Source Translation: A Royal Privilege of Free Election

Hello readers. I meant to post something about my research today, I really did; I realised last week that the last time I actually posted directly about it was over a month ago. However, my time at the minutes is taken up with finishing everything I need to do in Brussels before I move to Germany, which would be fine except it turns out that the last bit of writing that’s got to be finished before the end of this month is really hard, you guys. With that in mind, here’s a translated source that I’m using for that very piece, a diploma of Best King Ever Charles the Simple, issued in 913 to the Church of Trier, granting them the right to freely elect their bishops.

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity and singular Godhead. Charles, by the preordination of divine providence, glorious king. Since the whole body of God’s holy Church should be cared for by priestly oversight and administration and royal tutelage, and since royal majesty ought to be of one mind with the ministers of the Lord, We judge it equitable to proffer assent to the petitions of Our pontiffs, beseeching Us concerning churchly business, by whose prayers We believe that We and the state of Our realm are ceaselessly supported. Therefore, let the industry of all who follow the Christian religion and Our faithful men, present and future, know that Ratbod, the venerable metropolitan of the holy see of Trier, and Our archchaplain, providing for and mindful of the welfare of the church committed to him in future like a provident and good shepherd, asked Our Highness that We might conceded a privilege of Our authority to his see concerning episcopal elections after his death. Freely acquiescing to his pious petition, out of respect for the divine and reverence of the blessed Peter, and due to his love and faithfulness, We commanded this privilege of Our present letters be made, earnestly commanding and sanctioning with the inviolable stability of perpetual firmness that after the death of this bishop, whomsoever the clergy and people of Trier might by common consent elect from amongst the very sons of the same Church should be given to them, by God’s favour, as bishop without contradiction from any party; nor might they be compelled against their will and against canonical authority to receive as a pastor any person they have not chosen. And if, perchance, which We little believe will come to pass, no-one suitable can be found in that church, who is worthy of being given up to an honour of this kind, let an election not be denied to them thereby and Our privilege broken, but rather let them receive from royal majesty whomsoever else they might wish to elect. If it should come to pass, moreover (as is seen to have happened recently in the election of certain bishops) that the votes of the electors are divided, let royal authority favour the part of him on whom the clergy and the men of better intention agree, those who are proven to pursue God’s cause and the salvation of the Lord’s flock, and let the one so chosen be established over them as bishop in accordance with their election. And that this authority of Our privilege might in God’s name obtain firmer vigour of everlasting stability through all times to come, and be inviolably conserved by Our successors, We confirmed it below with Our own hand, and We commanded it be marked with the impression of Our seal.

Sign of the most serene king, lord Charles.

Gozlin the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Archbishop and Archchancellor Ratbod.

Given on the ides of August (i.e. the 13th) in the 1st indiction, in the 21st year of the reign of the most glorious king Charles, in the 16th of his renewal, in the 2nd of his acquisition of a larger inheritance.

Enacted at Thionville. Happily in the name of God, amen.

(I actually have no idea what the reference to contentious elections in other sees is referring to. The ongoing disputes over the bishopric of Strasbourg in the 900s and 910s, maybe?)

Trier Cathedral today (source)

The writing style here is a little unusual; like many contemporary diplomas for the Church of Trier, it appears to have been written by that church’s writing staff, with less involvement by royal personnel. Nonetheless, there’s an intriguing sign here of attitudes to royal involvement in episcopal elections. There was a simmering dispute in the ninth century about whether or not royal involvement should be active or passive; that is, whether or not the royal power actually played a role in making a bishop a bishop or whether it simply removed itself as an obstacle. Men such as Florus of Lyon and Hincmar of Rheims (the latter of whom said ‘kings only agree, they don’t elect’) argued at one time or another for the latter, but over time it is clear that the former position removed competition.

This is neatly illustrated by this charter. Compared to other, earlier, diplomas granting similar rights, Charles actually gives up more power – usually, for instance, kings reserve the right to pick someone if no-one suitable can be found within the recipient church; here, it is specified that Trier can pick anyone, even if from outside Trier itself. However, it also rhetorically emphasises the role of kings more: royal authority and royal majesty play an active part as agents, even if what this might involve in practice has probably not changed all that much. The difference is that here and now, it is being perceived as being much more active and participating much more directly. This, I think, is a key part of that specifically-late-Carolingian political culture that we’ve discussed here before, and it would go on to have knock-on effects that would reach for centuries – but that is perhaps something for another time…


