Source Translation: “We’ve established what kind of bishop you are, now we’re just haggling over the price”

Bishop Rainald of Angers was, like many of his fellow prelates, heir to a fortune. Bishop of Angers since 973, he was famous for his piety and his campaigns against simony (the practice of buying Church offices) and lay misappropriation of church property. Around the turn of the first millennium, at the end of 1001, he decided to make his biggest-yet charitable gesture: he would give all of his landed fortune to his cathedral, Saint-Maurice in Angers. This generous move, however, was not unopposed. I’ll let Rainald take over the story:

We judge that everything we want to call to mind should be written down in sacred arrangements of letters, so that it might be considered more memorable and believed more firmly by those to come.

And so I, Rainald, bishop of the Angevins, want it to be known to all the faithful of the holy Church of God, both present and future, that Count Fulk [Nerra] and his brother Maurice inflicted on me a calumny concerning my inheritance, which I had held solidly and quietly after the burial of my father, and which, for the remedy of the soul of my father and my mother and also my own, I had conceded with a devoted heart to the holy mother of God Mary and the holy martyr Maurice and the holy confessor Maurilius. They said that my father Rainald [Torench, viscount of Angers] gave it to their father Geoffrey [Grisegonelle, count of Anjou] as part of an agreement to gain the bishopric.

Since they remained obstinate about this, I released a certain serf of the same inheritance to the judgement of God, so that God might through him deign to reveal His virtue and declare the truth. By God’s grace, when he was sent for on the third day of the ordeal (as is customary), he appeared unharmed in the sight of all the onlookers.

Therefore, if anyone, filled with the Devil’s incitements (God forbid!) might from this day forth dare to do anything presumptuous or inflict any calumny concerning this matter, by the authority of God the Father Almighty and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and the holy mother of God Mary, and the prince of the apostles Peter, and all the saints of God and Our own, let them remain damned and excommunicate and sequestered from the whole company of the faithful forever.

So, Rainald had held his personal inheritance perfectly happily since his father died in the early 990s; but come the first decade of the new millennium, who should pop out of the woodwork but Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, famous for his temper and ruthlessness; and his brother Maurice, heir to the county of Chalon, accusing Rainald of breaking an agreement between their respective fathers? There are in fact several things going on here, one to do with Angevin expansion southwards towards Aquitaine, and the other to do with comital control over the church within Angers.

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Angers Cathedral as it appears today (source)

Rainald of Angers’ father Rainald Torench had been a pretty big deal in western France. It is possible his family had been entrenched there for generations, although the evidence for that is based on arguments about patterns of personal names I’m fairly sceptical of in principle. More certainly, though, Rainald Torench himself had built up a pretty large fortune in land in the region around Angers, particularly in the area of the Mauges, a region south of the river Loire between Nantes and Angers, centred around the modern town of Cholet. This region, however, was strategically significant for the counts of Anjou, who were expanding south into northern Aquitaine, attempting in particular to win over the viscounts of Thouars, whose loyalties wavered back and forth between the dukes of Aquitaine and the counts of Anjou. The Mauges, as the western neighbour of the Thouarsais, was strategically important to these efforts. Consequently, Rainald’s inheritance – which, as I said, appears to have been very substantial – was also significant.

Within Anjou itself, this charter is taken as evidence that the counts of Anjou enjoyed control of appointments to the bishopric. One historian in particular, Olivier Guillot, has noted that Rainald isn’t disputing that his appointment as bishop was obtained through simony, but only what exactly the cost of the appointment was; other historians have tended to follow this. In my opinion, though, this is a complete misreading of the document. Fulk and Maurice’s accusation was clearly meant not simply to dispute the property with Rainald, but to discredit him, painting the anti-simony campaigner as a simoniac himself. Rainald isn’t saying that the calumny was that his father paid his whole inheritance for the bishopric, he’s saying that the calumny was that he obtained the bishopric illegitimately. He did not submit his case to the judgement of God to prove that his father was good at haggling!

