Walter of Coincy

views updated


Vernacular poet; b. Coincy, near Fère-en-Tardenois, Aisne, France, 1177 or 1178; d. Saint-Médard, Soissons, Sept. 25, 1236. Walter entered the Abbey of Saint-Médard in 1193, became prior of Vic-sur-Aisne in August 1214, and returned to Saint-Médard as grand prior on June 19, 1233. He wrote his main work, the two-volume Miracles Nostre Dame while at Vic-sur-Aisne, specifically between 1218 and 1227. It first appeared as a single volume, but after substantial revision by Walter it consisted of two volumes, each having a prologue; opening chansons; a number of miracles, miraculous events told in verse; and a few lyric poems. In all, it contains about 60 miracles in 30,000 verses. The miracles were generally taken from Latin prose sources and recast by Walter into French vernacular verse. They were in no particular order and through the years have been rearranged. Those commonly numbered 12 and 13 concern St. Leocadia and the miraculous recovery of her reliquary from the river; though there were only 115 verses in the first redaction, they were extended to 2,342 verses in Walter's final version. Marian miracle collections were much in vogue in the 12th and 13th centuries; Walter's collection for Soissons proved one of the most popular.

Besides the Miracles he wrote a life of St. Christine in 1221 (ed. A. C. Ott, Erlangen 1922). The only other work credited to Walter with any degree of certainty that is not an integral part of the Miracles is the long moral poem De la chastée as nonains (ed. T. Nurmela, Helsinki 1938), written between 1223 and 1227, a sermon in verse to the nuns of Notre-Dame in Soissons. It usually appears in the Miracles MSS after the miracle De la bonne empereris. Some also claim separate existence for the moral poem De la doutance de la mort (ed. Poquet) likewise included in the final edition of the Miracles at the end of the second volume. A poem of 810 verses in the first redaction it was augmented by 2,000 verses in its final version.

Bibliography: Chronicon S. Medardi Suessionensis, ed. l. d' archery, Spicilegium, 3 v. (Paris 1723) 2:489491. a. p. ducrotgranderye, Études sur les "Miracles Nostre Dame" de Gautier de Coincy (Helsinki 1932). Partial eds, a. e. poquet (Paris 1857). e. boman (Paris 1935), a. lÅngfors (Helsinki 1937), e. von kraemer (Helsinki 1950, 1953, 1960). Critical ed., v. f. koenig, Les "Miracles de Nostre Dame" par Gautier de C. (v.1 Geneva 1955; v.2 1961), 5 v. projected.

[m. j. hamilton]