Source Translation: Charles the Bald’s Proclamation against a Traitor Archbishop

Today finds me en route to charming Aberdeen, where I’ll be taking part in the Bishops’ Identities, Careers and Networks conference (and as I write this I realise I’ve forgotten my little cartoon Lambert of Liège badge, which makes me very sad). However, lest you should fear that I would abandon you, dear readers, I have (for once) prepared something special for today: a translation of the Libellus contra Wenilonem. This text, usually thought to have been written for King Charles the Bald perhaps by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims (whom this blog has encountered before, it being hard to avoid him when dealing with the Frankish episcopate) in 859. In 858, Charles’ persistent difficulties with the Neustrian part of his realm had come to a head, and a group of major nobles had invited Charles’ elder brother King Louis the German to become ruler in the West Frankish kingdom. Thanks in large part to his support from the West Frankish episcopate, Charles was able to beat off Louis and re-establish his rule.

There was one major exception to the general support Charles received from his bishops, and that was Archbishop Wanilo of Sens. Wanilo had crowned Charles, but switched sides to Louis and; well, let’s hear Charles’ side of the story:

[EDIT: Latin text here.]


The outline of lord king Charles’ case against Wanilo, archbishop of Sens, promulgated by his own hand before archbishops Remigius of Lyons, Herard of Tours, Wanilo of Rouen, and Ralph of Bourges, chosen as judges from amongst a holy synod of twelve provinces, held in the diocese of Toul, in the suburb of the same city which is called Savonnières, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 859, in the 7th indiction, on the 18th kalends of July [i.e. 14th June].

Chapter 1: Because, as Saint Gregory said and you know to be true from time immemorial, kings in the kingdom of the Franks come from one dynasty, by divine provision, my lord and father Emperor Louis of pious memory gave me, like my royal brothers, a part of the realm. In this part of the realm, the metropolitan archbishopric of Sens happened to be lacking a pastor; so, in accordance with the custom of my predecessors as king and with the consent of the holy bishops of that archbishopric, I gave it to Wanilo to govern – at that time, he was serving me as a cleric in my chapel. He commended himself to me after the fashion of free clerics, and swore an oath of fidelity, and I got all the bishops of my entourage to ordain him as archbishop in Sens.

Chapter 2: After that, there came to pass between my brothers and I the well-known settlement concerning the division of the realm, as a result of which I received a portion of the division to hold and govern, with mutual oaths on the parts of us and our followers, in the manner whereof the leading men of the whole realm had devised. Like the other bishops present, Wanilo swore to me and my brothers, with his own hand, to uphold in future this division between me and my brothers in future as, in essence, my supporter. Wanilo also confirmed the peace and agreement of mutual aid between me and my aforesaid brother Louis with an oath.

Chapter 3: After his election, by the will, consent and acclamation of the rest of the bishops and the other faithful of Our realm, in his diocese, at the city of Orléans, in the church of Sainte-Croix, Wanilo and other archbishops and bishops consecrated me as king in accordance with Church tradition, and anointed me to rule the kingdom with sacred chrism, and elevated me to the throne with a diadem and royal sceptre. As a result of this consecration, I ought not to have been overthrown or supplanted by anyone, at least not without a tribunal of and judgement by bishops, by whose ministry I was consecrated as king, who are called the ‘Thrones of God’, in whom God sits and through whom He declares His judgements; and to whose paternal reproofs and castigatory judgements I was prepared to submit myself and now submit myself to.

Chapter 4: Then, when sedition had begun to grow within Our realm thanks to impudent men, by the consent of Our bishops and other followers, we wrote a mutual agreement concerning how I, with the Lord’s help, intended to act towards them, and how Our same followers ought thereafter to bring me solace through help and counsel. At the estate of Bayel, Wanilo subscribed this document with his own hand, as you can now see.

Chapter 5: After that, when Our followers and I had, as you know, gone to fight the pagans [the Vikings] at the island of Oissel on land and sea, some defected from Us and fled. Wanilo, however, returned to his own see, saying he was too infirm to go to Oissel. But while We remained there, girded for battle although under strength, Our brother Louis, as you know, invaded Our realm from his own with hostile intent, accompanied by seditious men. Wanilo went to his assembly without my agreement and permission. He knew that he wanted to supplant me. No other bishop from Our realm did this.

Chapter 6: Moreover, when I, in the company of those faithful to God and me, marched against my aforesaid brother and my enemies and those with him, who plundered the Church and pillaged the realm, he sent no help, either in person or through the due assistance which my royal ancestors and I had been accustomed to have from the church committed to him, even though I sincerely asked this of him.

