If you cast your mind back several years, you may remember me complaining about the incredibly inconsistent nature of mid-tenth century Provençal dating clauses. I had done some research and worked out that if you correlated the date and the day of the week in a selection of charters from the area, you could get dates for the beginning of Conrad the Pacific’s reign which stretched over a spectrum of about seven years. What I then did not talk about in any detail was how Conrad did, in fact, take over Louis the Blind’s former kingdom. After all, when we were following Louis IV on his whirlwind tourof Aquitaine last we, we noted that his first stop was in Vienne, where he met the local count, Charles Constantine, and received his submission. This makes sense: ever since Ralph of Burgundy had taken over northern Provence, it had stayed under West Frankish rule.
What had changed by the early 940s, however, was the geopolitical situation. After the death of the Transjurane king Rudolf II in 937, Otto the Great was able to swoop in and kidnap Rudolf’s son and heir, the young Conrad the Pacific. (At the ripe old age of 24 in 937, Otto was already an elder statesman of European politics compared to Louis IV (17) and Conrad himself (12, perhaps?).) What this meant was that when Otto and Louis ended up on opposite sides, Otto had a convenient pawn to move into northern Provence to nibble away at Louis’ powerbase there. Thus, in 943, one of the first things Conrad did after being sent back south was to go to the Rhône valley, where the young monarch issued several documents, one of which was this:
Let it be known to all of Our followers, that servants of God, monks from the monastery of Cluny, lodged a complaint in Our presence, in the district of Viennois, about Our kinsman Charles [Constantine]; the same Charles unjustly contested their goods, which Ingelbert had given to the same place through a charter of donation. He, though, when he saw and heard that he did not hold this rightly, presently gave up every quarrel and immediately corroborated the charters which Ingelbert had made, and confirmed them again in the king’s hand. And then the lord king commanded this judgement be written, through which let the said charters endure inviolable for all time; and We commanded the names of Our followers be inserted below and it be sealed with Our seal.
Sign of lord Conrad, the most pious king.
Bishop Aimo [of Geneva] was present. Archbishop Guy [of Lyon] was present. Archbishop Sobbo [of Vienne] was present. Bishop Bero [of Lausanne] was present. Bishop Odalbert [of Valence] was present. Hugh [the Black], count and margrave, was present. Odalric, count of the palace, was present. Henry, son of Louis [of Thurgau], was present. Count Anselm was present. Count Odalric, Anselm’s brother, was present. Count Azo was present. Count Leotald [of Mâcon] was present. Humbert [of Salins, Leotald’s brother], was present; and all the dominical vassals, greater and lesser, were present.
I, Henry the notary, wrote this judgement, given on the 5th kalends of July [27th June], in the 6th year of the reign of the most pious king lord Conrad.
Since the end of 941, Louis’ position had already started to crumble. A bad sign was when Viscount Ratburn of Vienne, perhaps seeing an opportunity to undermine Charles Constantine, issued a charter in November 942 dated by Conrad’s rule. Conrad himself had arrived by Spring 943, issuing a set of diplomas which – notably – prominently feature Hugh the Black. Hugh had of course been cut off from Louis’ courtby Otto the Great, but he also had strong ties to Transjurane Burgundy which allowed him to pursue Königsnahe elsewhere – which is precisely what he seems to be doing in the witness list of this diploma.
In fact, the witnesses to this act are balanced neatly between Transjurane figures like the bishops of Geneva and Lausanne and Conrad’s cousin Henry on one hand; Transjurane allies in the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone like Hugh the Black and Leotald of Mâcon on another; and on a mutant third hand more strictly Provençal figures like the archbishops of Lyon and Vienne, whose closest ties at this point were probably to Hugh of Arles. What brought these men together was the opportunities provided by the shifting balance of power, expressed in immediately terms by the opportunity (or the requirement) to gang up on Louis IV’s most prominent supporter in the region.
Charles Constantine was of course present at this judgement, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen someone arrive at court to find the deck stacked against them. This diploma can reasonably be seen as an attack on Charles. Note, for instance, that he’s not given any title, even the comital one. With a coalition banded against him, Charles was humiliated and forced to accept Conrad’s authority. The following year, in fact, Charles appears in a charter alongside a similar list of people, with his comital title restored, apparently reconciled, however begrudgingly, with the Transjurane regime. It was a very, very bad sign for Louis IV’s authority in Provence.
