We’re going big this week, with no fewer than four [!] documents translated here. As often is the case in medieval history, such showboating reflects weakness rather than strength. In essence, I finished translating the first of these charters and realised I didn’t have much to say about it (the options for 957 were not terribly compelling and this was the best of a bad lot…). However, it is part of a complex of four charters, and these charters are quite interesting, so I thought, why not?
So, let’s start at the beginning. It’s summer 957 (or, perhaps more likely, 958), and a nobleman named Ragembald is ill. In fact, he’s dying. Ragembald is a big cheese in the western Saulnois (just south-east of Metz), and he has close ties with institutions in the area, notably Saint-Arnoul. With his only son having predeceased him, he decides to hand over (at least) two of his major estates to two important ecclesiastical institutions, Gorze and Saint-Arnoul de Metz:
It befits the human intellect to think with a wise mind as much as it can, so that each might for the salvation of their soul solicitously be on guard so that the strict Judge might find no-one unprepared when He comes, and so that He does not find what He might damn, but rather what He might crown. That is, that everyone, while they remain in their own right of freedom, seek to exchange perpetual life in eternal tabernacles for fallen and transitory things, and make God their repayer, so that they might obtain a desirable place amidst the company of the just.
Indeed, I, Ragembald, son of Ragembald and Heriburgis, often turning this over in my mind, and because (as is written) the goods of the Church are the vows of the faithful, the patrimony of the poor and the price of sins, thought that I should give something from the goods conceded to me by my aforesaid parents to the part of the congregation of holy Gorze, so that I might both be able to receive pardon for my sins and so that on the day of the strict examination I might be able, standing more securely, to hear the desirable voice of the Lord saying ‘Come, ye blessed of my father, take up the kingdom’; and this I did. For indeed I gave through the hands of my followers living by Salic law, that is, Winemand and Wachin and Gerulf, my estate sited in the district and county of Saulnois, named Vertignécourt, with all its buildings and appendages, both in houses and in manses, churches, fields, meadows, vineyards, woods, orchards, estates, small estates, bondsmen of both types, pastures, fisheries, waters and watercourses, bridges, incomes and renders, mobile and immobile goods, and in everything which can be said and named pertaining to that curtilage, both from that conceded by my parents and from that acquired by me, so that, in the same manner as I gave the said allod to them, they might thus give and invest the part of the altar of St Peter, which is in the aforesaid monastery of Gorze, where also that venerable relic, to wit, the body of St Gorgonius, is held, and of whence Agenold of memorable sanctity is discerned to be abbot – on the condition, to wit, that as long as my wife Fredelind should live, she should possess the usufruct, having no pontificate [sic!] to diminish anything of them, but rather to increase, improve and restore; and each year, let her pay in vestiture for it, on the feast of St Gorgonius (which is the 5th ides of September [9th September]), a pound of silver. After her death, whenever God wishes it, let these things immediately and without any contradiction, with everything of theirs, revert to the right and rule of the abbot of the said congregation and to the prebend of the monks dwelling for God therein, and let them have such power over them as they do with the other things pertaining to their prebends.
If they are negligent or tardy in regard to this rent, and delay carrying out their legal obligations, let the same thing happen. I in addition beseech that the writing of this deed should be raised up in full court, and confirmed by the count, the scabini, and other God-fearing men.
If anyone of my heirs might wish to rise up against this donation made by me, and try to infringe it, in the first place let them incur God’s wrath, and let them pay 100 pounds of gold and a thousand of silver to God’s holy Church, on whom they inflicted force, and let them be unable to vindicate their claim.
Enacted in the estate of Destry, in full court, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 957, in the 15th indiction, in the 17th epact, in the 3rd concurrent, in the 21st year of the reign of Emperor Otto [the Great].
+ Count Theobert. These are the scabini: + Sigebert + Raginard + Hugh + Walter + Ribald + Warnard + Angebald + Liuzo + Aldric + another Walter + Robert + Adalbert + Fulmar + Otto.