Historians have been oddly ready to be cynical about what is clearly a politically-motivated accusation aimed at gaining control of a large inheritance in Anjou’s southern marches. In fact, this document doesn’t say nearly as much about Angevin control over the church in Angers as it does about their desire to expand into Aquitaine and their willingness to spread what we can probably be safe in calling slanderous allegations to ensure it.

A User’s Guide to the Paris Archives, pt. 2: The Archives Nationales

I have returned triumphant from looking at actual physical manuscripts at the Archives Nationales, so here’s the second and final part of the guide to the Paris archives.

Unlike the Bibliothèque Nationale, which is fundamentally a research library for scholars, the Archives Nationales cater to a more general audience. This is good, because basically everything about setting up there is substantially easier. The first thing to do is to register an account on the website, for which you’ll need an e-mail address. Then, go to the CARAN building on the Archive’ actual site. (Note that the Archives have multiple sites both inside and outside Paris; this guide deals only with the Paris site.) There, you can register for your reader’s ticket. Happily the only document you’ll need is a passport.

As with the BnF, it’s pencils and computers only in the rooms. Everything else has to be left in the lockers. Unlike the BnF, no money is required – these are code-operated.

Then, go upstairs. Again unlike the BnF, there are different procedures for manuscripts and microfilms. For microfilms, go to the microfilm reading room on the third floor. If it’s your first time, introduce yourself at the front desk and the librarian will show you round and explain the procedure. It’s a fairly simple set up: sit at any microfilm reader you like. The microfilms themselves are in draws in the room, and you just go and help yourself to the one you want – bear in mind you can only have one at a time. This is beautifully simple and convenient, but there is a catch: all the microfilms I saw, including those I saw others use, were in inverted black-and-white (black page, white text), which gave me a headache after a while.

For manuscripts, as I said, things are different, although still fairly easy. You need to order the manuscript you want online first; unfortunately, this means that you do need to know the classmark. Also, the system is slightly oddly set up, so that to search for (for instance) the manuscript with the classmark LL 50, you have to enter it into the system with two slashes, like so: LL//50. Once you’ve ordered the manuscript, at 3pm the same day or on the following day, go to the second floor reading room. There’s an issues desk on the right, go to it, show your card, and they’ll give you a place and hand over your manuscript. Sit at the assigned place. Once you’ve done with the manuscript, hand it back at the desk and they’ll give you a new one. At the Archives Nationales, both with the MSS and the microfilms, it appears that one can take photos with impunity.

And that’s it! It’s quite simple.

There are catches, of course. The two big ones are these. First, the Archives Nationales online catalogue is nowhere near as good as the BnF. Whereas with the BnF you can look at the catalogue and have a reasonable idea of what you need to look at, at the Arch. Nat., you might get handed a box full of papers and have to spend a considerable amount of time trying to find what exactly in them is relevant.

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I mean, look at this…

The second, and bigger, issue is that there is no wi-fi at the Arch. Nat. At all. So bear that in mind…

I hope these guides will prove helpful, especially to junior scholars (such as myself!) going to the archives for the first time. If you think I’ve missed anything, or something should be added, let me know! My archive needs have been relatively simple, so there may be things I’ve left out or wouldn’t think to include – do leave a comment or send a message.

A User’s Guide to the Paris Archives, pt. 1: The BnF

It occurred to me the other day that, as far as I know, there’s no equivalent of this piece on the National Archives in Kew for their French equivalents, so this is a short stab at producing one for people who might be as unsure of what they’re doing as I was the first time I came.

The Bibliothèque Nationale is, for most purposes, split over two sites: the Francois Mitterand site on the left bank of the Seine, near Gare d’Austerlitz, and the Richelieu site on the right bank, near the Louvre. It is in the latter site that the manuscripts department makes its home, and so that’s what I’ll be focussing on.

To get in, first you need to register. Actually, first you need to go through a security check – make sure your wallet, phone, keys, etc. are in your bag and that your bag is open – but then you need to register. To do this, you need different documents based on whether you’re a student, a member of the public or a professional researcher. Everyone needs proof of identity – bring a passport. Students will need proof of student status – a student card will probably do the trick, but just in case it might be worth getting a formal letter from your institution to the effect that you’re legit. You’ll also need a letter from your supervisor. Members of the public will need, basically, a list of what they need and a good story at the reception desk, the former being critical. It’s easier for professional researchers (I must say, pleasingly so comparing this time to the last time I came here) – all you need is a staff card from your institution (although to be on the safe side I bought a copy of my employment contract as well).