Last time we saw Louis IV, he had been pounded flat by Otto the Great and a group of West Frankish allies, and it’s safe to say his position had not massively improved in the meantime. In mid-to-late 941, he had been caught in a surprise attack by Hugh the Great and Heribert of Vermandois, suffering an embarrassing defeat and losing key supporters, notably Archbishop Artald of Rheims, who threw in the towel and surrendered to the two magnates. This was a worrying position to be in – but Louis was not out yet. Owing to the importance of Flodoard’s Annals, historians tend to focus on the kingdom’s north-east, but there was a lot more kingdom than that, and in late 941 Louis set out to strengthen his position in the rest of it. He began by approaching Vienne, where he met Count Charles Constantine. From there, he set out into Aquitaine, where Flodoard loses sight of him, beyond saying that he received the submission of the Aquitanians. However, the charter record gives us a sense of both what Louis was doing and how it was received. By the turn of the year 941/942, Louis was in Poitiers. Poitou was a part of Aquitaine which had enjoyed close ties to the West Frankish monarchy since the reign of Charles the Bald, and Louis set out to capitalise on that. And to demonstrate what’s happening, we have no fewer than three acts!
Louis, by propitiation of divine clemency king of the Franks.
If We rightly ordain and deal with holy places surrendered to divine worship on account of love of God and reverence for the saints resting within, We little doubt God will be propitious towards Us on account of it in the present world and that to come.
Wherefore let the skillful industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God both present and also future know that, approaching the presence of Our Serenity, the count and margrave William [III Towhead of Poitiers] and his brother Ebalus [later bishop of Limoges] and Count Roger [II of Laon] humbly asked that We might deign to confer upon the brothers of the most excellent confessor of Christ Hilary a precept of Our authority concerning the estates and churches assigned to their divers usages by Our predecessors, and concerning their prebends and houses; and this We did.
Whence We ordered this decree of Our Highness to be made and given to the said brothers, through which We command and sanction by royal authority that the aforesaid canons should with everlasting right possess all this: the aforesaid estates with their churches, that is, Champagné-Saint-Hilaire, Rouillé, Pouant, Luzay, Frontenay, Benassay, Mazeuil, Cuhon, Gourgé, Vouzailles, Vieracus, Saint-Laurent, in the county of Quercy, a church in honour of Saint Hilary; and Cainontus in the district of Toulousain, and in the district of Carcassès the place of Saint Mamet and the field of Olivetus; and in the county of Poitou, Allemagne, Moussay, Neuville, with allods, that is Crispiacus, Eterne, Remcionacum, Clavinnus, Belloria; let their prebends too always be under their power. We also concede the houses with the land within the walls recently built around the monastery, and establishing without and within the walls of the city in the same way to the same brothers, that each might have licence to do as he wishes with his own goods, except alienate them to an outsider; and let no count or other official of the commonwealth dare to become an invader of these goods and of the land placed mutually within the walls from a quarteron in the estate of Pouant without the will of the canons.
If anyone might presume to violate the muniment of this royal authority, in the first place let them incur the wrath of God Almighty and of Saint Hilary and of all the saints, and have perdition with Dathan and Abiron, whom the Earth swallowed alive, and know themselves to be perpetually damned, immersed in the inferno with Judas the betrayer, consumed all over by flames and worms, under the chains of anathema.
Whence, so that this testament of royal dignity persevere through the course of times to come, and be more firmly believed and attentively observed by all, confirming it under Our own hand, We commanded it be corroborated by the image of Our ring.
Sign of lord Louis, the glorious king.
Odilo the chancellor witnessed on behalf of Bishop Heiric [of Langres].
Enacted at the city of Poitiers, on the nones of January, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 942, in the 15th indiction, in the 6th year of the reign of the most glorious king of the Franks Louis.
In the name of God, amen.
D L4 no. 19 (7th January 942, Poitiers)
In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.
Louis, by God’s grace king of the Franks.
If We rightly deal with places surrendered to divine worship on account of love of God and his saints, and reform them for the better, We are certainly confident to be repaid for this by the Repayer on High.
