Bishops at War: Part 2 of the Ghent/Bruges Conference Report

It’s going to be quick today – I’ve got an article to re-draft and papers to write – but I did want to make some more progress on the Bishops In The Century Of Iron conference I started blogging about before Christmas. After John Ott’s paper I already blogged about, we had the first full panel, the first speaker of which was in fact me, so this blog is probably not the place for an unbiased account of that; but it was in fact the third paper I wanted to talk about.

The paper in question was given by a doctoral student at Ghent, Pieter Byttebier, who was presenting on ‘The Warring Bishop’, how Lotharingian bishops used imagery of violence in their self-presentation. He was arguing, put briefly, that though bishops more-or-less always had to provide military service, even if not fight themselves, there was an increasing trend from the ninth to the eleventh century of bishops presenting themselves in militaristic shades. Violence was ambiguous, but it was an increasingly noticeable part of the toolbox of episcopal self-presentation.

This all sounded perfectly reasonable to me, and I wonder at the underlying causes behind it. The one which occurred immediately, and which I’d like to briefly mention here, is the change in the socio-economic status of warfare. I confess to not exactly being an expert on changing practises of warfare in this period, but I do vaguely remember that it’s getting more and more expensive – Æthelred the Unready, at the end of the eleventh century, raised the heriot payments (a levy of war gear due from his men after death) for a similar reason. If so, might it be that the more elite status of warfare had more to offer bishops vis-à-vis their self-presentation? I have no idea, but it’s a very interesting avenue of investigation, and I look forward to seeing where Pieter goes with it.

All the Bishops in the ‘Verse: Part 1 of the Ghent/Bruges Conference Report

Although the kind of reporting I ended up doing on the Tübingen conference was born out of necessity, I discovered that I actually enjoyed doing it more than a straightforward conference report. Thus, for the next conference on the reportage list, Bishops in the ‘Century of Iron’: Episcopal Authority in France and Lotharingia, 900-1050, I’ll do as I did before, only commenting on the papers where I had anything interesting to say in response.

The first of these was in fact the first paper, the keynote lecture, given by Professor John Ott of Portland State University, with the title ‘In Praise of Bishops’, a title originally picked, he told us, because ambiguous titles let you change your subject at the last minute; but as in this case the topic was episcopal praise-poetry, it was thoroughly appropriate. Professor Ott led us through a cavalcade of poets from the eleventh- and twelfth-century archdiocese of Rheims, arguing that poetry in episcopal courts was so common as to be omnipresent: from declamation before the bishop himself to little inscriptions engraved on common items. At Rheims, for instance, a chalice commissioned by Archbishop Adalbero bears these lines:

Hurry, O faithful, hunger and thirst flee from here:

Bishop Adalbero divides these treasures amongst the people.

This is not that chalice, nor from that century, but it is a chalice from Rheims.

Professor Ott argued that the Gregorian reforms of the late eleventh century saw the beginning of the end of these poetic practises: Pope Gregory VII and those of like mind to him just don’t seem to have been very interested in poetry. He noted that while Gregory received poetry, he never wrote any himself. This was seen as an important cultural change – he argued that because poems were so widespread in episcopal culture, poetry, from cups to epitaphs to letters in verse, needs to be taken more seriously by historians if we are get a proper idea of what the courts of tenth- and eleventh-century bishops were like.

I agreed with this, for the most part, but one niggling doubt stuck in my mind. The verse of Adalbero mentioned above rather sets the tone for the kind of poetry Professor Ott was dealing with; ‘worthy’, I think, would be the appropriate word. Something of the exception which proved the rule was an inscription on a (no-longer-surviving) bronze statue of a stag from Rheims, commissioned in the mid-eleventh century by Archbishop Gervaise. Gervaise was a Loire valley magnate who had originally been bishop of Le Mans, but had been kicked out and given Rheims instead: by all accounts, he was bellicose, flamboyant, and very wealthy. He commissioned the stag as a reminder of his old home to the west; the poem on it reads:

              When he wandered in the woods of Maine,

              Gervaise had many stags.

