] king of this name, arranged to celebrate Christmas at Mainz. The German princes solemnly came together there from all directions, supported by a great deal of pomp. Wiprecht too was present with his sons, Wiprecht and Henry. But for them—oh the pain!—that same feast was turned into mourning. For the lady countess Judith, worthy of everyone's veneration and remembrance, died—with God piously arranging it (as we hope and wish) on account of her most generous good will towards our monastery. Ready to sing on the nativity of her Saviour, she joined with the saints in the angelic song, 'Glory in the highest to the lamb, who takes away the sins of the world.' And ready to delight in the bosom of Abraham in the resting place for the earthly amongst the heavenly, she went the way of all flesh on her patrimony called Bautzen on the sixteenth Kalends of January [17 December]. Messengers were therefore sent quickly in both directions to report her death: not only to the lord Wiprecht and their sons, but also to the princes of Bohemia, the lady Judith's brothers. Meanwhile, everyone came together in groups for her funeral. Indeed, having received such sad news through the messengers, the lord Wiprecht, with a tearful plaint about the passing of his wife, obtained permission from the emperor to return home immediately. He sent a legate ahead as soon as possible to have the body brought in the meantime to the monastery at Pegau, where Abbot Windolf received it with honour and his brothers received it solemnly with grief and chanting. The lord Wiprecht himself very swiftly followed with his men. Finally, on Wiprecht’s arrival there and with the princes of Bohemia meeting up with him simultaneously, great lamentations were made. There was a gathering of a crowd of people, who had flocked together from all directions within four days. On account of this, the body brought to Pegau remained continuously placed on top of a bier and unburied. Besides the bishop of Meissen, who had come with everything needed for the funeral rites, the lord Wiprecht invited [Bishops] Albuin of Merseburg and Walram of Zeitz, who came surrounded by ranks of clerics. They devoutly performed the funeral office with due veneration. In the end, how do such great and festive funeral rites deserve to be distinguished or delimited? What description might satisfy the reader? A short one, to be sure. For what could be said more briefly or heard more truly from us than that dirt is consigned to dirt, ashes to ashes? But without doubt they are settled in the sole hope of resurrection and rebirth; falling blessedly asleep in the Lord, they rest in peace. May God, the redeemer of our souls, who lives and reigns with the Father and Holy Spirit (etc.), grant this peace and the grace of rebirth to our lady Judith.
But let it be known that the body does not lie in the place where the memorial made for her is visible; instead it is at the foot of the altar of the holy Cross, a spot which still remains marked by some indication. At that time, this altar was positioned in a higher place.
With these things thus accomplished, the lord Wiprecht exercised his usual generosity toward our place and donated these things specifically listed for the remedy of his wife's soul: namely her most precious cloak, extraordinarily and quite skilfully woven with gold (from which the best chasuble was made—not however of the same size, insofar as it was cut into various pieces, both advantageously and disadvantageously; also, it is well-known that its very extensive gold-embroidery was transferred to another ecclesiastical cloak). To this he also added: a chest, very large and decorated to the utmost degree both with gold and with gems and enamel; three very large crosses also ornamented with enamel, gems and gold, and with their bases silver; and a silver pitcher fit for holy water. In addition to these things: two candelabra embellished with work that is cast and Greek; the finest covering for the main altar, which they say was from his household; and the finest cloth, that on the highest feast days is placed upon the pulpit, on which the gospel is customarily read aloud. Out of all these things, some of them are not now among us; for some were spent in time of famine, and it happened that others were broken up for the purpose of buying estates.
Besides these things, while she was still living, the lady Judith had given to this church a green chasuble with gold embroidery. But also, she endowed the basilica of St. Nicholas with the material for the preparation of both the altar and the priest and with two royal mansi in the village of Borkovice for the use, that is, of the priest who should perpetually celebrate the solemnities of the Mass there.
Who indeed may set forth in words how much—not only on the thirtieth day but also beyond it—the most generous lord Wiprecht mercifully expended in giving with largesse to the sick, the poor, orphans, and widows and in liberally relieving their hunger, nakedness, poverty, and all of their needs? Who, in the end, has the means to say or to know with what a crowd and with what generosity he performed the thirty-day anniversary of his most beloved wife’s death? Since this short report of ours is able to capture nothing worthy of such a great festivity, it seems proper to leave these things to the prudence and judgment of the reader.