Then, you need to get in to the manuscripts reading room. First, drop your bags off in the locker room. The lockers run on money – you need a 1 or 2 euro coin, which is refundable. If you haven’t got one, ask at the front desk – they give out little tokens which can be used in place of coins; just be sure to return them at the end of the day. Bags, pens and jackets aren’t allowed in the reading room – leave them in the locker. Happily, the BnF provides nifty plastic laptop-holders which make carrying computers around much easier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Neat, huh? 

To get into the reading room, you first need to pass the front desk by the reading room door. To do this, have your reader’s card to hand. You will have to hand it over. Specify as you do so what kind of material you’re here for – manuscripts, books, or microfilms, and whether or not you’ve already reserved them. Then, you’ll be given a laminated red card with a number on it, and a blue piece of paper which lets you pop out to go to the loo (and things like that). The card is important – that is your place. Sit at that place, and not at any other.

Now you can begin to order the documents you want. (Fun, isn’t it?) There are two main types of form: white and green. The green is for reservations in advance. Various documents can’t be ordered for the same day, and are subject to various seemingly-arbitrary periods of delay – check the website to find out the specifics, but most of them are the regional or erudite collections. The white for is for ordering manuscripts and microfilms. Unless you have a special need to see an actual manuscript, you have to see a microfilm if one is available. Fill it out and hand it in at the desk at the back of the room. Here, you will have to hand over your red laminated card. You will be told to sit at your place. If you ordered a microfilm, they will bring it to you. If it’s a manuscript, you’ll get a little piece of paper which you should bring back up to the front desk.

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The Salle de Lecteur, taken from the issues desk at the back of the room (image source)

As microfilms are, if not exactly self-evident, something the librarians usually explain to how to use, let’s assume for the sake of argument that you’ve ordered some physical manuscripts. Once you have it, be sure to rest it on the cushions at each desk, and don’t use pen while taking notes. If you want to take photos of the manuscripts, you need to seek permission from the head of the reading room. I found they were fairly good-natured about this personally. Taking photos of the microfilms appease to be something you can just do, or maybe the staff simply didn’t catch me at it…

Once you’re done with your manuscript (or microfilm), take it up to the desk at the back of the room and swap it out for the next one. You can order five of each type of document per day. After finishing with all of them, tell the staff you’re done and they’ll give you back your red card. Take both your red card and your blue piece of paper back to the front desk, hand them over to the member of staff there, and your reader’s card will be returned to you.

Congratulations! You have succeeded in seeing manuscripts at the BnF. Once you get used to the system, you learn to roll with it. Most of the staff – despite the horror stories you hear about French librarians – are fairly helpful, and I get the feeling they’re used to dealing with people who don’t speak all that much French and/or understand the system.

The BnF is of course a research library primarily intended for scholarly use. Things are a little different at the Archives Nationales. However, because as of yet I’ve only used the microfilms there, my guide to that will have to wait until later this week once I’ve gone and looked at the physical manuscripts I need to see…

Blogging at the BnF 1: Aides-Memoires in Eleventh-Century Tours

There’s nothing like Paris in the spring: swearing at a microfilm reader because the zoom function won’t focus properly. Yes, this month your humble blogger is in one of his least favourite major world cities, working his way through a fearsome array of Early Modern charter collections, and discovering that, whilst there are people out there who care about the endless undated chart-notices of dispute settlements from eleventh-century western France, he’s not one of them… In any case, what that means is that this month the blog will be doing something different. Rather than the usual stately progress of one post every Thursday, I’ll be putting something up every time I find an unpublished document interesting enough to blog about. (Of course, if it’s really interesting I might hold it back for publication down the line…)