              So that it might stand always as a memorial to his fatherland,

              He had this one cast in bronze.

This in turn made me think of one of my favourite bishops, Archbishop Archembald of Sens, who reigned in the late tenth century. Archembald had a terrible reputation by the eleventh century, when he was accused of having kicked the monks of Saint-Pierre-le-Vif out of their monastery to make room for his hunting dogs, but seems to have been reasonably well-respected at the time. The question which arises for me, then, is ‘what was episcopal court culture like under Archembald?’

(The same question, albeit reversed, could be asked about Archembald’s successor Anastasius, who seems to have been extremely aesthetic, and – it might be speculated – have seen Latin poetry as frippery).

As I said, most of the poetry which survives is very worthy, moral stuff, supposed to teach the audience moral lessons and impart theological messages. This, though, presumably made it more likely to survive than, say, an episcopal joke-book, and certainly more so than hours and hours of silent prayer. Given this, I wonder if this kind of poetic episcopal culture was as pervasive as Professor Ott was arguing, or whether it was only one of a number of modes of tenth- and eleventh-century episcopal culture, and the one which just happened to be usable for other things outside its immediate context – and thus the only one which survives?

This post is the last before the Christmas break. I’ll be back in January. In the meantime, as, for the first time in a while, I’ll have access to a computer rather than a slowly-decomposing tablet, I’ll be putting up a poll about the look and layout of the site, so keep an eye out for that. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

I Swear The Tenth Century Was Around Here Somewhere: Part 3 and last of the Tübingen not-conference-report

For all I enjoyed going and thought that the individual papers were thought-provoking and interesting, something about overall thrust of the Tübingen conference I have previously blogged about failed to add up for me, and during the last panel it became fairly clear what that was. At one point during the question and answer session, Charles West opened a question by stating that he and Steffen Patzold, the other conference organiser, had deliberately left out the tenth century in order to focus on the ninth and the eleventh. I have an almost-embarrassing amount of respect for the organisers – indeed, I have embarrassed myself in front of Charles with excessive fanboy-ing – but in this case, I thought this was the wrong decision, for a very simple reason: setting things up this way tended to give a picture of the tenth century that was more static than was the case.

Charles’ paper itself is a good example of this. Its point was fairly simple: that the rhetoric of Carolingian reform was scrutinised with great interest by eleventh-century and later Church reformers (the case study was Hugh of Flavigny), and that the two have many points in common; hence his formulation, which I paraphrased in the previous post, that eleventh-century reform could be seen as ‘Carolingian ecclesiology with added pope’. As it goes, I have no problem with the content of that, but I dispute the presentation.

By leaving out the tenth century, one is implicitly presented with a kind of ‘misunderstood genius’ picture of Carolingian reform, where Carolingian churchmen – usually but not always Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims – came up with such-and-such an idea – in this case, the importance of removing lay influence from episcopal elections – but, unable to be appreciated in their own too-worldly times, languished unread until the eleventh century emerged, ‘cloaked in a white mantle of churches’, and implemented all these reform ideas which we know to be Good Things.

The Consecration of Deodatus, from Wikimedia Commons: a 17th century picture of a 7th century bishop, but hey, at least it’s royalty-free.

I caricature, but separating the ninth and the eleventh centuries in this rather inorganic manner does decontextualize developments in thought. After all, at some point these ideas, having initially been proposed, were weighed in the balance and found wanting; and at some later point, other trends emerged (say, a kingship which became increasing active in influencing episcopal elections) which might provoke their re-examination. Leaving out the tenth century, though, these important factors are passed over, which, at least in my case, doesn’t help understanding; and it meant that the conference called ‘The Transformation of the Carolingian World’ had a starting point and an end point, but no actual transformation in the middle…

I would be interested in hearing what other people who went to the conference thought (for I understand there are some reading this). I worry that I may be projecting here. In any case, my unease about the set-up of what was, as I said, a good conference hopefully doesn’t detract either from the utility or the interest of the subject matter.

