Reading the West Frankish Coronation Liturgy, pt. 2: The Coronation of King Odo (888)

1. Prayer to bless the king.

2. “O Lord God, Father Almighty, bless and protect this thy servant N., a subject of thy majesty, through thy only Son in the virtue of the Holy Spirit, that he might, secure against all adversity, constantly rejoice in thy praise. Through the same Lord.

3. The king’s consecration.

“O God, giver of all honours, O God, holiest granter of all dignities, attend our prayers and invocations and deign to send forth from Heaven upon this thy servant N. thy Holy Spirit, which thou hast this very day poured forth upon thy adopted son. May it illuminate, teach and govern him in ruling thy people and in carrying out thy will in all things. May he receive, we beseech thee O Lord, the unction of thy sanctification, with which, through the hand of thy holy prophet Samuel, by the oil of thy blessing, thou anointest the king and prophet David, from whose seed thereafter thou sendest thy son, our lord and God Jesus Christ, by an utterly wonderful dispensation, into the world, born in flesh from an undefiled virgin. May the same holy mother of God and undefiled virgin Mary attend upon him, we beseech thee, O most merciful Father; and may thy holy apostles and all thy elect protect this thy servant N. with the assiduous intercession of their prayers, and may they cherish him and make him vigorous and worthy to rule thy commons and people, which thou, O Lord, hath redeemed with the most precious blood of thy son Christ, who lives and is glorified and reigns with thee and with the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

4. Ad complendum [prayer after communion].

“We beseech thee, O Lord… our actions…” (as above) [there is no above].

5. The bishops’ petition to the king.

“We ask you to grant and promise to us that you will conserve to each of us and the churches committed to us canonical privilege and due law and justice, and that you will provide defence against those who pillage and oppress our churches and the goods pertaining to them in accordance with your ministry, as much as God gives it to you to be able, and that you will thereby conserve for us canonical law, and that you will concede that the goods of our churches, bestowed both by kings and by other faithful men of God, which our churches justly and legally retain at the present time, should endure in wholeness and immunity without any diminution, and that you will endeavour to increase and exalt them in accordance with the due service of each, insofar as God rationally gives you knowledge and power and the times dictate, just as your ancestors, who well and rationally observed this, conserved them for our predecessors; and that you will, with divine clemency aiding you, restore that which was previously corrupted by wicked inclinations to their earlier and better state, with the counsel and aid of us and your other faithful.”

6. King Odo’s promise.

“I promise and grant to each of you and the churches committed to you, that I will conserve canonical privilege and due law and justice, and that I will provide defence against those who pillage and oppress your churches and the goods pertaining to them in accordance with my ministry [ministerium], as much as God gives me strength, and that I will thereby conserve for you canonical law, and that I will concede that the goods of your churches, bestowed both by kings and by other faithful men of God, which your churches justly and legally retain at the present time, should endure in wholeness and immunity without any diminution, and that I will endeavour to increase and exalt them in accordance with the due service of each, insofar as God rationally gives me knowledge and power and the times dictate, just as my ancestors, who well and rationally observed this, conserved them for your predecessors; in order that you might thus be my faithful assistants in counsel and in aid, in accordance with God and in accordance with the world, as your good ancestors were for my better predecessors in accordance with their knowledge and power; and that I will, with divine clemency aiding me, restore that which was previously corrupted by wicked inclinations to their earlier and better state, with the consolation and aid of you and Our other faithful.” The confirmation of King Odo.

coronation_of_king_odo
A much, much later depiction. (source)

(We’ve passed over Louis the Stammerer’s second coronation and a short promissio preserved from the time of his son Carloman II.)

This is a distinctly fruitful ordo, isn’t it? You’ll notice that first of all despite what I said last time about the influence of the 877 ordo on later coronations, that Odo’s ordo doesn’t have much in common with Louis the Stammerer’s coronation memo. The great historian of liturgy Schramm called this one one of the most interesting ordines in the whole West Frankish world, and he’s not wrong. It’s preserved (amongst other places) in a manuscript at Tours, and I wonder if we shouldn’t see a Touraine hand in its production? Odo had been abbot of Saint-Martin in Tours, his core base of support was in Neustria, and the initial blessing is from Alcuin’s Liber Sacramentorum. Usually initiative in coronation ceremonies is given to the archbishops of Rheims or the archbishops of Sens, but we know from elsewhere that Tours had an interest in composing royal texts, and this would seem to be one of them.

What is striking about it is just how traditional it is. Whoever did write this, they were concerned to convey the idea that this was business as usual. (One might note in passing the same kind of late-Carolingian claims for royal authority can be seen in the reference to David as king and prophet as there was in the 877 ordo.) This is most clear in the promissio, which you will note is altered from the form used by Louis the Stammerer (and which was repeated in 884 by Louis’ son Carloman II). In this case, it’s drawing on an oath sworn at Beauvais by Charles the Bald in 845. Schramm thought that this oath had become a ‘foundational document’ of the West Frankish Church; I think that instead the promissio’s author is trying to invoke continuity – note that the reference to ‘your father’ is removed, but instead we have ‘your ancestors’ and ‘our ancestors’, putting Odo’s accession into a long and interrupted line of royal authority. The other thing about the promissio is that it leans very heavily on the language of royal ministerium, both using that word and highlighting the king’s role in correcting the people. Odo’s ordo, in short, is a direct continuation of a late Carolingian tradition.

Next Wednesday, I’ll be writing about something which isn’t coronation liturgy; but this series will be back on Friday with the Erdmann ordo!

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