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]

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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.

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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.

The Language of Competent Administration in the Bishopric of Langres

A few weeks ago, we took a look at a charter of Bishop Argrim of Langres, and I mentioned in passing that there were a few things about the language. This week, I’d like to look at that in a bit more detail.

Here are Argrim’s words:

When… I was residing in the bosom of the same mother church in general synod… and was settling the affairs and advantages of the churches committed to Our Unworthiness with pastoral solicitude, insofar as Our ability and understanding allowed; and was giving an equal amount of attention to disposing that what was legitimately established should endure undisturbed; and, if anything, perchance, could be found to be twisted and without authority, with divinity propitious was busying myself to get it back in line…

Here’s his successor Heiric 31 years later:

When I was residing in the bosom of the mother church committed to Us by God, and was inquiring and investigating how its status, with Christ’s favour, could improve for the better, along with the counsel of Our faithful men…

And his successor Achard 31 years after that:

When I was sincerely residing in the womb of the mother church committed to Us by Christ on the days of holy synod, and, as far as the quality of Our strength allowed, seeking and requiring in an orderly manner and investigating to reasonably deal with the business of the same church so that, by Christ’s administration, with the counsel and prayer of Our faithful men, to wit, of both orders, it might be improved to a better state…

And his own successor Widric 9 years after that:

When We were dwelling in the bosom of the Mother Church granted to Us by Christ, according to Our potential and knowledge equally, along with the faithful men of Our aforesaid church, and diligently and freely laboured over the state and progress of it, so that, with God’s bestowal, it might be effected to be sublimated, and the sons of the said church might be able to endure therein and serve God Almighty and Saint Mammet with devoted minds without end…

This kind of language stretches forward right up to the eleventh century, and in fact if we were rewinding the clock you could see it in the late ninth. You might be thinking that this seems unexceptional, insofar as all of the above appears to be a reasonable thing for a bishop to be saying; and certainly these aren’t iconoclastic sentiments – but they are unusual.

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Langres today. (source)

Let’s start with the form. This kind of ‘synod-form’ charter is actually very rare in the tenth century. Let’s go outside of Burgundy for a second. We have large numbers of episcopal charters from the bishops of Laon, Poitiers, Verdun and Tours. Of those, Poitiers has two, Verdun and Tours one, and Laon none. It’s clear from other evidence that synods continued to happen; it’s just that they didn’t use this charter form. The bishops of Langres do.

Now, so to do the bishops of Autun and Mâcon. The difference is that in Langres the synod-form charter is paired with the language of good administration – diligently and studiously labouring to improve the affairs and utilities of the Church, that sort of thing. I don’t want to get categorical here, but this kind of language is much, much more typical of the bishops of Langres than their neighbours.

So what’s going on? Partly, it’s a late-Carolingian inheritance. We’ve seen before on this blog the significance of Burgundian bishops in the late ninth century, and those ninth-century bishops talk and govern like this. Langres preserves this inheritance particularly well for two (well, three) reasons: first, it never stopped being important; and second, it never really fell under the spell of the dukes of Burgundy the way that, say, Autun did for several decades there. (The third has to do with the particular legacy of Bishop Isaac of Langres, but maybe we’ll cover that another time.)

This has implications for the regional power of the bishops, of course – and if you want to know about that, the book is still underway – but I’d like to touch on the Peace of God in relation to it. I’ve already drawn parallels between Peace councils and the bishops of Langres, but here we can look at it from the other direction. Holding councils and making a big deal out of holding councils is known practice during the tenth century, and when the Aquitanians come to do the same in the latter half of it, they’re not necessarily doing anything new. What changes is that they pick a different selling point – ‘peace’ rather than ‘inquiring and investigating how the status of the mother Church might be improved for the better’. Pithier, certainly, but not necessarily all that dissimilar in principle.

Charter A Week 34: Saint-Julien de Brioude, and Who’s King, Again?