Shadow Popes: Part 2 of the Tübingen not-conference-report

At one point during the Tübingen conference, Charles West described the eleventh-century reform movement as (to paraphrase slightly) ‘Carolingian ecclesiology with added pope’. The role played by the popes in the eleventh century – particularly Pope Gregory VII – has been and still is subject to major historical scrutiny, as is probably to be expected when an emperor stands barefoot outside your door in the snow asking you to forgive him; at the least, it indicates a good publicity machine. Talking to us about popes was Kriston Rennie of the University of Queensland, and what stood out for me was one comment in particular he made, about how the mixed reputation of the tenth-century papacy does not seem to have had any particular impact on its appeal.

Henry IV at the gates of Canossa, from Wikimedia Commons

The tenth-century ‘not-called-the-pornocracy-anymore’ papacy is notorious for its bad behaviour. Of course, a large part of the reason for that is that Ottonian historians, particularly but not exclusively Liutprand of Cremona, had a lot of fun in the latter tenth century trashing the reputations of Italian politicians in the name of justifying the Saxon kings’ interventions in the peninsula, so quite how badly-behaved the popes really were is a matter of some debate. Nonetheless, tenth-century Rome was home to popes deeply entrenched in often-vicious local politics and possible sexual scandal. Pope Sergius III (904-911), for instance, is supposed to have strangled his rivals for the papal throne and engaged in a number of sexual liasons.

And, of course, none of this seems to effect the papacy’s moral authority. The question this provoked for me was ‘how far can one remove the actual popes from the history of the papacy during this period?’ This is something of an intellectual game, because I certainly wouldn’t want to argue that individual popes had no agency. Nevertheless, if we imagine, say, that after the Cadaver Synod Pope Stephen had dropped dead and they’d just decided to keep Pope Formosus’ body as pope for the rest of the century, how much would have changed?

In several cases, not much. Take, for instance, the foundation of the abbey of Cluny in 910. One of the things which eventually turns out to be important about Cluny is that it is, from the start, made subject to papal authority. To quote the foundation charter:

Let the said monks pay 10 solidi every five years to the threshold of the apostles at Rome, to provide them with their lighting, and let them have the protection of the same apostles and the defence of the Roman pontiff… And I appeal and entreat through God and in God, and by all His saints and the tremendous day of Judgement that no secular prince, no count, nor any bishop, nor the pontiff of the aforesaid seat of Rome should invade the things of those servants of God… And I beseech you, O holy apostles and glorious princes of the Earth, Peter and Paul, and you, pontiff of pontiffs of the apostolic seat, that through the canonical and apostolic authority which you accepted from God, you should remove from the company of the holy Church of God and eternal life the robbers and invaders and abductors of these goods… and that you might be tutors and defenders of the said place of Cluny, and the servants of God living there… (translation here mine; link goes to the Internet Medieval Sourcebook)

And so, put under the pope’s protection, Cluniac monks eventually come to be of paramount importance to wider trends in monastic reform, and then Church reform more generally, and next thing you know it’s emperor-in-the-snow time.

Henry IV again. I have no idea about the context of this. Also from Wikimedia Commons.

None of this would have been tremendously apparent at the time, so the question becomes, why invoke the pope? The pope at the time was the aforementioned Sergius III, whose personal moral authority may or may not have been questionable, but who in any case wasn’t going to lead an army into the Mâconnais (the region of France where Cluny is) to defend it.

An important contextual element here is that the Mâconnais, in 910, was a frontier region between two massive personal hegemonies: the Aquitaine of William the Pious, who founded Cluny; and the Burgundy of Richard the Justiciar. (This map is about as good as it gets…) Mâcon was under William’s control, but on the fringe of his sphere of influence, which was centred further to the west. Richard, who must win the prize for ‘tenth-century Gaul’s biggest opportunist’, probably saw an opportunity for territorial expansion at William’s expense (as he certainly did later in Bourges, which was similarly placed). An important method of gaining control of a region was to take control of its most important monasteries, through an institution known an lay abbacy, which is exactly what it sounds like: laymen ruling an abbey as abbot. This gave them access to the abbey’s resources, which could be substantial. Richard’s rise to power in Burgundy had been facilitated not least by takeovers of lay abbacies in this manner, including Sainte-Colombe in Sens and Saint-Germain in Auxerre.