Wherefore, let the skill and prudent industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God both present and future know that, approaching the presence of Our Dignity, the illustrious Count Roger [II] of Laon and Ebalus [later bishop of Limoges], humbly asked Our Clemency that We might deign to confer a certain abbey in honour of St John the Baptist, in the place which is called Angély, which is now completely devoid of its original honour, on a certain servant of God named Martin through a precept of Our Regality in order to improve it; and this We did.
Whence We commanded this decree of Our Highness to be made and given to the said Martin, through which he might hold the aforesaid abbey in its entirety as long as he lives, and gather, with God’s help, monks there in accordance with the Rule; and let the monks after his death for all time elect an abbot for themselves in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict; and let no count or any other powerful person inflict any damage on the aforenamed abbey of Saint-Jean. Rather, in accordance with the custom of other places soldiering under the Rule of the said nourishing Benedict, let it remain immune under Our defence and that of Our successors.
And that this emolument of Our authority might persevere inviolably through the course of times to come, confirming it beneath Our own hand We commanded it be corroborated with the image of Our signet.
Sign of lord Louis, the most glorious king.
Odilo the notary witnessed on behalf of Bishop Heiric.
Enacted at the city of Poitiers, on the 7th ides of January, in the 10th indiction, in the 6th year of the reign of Louis king of the Franks.
Happily in the name of God, amen.
Let’s start with the obvious. The first document has three petitioners, and the first two are brothers, the sons of Ebalus Manzer, Count William Towhead, and Ebalus, abbot of Saint-Maixent. Ebalus also shows up in the second document. Both of them are receiving a big dose of Königsnahe. William, you’ll note, gets the prestigious title of marchio (‘margrave’), something neither he nor his father had at any other time. Ebalus doesn’t get anything quite that formal, but he was given a more concrete reward for his support. As we’ve discussed before, it was likely at this time that Ebalus was assured of his succession to the bishopric of Limoges, which he would then assume a few years later. This alliance had real and ongoing effects. After Louis’ return to the north, he mustered his armies at Rouen, and William Towhead showed up with troops. The royal army then marched to the Oise, where they were able to compel Hugh and Heribert to negotiate.
The role of Abbot Martin here is also significant. Martin had been a very big name in Aquitanian monasticism for about a decade. He was abbot of institutions in Limoges, Angoulême and Poitiers, as well as of Jumièges in Normandy. That is, he was extremely well-connected, better so even than William Towhead, and drawing him into the coalition that was being assembled was an important was of stretching that coalition’s boundaries. Indeed, after leaving Poitou Louis actually went to Rouen, where he confirmed his alliance with William Longsword, count of Rouen.
This is all well and good, though – but what makes this set of actions really something special is that we also have a charter from William Towhead issued during Louis’ stay.
William, by God’s grace count of the palace of the Poitevins.
We wish it to be known to all of the faithful of the holy Church of God, to wit, present and future, that one of Our followers, named Viscount Savaric [of Thouars], and his vassal Elias, approaching Our Mildness, beseeched Us that We might deign to concede to a certain man named Hosdren and his wife Aldesind something from their benefice, which is sited in the district of Poitou in the lower district of Thouars, in the vicariate of Thénezay, in the estate which is called Vaulorin* and in the place which is named Ad Illo Maso, amongst the goods of Saint-Remi, which is in the brothers’ wasteland, that is, more or less 8 uncultivated quarterons with no heir, along with meadows and arable land along the stream of the Vandelogne, cultivated and uncultivated, visited and unvisited, and as much as is beholden or seen to be beholden to these quarterons, through this writing of Our authority under an rent from a rental agreement; and this is please Us in every way to do.
We, then, considering their petition just did not deny it, but freely granted to him what he asked, that is, on the condition that each year on the feast of St Hilary which falls on the kalends of November [1st November], the aforesaid Hosdren and his wife Aldesind should without any delay act to render a rent of 3 shillings to the ruler who is seen to hold the same benefice under their rule, and after their deaths… their… have, hold and possess it, and if they appear tardy or negligent with this rent for any difficulty, let them render the rent twofold, and let them in no way lose the aforesaid goods.
But that this rental agreement might in God’s name obtain firmness, I confirmed it below with my own hands and after Us We decreed that venerable men should corroborate it below.
