Prologues and the 936 Diploma for Autun

Grgh. You find me, dear reader, in the midst of trying to write my paper for the big medieval congress in Leeds whilst at the same time not getting enough sleep, and so I’m going to spend this post hearkening back to something relaxing. You see, sometimes in the midst of doing more relevant research I take a little time to go and look at the prologues, or arengae, of royal diplomas – the little introductory spiel which gives the backstory and the motives behind the act the diploma commemorates (and from which the word ‘harangue’ is derived). It’s early days yet, but I have found one particularly interesting thing.

Do you remember that 936 diploma in favour of Autun we discussed earlier on here? Well, I found where its prologue came from, and it’s actually from an act in favour not of any institution in Autun, but a diploma for Saint-Germain d’Auxerre. That diploma, issued by Charles the Bald in 864, was a quite significant confirmation of the abbey’s goods, and was followed by a solemn charter from the episcopal synod which was taking place at the same time.

That the scribe used this in 936 shows us a few things. First, it emphasises that there wasn’t a representative from Autun there – presumably they would have brought their own diplomas as a model. Second, though, it illustrates the importance attached to the diploma. They could have used any text, but they chose one from a particularly elaborate and significant ninth-century document. This in turn pushes in favour of Louis IV and Hugh the Great actively trying to get Bishop Rotmund of Autun on side rather than just assuming he would be, which strengthens my point that Hugh is actively trying to promote Louis’ regime in Burgundy rather than making some token gestures. Fourth and finally, as I said in the previous post, it evidently worked because the church of Autun kept the diploma – but its prologue represents the irruption of another institution’s diplomatic tradition into that of Autun, and by closely studying that tradition we can glean more precious hints about the way diplomas were produced and the contexts in which people produced them.

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Not the Peace of God

Since last week, I’ve spent much of my time thinking about the Council of Charroux in 989, trying to work out what on Earth they thought they were doing, because seriously you guys it’s –

OK, hang on. Let’s back up. I’ve blogged a couple of times here about the Peace of God, for one thing, and I don’t think I’ve explained what it is, or at least what it’s supposed to be. So, the Peace of God is a term modern historians apply to a series of Church councils held from the latter part of the tenth century onwards, intending to regulate violence within society, especially against the Church and the poor. These councils can be distinguished by 1) a vocabulary of ‘peace’ (pax), 2) legislative activity, 3) the swearing of oaths to enforce the peace, 4) some participation by the people (populus) and 5) the presence of saints’ relics. Basically every aspect of these councils is subject to serious debate: how much of a novelty were they? How important was popular participation? Who were the new rules aimed at? How far did lay rulers take the initiative in calling Peace councils? And so on.

The first council which modern historians call a Peace council was held at the abbey of Charroux, south of Poitiers, in 989. Thomas Head has analysed the context here, basically unconvincingly. He argues that the Council was held to promote good behaviour towards churches, and specifically to do so in the aftermath of a feud between the viscounts of Limoges and the lords of La Marche which had been prolonged and dangerous. He can only argue this, however, with some chronological slight-of-hand, because as far as we can tell the ‘feud’ in question took place over a couple of years in the mid-970s and was resolved a decade before the Council of Charroux.

So this raises the question, what did the bishops who assembled at Charroux and issued three canons against various nefarious persons think they were doing? Because it certainly wasn’t ‘holding a Peace of God council’. As I said, that is a term of art used by modern historians, and they couldn’t possibly have been thinking in those terms. It looks like it could have been a provincial council (i.e. an archbishop and his suffragans getting together), but that’s by itself weird. As far as I have been able to find, the last provincial council held in Second Aquitaine had been seven hundred years earlier, which is certainly a delay, but makes me fairly confident that holding a council was itself a novelty.