The first thing to go up, then, is something I came across in MS Lat 5441(4), a collection of the charters of Marmoutier made in the late seventeenth century(ish). The charters of the two major abbeys of the city of Tours, Saint-Martin and Marmoutier, are in a fairly chaotic state, and there are all kinds of things from them that have never seen the light of print. This charter, dating from 1044, is one of them.

marmoutier
Marmoutier today; I believe it’s a girls’ school, actually…

How do I know it dates from 1044? Because when describing when the transaction took place, it begins ‘this is the exchange which took place when Count Geoffrey captured the city of Tours’. This phrase is actually the only dating element, but it’s relatively common in Marmoutier practice: there are several examples of Marmoutier scribes dating charters by newsworthy events, from Hugh Capet destroying a local fortification to King Lothar invading Lotharingia.

What’s particularly interesting about this is the lack of precision. As someone who’s recently lost several bets to his colleagues about when such-and-such a song was a number 1 hit (I could have sworn that Pretty Fly For A White Guy was no. 1 in 2000…), ‘the year when event x occurred’ is no guarantee that you’ll get the right year. But of course, for these purposes, you don’t need exactitude: it doesn’t matter exactly when the transaction took place, so long as you can say ‘oh yeah, when Count Geoffrey took over, I remember that land sale…’ There’s a kind of ‘memory palace’ effect at work here, associating something big with something small so that the one prompts the recollection of the other. It’s a neat little trick to ensure that your transaction can enjoy a few decades of permanence, as long as there are people around to remember it…

The transcription of the document follows; obviously it’s not a formal edition, but if you want the text, here it is:

BnF MS Lat 5441(4)

Fol. 57:

In illa rerum conuersione et mutabilium commutatio=/ne quae facta est cum comes GAUSFREDUS TU=/RONORUM Ciuitatem cepisset aliorum ad alios/ incolarum ad extraneous possessiones & hereditates Deo/ cuique iusta tribuente, transierunt. Unde factum est/ vt prefati comitis satelles quidam nomine andreas/ cognomento ARRIBATUS omnia que fuerant/ Rainaldi IUUENIS civis olim Turonici sortiretur/ Sed quoniam mentis humane auditas limites de=/dignatur habendi et concessa fastidiens in non con=/cessa caeco ruit impetu ambitu, miles ille in terram/ quamdam Sancti Martini Maioris Monasterii, Sapalicum nomine/ quam naturaliter et antiquitus solidam quietamque/

Fol. 58:

Tenebat, violentas inferre manus moliens, totam/ prorsus sibi illam quibusdam quod est ejus generis ho/minum, occasionum preiudiciis vindicare nitebatur./ loci autem Illius monachi conatibus iniustis ob=/viare jus suus reclamando illius iniusticiam ra=/tione convincendo, querelas iustas apud memoratum/ comitem persepe deponendo, stagebant. Tandem/ pars utraque concordie favens in hanc hommuni/ decreto venere sententiam, ut permissu domini/ alberti abbatis maioris monasterii fratrum dimidiam in/ ipsa terra consistentis luci partem, reliqua omnia/ Sancto Martino sicut antea Libere possidente, invita/ duntaxat sua pretaxatus andreas possideant, ita ta=/men ut neque vendat neue donet, neque dissipet quic/quam de sua illa parte, sed tantum ad sua necessaria/ id est ad se calefaciendum vel domum suam, vel vineas/ meliorandas inde accipiat et cetera conseruet & de=/fendat, post mortem uero eius id ipsum in sancti Martini/ dominium redeat, luci uidelicet pars concessa, et ut ali/quam beneficii huius gratiam mercedem maioris mo=/nasterii c [space of around 11 characters, presumably ‘comes gaufridus’ or something] retribueret, sepefato sancto post suum/ itidem decessum x agripennos vinearum dedit, ad locum/ qui dicitur Monasteriolum et II. pratorum ad mem=/breolam. Hec omnia asensu & auctoramento/ comitis Gauzfr{e}idi (e crossed out w/ i) et Vxoris eius comitisse AGNE=/TIS. facta sunt prima[?]tibus ipsis et hugone archiepiscopo/ VESANTIAE, et domno abbate ALBERTO, aliis/que quamplurimis clericalis monastici laïcalis/ ordinis, quorum aliquos firmitatis gratia huic sub=/scripsimus noticiae.

