Episcopal Gesta and the Creation of a Useful Past in Ninth-Century Auxerre

Medieval chroniclers frequently reworked the glorious memory of their past in order to meet the new needs of a new generation. To write the history of those who had come before was more than an exercise in antiquarianism, more than an effort to sort out long-ago events and put them in order. The creation of such a work grew out of a conversation with the records left by earlier generations and was intended to make a statement about the present as well as about the past. The chronicle of a church's history, the vitae of the saints associated with that church, and the documents stored in the church's archives, although often treated separately by modern scholars, formed a single corpus for medieval authors. Their efforts to create a useful past out of this material led in the ninth century to a new historical genre, that of gesta. These recounted the lives and deeds of great ecclesiastical leaders over the centuries. The creation of this genre grew from a need to make a strange and distant past more comprehensible and to prepare a hortatory “mirror” for the authors' contemporaries; it thus demonstrates vividly the historical process of remembering and forgetting