Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!

In the latest MALMECC blogpost, our literature scholar David Murray talks about political wheezes and back-stabbing in the reign of Pilgrim von Puecheim. David is working on the subproject ‘The “Monk” and the Prince: Court Culture and Song in Late-Medieval Salzburg’


I recently heard a senior medievalist observe, ‘When I was a graduate student, we didn’t have the internet. We had Germans instead.’ The thought often comes to mind when flicking through vast series like the Monumenta or dictionaries like Friedrich von Wartburg’s Französisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch. At the other end of the scale sit smaller works of intellectual and technical intricacy. Indeed one of my most recent scholarly debts falls at this end of the chart. My gratitude is due to two Austrian scholars, now long dead, Hans Wagner and Herbert Klein who, in 1953, scraped together everything known about the members of Salzburg’s secular clergy. Put in such bald terms, it hardly sounds promising. However, an elaborate game of hide and seek in the civic archives leads one through several hundred years of political wheezes and back-stabbing. A particular highpoint for skulduggery seems to have been the reign of Pilgrim II von Puecheim (1365-96).


The 1321 font in Salzburg cathedral, resting on lions from c. 1180. This is all that remains of the medieval building the Ovenstettens and Pilgrim knew, which was irreparably damaged by snow and rain after a fire in December 1598.

The writing was, in a sense, on the wall from the start of his reign, when Pilgrim was imposed on the Domherren by the Pope in Avignon, to the considerable displeasure of two brothers, Eberhard and Ortolf von Ovenstetten. Eberhard, provost at the time, and a member of the community for the past three decades, had hoped that Ortolf would be elected as Prince-Archbishop. Add to this the fact that Pilgrim was allied with Clement VII in Avignon whereas the Ovenstettens’ Bavarian alliances led them to side with Urban VI in Rome, and it becomes more understandable why the next decades were so eventful. On top of all of this, when the young Pilgrim had been a student in Avignon, he had had to open legal proceedings to force Eberhard to pay him the income from his Salzburg benefice. Nothing worse than coming between a student and his beer money…


An uneasy peace was maintained for almost two decades (by 1377 Ortolf was a member of Pilgrim’s council) until the Salzburg

synod of 1380 when the Ovenstettens’ implacable devotion to Rome came to the surface again. (There was, incidentally, another Ovenstetten brother, Otto, who studied with Ortolf in Bologna. Nothing more is known of him, but one imagines him, rather like the third Attenborough brother, enjoying a quiet life and wondering why elder siblings are such a nuisance…)

Gold coin of Pilgrim von Puchheim

Gold coin of Pilgrim II. The inscription refers to PILGRIMVS ARCHIEPISCOPVS – Archbishop Pilgrim. (Landesmuseum Württemberg)

Eberhard died in 1385, and Ortolf was duly elected, with a majority of 4-2, to succeed his brother. But in 1386, Gregor Schenk von Osterwitz was invested by the Prince-Archbishop as Provost, and the Salzburg Four fled to Bavaria. A series of begging letters from this Bavarian fraction bear witness to the uphill struggle to get back into Pilgrim’s good books. This was unsurprisingly hard work, since the figure-head of the faction, Friedrich, Duke of Bavaria, had taken Pilgrim prisoner in the Cistercian monastery at Raitenhaslach in 1387. Ortolf seems to have made his peace with Pilgrim, and is recorded in Salzburg in 1390, where he died two years later.


Who needs House of Cards or The Thick of It when, thanks to Wagner and Klein, we have the Salzburg Domherren? In my next post, I’ll come back to the prodigal son, Gregor Schenk von Osterwitz, another ruthless politcal mover, and his inevitable rise.

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