Charter a Week 13: Long Live King Odo!

You may have been wondering why I spent last week dealing with Rudolph I of Burgundy rather than our old friend Odo, formerly count of Paris and ruler of the Neustrian March, but after 888 West Frankish king. The answer is that he didn’t issue any diplomas in 888. Why? Because he had to spend that entire year putting out fires.

As mentioned, the succession to Charles the Fat was a horrendous mess of muddle and improvisation, no less in the West Frankish kingdom than anywhere else. Quite apart from anything else, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims appears to have loathed Odo for reasons which remain unclear, and he and Geilo of Langres invited Guy of Spoleto to be king instead. However, Guy couldn’t make his claims stick, and despite being crowned by Geilo at Langres, quickly shuffled off back to Italy. (Geilo died shortly thereafter, meaning we have to bid a sad farewell to a man who’s been one of our main characters until now.) Meanwhile, Fulk, along with some Flemish allies, turned to Arnulf, who was delaying in the East, and who evidently preferred to have Odo as a respectful underking than rule himself: Fulk got a flat no, and Odo performed due homage to Arnulf at a meeting at Worms. At the same time, Odo was continuing to mop up the Viking invaders, winning an important victory at Montfaucon.

Only in 889 did he get round to moving towards the south of the kingdom. The main figure in western Aquitaine, Count Ramnulf of Poitiers, had for reasons unknown given up on his own bid for kingship, and now acknowledged Odo as king. Odo thereafter held an assembly at the abbey of Micy, on the Loire, where he issued a lot of diplomas. (Very) roughly one in five of Odo’s surviving diplomas come from this one meeting, as Odo was recognised as king over the Aquitanians.

DD Odo 2 (13th June 889, Micy) = ARTEM no. 646 = DK 7.xi

In the name of God, the highest and eternal king. Odo, by grace of God king.

Whenever We lend the ears of Our Highness and proffer assent to the just and reasonable solicitations of servants of God and Our followers, We exercise the custom of royal majesty and through this We doubt not at all that We will more easily gain possession of the prize of eternal happiness.

For that reason, let it be known to all of those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, present or future, that the venerable man Theodoric, abbot of the monastery of Solignac which was constructed of old by Eligius, bishop of Noyon, in the time of that most glorious king of the Franks Dagobert [I], located on the river Briance, which the said pontiff constructed in honour of the holy mother of God Mary and Saint Peter and all the apostles and Dionysius and his companions and Pancratius, Crispin and Crispinian, and the holy confessors Hilary, Martin and Medard, coming reverently before Our Clemency, appealed to Us that We might deign to receive the same monastery, with all the men and estates and goods justly and legally pertaining to it, and also at the same time with those things divine piety might wish to bestow upon the said monastery through its followers, under the tutelage of Our immunity and the cover of Our defence.

We assented to his prayers with clement favour, and moreover because of them We commanded a precept of Our Magnitude be made with a special condition, through which We wish it to be known to all Our followers that We have taken the aforesaid monastery, as previously stated, with all the goods pertaining to it, under the tutelage of Our immunity, and We order and command that none of those faithful to God and Us, in present or future times, should be permitted to enter the same monastery or any of the estates or fields or woods pertaining to it to hear cases or determine public judgements or seize provisions or exact billeting or spare horses or exact any render of any kind. Rather, let whatever can be exacted from the goods of the aforesaid monastery accomplish an increase in the stipends for the abbots and monks serving God in the same place.

We establish, meanwhile, that the monks serving the Lord in the same place should have, in accordance with the institution of the Rule of Father Benedict, permission for all time to elect an abbot from amongst themselves, and no-one should be permitted at any time to diminish or take anything away from them, or to disturb or distrain the men pertaining to them or dwelling on their land or take securities. Rather, let whatever can be gotten from them benefit for all time the rulers and monks of the oft-said monastery in acts of charity and accomplish the liberation of Our soul.

On the other hand, if anyone should endeavour to expunge these enactments of Our goodwill, let the Lord strike him down with such vengeance that he who wished to infringe this Our authority can in no way make good his wish.

But that this authority of Our Magnificence might be observed for all time inviolably both by Us and by Our successors, We confirmed it below with Our hand and We had it sealed with Our signed.

Sign of Odo, most glorious of kings.

Troand the notary witnessed on behalf of Ebalus [of Saint-Denis].

Bishop Frothar [of Bourges] ambasciated, Troand the notary wrote this.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

Given on the ides of June [13th June], in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 889, in the 7th indiction, in the second year of the reign of the glorious king lord Odo.

Enacted at the monastery of Saint-Mesmin.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 13 889
Odo’s diploma, from the Diploma Karolinorum linked above.

Solignac was an important abbey south of Limoges, dating back to Merovingian times, when the great bishop-saints of the period went all around Gaul founding abbeys. It’s therefore interesting that the charter begins by referencing King Dagobert I, the first king to be buried at Saint-Denis, the most important abbey of Odo’s old county, over which his new archchancellor Ebalus (Ramnulf’s brother and Odo’s old wartime comrade from the Siege of Paris) was abbot. It’s a nice textual link between Odo’s authority and local tradition. (This isn’t, I think, a dynastic thing, because Dagobert is mentioned in an older diploma issued by Pippin II of Aquitaine, a Carolingian; but that it’s brought up here where it hadn’t been under Charles the Bald must be significant.)

Perhaps more important for Odo’s authority is the sheer range of notables he has here, in this one charter alone. We can see the abbot of Solignac, Ebalus himself (who was also abbot of Saint-Hilaire in Poitiers amongst others) and Archbishop Frothar of Bourges, another old hand from Charles the Bald’s court, who was abbot of the abbey of Saint-Julien de Brioude (and, like Ebalus, was someone Odo knew from back when: as lay abbot of Saint-Martin, Odo and Frothar had been part of a property exchange only a year or so earlier). These are major figures, and their visibly taking part in Odo’s court is in itself the king’s rule extending over Aquitaine. Koziol has talked about this assembly in terms of bilateral negotiation between Odo and Ramnulf, and about the shrinking of politics as we go into the tenth century, but doing so ignores the sheer number of stakeholders present in this diploma. Odo had to do a major balancing act, and as we shall see in later weeks, this was a very tricky proposition indeed.


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