3 cols:

Col. 1:

Domnus Airardu

Walterius precentor

Petrus canonicus

Warnerius maior

Col. 2:

Rainaldus maior.

Ricardus maior.

Rotbertus maior.

Otbertus senior.

Col. 3:

otbertus iunior

Arnulfus malus finis

Rotbertus caput lupi

Martinus furnerius

Helgaud of Fleury, Buzzkill

Medieval humour doesn’t often tend to be all that funny. There are a few exceptions – Liutprand of Cremona springs to mind, although that story is definitely NSFW – but in general there aren’t many jokes in my period, or at least laugh-out-loud ones. There are various reasons this is so. Take this example from the Historia Normannorum of Dudo of Saint-Quentin:

‘The bishops said to Rollo, who didn’t want to kiss the king’s feet, “Anyone receiving such a gift [as Normandy] should want to kiss the king’s foot”. He replied: “I will never bend my knees to anyone else’s, nor kiss anyone’s foot.” And so, compelled by the Franks’ requests, he commanded one of his men to kiss the king’s foot. He immediately grabbed the king’s foot and brought it to his mouth, remaining standing to kiss it, and so threw the king on his back. And thus a huge gale of laughter arose amongst the people. Otherwise, King Charles and Duke Robert and the counts and magnates, bishops and abbots, swore an oath of the catholic faith to the patrician Rollo…’

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And so it goes on.

I’ve tried to be as generous as possible with my translation here, but there’s several ways in which this isn’t funny. First, the phrase ‘the king’s foot’ (pedum regis) is repeated too many times. Second, Dudo adds the crowd’s laughter as an eleventh-century laugh track. Third, the timing’s off: with the ‘otherwise’ (caeterum), Dudo moves quickly onto something a bit more dignified.

Today, though, I think I may have found an example of someone sabotaging a joke deliberately. First, however, I need to introduce our protagonists. Gerbert of Rheims, also called Gerbert of Aurillac, was a monk and bishop of the latter part of the tenth century. He was famed for his learning, being the man who introduced the abacus to Europe, and ran a school at Rheims with a number of illustrious pupils. Politically, he was a close associate of Archbishop Adalbero of Rheims, and, as his letter collections reveal, spent much of his time brown-nosing the Ottonian rulers of Germany. When Adalbero died, Gerbert sought the see of Rheims for himself – but the new king, Hugh Capet, gave it to a man named Arnulf instead. When Arnulf took the wrong side in the civil war which followed Hugh’s accession, Gerbert tried to take advantage and gain the see for himself. He did become archbishop, but Arnulf’s deposition proved hugely controversial, and Gerbert was out on his ear after a few years. He then became important in the court of the young emperor Otto III, becoming first Archbishop of Ravenna and then pope under the name Sylvester II. He died in 1003, leaving behind a decidedly mixed reputation.

sylvestreii_aurilac

The other man is Helgaud of Fleury. Helgaud was a monk at the abbey of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, AKA Fleury, in the early-to-mid eleventh century. Fleury was one of the most important monasteries in the kingdom, and under Abbot Abbo in the early eleventh century, it became both a centre of learning and a focal point for a kind of church politics which were, if not actively radical, at least quite controversial. In particular, Abbo pushed for the exemption of his monastery from episcopal oversight, and in the process managed to spectacularly piss off several important bishops. In the 1030s, Helgaud wrote a biography of King Robert the Pious, and, as Robert was a pupil of Gerbert’s, he included a brief synopsis of Gerbert’s life:

‘This Gerbert, having received the archbishopric of Rheims by the gift of King Hugh owing to his world-renowned knowledge, adorned it splendidly with everything a church needs, although not for very long. Having abandoned that bishopric, he was made governor of Ravenna (rector Ravennatium) by Otto III; from whence he quickly advanced to the apostolic see of St. Peter. He carried out many good works, chiefly in giving lams, which he took care to do while he lived faithfully. Among other things, he made a joke – which he found very funny – about the letter R: “Gerbert rose from R to R, and then became pope of R”, clearly indicating by this that the three bishoprics which he received, ruled and held after professing a monastic life under the rule of St. Benedict, all begin with the sign of this letter R.’