Let’s abandon, then, if only temporarily, the ‘Peace of God’ label and think about a ‘Pre-Millennial Aquitanian Conciliar Movement’. In eastern Aquitaine, that is, the Auvergne and its area, there is one of these, associated above all with Bishop Guy of Le Puy, who I think was possibly following in Stephen II of Clermont’s footsteps. Thing is, these are eastern and head more eastwards: Guy gets involved with Burgundian and Provençal bishops, but not with Gascon or Poitevin ones. There’s no overlap between any of the councils Guy is involved with and the bishops who were at Charroux. The language used at Charroux might also be different (although I need to look at that further).

But, as we’ve seen, Charroux is the first in the west. Does the political context help? Yeah, a little. The thing to note here is that there has been a fairly major shift in personnel in the preceding two years: a new viscount of Limoges, a new count of Angoulême, and a new archbishop of Bordeaux. Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers has been around for a while, but it’s only in the past few years he’s been showing up at the side of William Fierabras, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitou. The time is ripe for the expansion of Poitevin influence over the neighbouring regions. And in fact this is more-or-less what happens: whereas before 989 the counts of Poitiers are fairly strictly confined to Poitou minus some very sporadic influence over the city of Limoges, afterwards their power is visibly wider-spread. This is probably deliberate – Head, in the article above, notes that Charroux was at the start of a programme of episcopal bolstering of William’s monastic reform programme over the next year or so. For that and other reasons, I think we could actually give William some initiative in calling the council, rather than just taking advantage of it.

The political context may just give us the ‘why then’, but it doesn’t answer the ‘why a legislative council’ question. Why not a lay assembly like the rulers of Neustria and indeed the dukes of Aquitaine have been holding for the previous century or so? This aspect of Charroux is why historians like to point at Guy of Le Puy – because he’s also been legislating at councils in the immediate vicinity within the last few years. It’s not him the bishops at Charroux themselves point at, though. The acts of the council begin ‘reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors…’ Our only manuscript copy of these acts – as far as I know, the only one we can ever show to have existed, because it’s what the Early Modern printed editions are based on – was scribbled in the back of a very nice mid-ninth-century codex of conciliar decrees from Angoulême around the year 1000 (Vatican Lat. Reg. 1127, which is very well-digitised).

Reg.lat.1127_0339_m (1)
And this in fact is it. Usefully, it comes with its own copyright notice. 

I therefore have to wonder whether or not these are the ‘synodal authorities’ the council is referring to…* It would make sense if they were, because the manuscript is full of tenth-century additions, mostly about councils – synodal blessings, canons, etc. Evidently the canons of Angoulême were interested in keeping up-to-date with best synodal practice.

Which is doubly interesting because, as I said, as far as we know there hadn’t been any provincial synods in Aquitaine since the later days of the Roman Empire. Abbo of Fleury thought that the Frankish kings had erred in not holding proper Church councils, so the idea that councils were important was evidently in the air. I’d love to find the origin of this idea. If it had been later, we might have said that Abbo was the source – our one manuscript of his canonical collection comes from Adhemar of Chabannes – but Charroux is too early. Lots to still research here, therefore (although not in the immediate future because I need to write my paper for the Leeds International Medieval Congress) – but I’m pretty sure that the term ‘Peace of God’ won’t help me get further with it.

* Head elsewhere argues that the opening of the council is a pastiche of the forged decretals of Pseudo-Isidore, which got me very excited, before a fair chunk of time spent searching the canons came up completely empty and left me shaking my head over how this claim got past the reviewers…

 

(Oh, and for good measure a translation of the source (again, it’s short)):

Reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors, in the name of the Lord and our saviour Jesus Christ, on the 1st June, I, Archbishop Gunbald of Second Aquitaine, with all the bishops of this province, convened in the hall which was once called Charroux. Both bishops and also religious clerics, and yet more as well everyone of both sexes implored the help of divine piety in order that – by consideration of divine grace – the harmful things which we know have flourished for a long time in our abodes by pestilential customs due to the long delay in the Council might be eradicated and useful ones planted. We, therefore, specially gathered in the name of God, decree this which shines openly in the following.

