Some Issues in Aquitanian History: Wrapping Up

Last year we finished a lengthy trundle through Aquitanian history which began as a spin-off from one sentence in my post-doc grant and has turned into a lengthy chapter subsection and an article idea. Unlike the liturgy series which ran roughly alongside, this one was definitely useful for me. But, alas, all good things come to an end and now it’s time to summarise. We’ll certainly return to Aquitaine – in fact, I’ve planned a different section on the viscounts of the Limousin and the lords of La Marche in the same chapter, so either that’ll work and I’ll have things to report or it won’t and I’ll be able to complain about how nuts the whole area is – but our journey here stops. What have we learned? Actually, don’t answer that (I have the unnerving feeling that for large chunks of my audience the take-home point will be ‘Fraser needs an editor’…). What have I learned?

Look upon my prose ye readers and despair!

Mostly, it’s a question of nuance. The basic argument I came up with for my thesis was about the increasing importance of local ideological communities in the post-Carolingian world, and a large chunk of what I’ve been doing since has been finding out what the right kinds of nuance are to stick on top of that. So on one hand, we’ve definitely got ourselves some local ideological communities in the Auvergne. Stephen of Clermont and his successors are using languages of legitimacy which build on their own local and/or regional traditions which aren’t terrifically portable. They are still mostly built out of the toolbox of elements available to the late-Carolingian world, but putting them together in such a way that it’s particular to their local environment. Even in terms of something as simple as ‘bishop + assembly + abstract concept the Carolingians like’, Stephen and his successors in western Aquitaine look very different to the kind of diocesan synods that his contemporaries are holding in Langres (and the abstract concept is different as well, being ‘peace’ rather than ‘improvement’). These strategies are different rather than alien, but they do need translating for a wider audience. (And indeed, when the Peace of God becomes the ‘Peace of God capital-P’ in the 1020s, this seems to be what happens. There’s actually a gap of a decade plus between meetings fading out in Aquitaine and starting up under royal patronage which no-one has satisfactorily explained yet…)

On the other hand, the Aquitanian business has highlighted two important points. The first is the difference between ‘continuity’ and ‘stasis’. Really in-depth reading helps with this, because looking at William the Pious in the 910s and William the Great in the 1010s, they can look quite different. Maybe my readers find this easier than I do, but identifying continuity, by which I mean gradual and incremental change rather than the dramatic or catastrophic variety, is hard. Nonetheless, this exercise has helped with working out which aspects of Aquitanian ideology are dropping out, which are switching up, and which are actually novel.

Which is the second major point, I think. Stephen II does actually do some novel things. The proto-Peace of God does genuinely look like personal quirk. Look, I would love – I think most people would love – to find some kind of immediate precedent for what happens with councils in Auvergne in the mid-tenth century, but I can’t find one and to the best of my knowledge neither has anyone else (caveat: convincingly). Nonetheless, it clearly struck a chord and got incorporated into the regional sheaf of potential legitimising devises. Maybe you have to be the biggest cheese on the smorgasbord to change the nature of the buffet, but you can do it…

And with that, we bid goodbye to Aquitaine. It’s been fun. But, evidently, now I should go and have some lunch…


Charter a Week 26: An Aquitanian at King Louis’ Court

This week, the south. We haven’t seen much of Louis the Blind since his election in 890. So far, things have been going pretty well for him. In 900, he was asked to become king of Italy and a little later, emperor. This is going to go very badly for him (see: Louis the Blind), but for the moment it’s still working out. Winter 902 sees him back in Provence, giving a diploma to a very familiar figure…

DD Provence no. 41 (11th November 902, Vienne) = ARTEM no. 2485 = DK 9.iv

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Louis, by grace of God emperor augustus.

Let the industry of all Our followers, to wit, present and future, know that William [the Pious], the famous duke and margrave, approaching Our Excellence, earnestly requested that We might concede to some of Our followers, to wit, Bernard and Theobert, what seemed just and legal, that is, an abbey named in honour of Saint Martin, which is named Ambierle, pertaining to the county of Lyon, lying in the district of Roannais, with everything justly and legally pertaining to it, and there are in total thirty manses along with dependents of both sexes, completely and entirely, which could be legally done through a precept of Our authority.

