Charter a Week 15: The Council of Meung-sur-Loire

A short post for a quiet year. The early years of Odo’s reign were, if not salad days, at least less hectic than what would come after, although by that I just mean he was fighting Vikings rather than civil wars. Our main source, the Annals of Saint-Vaast, are mostly concerned with Viking fights and don’t say much about what was going on outside the north-east. Hence, if we were reliant on them, we wouldn’t know about this:

MGH Conc. V, no. 33 (July 891, Meung-sur-Loire)

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 891, in the ninth indiction, by the royal command of the glorious king Odo, a synod was celebrated at Meung, on the river Mauve or Loire, in the church of the blessed confessor of Christ Liphard. Sundry bishops of churches gathered there.

There, while it dealt with divers matters regarding the welfare and business of the Church, the plea of the brothers of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, an abbey of the church of Sens, located in its suburb, was set out. They said that they had endured a great and dangerous loss for an immoderately long time.

Therefore, because many abbots from alien abbeys had been established over them as governing prelates by their pontiffs, that is, the bishops of the church of Sens, and certainly because it appeared against the rule of the blessed Benedict and the institution of the holy canons, it was enacted by the most blessed pontiffs, with Walter, venerable pontiff of the same place, the church of Sens, advising and even appealing for it, that no-one henceforth should be ordained and established as father of the monastery except he whom they should elect from amongst themselves by their disposition and free will.

Wherefore, it was solemnly decreed by the aforesaid bishops in this present privilege that anyone so thoughtless as to presume to violate this authority of such fathers, let them be held in the chains of anathema by the authority by which our lord Jesus Christ bestowed on his disciples the power to bind and loose, saying ‘Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matthew 18:18].

Therefore, it was strengthened by the hands of everyone, so that it might be confirmed by the assent of everyone. And everyone who was there subscribed, that is, the bishops and archbishops whose names are here:

Walter, undeservedly archbishop of the holy Church of Sens confirmed this. Edacius, archbishop of the church of Bourges. Erbern, archbishop of Tours. Theodard, archbishop of the church of Narbonne. Adalgar, bishop of Autun. May you always endure under the firm name of Agilmar [of Clermont](*). Herfred, a sinner bishop [of Auxerre]. Eumerius, bishop of Nevers. Aimeric, bishop of Chartres. Adolend, unworthy bishop of Albi, confirmed. Agilbert, by grace of God bishop of Béziers. Bishop Walter [of Orléans]. Servus Dei, humble bishop of the see of Girona. Warin, bishop of Cahors.

The humble archbishop Adald [of Sens](*).

800px-constantine_burning_arian_books
An early ninth-century image of a church council (Nicea, specifically) (source)

(*) These two subscriptions are idiosyncratic: evidently Agilmar felt like showing off; whilst Archbishop Adald subscribed these acts several years later, something not unknown for Burgundian bishops.

Meung-sur-Loire is an abbey in the Orléanais, traditionally considered a heartland of Robertian power although probably more accurately in this time called a heartland of Odo’s personally (my suspicion is that’s because he’s closely allied to Bishop Walter of Orléans). Odo spent a lot of time here, and it makes sense that he’d gather a council of bishops together here.

This document is the only record we have of the synod of Meung-sur-Loire, but from the witness list it looks like it was a big ‘un – I count three different episcopal provinces, which isn’t bad. Noticeably absent are bishops from Rheims (probably because Archbishop Fulk absolutely hates Odo) and Rouen (quite possibly because Vikings are a bigger distraction).

What this shows most of all, once again, is that under Odo an awful lot stayed the same. In fact, big church councils weren’t to disappear until the 930s, even if their synodal records are no longer preserved. This doesn’t mean, though, that there was a late ninth-century sea change – Odo’s kingship is late Carolingian rule as normal. The sea change will come later…

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