  • An anathema against those who violate churches.

If anyone should violate a holy church or steal anything from there by force, unless they come quickly to satisfaction, let them be anathema.

  • Anathema against those plunder the goods of the poor.

If anyone should pillage a sheep or a cow or an ox or a ram or a goat or pigs from a farmer or other poor person, unless the victim were at fault, if they neglect to make amends for everything, let them be anathema.

  • Anathema against those who strike clerics.

If anyone should attack or capture a priest or deacon or any kind of cleric at all not bearing arms (that is, a shield, a sword, a hauberk, a helmet) but simply walking or staying at home, except if after examination by his own bishop he [the priest] had fallen into any sin, if he [the attacker] does not come to satisfaction, let them be held a sacrilege and outside the threshold of the holy Church of God.

I, Archbishop Gunbald of Bordeaux, subscribed.

I, Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers, subscribed.

I, Bishop Hildegar of Limoges, subscribed.

I, Bishop Frothar of Périgueux, subscribed.

I, Bishop Abbo of Saintes, subscribed.

I, Bishop Hugh of Angoulême, subscribed.

Exploring the Origins of the Peace of God

Ugh. Y’know, I spent my PhD avoiding the Peace of God movement, and then I started working later and further south, and now I’ve blogged about it, and on Tuesday I went to a really good paper about it, and then there’s all the Aquitanian stuff; and now I’ve kinda got to.

“Why so?” I hear you ask. Well, reader, there is at least a case to be made that if you trace back the intellectual genealogy of these things, you end up with long-time friend of the blog Bishop Stephen II of Clermont. But before I get there, we need to make it clear that you’ve got to be careful when talking about the Peace of God, because it’s not a term from the time, it’s a modern technical term. This might be less important when we’re dealing with the ‘second wave’ of councils around the 1020s, where the influence of one council on another is often very explicit, but in the late tenth century it’s not clear where to draw the line.

Take the 989 Council of Charroux, for instance, often claimed as one of the earliest Peace councils. Absolutely nothing about it cannot be paralleled from earlier tradition. The council claims that there has been a long delay in holding a council and that terrible things have arisen in the land because of it. The 909 Council of Trosly is a fairly direct comparison for this. (That said, one might note that Charroux claims that the council has been delayed and therefore evils have arisen whilst Trosly says that the council has been delayed because evils have arisen, which may indicate an actual strengthening of the power of the conciliar idea by 989; but really I don’t think the difference is particularly important.) Otherwise much of its rhetoric can be compared closely and in some cases verbatim with Carolingian legislation. Notably, the word ‘peace’ does not show up once.

Where it does show up is in 958, at that meeting in Clermont we’ve talked about before. The charter here says… actually, y’know what, it’s short, let’s give you the whole thing:

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 958, in the first indiction, it happened in that year that the princes of the Auvergne rebelled against each other in turn. But, with God’s help and in the reign of Bishop Stephen of Auvergne, peace, which passeth everything, currently reigns within our borders.

Meanwhile, it happened that one of our princes, that is, Calixtus, had invaded some of the goods of another: he obtained, that is, the allod of one of the canons, named Amblard, not justly but unjustly.

For this reason, because of what he was holding unjustly, the aforesaid Calixtus and his wife Oda and their children, that is, Peter and Hugh and Stephen, came into the city of Clermont, where Stephen, bishop of that see, shines. Present there were Viscount Robert and Abbot Stephen and Abbot Robert and other lay and clerical lords and monks, and there the said Calixtus recognised that he had held that allod in Gergovie unjustly, and in the presence of that crowd he gave it up and commanded this notice of surrender be made, and he confirmed it with his own hand and had it confirmed by his children and his knights and by everyone.

Sign of Calixtus. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Stephen. Sign of Bishop Stephen. Sign of Viscount Robert. Sign of Abbot Robert. Sign of Abbot Stephen.

Done in the month of September, on Thursday, in the 4th year of the reign of King Lothar.

