Charter A Week 38: Paganism and Response in Normandy

Huh, I guess we’re getting to Normandy earlier than I’d anticipated. Anyway, we saw a few weeks ago that one of the criticisms levelled at the early Normans was that they were disloyal to their new Christian faith. This wasn’t just polemic (although it was definitely also polemic). Archbishop Guy of Rheims – probably the only bishop left in post in early tenth-century Normandy – was also having problems. He apparently wrote a panicked letter to his neighbour Archbishop Heriveus of Rheims, who in turn wrote to Pope John X, who, in his turn, wrote back:

PU no. 38 (914) = JL no. 3553

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to Our most reverend confrere Heriveus, archbishop of Rheims.

Very freely receiving the honey-sweet letters of Your Fraternity and Your Reverend Sanctity and very diligently considering them, We became both very sad and fiercely joyful. To explain: We grieved over such calamities and such pressures and difficulties as have befallen your region (as the statement of your letters made plain), not only from pagans, but also from Christians. We rejoiced, though, over the race of the Northmen, which has been converted, by the inspiration of divine clemency, to the faith. Once it delighted to prowl in search of human blood, but now, by your exhortations, with the Lord’s co-operation, it rejoices that it is redeemed and to have drunk of the divine blood of Christ. For this, We give tremendous and profuse thanks to Him from whom all which is good comes forth, submissively entreating that He might confirm them in the firmness of true faith and cause them to know the glory of the eternal Trinity and lead them in to the unspeakable joy of His visage.

Now, concerning what should be done about those things which Your Fraternity has made known to Us – that is, what should be done with those who are baptised and re-baptised, and live like pagans after baptism, killing Christians, butchering priests and sacrificing to idols and eating to the sacrifices after the pagan custom – those who are not novices in the faith should be tried by the full force of canonical judgement.

As for those who are unwrought in the faith, We commit them entirely to the scales of your judgement to be tried. You have this people near your borders, and you are better placed than anyone to diligently attend to and recognize both their habits and acts and way of life. This, though, should be done gently. Your Industry knows full well what the sacred canons judge decree for them. But it should not come to pass that the unaccustomed burdens which they carry should seem, God forbid, unbearable to them. They will fall back to the former man of their old life, whom they had improved, owing to the plots of the Ancient Enemy. If some, however, are found amongst them who prefer to soften themselves in accordance with the canonical statutes and expiate such sins as they have committed by worthy laments, do not hesitate to judge these people canonically; being in this way being vigilant towards them in everything, so that when you come before the tribunal of the Eternal Judge with the manifold fruit of souls, you may deserve to gain eternal joy with the blessed Remigius.

On another note, We received the gift which Your Sanctity deigned to send to Us, with that love and affection with which you sent it. May Divine Majesty grant you and all who are subject to you such a life in this world as, by the intercession of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, might loose the chains of all your sins and lead you to the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven without any offence.

We bid Your Sanctity farewell, and to intercede for Us with pious supplications before the most pious of Lords.

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This image, which is a Swedish tapestry from the c12th, may or may not have much to do with what c10th vikings believed; but as I upload this I’m in a rush and it’s a pretty picture. (source

The conversion of the Northmen to Christianity was a long-term project, and from the mid-910s we have not only John’s letter to Heriveus but also Heriveus’ letter to Archbishop Guy of Rouen, giving him advice and excerpts from the canons about various disciplinary issues. Lying behind much of this is Gregory the Great, and especially his letter to St Augustine of Canterbury giving similar advice about newly-converted pagans; and both Heriveus and John advise a tread-lightly approach.

One thing which I don’t think scholars have previously picked up on: I don’t think this letter is entirely about converts. At the beginning of the letter, John refers to disturbances in northern Neustria wreaked by Christians as well as pagans, and although there is something of a trope about this, we know it happened. If you remember Bernard of Gothia, one of the three Bernards, his brother Imino was accused of plundering the area around Évreux in a Viking-like fashion by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims.

In this light, I don’t think John is simply drawing a distinction between more- and less-experienced converts to Christianity. It seems to me that he’s giving Guy and Heriveus carte blanche to deal with ‘those who are not novices in the faith’ – which could mean long-time converts but could also mean those who were born to it – as they would with anyone who raided or despoiled Church property. It is even possible that there was some ‘conversion’ the other way, from Christianity to paganism; or, at the very least, that northern Neustrian Christians didn’t object to eating meat which had been sacrificed to pagan gods, and that this was also a problem for the two archbishops. (In the ninth century, Pippin II of Aquitaine had been accused of living like a Northman and it is clear that this was a major problem in the Frankish world.)

In short, this letter does not only testify to the canny, long-term conversion strategies of those in charge of winning the Neustrian Norse for Christianity. It also testifies to the problems besetting the future Normandy at this point – even if the king could dispose of property there, there were evidently major disruptions.