So when William founded an important abbey in this region, it could potentially be a support of his rule there – or it could be a target for a regional takeover. By placing the abbey under papal protection, William effectively removed the possibility of Richard (or anyone else) taking over Cluny’s lay abbacy, whilst retaining a personal hegemony in the form of an informal alliance. As several generations of West Frankish nobles were to discover, being ‘close friends’ with an abbey was as effective a means of influence over monasteries as being the official ruler.  To accomplish this, though, it was enough to invoke papal authority – the pope didn’t actually need to get involved in any way, because the main point was to de-legitimize other modes of interaction with the abbey than the one William was already monopolising, i.e., informal alliance.

This kind of ‘demand-driven’ expansion of papal authority appears to have been cumulatively significant over the course of the tenth century; the influence of Rome expanded organically, without the popes necessarily getting involved at all. However, it carried with it the potential to turn influence into power – to take the Cluny example, once the pope’s authority was invoked, the abbey was inextricably linked with the papacy, at the very minimum because someone actually had to go to Rome to give them the 10 solidi, and friendships, correspondence, and political and personal ties would naturally follow on. This kind of connection then provides a pope who does want to get actively involved something on which to pull to get his way; it doesn’t explain why a pope might want to start interfering in the Church at large, but it is an important part of the picture as to why they can.

        (As a final note, I should mention here that Barbara Rosenwein has a different explanation of the political context here, one where the specific pope does in fact matter…)

When Arguments Go Wrong: Part 1 of the Tübingen not-conference-report

Having finally had some time in the British Library to brush up on some required reading, here is the first of a couple of posts about the oft-mentioned workshop at Tübingen on The Transformation of The Carolingian World. I’m not going to do a full conference report for a couple of reasons; partly because the papers were explicitly works-in-progress and partly because several of them were in German, which I don’t speak well enough to have followed (relatedly, I would rather shame-facedly like to thank the participants for doing the question-and-answers sessions in English for my sake…). So instead, the plan is to do a few posts on some things which the workshop left me thinking about, some about individual papers and others about wider themes.

The first thing relates to the very interesting paper given by Warren Pezé, whom I was very pleased to see because he’s always been very friendly but by unfortunate coincidence we have only previously met when I had been in a rather grim mood (the last time, for instance, we were both in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, but I was caught up in staring with mounting frustration at the world’s tiniest and least-legible sixteenth-century copies of medieval charters). The paper was about manuscript evidence of engagement with heresy in the ninth century and its potential application to the eleventh. The reason it’s been on my mind is, well, the method is certainly good as showing what it shows, and the results are definitely interesting; but I thought there’d been a category error somewhere and I’m not sure the problem isn’t on my end.

The question Warren was addressing was this: what can manuscript evidence show us about the heresy of double-predestination, promulgated in the mid-ninth century by Gottschalk of Orbais and viciously attacked by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims. Hincmar was one of nature’s middle-managers, and Gottschalk appears to have been a person precisely geared to get stuck in his craw: fiercely intelligent, just as stubborn, and prone to attracting trouble. When Gottschalk advanced was – very­ loosely speaking – a doctrine about salvation which stated that God predestined the elect to be saved and the damned to be, well, damned. This was a function of God’s grace, and there wasn’t really a place for good works in it. Personally, I find the actual content of the controversy a bit esoteric, although it’s been keenly scrutinised by people wanting to see Gottschalk as proto-Protestant; for the purposes of this blog post, it’s perhaps best to see it as another iteration of the eternal Christian debate about faith vs works, with Gottschalk in the ‘faith’ corner and Hincmar over by ‘works’.