I, Adelard, an unworthy priest, wrote this on behalf of Chancellor Norman.
Saint-Arnoul, no. 82 = ARTEM no. 212 (16th June 958, Destry)
Whoever, for love of God Almighty and the remedy of their souls, bestows anything from the goods and resources of their patrimony to places of the saints surrendered to divine worship in the name of pious devotion, believes not unfruitfully that this will (far from doubt) prosper for them many-fold, both in help in present temporal matters and to gain the unfading goods of eternal happiness.
Whence let the magnificence of all of the faithful of the holy Church of God, that is, present and future, learn that I, Ragembald, born from a family of no meagre nobility, while falling into bodily weakness, concerned that I should labour over loss in the present life, thinking of the salvation of my soul so that I might be able to at least gain pardon for my sins from the ineffable mercy of the Lord on the day of His strict examination, I decided that, because (by judgement of divine equity) I have been deprived of children to whom I might relinquish them, I should, of my free will, offer much from those things which fell to me by hereditary right as a legitimate patrimony to the Lord (and His saints) from Whom I received them. Because, the body of my pious father, and my only son, and my other ancestors and relatives, are known to be buried by solemn custom in the basilica of the most holy confessor of Christ Arnulf, where I too, by assent of divine clemency, had the desire to be buried, I believed it was opportune and very convenient that I should bestow something from my resources on the same venerable place so that it might benefit both me and them in common, and thus with a very ready will I carried this out.
And thus, with the consultation of my most beloved wife, and also my friends, illustrious men, who are also guarantors of this donation, and with the confirmation of the faithful, I gave to the part of the same outstanding confessor and pontiff of Christ Arnulf, and to the table of the brother monks soldiering for the Lord therein, through the hands of the same guarantors, a certain allod of my property, falling to me legally by right of my father, named Morville, sited in the county of Saulnois, with all appendages and goods pertaining to it, that is, churches, bondsmen of both sexes, buildings, vineyards, woods, fields, meadows, pastures, waters and watercourses, mills, cultivated and uncultivated, mobile and immobile, just as my aforesaid father held in his lifetime; and whatever by my own devices I later justly and reasonably gained, I transfer it all inseparably and universally by the same condition and law into the right and power of that monastery and the monks serving therein, to be had, held, and most firmly possess in perpetuity, without contradiction from any person or power, that is, on the condition that my aforesaid wife might enjoy the usufruct henceforth during her lifetime only.
Let the brothers of the aforesaid place, keeping all this I have invested them with entirely at the present time in their own hand and rule, have them under their oversight and mundeburdum for all time; and after the death of my wife, let them all go into their uses with all accoutrements and without any retraction; and each year in her lifetime, on the feast of St Arnulf, let her pay 10 shillings in rent to his altar; and let this largess and donation, made by me of my own free will, be supported perpetually by a firm and stable corroboration, so that by the most pious intercession of the most blessed Arnulf and the assiduous supplication of the brothers, having gained pardon from God’s mercy, with those who (in accordance with the admonition of divine precepts) passed happily from the worldly to the heavenly, I might deserve to be given inestimable prizes in eternal tabernacles in the blessing of perpetual quiet.
Therefore, through the fearful name of divine majesty and the venerable merits of the saints, I call to witness, beseeching and firmly oath-swearing all who are to come, that no powerful person, worldly or churchly, nor any of my relatives, should presume to alienate this donation or confirmation either from the holy place or from the table of the brothers in any way, neither through benefice nor exchange nor precarial grant nor any trick.
If anyone should try to come against this, let them have the blessed Arnulf be a very strict accuser against them on the Day of Universal Judgement, with the wrath and harshness of God Almighty, with all the saints; and let them be completely unable to vindicate their claim. We also pray that the writing of this deed be read in full court, and be confirmed by the count, the scabini, and other God-fearing men.
Enacted in the estate of Destry, on the day of the 16th kalends of July [16th June], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 958, in the reign of King Otto, in the realm of King Lothar, happily, in the 15th indiction.
+ Sign of Fredelind, wife of the same Ragembald +.