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Charles the Bald: Overdrive

I noticed something weird lately, and it’s made me think that Charles the Bald came very close to utterly ruining the late-Carolingian political system. But let’s start at the beginning. One of the things which is supposed to be a big black mark on the record of tenth-century kings is their limited reach. This doesn’t sit right with me on either end, and I’ve written here before about you can see the tenth-century Carolingians in all kinds of places traditional historiography says you shouldn’t find them. But it’s also the case that there are big swathes of ninth- and even eighth-century Gaul which don’t have much to do with royal power. Martin Gravel uses the phrase ‘non-communicating elites’, and I haven’t got far enough through his book to find out how badly I’m misusing his words (suspicion: badly), but I like talking about these people in those terms. Whereas the movers and shakers of the Loire valley, say, or the bishops of southern Burgundy will have plenty of contact with the court, the bishops of what will become Rouen or the leading men of Quercy don’t seem ever to have had much contact with the Carolingian rulers, not in the ninth century and not in the tenth.

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Here, indeed, is a contemporary picture of some of those Neustrian movers-and-shakers: this is Charles the Bald receiving a delegation of Neustrian monks in the 840s (source).

Given that the amount of documentation for the later tenth and eleventh century in these regions increases dramatically, what I think we then see is something of an optical illusion. The combination of ‘more stuff’ and ‘no kings’ makes historians think that the ‘no kings’ is a new development, whereas it’s more likely that if we had more stuff from earlier, we’d see kings as very distant figures then as well. (The original charters of the cathedral of Rodez, where we do have more stuff from earlier, seem to bear this out.)

A good way to look at this are the witness lists of Church councils. These are good because they essentially eliminate preservation bias as a factor – their preservation is so widely-distributed that if we see patterns in who does and does not attend, it’s unlikely to be because the archbishops of Trier (or whoever) were left out deliberately by dozens of scribes over dozens of institutions. And as it happens if we look at the witness lists of big, realm-wide Church councils under the Carolingians, we do see some consistent absences, a major one being the bishops of Cahors, who don’t show up at any Church councils that I’ve been able to find, not under Charles the Bald, not under Louis the Pious, and not under Charlemagne. This seems pretty good evidence that these bishops were never more than tenuously associated with Carolingian governance.

But, there is one exception to this rule. The Council of Ponthion in 876, called by Charles the Bald as part of his grand imperial dreams of the last few years of his life, had a ludicrously-large number of bishops taking part, including Cahors. Now, Cahors is just one example of this, but one thing I think we can see in the last part of Charles’ reign is the presence of more and more people around the king-emperor, including many more of these ‘non-communicating’ elites. At the same time, though, Charles’ inner circle was being more and more reduced (sometimes to the relief of the later historian – it’s during this period that the number of important Bernards around Charles goes from about five to one).

Now, it doesn’t help that both Charles and his son Louis the Stammerer die fairly shortly after one another, but I’m not sure its coincidence that the years around 880 see a serious factional crisis in the West Frankish kingdom. I’m starting to think that Charles, by demanding increased participation and cutting off the flow of reward, ran his kingdom into overdrive. Earlier medieval government doesn’t do well with density, and the years from 875 to 877 see a lot of actors in very little space – the subsequent explosion may well have something to do with this…

Charter A Week 37: Princely Power at Cluny

Another week, another trial. This time, we’re back in William the Pious’ Aquitaine, where the abbey of Cluny – by now up and running as such – is having trouble with one of its estates.

CC no. 1.192 (30th October 913, Ennezat)

A notice of how and in what manner Count William, by the law’s favour, acquired a certain estate named Ainé from Anscher.

Therefore, let everyone who will hear or read this know that the aforesaid duke, within the timeframe prescribed by the law, laid a case against the same Anscher, to wit, because he held the estate of Ainé contrary to right either civil or public. Neither inflicting any force nor (although he was a prince) exercising any power, he conceded to him a time and place so that he could legally defend himself, if he could.

When the case had been discussed thoroughly for a long time, and in the end brought in an orderly manner to a conclusion, since the same Anscher could show in his defence neither a testament nor proof of inheritance, he made restoration, and during a great assembly in the estate of Ennezat, on the 4th kalends of November [29th October], with everyone looking on, he returned the same estate and restored it to its legal possessor, that is, Count William.

Then he presently endeavoured to restore it to Cluny, which had previously owned it and to which it pertained through the testament which Abbess Ava made concerning the same to Cluny, and to Abbot Berno and the monks of Cluny, and he had them receive it to be possessed in perpetuity for the honour of God and the holy apostles Peter and Paul.

Count Roger [Rather of Nevers?], Wigo, Wichard, Humfred, Bego, Franco, Bernard, Geoffrey, Herbert, Madalbert, Acbert, Ginuis, Gerlico.

Enacted publicly at Ennezat, on the 3rd kalends of November [30th October].