+ Count William. Sign of Viscount Savaric. Sign of Viscount Fulk. Sign of Lambert the auditor. Sign of Acfred. Sign of Ebbo. Sign of Rorgo. Sign of Gozlin. Sign of Boso. Sign of Rainald. Sign of another Boso. Sign of Adalelm. Sign of Abiathar. Sign of Aimeric. Sign of Elias. Sign of Rocco. Sign of Dilibal. Sign of Odo. Sign of Thietmar. Sign of Geoffrey.
Given in the month of January, in the 6th year of the reign of King Louis.
Warner wrote and subscribed.
*ID mine based on looking at the map; to be taken with a large pinch of salt.
The really key part of this charter is William’s title. Comes palatii is new, a title never held by Ebalus Manzer or by William before now. That William issued his own charter with this title whilst Louis was present and in a position to be seen to personally endorse it shows that the count of Poitiers was actively taking advantage of the king’s being there to take to the stage himself and display his Königsnahe and bolster his legitimacy. That is, we know that Louis was not shouting into a void: William was in fact integrating his new-found role as the king’s close ally into his own strategies of legitimacy.
One final note. It’s interesting that the recipient of this charter is named Hosdren. Hosdren is a Breton name. It’s not wise to rest too much about this, but at the very least it’s interesting to note in this regard two things. First, that the Breton duke Alan Barbetorte was also part of this alliance, and also showed up with troops alongside the two Williams. Second, that Alan and William were also negotiating concerning the disposition of some districts south of the Loire, the Mauges and its neighbours, at about this time. It might be that Hosdren played a minor role here, or that his reward was part of these negotiations; it might well be that Louis was arbitrating these negotiations to give them the stamp of royal approval. This is speculative, certainly, but it’s not wise to underestimate the authority of kingship…
The real scholarly commentary was on Tuesday. I just wanted to put this charter up because it’s fun. It’s also, somewhat sadly, the last of our Martinian dispute settlement records. The abbey’s surviving archive starts decreasing in content from the end of the reign of Charles the Simple, and in the mid-tenth century there’s a big hiatus. Even after it starts up again in the 960s, it’s never the same (and indeed I don’t think we’ll be encountering another charter of Saint-Martin again). So as a fond farewell:
A notice of how a certain priest of Saint-Martin named Tesmund, from the castle of Amboise, came on the ides of August [13th August], before the presence of lord Fulk [the Red] and of his son [… and of] Fulk [the Good], and of other noble men residing therein, making a complaint concerning… his allod which is sited in the estate of Avon, which his uncle Ansebald left to him in proper order and he legitimately held until the time when the Northmen took him and led him captive overseas, when Isembert wrongly and against the law held that allod.
Then lord Fulk and his aforesaid son interrogated him for which reason he held that allod. The same Isembert responded that he had bought that allod for his fixed price from Guy, who he held to be a late cousin of Tesmund and for that reason he held it. The aforesaid lords also said that he should show a charter or testimony as to how he had bought the aforesaid allod. Isembert responded that he had neither a charter nor testimony. They also interrogated the aforesaid Isembert if he could have such an advocate as would dare to prove on the field against an advocate of the aforesaid Tesmund that the aforesaid allod pertained more to Isembert through purchase than to the aforesaid Tesmund through inheritance from paternal and other relatives. Finally Isembert responded that he would have his advocate prepared to defend this at the established assembly. Therefore, they judged that both should formally bring their advocates to the first court, who would thus be able… one against the other, and thus they did.
But when they came to the court, the aforesaid Isembert… was able to have [nothing], who would dare defend this against the advocate of Tesmund, because… to everyone who was there that he held the aforesaid allod unjustly and against the law.
Then lord Fulk made him give a bond of 60 shillings because of this, that he formally bring his advocate to the established assembly… he was not able to have. Thereafter everyone who was there judged that Tesmund should make no other judgement that on holy relics with his own hand, because he was a priest… which he did immediately. And the aforesaid Isembert yielded thereafter and surrendered it through a rod. Then not… to the aforesaid Tesmund, that he should seek a notice concerning such a decision, which they commanded be done immediately.