Theodoric subscribed.

Told you it was short. Anyway, this is the first use I can find of the combination of a meeting, the word ‘peace’, and the settlement of disputes in a context of violence to show up together in Aquitaine. These are all things that will be develop into the Peace of God, and I think it’s reasonable to see this as a fairly close ancestor, not least because the early ‘Peace of God’ is probably best seen as just one flavour of central Aquitanian discourse which happens to become unusually successful.

Question is, can we push it further back? What I’ve been looking at in the last couple of days is that reference to peace, pax omnia superat. This is a clear reference to Philippians 4:7, ‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding’ (pax Dei quae exsuperat omnem sensem, in the Vulgate – superat is a variant found in some versions of the Old Latin Bible).

Problem is, I’ve been coming up mostly empty. I tried looking in various places for liturgical parallels, and didn’t really find any, although one manuscript of conciliar ordines suggests using it in an assembly for dealing with quarrels, which would be absolutely ideal except that this is only found in a marginal annotation from Mainz. Otherwise, it is also quoted in a section of the 829 Council of Paris about how the council is going to settle civil discord, which given what we now know to be that council’s normative value would also be very useful, except that I can’t find that there’s a manuscript of the council itself in Clermont. I asked some real liturgical specialists, who actually know what they’re doing (thanks, Arthur!) and was told that Philippians is used for readings in Advent, but as this is a summer or early autumn document, I’m not sure there’s direct causation there…

So I wonder if this might not be, in some sense, where the ball starts rolling for this particular strand of political language. It’s not like ‘the New Testament’ is an implausible place for a medieval cleric to be looking for ideas, after all…

What do we want? Charter pedantry! When do we want it? NOW AND ALWAYS

(with apologies to Levi for stealing his tweet for the title)

I’ve mentioned before that putting up discarded blog ideas on Twitter lead to the discovery that I have no idea what you people want. And it turned out, when I did this ages ago, that at least two of you want a really nitpicky point about a 966 diploma of King Lothar for the Mont-Saint-Michel. It got put on the back-burner for a while because for a moment it looked like it was going to be trickier than I thought it was, but actually it isn’t, it’s written up, and it’s ready to rumble.

So, what’s the story? Well, first of all, there’s a relatively long-standing debate over whether this diploma is forged, and if not how much of it is interpolated. This has wider ramifications than just shoving another royal precept in the Unecht basket: the Mont-Saint-Michel was on the frontier between Bretons and Normans.

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Seen here backgrounding a tiki restaurant (source)

Our old friend Dudo of Saint-Quentin claims that Duke Richard I of Normandy (with whom we have some prior acquaintance*) sent in a bushel of monks to reform the abbey, but it doesn’t look like this dragged the Mount undisputedly into the Norman duke’s orbit, to say the least, and Dudo being Dudo, if it were just him we’d raise eyebrows about whether or not it happened. But, we have this diploma.

As it happens, some scholars have thought that Richard I messing around that far west is so unlikely that the diploma must be a fake. The argument is that it must have been produced in the early eleventh century – when we know the Norman rulers had a presence that far west – rather than the mid-tenth – when they can’t possibly have done. There is a prima facie case to answer here. The reason for that is that the diploma as it currently exists includes reference to a papal bull of Pope John XIII which was definitely an early eleventh-century forgery. So it’s definitely been interpolated; but was it outright forged? As I said, some scholars think so. I don’t.