I, Ado, wrote this on behalf of the chancellor, in the 16th year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

There are three small things I want to pick out here. First, this is one of the few documents from our period which indicate that there was such a thing as separately conceived princely power. With that said, and with all due respect to Karl-Ferdinand Werner, the principalis potestas envisioned here is not evidently some kind of sub-royal legal jurisdiction. The implication seems to be that William could, if he wanted, exercise untrammelled force in his own interests and there’s not really anything anyone could do about it. This is fair enough – it is more or less what we saw Hugh of Arles doing last week – but it’s not some special jurisdictional privilege.

Second, we have (as Barbara Rosenwein has pointed out) at least four overlapping claims to this land: Anscher’s, which on this occasion goes unrecognised although he definitely had land here; William, who is the ‘legal possessor’, and Cluny, who used to own (unde dudum fuerat) it and to whom it ‘pertained’, has two different kinds of claim. How this works out in practice I don’t know, but those of you who are interested in land tenure might find it interesting. That William possesses the land suggests that, despite Cluny’s famous foundation charter completely giving up any claims from William’s family to rule the place, it was being used as a kind of land-bank. (I have work on this coming down the pipeline fairly shortly, I hope.)

Third and finally, note that Ava gave Aine to Cluny through a testament. This is particularly interesting because Cluny’s foundation charter from 910 was explicitly issued after Ava’s death and in memory of her. In fact, William the Pious probably didn’t found Cluny. There appears to have been a small church there beforehand, and it was probably this foundation of which Ava was abbot. Despite William’s foundation charter setting itself up as the Year Zero of Cluniac history, then, this act does appear to show that Cluny’s institutional prehistory did have some effect.

Yet More On the Origins of the Peace of God

Recently I was talking to one of my colleagues and expressed the opinion that pretty much everything written on the Peace of God is mad, including my own stuff. I think this is the fault of the material rather than the historians, but it does mean that doing anything involving the Peace can lead you to some very strange places. I say this by way of introduction for more-or-less the region you might imagine: I’ve come up with a theory of the proto-Peace of God’s origins, and it’s not what you might expect.

I’ve written on this blog before that we can’t really think of the actions of Stephen II in Auvergne and Guy of Puy in the Velay in the mid-to-late-tenth century as being ‘the Peace of God’ – that’s far too reified. Nonetheless, I’ve argued that Stephen of Clermont in particular assembled an interlocking suite of claims linking assemblies, oaths, and a discourse surrounding the word pax, peace. Where precisely Stephen got this idea from left me stumped – but something new has turned up.

So let’s turn out attention waaaay to the east, to Lotharingia in the 950s. We’ve recently become familiar with Lotharingia under Charles the Simple, possibly one of the most stable decades of its late- and post-Carolingian history. Most of the rest of the time, Lotharingia is a basket case. Otto the Great, after he came to power in 936, had to face a series of powerful dukes. He got lucky here: the most powerful, Gislebert, drowned after losing a battle in 939; but even after that Otto’s own appointee, Conrad, teamed up with Otto’s son Liudolf in a rebellion in the early 950s. After Liudolf and Conrad had been defeated, Otto appointed his own brother, Archbishop Bruno of Cologne, as duke of Lotharingia.

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A twelfth-century Ottonian genealogical table. Bruno is in the top row on the right. (source)

Bruno’s reign went… okay. There were a few more rebellions, the most noticeable being that of Reginar III in the late 950s which is often although incorrectly adduced as the context for Gerberga’s Kriegsfahne which we’ve spoken about here before. However, for the most part Bruno was able to handle the situation in Lotharingia reasonably well. Bruno’s combination of secular and religious authority had a distinctly viceregal tint: Bruno’s biographer has Otto the Great tell the archbishop and newly-appointed archduke that ‘both priestly religion and royal power swell in thee’, and Bruno does seem to have had a direct share in royal power. It is not therefore terribly surprising to find that Bruno’s first actions when he got to Lotharingia were to summon the magnates of the region to Aachen, and tell them regie maiestati et sue ipsorum fidei pollicitationes nullas preponerent – i.e., that they should not abandon their oaths to him and his brother. If they did violate the ‘peace of the Church’, he would deal with them most severely.

Our source for this is the Vita Brunonis, written by a cleric from Cologne named Ruotger. Ruotger seems to have known Bruno, and certainly to have admired him – part of the text’s mission appears to have been to defend Bruno from the people who thought that his wielding of worldly power was distinctly dubious. He wrote shortly after Bruno’s death, apparently under the patronage of his successor Folcmar, who had also been closely connected with the dead archbishop; and Henry Mayr-Harting has characterised the text as aiming at ‘some kind of official status’.  It is therefore striking that the closest work we have to Bruno’s circles, we have assemblies, oaths, and (a theme which occurs throughout the Vita, not just in the bit I’ve quoted above) a discourse of peace.