In the year of the Lord 1110. After this, the lord Wiprecht, having finally received consolation concerning his wife's death, considered it necessary—although reluctantly and with difficulty—to make preparations for another wife, a mother of sorts for his household. Thus he decided to marry the widow of lord Kuno, the most noble prince of Beichlingen, by the name of Kunigunde. Because she was still turning over in her mind the subject of widowhood, at first she hesitated to assent to his request. But afterwards, having considered sounder counsel with her men, since she was not then able to withstand the many powerful invaders of her estates—of which her husband had left her an abundance—she consented to the requested union of marriage, even if not out of desire but necessity. For she was gravely harassed by the insolence of the same men, by whose deceitfulness her most noble husband (who suspected nothing evil from them since they were his own men) had been secretly killed, contrary to justice and divine law; one of them was called Elger of Ilfeld, the other Christian of Rothenburg. Therefore, when he obtained her consent, the lord Wiprecht was quite cheered. Not only did he arrange his own happy union, but indeed he persuaded her to betrothe to his own eldest son, namely Wiprecht, her daughter by the name Kunigunde, the most elegant and renowned compared with her other four daughters. After he had achieved this, together as one they—that is the father with the son and both mother and daughter—performed the wedding ceremonies generously (beyond what might be able to be said now). And they betrothed the rest of the four sisters to the most noble princes of Saxony and Thuringia. Finally, the marriage pact was strengthened by this reciprocity and by an oath from the aforesaid matron that if this countess should submit to nature first, the lord Wiprecht and his heirs would obtain her patrimony.
Among the rest of her estates she held an abbey within the borders of Saxony and Thuringia called Oldisleben, which, above everything else, she commended especially to the care and lordship of the lord Wiprecht, her husband. For its resources had been greatly squandered and its piety destroyed under the direction of Lupert, the abbot of that monastery, whose impiety had already been made known to the lord Wiprecht. After he was deservedly deposed, that place was assigned to the industry of the lord abbot Windolf, so that its condition might be restored by some means, with him providing priors and useful brothers there, and with Wiprecht working together with him. After Windolf had advantageously seen to this place for a little while to the best of his ability, he finally grew weary of the double labour, because 'a mind focused on many things derives less from any one of them.' Worrying about the failure of the monastery of Pegau as a consequence of his looking after Oldisleben, it seemed more fitting that he put someone else in charge there and lighten his own labour in the process. Toward this end he got the lord Hillin at Corvey, whose industry he had put to the test already long ago, because Hillin had distinguished himself and had administered the priorship at Pegau quite vigorously. Hillin was placed at the monastery’s head; after he had presided there for many years, he died happily on the journey to Jerusalem, when King Conrad [III] was leading the army of the Christians, in the retinue of the lord Count Bernhard of Plötzkau on the second Ides of March [14 March].
In addition to these things, an increase of power—nay rather of good fortune—came to the lord Wiprecht during this same time, because a certain Vizo of Vitzenburg, a noble and very rich man joined to him by consanguinity, reached his end and left him the heir of all his estates. From some of his estates he had established a community of nuns in that same castle. After Vizo died, the lord Wiprecht allowed his venerable mother, the lady Sigena, then widowed for the second time, to rest there in holy conversation until the end of her life; he spent as much as was proper for her needs. After some time, crossing over to the Lord on the sixth Kalends of March [24 February], she was buried in the church there with two abbesses, who had presided over that place's community.
At the same time, a certain very rich matron, granddaughter of the above-mentioned Count Frederick of Lengenfeld, gave herself to the same place with her own estates worth fifteen talents. Squandering this wealth in the freehandedness of nobility, with goods for herself and with the number of her companions, she gravely offended the lord Wiprecht, whose spirit was always restrained with respect to the pious way of life. He did not long hide his punishment of this offense. Its location seemed to bring about no small opportunity for impiety, and so he thought to change not only the very order—or rather, disorder—but even the location of the place. Therefore, under threat, he ordered the aforesaid group of virgins, since they were fools, to desert the place, so that they might not disadvantageously occupy thereafter a place that those serving God might be able to inhabit advantageously. Wiprecht took advice from the lord Bishop Otto of Bamberg, whose reputation for piety and devotion had by then spread very widely: he should found a monastery along the Unstrut River, in the vicinity of that same castle, and having brought monks together there, he should confirm for them the estates of the aforesaid place. Wiprecht did not delay at all in complying; in a place called Reinsdorf, he began again to be a founder of the pious way of life. He summoned his abbot Windolf, so that some man, industrious and advantageous for the work, might be put in charge of that place. The abbot, eager to satisfy him quickly in all things, thought to put in charge of that monastery a venerable brother, the lord Ludiger, whom we mentioned above. Ludiger had been given to him as prior but had been received back again at Corvey, where he was administering the office of dean when Windolf arranged to be given him as abbot. And so Ludiger was recalled to Pegau and elected according to the Rule. Meanwhile, the lord Wiprecht sent a messenger swiftly ahead and ordered the aforesaid sisters to give up the place as soon as possible; he demanded that they depart without any hesitation and that they not presume to wait for his arrival on any account, since he himself would be following after with the abbots and brothers.

Analysis