Charter a Week 24, Part 2: Guilt and Negotiation

Robert of Neustria wasn’t doing nothing whilst Charles built up his allies in the north. In September 900 he issued one of the most peculiar magnate charters of the whole late-Carolingian period. Buckle in, people, because this is a long one:

DD RR no. 42 (13th September 900, Tours)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. We, verily, Robert, by grace of God Almighty abbot of the flock of the famous confessor of Christ the blessed Martin and as well count.

We desire for it to be well-known and manifest to all the faithful of Christ and the catholic Church and as well chiefly and above all the abbots of the aforesaid flock of the blessed Martin, Our successors, that the aforesaid venerable flock over which We are seen to preside undertook to gain recompense from Our Paternity and Our Guidance and Piety through a venerable deacon of that flock, Adalelm by name, humbly and tearfully lodging a complaint, namely, for a lost spiritual good. He said that Our predecessor, lord Odo, Our brothers, at that time abbot of the aforesaid flock, thereafter a most pious king of the Franks, We know not whether by the instigation or guile of certain of his so-called followers or seduced by the ruthless greed of his, as We said, so-called followers, without consulting the canons of Saint-Martin, to whom the role of giving out alms and hospitality specially pertained, had at his own pleasure and in accordance with his own fancy conceded all the goods pertaining to the hospice for the poor, which the ready devotion of divers of the faithful of Christ through the course of many times since passed bestowed on the same Saint-Martin, that is, to the little cell of Saint-Clément, to perpetually feed the poor there in alms and for the future remedy of all of the faithful who bestowed the same goods, to wit, present and to come, to one of Our canons, then his follower, as if they were his own goods, to be held in right of benefice, that they might be treated separately from those which provide food for the brothers and alms for the poor and thereafter serve him alone. Then We, succeeding him in the same governance, permitted the same goods of the poor to remain in benefice in Our time, subject to the same perilous invasion. Because of this, all the general kindness for guests and alms for the poor – which in olden days were studiously dispersed in the monastery of the blessed Martin to the poor, the wanderer, and the pilgrim for kings and all the orders of the holy Church of God and also for the magnates of the realm and as well, as We said, for those who bestowed the same goods and all the catholic faithful, both living and who have paid death’s due – had completely disappeared. In addition, all the general hospitality remained destroyed.

Therefore We, carefully considering this very lamentable complaint of this venerable flock and the danger We were in by pondering it in Our mind’s deepest contemplation, began to keenly and carefully consider what is asserted by the voice of Truth: ‘I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not’ [Matthew 25:43], ‘I was an hungered, and ye gave me nought to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink (and so on)’ [Matthew 25:42]; ‘and inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me’ [Matthew 25:45], ‘depart from me into the eternal fire’ [Matthew 25:41].

Whereupon We were struck down with a mighty terror, for We had stolen hospitality away from the poor for Our personal use, We also began to consider what We also believe without doubt: that the very Christ himself is taken in in the poor and the wanderer, as he himself said: ‘I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me’ [Matthew 25:36]. He later made this manifest to us in the clearest of ways, when he showed himself in Heaven amongst the most blessed host of angels cloaked with half of the blessed Martin’s cloak, saying ‘Martin, though yet a catechumen, clothed me in this garment’ [Sulpicius Severus, Vita Martini, III.3], ‘I was an hungered and ye gave me something to eat (and so on)’ [Matthew 25:36].

Therefore, considering that not only had We not given to either Christ or Saint Martin from Our own goods that from which the poor might be restored, but in fact had also, as We related, stolen by Our own will and judgement that which the highest devotion of the faithful endeavoured to confer on God Almighty and Saint Martin to sustain the needy for the remission of their sins, despoiling Christ and Saint Martin and clothing Ourself alone, We began once more to be terribly sorry, and, blaming Ourself alone with bitter invective, We decided enough. We know, in addition, that all the good which are bestowed upon churches to sustain the faithful are alms for the poor – but also the price of sins. As the Lord said through the prophet, ‘they eat up the sin of my people’ [Hosea 4:8], and it is also written, ‘Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, death is the penalty’ [Proverbs 28:24/Exodus 21:15]. Moreover, We know that our father is Christ, who redeemed us, and our mother is the holy Church, who spiritually birthed us by Christ through the font of holy baptism. Therefore, whosoever takes anything away from Christ and the Church, from the goods bestowed on them by the faithful, from which the poor should be fed and clothed, will without doubt die an everlasting death, as Ananais and Saphira died, they who unjustly stole something from what they had of their own free will promised they would give to the poor.(*)

Therefore, stirred up by so many terrible spiritual warnings and such great terrors, so that We and Our aforesaid lord and Our brother the lord king Odo, in whose time general hospitality and the taking-in of the poor first disappeared from the monastery of the blessed Martin by his negligence, which was as fearful and grave as We recalled above, should not be struck down on the Day of Judgement by the sentence of the Just Judge saying ‘Because you did this, depart into the eternal fire’ [see Matthew 25:41], We made provision for our souls; and, with the counsel of Our followers, with swift and very ready devotion do restore the aforementioned cell of the blessed martyr Clement, which pertains to the hospice for the poor, with all the goods pertaining to it, from which the poor should be fed, to the old custom and order, and return it to the control of the brothers, with this point of plan and ordering: that Walter, the pupil of the aforesaid Adalelm who was the chief encourager and assistant of this holy work on behalf of all the brothers, might through this testament of Our authority and also the consent of the brothers quietly hold, order and possess all these goods for as long as he lives for the use of the poor and his own people. But after Walter’s death, let the brothers always have permission for themselves, as was ordained in olden times, to elect in accordance with the needs of the moment one of the brothers of the same flock, one who is foremost in total honesty and generosity, who hates all avarice, and who might be a most pious comforter to paupers and pilgrims, who should readily render due comfort from the same goods to his fellow brothers and should similarly not deny due aid to the poor. To him, through Our consent and that of Our successors as abbots of Saint-Martin, let them commit the hospice of the poor. And thus, let what the holy fathers, Our predecessors, moved by the Holy Spirit, established be forever done with the aforesaid goods, remain ever undisturbed.