Chapter 7: I then had reason and need to retreat from my aforesaid brother at Brienne. My brother Louis returned to my kingdom for this reason: that he might steal my nephew [King Lothar II] from me and take my men from me and violently oppress my followers. Wanilo went to my aforesaid brother Louis with all the help he could muster, acting against me. With him were excommunicate and seditious men of this realm, concerning whose excommunication he had received letters from his fellow bishops. And Wanilo celebrated public masses for my brother and the seditious men who accompanied him, in my palace of Attigny, in the diocese and province of another archbishop who was loyal to Us, without the permission and consent of his fellow bishops, and for excommunicates and the accomplices of excommunicates. And it was in that council and by his counsel (as much as Lothar’s counsellors’) that my nephew Lothar was stolen from me through lies, and the consolation and help due from him and promised by an oath was taken from me.

Chapter 8: Wanilo was no less present amongst the counsellors of my aforesaid brother in dealings both public and private, with his special favourites and amongst the foremost of his entourage, along with, as We said, those excommunicated by episcopal judgement and condemned by the judgement of the realm. This was so that my oft-mentioned brother might gain and I might lose that part of the realm concerning which my same brother and Wanilo swore an oath to me, and in which Wanilo had consecrated me as king.

Chapter 9: Wanilo advised and discussed how the bishops who owed me sworn fidelity and ought to give me the counsel and help they had confirmed with their own hands might desert me and give their service and obedience to my brother Louis.

Chapter 10: He obtained from my brother Louis a precept concerning the abbey of Sainte-Colombe and goods and honours in my kingdom, and asked for letters to send to agents who could retake the same abbey, Heccard and Theodoric.

Chapter 11: In the same letters to the aforesaid agents, Wanilo procured my brother Louis’ order that they should have permission to take stones from the wall of the castle of Melun, which rightly belongs to royal power. This shows how he endeavoured to cherish and tried to support him amongst all the people of the realm bestowed on me by God.

Chapter 12: Wanilo was present in council and dealings with the aforesaid excommunicates, where it was considered how those men who were loyal to me and had promised me loyalty with an oath might willingly or unwillingly swear loyalty to my brother Louis and give him help, and how he could obtain my kingdom from me. And Wanilo was not only present in council, but he himself gave the same counsel to my brother Louis, against the loyalty which he had promised me by an oath.

Chapter 13: Wanilo, both in person and through his companions, to wit, the abovesaid excommunicates, got my brother Louis to give a vacant bishopric, to wit, that of the city of Bayeux, to his kinsman, my cleric Tortald, who had commended himself to me and sworn an oath of loyalty. He, acting unfaithfully towards me and against the loyalty he had promised me, accepted the same bishopric with the consent of my brother Louis.

Chapter 14: Finally, after God, through the assistance of my followers against my brother, had given me the strength to recover, I came to Wanilo’s city. He knew to come to me against my brother to recover my realm; and offered no help, either in person with the counsel he had promised and signed off on, or through the soldiers who are usually provided by the church committed to him.


Wanilo reconciled with Charles later in 859, although his name became a by-word for treachery in later generations. There are a few things that could be said about this, but in the name of space I’ll limit myself to just one, relating to Chapter 3. It’s been said that there was no theory of deposition in Carolingian times, but Charles’ statement that he could, in theory, have been removed as king by a council of bishops looks very much like one. It does look as though Charles is accepting the legitimacy of the very procedure whereby his father Louis the Pious was deposed in the 830s (although in that case the deposition didn’t stick). It’s also remarkably favourably to the Church – admittedly correcting the ruler and giving him admonition and guidance is very much a bishop’s role at this point; but I have trouble imagining this idea coming from the court of Charles the Simple whilst it was justifying itself in handing out bishoprics like Halloween candy. So I have a question for the audience, if anyone’s working on a later period: does this ever get cited?  I can imagine Gregory VII (as a bishop who claimed the right to depose rulers) enjoying this one, but does it ever actually come up?

Source Translation: The Spectrum of Kingship in Ninth-Century Brittany

And we’re back. Hello everyone, happy 2017, hope your new year hasn’t had as many onrushing deadlines as mine has. This week, I want to show you a Breton charter from 869. It’s a long ‘un, but a good ‘un. The scenario: Salomon, ruler of Brittany, is giving a grant to the abbey of Redon, on the borderline between Breton-speaking Brittany and the former Frankish province of Nantes, now under Breton rule. The charter goes as follows (and I’ve experimented in this translation with using a slightly more formal register, which may or may not work…):

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Salomon, by grace of God, prince [princeps] of the whole of Brittany and a great part of the Gauls.