There’s no reason historians would have picked up a link between Bruno and the Peace of God. Bruno’s activity looks like (one type of) Ottonian governance in action, and the Peace is so very far away. But the fact that this was all taking place in the late 950s is important, because if ever Stephen of Clermont were going to encounter Bruno of Cologne, it would have been at exactly this point. First, Stephen and Bruno almost certainly met at the coronation of King Lothar, very shortly after the events described above. We know Bruno was there, and it’s very probable Stephen was because he appears to have interceded for a charter which was confirmed at a placitum in 955. Second, there were also ongoing links between the western Ottonians and the Auvergne during this very period. I have never been happier for hyperlinks than in the following sentence, but we have already seen both Bruno and other major Church figures with ties to the Ottonian court such as Amblard of Lyon playing a major role in negotiating peace in the Auvergne in the latter part of the 950s.

What I think is happening here, then, is that as regional supremo in his own patch, Stephen is taking Bruno as a model to be imitated. Absent the Ottonian royal context, this is a lot weirder-looking, and the Vita Amabilis implies that Stephen was as if not more controversial than Bruno in seeking to claim worldly authority. But it does mean we can, perhaps, put the proto-Peace into what we already know about tenth-century governance rather than have it spring fully-formed out of the forehead of one brilliant bishop.

Charter A Week 36: Justice is Blind

Whilst Charles the Simple was winning over the Lotharingians, things were going less well for his southern relative Louis the Blind. In 905, Louis’ attempt to become king of Italy had gone horribly wrong and he had indeed been blinded. He then retreated back to Provence. This is a very interesting and unusual period of rule. Being blinded, in the Byzantine world, typically disqualified you for the throne; and traditionally had done in the Frankish one. Yet Louis just keeps on truckin’. Although he never again left Vienne, people continued to come to him, and here’s an example of this:

DD Provence no. 52 (912, Vienne)

While lord Louis, most glorious of august emperors, was residing at Vienne, in the palace of the blessed apostle Andrew, the venerable man Remigiar, bishop of the holy church of Valence, coming before him into the presence of his magnates, lodging a complaint concerning Villeneuve, which his predecessors as king and emperor had conceded to God and the outstanding confessor and pontiff Saint Apollinaris from the tame of Charlemagne, including, most recently, his father, Boso, the most glorious of kings, and his mother, the most glorious Ermengard, along with our said lord the most glorious of emperors, who had presented it to Saint Apollinaris, the extraordinary confessor of Christ, through a royal precept. The famous duke and margrave Hugh [of Arles] held the said Villeneuve wrongfully, and had alienated it from God and Saint Apollinaris.

The aforesaid duke and margrave, hearing the outcry of this pontiff, was struck by piety, and through the command of our lord the emperor and through the counsel of the bishops and through the judgment of the counts, the nobles, and his other followers, restored this land to God and Saint Apollinaris through his wadium, promising that he would never in future be negligent concerning it.

Hearing this, the lord emperor restored that land to the aforesaid bishop through a stick which he held in his hand, ordering that his deeds and the precepts of his predecessors as king and emperor should in God’s name endure for all time.

But that it might be believed by everyone and that the aforesaid estate might never be harassed by anyone, that most glorious of emperors commanded this document to be made and confirmed it with his own hand and commanded that it be strengthened by his followers and ordered it be signed with his signet.

Sign of Louis, most serene of august emperors. Alexander, humble bishop of the holy church of Vienne, confirmed this document. S. Isaac, humble bishop of the holy church of Grenoble. S. Theodulf, consecrated bishop of the holy church of Embrun, confirmed this. S. Hugh, famous duke and margrave. S. Count Boso [of Arles]. S. Count Adelelm, S. Boso his son. S. Gozelm.

Theudo the notary composed this document at the command of Archbishop Alexander of Vienne, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 912, in the 15th indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of our lord Emperor Louis.

Enacted at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God.

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The apse of Valence Cathedral in modern times (source)

My strong suspicion is that this is a Scheinprozess, a fake trial designed to show Remigiar of Valence’s title to the land in a court situation. Hugh of Arles (for it is he) was the most important man in the kingdom, and I don’t think he could have been forced to hand over the land if he didn’t want to. That he is presented as doing it out of his own piety is important here. Although Remigiar makes his complaint to the king, it’s Hugh who hears it – unlike previous cases we’ve seen, there’s no attempt to make a defence, simply an acknowledgement of the duke’s own piety. We know from other sources, notably the Vita Apollonaris, that Remigiar and Hugh were collaborators during this period, so it’s likely that the two men were colluding to confirm the land in the church’s possession.