Here’s a fun one! Last time we saw William the Pious it was seventeen years ago, and there was nothing particularly surprising about the diplomatic. Now, however, things have changed, and so…

Cartulaire de Brioude no. 51 (12th May 910)

In the name of God on High. William, by grace of God duke and margrave of the Aquitanians.

If We lend the ears of Our Serenity to the just petitions of loyal men, We tender the commerce of Our largess and beneficence.

And thus, We wish to make it known to all those administering the care of the holy Church of God, both present and future, and as well Our successors, and all Our followers, that Our faithful priest, named Erlebald, came and humbly sought that We might exchange with him certain lands from the domain of Saint-Julien de Brioude pertaining to Erlebald’s own benefice.

We did not refuse this, having consulted Our followers, that is, Heraclius and Stephen and Prior Eldefred and Dean Nectard and the other canons of the same place.

And thus, We gave the aforesaid Erlebald in right of property one field next to the township of Brioude from the goods of Saint-Julien formerly pertaining to his benefice, which are bordered on the upper and lower sides by land of Saint-Julien, on the other two sides by streets. Within these borders, We exchanged the said field in right of property, that he might have, hold and possess it and in everything do whatever he wishes.

In recompense for this give, We received from Erlebald’s own allod for the part of Saint-Julien four fields in that area. One of these is bordered on two sides by comital land, on the third side by the land of Saint-Jean, and on the fourth by public streets. Another field is bordered on three sides by land of Saint-Julien,  and on the fourth by public streets. The third field is bordered on two sides by public streets, on the third by comital land, and on the fourth by land of Saint-Julien. The fourth field is bounded on three sides by comital land, and on the fourth by a public street.

Within these aforesaid brothers, We received these fields from Erlebald’s allod for the part of Saint-Julien, that the ruler of Saint-Julien might from this day forth hold them and do in everything whatever he wishes, as Erlebald may do with that which We exchanged with him.

So that this exchange, which now seems very useful and pleasing to both sides, might endure for all time firm and stable, I confirmed it below with my own hand and I wanted it to be signed by the hands of other men.

I, Erlebald, recalled this charter made by me. Witnessing were Heraclius, Stephen, Robert, Abbo.

Enacted on the fourth ides of May [12th May], in the twelfth year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple], prince of the Franks and Aquitanians.

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A twelfth-century fresco from Saint-Julien. (source)

This is a royal diploma. Well, it’s not quite, but it’s pretty close. (In fact, it’s got some close intertexual links to a diploma of Odo for Clermont Cathedral.) It’s a fairly direct parallel to the acts of King Alan the Great of Brittany, really – quasi-royal, in a fairly exact sense.

This is a fairly exalted status claim for an aristocrat to be making. What’s going on? Well, partly Aquitaine does have more experience than much of the rest of the kingdom of quasi-royal rulers. For a big chunk of the ninth century, Aquitaine was ruled by sub-kings, kings who weren’t “proper” kings, or kings in the fullest sense of the word. William must be pulling on that tradition here.

On the other hand, it’s also much more pointed. Evidence is, as you can probably imagine by now, slim; but it looks like Charles the Simple is making a major effort at this time to push his influence in Berry. A charter of 912 refers to the abbot of Saint-Sulpice in Bourges as having been appointed by royal largess, and in the foundation charter for the abbey of Cluny (which was issued in the same year as this one for Brioude), William explicitly excluded the king from interfering with the abbey. It looks as though Charles was pushing his way into northern Aquitaine successfully enough that William was bringing out the big ideological guns to remind his followers that he, not Charles, was the person you had to go to in the region…

Source Translation: The Fragmentary History of Anjou

Fragmentum Historiae Andegavensis

I, Fulk, count of Anjou, who am son of Geoffrey of Château-Landon and Ermengard, daughter of Count Fulk [Nerra] of Anjou, and nephew of Geoffrey Martel, who was also the son of my grandfather Fulk and my mother’s brother, in the twenty-eighth year in which I held the consulate of Anjou and Tours and Nantes and Maine, wanted to set down in writing how my ancestors acquired and held their honour up to my time, and then about how I myself held the same honour, with the assistance of divine mercy.