Be it known unto all of Brittany, as well bishops as priests and all the clergy, and also besides counts and other noble leaders [duces] and mighty warriors [milites] and all those subject to Our dominion, that the venerable abbot Ritcand, with certain of his monks, though yet bringing the petition of all the others, approached Our presence, in my monastery which is in Plélan, in which place I had aforetime held my court.  Yet under the threat of the Northmen, Abbot Conwoion, carrying the prayer of his monks, approached Us and Our venerable spouse Gwenvred, and sought not once nor even twice a place of refuge for him and his monks in the face of the Northmen. Proffering assent to them, We not only gave unto them the aforesaid hall, but also ordered be built from Our public goods in the same place a monastery by no means base in honour of the holy Redeemer, as a refuge for the aforesaid monks, to gain a heavenly inheritance and the redemption of our souls, and forsooth for the present and everlasting prosperity of Our offspring, and all Our realm, and for the most peaceable steadfastness [stabilitas] of Our fideles; which place also We wished to name ‘Salomon’s monastery’.

The Cartulary of Redon, in which this charter is preserved (image source)

Therein even now Abbot Conwoion lies interred, and Our venerable spouse Gwenvred too rests honourably interred; and therein I as well, by the counsel of the nobles of Brittany, both priests and laymen, vowed to have my body buried, should the most pious clemency of God deign to grant it me. And, for the increase of the joy and peace of all Brittany, I had the most holy Maxentius, the greatest gift passed unto Us by God, placed therein, a thing the like of which was unheard of amongst Our people in times past [OR: a man who had not been heard of as coming amongst Our people in times past], to Aquitaine’s sorrow and Brittany’s light, praise, and honour.

And then, coming to this place on the 15th Kalends of May [17th April], the day of the Resurrection of our Saviour, to pray to the holy Redeemer and the venerable Maxentius, I bestowed on the aforesaid holy Redeemer and Saint Maxentius and the aforesaid monks other gifts from Our treasury which were with me, as much as pleased Our inclination at that time, to gain the Kingdom of God and for the redemption of Our soul and the stability of the realm. That is:

  • a golden chalice of fine gold, made with marvellous workmanship, having 333 gems, costing 10 pounds [libras] and 1 shilling [solidus]; and its paten, having 145 gems, costing 7 and a half pounds;
  • and the text of the Gospels, with wonderfully-made golden cover, costing 8 pounds and having 120 gems;
  • and a great golden cross, of wonderful workmanship, weighing 23 pounds and having 370 gems;
  • and one case [capsa] wonderfully carved from Indian ivory, and – which is more precious – full of most splendid relics of the saints;
  • a precious priestly chasuble, chequered on the outside and interwoven with gold [extrinsecus interstinctae {sic} ex auro cooperatam], which my godfather [compater], the most pious king of the Franks Charles [the Bald], sent to me as a great gift – for such it is;
  • and a pallium of wonderful size to go over the saint’s body;
  • and, to cap the wonders, and in sooth by the virtue of Saint Maxentius, sent, by God’s providence, before his dispatch to Brittany, I acquired for that holy helper a Gospel-book honourably bound in gold and ivory;
  • and moreover a sacramentary [liber sacramentorum] covered in Indian ivory, then and now intended for the saint;
  • and another book decorated in silver and gold within and without;
  • and a Life of Saint Maxentius composed in prose and poetry, and containing a Life of the holy martyr Leodegar;
  • to say nothing of other gifts which I had already given beforehand, that is, an altar fashioned of silver and gold;
  • and a cross made of silver on one side and having on the other side the image of the Saviour made of the finest gold and gems;
  • and another little cross made of gold and gems;
  • and two priestly vestments;
  • and precious changeant;
  • and 3 cloaks of wondrous size.

That same day, the aforesaid Abbot Ritcand, coming with his monks, besought Us that We might deign by royal custom to receive under Our defence whatsoever Our ancestors, that is, Nominoë and Erispoë, had given, and also what I myself had given, and what other good and noble men, each in accordance with his measure, had given or would give to the holy Redeemer and the monks serving in the aforesaid monasteries [i.e. both Redon and Plélan] under the Rule of Saint Benedict; and for this We would surely be made in addition a sharer in the alms of all the said people. They also sought that We should grant to them whatever was received by Our dominion from their men and from the abbey of Saint-Sauveur [Redon], as well from dependant peasants [coloni] as from serfs and freemen [ingenui] dwelling on their land, from both meadows and woods and waters as much as from forests, in return for a hundred-fold reward in the life eternal.

