Where There’s A Will There’s A Way 4: Archbishop Bruno of Cologne

Unusually this week, we have a document from pretty much my core stomping grounds. Previously in this series we’ve seen wills which are either from the deep south, or from much later than I usually work.  This week, though, we’re dealing with the testament of an old friend of this blog, Archbishop Bruno of Cologne. Bruno, just to remind you, was the brother of Otto the Great, and at the same time archbishop of Cologne and duke of Lotharingia, a dual role which caused some controversy during his lifetime. It’s not that aspect of his career we’re looking at here, though. Bruno’s will is preserved in his biography by the cleric Ruotger, written shortly afterwards under the auspices of Bruno’s successor as archbishop Folcmar. The circumstances of its issuance, per Ruotger, are that Bruno, with his suffragans bishops Thierry of Metz and Wicfrid of Verdun, is in the West Frankish kingdom to resolve a quarrel between King Lothar and his cousins, when he takes sick at Rheims. The document produced goes as follows:

Ruotger, Vita Brunonis, cap. 49

The testament of the lord and venerable in Christ Archbishop Bruno, happily.

Bruno, servant of Christ, to his sons soldiering for God in Cologne.

I decided that it was most worthy that, if God does not permit me to talk about this with you in person, whatever I decided in my soul concerning the disposition of the goods which divine munificence committed to me should be strengthened by your judgement and supported by your witness having been shown to you in writing.

For this reason, following the judgement the opinion of our brothers Thierry[, bishop of Metz] and Wicfrid[, bishop of Verdun], who were also brought up by you: ordain everything, transact everything rightly (God willing), and lest anything be seen to be split off from the church let whatever treasures have been bestowed from Our riches on the church – whatever, indeed, is from these is guarded by the keys of the illustrious man Evizo, treasurer of St Peter, and besides if anything has not yet been handed over by the servants – the golden vessels and anything particularly valuable, having been gathered and inspected with a diligent reckoning under the witness of Christ and the Church before the altar of St Peter, before lord Poppo [= Bruno’s successor Folcmar], head and manager of Our church, be perpetually consecrated into the ministry of the holy mother of God Mary and the blessed apostle Peter in perpetual use in that church.

I give to the Blessed Pantaleon [the church of St. Pantaleon] the gold cup, seal, and Greek dish, which We own, plus the everyday candelabra which are in Our ministry, the horse-shaped silver jug given by the Archbishop of Mainz [probably Bruno’s illegitimate nephew, Otto the Great’s son William], 10 to the best pallia, 10 of the better silver vases, 100 pounds to finish the cloister, 300 to improve the church, a wider curtain, 3 tablecloths, 3 wall-hangings, as many seat-covers, 30 cloths, and in addition all of my mares except those which belong to the church; and the estates which I acquired for Our church, Langel next to the Rhine, Warbeyen, Hengelo, Lüttingen, Wessem, which lies by the Meuse, and the house of Our cousin the bishop of Metz, and the estate of Bavingan [in modern Brühl], and in addition whatever it holds from the goods of Our church. Let a third part of the fruits assigned to Our uses this year also be given into the uses of the monks. Let a hospice for old men, at the abbot’s discretion, be established in a suitable place not far from the abbey, on which I confer whatever from the estate of Deutz is ours, and besides Leresfelt, acquired in Saxony, and whatever Gebhard, once prior of Bonn, is known to have held next to the Moselle. And so that this might be done via the goodwill of Our lord [Otto the Great] and Our successor [Folcmar], let Rödingen, which was added to the church’s goods through Our work, be used at will for the remedy of both.

Let a copy of the oratory which We built for the blessed Privatus next to the altar of St Martin in the west of the church be made for the great martyr the blessed Gregory, who was recently brought here, where his most holy body is kept. [This is the same St Gregory who will eventually be wrapped in the Kriegsfahne, assuming he wasn’t already at this point.] 100 pounds are bequeathed to found this.

To Our brothers at [the cathedral of] St Peter, gold chalices, 30 pounds, a curtain, 2 tablecloths, as many seat-covers.

To the altar of St. Gereon, the large pitchers, 2 pallia, one of the larger tapestries, ships and 12 pounds for the brothers, a tablecloth and 2 seat-covers.

To finish off the altar of St. Severin, 4 pounds of gold; 8 pounds for the brothers, 2 vessels, a tablecloth, 2 seat-covers.

To St. Kunibert, 2 dishes. To the two St Ewalds [whose relics were kept in the church of St Kunibert], 3 pallia; 2 vessels for the brothers, 8 pounds, a tablecloth, 2 seat-covers, 1 tapestry.

To St Andreas, 30 pounds, 4 pallia, as many vessels, 2 candelabra, 6 pounds for the brothers.

To the blessed martyr Elifius and in equal portion to the holy confessor Martin [both at the church of Groß St Martin], the estate besides of Solingen acquired through a rental agreement from Our church.

To St. Maria im Kapitol, 2 of the better altar vessels; 100 pounds for finishing the monastery and cloister; a curtain; 2 seat-covers; as many cloths.

To the altar of St Cäcilien, 3 pounds of gold, a curtain, 2 candelabra, 2 vessels, 1 tapestries, 2 seat-covers; 50 pounds for finishing off the monastery. To the college of that monastery, 10 pounds, a cloth.