+ Count Theobert. + Winemand and Wahin, guarantors. + Count Odoacer. + Waldo. + Fulmar. + Folcuin. These are the scabini: + Sigebert. + Rainard. + Hugh. + Walter. + Ribald. + Warnard. + Angebald. + Liuzo. + Aldric. + Another Walter. + Robert. + Adalbert. + Otto.
I, Adelard, recognised this on behalf of Chancellor Norman.
The first thing to note here is that neither Saint-Arnoul nor Gorze seem to be the real motivating forces behind these documents. The role of the priest Adelard is important here. The document collections we have aren’t quite good enough that I’d want to die on this hill, but I don’t think he’s associated with either institution. We do see him again in another charter a couple of years later (which we will actually cover in a couple of weeks’ time), writing for Duke Frederick of Lotharingia, and I think he’s more likely to be a priest associated with a constellation of Upper Lotharingian nobles, including Count Theobert and the counts of Chaumont. This fits with the milieu in which we see Ragembald operating: he’s not terribly well-attested, at least as far as I know, but he can be seen witnessing a(n admittedly very suspicious) donation of Countess Eve of Chaumont to the abbey of Saint-Arnoul in 950.
This fits into the location of the donations, Destry. Charles West has looked at these documents, and said that although they seem very Carolingian, some things have nonetheless changed. I would actually be even more inclined to stress the continuities. This charter is witnessed by scabini at a mallus court. Destry itself was in the process of becoming the centre of a county (the earliest evidence is from 966, but isn’t exactly unimpeachable) by the latter part of the tenth century, but its role here as the home of a mallus fits neatly into Carolingian tradition, such as Richard the Justiciar holding courts at Longvic, or his ninth-century predecessors at Lux, or Fulk the Red at Amboise. I rather suspect that Destry became the centre of a county because it was one of these important ‘third places’. Certainly, we see here a fairly important set of sub-regional nobles in play. (The same charter which claims that Theobert was count of Destry also puts Odoacer as count of Sarrebourg, which is also odd, and I’m not sure how far to trust it.) In any case, what we’re looking here is a fairly straightforward donation of a man who was part of a sub-regional network of nobles to the major local institutions, with an added twist of personal tragedy.
Then there’s further developments:
Saint-Arnoul no. 83 = ARTEM no. 216 (16th August 967, Metz)
In the time of the venerable Abbot John in the monastery of Saint-Arnoul, it happened that men from an estate of the most illustrious man, the late Ragembald (which is called Morville, which he, in good hope for the remedy of his soul, transferred into the right and rule of the monastery from his hereditary right) asked the clemency of the aforesaid abbot in the matter of benefitting their necessities, that out of the munificence of his grace he might deign to institute for them that, because of what would be declared to them in the present sanction, from then and thereafter in future more service ought never be exacted from them in posterity, in order that they could rely on something certain in the face of any command to obey orders, by the custom of surrounding powers subjected to the uses of the Church, to wit, because that man, the most renowned Ragembald, had subjected them with the whole estate to the monastery on the same law and under the same dominion of service by which he had kept them during his lifetime.
The venerable Abbot John, referring this to the brothers of his congregation soldiering for the Lord with him, after the case had been attentively turned over amongst them for a long time, when nothing on their part seemed to block his advantage, decided it was not unworthy to assent to their request.
And thus, by the common consultation of the brothers, with too the legal counsel of the most renowned man Theobert, count of the palace, advocate of that monastery, with many faithful both from his rule and those who in some fashion were from the same place, with all of the people of that estate jointly agreeing and receiving with a grateful soul and confessing themselves pleased, the said Abbot John decreed, as far as he saw it was possible for them, by the custom of others remaining in the right of the monastery, to emancipate them from their former servitude by right of freedom, that is, that each of those who are known to have dwelled therein should each year pay an ounce of silver between the feast of St Arnulf and that of St Martin.
