Charter A Week 52: Sint-Servaas Redux

Remember Sint-Servaas? Gislebert of Lotharingia remembered Sint-Servaas. As we’ve seen on a previous occasion, conflict between his family and the archbishops of Trier had been centring around this little abbey for decades by the time that Charles the Simple confiscated it off him in 919; and that confiscation was one of the main events in the civil war that erupted between Gislebert and the king. After 919, events in Lotharingia spiralled out of control. Different magnate factions invited Ralph of Burgundy and Henry the Fowler to rule them, and despite the predominance of power lying with Ralph originally, by 925 Henry had gained control of the region. Part of the reason for that was Gislebert himself, whose loyalties to either side or neither ping-ponged all over the place for most of the early 920s. At one point, his brother Reginar II ransomed him from captivity and Gislebert immediately started ravaging his lands: there was presumably a logic to this that is now lost to us, rather than Gislebert being simply a random asshole, but it is illustrative of just how volatile Lotharingian politics were.

Gislebert, then, was too powerful to ignore and too much of a loose cannon to easily trust. How could East Frankish king Henry the Fowler deal with him?

MRUB no. 169 (928, Maastricht)

 In the name of God Eternal and our saviour the highest shepherd Jesus Christ. Gislebert, by God’s grace duke and ruler of the holy church of Maastricht.

We wish it to be recognised by all the followers of this church and of the holy lord Servatius present and future that, through the council of Our followers, clerics and laymen, We have acquired the abbey of Sint-Servaas through the consent of Roger, archbishop of the see of Trier. I, then, in return for this largess, gave by a legal and very firm gift to the altar of the blessed Peter a certain estate named Bourcy lying in the district and county of Ardenne, with all the appendages justly and legally pertaining to it, very much on the condition that I might hold both, to wit the abbacy and the same estate, in usufruct for my whole lifetime. After my death, let all the goods, the monastery, and every possession of Sint-Servaas with the aforesaid estate of Bourcy revert in their entirety to the altar and power of St Peter, and endure with perpetual stability in their dominion.

Right now, I gave another place which is called Burg by the river Moselle in the county of Maifeldgau by a legitimate gift to St Peter to be held without end. Moreover, I restored Güls, from the goods of Sint-Servaas, in the aforesaid district and in Eberhard’s county lying next to the Moselle for vestment and firmness. I, Gislebert, also concede to the aforesaid church of St Peter in benefice from the goods of [the abbey of] St Maximin [in Trier] an estate named Thalfang with all its appendages, on the condition that whilst I live the same estate should serve the uses of the holy church of Trier and be disposed of at the bishop’s judgement.

This covenant and pact concerning this affair was established before Our lord the glorious king Henry [the Fowler] and before his princes, and was praised and sanctioned by him with the consent of his magnates. However, lest perchance the notice of this agreement and gift fall into oblivion, so that it might instead endure stable and inviolate, We commanded the testament of the present writing to be made and the names of certain men who were present be added beneath, that is, of those who saw the gift and vestment before the altar of Sint-Servaas.

Sign of Odalbert, who brought the security. S. Count Waltger. S. Count Dirk. S. Count Christian. S. Count Fulcauld. S. Godfrey. S. Gerulf. S. Razo. S. Hugh. S. Reginald. S. Burgeric. S. Giselbert. S. Godfrey. S. Ingobrand. S. Ansfred. S. Waltgar. S. Arnold. S. Abbot Nithard. S. Frederick the deacon. S. Prior Herulf. S. Saruward the deacon. S. Herimar the custodian. S. Stephen the priest. S. Arnold the priest. S. Gerard the priest. S. Sigebert the priest. S. Helmerin the priest. S. Walter the priest. S. Odric the priest. S. Gerold the priest. S. Reginhard the deacon. S. Sfogilus the deacon. S. Warner the deacon.

Sigibert, pupil of Sint-Servaas, wrote and subscribed this.

Enacted at Maastricht, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 928, in the 5th year of the most serene king lord Henry over the realm of the late Lothar [II], in the 1st indiction.

In its form, this is about 90% a normal precarial grant, but oh what a 10%! Let’s start with the basics here: Henry has clearly brokered a compromise. The pattern ‘the challenging party gets the land in their lifetime and the Church gets it afterwards plus some extras’ is a fairly common compromise, but see the documentary evidence of it at this social level is somewhat unusual. I say ‘this social level’, but this is presumably another part of what Gislebert gets. Note the ducal title. This special mark of status is lent extra force by the recognition and acknowledgement of Henry the Fowler and all the princes. Indeed, the fact that Henry is explicitly mentioned as giving his consent is another part of what makes this strange. I suppose it wouldn’t be a royal diploma because Henry is simply overseeing the transaction, he’s not any part of it, but there were royal acts confirming exchange which could have been adapted… I wonder whether this is a way of keeping Gislebert at arms’ length or whether it’s added extra prestige, issuing a sort-of royal act?

Another interesting thing to note: the witness list. Waltger, Dirk, and Christian were all supporters of Charles the Simple back in the day. That they’re here with Gislebert might perhaps have been worrying for Henry. Whatever you can say about Gislebert’s loyalties, Charles had a lot of supporters in Lotharingia and whilst he himself is in prison at this point – although presumably would have been out of prison for a brief attempted restoration whilst this was being negotiated, an interesting chronological coincidence – it’s a potential pool of support for a West Frankish ruler. Henry had other ways of dealing with this than just a land transaction. Around this time, Gislebert got married to Henry’s daughter Gerberga. Lotharingia was thereafter pretty quiescent for the rest of Henry’s reign.

(Of course, you will note the chronological qualifier there…)

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