Last year I thought it might be fun to see which entries in our Who's Who resource drew the most visitors over the course of the year. Most of the Top Ten of 2011
didn't really surprise me, although the man who grabbed the number one spot, while deserving of attention, was not someone I thought would be quite so popular. Still, there were a few unexpected names on the list.
This year, our Top Ten list looks a little different. The order of the most popular has changed, and there are four newcomers to this year's list -- including, for the first time, a writer, a woman, and a pope. Below is a countdown of the medieval people whose Who's Who pages drew the most visitors in 2012.
It warms the cockles of my scholar's heart to see this man of letters included among our Top Ten. Petrarch's influence on Renaissance humanism was profound and far-reaching. And there's something quite touching in his devotion to his muse, Laura.
I have long been of the opinion that Eleanor of Aquitaine was a terrific woman. I know that many share my opinion, but there are those who hold a different point of view
. Whatever you might think of her, you cannot deny that she was a powerful and influential women at a time when women held very little power. She inspired love, hate, poetry and art. The only thing Eleanor of Aquitaine did not inspire was indifference.
Though down two spots in the list from last year, Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, is still settled comfortably in our Top Ten. His short reign was marked by strife and bloodshed, but he manages to capture our imaginations with a noble death defending England against the invading William the Conqueror
-- who didn't
make it onto the list this year.
Cheers to Lothair of Segni, the first pope to break into our Top Ten list. And as popes go, this guy was one real power player. He sponsored crusades, convoked an ecumenical council, and helped build the papacy into the formidable institution we think of when someone says "medieval church." From a distance of 800 years, its difficult to say if he was really
devout, but he did recognize the folly of trying to stop the growing movement of piety spearheaded by Saint Dominic
and Saint Francis of Assisi
, and he was quick to approve their work.
He may have dropped two spots since last year, but Donatello is firmly ensconced as the only artist on our Top Ten list. This remarkable sculptor represents the finest of the Proto-Renaissance
. Among his many accomplishments is the creation of an equestrian statue that was so powerful in form that it would influence similar statues for centuries to come. And then there's his bronze David (pictured). Can I just say, "Wow"? Be sure to check out some of his works in our Donatello Sculpture Gallery
New to the list is this Frankish king who defeated various Germanic tribes in present-day France, pulling together the disparate groups under his rule and founding the Merovingian dynasty. Clovis is also important for choosing to convert to Catholic Christianity, instead of remaining a pagan or following the Arian
heresy popular among Germanic peoples. This decision, possibly influenced by his wife, Clotilda
, would prove significant in the future of relations between France and the Papacy.
Abu Bakr has shown the most notable positive movement in our Top Ten, climbing four places from last year's list. This might have something to do with an increased appreciation for his proverbial quotations
. Whatever the reason, at number 4 this important figure of early Islam is helping to illuminate Muslim history.
In the reshuffling of our most popular individuals, Richard dropped down one spot, but the Lionheart is still worth checking out. After all, he was a crusader as well as a king, loved poetry and music, and displayed notable chivalry to his enemies. So what if he spent about five percent of his reigning years actually in
England? He was much admired in his day, and for centuries after his death. Don't miss the biography
from your Guide.
Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar also dropped down one spot from last year. But even at number 2, the national hero of Spain commands attention. At various times he fought for both Spanish and Muslim rulers, and he conquered Valencia after an extended siege. His extraordinary life was immortalized in legend not long after his death; the poem El cantar de mío Cid
("The Song of the Cid") is the oldest preserved epic in the Castilian language.
Before I hit on the bright idea of actually making a list of the most popular Who's Who-ers, I kept an eye on traffic to my pages (it is
my job), and I never noticed the King of the Franks in the top 5 or so until last year, when he hit the number-three position. Now I'm not at all surprised to see him take the top spot. He was, after all, "Great" -- and his reign is sometimes even considered to mark the beginnings of the medieval era. (I don't agree, but not for lack of respect for the man.) His victories and political accomplishments were numerous; his personality was larger-than-life. So here he is, 2012's most popular man in Who's Who: the king of the Franks and Lombards, the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Great, Karl der Grosse, Charlemagne.
The four individuals who were in last year's Top Ten who are not in this year's list are Erik the Red, the Emperor Constantine, William the Conqueror and Leif Ericsson. All fascinating individuals who were leaders in their day. Perhaps someday they'll climb back up into the most popular. Be sure to check out the list for 2013 to see if they did just that.