Charter a Week 50 – The Long Long Long Trek to Carolingian Justice

It is striking: the longer this goes on, the greater the likelihood that I’ve already written about the charter. Still, it does mean anyone who wants to see the charter can come and read the blog, so I guess this is synergy?

In any case, this week we’re in Neustria and Aquitaine. The western end of the Loire valley (i.e., Touraine-Anjou, south-east Brittany, and Poitou) form a reasonably coherent geographical area, so it’s not surprising that they were all so often up in each other’s business. This was true not least of the abbey of Saint-Martin in Tours: as one of the richest and most important churches in Europe, it was particularly well-endowed in its native region. Of course, the bigger you are the bigger a target you are, and so it proved in this case:

Chartes Poitevines 925-950, no. F004 (21st May 926, Thouars; 29th May 926, Avrigny)

A notice of how the power of Saint-Martin made a complaint at Poitiers before the lord count Ebalus [Manzer] and the lord viscount Aimeric [of Loudun] and also lord Savaric, viscount of Thouars, saying that they had lost most of the goods of Saint-Martin which they held for their daily uses in the district of Thouarsais, to wit, in the curtilage of Curçay and Antogné and everything pertaining to them. This reclamation went on for nearly six years, but they could never get it to go to justice because of the greed of the Frankish men who (in whatever way) possessed them. At that time, with the help of God and St. Martin withdrawn, it became necessary for the canons of Saint-Martin to go from there and make their claim to lord Hugh [the Great], their abbot and count.

He gave them the counsel that they should go and once again make their claim before lord count Ebalus, his special friend, and his aforesaid followers on behalf of Saint-Martin and his property; and if they did not do them justice, they should wait until they could see them all together to talk, and they should pursue their case at that time.

Therefore, Theotolo, dean of Saint-Martin [and later archbishop of Tours], and lord Walter the treasurer came into the chapter of the brothers at Tours; and in turn, with the general counsel of the brothers sent out their messengers (that is, Farmann, the provost of the said estates, and with him the priests Arduin and Archenald) to the said lord count Ebalus and his followers concerning the same matter.

However, when they came to the castle of Loudun, they discovered the abovesaid viscount lord Aimeric there, and they let him know the sorrow and difficulties of the brothers, and that their lord and master Hugh had send them to his friend lord Ebalus. He, hearing the brothers’ sorrow, consoled them, and advised them that they should remain in the estate of Curçay until such time as he might talk further with them and with the above-said viscount Savaric. But the following day, the representative of lord viscount Savaric came to them at Curçay, and said to them that they should accompany him as far as Orbé, and that he and his companions (to wit, Boso and Berengar and Ingelbald) and many of his followers would meet them there.

Therefore, the aforesaid messengers from the brothers – that is, Farmann and Arduin and Archenald – came to the aforesaid estate of Orbé on the 12th kalends of June (21st May), into the presence of lord viscount Savaric and other noblemen and followers of Christ, and there publicly deplored the straits of the brothers. Inspired by divine clemency, they were goaded to repentance by love of St Martin, to the point that none of them would deny to the brothers and St Martin whatever they wished from them. Therefore, lord viscount Savaric, knowing their wishes and statements to be right and just, and also in accordance with what lord Ebalus and his followers had judged concerning this matter in Poitiers, through the counsel and consent of those residing thereabouts restored to Farmann the provost (on behalf of all the brothers) all the power over the goods of Saint-Martin which were in his viscounty through a staff which he held in his hand, such that he might have permission and power to do with the same things whatever he could in fidelity to the brothers; and if there should be anyone in his viscounty who might resist this ordinance, he, with the help of his lord and their followers, would help as much as possible for love of St Martin. This was enacted in the presence of these people.

After that, the said three canons came to the castle of Colombiers, before the aforesaid lord count Ebalus and lord Frothar, bishop of the Poitevins, and their followers, and they read this notice before everyone, who gave them the counsel that Provost Farmann should wait for them with this notice until he and his viscounts could come together to the estate of Avrigny, and there they would confirm it in front of everybody.