Concerning this matter, We humbly beg all Our successors as abbot of Saint-Martin that, as We are ruined and condemned by Our obstinacy and that of Our brother, and We judge and accuse Ourself before the divine presence, so too should they see and completely beware that they do not presume to despoil Christ and Saint Martin (in the form of their poor) as We did. Rather, let them vest and permit this restoration of Our authority to endure forever inviolate.

Next, holy bishops, to wit, Archbishop Erbern of Tours, Bishop Raino of Angers, Fulcher of Nantes, Berno of Orléans, Anskeric of Paris, Otger of Amiens, embraced and confirmed Our free will and very ready consent in this matter (which is very salutary and profits our souls both temporally and spiritually) with the power to bind and loose bestowed on them by the Lord in the person of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, in his following words: ‘whatsoever thou shalt bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven. Truly, depending on the assurance of this power, they closed the gates of Heaven with the chains of anathema for all those whose greedy malice is a barrier and who wish to transgress this Our authority and restoration or correction, but also all those who consent and urge them on in this fault. Thus let them be cursed everywhere, and let all the curses with which God Almighty cursed those ‘who said unto Lord God, “depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways”’ [Job 21:14] and ‘Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession’ [Psalm 83:13] come upon them: ‘let death seize upon them and let them go down quick into Hell’ [Psalm 55:16]. Let their part and inheritance be the torment of eternal fire, and let them receive the sentence and summit of eternal damnation with Dathan and Abiram, Judas and Pilate and all others who violate or transgress holy law, unless they quickly come to their senses and set themselves right from temerity of this sort.

And that, in God’s name, this might be believed more certain to have been done by Us and be conserved forever inviolate, We corroborated it with Our own hands with the sign of the holy Cross, and We asked the aforementioned bishops and Our followers to subscribe and affirm this authority.

Sign of the holy cross of lord Robert, most glorious of abbots, who asked this holy authority to be made and confirmed.

Erbern, by God’s mercy archbishop [of Tours], subscribed this authority. I, Raino, bishop of Angers, subscribed with my own hand. Fulcher, bishop of Nantes, subscribed. Berno, although unworthy bishop of Orléans, subscribed. Anskeric, bishop of Paris, at the request of Count Robert, confirmed this authority. Otger [of Amiens], episcophilax, strengthened this. I, Abbot Aimo [of Cormery] subscribed.

Sign of Viscount Atto [of Tours]. Sign of Viscount Guarnegaud [of Blois]. Sign of Viscount Fulk [the Red, of Angers]. Sign of Viscount Rainald. Sign of Maingaud the vassal. Sign of Walcher. Sign of Bernuin. Sign of Adalard. Sign of Eric. Sign of Ernust. Sign of Gerard. Sign of Walter. Sign of Alberic. Sign of Erwig. Sign of Wandalbert. Sign of Gundacer. Sign of Suger. Sign of Eudo. Sign of Berard. Sign of Teudo. Sign of Guy. Sign of Robert. Sign of another Walter. Sign of Landric. Sign of Blado. Sign of Odo.

The authority of this restitution was given on the ides of September [13th September], in the city of Tours, in the 3rd year after the death of the lord king Odo, in the reign of the lord king Charles.

I, Archenald, a levite of the flock of the blessed Martin, having been asked to do so, wrote and subscribed this.

(*) It’s not a specific quotation, but it’s remarkably reminiscent of some of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals – we saw John VIII using Pseudo-Lucius saying much the same thing a few months back…

The church of Saint-Clément, which was demolished in the nineteenth century after having served as a wheat warehouse. (source)

First, the witness list. We’re looking here at most of Robert’s important fideles, the viscounts who run the Neustrian March on his behalf as well as most of the prominent local bishops. (Noticeably, the bishop of Le Mans is missing…) What we have here, it seems, is an emergency meeting convoked to decide what exactly to do about Robert’s sudden exclusion from court.

This isn’t to say that Robert is operating from a position of strength; far from it. Being appropriately penitential can do wonders for your authority in the Carolingian world, but this is quite excessive: not merely Robert but also Odo come in for criticism – both are presented as greedy, negligent, and easily-swayed by bad advice. The implication is that he has had to submit to pressure from the canons.

Note also in the witness list the presence of Bishops Anskeric of Paris and Otger of Amiens, both of whom are allies of Charles not Robert. I haven’t even tried to translate episcophilax, which is a unique word. Etymologically, it is derived from a Greek word meaning a guard or sentinel. The closest parallel from this time is a late tenth century reference to a crisonphilax (sic), a word used by Harmer, the author of the Miracula Sancti Maurilii to describe a treasurer, presumably a ‘gold-guarder’.  Episcophilax, then, would seem to be a ‘guard-bishop’ – an ‘episcopal ombudsman’? Either way, I think it’s fair to see Anskeric and Otger as part of a royal delegation to Robert, using their authority to bolster the canons’ position.

The whole charter is remarkably authoritative. It’s one of the few private charters from the period to have strong liturgical overtones: that bit about ‘paying death’s due’ comes from a Saint-Martin mass for the salvation of the living and the dead. But this bolsters the authority of Saint-Martin rather than of Robert. By storming out of Charles’ court, losing his closeness to the king, Robert had opened himself up politically.


2 thoughts on “Charter a Week 24, Part 2: Guilt and Negotiation

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