In fact, the Miracula Apollonaris’ formula for Hugh’s role at this time, ‘ruling the commonwealth under Emperor Louis’ is itself remarkable. This charter shows the remarkable degree of consensus Louis’ regime had built up – we have the most significant figures of the realm here, from north and south, and even – in the person of Theodulf of Embrun – from the mountainous regions to the east. Most – we’ll talk about some exceptions in future, but most – of the great magnates of Louis’ kingdom seem to have been quite happy with his regime. (This is, incidentally, a useful refutation of the idea that Carolingian government had to be itinerant to be effective.) No-one cared that the emperor had no clothes – well, no eyes – because royal rule was going along perfectly well anyway.

The Earliest History of Ducal Normandy

The Fécamp Chronicle

1. In the days of Chlothar, king of the Franks, there was an illustrious man, eminent in prudence, very conspicuous in goodness, and obedient to God, named Waning, who built many dwellings for monks on his possessions, one of which was called Fécamp, whose affairs turned out in this way. He was brought to the same place on his deathbed, seized by a terrible illness, and taken up in ecstasy, the torments of the damned and the joys of the just were shown to him, and he heard in a prophesy shown to him by divine gift that he would live for 20 more years and the holy martyr of Christ Eulalia, to whose prayers he was accustomed to sedulously commend himself, asked this from the Lord. And that martyr appeared to him and admonished him that he should build a little monastery in the aforesaid estate where he was staying, and he should commit it to none of his line to be ruled. He, having returned to the world above, called to him Audoënus, archbishop of Rouen and priest of Christ, and the man of God Wandregisl, abbot of the abbey of Fontenelle, and he told them about his vision, and at the same time received by their prayers the desired recovery from the fever which oppressed him; and he began to build the aforesaid abbey there as he had been admonished.

2. King Chlothar, son of Clovis the Younger, was at the same gathering, and was summoned by the famous and greatest marvel of that miracle which had been done for Waning: that is, that he had been restored to the gate of life from the threshold of death by the prayers of the priest and the abbot, and that on his deathbed the chaos of Hell was revealed to him through a rapture, and that through a heavenly vision, as happened to King Hezekiah, 20 years had been added to his life. Whereupon, at this heavenly spectacle, a mighty rumour gathered all the primates of the Franks and a great multitude of the people. Therefore, the work for which the pontiff and the abbot had convened was carried out, the monastery was dedicated, a number of holy virgins was gathered and a Rule for living was set out. There was at that time in the town of Bordeaux a virgin of Christ name Hildemarca, governess in a very holy monastery of nuns, to whom a certain man of God and deacon named Sindard, when he was sent to those parts on the business of the servants of God at Fontenelle, was accustomed to turn for hospitality. She told him that she had been admonished in a vision that she should go to Rouen and visit the man of the lord Wandregisl and obey the divine edicts under his rule. As is described in her deeds, she went to the servant of Christ, and he led her to the aforesaid very illustrious Waning, and the same Waning, bestowing the aforesaid abbey of Fécamp on the blessed Wandregisl through a testament, by his advice gave it to the same very religious virgin to be ruled. The little book which was written of her acts clearly tells of her biography and her laudable way of life.

3. After King Chlothar had died, Childeric received the realm of the Franks. He did not quite hold the realm for four years before he died and was succeeded by his brother Theuderic. In his time, Ebroin the mayor of the palace held St Leodegar, bishop of Auxerre, in chains. He summoned the aforesaid Waning and said ‘Take Leodegar, whom you have often seen as a proud man. It is to be the time of his final summons, when he receives what he deserves from his enemies.’ Having received him, he took him to the aforesaid abbey, in which, abiding for many days, he stayed under custody. And indeed his tongue, although it had been cut out, received its usual office, and gave unto the people the mighty seed of his doctrine, so that as many times as he went amongst the virgins, as it is said, so many times did his sweet eloquence shine, so that anyone who heard it marvelled how great a mercy of God had been worked; and having converted from their wicked works they quickly sought the fruit of penitence.

4. The same place flourished from the time of the aforesaid kings until the time of Emperor Louis, son of Charlemagne. In his time, the cruellest race of the Danes burst in on France’s shores, and brought no little slaughter to the Christian people. Whence it happened that the nuns fled the aforesaid monastery, and the same place was returned to wasteland, such that what had been an ornament for those who worship Christ became a dwelling-place for wild animals.

5. In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation eight hundred and seventy six, with King Charles governing the realm of the Franks, a certain Rollo, a Dane by nation, a pagan by rite, a knight by order, with his men, entered France by ship. After wreaking terrible havoc on the land, he received a part of it from the aforesaid king and the magnates of the realm; and having gained baptism’s grace he remained faithful for the rest of his life. As long as he lived, he ruled that land well, and he preserved for its dwellers their paternal laws and rights. In the nine hundred and seventeenth year from the Lord’s Incarnation he quit this world.