Proffering assent to his prayers, We decreed this precept of Our Serenity be made, through which let Our aforesaid followers Theobert, and also Bernard, be able to possess in future times all that which is covered above, which is just and legal, along with male and female serfs, vineyards, meadows, cottages, pastures, woods, fields, waters and watercourses.

We concede all of the aforesaid to Our aforesaid followers and We give it into their dominion, as can be legally done, so that they might have power hereafter to do whatever they wish, that is, sell, cede, donate, exchange and freely bequeath to their heirs, remote from disturbance from any power.

And that this might be held more truly, We confirmed it with Our own hand, and We commanded it be signed by Our seal.

Sign of lord Louis, most serene of august emperors.

Arnulf the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and Archchancellor Ragemfred [of Vienne].

Given on the 3rd ides of November [11th November], in the year of the Lord 902, in the 5th indiction, in the second year of the imperial rule of lord emperor Louis.

Enacted publicly at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 26 902
Diploma photo taken from dMGH as above.

Yes, it’s the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone again. William the Pious, who is count in Lyon, shows up in almost as many diplomas of Louis the Blind as of Charles the Simple (which is to say, one versus two). To some extent this is inevitable: William, not least, is married to Louis’ sister Engelberga. As count in Mâcon as well, William is plugged into that network of Burgundian bishops we’ve seen before – and in fact this will become very evident in a few years time. For the moment, though, what we are seeing is William operating as much in one kingdom as in another, and helping his followers do the same. The Theobert in the diploma is generally accepted to be Count Theobert of Apt, who had been an important figure in Louis’ court but is on the way out. He will, however, find a new life in William’s domains, helped along not least by his possession of Ambierle as per this act. There’s more to say about how things go on the borderlands between Provence, Transjurance Burgundy and the West Frankish kingdom – but that will wait for a later blog post.

Horrible Hamburg Harangues – Help!

This blog post is a call for help. I’m keeping pushing on with the wandering arengae, and there’s one which has me stumped. This is a tale of two diplomas, Recueil des actes de Robert Ier et Raoul, no. 14 (D R 14, for convenience), and Die Urkunden Ludwigs des Frommen, no. †338 (D LP †338). The first of these, issued in 927-930, confirms Bishop Adalem of Laon’s refoundation of the collegiate community of Saint-Vincent and the second, issued in 833, founds the archiepiscopal see of Hamburg-Bremen. Let me give you the texts (shared text in bold):

D R 14 D LP †338

If, having inspected the particular necessities of any one of Our followers, royal authority advises they should be helped out, by how much more does it fairly and worthily pertain to the due oversight of everything that We should endeavour to take in everything pious and solicitous care of the catholic and apostolic Church, which Christ redeemed with His precious blood and committed to us, the sons of which we became through adoption, to rule and protect; and so that We are seen to show due diligence for its success and exaltation, We should provide necessary and useful dispositions for its need and advantage.    

If, having examined the particular necessities of any of Our followers, imperial authority advises they should be helped out, by how much more does it fairly and worthily pertain to the due oversight of everything that one ought to take in everything pious and solicitous care of the catholic and apostolic Church, which Christ redeemed with His precious blood and committed to Us to rule and protect; and so that We exhibit due diligence for its success and exaltation, We should indeed provide necessary and useful new dispositions for the new matters pertaining to its need and advantage.     

Fairly close, no? This leads us to the obvious question: how come they share the same text?

What Hamburg Cathedral used to look like, when it existed (source)

This is more complicated than it seems. First of all, you may have noticed the little dagger in D LP †338. This indicates that it’s a forgery. In fact, the early history of the diocese of Hamburg-Bremen is beset by forgery. This is a problem for me not least because as far as I can tell none of the distinguished scholars who’ve looked at Louis’ diploma for Hamburg have known about Ralph’s for Laon… So, when was this arenga actually written, if not in 833? The most recent author on this matter, Eric Knibbs, has placed it actually in Louis the Pious’ reign, and I’m inclined to agree with him because there are quite close verbal parallels between this diploma and the acts of the 829 Council of Paris which make Louis’ reign the best time for it to be composed. In any case, I think D LP †338 must be precedent to D R 14, because that addition about becoming sons through adoption doesn’t quite make sense, because the plural there must refer to the whole Church rather than specifically to Ralph, and so conflicts with the sentence as a whole which clearly does mean the king personally. This suggests it’s a later addition to an existing text.

