Adso, De Antichristo

Adso was a tenth-century monk who wrote De Antichristo for Queen Gerberga, wife of King Louis IV of the West Franks (r. 936-954) and sister of King Otto I of the East Franks (r. 936-973; emperor from 962). Louis’s reign was a troubled one, but De Antichristo was most likely written in the early 950s at the height of Louis’s power and during a time of relative stability. Verhelst and others have seen the text as a sign of growing fears in the build up to Y1k. MacLean, on the other hand, has recently argued that the text better reflects the reforming interests of the queen.

De Antichristo is important in the history of apocalyptic thought because it is the first text which provides a developed biography for Antichrist. It also puts forward the idea that there must be a ‘falling away’ from Rome before Antichrist comes, with Adso adding increased political resonance by stating that the Frankish kings preserve the dignity of the Roman Empire and so the End could not be so close.

Edition: Verhelst, CCCM, 45 (Turnhout, 1976) – includes variations.

Translation: McGinn, Apocalyptic Spirituality (New York, 1979).

Key Manuscripts: Paris, BnF, lat. 5390 (written in Fecamp in the late eleventh century alongside the Tiburtine Sibyl and Ralph Glaber’s Vita Wilhelmi); Cambridge, CCC, MS 190 (written in Exeter in the late eleventh century).