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.

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.

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