Second, is D R 14 legit? The act’s editor thinks yes, not least because although the original doesn’t survive anymore it did long enough for there to be partial facsimiles and these apparently appear like genuine early tenth-century diploma script. There’s also the fact that Saint-Vincent was reformed as a Benedictine monastery in 961 and any time after that seems like a weird place to forge a diploma referring to the community as one of canons. On the other hand, Bishop Adalelm’s reign is an equally-strange place for Ralph to be issuing a diploma heavily based on an act for Hamburg, as for pretty much that whole period he’s a) not in control of Laon, b) at war with the East Frankish king, or c) both.

This raises the question of what the terminus ante quem might be for these acts. For various other reasons of intertextuality, I think that the early 980s is the case for both – there are acts of 982 and 983 which clearly depend on these as their precursors. Whatever’s happening here, these arengae can’t be later than the latter part of the tenth century.

So we have two possibilities, then. First, these acts are dependent on one another. If this is the case, I think that D R 14 is vastly more likely to be based on D LP †338 than vice-versa. Second, there’s a third source. Given all of the above, I am warmer towards this idea than I was previously; but that raises the question of what it is… So here’s my question to you all: what are the links between Hamburg and a) Laon or b) the West Frankish crown in the ninth and/or tenth centuries which might lead towards Ralph’s chancery (probably) taking Louis’ act as its model? Failing that, what might the third document be? Over to you…

[Addendum a few days later: on reflection, the most likely place for a link seems to be Corbie, but then we face the problem of how you get from Corbie to Laon… A smaller problem, perhaps, but still real!]

Charter a Week 25: Richard the Justiciar’s Time in the Limelight

After Robert of Neustria’s departure from court in summer 900, he stayed away for several years. Charles, whose favouring of Richard the Justiciar had probably instigated the conflict in the first place, continued to favour Richard. Although he continued to build up wider alliances, it was unquestionably Richard who held the dominant place at court:

DD CtS no. 38 (22nd April 901, Troyes)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by grace of God king.

If We freely give a hearing to the petitions of servants of God, We copy works of royal excellence and through this We do not doubt that We will gain possession of the prize of eternal life.

Therefore, let the industry of all the faithful of the holy Church of God, to wit, present and future, know that Our follower, the venerable, the most noble of counts, and as well abbot of the monastery of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre, Richard [the Justiciar], approaching the clemency of Our Highness, sought from Our Munificence that We might concede certain goods from the same abbacy to the monks of the same most holy place for use in the stipends of the monks; to wit, twenty little manses sited in the district of Auxerrois, in the estate which is called Irancy, which Walcaud and Leotard used to hold in benefice.

Lending the ears of Our Sublimity to his right salutary requests, which are beneficial for Our soul, We conceded the aforementioned goods to the same sacrosanct place, and We commanded this precept of Our Magnitude be made and given to them concerning it, through which We confirm that the same goods should eternally serve their uses, and, disturbed by no-one, no abbot, nor any officer or judicial power, We decree in entrusting them to them that they be perennially possessed, on the authoritative terms that they should possess the freest judgement in anything whatever they should decree be done with the same things for their needs, and that the aforesaid monks, faithfully and worthily thinking upon this largess, should not desist from beating the pious ears of God Almighty with continuous prayers for Our safety and the state of Our whole realm and the salvation of Our beloved and faithful Richard.

And that this largess might be held more firmly through many times to come and be more diligently be conserved in perpetuity by all God’s faithful, confirming it below with Our own hand, We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Given on the 10th kalends of May (22nd April), in the 3rd indiction, in the 9th year of the reign of and 3rd year of the restoration of unity to the kingdom by Charles, most serene of kings.

