More Wandering Charter Prologues: Louis IV and the Germans

There was another blog post scheduled for today, but I’ve moved it down the pipeline so that I can share with you all another exciting thing I’ve found in my obsessively-close reading of royal diplomas. Come with me now to autumn 948, where King Louis IV issues two diplomas, one to the abbey of Sant Pere de Roda in the Spanish March and one to the cathedral church of Mâcon. Each of these diplomas begins with a prologue that goes:

(The prologue for Mâcon is longer; I add the extra bits in square brackets.)

If royal majesty, for love of God [and His saints], endeavours to freely receive and adjudicate[/vindicate] and ordain the cares of churchly matters with just consideration of equity, We are confident that this ought to greatly benefit it in eternal repayment [because that which is paid out to the Repayer of All Goods cannot be fruitless].

I was, as I have been known to do for fun but in this instance actually for part of the book, looking to see where the textual precedents for this came from. And do you know what I found? Germans.

The abbey of Klingenmünster (source)

Specifically, Louis the German, who issued an act for the abbey of Klingenmünster in 849 with an identical opening. This opening, which is extremely distinctive and not really found anywhere else, matches it essentially word-for-word, with some slight scribal variants. This gives us three alternatives:

  • There is a separate, no-longer-surviving, third source for both.

It is, at least, fair to say that I haven’t found one. If you know of one, please let me know! With that said, this strikes me as extremely unlikely. If there were a common source, given how far apart in time and space the recipients are, I’d expect at least fragments of it to show up elsewhere, and they don’t.

  • Louis IV’s acts are a source for Louis the German’s.

Obviously the chronology here raises problems, insofar as Louis the German’s act was purportedly issued in 849, almost exactly a century before Louis IV’s. Admittedly, Louis’ act as it exists now has been interpolated, but the diploma’s editor reckons it’s a ninth-century interpolation and as far as I can tell German historiography has followed in his footsteps in agreeing with this. So unless it’s a much, much better forgery than previously suspected, which is unlikely, we can rule this one out.

  • Louis the German’s act is a source for Louis IV’s.

Now we’re talking. You see, when I saw that these acts were issued in 948, my first thought was ‘oh, hang on a sec. Where is Klingenmünster?’ And it turns out that it is in the Rhineland, a little bit south-west of Speyer and north of the modern French border. And that’s when I started grinning like a maniac, because in 948 Louis IV has particularly good reason to be talking to people from that area. In 946, Louis was imprisoned and blackmailed by his most powerful magnate Hugh the Great. He was freed, and his wife Queen Gerberga sent to her brother, Otto the Great of Germany, for help. In 948, this kicked into high gear: at a synod at Ingelheim, Hugh the Great was excommunicated and Otto sent an army to help Louis kick Hugh out of the lands around Rheims. He didn’t lead it himself, however.

Instead, at the head of the Ottonian army, was the duke of Lotharingia, Conrad the Red. Louis and Conrad appear to have spent the last half of 948 acting in concert. Conrad even acted as godfather to Louis’ daughter! And although he might have been duke of Lotharingia, Conrad’s home base was around… Speyer.

Now, we can’t trace a direct connection between Conrad and Klingenmünster. Insofar as I’ve been able to find out, the tenth-century history of Klingenmünster is essentially a blank. (Thanks to Levi Roach and Björn Weiler for their suggestions!) However, the area was his power-base, and his family had priors with that particular area – Conrad’s son Otto of Worms was intimately associated with the abbey of Wissembourg, a morning’s walk to the south. And certainly, this is a clear channel for this text to end up in Louis’ chancery.

What does this mean? This is perhaps the important part of this story. In late 948, Louis owed his restoration to Ottonian arms, and specifically to Conrad. That these two acts – his first (surviving) since his imprisonment – both drew on a unique example of East Frankish Carolingian munificence to an institution in Conrad’s home base to compose their texts. The royal chancery was expressing itself in East Frankish words. By picking Rhineland texts to base their portrayal of kingship on, Louis and his circle were displaying and broadcasting their alliance with their East Frankish benefactors in a very direct way.

4 thoughts on “More Wandering Charter Prologues: Louis IV and the Germans

  1. A fascinating blog! Just two quick points: Conrad the Red’s base is slightly further north, around Worms. The family only relocated to Speyer during the episcopate of Burchard, when the bishop received full comital rights over the city. Second: the association between Otto and Wissembourg is only recorded in much later (twelfth-century?) sources, and is normally dated post-983 – the standard interpretation being that he was compensated for the loss of the duchy of Bavaria with Wissembourg lands. None of this means you’re wrong; in fact, I think you’re almost certainly right. But the case may need to be made more cautiously. I’ll see if I can do some further digging for you. (Thomas Kohl may also be able to advise.)


  2. Thanks for the comment! Fair point on Wissembourg, I hadn’t clocked that. In terms of Conrad the Red and the bishopric of Speyer, the late 940s are a good time for him to have some kind of relationship with an abbey there because in 946 he entered into (what I’m told is) a very significant precarial agreement with Bishop Regimbald – mediated by Richgowo of Worms, but concerning lands in the Speyergau and in one case directly adjacent to Speyer itself. The history of Klingenmünster – and indeed of Bishop Regimbald – is a blank in this period, but given the intertextual links between D LD 55 and the DD L4 30 & 31, either the bishop or Conrad must be the relevant figure and Conrad makes more sense in a West Frankish context… It’s not certain, for sure, but the textual artefact is there to be explained….


    1. Absolutely! It remains by some way the best explanation. (Incidentally, just checked Friedmann’s book on Ottonian-Salian Speyer, which has nothing noteworthy to add on Klingenmünster, save that some local bishops have been – very hypothetically, and not entirely unproblematically – identified as quondam abbots of the centre.)


      1. Yes, I think something like that was in the Decker article. Frustratingly even on a basic level, neither Regimbald of Speyer nor Richgowo of Worms was one of them!


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