Source Translation: A Challenger Appears! Pt. 2 (Putting Some Charters Behind Provençal Oddness)

In the last post, I mentioned that Sheffield has seen something of an increase in its already fairly substantial online translation presence, and that this had provoked me to action to join in the fun here. A little before that, a translated diploma of King Lothar II of Lotharingia was put up by occasional commentator Charles West, and it’s very interesting and all that, but he introduced it with this Tweet, which hit close to home:

 Indeed, they are very seldom translated; and given I have literally hundreds of the things sitting in my big folder o’ translated texts, I should get on with polishing some up and making them available. And where better to start than with the Kingdom of Provence, which, as we’ve already established, spends much of the mid-tenth century being very weird?

In the name of our lord, the eternal king, Jesus Christ. Hugh, by grace of God, king. If We were to corroborate that which was donated or will be granted hereafter to God Almighty and His saints by Our authority expressed in a precept, We truly know this will be a great prize for Us.

Wherefore, let the industry of all the fideles of the holy Church of God and Us, to wit, present and future, know that the venerable Archbishop Anskeric and Gipper, abbot of Saint-Oyen-de-Joux, humbly exhorted Our Clemency that, out of fear of God Almighty and for the remedy of Our soul, We should deign to confirm and corroborate all the mobile and immobile goods which were donated or will be granted hereafter to the aforesaid monastery of Saint-Oyen by faithful men, to wit, justly and legally, by Our authority expressed in a precept.

Proffering assent to their petitions, We therefore confirm and corroborate geverything whatsoever justly and legally donated there, that is, the estate of Molinges and the estate of Viry, and the estate of Dortin with all their appurtenances; and the estate of Saxio, and Martignat and Cessy and Cosges and Outriaz and Tessonge and Château-des-Prés and Nermier and another Martigny[-Combe?], and Tusonus and Onoz and Moirans, Nants and Banziacus, and the villa of the monks and… Chanaz, Calenadis, Coloniacae, Lentus, Ardio, Loncanus, Cessiat, Idris, Sablo, Soinae, Berius, Quintinadis, Velosus, Taldaurus; both these estates and everything whatsoever Saint-Oyen… and is in Provence, which were justly and legally donated there by faithful men, with houses, lands, vineyards, fields, pastures, woods, groves, land for transhumance, waters and watercourses, mills, fisheries and mountains, valleys, peaks and planes, with male and female serfs of both sexes and with all their appendages, and with everything which can be spoken of or named in the same estates and in the goods of the same church entirely, remote from all human contradiction.

We therefore command and establish that no duke, marquis, count, viscount, or any other official should dare to inflict any molestation or loss on the monks serving God there at this time, nor their men, without just judgment, nor should they presume or try to exact or require any hospitality or provisions or toll or bridge-tax or port-fees or cattle-levies or wheel-tax or any renders in any way.

We therefore command by this Our royal authority, that if, by any fire or disaster any confirmations are lost, the aforesaid church and the monks serving God therein at this time should hold and possess these goods through this Our royal authority, as if they held these confirmations at the present time.

If anyone, without Our just judgement, tries to rise against this Our royal precept, let them know themselves to be liable to pay a fine of a hundred pounds of pure gold, half to Our treasury and half to the aforesaid church and the abbot and the monks serving God there at this time.

That this might be more truly believed and more diligently observed by everyone, strengthening it with Our own hand, We command it be annotated below with Our seal.

Sign of the invincible king lord Hugh.

Peter the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Abbot and Archchancellor Gerland.

Given on the …th of November, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 928, in the third year of the reign of the most pious king lord Hugh, in the first indiction.

Enacted at Vienne, happily in the name of Christ, amen.

The rather unimpressive cathedral of Saint-Claude as it is today. Definitely wouldn’t get my vote on #RealCathedralWorldCup (source)


Context: this diploma is issued by Hugh of Arles, king of Italy, former right-hand man of the late Emperor Louis the Blind, and still probably the most powerful magnate in the kingdom (we know from his niece’s will and a few other royal diplomas that he had land all over the place up to his death in 947). It is issued in winter 928, while Hugh is staying in Vienne, which is odd enough itself given that the reason he went north of the Alps in the first place appears to have been to make a deal with the West Frankish king Ralph involving handing over Vienne to a West Frankish magnate. Nonetheless, he hangs around for a few months making grants to Provençal monasteries of roughly this type.

And that’s odd. I’m still not sure whether or not he’s trying to be king of Provence. This certainly looks like he is – he’s basically putting Saint-Claude under his protection as king, making them particularly reliant on him, and doing so by his own royal authority. But, if he is, no-one at all appears to be taking him seriously. Even his closest family members and allies in the south are still dating their documents by the death of Emperor Louis, right up to the point where they jump ship to Italy to participate in Hugh’s regime there.

So is he trying to be king and failing, or trying to do something else? Another possibility did occur to me: that he’s specifically putting the more important local monasteries under his protection to ensure he’s still got a stake in holding the balance of power in the north between the creeping influence of the West Frankish and Burgundian kings. I think, for reasons involving yet another royal diploma, that Hugh basically accepts that, within the central Rhone valley, Ralph and Rudolph can fight over everywhere north of Valence and leave the southern bit to him; but to ensure that, he needs to maintain a foothold there, and these diplomas may well be what’s helping him do that. Still, Provence between Louis the Blind and Conrad the Pacific remains the oddest bit of Carolingian politics I can think of…


4 thoughts on “Source Translation: A Challenger Appears! Pt. 2 (Putting Some Charters Behind Provençal Oddness)

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