Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 6: The Last Years of Stephen of Clermont

All twenty of them. Thing is, and why this post has been less than forthcoming, is that with the end of hostilities in the Auvergne in the early 960s, we lose even a semblance of narrative. Piecing together tenth-century history is always difficult, but here it becomes close to impossible. We, quite simply, do not have enough evidence to build any kind of story here, let alone the relatively coherent and/or detailed one of the last five posts. Thus, the last twenty-odd years of Bishop Stephen II of Clermont’s career can be covered in about a quarter of the space of the first twenty.

Rather than going chronologically, it’s best to speak about what the evidence does and doesn’t have in it. Let’s start with the basics: when did Stephen die? We know he was still alive in 977, when he is noted as owning land bordering a donation to the monastery of Sauxillanges. After that, things get complicated. A couple of charters from the abbey of Conques have him as being still alive in the thirtieth year of the reign of King Lothar, which should in theory be 984. However, two more charters, one from 981 and one from 980, give the abbot of Conques as Hugh and the bishop of Clermont as Bego respectively, both Stephen’s successors. I think what’s happening here is either that some scribes are taking Lothar’s reign as beginning earlier than 954 (as we know some did) or there’s been a transcription error – Lothar’s XXX-th year and his XXV-th year, or something like that, aren’t too difficult to mix up. It is also possible these charters might be right, but that doesn’t change things too much. Bego and Hugh had both been Stephen’s co-rulers before 980, so even if the by-this-point-rather-elderly bishop of Clermont was still alive, what has probably happened is that he is no longer active – living, but out of the picture. One way or another, we can put the end of Stephen’s career in around 979-980.

So what was Stephen doing between the early 960s and the later 970s? Ruling Auvergne, probably. The charter evidence from these decades shows that Stephen is pretty much the only substantial authority figure visible in the region – no counts of Poitiers, no viscounts of Brioude that matter, just the bishop. What this says to me is that he probably didn’t face much by way of challenge. Our closest look at him comes from what’s known as the Landeyrat Charter of 972, where he consecrates the abbey-church of Aurillac in the presence of a large assembly. The problem is that this document is at minimum heavily interpolated, although some scholars argue strongly for an authentic core (and that it’s a precursor to the Peace of God, an idea we will return to in a later post), so we need to be cautious in dealing with its actual provisions.

Sauxillanges today. (source)

More interesting is a charter from the cartulary of Sauxillanges. The big problem with this thing is that it is undated, and by formal criteria undatable. It’s not likely to be earlier than about 960, and it can’t be later than 979, and it can’t be pinned down more closely than that. With that said, the man giving the charter, one Rigald, gives off the impression that he’s dying – he appoints people as his executors – and he appears fairly frequently in the 950s but not in the 960s or 970s, so this is probably in the earlier part of the period, 963-965 or so. What’s interesting about this charter is that it features both Stephen, the four main viscounts of the Auvergne, and Archbishop Amblard of Lyon who was himself from a prominent Auvergnat family and had major interests in the region. We saw him last time helping broker peace in the Auvergne, and his presence here surely implies that he remained an important figure there. On his own death in 979, he donated the Auvergnat abbey of Ris to Cluny, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he acted (as in this Sauxillanges act) as a supporter of Bishop Stephen.

By this time, though, a new generation was clearly coming up. Amblard of Lyon was dead, Stephen of Clermont was either dying or incapacitated, and other figures were circling. A new bishop in Le Puy, Guy, was taking some of Stephen’s ideas; a new group of counts was emerging; and King Lothar himself was preparing to take an interest. And that’s what we’ll get into next time…

3 thoughts on “Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 6: The Last Years of Stephen of Clermont

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