Enacted and confirmed at the city of Troyes.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

The abbey of Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre as it appears today (source)

This is one of the five royal diplomas Richard petitioned for between summer 900 and spring 903 (out of a total of 11 surviving acta). It was issued at Troyes, well outside of Charles’ usual travel range. The 22nd April in 901 was just after Easter – the implication seems to be that Charles went to visit Richard in Burgundy for Eastertide, an idea perhaps reinforced by a diploma purporting to have been issued in Autun in March 901. As it currently stands, it is an obvious forgery; but if real information is underlying that dating clause, it could support this suggestion.

In any case, this diploma shows how high Richard’s star was at court in the early 900s. His description as venerabilis et nobilissimus comes, set et fidelis noster necnon et abbas monasterii Sancti Germanii is a very high-flown bit of titulature, and his inclusion in the prayer clause is very unusual in Charles’ diplomas. This is a remarkable bit of favour.

Richard’s time in the spotlight would come to an end relatively shortly. Next week, however, we’ll be taking a quick peek outside the West Frankish kingdom.

Charter a Week 24, Part 2: Guilt and Negotiation

Robert of Neustria wasn’t doing nothing whilst Charles built up his allies in the north. In September 900 he issued one of the most peculiar magnate charters of the whole late-Carolingian period. Buckle in, people, because this is a long one:

DD RR no. 42 (13th September 900, Tours)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. We, verily, Robert, by grace of God Almighty abbot of the flock of the famous confessor of Christ the blessed Martin and as well count.

We desire for it to be well-known and manifest to all the faithful of Christ and the catholic Church and as well chiefly and above all the abbots of the aforesaid flock of the blessed Martin, Our successors, that the aforesaid venerable flock over which We are seen to preside undertook to gain recompense from Our Paternity and Our Guidance and Piety through a venerable deacon of that flock, Adalelm by name, humbly and tearfully lodging a complaint, namely, for a lost spiritual good. He said that Our predecessor, lord Odo, Our brothers, at that time abbot of the aforesaid flock, thereafter a most pious king of the Franks, We know not whether by the instigation or guile of certain of his so-called followers or seduced by the ruthless greed of his, as We said, so-called followers, without consulting the canons of Saint-Martin, to whom the role of giving out alms and hospitality specially pertained, had at his own pleasure and in accordance with his own fancy conceded all the goods pertaining to the hospice for the poor, which the ready devotion of divers of the faithful of Christ through the course of many times since passed bestowed on the same Saint-Martin, that is, to the little cell of Saint-Clément, to perpetually feed the poor there in alms and for the future remedy of all of the faithful who bestowed the same goods, to wit, present and to come, to one of Our canons, then his follower, as if they were his own goods, to be held in right of benefice, that they might be treated separately from those which provide food for the brothers and alms for the poor and thereafter serve him alone. Then We, succeeding him in the same governance, permitted the same goods of the poor to remain in benefice in Our time, subject to the same perilous invasion. Because of this, all the general kindness for guests and alms for the poor – which in olden days were studiously dispersed in the monastery of the blessed Martin to the poor, the wanderer, and the pilgrim for kings and all the orders of the holy Church of God and also for the magnates of the realm and as well, as We said, for those who bestowed the same goods and all the catholic faithful, both living and who have paid death’s due – had completely disappeared. In addition, all the general hospitality remained destroyed.

Therefore We, carefully considering this very lamentable complaint of this venerable flock and the danger We were in by pondering it in Our mind’s deepest contemplation, began to keenly and carefully consider what is asserted by the voice of Truth: ‘I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not’ [Matthew 25:43], ‘I was an hungered, and ye gave me nought to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink (and so on)’ [Matthew 25:42]; ‘and inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me’ [Matthew 25:45], ‘depart from me into the eternal fire’ [Matthew 25:41].

Whereupon We were struck down with a mighty terror, for We had stolen hospitality away from the poor for Our personal use, We also began to consider what We also believe without doubt: that the very Christ himself is taken in in the poor and the wanderer, as he himself said: ‘I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me’ [Matthew 25:36]. He later made this manifest to us in the clearest of ways, when he showed himself in Heaven amongst the most blessed host of angels cloaked with half of the blessed Martin’s cloak, saying ‘Martin, though yet a catechumen, clothed me in this garment’ [Sulpicius Severus, Vita Martini, III.3], ‘I was an hungered and ye gave me something to eat (and so on)’ [Matthew 25:36].