Besides, each manse should take one ensange in corvee, 2 days for each sowing, two days in the meadow, and seven nights for wagon-work (2 wagons are appointed for any sort of service); each should grind 5 pecks of any kind of grain; send two people to the vineyards; enclose 2 perches of the public manse and 4 perches on corvee, 4 perches in the vineyards; 3 chicken; 15 eggs; it should sell 8 pecks of wine in the public tavern. Regarding dependents, if they are outwith the estate, let a male pay 5 pennies and a female 1 chicken. Otherwise, let them have both the lands of their share and anything pertaining to them under the name and right of freedom, and let them hold and possess them freely.
So that this liberty of freedom might endure firm for them for all time in posterity from anyone who will succeed hereafter in the monastery, and as it has been bestowed and engaged upon by the common confirmation of the whole congregation, Abbot John, together with the others of the holy monastic order under him, wished this strengthening of its authority to be made for them, and they confirmed it by their signs and names and those of their followers in the place.
Enacted publicly at Metz, at the annual fair, on the day of the 17th kalends of September [16th August], in the 6th year of the empire of the most serene augustus Otto [the Great], and in the 7th year of the reign of the famous king, the younger Otto [II], in the 3rd year of the bishopric of the outstanding bishop lord Thierry [of Metz], with Frederick [of Lotharingia] as most illustrious duke, in the 10th indiction.
Sign of the most reverend abbot lord John. + Sign of Dean Warnard. + John the priest. + Allo the priest. + Gundin the priest. Sign of Amalfred the priest. Sign of Fredulf the priest. + Sign of Haimo the deacon. + Deacon Odo. + Deacon Rainard. + Deacon Radeco. + Deacon Martin. + Deacon Aimeric. + Deacon Dudo. + Subdeacon Constantius. + Sign of Theobert, count of the place. + Anselm the judge. + Odo. + Baldrad. + Ailard. + Gerard. Sign of Widric. Sign of William. Sign of Honrad. + Sign of Baseus. + Nevasus. + Theother. Sign of Amalric. Sign of Johm. Sign of Leutbert. Sign of Theotald. Sign of Bernulf. Sign of Herwin. Sign of Hermer. Sign of Fainulf. Sign of Otbert. Sign of Hildebrand. Sign of Hardrad.
John, chancellor and priest, although unworthy, wrote and subscribed.
In this charter and the next one, there’s a lot of technical language; and in this one in particular the prose is not exactly lucid. Admittedly, this one I was able to check against a pre-existing French translation; but if you see any mistakes in either please let me know!
Anyway, this charter is pretty interesting: since Ragembald gave Morville to Saint-Arnoul, there have apparently been disputes over exactly what the estate owes to the monks. A band of locals make petitions and – amazingly, perhaps, given some of the apocalyptic things which have been written about medieval aristocrats – the abbot decides to accept them. This means the peasants end up performing some dues which are, not quite token (I wouldn’t want to do them), but certainly not huge.
More interesting to me is the role of Ragembald’s memory and the original donation. Tempore Regimbaldi here serves much the same purpose as tempore regis Edwardi did in the Domesday Book: a kind of Year Zero, a point where things could be fixed. Ragembald’s donation serves as an ideological touchstone here, and we can note with some interest the role of Count Theobert. Theobert – called here ‘count of the palace’ rather than, say, ‘count of Destry’, which also suggests a kind of Carolingian continuity in his role – was a high-status witness of the original transaction, as well as a major figure within the home life of the abbey, and that was presumably a major part of his appeal to both parties. In a sense, Ragembald may have got what he wanted: his memory was undoubtedly being preserved, and on this very small scale his life came to define local chronology.
Things are slightly different in our final document:
Gorze no. 116 (17th August 984, Gorze)
Ermenfred, by God’s grace humble abbot of the monastery of Gorze, to all those living piously under Christ’s empire.
Let it be known to all, present and future, that the people of the power of Bruoch, which was given to our patron St Gorgonius by Count Ragembald of pious memory to be possessed in perpetuity, asked Us full humbly that We might strengthen for them by Our authority the firmness of a privilege, in accordance with the law by which their predecessors served the king until the fisc was given to the aforesaid Ragembald.
