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Chronica Majora

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Subject: Matthew Paris, Cow tipping, Alexander II of Scotland, History of elephants in Europe, Mongol elements in Western medieval art
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Chronica Majora

Elephant from Chronica maiora, Part II, Parker Library, MS 16, fol. 151v

The Chronica Majora is an important medieval illuminated manuscript chronicle written in Latin by Matthew Paris, a Benedictine monk living in the Abbey of St Albans. The work begins with the creation of the world and contains annals up to 1259, the year of Paris's death.

The content up to 1234 or 1235 is based in the main on Flores Historiarum by Roger of Wendover (d. 1236), with additions; after that date the material is Paris's own, written in his own hand from the entry for 1213 onward.

The first two parts of the Chronica, covering the years up to 1188 and from 1189 to 1253, are contained in two manuscripts in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Parker MS 26 and MS 16.[1] They include 100 marginal drawings, some fragmentary maps and an itinerary, and full page drawings of William I, the Elephant with Keeper. MS 16 has very recently had all prefatory matter re-bound separately.

The remainder of the Chronica, from 1254 until Paris's death in 1259, is in the British Library, bound as Royal MS 14 C VII folios 157-218, following Paris's Historia Anglorum (an abridgement of the Chronica covering the period from 1070 to 1253).[2]

An unillustrated copy of the material from 1189 to 1250, with much of his sharper commentary about Henry III toned down or removed, was supervised by Paris himself and now exists as British Library Cotton MS Nero D V, fol. 162-393.[3]


Further reading

  • Richard Vaughan: Matthew Paris, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, New ser. 6 (Cambridge, 1958)
  • Richard Vaughan (ed. and tr): The Chronicles of Matthew Paris: Monastic Life in the Thirteenth Century (Gloucester, 1984).
  • Richard Vaughan: The Illustrated Chronicles of Matthew Paris. Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1993. ISBN 978-0-7509-0523-7
  • Suzanne Lewis: The Art of Matthew Paris in the Chronica Majora. University of California Press, 1987 (California Studies in the History of Art) (online excerpt, about the elephant)


  1. ^ Parker Library on the web: MS 26, MS 16I, MS 16II 362 x 244/248 mm. ff 141 + 281
  2. ^ British Library Digitised Manuscript: Royal MS 14 C VII
  3. ^ British Library Archives and Manuscripts catalogue: Cotton MS Nero D V.

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