Therefore, my ancestors, as my uncle Geoffrey Martel told me, were very valorous counts, and these are their names: first Ingelger, second Fulk the Red, his son; then Fulk, who is called ‘the Good’; afterwards, his son Geoffrey Grisegonelle. These four consuls held the honour of Anjou and snatched it from the hands of the pagans and defended it from Christian consuls. The first, Ingelger, had this honour from the king of France, not from the family of the impious Philip [I], but from the offspring of Charles the Bald, who was the son of Louis [the Pious], son of Charlemagne.

We cannot properly remember the virtues and acts of these four consuls, because they are so far away from Us that the places where their bodies lie are unknown to Us; but We can with those which are closer to Us, that is, those of my grandfather Fulk [Nerra], and of his father Geoffrey Grisegonelle, and of my uncle Geoffrey Martel.

Therefore, Geoffrey Grisegonelle, father of my grandfather Fulk, whose feats of prowess We cannot list, struck Loudun from the hand of the Count of Poitiers, and overcame him on the battlefield at Les Roches and pursued him all the way to Mirebeau. And he put the Bretons who came to Angers with a marauding army, the leaders of which were the sons of Conan, to flight. Later, he was with Duke Hugh [Capet] at the siege of Marçon, where the sickness from which he died took hold of him. His body was taken to Tours, and he was buried in the church of the blessed Martin.

His son Fulk succeeded him – that is, my grandfather – whose prowess was great and admirable. He, indeed, acquired the district of Maine and added it to the consulate of Anjou, and he built many castles on his land, which remained deserted and full of woods due to the savagery of the pagans. So, in the district of Touraine, he built Langeais, Chaumont, Montrésor, Sainte-Maure; in Poitou, Mirebeau, Moncontour, Faye, Montreuil, Passavant, Maulévrier; in Anjou, he built Baugé, Château-Gontier, Durtal, and many others it is a bother to name. He captured the castle of Saumur when Count Odo [II of Blois-Chartres-Tours] came to Angers with an army and set up camp in the salient between the city itself and the river Loire. Again, Fulk fought two very mighty field battles: one on the land of Conquereuil against Conan, the Breton consul, over the city of Nantes, which Conan wanted to take from him. The same Conan and a thousand of his knights perished in this battle. He fought the other battle, though, against the aforesaid very powerful count Odo on the river Cher, at Pontlevoy, in which battle the Count of Maine Heribert, who is called Wake-Dog, was with him, where, by God’s grace, he was the victor. He also built two abbeys: one in honour of Saint Nicholas next to the town of Angers, and the other at the castle of Loches, which is called Beaulieu, in honour of the Lord’s Sepulchre. He went to Jerusalem twice. On his second visit, he left this mortal coil, around the feast of Saint John, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord one thousand and forty. His body was taken to the aforesaid abbey of Beaulieu and buried in the chapter there.

His son, my uncle, that is, Geoffrey Martel, succeeded him, whose prowess and prudence in worldly affairs was substantial and whose reputation was praiseworthy throughout the kingdom of France. He was a knight in his father’s lifetime, and he led his young soldiery against his neighbours, and he fought two battles: one at Moncontour [actually Mont-Couër] against the Poitevins, where he captured the count of Poitiers; and the other against the Manceaux, where he similarly captured their count, who is called Herbert Bacon. He fought a war against his father, in which many evils were done, for which he was later very penitent.

But after his father left this life, as was said above, on the return from Jerusalem, he possessed his father’s land and the city of Angers and began a war against Count Theobald of Blois, that is, the son of Count Odo, and by the will of King Henry [I], he received the gift of the city of Tours from the king, for which reason afterwards the conflict (guerra) between him and Count Theobald deepened, and they committed it to battle between the town of Tours and the castle of Amboise [at Nouy], in which Theobald was captured with around a thousand of his knights. And thus he received the city of Tours and the castles around: Chinon and Ile-Bouchard and Château-Renaud and Saint-Aignan. But another part of the district of Touraine fell to him because his father had possessed it.

