Charter a Week 57: North or South?

Bear with me here. I said last time that the mid-930s was a problematic time to be focussing on whilst running a series which looks at charters, and this week is a case in point. It doesn’t help that my plans for the 933 charter were completely ruined when writing up the commentary for my charter from a few weeks ago. You see, originally my choice for a 933 charter was a no-brainer. However, doing the reading around the charter of Bishop Godeschalk of Puy that I put in the 931 slot, it turns out that it is by no means clear that my 933 choice was actually from 933, and rather more likely that it wasn’t. I had a look at other options, but none of them were very inspiring. So, I thought, I don’t often get into the weeds of technical diplomatic here – why not look at this act’s problematic dating, and explain which this fairly dry discussion matters to our knowledge of the period?

D RR no. 21

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pious, invincible and ever august king of the Franks and Aquitanians and Burgundians.

Since ‘there is no power but of God’, who (as is written) ‘doth establish kings upon their throne’, it thus follows entirely that those on high should humble themselves below His powerful hand and that the ministers of their realm ought to conduct themselves in accordance with His will.

Wherefore let it be known to all carrying out duties to the realm in time both present and future that I, solicitous to restore to wholeness the state of religion, decreed that the abbey of Tulle should be renewed in a Regular way of life, as once it was. It is sited in the district of Limousin, on the river Corrèze, built in honour, that is, of the most blessed lord Martin. In this place, by God’s largess, the ancient reverence is preserved to this day by new miracles.

By the prayers of the noble man Adhemar, who has until this point held that place, and also at the suggestion of Count Ebalus [Manzer], I commended the same place to a certain religious abbot named Aimo to restore a Regular way of life; and I made it subject to the abbey of Saint-Savin. However, because experience proved that this subjection was an obstacle to religion, wishing to take complete care of that same religion, by wiser counsel We decreed that, in accordance with ancient custom, it should be held under the protection – as opposed to the domination – of the king alone.

However, no-one may decide to do this against the laws of the realm. Seeing that the most excellent emperors are read to have changed their decrees whenever the situation made it necessary and – as the apostle adduces – ‘there is made of necessity a change in the law’, We therefore by the authority of this Our precept establish this monastery, with everything which now pertains to it or which might fall to it hereafter, should endure such that they might be subjected to the domination of no-one save only the holy Rule.

Furthermore, after the death of Our most faithful and beloved lord Odo [of Cluny], who succeeded the aforesaid venerable Aimo, and after Adacius, whom the same venerable Odo asked be ordained to supply a replacement for him, let them have permission in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict to elect from amongst themselves whomsoever they, through wiser counsel, choose.

And let neither king nor count nor bishop nor any other person presume to disturb their goods nor give them to anyone; and let no-one at all dare to dominate them. Let them receive after his death the whole part of the abbey which the aforesaid Adhemar, by the abbot’s consent, retained. When he dies, let whomsoever they communally wish have mundeburdum and legal oversight.

In addition, We concede the right of immunity and the reverence which now and previously has been divinely observed in that holy place, such that no-one should undertake to inflict any violence on either it or the goods pertaining to it. As for the rest, let both the abbot and the monks together – as if before the eyes of God – conserve a regular way of life.

But that this Our precept might persevere undiminished, We signed it in the name of the Creator on High with Our signet.

Sign of the most glorious king Ralph.

Godfrey the priest, on behalf of Bishop Ansegis [of Troyes], witnessed and subscribed.

Enacted at Anatiacus, on the ides of [most copies: September; one copy: December] [13th September/December], in the third indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of the most glorious King Ralph.

So, what’s the problem here? The problem is the fact that the elements of the diploma’s dating clause don’t add up. The third indiction (a Byzantine system – figuratively and literally – to do with Roman tax collection) ought to be 930; the 11th year of the reign of King Ralph ought to be 933. How do we tell which is which? There are a few methods. First, we might note that scribes tend (although by no means universally) to be more confident about the regnal year than the indiction. This would point us towards 933. Second, though, we might look to contextual elements. Take Abbot Aimo, for instance. Aimo is last attested at Tulle in May 931, and this again pushes us towards 933.

So far, it’s sounding like 933 is a pretty solid choice for a date. But wait! There’s one key element we have to talk about here, and that’s the place at which the act was issued, Anatiacus. The act’s editor, Dufour, plumped for Anizy-le-Château, roughly halfway between Soissons and Laon. However, Jean-Pierre Brunterc’h pointed out that Anizy’s Latin form is always something like Anisiacus – it’s always got that first i and a following s, not an a and a t. He pointed instead towards Ennezat, a centre for assemblies under the Guillelmid dukes and – crucially – a place whose Latin orthography fits Anatiacus notably better. The problem now is that by dint of his itinerary, Ralph cannot have been at Ennezat at any point in 933. However, as we’ve seen, thanks to the reference to Abbot Aimo, 930 is also out. Brunterc’h therefore proposes 931, a time when we know that Ralph was in the Auvergne and one which requires the scribes who wrote the later copies in which this act survives to have simply misplaced a minim, turning ‘the IXth year’ into the ‘XIth year’ (as well, perhaps, as the ‘IVth indiction’ into the ‘III indiction’), something known to have happened elsewhere.

That such changes to the no-longer-surviving original might have been made are indicated by other signs this charter has been tampered with. This is, for reasons we’ll discuss below, an unusual document anyway, which makes our job harder; but the sections in first person singular (‘I’) rather than first person plural (the royal ‘We’) are very suspicious to my mind, and may have been added later. (I doubt, though, that it was much later.) Similarly, the reference to miracles at Tulle strikes me as a later addition – we know from a letter of Odo of Cluny to the brothers at Saint-Martin of Tours that Tulle was experiencing a surge of miracles at this time, but as a former canon of Saint-Martin himself I don’t think any act in which Odo was so heavily involved would have made quite so much of them at Tulle. For these reasons, I think December 931 (as Brunterc’h suggests) is the most plausible date, although it’s far from conclusive.

Why does this matter? It matters because this act is crucial evidence for Ralph’s involvement with the Aquitanian elite, and that involvement looks very different depending on whether this diploma comes from Ennezat in 931 or Anizy in 933. I covered the Ennezat side in my previous installment of Charter A Week, so you can go there for the details; but the short version is that if it’s from there he appears as a regional peacemaker in the wake of the disturbances following the death of the last Guillelmid duke of Aquitaine Acfred. If it’s from Anizy, it’s a different story. In 933, Ralph’s attention was firmly focussed on attacking and defeating the persistent northern rebel Count Heribert II of Vermandois, in pursuit of which goal he besieged Château-Thierry and Ham. In this context, Adhemar and Ebalus Manzer are most likely north to provide Ralph with military support. This would be far from unprecedented – the most clear-cut example comes from the reign of Ralph’s successor Louis IV, where Ebalus’ son William Towhead is unambiguously attested doing just that for the new king – but in that case this diploma would be firm evidence that connections between the king and the Aquitanian magnates were less arms-length than often supposed.

Whether the act is from 931 or 933, though, one important thing remains unchanged. The unusual preamble and titulature Ralph is given here has usually – and in my view correctly – been taken to show the influence of Odo of Cluny on the drafting of the diploma. We’ve noted the importance of Odo to Ralph’s regime at this time in previous posts, but this is quite a dramatic departure for West Frankish diplomatic, and is an interesting view of a road ultimately not taken, where Cluniac  – or, better, Odonian – ideology became a crucial part of West Frankish kingship.

3 thoughts on “Charter a Week 57: North or South?

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