That reason is the prologue. The diploma’s prologue begins ‘If We confirm that which Our predecessors, illuminated by divine esteem…’ It appears to have originally comes from the abbey of Saint-Denis in the 860s, and shows up in a few diplomas of Charles the Bald making Very Serious Arrangements for organising Church estates; but the specific version of the formula that the Mont-Saint-Michel diploma is copying was issued for the cathedral at Rouen in around 872. (Incidentally, actually looking this up required an awful lot of intense diploma research before I discovered there’s an entire book which is specifically a reference work for this topic, which would have resolved the whole question in about five minutes…)

The fact that this formula was in the Rouen Cathedral archive and nowhere else goes well with another detail from the diploma. Lothar’s act doesn’t mention anyone from the Mont itself petitioning for it, but it does say that Archbishop Hugh of Rouen did. Normandy in 966 was not exactly drowning in very solemn royal diplomas (and, actually, if Hugh – originally a monk from Saint-Denis – was familiar with his old house’s archive he would have had extra associations with prologues of this type), so the most plausible scenario is that Hugh brought this formula with him when petitioning Lothar for the diploma. Point is, having that prologue in this diploma requires that it was produced for a Norman visit from Rouen to Lothar’s court in the 960s rather than cooked up out of whole cloth in the Avranchin in the 1020s.

This in turn means that we can say with some confidence that the Norman rulers were successfully claiming authority over Brittany in the second half of the tenth century. In general, I think in general the evidence for Norman involvement in the area which would eventually become western Normandy tends to be downplayed, not least because it looks weird by the standards of people expecting the strong and stable government of early eleventh-century upper Normandy – but it’s pretty convincing for a vaguely-conceived but nonetheless-important hegemony over a factionalised borderland.

* Back when I was first drafting this, I got @-ed into a discussion thread about the then-recent proposal to move the Bayeux Tapestry, and it turned out that people are actually reading my articles; and I know that’s the point but I still got unnerved. Does anyone else find this?

Some Issues in Aquitanian History pt 5: Making Peace

Back in March, we covered the endemic conflict which started up in Auvergne in the late 950s; now, it’s time to see how it ended. The main players, if you remember, were King Lothar, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont, and Count William Towhead of Poitou. When we left off, Stephen, his carefully-cultivated closeness to the king under severe pressure thanks to William’s belligerence, was off to Rome. But life in Aquitaine went on without him. In 960, the knights of Nevers cathedral were attacked, seemingly unsuccessfully, by a guy named Airard. Airard is not, at this time, such a common name; and it is striking that the only man with that name I know of in the 950s and 960s is a follower of William Towhead – it looks awfully like William’s side making an unsuccessful attack on Nevers.

Important men, however, were gearing up to make peace, and there’s a Provence connection here. The archbishop of Lyon, at the time, was a man named Amblard, who actually came from Auvergne – much of what we know about him comes from his donation of the little abbey of Ris, north-east of Clermont, to Cluny.

prieurc3a9_clunisien_de_ris2c_ris
And here it is, looking very rural-French. (source)

We know from other evidence that bishops in the West Frankish royal circle are getting together with Amblard of Lyon throughout this period – they sent round letters condemning a man named Isuard for stealing Church property, but this can’t have been the only thing they were talking about. We also know that in 960, Lothar confirmed some land just west of Charlieu, on the border between Burgundy and Aquitaine, to the monastery of Savigny, one of the most important in Amblard’s diocese; and we also know that in 960, Amblard made a deal with Bishop Ebalus of Limoges, William Towhead’s brother and a major prop of his regime, regarding some property claimed by the church of Lyon in the Limousin.

This last one is really quite important – Amblard is the only figure we know of with connections both to the Poitevins, and to the Auvergne, and to the West Frankish king. If he wasn’t trying to mediate a settlement in the Auvergne, I’ll eat my hat.

The problem is that, if the attack of Nevers is anything to go by, William wasn’t buying into the need to make a deal. Lothar had to apply a stick: he granted the pagus of Poitou to his cousin, Hugh the Great’s son Hugh Capet. Hugh the Great had, in 955, tried to capture Poitiers himself, although nothing had come of it. Nothing was to come of this grant either, and I think it is much more readily explicable as Lothar trying to use Hugh to intimidate William Towhead than as a serious grant of title.