This was enacted in the presence and sight of these people:
[Sign of the holy Cross of lord abbot Hugh.] Sign of lord Fulk [the Red]. Sign of his son lord Fulk [the Good]. Sign of Erard, advocate and legislator. Sign of Arduin the legislator. Sign of Eldemand the vicar. Sign of Wanilo the vicar. Sign of Bernard. Sign of Markward. Sign of Fulculf. Sign of Odalger. Sign of Rainald. Sign of Adalelm.
Given in the month of August, in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 941, or the 4th year of the reign of King Louis, son of Charles.
So what’s happening here? We start with Tesmund the priest, for whom everything was apparently hunky-dory until he was captured by Northmen. The circumstances under which he was captured bear some consideration, because it’s distinctly unlucky. Amboise is probably too far upriver to be affected by the fighting in Brittany after 936; but there was a raid into Berry in 935 in which the men of the Touraine participated. Tesmund was probably captured in this campaign – the last we know about on the Loire until the Norman War of the 960s. Anyway, Tesmund is ransomed or escaped, but was a captive for long enough that his estate goes to his cousin who then sells it to Isembard. When Tesmund gets home, he wants his land back.
At this point, the count of Anjou, Fulk the Red, and his son and heir Fulk the Good show up. Fulk the Red is a very old man by now, in his mid-to-late seventies at least. He’s also quite far east of Angers. This charter lends some support to the twelfth-century Deeds of the Consuls of Anjou which say that Amboise was a very early acquisition of the family. Of note, therefore, is that Fulk is probably not holding the mallus court because he’s count of the area. This fits with an argument I’ve made before, that the Carolingian judicial charter tradition covers up a much more flexible and informal set of practices even at very high levels.
In the end, the participants settle on trial by battle. The charter emphasises the problems Isembert has finding someone to support him, to the point that he ends up having to pay a forfeit and Tesmund wins the case. I wonder about the dynamics underlying this. That Isembert can find no-one suggests a stitch up, but the fine of 60 solidi makes me wonder if Isembert wasn’t being punished for being too stubborn and resisting the judgement… In any case, Tesmund gets his land back.
The problem of what to do with captives of the vikings was not unique to Tours. The Old Frisian law-codes, first written down in the thirteenth century but possibly containing older material, have provision for what happens if a child is sold into slavery to the heathens and returns: if he can recognise his land and his close kin, he can reclaim the land without further ado. One wonders if Tesmund wished he had been a Frisian. In any case, this charter is interesting evidence for the problems of re-integrating freed captives back into their original society.
The archives of the abbey of Blandijnberg in Ghent can do one. I’ve actually been to the abbey on holiday, it’s an interesting visit and I liked the site – but the archives are something else. The monks of Sint-Pieters are some of the most notorious forgers of the Middle Ages. Geoffrey Koziol has described the Blandijnberg archives as retreating into ‘an Escher-like dimension where fact and fiction become indistinguishable’. Charters have been worked up out of whole cloth, reworked thoroughly, lightly touched up. Their dating clauses have been stripped and remade on the basis of – seemingly – nothing. And how tainted any given charter is is going to vary wildly depending on which diplomatist you’re talking to. As such, it’s quite pleasant to note that the charter establishing the reform of Blandijnberg, issued by Count Arnulf the Great in 941, has not only been given a generally clean bill of health, it’s also really interesting.
Arnulf, supported by the clemency of the King on High margrave, to the followers of the Holy Church soldiering catholically for God anywhere and in any order of society.
We read in the divinely-written books of Maccabees that God’s Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the most nefarious of kings Antiochus, but that after many and most weighty triumphs in battle Judas Maccabeus rebuilt and decorated it with the gold and silver which he had acquired from the spoils of the enemy; by which deed, to wit, he believed he would receive help from the heaven of the King of the Stars.