We, considering a matter of this sort deeply and piously, judged it very unworthy to burden them in Our time with service greater than previously. Whence, with all Our brothers praising and suggesting it, it was pleasant to consult them on what service they carried out up until now under secular lords and Our holy predecessors, to wit, Agenald, John, Odalbert, and to confirm it for them hereafter for times to come with a most certain privilege, on the law and condition that, if anyone should be found guilty of lying and concealing any due service, their aforesaid petition should be completely annulled.
In any case, the service professed by them is seen to be adjoined below:
Each dependent owes 6 pennies on the feast of St Remigius, even if their son is free. Each year, each will observe the assembly, even they are accused, until their case is closed. Each will thresh within the power 2 pecks of straw and one of provisions. Each will send one reaper into the field. Each will carry out one day of sowing in the meadow and one in the field. Each will send 2 reapers into the meadow.
There are 21 manses and 3 quarters. From a half-manse, nothing is to be paid except from an ensange; a whole manse will bear 8 pecks of provisions, either 15 days before the feast of St Remigius or 15 days afterwards; and a half will bear a cartload of wine, and if they are commanded, let them sell one. If an indominical house or granary is destroyed, they will restore it with our carpenter. After Christmas, five manses owe 8 pennies in offerings; at Easter, 5 manses owe 2 chickens and 15 eggs. Seven of the manses pay 4 chickens and 30 eggs. In May, a whole manse owes 2 carts of wood. Five manses should carry out two perches of building-work wherever they are commanded within the power. A manse should pay 200 maniples of reeds on the feast of St John. They will thresh whatever grows in the ensanges and croads. In the croads, whatever should be given from our part: 2 pecks of provisions for bread and 6 for beer-making.
Enacted publicly at Gorze, on the day of the 16th kalends of September, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 984, in the 12th indiction, in the 15th epact, in the 3rd concurrent, after the death of Otto III and the assumption of the realm by Otto III; and in that same year, after Thierry died, Adalbero II received the episcopal throne of Metz.
In terms of its economic provisions, Gorze is here doing much the same thing Saint-Arnoul did twenty years earlier, confirming the rights of the peasants by reference to the past. In this case, Ragembald doesn’t get to stand alone. Instead, it turns out that Bruoch used to be fiscal land, and the monks of Gorze have to promise not to go beyond what the kings demanded. It’s a shame we don’t have Ragembald’s donation of Bruoch, because it would be interesting to see how the land’s royal past was reflected in a royal grant.
However, what I really want to ask here is: is this the same guy? You’ll note that Ragembald has, all of a sudden, been given a comital title which he didn’t have in his own documents or in the 967 Saint-Arnoul charter unquestionably referring to the same man. Is it just a different Ragembald? Well, perhaps. On one hand, a ‘Count Ragembald’ appears not just in this charter but also the dubious 966 charter I’ve mentioned a couple of times, a charter of 959 and a couple of charters from Bouxières from the years around 960. This suggests that they were different: the Ragembald of 957 is evidently seriously ill and has no surviving children. However, on the other hand, the cartulary of Saint-Arnoul records how Ragembald the Elder, count of Saulnois, and his son Ragembald the Younger, gave gifts to the abbey and were buried there (probably, one could construe the text differently). This seems to pretty clearly refer to the Morville charters, but notably the younger Ragembald was not given the comital title. What seems to me to be the most likely case, then, is that Count Ragembald is not the same man as the Ragembald of 957 (or else the Saint-Arnoul documents would presumably know about it), but that Count Ragembald is closely related to the man of 957, whether as a somewhat more distant relative or simply as the child of a political ally. We are certainly dealing here with a flexible comital title. The Ragembald of 957 seemingly came from a comital family, and his family’s legacy, whether directly or indirectly, could help the Count Ragembald of the 950s and 960s gain comital status; but Ragembald, for whatever reason, was apparently unable to claim it himself. For all that these charters purport to fix things in place, there’s a lot of fluidity underpinning them too.