For the point which is interesting here isn’t so much the content of what Gottschalk was arguing as the response to it. Gottschalk was condemned as a heretic twice, once at Mainz in 848 by Hrabanus Maurus, archbishop of Mainz (who was still holding a grudge against Gottschalk for the lengthy legal case which Gottschalk had inflicted on Hrabanus when he was abbot of Fulda and Gottschalk was trying to get out of being a monk there…) and once again at Quierzy in 849 by Hincmar. However, Gottschalk refused to accept either council’s authority and, despite being canonically condemned, and thus a heretic, continued to argue his point.

As it turns out, the manuscript evidence can show us quite a lot about this – Warren had several examples of patristic texts which had annotations in the margin along the lines of ‘aha, Gottschalk is right!’, or which had been miscopied to sound less friendly to his point, some of which appear to have been produced at a relatively low social level. So, engagement with heresy, right?

This is where I start to raise questions. Despite Gottschalk’s condemnation as a heretic, the reality of his heresy wasn’t completely clear at the time – significant church figures and intellectuals thought he was right. The prominent theologians Ratramnus of Corbie (of dog-headed men fame) and John Scotus Eriugena (‘Irish-Born’) both came down much more on Gottschalk’s side than Hincmar’s, as did Bishop Prudentius of Troyes and (to a significantly lesser extent) Abbot Lupus of Ferrières (who temporised more than coming down on one side or the other).

So for me the question is, how far were the people in Warren’s manuscripts dealing with heresy, and how far was this instead Carolingian debate culture? The debate surrounding double predestination seems to have been very nasty – but this is largely from Hincmar, Hrabanus, and Gottschalk’s perspectives. Lots of things were bound up here, but at least two of them were strong, conflicting personalities, all of which had their personal authority on the line. Outside that particular hothouse, could it be that both sides looked like points which could have been proven right, and debating which was right was not to engage with heresy, but to try and work out a yet-undefined truth?

On the other hand, I worry that later ideas about heresy are swooping in to affect this picture. Gottschalk was condemned, after all. If I’m unwilling to accept double-predestination as a ‘heresy’, have I drunk the twelfth-century Church’s Kool-Aid and so see heresy as a matter of authority and condemnation rather than a rhetorical stance? If I am arguing that Gottschalk wasn’t really a heretic because there were authoritative people who didn’t condemn him, am I drawing too clear cut a line between heresy and not-heresy? I don’t know, but as my research draws dangerously close to 1022 trial of heretics at Orléans (the first executions for heresy in the West for centuries), these questions will only become more acute…

The Short-Lived Glory Days of Advocacy in Saint-Martin of Tours

This is not one of the promised posts about the Tübingen conference, but it was prompted by a discussion which happened there. You see, last year I was invited to take part in a conference on medieval advocacy at the University of Namur; I was enthusiastic about the prospect, but looked through my evidence and couldn’t find enough to say, so had to sadly decline… So here, as a kind of penance, is the one little story my efforts found: the brief but glorious career of the advocates of Saint-Martin of Tours.

But first I should explain what an advocate is. In the Carolingian period – so from the early ninth century onwards – an advocate is a representative who speaks for another person or institution in court. Overwhelmingly, the word is associated with ecclesiastical institutions. Clergy weren’t really supposed to take part in lay courts – although this requirement was both flexible in principle and often honoured more often in the breach than the observance in any case – and so they had advocates to represent them.

Advocacy is a big deal in the history of Lotharingia – eastern France, western Germany and the Benelux countries – because it became a very important way for lords to exert dominance over churches. Being an ‘advocate’, in eleventh-century Lotharingia, was not simply a way for an abbey to lawyer up, but a parcel of potentially very lucrative financial and judicial rights which could be exploited very effectively. A case could be made, for instance, that the modern country of Luxembourg is just the long-term impact of very effective management of advocacy rights. In France, though, and particularly the further west one goes, the less significant advocacy becomes.