Left to its own devices, that would be a reasonably amusing joke; not hilarious, I admit, but enough to raise a wan smile. Helgaud, however, utterly kills it by over-explanation – I mean, thanks Helgaud, we’d worked out what he meant by the three Rs.

Thinking on it, though, I think he’s doing it on purpose. Helgaud clearly doesn’t want to criticise him too explicitly, but he also evidently doesn’t like Gerbert all that much. He specifies that Gerbert didn’t stay in Rheims very long and that he abandoned (derelicto) the see. He says that he carried out many good works, and then, as an example, gives us a mildly-humorous play on words, painting Gerbert in the process as one of those annoying people who laughs at their own jokes: it might be funny enough, but it’s not going to make anyone laetus et hilaris.

I think the clue here is that he says that Gerbert held three bishoprics after being made a monk. Precisely what the criticism here is I’m unsure of – maybe that, as a monk, he was too embroiled in worldly affairs (Abbo of Fleury once described the difference between monks and other clerics as being between the better and the best); maybe that he was an inconstant pastor of his sees. In any case, this sentence seems to indicate that Helgaud had some kind of ideological opposition to Gerbert. He may not have been able to do much about it without it reflecting badly on the king whose life he was writing, but at least he could have his own little revenge: taking a joke which Gerbert was clearly very proud of and ruining it for posterity.

 

*(not the original one, but it was definitely Open Source when I used it the first time…)

West Frankish ‘Reichskirchenpolitik’? Or, This Title Isn’t Going To Get Many Hits, Is It?

So I mentioned last week that I had papers to write, and several of them relate to the question of how the last Carolingian kings exercised authority over their church. What with this being the research I am currently being paid to do, this probably isn’t much of a surprise (and, indeed, we’ve covered some of this ground before). However, I confess that I’m currently in a state of confusion about the nature of this authority, and so, as is this blog’s wont, have decided to write down the problem in the hope of making things clearer.

For historians of the East Frankish kingdom during the tenth and eleventh centuries, the relationship between the kings and the church was expressed in terms of something called the ottonisch-salischen Reichskirchensystem; the ‘imperial Church system’. Timothy Reuter gave a neat little summary of this idea, which I summarise as follows:

In its idealised form, the Reichskirchensystem under the kings of the Ottonian and Salian dynasties consisted of:

  1. Tight royal control over bishoprics and abbeys, particularly with regard to the appointment of bishops and abbots.
  2. The systematic appointment of royal chaplains to vacant bishoprics and abbacies.
  3. The endowment of bishoprics and abbeys with lands and rights.
  4. The expectation that these lands and rights would be used in royal service.
  5. All this being done in order to gain the support of the more reliable episcopate against the less reliable secular magnates,
  6. And all of this being done deliberately and systematically.

 

kronung_heinrich_ii
Emperor Henry II being crowned (source)

Thanks not least to Reuter, historians are now rather wary of this idea, and certainly of points 5) and 6); there aren’t very many hard-core proponents of the imperial Church system left. However, a more moderate version – which Scheffer calls Reichskirchenpolitik – does seem to me to be viable, particular with what interests me about this, i.e., points 1) and 2). It might be a bit haphazard, and there might be lots of qualifications and asterisks which need to be attached to it, but it does look to my eyes that the German kings have a lot of scope to intervene in episcopal elections and to appoint their own men to these positions. And so the question comes up semi-frequently in this context: can we see a West Frankish equivalent to Eastern Reichskirchenpolitik?

