William of Tire

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Wilhelm of Tire, miniature from Paris, BnF, Ms. fr. 2631, fol.1 r , 13th century

Wilhelm of Tire (* around 1130 in Jerusalem ; † September 29, 1186 ibid) was Archbishop of Tire , Chancellor of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and is considered one of the most important historians of the Middle Ages .

He came from a wealthy but not noble family who had emigrated from Italy or France to the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which was founded in 1099 , at the beginning of the 12th century .

life and work

The main source of his life is his history and the autobiographical chapters it contains.

Around the year 1145 Wilhelm went to the west to study there for almost 20 years. He began studying fine arts in Paris. In 1155 he switched to theology and continued in Orléans from 1160 . From there he went to Bologna in 1161 or 1162 to study law at the famous university there. This makes it the only documented case of a new settler born in the Crusader states who went to Europe to study in the 12th century.

In 1165 he returned to the Holy Land, was canon of the Episcopal Church of Acre and was ordained archdeacon on September 1, 1167 by Archbishop Frederick of Tire . In the spring of 1167 he entered the service of King Amalrich I of Jerusalem , who led him to write the history of the Crusader states. Wilhelm was also the tutor of the king's son, later King Baldwin IV , who appointed him Chancellor of the Kingdom of Jerusalem after his accession to the throne in 1174 .

Around the year 1170 he began his Chronica , in German "History of the Crusader States" (Latin title Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum , for example: History of the deeds beyond the sea ). The most learned of all Latin chroniclers of the Crusades in a statesmanlike way passed over some of the gloomy chapters of the founding of the state, and made a few mistakes. His participation in the power politics of the kingdom led him to further partisan inaccuracies. Nevertheless, the Chronica is a remarkable work and an important source for the events in Outremer . Wilhelm von Tire used (like Albert von Aachen ) both traditional and lost sources. It is important that, as chancellor and court historian, the documents from the archives of the kingdom were available to him.

William of Tire also wrote a “History of the Orient”, which was devoted to the Muslim states from the time of Muhammad . The work is now considered lost and may have been deliberately destroyed by Muslim fanatics. Due to his studies, his attitude towards Muslims is more moderate than that of his colleagues; in any case, he lamented the increase in power of the Muslims. He also found the inadequate education of many clergymen to be deplorable and their overly secular attitudes;

On June 8, 1175, Wilhelm was ordained Archbishop of Tire. In 1179 he took part in the 3rd Lateran Council and on his return to Jerusalem spent seven months at the court of the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus . The chronicle of the Third Lateran Council written by him has also not survived. In 1180 he ran for the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, but was not elected. In 1184 (but at the latest in spring 1185) he resigned from the office of chancellor.

William of Tire was the only one of the Crusade chronists born in Palestine . He was also one of those historians who wrote much of their work on the basis of their own experience.

The Chronica

The work of William of Tire, also known as “Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum” , was written between approx. 1168 and 1184 or 1186 and essentially deals with the history of the Crusades and the rule of the Crusaders, beginning with the Council of Clermont in 1095 and ending in 1184.

The work, which is divided into 23 books with individual chapters, is conceptually divided into two parts: The first section deals with the First Crusade in Books I-VIII . In the following section, which is organized by dynasty , two books are usually dedicated to each ruler of Jerusalem, starting with Godfrey of Bouillon .

The Chronica was supplemented by various continuations up to the 13th century and its translation into French gave it an almost canonical (normative) character for the depiction of the Crusades in the late Middle Ages .

It was first printed in 1549.

For the period after the First Crusade, the Chronica is the only major, albeit chronologically incorrect, source from the East.

Sources of William of Tire

For the time of the First Crusade, Albert von Aachen served as a reference, along with his own additions. After that, until 1127, Fulcher von Chartres was a source. Until about 1145 Wilhelm used oral, e.g. Sometimes written statements from others, supplemented by my own memories. From 1163 onwards, Wilhelm's own experiences predominate, which are significant due to his political and church career. Many documents (royal diplomas), letters (including those of the Pope) and state treaties found their way into the Chronica.


  • Willelmi Tyrensis archiepiscopi Chronicon / Guillaume de Tyr Chronique (= Corpus Christianorum. Continuatio mediaevalis. 63-63A). 2 volumes. Edition critique par Robert BC Huygens. Identification des sources historiques et détermination des dates par Hans E. Mayer et Gerhard Rösch . Brepols, Turnholti 1986, ISBN 2-503-03631-7 (vol. 1), ISBN 2-503-03633-3 (vol. 2).


Web links

Commons : Wilhelm von Tire manuscripts  - collection of images, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Friedrich Archbishop of Tire
Friedrich Chancellor of the Kingdom of Jerusalem