After that, he fought a war against William [the Conqueror], count of the Normans, who later acquired the kingdom of the English and was a magnificent king; also, with the Gauls and with the Berrichons and with William [the Fat], consul of the Poitevins, and with Viscount Aimeric [IV] of Thouars, and with Hoël [II], count of Nantes, and with the counts of the Bretons who held the city of Rennes, and with Hugh, consul of Maine, who quit his fidelity. Because of all these battles, and because of the valiant spirit which he displayed there, he was worthily named ‘Martel [the Hammer]’, as one who smashed his enemies to bits.

In the last year of his life, he knighted me, his nephew, in the city of Angers, on the feast of Pentecost, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord one thousand and sixty, and he committed to me the district of Saintois with the city of Saintes because of a certain conflict which he had with Peter of Didonne. I was seventeen years old when he made me a knight. After that, in the same year, King Henry died on the feast of the birth of Saint John [actually 4th August] and my uncle Geoffrey reached a good end on the third day after the feast of the blessed Martin [14th November]. The night before he died, he laid down all care for knighthood and worldly affairs, and was made a monk in the monastery of Saint-Nicolas, which his father and he had build with great devotion and supplied from their goods.

And thus he left his honour, which he had held securely and richly in great tranquillity and defended from foreign peoples, to be troubled with a certain tribulation, that is, by the arising of dissension over the same honour between me and my brother. When we had prolonged this tribulation , often conflicting and having truces sometimes, and I had also, by the command of Pope Alexander, freed my brother from the chains in which I held him, the same brother attacked me again, besieging one of my castles which is called Brissac. I rode out against him there with those magnates whom the clemency of God permitted me, and I fought with him on the battlefield, and there, by God’s grace, I overcame him, and he was captured and returned to me, and a thousand of his people with him. So then I got the city of Angers and Tours and the castle of Loches and Loudun, which are the chief places in the honour of the consuls of Anjou.

Therefore, I held that honour for twenty-eight years until the time I decided to write this document. If you want to hear what I did during those twenty-eight years, and in the other eight which preceded them, follow what I write and you will know what was done. But before I retell this, I want to recall certain signs and prodigies which came to pass in the last year of the aforesaid time, pertaining not only to our people but to the whole kingdom of Gaul, as affairs made manifest afterwards. At that time, indeed, stars fell from heaven to earth like hail. Many who saw them marvelled, and many were fearstruck. Following this sign came a great plague throughout the kingdom of France, and a very hard time where food was lacking. From this, in our city of Angers a hundred of our leading men died, and more than two thousand of the lesser citizens.

At the end of that year, as Lent was drawing near, the Roman pope Urban came to Angers and admonished the people that they should go to Jerusalem to fight the pagan people who occupied that city and the entire land of the Christians up to Constantinople. Then, in Lent, the church of Saint-Nicolas was dedicated by the pope, and my uncle Geoffrey’s body was moved to the chapter of the same church. The same apostolic man established and commanded by an edict that a public feast should be celebrated each year at Saint-Nicolas on the same date he had carried out the dedicated, and a seventh part of penances should be remitted for suitable people at that celebrations. Leaving there, he came to Le Mans and then to Tours; there, decrees were given to a venerable council in the middle of Lent, and afterwards he was crowned and led in solemn procession from the church of Saint-Maurice to the church of the blessed Martin. There, he gave me a golden flower which he bore in his hand, which I also, for memory and love of him, established would be ever defended by me and my successor, hosanna. After his departure, on the next Palm Sunday, the church of the blessed Martin burned down. But the pope went to Saintes and celebrated Easter there…

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This post fulfils a promise. When I first put up the source translation page back in June, I ran a poll promising to translate something extra ‘this week’. ‘This week’ turned into ‘within the next twelve months’, but I have nonetheless done it! What we have here is a history which is purportedly, and per recent work likely actually, the memoirs of Count Fulk IV of Anjou from the latter part of the eleventh century. It is fragmentary because after the bit I’ve given you it breaks off into an account of the First Crusade and then breaks off entirely.