What Redon abbey looks like now; the buildings are mostly twelfth-century (image source)

Favouring their petition, by the counsel of Our nobles, We, to gain the Kingdom of God and for the redemption of my soul and my relatives and sons, and for the stability of the whole Brittanic realm, released unto them wholly and entirely as much as is owed to me and my men from their abbey, both from the upkeep of horses and dogs [pastu caballorum et canum] and from messenger service [angariis] and all dues, and thus I give and transfer it from my dominion to their power, such that whatever was received for Our advantage should thereafter all benefit their advantages and the brothers’ stipends, so that the monks might delight to pray to more joyfully and devotedly exhort the mercy of the Lord for Our salvation and that of the Christian people. We forbid that no-one should after this day presume to disturb them over this matter in Our times or those to come.

We also establish and command that any cause or quarrel concerning the monks or their men which was not aired against them or their men in the time of Abbot Conwoion should never be aired; and should anyone endeavour to receive any toll or census or any render from their men carrying out their business whether by sea or on land or on any river; rather, let everything profit the advantages of the aforesaid monks.

This was done in the pagus called Poutrocoët, in Plélan, in the aforesaid monastery which is called Salomon’s monastery, on the 15th Kalends of May [17th April], on Sunday, on the 1st day of the lunar cycle, in the 2nd indiction, in the year of the Incarnation of our Lord 869.

Salomon, prince of all Brittany, who gave this donation and asked it be confirmed, witnessed. Abbot Ritcand, who acceped, witnessed. Riwallon and Wicon, sons of the aforesaid Salomon, witnessed. Ratvili, bishop of Alet, witnessed. Pascwethen witnessed. Bran witnessed. Nominoë, son of Bodwan, witnessed. Ronwallon, son of Bescan, witnessed. Drehoiarn witnessed. Iaruocon, his son, witnessed. Ratfred witnessed. Tanetherht witnessed. Hinwalart witnessed. Catworeth witnessed. Hetruiarn witnessed. Sidert witnessed. Trethian witnessed. Kenmarhoc witnessed. Guethenoc witnessed. Arvidoe witnessed. Salutem witnessed. Hedrewedoe witnessed. Hidran witnessed. Gleudalan witnessed. Koledoc witnessed. Balandu witnessed. Tenior witnessed. Arthnou witnessed. Eucant witnessed. Woran witnessed. Gleu witnessed. Chourant witnessed. Abbot Ronwallon witnessed. Judhocar the priest witnessed. Bili the cleric witnessed. Conwoion the cleric witnessed. Haelican the priest witnessed. Egreval the priest witnessed. Richard the priest witnessed.

There are several interesting things to note here, but the one I’d going to concentrate on is that Salomon is, basically, putting on airs. This charter takes many of its forms from Carolingian royal diplomas – the invocation of the holy and indivisible Trinity, the address clause (‘be it known’), the way Abbot Ritcand humbly approaches Salomon, the fact Salomon acts ‘by royal custom’, the way he forbids his men from taking revenues from abbatial land (a clause taken from an actual Carolingian diploma issued for Redon by Charles the Bald); all this is very much biting Carolingian style.

Thing is, Salomon’s kingship is a bit up-in-the-air. Sometimes, he is called a rex – a king; other times, he is a dux or (as in this case) a princeps. Sometimes, indeed, he’s both a king and not a king in the same charter. Of course, this needn’t necessarily mean that he’s less a king – the current king of Spain, for instance, is also duke of Milan, representing the fact that, historically, the kings of Spain were also dukes of Milan. The royal title doesn’t lose meaning because of the ducal one.

However, Salomon is not a modern monarch, but an early medieval one, and things are a bit different there. This charter is a good example of that – the scribe borrows some but not all of the features of a royal diploma. Carolingian kings, for instance, don’t have witness lists. Could the scribe have left out the witness list? Sure: evidently Salomon’s royal status wasn’t seen as sufficiently convincing that simply assuming wholesale the features of Carolingian kingship was a viable move. Salomon is a kind of quasi-king, assuming some but not all of the attributes of kingship.

In a Breton context, this makes sense: in 869, Breton monarchy was a relatively new idea. Before the time of Charlemagne (and here I repeat the arguments of Caroline Brett), most references to Breton rulership, at least in the eighth century, refer to multiple, unnamed rulers, implying a situation where the Bretons were ruled by many chiefs rather than one king. The transition to a situation under which Brittany was ruled by only one ruler appears to have happened under Frankish pressure, and at least in part with Frankish collusion – Nominoë, the most important sole ruler of the Bretons, was actually set up by the Frankish emperor Louis the Pious in the early ninth century. Breton monarchy was new, and it was also unstable. Salomon had murdered Nominoë’s son Erispoë to get the throne and would in turn be murdered about five years after this charter was issued. Under such circumstances, it makes sense that his political presentation might involve a degree of caution.