Therefore, urged on with keen desire to follow this example, I, the most humble Arnulf, wishing with every sinew of my heart to share in the benefits of those who, obeying the Lord’s commands, have transferred a worldly patrimony for heavenly treasure, was animated by the exhortation of religious and truthful men and – so to speak – rising as if awoken from a deep sleep, I began in silent contemplation day and night to reflect upon a certain monastery, under my rule, anciently sited by the most holy Amand, a pontiff worthy of praise from the good, next to the river Scheldt in the castle of Ghent, which he called Blandijnberg, and which, by Christ’s favour, he solemnly ennobled with relics of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, and many saints which he brought with him on his second return from Rome. He did this at the time when Pope Martin [I] ruled the Roman Church, 75 years [sic] after the blessed Peter, keymaster of Heaven’s hall, in the time of the famous King of the Franks Dagobert [I], while Eligius of wonderful sanctity presided as bishop of Noyon and Tournai. I rejoice, truly, that the said monastery is made illustrious in so many ways by the relics of such saints; but I sorrow greatly that it lacks the honour with which the saints these relics came from shine in the court of Heaven; with which, if I had my way, I would raise up relics of such dignity on Earth.
Finally, with the permission of King Louis, and having taken counsel with Bishop Transmar [of Noyon], to whose diocese the place pertains, and with my friends and especially with my followers, I made returns and restorations to the holy place, partially of those renders from the land which the most blessed Amand sought from the kings who at that time subjected themselves to divine laws; and which, out of love for the prince of the apostles Peter, he gave in perpetual right to those dwelling in same abbey; and partially of those which faithful people in divers times and places have bestowed from the time of the aforesaid King Dagobert up to Our days. And if not everything, I have at least returned some of what was taken away from there in the time of my predecessors; and which I estimate will suffice the monks dwelling there for love of Christ.
That is: I concede to the relics of the aforesaid monastery the census which is taken from the houses sited in the port of Ghent, from the river Scheldt up to the confluence with the river Lys; and the tithe which those dwelling in that port should pay to God for the remedy of their souls; and the fare exacted from passing traffic; and the floral meadows which lie next to the port.
I cede to their power 1 mill in the place which is called Afsnee; 1 chapel named in honour of St Mary in the estate of Mariakerke; the vineyard which I rebuilt next to the monastery and the land which lies adjacent to it up to the port; and the other farms which are next to the monastery, on which they may built suitable workshops and gardens in which they may plant vegetables appropriate for the monks; and I restored and strengthened with my own hand the other things which are written in the charter of Abbot Einhard.
In the district of Flanders, next to the castle of Oostburg in the place named Merona Bennonis, pasturage which can suffice 120 sheep; and in another place next to the sea named Kommerswerve, land to feed 100 sheep; and in that district half my fisc which is called Snellegem, the half-part of which lies next to the eastern part; of which I consent to give 1 manse to the abbot and brothers of the aforesaid monastery whilst I live; and desire with all my heart that they should have, hold and possess the part of the remaining half after the end of my life.
In the district of Hainaut, on the river Selle, I restore to them the estate which is called Douchy-les-Mines with its appendages.
Moreover, in the district of Waas, on the river Scheldt, there is an estate named Temse in which for a long time rested the body of the most blessed virgin Amalberga, which she was seen to possess in hereditary right while she lived; and because of this I restored it to those who keep vigil attending her holy body day and night.
All though all this seems a bit small in quantity and number, let the crowd of monks and their abbot established in the aforesaid monastery perpetually obtain them, provided with solace from which they may be able to indefatigably serve the Lord, putting aside all grumbling, which is generally typical of monks.
I desire and greatly wish that the monks in the aforesaid monastery should serve Christ according to the Rule for all time, as was enacted in the time of the said most holy Amand; and let them, living in accordance with the norm of St Benedict, place in charge an abbot in accordance with their choice and the consent of that lord and margrave who might have succeeded me in the chief position after my death. Animated by his exhortation and rule, let them put aside the worldly and endeavour to meditate on the heavenly.
If any of my successors should endeavour with abominable daring to calumniate or diminish these benefices of my restitution which We restored out of love of God and the holy prince of the apostles Peter and the other saints whose precious remains are kept within, unless they quickly come to their senses let them incur the wrath of God Almighty, for Whom St Amand, the builder of this place, sincerely soldered; and the offence of the keymaster of the stars Peter and the outstanding teacher Paul and the miraculous virgin Amalgberga and of all the saints; and let him endure forever deprived of their company, indissolubly joined to the company of demons. The company of all good men and I say amen!
Enacted at the abbey of Blandijnberg, on the 8th ides of July, in the 6th year of the reign of Louis, son of the imprisoned King Charles.