What interests me about this is the sense of identity Fulk has. People tend to see the count of Anjou as a ‘territorial prince’, but Fulk’s sense of Angevin identity isn’t attached to territory, because he’s very explicit about the shifting territorial fortunes of his family: he holds, as he saws, an honor comprising Anjou and Touraine and Nantes and Maine, but not defined by it. The continuity of the honor is separate from its territorial composition. It is, however, still something coherent. Note how Fulk talks about ‘foreign peoples’, meaning his neighbours from other French regions.

Now, Fulk is trying to do several things here. Not the least of them, as you may be able to tell, is to justify and to an extent cover up the particulars of his usurpation of his brother Geoffrey, whom he deposed and imprisoned. (He avoids, for instance, mentioning that Pope Alexander didn’t just command him to release Geoffrey, but also excommunicated him.) So at least in part Fulk is trying to write a history of glorious ancestors who ruled a coherent entity – they are great and I am like them – and so his portrayal of that entity as coherent fits his purposes. On the other hand, this was a longer process as well – Fulk was both exploiting and developing an ‘Angevin’ identity.

Charter A Week 33: Clearing Up a Deposed King’s Messes

It’s a quiet year in Charles the Simple’s kingdom. (Actually, in June of this year there’s a prominent Church council held at a place called Trosly, but I didn’t think of that far-enough in advance to put it up as a source translation. We may get back to it anyway.) Given this, we haven’t turned our attention eastwards for a while, not really since the death of Zwentibald. As it happens, though, his legacy is still a live issue:

DD LtC no. 70 (9th November 909, Ingelheim)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Louis, by ordinance of divine grace king.

Every time We succour the needs of holy churches of God with the defence of regality, We imitate the custom of Our ancestors and We believe without hesitation that this will profit Us in securing aid in the present age and the prize of future blessing.

Wherefore let the prudent knowledge of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, present and future, know for certain that the venerable archbishop Hatto and Gebhard approached Our Highness and recounted how Our brother Zwentibald, after the magnates of the kingdom of Lotharingia deposed him from the government of the realm, gave a certain property to a man named Roing, which Roing afterwards consigned in whatever way to the resources of the canons dwelling in the place named Chèvremont. And when the aforenamed count scrutinised such an act, he brought it to Our ears and, with the aforesaid pontiff Hatto, he sought that We might confirm the same goods for the aforenamed canons through a precept of Our authority for the salvation of Our soul.

We, freely acquiescing to their petition, concede and confirm the aforesaid goods, sited in the county of Liège, and the place named Mortier, with all their appendates, as the said Roing is seen to have held them up to the present, for the resources of the said canons henceforth, that is, with a demesne and a church with 12 other manses, cottages, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, cultivated and uncultivated land, waters and watercourses, mills, fisheries, passable and impassable land, roads out and in, incomes claimed and to be claimed, mobile and immobile goods, and bondsmen of both sexes residing there; establishing and enacting strenuously that the aforesaid canons should have, hold and possess them by ecclesiastical custom from this day for their portion of the abbey’s resources (mensa), and delight to become remembrancers of Us because of it.

And that this present precept of Our largess and confirmation might be more truly believed and more diligently observed through times to come, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our seal.

Sign of lord Louis, most serene of kings.

Theodulf the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and Archchancellor Ratbod [of Trier].

Given on the 5th ides of November [9th November], in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 910, in the 13th indiction, in the 10th year of lord Louis.