If it was, it worked. In 961, Lothar met the Aquitanians , probably in Pouilly where his father Louis IV had met them in 954. The following year, Lothar granted a diploma to William Towhead, who very shortly thereafter retired into a monastery where he quickly died. At the same time, Stephen of Clermont issued his second charter, which we’ve talked about before. As I said then, Stephen is clearly renewing his local authority by re-emphasising his closeness to the king; but at the same time, it looks like William was given an honourable avenue into retirement, meaning that Stephen should be able to reclaim his hegemony in Auvergne. The bishop is back, baby!

Of course, it wasn’t that easy; and after this date, neither is researching this topic. I’m plugging on with it, but this is where my actual narrative stops for the moment. So you may be waiting a little while for the next of these…

Good Guy Hugh the Great

Well, I’m in Leeds now. It’s not so much that everything’s sorted – much remains to be done – but I have an office and I’m sitting in it and so blog can be written. Onwards! Last week I put up a charter translation, which pointed towards this blog post. I mentioned when I was leaving Germany that it made sense to put all the arguments I had about the political narrative of tenth-century West Frankish history in separate articles so that, someday, I could write a book for a general audience without getting bogged down. Fairly high up my to-do list, then (largely because big chunks of it were already written and even partly footnoted) is a short piece on our old friend, the succession to Ralph of Burgundy.

The basic point of this, which I will rehearse in brief here, is not to make any big splash with new information, but to reinterpret what we already know. “So, like most of medieval history then?”, I hear you say. Good point well made, reader; but in this case we’ve ‘known’ something for rather longer than usual and it has remained unchallenged – as far as I know, at all. But on really trying to set down the state of affairs, I think that the consensus is all wrong and a bag of chips.

29kvqs

That consensus in a nutshell. I presume if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you already know the events, but if not, briefly: in January 936, King Ralph of the West Frankish kingdom, whose core support base was Burgundy, died. As king, he was succeeded by Louis IV, an exile who had lived his entire life in England; as duke of Burgundy, by his brother Hugh the Black. After Louis was crowned, he and Hugh the Great, the so-called ‘duke of the Franks’ and the magnate who had organised Louis’ crowning, attacked Burgundy, seizing the north of it from Hugh the Black. This was an unscrupulous attack carried out at Hugh the Great’s instigation and for his profit, snatching northern Burgundy from the rightful heir, Hugh the Black; and the only reason it could be done was because Louis was a helpless pawn completely under the power of Hugh the Great, whose only interest lay in exploiting the king’s presence to increase his own power, leaving Louis helpless and dependent.

Now, in recent works this is presented a bit less moralistically than it was in the early twentieth century, but it’s still more-or-less the same argument. However, it hinges on the idea that a) Hugh the Black was the ‘rightful heir’ to a ‘duchy of Burgundy’ and b) Hugh the Great was shortsightedly self-serving. I’ve argued against the first point here (Hugh the Black was an outsider to much of his brother’s core regions, and there’s no reason to think that men who had been operating in Ralph’s royal court would not look to the next royal court – rather than a not-so-local potentate – as his successor); but the second is also important.

Historians have long appreciated that kings and nobles were not always and inherently antagonistic such that the kings had to keep unruly and unscrupulous aristocrats down before they tore polities apart in pursuit of their own profit. This appreciation can sometimes seem to stop at around 870. But let’s look at Hugh the Great’s actions. We have a new king. He’s young, and unlike his almost-as-young East Frankish counterpart Otto the Great, he’s inexperienced. He has no West Frankish allies, and a lot of the old royal lands and palaces in the north-east are contested (thanks, Heribert of Vermandois!). But, there are these other guys to the south, in Burgundy, who were in with the last king, and who have no particular love for his brother’s attempts to impose himself on them by force…

Seen in this light, Hugh the Great’s campaign against Hugh the Black looks like a good-faith attempt to set Louis up as successor to Ralph’s power in the region of Burgundy. Certainly, not a disinterested one – Hugh the Great was made lay abbot of Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre – but this was just allowing Hugh an office which had for most of the late ninth century been attached to his particular bloc of lands and offices. (Hugh’s Neustria was actually much more formal than Ralph’s Burgundy, and maybe I should do a post about that…) But Ralph of Burgundy had not been a negligible figure, and asserting Louis as his heir in Burgundy made sense as a way of ensuring that Louis would also be a figure to reckon with.