He still got canonised, though, because that’s how nationalism works (image source)

There are other things that could be said about this charter – the significance of books as gifts to the saints, the amount of moveable wealth Salomon can draw on, the fact he has the effrontery to try and gain the benefits of the alms given to Redon by Erispoë, the man he murdered. Still, in the name of not testing your patience, I’ll stop here. Next week, a research post on violence and the tenth-century.

Source Translation: Unknown Knowns In Eleventh-Century Compiègne

It’s a busy couple of weeks ahead, so this post and the next will be translated sources rather than anything more substantial. This week, though, it fits neatly with how things have turned out at work… You see, over the weekend, I was reading one of the handful of surviving charters from tenth- and eleventh-century Soissons, and came up with this gem (text here):

 In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, holy and indivisible Trinity. We wish it to be known to all of the faithful that the holy church of God at Compiègne, which was founded by Emperor Charles [the Bald] and his successors and superbly enriched from their benefices, was consecrated by the holy John [VIII], the Supreme Pontiff and Roman pope, and seventy bishops, and ennobled with privileges such that anyone who presumed through violence to take away or steal anything would be without any doubt struck by anathema and incur apostolic damnation and the displeasure of the terrible Judge.

But later, as times and customs changed, wicked men arose, whose violence erupted into such madness that not only did they not give thanks to God for the benefices given to them, they gave themselves over to pride and abused God’s goodness and patience. Rising against God’s holy church, they oppressed God’s servants and laid waste church estates until finally, completely mixing up right and wrong, they would think little of any anathema. Whence it happened that the incursions of the evildoers grew crueller as time went on, and a certain allod named Cappy, which King Charles had given to the same church – the gift of which had been confirmed by his own hand in the privileges of the same church – was ripped away from the aforesaid church of Compiègne by the violence of certain princes, and remained utterly lost to the church for the course of many years.

Cappy, with Péronne and Compiègne also visible

But by the favour of God’s clemency, there arose amongst the successors to the princes of Péronne one, named Odo, son of Robert, a very devout Christian, who was splendidly elevated to the principality of Péronne. Since he clasped the aforesaid church to the bosom of his heart with worship and reverence, when he heard that certain parts of the aforesaid allod were, by ancient custom, named ‘the fields of Saint Cornelius’ by the inhabitants and neighbours, inspired by the Lord, he did not neglect to come to the aforesaid church of Compiègne. Rereading there the privileges in the presence of certain clerics who had come with him, he learned without any ambiguity that Cappy pertained to the church of Compiègne. When this was done, since – although unknowingly- he had learned that until that point he was subject to anathema, he humbly implored the brothers of the church that they should forgive him. After he had procured indulgence and absolution from the merciful brothers serving in the same church, he restored certain parts of the said allod to the church.

When this had been done, the brothers of the same church restored to him the same parts which, as we said, he had restored to the church, on the condition that, each year, as long as he lived, he should pay twelve solidi to the canons of the church of Compiègne as rest on the feast of Saints Cornelius and Cyprian. After his death, the brothers of the church of Compiègne should hold a memorial on the anniversary of his death; and on that anniversary day, his successors should always pay those twelve solidi to the brothers of the church of Compiègne without any delay or any change in the established date. He also agreed that if any of his men who held any of the aforesaid land should wish to restore that same land which they held into the authority of the aforesaid church, he would praise and confirm that restitution as being fixed and firm. And that this institution might endure firm and undivided, he commanded this precept and this subscription be made, which he confirmed with his own hand and the impression of his seal, and made fixed and firm under an anathema.

Enacted at Péronne, in the 1091st year of the Incarnate Word of God, in the fourteenth indiction.

Sign of Odo, lord of Péronne. Sign of Lucy, his wife. S. Dean Andrew. S. Stephen the treasurer. S. Gillan the chancellor. S. Fulk the cantor. S. Castellan Odo. S. Efred of Ancre [modern Albert]. S. Gerard. S. Mainer. S. Roger. S. Odo. S. Albert. S. Drogo. S. Roric of Ancre.

The names of the canons of Compiègne who were present: S. Willibert the priest. S. Canon Hezelin. S. Canon Robert. S. Canon Guy.