Therefore, on the 4th kalends of June (29th May) Provost Farmann came to the estate of Avrigny, and the lord Ebalus confirmed it there first, and asked his followers to confirm it.

[cross] Sign of lord Count Ebalus, who carried out this justice faithfully for love of Saint Martin.

[cross] Lord Bishop Frothar [of Poitiers], devotedly touching it, confirmed.

[cross] Sign of lord Savaric, viscount of Thouars, who judged it, consenting.

Sign of Berengar. Sign of Amelius. Sign of Boso. Sign of Geoffrey. Sign of Rainald. Sign of Veco. Sign of Turald. Sign of Walter. Sign of Abiathar. Sign of Hildebert. Sign of Isembert. Sign of Roger. Sign of Theobald. Sign of Berengar. Sign of Bego. Sign of Dilebald.

This notice was given on the 12th kalends of June [21st May] in the castle of Thouars, and corroborated on the 4th kalends of June [29th May] in the estate of Avrigny, in the third year of King Ralph.

 I, Godnedram, having been requested, wrote and subscribed.

Image illustrative de l’article Château de Loudun
The (slightly later but still post-Carolingian) tower at Loudun, the first stop on the canons’ journey. Click for source.

The way this charter is written means that what’s going on can be quite difficult to follow, so here’s a summary:

  • In about 920, representatives of Saint-Martin had made a complaint before Ebalus Manzer and some of his chief viscounts that their estates in northern Poitou had been stolen.
  • However, whilst they got a verdict in their favour, they couldn’t get it implemented.
  • So, the most important canons of Saint-Martin went to their lay abbot, Hugh the Great, to try and get him to help out, which he agreed to do.
  • Thus, the canons sent a delegation to Poitiers, but – what a coincidence! – just happened to come across Aimeric of Loudun, whom they told of their newfound support from Hugh and Ebalus.
  • Aimeric sent them to Curçay (almost exactly halfway between Thouars and Loudun) to meet Viscount Savaric of Thouars.
  • In turn, Savaric’s messengers ask them to come to Orbé.
  • At Orbé, the delegation makes a similar complaint to Savaric and his followers as they made to Aimeric.
  • Savaric finally agrees to give back Saint-Martin’s estates (and this is in some way formalised in Thouars itself).
  • Just to be sure, the brothers go further south-east, to Colombiers just south of Châtellerault, to meet Ebalus Manzer and the local bishop, who tell them to go back up towards Loudun and meet them at an assembly at Avrigny.
  • There, the account of the proceedings is confirmed in front of Ebalus’ leading followers.

The first thing to note here is just how long the whole process takes. Partially, this is because the canons clearly want as many people as possible to see that a) yes, we’re in dire straits because of this crime and b) and all these important people have said they’re going to do something about it. That in turn, though, is a result of how much political pressure the canons have had to exert to get their stuff back. I count four different parties being played off against one another (Hugh the Great against Ebalus Manzer, Hugh and Ebalus against Aimeric, Aimeric and Hugh and Ebalus against Savaric). The canons of Saint-Martin are clearly good at this – it’s more-or-less what we saw them doing way back in 892.

It’s also a useful reminder that long, drawn-out processes of negotiation and compromise are not the result of the end of the Carolingian court. Another thing you wouldn’t get from this charter but which we can see from dispute settlement charters written in Poitiers itself – we’ve seen at least one example – is that the records of Ebalus Manzer’s court look like a fully functioning Carolingian court. This kind of behind-the-scenes peak is another indication that the indications that justice was swift, severe and complete come largely from the records of people who (for various reasons) wanted it to look that way, and that actually trying to get people to do things in practice was much, much harder.

3 thoughts on “Charter a Week 50 – The Long Long Long Trek to Carolingian Justice

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