Therefore, considering that not only had We not given to either Christ or Saint Martin from Our own goods that from which the poor might be restored, but in fact had also, as We related, stolen by Our own will and judgement that which the highest devotion of the faithful endeavoured to confer on God Almighty and Saint Martin to sustain the needy for the remission of their sins, despoiling Christ and Saint Martin and clothing Ourself alone, We began once more to be terribly sorry, and, blaming Ourself alone with bitter invective, We decided enough. We know, in addition, that all the good which are bestowed upon churches to sustain the faithful are alms for the poor – but also the price of sins. As the Lord said through the prophet, ‘they eat up the sin of my people’ [Hosea 4:8], and it is also written, ‘Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, death is the penalty’ [Proverbs 28:24/Exodus 21:15]. Moreover, We know that our father is Christ, who redeemed us, and our mother is the holy Church, who spiritually birthed us by Christ through the font of holy baptism. Therefore, whosoever takes anything away from Christ and the Church, from the goods bestowed on them by the faithful, from which the poor should be fed and clothed, will without doubt die an everlasting death, as Ananais and Saphira died, they who unjustly stole something from what they had of their own free will promised they would give to the poor.(*)

Therefore, stirred up by so many terrible spiritual warnings and such great terrors, so that We and Our aforesaid lord and Our brother the lord king Odo, in whose time general hospitality and the taking-in of the poor first disappeared from the monastery of the blessed Martin by his negligence, which was as fearful and grave as We recalled above, should not be struck down on the Day of Judgement by the sentence of the Just Judge saying ‘Because you did this, depart into the eternal fire’ [see Matthew 25:41], We made provision for our souls; and, with the counsel of Our followers, with swift and very ready devotion do restore the aforementioned cell of the blessed martyr Clement, which pertains to the hospice for the poor, with all the goods pertaining to it, from which the poor should be fed, to the old custom and order, and return it to the control of the brothers, with this point of plan and ordering: that Walter, the pupil of the aforesaid Adalelm who was the chief encourager and assistant of this holy work on behalf of all the brothers, might through this testament of Our authority and also the consent of the brothers quietly hold, order and possess all these goods for as long as he lives for the use of the poor and his own people. But after Walter’s death, let the brothers always have permission for themselves, as was ordained in olden times, to elect in accordance with the needs of the moment one of the brothers of the same flock, one who is foremost in total honesty and generosity, who hates all avarice, and who might be a most pious comforter to paupers and pilgrims, who should readily render due comfort from the same goods to his fellow brothers and should similarly not deny due aid to the poor. To him, through Our consent and that of Our successors as abbots of Saint-Martin, let them commit the hospice of the poor. And thus, let what the holy fathers, Our predecessors, moved by the Holy Spirit, established be forever done with the aforesaid goods, remain ever undisturbed.

Concerning this matter, We humbly beg all Our successors as abbot of Saint-Martin that, as We are ruined and condemned by Our obstinacy and that of Our brother, and We judge and accuse Ourself before the divine presence, so too should they see and completely beware that they do not presume to despoil Christ and Saint Martin (in the form of their poor) as We did. Rather, let them vest and permit this restoration of Our authority to endure forever inviolate.

Next, holy bishops, to wit, Archbishop Erbern of Tours, Bishop Raino of Angers, Fulcher of Nantes, Berno of Orléans, Anskeric of Paris, Otger of Amiens, embraced and confirmed Our free will and very ready consent in this matter (which is very salutary and profits our souls both temporally and spiritually) with the power to bind and loose bestowed on them by the Lord in the person of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, in his following words: ‘whatsoever thou shalt bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven. Truly, depending on the assurance of this power, they closed the gates of Heaven with the chains of anathema for all those whose greedy malice is a barrier and who wish to transgress this Our authority and restoration or correction, but also all those who consent and urge them on in this fault. Thus let them be cursed everywhere, and let all the curses with which God Almighty cursed those ‘who said unto Lord God, “depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways”’ [Job 21:14] and ‘Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession’ [Psalm 83:13] come upon them: ‘let death seize upon them and let them go down quick into Hell’ [Psalm 55:16]. Let their part and inheritance be the torment of eternal fire, and let them receive the sentence and summit of eternal damnation with Dathan and Abiram, Judas and Pilate and all others who violate or transgress holy law, unless they quickly come to their senses and set themselves right from temerity of this sort.