There are a few interesting things here. The first is that the little account of the house’s history at the start is about as stereotypical as it gets – it shows up in a royal diploma of the same time about something entirely different. It’s also gainsaid by the charter itself, because what really interests me about this document is how the canons of Compiègne don’t seem to have been particularly concerned about enforcing the rights they nominally possessed. It’s only, apparently, when a particularly devoted lord of the area, Odo, overhears some farmers talking about the fields of Compiègne’s patron saint Cornelius that anyone feels motivated to go and dig in the archives to see whether or not the abbey actually has any claim to the land (based on the seminar I was at today, modern scholars are still sometimes surprised by discoveries you can make talking to local farmers). The local inhabitants, equally, preserved a connection between Cappy and Saint Cornelius, but seemingly didn’t associate this with Compiègne’s lordship.

Compiègne before the French Revolution (source)

It looks rather as though the canons didn’t actually want the land all that much. Cappy is a ways away from Compiègne, but right next door to Péronne, so may have been difficult to keep control of. Notice how Odo keeps the land, but pays a reasonably-significant rent (census) for it – this looks rather like the canons thought it was better to have a powerful regional lord in their debt than to control a few fields of land which fell largely within someone else’s sphere of influence (which makes a good deal of sense when phrased like that). Some rights were more useful in abeyance.

Carolingian Roman Citizenry Follow-Up: Another Charter, Another Formula…

Quick one: following the link very helpfully provided by Charles in the comments to the first post, I was struck to find a reference to an ongoing, albeit low-level form of awareness of Roman citizenship; in particular, the author references something found in a formula collection, the Formulae Imperiales, which seems highly relevant to this discussion: (text here)

 Ecclesiastical authority clearly admonishes – and royal majesty is in harmony with the canonical decrees with religious concordance – that anyone whom any church selects from their own familia to be promoted to holy orders should be absolved from the yoke of servitude by a solemn manumission by he who is at that time ruler (rector) of the same church, who should confirm the liberty which was given to him before witnesses by a charter of freedom. Therefore, I in the name of God Einhard, venerable abbot of the monastery of the holy confessor of Christ Servatius, through the authority of ecclesiastical and imperial decree, as was written above, establish this servant of Our church named Magenfred, elected to holy orders by the unanimous opinion of Our venerable congregation, a Roman citizen, and through the gift of this page, which I wrote to confirm his freedom, I absolve him from the chains of servitude, so that from this day and time he might remain free and untroubled by any bond of servitude, as if he had been born or begotten from free parents. Finally, let him proceed in that part which the honour of a canonical institution has conceded to him, having because of this the same opportunities (habens ad hoc portas apertas) as other Roman citizens, thus that henceforth he should owe no service pertaining to those of a harmful or filthy condition (noxiae vel sordide conditionis) either to Us or Our successors, nor any service pertaining to a freedman (libertinitatis); rather, as long as he lives, let him be truly free and untroubled in certain and fullest freedom, as with other Roman citizens, through this title of manumission and freedom, and let him freely do what he  wishes with his personal belongings, which he has now or which he can obtain in future, in accordance with the authority of the canons. And that this authority of manumission and liberty might obtain undisturbed and inviolable firmness, I confirmed it below with my own hand, and similarly asked it be confirmed below by the priests and clergy of Our church, and the noble laymen who were present for this absolution.

Acted at Maastricht, on the Nones of March (07/03), in the 6th year, by Christ’s favour, of the imperial rule of lord Louis [the Pious], in the 14th indiction.

I, Abbot Einhard, confirmed by subscribing with my own hand.

That looks familiar, right? Once again, we have a cleric, being made a free man via being made a Roman citizen (again, it might well be said, by a lay abbot…).  Sarti says in the article that this charter ‘reveals not only that “Romans” remained part of Frankish legal reality, but also that legal Romanness was still continued to be associated with free, although lower, legal status’ (pp. 1044-1045); and certainly I think the first part is fair, but I’m not so sure about the latter…

Sarti is speaking (in this part) to a debate about Roman status in the post-Roman barbarian kingdoms, which I’m not equipped to deal with fully; in particular, she references the Ripuarian Law, which has distinct verbal parallels to this charter (the bit about portas apertas, for instance). In the Ripuarian Law, though, Romans are of less legal worth than Ripuarian free men, and I’m not sure that’s the case in either of these charters. In both, in this one as in Hugh the Abbot’s, the scribe goes out of their way to make the point that being a Roman citizen makes one 100% suitable for church service – Roman citizens aren’t unfree, they’re not freedmen, they aren’t subject to nasty labour demands, and their status is as high as befits holy orders – that is, as befits the section of society instinct with divinity. Maybe in Einhard’s case the Ripuarian influence is why he thumps on about it at length, but both documents seem to imply that the priest’s new status is a high one.

