Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 June 2018
This article discusses the complex relationship between the cosmology, the philosophy of history, and the political ideology of the Pantheon, a ponderous universal chronicle written in prosimetrum (prose and verse) in the twelfth century by Godfrey of Viterbo. To understand the context in which this work should be placed, it is helpful to give a short account of the life of this littleknown medieval author. Godfrey was born around 1125 and refers to the Italian city of Viterbo, north of Rome, as his own patria. He was probably of German descent, as his own name, and those of his brother Werner and nephew Reimbert, suggests. Godfrey most likely had connections with the imperial family, and was sent by the emperor Lothar III to the cathedral school of Bamberg in 1133. Under Conrad III (1137–1152) he assumed the position of chaplain and notary at the imperial court in 1151, a post which he still held in the days of Henry VI (1191–1197). He was a member of the first Italian expedition of Frederick Barbarossa (1154–1155). He rose to a position of some importance in the imperial chancery, since he appears among the witnesses of the Treaty of Constance with Pope Eugene III in 1153 and in its renewal in 1155. He is called ‘Gotefredus Viterbensis capellanus regis (Godfrey of Viterbo, king's chaplain)’ in the Treaty of Constance (1153). He was probably also in Italy with Barbarossa in 1158, since he presents himself as an eyewitness to the conflict between Barbarossa and Milan. Between 1158 and 1162, Godfrey seems to have travelled several times between Italy and Germany.
Godfrey was in Frederick Barbarossa's entourage at Dôle when he attempted to meet with Louis VII in 1162. He was again with Barbarossa in Italy in 1163 (with the third Italian expedition of this German emperor) and was present in Barbarossa's fourth and fifth expeditions to Italy (1166–1168 and 1174–1178). An imperial charter from October 1169 is worth noting, in which Frederick Barbarossa bestows on Godfrey, his brother Werner and his nephew Reimbert a palatium built by the recipients themselves, which the emperor promises to reimburse, and grants them several exemptions and privileges, including exemption from the authority of the consul and people of Viterbo.