Carolingian Roman Citizenry Follow-Up: Another Charter, Another Formula…

Quick one: following the link very helpfully provided by Charles in the comments to the first post, I was struck to find a reference to an ongoing, albeit low-level form of awareness of Roman citizenship; in particular, the author references something found in a formula collection, the Formulae Imperiales, which seems highly relevant to this discussion: (text here)

Ecclesiastical authority clearly admonishes – and royal majesty is in harmony with the canonical decrees with religious concordance – that anyone whom any church selects from their own familia to be promoted to holy orders should be absolved from the yoke of servitude by a solemn manumission by he who is at that time ruler (rector) of the same church, who should confirm the liberty which was given to him before witnesses by a charter of freedom. Therefore, I in the name of God Einhard, venerable abbot of the monastery of the holy confessor of Christ Servatius, through the authority of ecclesiastical and imperial decree, as was written above, establish this servant of Our church named Magenfred, elected to holy orders by the unanimous opinion of Our venerable congregation, a Roman citizen, and through the gift of this page, which I wrote to confirm his freedom, I absolve him from the chains of servitude, so that from this day and time he might remain free and untroubled by any bond of servitude, as if he had been born or begotten from free parents. Finally, let him proceed in that part which the honour of a canonical institution has conceded to him, having because of this the same opportunities (habens ad hoc portas apertas) as other Roman citizens, thus that henceforth he should owe no service pertaining to those of a harmful or filthy condition (noxiae vel sordide conditionis) either to Us or Our successors, nor any service pertaining to a freedman (libertinitatis); rather, as long as he lives, let him be truly free and untroubled in certain and fullest freedom, as with other Roman citizens, through this title of manumission and freedom, and let him freely do what he  wishes with his personal belongings, which he has now or which he can obtain in future, in accordance with the authority of the canons. And that this authority of manumission and liberty might obtain undisturbed and inviolable firmness, I confirmed it below with my own hand, and similarly asked it be confirmed below by the priests and clergy of Our church, and the noble laymen who were present for this absolution.

Acted at Maastricht, on the Nones of March (07/03), in the 6th year, by Christ’s favour, of the imperial rule of lord Louis [the Pious], in the 14th indiction.

I, Abbot Einhard, confirmed by subscribing with my own hand.

That looks familiar, right? Once again, we have a cleric, being made a free man via being made a Roman citizen (again, it might well be said, by a lay abbot…).  Sarti says in the article that this charter ‘reveals not only that “Romans” remained part of Frankish legal reality, but also that legal Romanness was still continued to be associated with free, although lower, legal status’ (pp. 1044-1045); and certainly I think the first part is fair, but I’m not so sure about the latter…

Sarti is speaking (in this part) to a debate about Roman status in the post-Roman barbarian kingdoms, which I’m not equipped to deal with fully; in particular, she references the Ripuarian Law, which has distinct verbal parallels to this charter (the bit about portas apertas, for instance). In the Ripuarian Law, though, Romans are of less legal worth than Ripuarian free men, and I’m not sure that’s the case in either of these charters. In both, in this one as in Hugh the Abbot’s, the scribe goes out of their way to make the point that being a Roman citizen makes one 100% suitable for church service – Roman citizens aren’t unfree, they’re not freedmen, they aren’t subject to nasty labour demands, and their status is as high as befits holy orders – that is, as befits the section of society instinct with divinity. Maybe in Einhard’s case the Ripuarian influence is why he thumps on about it at length, but both documents seem to imply that the priest’s new status is a high one.

The other interesting thing about this charter relates to something  I didn’t say about the previous document: they’re both from formulary collections. Hugh the Abbot’s charter survives as an exemplary document in a Saint-Aignan collection; Einhard’s is part of the Formulae Imperiales. Clearly, this is happening often enough that it’s worth having a document about how to make someone a Roman citizen to model your own charters on…

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