Easter 965 was a high-point for Ottonian hegemony over western Europe. In that year, the extended Liudolfing family gathered at Cologne to celebrate the festival season, and numerous chroniclers noted the splendour of the event and the magnificent role that Otto the Great played as master of ceremonies. Besides Otto himself and his second wife Adelaide, those present included Archbishop Bruno of Cologne, their mother Queen (later Saint) Matilda, and Queen Gerberga and Lothar at the head of a West Frankish delegation.
Ottonian suzerainty over the West Frankish kingdom had, since Lothar’s accession, been fairly light-touch. Otto himself had displayed little active interest in the West since the great invasion of 946 itself, and he left managing West Frankish politics to Bruno. Bruno had his own problems in Lotharingia, and also was not always working with instead of against his sister Gerberga. Part of the reason for this is that Gerberga was not the only Ottonian sibling in the kingdom. Their other sister, Hedwig, had married Hugh the Great, meaning Hugh Capet and his brothers were also Otto and Bruno’s nephews. As Lothar worked to undermine their inheritance in the late 950s, this put Bruno in an awkward position, having to reconcile the interests of both sets of nephews, and indeed Ruotger’s Vita Brunonis describes Bruno’s mission not as backing Lothar, but as enforcing the settlement of the late 940s: ‘[Bruno set out for Compiègne] in order to recall his squabbling nephews to concord… and by the Lord’s assent confirm to each what should equitably be theirs’.
Nonetheless, Otto loomed large in Lothar’s political life. As an example, at around this time Lothar abandoned use of a traditionally West Frankish-style seal for royal diplomas and adopted one in imitation of Otto’s. Too, as long as Rheims remained a keystone of Carolingian power, Ottonian authority would be key. In 962, Archbishop Artald of Rheims had died and the Vermandois brothers had reopened the case of their brother the deposed Archbishop Hugh. Instead of Hugh, though, the role went to Odalric, a Lotharingian abbot with close ties to Bruno. And, of course, there was Cologne:
D Lo, no. 23 (2nd June 965)
In the name of our lord Jesus Christ the Saviour and the individual Trinity.
Heraclius [bishop of Liège], servant of the servants of Christ, to all the sons of the catholic and apostolic Church.
When each prudent man, who takes care of himself and his own, considers how difficult and how important it is to willingly exercise self-control, give oneself up to virtue, and restrain from vices, I know not whether anyone living this life can do anything more sublimely if ‘man should’ nonetheless ‘leave off’ from mental consideration ‘and go forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening’. After by my Lord’s will it was said: ‘Go home to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee’, I then anxiously thought otherwise; then, indeed, sorrows arose for me on all sides, and I knew not what I should choose. A plan was supplied to me by the frequent urging of the highest and incomparable man lord archbishop Bruno that, if I could, I should collect men for apostolic discipline, where ‘the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul’: that is, indeed, unless I am mistaken, what the Psalmist shows, ‘how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity’, a lifestyle suitable for for all monks but not monks alone.
And that the ancient place of Our see itself should too be held honourable in perpetuity, and suffer no loss on account of the beginnings of Our labour, I entrusted a place full beautiful on the high peak of the mount whose name is Publémont, whither I transfer both Our see and that which is called the Bishop’s House by the authority of lord archbishop Bruno, to whom I owe everything, and also by the command of Otto, great emperor and caesar augustus, and by the assent of Our clergy and people, by which anyone can be a better man. I sent the Lord’s flocks which might hear the voice of the Highest Shepherd into a church there whose foundations I laid in honour of the most blessed mother of God and virgin Mary and Lambert, holy pontiff and martyr of Christ, to graze from the estates which I brought together either from precarial grants or by any device, or which I was reasonably able to add to them from the older goods of the church in accordance with the statutes and decrees of the canons and by the counsel of my confreres whom it concerns, with royal precepts,
We establish their life: that they should take one meal so that they may sleep, they should obey their prelates, they should have no law beyond that written above; in sum, that they should be conquerors of their own will, that ‘there may be peace on Earth to those men of goodwill’.
That this might be known not only by whose who live now but also to our posterity, We had this monument of confirmation written, which We also wish be reinforced by imperial authority and the assent of princes and the notice and pious favour of all good men, in which too We ratify that the estates which suffice to produce food and clothing in the aforesaid place for servants of God and the witness by which they can be proven be written: a church in Bechtheim, Buzin, Onesheim, Witterschlick, a church in the estate of Bengen, Flerzheim with a church, the estate of Breust with the church of Houtain, the estate of Cannes with a church; 3 manses in the estate of Hees, 1 in the estate of Vieux-Hoesselt; 2 in the estate of Hahest; 5 in the estate of Frera; Utheri, Gerdingen, Waremme with a church, Velez with a church, Ruvanseis, Sluzin, 1 manse in the estate of Siedes, Scozes, Malgreis, a church in Ouffet, Summa, Sumenthusmont, Marchin, Lize, Assesse with a church.