His son William succeeded to his realm, who built the palace of Fécamp with marvellous workmanship. While he dwelled there, he begat a son named Richard, a child elegant in form, whom he commanded be instructed in legal disciplines by the princes of his land. In that time, no-one yet lived in the aforesaid destroyed monastery, because a great wood had grown over the destroyed walls there. In that place, the estate’s peasants covered up, as far as they were able to at the time, an altar they had found amongst the brushwood, concerning the beginnings of which (as we have heard from the ancients) the Creator and Redeemer of the human race, foreknowing that He would be served in that place in future, deigned to reveal a great miracle in the form of a certain marvellous stag.

6. It happened that in those days, in the district of the Cotentin, on a certain island in the sea named Saint-Marcouf, there was a chapel build from well-worked wood in memory of that confessor. God, wishing to show mortals how great and good the same place would be in future, which was then little and vile to men, deigned to work a certain act. Truly, the sea, obeying the commands of its Maker, led by an angel, sent that whole building to the aforesaid place of Fécamp in the same state it had previously been in, without human help, and left it there.

7. Widespread rumour of this deed spread, and nearly from that hour it began to be venerated by the nearby inhabitants, and when it came to pass that they wanted to celebrate the divine office there, not at that time knowing in whose honour the place should be venerated, there suddenly appeared to them a man elegantly fit out in venerable white, who entered the oratory in the sight of everyone and placed on the altar a dagger on whose hilt was written in letters of gold: ‘in honour of the Holy Trinity’. When he had placed this on the altar, he prayed, and saying nothing to anyone he left the oratory and then was not visible, from which he was shown to be indubitably an angel of God. The dagger is kept to this day in that church as a great gift, in testimony of this miracle.

8. In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation nine hundred and forty three, Duke William was killed by a trick by Count Arnulf. The youthful Richard, of pious memory, succeeded to his realm. He, because of God’s will and his birth, loved the aforesaid place. One day, standing at the entrance to his house, he noticed that the house itself was taller and more capacious than the basilica dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity. He summoned a stonemason who was skilled in the art of architecture and said to him: ‘It is right and fitting that the house of God and of prayer should be roofed superlatively well, with particular beauty and appropriate height, to be supereminent over all the buildings of this city; because the Shaper and Redeemer of mankind assigned it to himself by his generous indulgence, to be the mother of wonderful regeneration through the bath of symbolic washing, and in this building we ought to hear the words of divine wisdom and weep for our sins. For this hall is named the gate of Heaven, and it is where they dwell and over which heaven’s dwellers preside. This house is, as the Psalmist says, ‘the hill of God, the fat hill, the hill in which God is pleased to dwell’, ‘for the Lord will dwell in it to the end’. For this is the hill on which my grandfather Rollo saw himself standing, through the salutary mystery of the holy vision, and washing himself in the fount of salvation; and in a dream beheld himself purified from the leprosy of the vices by which he was infected. Therefore, as it is fitting that the house of God should excel our house, with a loftier design and a bigger roof, try and find if you can any building stone in the gullies and heights of the nearby hills, with which you might be able to construct a temple of God taller than the house we live in’.   

And the man grasped a mattock forthwith, and went first to the cliffs along the hills, and picked away at their base with digging tools, and not finding any stony materials hard enough for his wall, he went to the slopes of the hills lying between two little streams near Fécamp and there he found a mass of gypsum. And he cut out one stone of gypsum in the shape of a cube and brought it before Duke Richard. Then said the great duke Richard: ‘Can you find enough such stone?’ He replied ‘Enough, my lord’. And Richard: ‘Put this stone in a safe place, and send many workmen to quarry the rocks, and make up a good many kilns of quicklime; because, when all the things that are necessary have been prepared, this is what I will lay down first, as the initial foundation, as notice of the raising of a house of God.’

Eventually, when the lime was prepared and the stones quarried and piled up and the tiles artfully manufactured, the most celebrated margrave constructed a shrine in honour of the Holy Trinity which was wonderful to speak of and to see. It was formed on an admirable plan, being girded with towers here, there, and on every side, and was amazingly double-arched and roofed with tiles artfully fitted together. Then he whitewashed it on the outside; but the inside he painted with historical scenes and decorated the altars with gold and jewels acquired at great cost; and he made crosses of admirable largeness from the purest gold, and he added chalices of great weight and cost in gold, and he set up golden candelabra before the sanctuary that were much taller than the figure of a man, and he assigned incense-burners of unheard-of bigness and value, made of gold, and vestments embellished by the Phrygian loom and dyed more than once in Tyrian reds. To which he applied panels with coarser gold and emerald greens, and white and purple linens embroidered with gold, and to the embroidery he devoted full silk of admirable workmanship. And he caused a numerous throng of clergy to serve Christ and labour under the discipline of the practical life and receive a day’s allowance every day.

