Bindino da Travale (d. 1416), a minor artist living in Siena, decided late in life to compose a chronicle recounting major events in recent Sienese and Italian history. This cronaca, largely dictated, presents several striking features that separate it from both annals and newly emerging humanist histories. Bindino displays a wide range of knowledge: he can list more than 25 types of gemstone; he can name the nine orders of angels, in proper sequence; he even tries, with uneven results, to imitate the flowery and subtle speech of ambassadors.
This essay focuses on one such unusual aspect of his chronicle, namely, its allusions to both form and content of chansons de geste. The resemblences argue for the persistence of this earlier literary form, at least in popular literature, and suggest literate non-elite Italians could use a rich non-humanist version of the past to interpret contemporary events
The starting point of this research is the chronicle ascribed to Oliver of Dixmude, which deals with the period 1377-1443 and which has hitherto always been characterized as a regional ‘Flemish’ chronicle. However, the study of this often cited chronicle offers us new (after Ghent) evidence that during the fifteenth century the genre of the town chronicle was also rather successful in the Southern Low Countries, contrary to what has always been supposed. There are several reasons why the chronicle by Oliver of Dixmude has never before been given the epithet of urban chronicle. One of them is that the edition by Lambin from 1835 – the only edition of the manuscript, which was lost in 1914 – does not faithfully present the original text. Apart from omitting the annual lists of the members of the town government, Lambin also left out several of the ‘Ypres’ fragments. It is only thanks to a previously unstudied copy of the text found in the Courtrai Town Library, that these ‘lost’ passages could be retrieved. Besides, this chronicle should be studied in the context of a much broader fifteenth-century local tradition of recording important urban events in the form of a narrative account. Indeed, the hardly known chronicle ascribed to Pieter van de Letuwe, which discusses the immediately following period 1443-1480, is very similar in structure. Even if the authorship of the persons mentioned above can be maintained, it should be kept in mind that there existed a kind of collective authorship, the members of which belonged to the leading urban elite.