Sign of the most invincible caesar Otto [the Great]. Sign of the most serene king Otto [II]. Sign of King Lothar. Sign of Bruno, archbishop of Cologne. Sign of Theodoric, archbishop of Trier. Sign of Odalric, archbishop of Rheims. Sign of Heraclius of Liège. Sign of Baldrick of Utrecht. Sign of Hildebald of Münster. Sign of Lantward of Minden. Sign of Drogo of Osnabrück. Sign of Thierry of Metz. Sign of Wicfrid of Verdun. Sign of Gerard of Toul. Sign of Enguerrand of Cambrai. Sign of Abbot Enguerrand. Sign of Abbot Albert. Sign of Prior John. Sign of Gilbert, Natrand, Bodo, Rothard, Robert. Sign of Duke Hermann [Billung], Duke Frederick [of Lotharingia], Godfrey, Warner, Richer, Arnold, Ausfrid, Robert, Simmo, Everard, Waltger, Folcuin, Franco, Arnold, Elinand, Gerenbard, Voinvir, Grifo, Waltelm, Ermonrand, Lietbert, Hillin, Heribrand, Linno.
I, Bruno, by God’s grace archbishop and chief scribe, witnessed.
Given on the 4th nones of July, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 965, in the 8th indiction, in the 30th year of the reign of the august emperor Otto, in the 5th year of King Otto.
Enacted at the palace of Cologne, happily.
Before talking about the content here, we need to do a little bit of admin on the language and the deck-clearing. The first thing is that this charter’s arenga is one of the harder ones I’ve had to look at, and I’m still not 100% sure it’s 100% correct. So, if you have any comments, I’d be interested in hearing them. The second thing is that I keep coming across references to this charter being an eleventh-century forgery, but no-one explains why they think that. The best lead I have is to a monography from 1977 which I can’t get hold of. Prima facie, I can’t see why this should be dismissed entirely. The final section looks like an interpolation of some kind of estate survey, as we’ve seen before in the case of Acfred of Aquitaine’s act for Sauxillanges; but the rest of it looks kosher enough.
Anyway, I suppose I should say a little bit about the content of this charter before talking about the bit which is really interesting here, which is the witness list. Bishop Heraclius (sometimes his name is given as Bishop Everacer) is generally taken to be founding the abbey of Saint-Martin in Liège. I have actually been to Liège and seen the abbey, but only from a distance, because it’s on top of a massive hill. I have to say that neither Liège cathedral nor the episcopal residence is there any more. I don’t know how long Heraclius’ move endured, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t very long – I wouldn’t want to tramp up and down that hill on episcopal business either.
With that out the way, let’s talk about that witness list. The order of witnesses is carefully calculated to display Ottonian dominance over their West Frankish counterparts. Thus, Odalric of Rheims is listed last amongst the archbishops, after Cologne and Trier. It’s a major comedown for an archbishopric which had at the end of the ninth century hoped to exercise superior jurisdiction over both! Questions of relative precedence amongst archbishoprics were live in the middle and later tenth century, and as a prelate whose position ultimately depended on outside support, Odalric was not in a strong position to argue his case.
But compare that to Lothar! For context, Lothar was at this point in his mid-twenties, and had been king for over a decade. He was a practiced political operator who had struggled against, and largely been successful against, much older and more experienced rulers such as Robert of Troyes and William Towhead of Poitiers. He had, more-or-less, succeeded in cutting the Robertians down to size. He was about to get married, even. And yet, and yet, look who’s third in the ranking of kings, not even meriting an adjective. And ahead of him? That would be Otto and Adelaide’s son, Otto II, who had been crowned as co-king at Pentecost in 961, aged about six, and who would have been about ten in 965. (I always find it ironic, given the general behaviour of most children of that age I’ve encountered, that he’s given the epithet ‘serene’.) Otto II was a little boy who’d had his kingship handed to him on a plate, who hadn’t had to endure the decade of fighting Lothar had, but who nonetheless got, in front of the great magnates of the Frankish world, to enjoy precedence over the West Frankish monarch. I am, naturally, speculating here. Nonetheless, given the relationship these cousins would go on to (and I use the word loosely) enjoy, I don’t think I’m wrong in not only seeing a formal expression of Ottonian triumphalism in this charter, but also in imagining that it engendered resentment in Lothar.
PS: in any case, it’s not completely imaginary. Widukind’s Res gestae Saxonicae, written shortly after this, and thus after about twenty-odd years of Ottonian hegemony over the Carolingians, says that ‘up to today… there is strife between the Carolingian and East Frankish kings over Lotharingia’, so evidently the existence of bad blood was known at the time.