Prayer Communities and the Bishops of Clermont

In 945 and again in 962, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont founded the cell of Saint-Germain-Lembron, and gave it to the major Auvergnat abbey of Brioude. In both cases, he kicked off the charter by listing a community to be prayed for. Here’s the 962 example:

‘for my lord King Lothar and the soul of his father King Louis, and the soul of my parents Robert and Aldegard and my stepmother Hildegard and my uncles, to wit, Eustorgius, Matfred and Guy, and my cousin Stephen, and my brothers Eustorgius and Robert and my uncle Armand and his son Amblard and my uncle Eustorgius and his sons Eustorgius and William, and also Abbot Robert and his parents and brothers, and all my kinsmen and relatives and friends and enemies and Our followers…’

brioude_-_basilique_st-julien_-_jpg1
The (frankly rather good-looking) abbey of Brioude as it exists today (source)

This list of titles does not quite make it clear that Stephen’s relations, friends, and followers encompass basically everyone in the Auvergne. His father Robert and brother Robert were both viscounts of Clermont; his uncle Armand was also a viscount, and married to the (perhaps) sister of Archbishop Amblard of Lyon; his other uncle Eustorgius was co-lord of Brezons with Bertrand, son of Heraclius, father of Viscount Stephen of Gévaudan, the donation itself was given to Brioude, whose abbot was the local viscount, Dalmatius…

I could go on, but other than establishing once more that the tenth-century Auvergne saw a disproportionate number of people called Eustorgius, it’s clear that Stephen is establishing a wide network of both kinship- and non-kinship alliances in his regional environment. Also interesting is that this is basically the core group of the followers of Duke William the Pious of Aquitaine, founder of Cluny, and his nephews and successors William the Younger and Acfred. OK, admittedly not the actual core group, given that Acfred died in 927 and this is some thirty-plus years later, but their direct descendants. The end of Guillelmid (i.e., all the of the Williams) rule in Aquitaine meant a shift in power away from the Auvergne towards Poitiers and Toulouse, and neither the counts of Poitiers nor those of Toulouse ever managed much pull in the Auvergne.

So far, so regional; but what’s the king doing here? Well, once more, tenth-century royal pull shows up as being more substantial than you’d imagine. King Louis IV showed up several times in Aquitaine, and Bishop Stephen was always one of his most important followers. In this case in 962, matters get even more interesting. In the late 950s, it looks as though the Auvergne slipped into, if not civil war, at least endemic violence. Bishop Stephen took a major role in dealing with this violence, and became the unchallenged locally-preeminent figure. However, King Lothar also played a role here: in the early 960s, he was involved in negotiations in southern Burgundy which led to the resignation of the Duke of Aquitaine, William IV ‘Iron-Arm’, count of Poitiers, and almost certainly received Stephen as his man.

So what this charter looks like is that a connection to the kings, actively sought by the bishops of Clermont, is being used to establish a regional community of prayer with the bishop at its head, legitimated through his royal ties. Thus, the Guillelmid network of power was sustained, but with an episcopal rather than lay chief. It’s interesting that this happened in Clermont, which is a rather liminal space; the kings are good at pulling those in, rather than in Deep Aquitaine (say, Cahors or Bordeaux). It’s an important reminder that, used well, kings never stop being useful to localities.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Prayer Communities and the Bishops of Clermont

  1. This is fascinating – I was drawn by the fact that I happened to pass through Brioude yesterday, as I quite often do from Cantal to Grenoble. I’m glad I found your post.

    Like

      1. I really did … I have lived in France for 4 years and this post reminded me how much I want to learn more of the history and try to make sense of it 🙂

        Like

      2. There’s not really anything on the 9th/10th/11th century Midi in English, although if you like Poitou/Limoges, there’s Anna Trumbore-Jones’ _Noble Lord, Good Shepherd_ on the bishops of Aquitaine. In French, though, there’s Marion Gasmand’s book on the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Bourges, and Christian Laurenson-Rosaz’s _Auvergne et ses marges_. These books aren’t exactly cheap, though, but if you can find them in a library, they’re probably where to start for the period!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Thank you – Auvergne (Cantal specifically) is my usual home though at the moment I am based in Grenoble. The libraries here are excellent so I will check out those tomes with grateful thanks.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s