Why did Hugh want Louis to be a figure to reckon with? Because useless kings were… erm, useless. If, as Hugh could reasonably expect, he would be the most important figure in Louis’ regime, then he needed the king to be rich and powerful, or else he couldn’t reward Hugh or judge in his favour in any meaningful way. He’d just be a useless appendage of Hugh’s own power. Moreover, in the 930s this wasn’t just hypothetical. Less than ten years before, Heribert of Vermandois had tried that sort of puppet arrangement with Louis’ imprisoned father, Charles the Simple, who – absent any particular power of his own – could add nothing to Heribert’s own resources except an alliance with the Normans, who were so suspicious of Heribert’s treatment of the king that they ended up demanding enough in the way of hostages to be rather counter-productive.

Hugh the Great, then, emerges not as a grasping aristocrat exploiting a helpless king, but as a man who, for his own benefit certainly but that makes it no less illustrative of how politics worked, tried to turn an exile king into a political force to be reckoned with.

Briefly, Some More on Aquitanian Castles

Not that I’ve had any great breakthrough or anything, but I think I’ve moved on somewhat on one of the issues around the Miracles of Saint Foy which we were talking about last time. My thanks to Jonathan Jarrett, who in the comments recommended an article of Pierre Bonnassie’s on castles in the Miracles, which I have quickly got hold of a copy of and read. (Relatedly, if M. Fray from Twitter is reading this, the Aurillac and Figeac miracles have been put fairly high on the list, thanks a lot! – but I haven’t got round to them yet for reasons which will become clear below…) And based on the Bonnassie article, I have had a thought.

First, a little bit of comparison. Since I got back from a short visit to Hesse at the start of this week (mostly looking at late- and post-Carolingian churches, so how far it counts as a ‘holiday’ is up for debate), I’ve been spending most of my time reading Adhemar of Chabannes’ Chronicon, which in terms of geographical coverage overlaps very slightly with the area Bernard of Angers was writing about but which mostly concerns the area immediately to the north; and which, like the Miracles, spends a lot of time talking about castles, but with one noticeable difference. As Bonnassie points out (which I had already noticed), basically none of the fighting in the Miracles takes place in castles themselves – there are ambushes and ravaging aplenty, but not many sieges or assaults. By contrast, warfare in Adhemar is all about attacking castles. I have the Chronicon beside me right now, and opening the book literally at random, I found a description of an assault on a castle (III.48, an attack on the castle of Merle). What this means is that Adhemar is describing a situation in which rulers can mobilise enough resources to risk attacking a castle in a way which the nobles in the Miracles can’t.

What this means, I would argue, is that at the very least a proliferation of castles was not a cause of an extreme fragmentation of power in the area Bernard of Angers is talking about, in Quercy and the Rouergue – because Poitou, the Limousin, and the Angoumois also saw a proliferation of castles but still had people who could mobilise on a larger scale than the people Bernard is writing about. This suggests to me, although it certainly does not prove, that my initial hunch was right and that Bonnassie’s argument is wrong: the issue is less that power actually was extremely fragmented, and more that Bernard was interested in a very small-scale, local society. It’s true (as Bonnassie says) that a lot of the castles in Bernard’s region are very difficult to attack, but on the other hand it’s not like Merle (for example) is set at the bottom of a gentle river valley either… So I would speculate that had Bernard been writing about the mighty deeds of great men like Adhemar was, rather than about the miracles that the saint of a B-list abbey performed amongst the local community, their accounts would look more similar.

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The Tours de Merle. Not the eleventh-century buildings, obviously, but you can tell from the setting that accessibility was not the builders’ chief concern… (source)