But they did exist. At the important abbey of Saint-Martin in Tours, we can even trace them relatively closely in the documentary record. Institutional advocates there do not seem to have existed before the late ninth century – an 857 trial record records that an individual priest had an advocatus, but it’s not until 878 that we see one Adalmar leading a trial as advocate of Saint-Martin. It’s possible there was another man before him – an 892 charter refers to one Guy having held lands propter advocariam (‘in return for his services as advocate’?) – but he’s not attested in the documentary record.

This time, around the 870s, is a time when the area around Tours is getting organised. The area’s new ruler, Hugh the Abbot, is a man with a lot of responsibilities, and so these years see the growth of structures of delegated responsibilities – it is at this time, for instance, that viscounts first start emerging. An institutional advocate for Saint-Martin appears to be part of this organisational drive.

Adalmar came from the local nobility. He was, among other things, the lord of Monnaie and possessed an allod (i.e. inheritable land) near the church of Notre-Dame-de-Pauvres (now Notre-Dame la Riche, so I guess things have improved in the last thousand years), both very near Tours proper. He and his family appear as vassi dominici, a kind of lower-rank noble, which, for our purposes, means that he and his family were, in a local context, of particularly high status.

Adalmar’s job was the protection and defence of Saint-Martin’s interests. In theory (and here I crib liberally from, among other places, Charles West’s article on the Carolingian advocate), this involved representing the abbey in court, and normative sources specify that an advocate was expected to be learned in the law. Indeed, Adalmar appears in one charter witness list as a legis doctor (‘legal expert’). He wasn’t the only one – charter evidence from contemporary Tours indicates that there was a thriving community of legal experts at this time, including one Amalric legislator who appears several times. The Life of St. Odo of Cluny also claims that his father Abbo knew Roman law, and this may be the same Abbo legislator who appears in a charter witness list from 898.

However, it is very likely that there was a more direct aspect to Adalmar’s advocacy than this. In 892, some of Saint-Martin’s lands were claimed by a man named Patrick, a vassal of the count-abbot of Saint-Martin, Robert of Neustria. Adalmar was able to win possession of the lands from Robert, and was given a dagger (cultellus) by the abbot as a symbol of this, with the words ‘You should have it, because you are their [the brothers of Saint-Martin’s] advocate – and if necessary, you should fight for them’. By my reading, this implies that part of Adalmar’s job was also to enforce legal decisions – to take these knives and force Patrick or his men off the land so the canons of Saint-Martin could reclaim it.

Adalmar was dead by 914, when his heir, Erwig (Hervicus), had taken over his role as advocate. This isn’t necessarily surprising, as advocates were supposed to have strong local ties and other places also provide examples of the position passing from father to son. Erwig, however, did not play the role his father had. He appears as advocatus for the last time in 930, and there’s no evidence that he was involved in the abbey’s lawsuits. In 926, for example, a lengthy dispute in which the brothers tried to reclaim property around Thouars, in northern Aquitaine, was carried out completely without Erwig’s being involved. Part of this may be due to the rise to power within Saint-Martin of Theotolo, dean of the abbey and later archbishop of Tours. Theotolo was associated with contemporary monastic reform movements – he was a schoolfriend of the aforementioned Odo of Cluny, the poster-child of monasteries theoretically immune from lay influence – and it is possible that he belonged to the strain of Church thought which did not believe that the ecclesiastical cases should be heard before lay courts. Evidence from Tours shows that Theotolo made a number of efforts to regain Saint-Martin’s land, all of which involved situations substantially less formal than a formal mallus (court), and none of which involved an advocate.

Erwig himself lived on for a while, and is likely attested for the last time in 957. Whenever he appears, he is either untitled or a vassus, so it’s likely that even if he claimed the role of advocatus, he couldn’t make it stick. His family’s role vis-à-vis Saint-Martin was ephemeral, and flourished only in the brief period between high-political imperatives creating it and developments in ecclesiastical thought rendering it too embarrassing to continue.