The other interesting thing about this charter relates to something  I didn’t say about the previous document: they’re both from formulary collections. Hugh the Abbot’s charter survives as an exemplary document in a Saint-Aignan collection; Einhard’s is part of the Formulae Imperiales. Clearly, this is happening often enough that it’s worth having a document about how to make someone a Roman citizen to model your own charters on…

Source Translations: Hugh the Abbot and Roman Freedoms

Another new feature! I do a lot of translation, so some of it may as well get polished up and put here for the benefit of other people. To kick things off, a charter of 885, in which the prominent nobleman Hugh the Abbot, in his capacity as abbot of Saint-Aignan of Orléans, makes a cleric named Reginald free, not so much because I have a great deal to say about it, but more because, well, it’s really odd. (Original text here.)

While the most Christian and religious Emperor Louis [the Pious], by the helping aid of celestial protection invincible Augustus, was earnestly improving the holy mother Church, among other efforts of his holy devotion he supported it regarding the very aberrant and reprehensible practice, which seemed for the most part to blacken its reputation, to wit, that people of servile and unfree (originariae) condition had until that point been carrying out sacred and divine ministry against the canonical statutes. By a precept of his authority, they were beaten away from it; and with the consent of his pontiffs and grandees, he took care to establish that thereafter when men of this sort of background were found suitably useful to the Church, they should be rescued from the bonds of servitude and promoted to a suitable condition. The venerable descendant of the same emperor, the invincible King Charles [the Bald], agreed to honour the holy Church of God in equal measure.

Therefore I, in the name of God, Hugh, by the mercy of the Lord abbot of the church of the most glorious confessor of Christ Anianus, in accordance with the precept of the said most pious Augustus, leading you, Reginald the cleric, born of the familia of the same Saint Anianus, that is, from the villa of Achères, before the holy altar and into the presence of the brothers of Saint-Aignan, by the pleasure of the same brothers, at the request of Archbishop Adalald [of Tours], who holds the said villa of Achères in benefice, publicly absolve you from the chains of servitude, for love of our lord Jesus Christ, to whose soldiery you were chosen. I establish you as a Roman citizen, so that from this point, by Christ’s favour, existing under your own right and power, you might thus live as a free man and Roman citizen, as if you had been born of free parents; and owe no injurious service to Us or Our successors. Rather, you should remain during your lifetime in the full and complete freedom which you are worthy of accepting due to the dignity of the sacred order; so that, having been rescued through this absolution from the fetters of servitude to which your birth has until now made you liable, you might, with the Lord’s help, be able to more freely and securely serve divine power. And so, in order that the title of this absolution, venerably celebrate for the veneration of worship, might for all time obtain firm vigour, We strengthened it below with Our own hand, and We determined it should be witnesses by the most noble clergy of Saint-Aignan.

S. Abbot Hugh. S. Archbishop Adalald. S. Waramund. S. Emmo. S. David. S. Martin. S. Solomon. S. Gozbert.

Given on the 3rd Nones of December [03/12], in the 1st year of the reign of Emperor Charles [885].

Hopefully that should be fairly clear. Earlier Carolingian kings (and this charter was composed during the reign of Charles the Fat, grandson of Louis the Pious and nephew of Charles the Bald, who was from the East Frankish branch of the family, so there may be a dynastic agenda here) thought that it simply wouldn’t do to have the unfree carrying out divine service, because it dishonoured the church that its priest were not free men.  Consequently, they agreed that if any unfree person was found who would make a good priest, they should be given the status of a free person so that they could profit the Church without hurting its reputation. As such Hugh, with the permission of Archbishop Adalald, the current possessor of the estate where Reginald lives, grants him freedom so that he can carry out his priestly duties more effectively.

Saint-Aignan today, from Wikipedia

What interests me most about this is that this is expressed in terms of granting Roman citizenry. Documents of enfranchisement are not unknown from this period, but it’s never phrased this way. Roman identity, indeed, is not supposed to have been that important during this period – isn’t the desirable identity that of the free Frank? There are a couple of indicators, mostly from Aquitaine, that the idea of the ‘law of Roman citizens’ was still a going concern in some people’s thought worlds, but quite what prompted Hugh and/or his scribe to decide to phrase this in such a classicising manner, I have no idea…