9. In those days there was a certain priest named Isaac, a man of good life, who frequently celebrated solemn masses at the altar of the holy bishop and confessor Macutus not far from Fécamp, two miles away. One day, in his usual way, he was doing this after the Sunday prayer and he found the host turned into flesh and the wine similarly to blood. And thus, after he had completed the mysteries and dismissed the faithful who were in the church, he went to Prince Richard and told him what had happened to them. The joyful duke gave thanks to God, Who deigned to reveal such a mystery to mortals, lest anyone thereafter should doubt it to be the body and blood of God. Therefore, having gathered a multitude of clerics, they brought the true body into the church at Fécamp and placed it on the altar of the Holy Trinity. With everything which was necessary for the dedicated prepared, the aforesaid duke gathered fourteen bishops, and with great joy, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation nine hundred and ninety, on the 17th kalends of July [15th June], they happily dedicated the church. On that day, Duke Richard gave as a gift to that church… Argences and Mondeville with everything which pertained to them…

[Underlined sections very lightly adapted from the translation by Eric Christiansen]

fecamp_abbey_chevet10
The abbey of Fécamp today (source)

The other major event in the West Frankish kingdom in 911 was of course* the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, granting Rouen and the adjoining districts to the Viking leader Rollo and laying the foundations for the duchy of Normandy. I didn’t want to let this pass unnoticed, but I’ve already said much of what I wanted to say under the Charter A Week for 905, and much of the rest will come in the equivalent for 918. So, with that in mind, I have translated for you possibly the earliest history of Normandy from within the duchy itself.

This text, known as the Fécamp Chronicle, comes, unsurprisingly, from the abbey of Fécamp. It can be dated quite precisely: it was written after the death of Duke Richard I in 996 (note that he shows us as ‘of pious memory’) but before the replacement of the canons of Fécamp by Benedictine monks in 1001, a year that the Benedictine community regarded as its real foundation date. This, incidentally, provides important evidence about the dating of Dudo’s Historia Normannorum, because the underlined section was taken from there wholesale by the Fécamp Chronicle’s author (who appears not to have been Dudo, because he uses a completely different set of hagiographical sources). This means that parts at least of Dudo’s work were both extant and circulating as early as 1000.

That is in and of itself significant. Cross has recently argued that one of the reasons we think of Normandy as, well, ‘Normandy’, is that the dukes were willing and able to throw vast amounts of patronage at literary production. The value of the word ‘propaganda’ has been questioned in this context, but I think it’s apt enough. This text is a good example of that. The work is not really about how great the Norman dukes are, it’s about how great the abbey of Fécamp is, and about showing continuity in its holiness between the year 1000 and its far-flung Merovingian past. Yet when they need to draw on a Norman past, it is the ducal version (and Dudo’s specifically) which they draw on. Fécamp was very close to the dukes, but we can see similar phenomena in other Norman abbeys as the eleventh century progresses.

One can even see it outside of Normandy by a later period – when versions of Norman history show up in twelfth-century French works, from my admittedly-limited experience, they tend to be based on Dudo. This is particularly interesting, because what you don’t find are the versions of the story found in, say, the histories of Adhemar of Chabannes or Richer of Rheims. Neither of these specific works circulated terribly widely, but the stories they are telling may have done. Especially in the former case, some bits of the Fécamp Chronicle look like they’re addressing specific charges made against Rollo. For instance, Adhemar describes how Rollo continued with pagan practice after his baptism, including sacrificing prisoners to the Norse gods; by contrast, the Fécamp Chronicle insists that he remained faithful until his dying breath. It therefore looks like the dukes were using their resources to flood the market with their own version of the story – and that it worked.

*I say ‘of course’; our evidence for the date of the foundation of Normandy comes from Dudo of Saint-Quentin’s Historia Normannorum and is… a bit tenuous, let’s say.

Charter A Week 35: Acquiring A Larger Inheritance

911 was a busy year. In that year, traditionally, Charles finally came to an agreement with the Viking leader Rollo, officially handing over to him the city of Rouen and the neighbouring districts. This was to go on to have long-term implications, but what everyone at the time was probably more concerned about was the other big event: the death of King Louis the Child.

Louis’ death came at an unstable time in his own reign. Evidence is short, but it appears that the magnates of Lotharingia had risen up in rebellion against him, and this was still ongoing when he died. The question was open: who would be king now? The new East Frankish ruler, Conrad, made a game effort, but the eventual winner was Charles the Simple.

This gain tends to be massively under-rated by historians. Charles gained and held control of Lotharingia. No West Frankish ruler had successfully done this ever. Charles the Bald had tried and failed; but Charles the Simple, in the face of active opposition, managed to defeat a military rival and build a functioning coalition of governance in his new realm.

How’d he do it? Well, this is the kind of thing it involved:

DD CtS no. 68 (20th December 911, Cruzy-le-Châtel) = ARTEM no. 356 = DK 7.xxvi

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by the gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks, vir illustris.