Enacted at Ingelheim.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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Chèvremont today. I have actually been here – the church is nineteenth century, but it’s a big darn hill… (source)

My commentary this week is going to be pretty short, but this charter has some unusual features. The first is that Zwentibald’s kingdom is now, apparently, ‘Lotharingia’, none of that ‘that some men call Lothar’s business’ of previous years. The second is that Louis’ court is apparently chill with Zwentibald having been deposed. Admittedly, this is probably because it ultimately worked out in Louis’ favour; but it definitely goes against the idea that you’ll see occasionally that the Carolingians don’t really know how to deal with deposition.

The final thing is that Zwentibald’s gift to Roing apparently took place after his deposition, whilst he was a man on the run. I get the feeling from this charter that Roing was a little unsure of his tenure: the ‘consigned in whatever way’ makes me think that he’s handed the land off to Chèvremont in the hope that with their backing he’ll be less vulnerable that he’d be by just himself… In any case, the presence of Gebhard of Lotharingia and Archbishop Hatto of Mainz shows that he’s firmly back in Louis’ good graces. Still, apparently even ten years later trying to re-integrate Lotharingia as a political unit is apparently an ongoing process.

Flagging Up an Issue

Being a mostly text-based historian, it’s nice when I get to work with more material-culture stuff, not least because it means that I can put it into blog posts like the following… So, take a look at this:

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(source, copyright them)

Good, no? This is the Kriegsfahne (‘war banner’) of Gerberga. It’s not actually a war banner – it’s too small, for one thing – but that name has become attached to it. To give a bit of explanation about the iconography, what we have here is Christ and several saints in the middle, with a ‘Count Rainard’ (Ragenardus comes) kneeling before Christ, several martial verses from Psalm 144 stitched around the outside, and the phrase ‘Gerberga made me’ near the bottom. The textile is currently to be found in the cathedral treasury at Cologne, where it has been since the mid-tenth century. It is usually associated with Queen Gerberga, wife of Louis IV, which is fair enough insofar as a) Bruno, archbishop of Cologne in the mid-tenth century, was her brother; and b) one of the saints on this thing is St Baso, who was only culted in the abbey of Nore-Dame de Laon, which Gerberga happened to own.

The more interesting question, in terms of what this flag is trying to convey, is who Count Rainard is. He’s usually associated with Count Reginar III of Hainaut, a major figure in northern Lotharingia. So the argument goes, Gerberga, Bruno, and Reginar had a major dust-up in the 950s, the flag depicts Reginar defeated and prostrate, and it’s a reminder of her role in Reginar’s overcoming.

I have to confess to being unconvinced by this. First of all, Reginar (Ragenarius, Reginherus, Raginerus) is not the same name as Ragenardus. Second, Ragenardus here is not visibly defeated. For one thing, he’s not wearing penitential clothing; for another, he’s still very visibly wearing a sword, which one would have thought would be an obvious no-no if you wanted to depict a beaten enemy. In fact, the closest parallel to Ragenardus’ position are Carolingian and Ottonian pictures of reigning kings kneeling before Christ.

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Such as this image of Otto III, from the emperor’s own prayer book (source)

So what do I think is happening here? Well, first, who is Ragenardus? My answer to that is that it is a man named Count Ragenold of Roucy. Ragenold was Queen Gerberga’s son-in-law, a major figure in Louis IV’s latter years, and a major military leader in the fight Louis and Gerberga led against Hugh the Great. It must be admitted that Ragenardus and Ragenoldus are also not quite the same name, but an L-R elision is not unknown, and in the parallel case of Count Rainald the Old of Sens, you can see contemporary authors making precisely this elision.

If it is Ragenold, then the flag must be presenting him not as a penitent, but as a successful warrior. The words of Psalm 144 around the edge, ‘Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight’, caption an armed figure kneeling before a triumphant Christ. This fits well into the context of Ragenold’s career in the late 950s, where he was involved in a number of Carolingian military expeditions into Burgundy in which both Gerberga and Bruno of Cologne were involved. Given that, thanks to his marriage, Ragenold was part of the extended Ottonian family, imagining this as a gift to the in-laws is far from implausible… This does of course raise the question: why give to the in-laws, and why give this? And for the answer to that, well, you’ll have to wait for the book…