And that, in God’s name, this might be believed more certain to have been done by Us and be conserved forever inviolate, We corroborated it with Our own hands with the sign of the holy Cross, and We asked the aforementioned bishops and Our followers to subscribe and affirm this authority.

Sign of the holy cross of lord Robert, most glorious of abbots, who asked this holy authority to be made and confirmed.

Erbern, by God’s mercy archbishop [of Tours], subscribed this authority. I, Raino, bishop of Angers, subscribed with my own hand. Fulcher, bishop of Nantes, subscribed. Berno, although unworthy bishop of Orléans, subscribed. Anskeric, bishop of Paris, at the request of Count Robert, confirmed this authority. Otger [of Amiens], episcophilax, strengthened this. I, Abbot Aimo [of Cormery] subscribed.

Sign of Viscount Atto [of Tours]. Sign of Viscount Guarnegaud [of Blois]. Sign of Viscount Fulk [the Red, of Angers]. Sign of Viscount Rainald. Sign of Maingaud the vassal. Sign of Walcher. Sign of Bernuin. Sign of Adalard. Sign of Eric. Sign of Ernust. Sign of Gerard. Sign of Walter. Sign of Alberic. Sign of Erwig. Sign of Wandalbert. Sign of Gundacer. Sign of Suger. Sign of Eudo. Sign of Berard. Sign of Teudo. Sign of Guy. Sign of Robert. Sign of another Walter. Sign of Landric. Sign of Blado. Sign of Odo.

The authority of this restitution was given on the ides of September [13th September], in the city of Tours, in the 3rd year after the death of the lord king Odo, in the reign of the lord king Charles.

I, Archenald, a levite of the flock of the blessed Martin, having been asked to do so, wrote and subscribed this.

(*) It’s not a specific quotation, but it’s remarkably reminiscent of some of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals – we saw John VIII using Pseudo-Lucius saying much the same thing a few months back…

The church of Saint-Clément, which was demolished in the nineteenth century after having served as a wheat warehouse. (source)

First, the witness list. We’re looking here at most of Robert’s important fideles, the viscounts who run the Neustrian March on his behalf as well as most of the prominent local bishops. (Noticeably, the bishop of Le Mans is missing…) What we have here, it seems, is an emergency meeting convoked to decide what exactly to do about Robert’s sudden exclusion from court.

This isn’t to say that Robert is operating from a position of strength; far from it. Being appropriately penitential can do wonders for your authority in the Carolingian world, but this is quite excessive: not merely Robert but also Odo come in for criticism – both are presented as greedy, negligent, and easily-swayed by bad advice. The implication is that he has had to submit to pressure from the canons.

Note also in the witness list the presence of Bishops Anskeric of Paris and Otger of Amiens, both of whom are allies of Charles not Robert. I haven’t even tried to translate episcophilax, which is a unique word. Etymologically, it is derived from a Greek word meaning a guard or sentinel. The closest parallel from this time is a late tenth century reference to a crisonphilax (sic), a word used by Harmer, the author of the Miracula Sancti Maurilii to describe a treasurer, presumably a ‘gold-guarder’.  Episcophilax, then, would seem to be a ‘guard-bishop’ – an ‘episcopal ombudsman’? Either way, I think it’s fair to see Anskeric and Otger as part of a royal delegation to Robert, using their authority to bolster the canons’ position.

The whole charter is remarkably authoritative. It’s one of the few private charters from the period to have strong liturgical overtones: that bit about ‘paying death’s due’ comes from a Saint-Martin mass for the salvation of the living and the dead. But this bolsters the authority of Saint-Martin rather than of Robert. By storming out of Charles’ court, losing his closeness to the king, Robert had opened himself up politically.