As often as We make reasonable provision for the advantages of churches and the convenience of those who serve God, We are totally confident that this can benefit Us both in the salvation of both body and soul, and as well the stability of the whole realm bestowed on and conserved for Us by God.

As such, We wish the vigour of all of Our followers, not only present but also future, to know that the venerable man bishop Stephen of the holy church of Cambrai, approaching Our Magnificence, indicated to Us that the clerics of his said see held certain goods of the same bishopric consigned to their victuals, concerning which they had also once held a royal precept by the largess of King Zwentibald. But, when the same city burned down, the precept was also consumed by the hungry flames.

On the business of this matter, therefore, he humbly supplicated Our Piety that We might by Our munificence make good the loss of the old edict, which We in turn quite freely agreed to do for love of God and the brothers serving God therein, and We commanded that this authority should be renewed to them and for them for their protection. We therefore order and proclaim that the aforesaid clerics of the church may freely and at will concede amongst one another their houses which they have in the city to whomever they wish within the congregation of the same place, by no less than hereditary right, whether through sale and purchase or through exchange or simply through a gift.

Furthermore, let both the current clerics and their future successors in the same place now and henceforth in perpetuity hold and possess the monastery’s territory which is outside the town, and equally the villas consigned to their uses, to wit, in the district of Cambrésis, Carnières, Viesly, Cateau, Montigny, Gouzeaucourt, Gondrechies; plus Onnaing in the county of Hainaut; Thorigny in Vermandois, Carseuil in the Soissonnais as well, together with bondsmen of both sexes, with lands cultivated and uncultivated, meadows, waters and watercourses, mills, fields, and everything pertaining the brothers’ aforesaid goods, having power as if by hereditary right to do with them whatever they justly choose by common decree through unanimous consent.

If, though, someone hostile to this Our decree (which We little imagine) might strive to inflict any injury no matter how little, let them be judged culpable of a 600 shilling fine, in such a way that two parts of it should fall to the brothers of the same place, and the king’s fisc should receive the third; and in addition let them be unable to vindicate what they have iniquitously struggled towards, so that no-one might presume to usurp anything of this sort again.

And that the authority of this edict might perennially obtain inescapable vigour, We strengthened it with Our own hand, and We commanded it be adorned with the worth embellishment of Our ring.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Hugh, notary of royal dignity, underwrote and subscribed this on behalf of Archbishop Heriveus.

Given on the 13th kalends of January [20th December], in the 14th indiction, in the 19th year of the reign of the most glorious king Charles, in the 14th year of his renewal of the kingdom’s unity, and in the 1st year of his taking-up of a larger inheritance.

Enacted at the villa of Cruzy-le-Châtel.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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The original diploma, taken from the Diplomata Karolinorum as given above. 

There’s a big burst of diplomatic activity in 911 and 912, and the recipients are from quite a wide spectrum of grandees. This is Bishop Stephen of Cambrai, but there are also acts for the major lay magnate Reginar Long-Neck, Bishop Drogo of Toul, Bishop Stephen of Liège, Count Ricuin of Verdun, and Count Berengar of Lommegau. The major absence here is Archbishop Ratbod of Trier, who doesn’t appear in Charles’ entourage until 913; but this is a fairly long list of Lotharingia’s great and good.

Some of them, like Reginar Long-Neck and Stephen of Liège, Charles had close prior contacts with. Others, like Stephen of Cambrai, appear to have been quickly brought into Charles’ circles with rewards such as this confirmation diploma. Charles distributed access to his presence fairly evenly over Lotharingia, and this reaped rewards.

Not the least of Charles’ rewards was getting to call himself king in Lotharingia (although not king of Lotharingia), and we can see in this charter that there has been a quite important shift in his diplomatic. There are a couple of elements here I’d like to pick out. The first is that he has assumed the title of vir illustris, an old Roman senatorial title. Charles probably wasn’t claiming specific continuity with Rome so much as with his Carolingian and Merovingian ancestors. Tenth-century figures knew that vir illustris was an important rank and an old one. With that said, Charles dropped it fairly quickly, and it was ‘king of the Franks’, rex Francorum, which persisted. This was also explicitly backwards looking. As we’ve seen, until now kings in royal diplomas have tended to be simply entitled rex, king. Now, by hearkening back to the earlier Frankish rulers, Charles was (probably, this is disputed) trying to assert his overlordship over the whole Frankish world.

The absence of evidence for the 910s is a pain. Make no mistake, after the acquisition of Lotharingia, Charles probably was the most powerful man in the Frankish world, by quite a large margin. His two competitors, Berengar I of Italy and Conrad I of Germany, ruled territories racked by civil war and Saracen and Magyar invasions. Having beaten out his rivals and settled the Norman problem in the West, Charles was at the height of his power; and it’s a shame we can’t see how that worked in his relations with his neighbours.