Most historians who’ve looked at the question give what amounts to a lukewarm ‘yep’. Me, I don’t know, and this is why. As noted above, one of the big ideas about what makes the Eastern kingdom distinct is the role of the imperial chapel as a ‘nursery for bishops’. However, the Western chapel is tiny, and doesn’t seem to have been very significant – Western kings only usually have one chaplain at once, or at least only one we know about; and between, say, 950 and 1000 only a handful of them seem to have been appointed to bishoprics. Moreover, if Eastern intervention in episcopal elections is unsystematic, in the West it’s outright erratic – whilst I have hyped up King Lothar’s ability to put his own people in bishoprics before, it must be said that in absolute terms, we’re not talking large-scale appointment here. Lothar ain’t exactly Philip II of Spain, if you get me…

But, there’s still something going on. There develops around King Lothar a group of several bishops who, insofar as we can tell, have similar educational backgrounds, close family ties, and who owe their appointments to the king. This original charter from 978 (I know the site says 986; it’s wrong) gives a good idea of this: we see in the witness list Archbishop Seguin of Sens, Bishop Gibuin of Châlons, Bishop Adalbero of Laon, Bishop Liudolf of Noyon, Bishop Widric of Langres and Bishop Ralph of Chalon, several of whom we’ve had cause to talk about before; this is a pretty good chunk of the ‘royal’ bishoprics, and while Widric of Langres doesn’t seem to have been as tightly integrated into Lothar’s political networks as his successor Bruno (who I’ve spoken of elsewhere as well), this kind of gathering is significant.

That is, it’s significant by the standards of non-royal lay rulers, even important and powerful ones. The dukes of Aquitaine and Bavaria, for instance, don’t seem to have had this amount of success building up a network of bishops around themselves. This is particularly interesting in the case of Bavaria, because Duke Arnulf the Bad of Bavaria is supposed to have strong-armed the right to oversee the bishoprics in his region out of King Henry the Fowler – but it seems he never had any luck putting it into practice. The closest analogy is perhaps Richard the Justiciar of Burgundy (who we will examine further in that next tria regna post – I swear it’s coming soon), who had a decent-ish amount of success putting bishops in post in Auxerre, possibly Autun, maybe Langres? Still, it’s not quite on Lothar’s scale, and certainly not with the kind of legitimacy he’s able to command.

And so, we have Lothar: nothing like as commanding as the Eastern kings, but noticeably more so that Just Your Average Lay Magnate. Is this ‘the Ottonians but smaller-scale’ or something sui generis? The question isn’t just one of categorisation – Lothar was raised by his Ottonian mother with close links to the Eastern court, so if we are dealing with ‘smaller-scale Ottonians’, then odds are good we’re dealing with a transfer of political culture from one court to the other, which in turn points towards a genuine transformation of Western kingship in response to Ottonian models in the latter part of the tenth century. Wish me luck in working out the answer…

Bishops at War: Part 2 of the Ghent/Bruges Conference Report

It’s going to be quick today – I’ve got an article to re-draft and papers to write – but I did want to make some more progress on the Bishops In The Century Of Iron conference I started blogging about before Christmas. After John Ott’s paper I already blogged about, we had the first full panel, the first speaker of which was in fact me, so this blog is probably not the place for an unbiased account of that; but it was in fact the third paper I wanted to talk about.

The paper in question was given by a doctoral student at Ghent, Pieter Byttebier, who was presenting on ‘The Warring Bishop’, how Lotharingian bishops used imagery of violence in their self-presentation. He was arguing, put briefly, that though bishops more-or-less always had to provide military service, even if not fight themselves, there was an increasing trend from the ninth to the eleventh century of bishops presenting themselves in militaristic shades. Violence was ambiguous, but it was an increasingly noticeable part of the toolbox of episcopal self-presentation.

This all sounded perfectly reasonable to me, and I wonder at the underlying causes behind it. The one which occurred immediately, and which I’d like to briefly mention here, is the change in the socio-economic status of warfare. I confess to not exactly being an expert on changing practises of warfare in this period, but I do vaguely remember that it’s getting more and more expensive – Æthelred the Unready, at the end of the eleventh century, raised the heriot payments (a levy of war gear due from his men after death) for a similar reason. If so, might it be that the more elite status of warfare had more to offer bishops vis-à-vis their self-presentation? I have no idea, but it’s a very interesting avenue of investigation, and I look forward to seeing where Pieter goes with it.