To the holy virgins [of the abbey of St Ursula], 2 vessels, 2 candelabras, 2 pallia, a curtain, 1 tapestry, 2 seat-covers. To the holy nuns, 10 pounds, a tablecloth.

To the altar of the holy martyrs Cassius and Florentius [today the Bonner Münster], 2 pounds of gold, the bowls we own, two chalices, as many pallia.

To the brothers of St. Viktor [of Xanten], 10 pounds and just as much to the college.

To the monastery and cloister to be founded at Soest, 100 pounds, 6 vessels for the altar, as many pallia, 1 of the larger tapestries, 2 seat-covers, a cassock and one of our chasubles, and furthermore the estate which Wodilo gave at Our request, and also that which Lord Poppo acquired for Us full diligently at Recklinghausen and Erwitte.

The first thing to note is that, rather like the will of Hugh of Nevers, there are a lot of moveable goods here, everything from liturgical garments such as pallia to the novelty jug mentioned amongst the gifts to St Pantaleon. Unlike Hugh, there are some estates mentioned, but the bulk of these bequests are donations of moveable goods. For this reason, this will certainly cannot be taken to represent all of Bruno’s actual assets. For one thing, it is unlikely that on the move in Rheims he would have had access to a reliable record of what exactly he owned. For another, he commands the treasurer Evizo and his successor Folmar to make a more specific assessment of his goods after they receive this letter. (This wouldn’t be without precedent – this morning I was reading a diploma of Otto I where the king was unsure whether or not the estate he was granting actually had enough land to cover the amount he wanted to grant and set up a plan B in the event it didn’t.)

The purpose of these grants is good charitable causes, notably the foundation of a hospice for the elderly under St Pantaleon or the foundation of a monastery at Soest. Strikingly, the vast majority of the institutions favoured in Bruno’s will are either in Cologne or relatively nearby, such as Xanten upriver on the Rhine. Similarly, the estates given have something of a Saxon focus: most (although not all) of them are either very near Cologne or east of a line drawn between Cologne and Nijmegen.

In short, this will is very much acting qua archbishop of Cologne, and perhaps qua Saxon as well, although I wouldn’t put too much pressure on that last one. It’s not a very Lotharingian document. This isn’t perhaps surprising – it’s not certain whether Bruno would have been able to dispose of the resources attached to his office in Lotharingia quite as freely as his ecclesiastical resources. Equally, Lower Lotharingia had been pretty fractious during Bruno’s tenure and the Ottonians never had much of a presence in Upper Lotharingia, so maybe this is why institutions in this areas are mostly absent. Ultimately, this is the will of an archbishop, not a political testament (like Roger of Carcassonne’s reads like). Perhaps it’s unsurprising it looks like one.


2 thoughts on “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way 4: Archbishop Bruno of Cologne

  1. Seeing all the churches mentioned in the will makes me glad I did the twelve Romanesque churches of Cologne challenge (not sure if that’s an official thing but I can say I’ve done it anyway and it’s seriously rewarding for any kind of medievalist) when I was there just over a week ago. I gather the foundation date of St Pantaleon is controversial, and I think this document has some implications for that question. Probably my favourite was St Cäcilien because it had the museum Schnütgen attached to it or St Gereon, though the thirteenth century frescoes in Sant Maria Lyskirchen were incredible too. Currently heading to Vienna, having been to Prague – the Premyslids are fascinating.

    I find it very extraordinary that high politics would be so absent in a document issued by Bruno, a son of King Henry the Fowler and Queen Matilda of Rimgelheim born in Aula Regia, one of the most prominent statesmen of the Ottonian realm and de facto regent (along with his sister Gerberga) to King Lothar of West Francia. But I guess that reflects a certain side of Bruno’s personality. He seems to have taken duty very seriously. Certainly that was the case with his extended family – he was resolutely loyal in his service as bishop and duke to his brother Otto the Great, he assisted his sister Gerberga in the Wesr Frankish regency and he took care of his nephews Lothar, Charles, Hugh and Otto-Henry. Here I guess we see him taking his duty to his see, and adopted ecclesiastical family seriously by sponsoring charitable works and civic projects.


    1. Cologne has some lovely churches. I am basic enough that St Pantaleon was probably my favourite, although I have a soft spot for the ridiculously ugly baroque monstrosity they’ve plonked on top of St Ursula. These days I occasionly have to travel by train through Cologne and that silly crown is always worth a chuckle when I see it out of the window.

      re: the absence of high politics, yes, I think the duty of an archbishop is key here. Partially, the format of wills doesn’t merge with the political testament in this period very often. The closest we’ve seen on this blog, the will of Count Roger the Old of Carcassonne, is late and from a pretty different environment, and it’s also only implicit at best in its high-political goals. Wills as a genre seem to be for pious charity and/or straightforwardly presented inheritance division at this time. This is doubly so because – although I didn’t mention it in the post much – it’s preserved in Ruotger’s _Vita Brunonis_, and its use by the hagiographer is surely at least because it reflects the pious points Ruotger wanted to make (assuming he himself didn’t do any editorial work on it, which is always an option!).


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