The Bishop of Laon is Minted, and Career News II

Some good career news came down the pipeline last week: I have been elected to be an Associate Committee Member of the SCBI/MEC projects! What this means in practice is loads of coins – the M[edieval] E[uropean] C[oinage] project has been well underway for a while, and further volumes are in preparation as we speak. Further news on the projects’ activities as and when it’s ready to print; but from my point of view what’s exciting is being able to talk about some of my previously-mentioned difficulties in understanding tenth-century coinage with some of the best numismatic minds in the country…

Meanwhile, to celebrate, a post on some coins which I think I do have a handle on. As it happens I have written about these elsewhere, but not here, and not really with the textual links in play. So, let’s talk about Adalbero of Laon. Famous as ‘the old traitor’ because of his betrayal of the last Carolingian candidate for the West Frankish crown into the hands of Hugh Capet, he left behind a relatively extensive corpus of work, including a poem excoriating Count Landric of Nevers as an ambitious and scheming womanizer, and another work addressed to King Robert the Pious complaining about how kids these days weren’t doing things properly. There’s lots in this poem, the Carmen ad Rotbertum Regem, but one clear thing is that Adalbero is worried about the blurring of social roles. He particularly takes to task Abbot Odilo of Cluny for leading a monastic ‘army’ which, as monks aren’t supposed to fight, is useless as well as wrong. What does he propose instead? Well, in the words he gives to the king,

Let [Saint] Basil and [Saint] Benedict[, two of the founding fathers of monasticism,] possess their realms,

Let their realms observe and hold all of their commands.

Let bishops never throng fields hereafter,

If they would keep their rights; if not, let them tend crops!

Let Our order [of warriors] never dare to give up the rule of justice;

Rather, let it apply itself thereto with the greatest effort.

What Adalbero wants is for all the different bits of society to do what they’re supposed to and stop doing otherwise: monks should observe the monastic Rule, bishops shouldn’t be messing around in the fields like peasants, and warriors should protect clerics and labourers justly.

Whatever one might think of Adalbero as politician or as social philosopher, there’s no doubt that he was committed to this point of view, and this does come through in the coins of Laon around the year 1000. During the reign of Louis V (986-987), the mint at Laon began to mint a very unusual double portrait issue. As you can see, the figure on the right is supposed to be a king. I’m not sure the figure on the left is supposed to represent anything – the coin is too worn to tell any iconography, and the inscription around that side is just the word for ‘Minted at Laon’.

obole louis v
Gallica says it’s an obol of Louis IV for some reason, but the numismatical consensus is Louis V (source)

By the 1000s, however, Adalbero had taken this design and changed it slightly towards his ideological views of society. Have a look at this:

That’s more like it! (source)

As you can see, Adalbero had evidently found a slightly more technically-skilled mint master since 987. The design of the coin has also been updated, too. The portrait of the king is not simply a king, it’s a reasonable facsimile of Robert the Pious’ seal.

A picture-heavy post, today (source)

The other portrait is now not just any old male figure, it’s specifically Bishop Adalbero himself. Partly you can tell this from the stonking great cross on his head, and partly from the fact that the coin has the name ‘Adalbero’ engraved around the outside. What we have here, then, is coinage as medium for the political message outlined in the Carmen: the king doing his job, the bishop doing his job, each distinct, both together the two authorities ruling Christian society – in a quite literal sense, two sides of the same coin.

Charter a Week 24, Part 1: Making Allies in Northern Neustria

So far, Charles the Simple’s sole rule has being going reasonably well; in this year, 900, things kick off a bit. There were some major shake-ups at court. Baldwin Iron-Arm of Flanders, who’d been operating as a bit of a third party for most of the civil war, tried to get back in at court. His two local enemies, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims and Count Heribert I of Vermandois, both of whom were high up in court circles, opposed this; so Baldwin had Fulk murdered. No sooner had Charles lost his adopted father-figure to terrible violence than a meeting to determine what to do about Viking raids fell apart spectacularly: Manasses of Dijon, the right-hand man of Richard the Justiciar, apparently said something terrible to Robert of Neustria and so Robert stormed out of court, not to return for another three years.

That some naughty words led to a break of this length speaks to just how fractured things had got at the court. The leading figure of Charles’ reign, Fulk of Rheims, was dead; and with him went both a source of advice (although I question how good that advice always was) and the stability of having an obvious leading figure in the realm. Robert, who had played that role under Odo, may be at fault here: it could well be that the reason that Charles backed Richard and Manasses rather than Robert was that Robert was seen to be claiming something unduly. Robert, though, had been a prime mover in getting Charles on to the throne in the first place. Both William the Pious and Richard the Justiciar had waited to see if Robert would submit to Charles, something he apparently did without hesitation. Charles therefore needed to look for new allies and broaden his appeal.

DD CtS no. 35 (31st October 900, Fleury)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by ordinance of divine clemency king.

If We lend the ears of Our Serenity to the just petitions of Our followers and proffer assent to them, We are seen to imitate the custom of Our predecessors, to wit, Our relatives as king, and through this We do not doubt God will be favourable to Us and We enkindle their souls with devotion to Our fidelity.

Wherefore let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future as well, know that Our sweetest mother Adelaide and Our beloved kinsman Count Hugh [I of Maine], and as well the illustrious count Ecfrid [from around Artois], approaching the excellence of Our Dignity, humbly asked that We might deign to have made for the holy canons of the monastery of Saint-Pierre in which Saint Ebrulf rests in body, which is called Ouche, in the county of Hiémois, such a precept as might benefit them and their successors in future times, that is, that the estates which antiquity allotted to their uses and the goods named below which were given to the same place by the just desire of God-fearing people might by such a precept be joined to them and their church such that it might remain inviolable in perpetuity.

Finding their petition valid, We commanded this precept of Our Highness to be made and given to the brothers, through which We order and command that from this day forth

these estates – to wit, in the county of Hiémois, the estate of Heugon, Le Pont, Neuville-sur-Touques, Merri, Mardilly, Villiers-en-Ouche, Bocquencé with Le Pont, Bailleul, the mount of Noyen-sur-Sarthe, Acquigny, Macé, Abrontinus, Le Breuil; in the county of Maine, in the vicariate of Joué-l’Abbé, the estate of Nuillé-le-Jalais, which Count Hugh and his mother Rothild gave to Saint-Evroult with all their dependencies; elsewhere, in the vicariate of Sougé-le-Ganelon, 4 quarterées at La Couture; 4 quarterées in Vallas and Gesne-le-Gandelin; in the vicariate of Beaufay, six manses in Bérus with everything beholden to them; in the estate which is called Mont, one manse with a vineyard, with 1 quarterées, which Isembard gave there; and one manse with 1 quarterées in that estate which Basoin gave there; in the estate which is called Crennes, one manse with a vineyard and outwith arable land which Ingelbald gave with all its things to the monastery of Saint-Evroult.

Let no abbot nor any power presume to grant absolutely or benefice anyone with these estates and goods. Rather, let the canons freely hold and canonically dispose of them.

And that this edict of Our precept or confirmation might obtain inviolable vigour, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be sealed by Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Herluin the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Chancellor Anskeric [of Paris].

Given on the day before the kalends of November [31st October], in the third indiction, in the 3rd year of the restoration of the kingdom’s unity, in the reign of lord Charles, most glorious of kings.

Enacted at the monastery of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire.

Happily in the name of Christ, amen.

The abbey of Saint-Evroult, today in ruins (source)

Fleury is rather outside Charles’ usual itinerary. It’s also right in the middle of the Orléanais, a region which had been important under Odo and which historians usually assume was important under Robert as well; which it was, but probably not this early. Fleury is actually a major royal abbey situated at the border of the interests of William the Pious, Richard the Justiciar, Charles the Simple and Robert of Neustria, and Charles’ presence here must therefore be significant.

Just as significant is who he’s granting the diploma to. Hugh I of Maine is the son of Roger of Maine, whom Charles had probably backed in a dispute over possession of Le Mans in the 890s against a man named Gozlin, and Rothild, daughter of Charles the Bald and past supporter of Charles’ actions. By doing this, Charles is trying to build up his allies in northern Neustria, perhaps against Robert but perhaps in tandem with trying to win Robert back on side. By this point, the narrative sources have ended and won’t start up again until 919, so much of the next several months is going to be fairly speculative.

One final thing to note, though, is that the area around Saint-Évroult – in modern-day southern Normandy – is apparently fine. Whatever is going on with Viking raids in what is going to become Normandy, it evidently hasn’t yet got to the point where secular or ecclesiastical structures of governance and control have broken down.