Sign of Arnulf, most clement count and margrave, who asked the writing of this document be done and confirmed.
Before looking at the content, let’s address what at first sight appears to be the most suspicious thing about this charter: the seal. A layman’s seal on a charter from this early is by itself a massive red flag to Continental diplomatists, because lay seals don’t start showing up, really, until well into the eleventh century and only explode in popularity in the twelfth. However, I want to make a small attempt at defending both this example and others. All the examples of sealed lay charters (most only now known through later descriptions and/or drawings) come from the Channel coast – Flanders, Normandy, Brittany. This is significant because lay seals are a well-known phenomenon in England. There aren’t huge surviving numbers, but they definitely existed, and existed this early. Given the geographical proximity and political-cultural influence of England on the coastal parts of Gaul, I think there’s at least a meaningful possibility that lay aristocrats in these areas adopted – even if only temporarily – Insular sealing practices. (And, in fact, Jenny Benham has pointed out that an Anglo-Norman treaty of 991 makes reference to Normans carrying seals.)
In terms of the content, the most interest thing to me is the arenga. A big part of my research is the use of charters to transmit ideology and communicate legitimacy to audiences, and this is one of the most straightforward examples. The witness list of this charter is relatively amenable to prosopographical investigation, and once you’ve done that the result is that they are all what Flodoard calls maritimi Franci: men from the seaside parts of Flanders around Saint-Omer and Ghent, and more generally people on the wrong side of the river Oise, which is where West Frankish kings tended to make their stand against Viking fleets. Men like these had borne the brunt of the viking attacks for generations by 941, and in particular Arnulf himself had likely led many of them against the Northmen of Rouen about ten years earlier. By casting himself as Judas Maccabeus, Blandijnberg as Jerusalem, and the vikings as the evil Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV, Arnulf was able to relate their shared experiences to a well-known and prestigious narrative which bolstered his own position by analogy.
However, it’s not quite enough. Striking in a charter otherwise so replete with Arnulf’s own authority, the count puts right up front that he is doing what he is doing with the permission of Louis IV. This added legitimacy to Arnulf’s games with Blandijnberg. For a man so heavily involved in Church reform, Arnulf’s actions could be breathtakingly cynical, and historians have consequently speculated about his motives. The most recent hypothesis is that reform removed the final vestiges of royal rights over the abbey, but I don’t find this convincing. There had been no royal intervention in Flanders for decades at this point. Rather, I suspect that Arnulf was using royal authority to expel local rivals. In the case of Blandijnberg we don’t know who those were – there are some very scattered and/or iffy hints that the Robertians had a presence there – but it’s likely that Arnulf’s control of Ghent was not as good as is usually imagines.
However, although Louis had in fact visited Flanders multiple times in the run-up to this charter, this reminder of Arnulf’s Könighsnahe would have sounded awkward in 941. Arnulf was temporarily on the outs with Louis, having been part of the Ottonian-led coalition which attacked him the previous year. The mention of Louis, then, can also be seen as aspirational on Louis’ part. Arnulf’s hostility to Louis had a pretty clear policy objective: compelling him to abandon his designs on Lotharingia and resume the alliance with Otto the Great which Arnulf had originally brokered. In this context, the 941 charter also shows Arnulf and his supporters dreaming of the great things king and count could do together.
I’ve recently had cause to think about holy war in the Carolingian period again. One of the things that struck me is that this is a subject that suffers from being in the shadow of the Crusades. This is not just because the Crusades are the archetype for medieval Christian holy wars, by which all others are measured and understood. Much of the scholarship on holy war in the Carolingian age has been carried out by Crusades specialists trying to understand how a religion of peace whose earliest practitioners were suspicious of military affairs came to be the faith of people crying out ‘Deus le volt’ as they stormed Antioch and Jerusalem in the last years of the eleventh century. The result tends to be a whistlestop tour across a millennium, hitting a couple of perennial points such as Constantine’s conversion and Augustine’s formulation of just warfare, before racing onto the next stop a couple of centuries later.
One of the old chestnuts briefly paused at is the letter of Pope Leo IV (r.847-853) to a Frankish army in the middle of the ninth century. This letter is important as possibly the first place a Christian religious authority explicitly says that soldiers who die fighting a holy war automatically go to heaven. This is of great significance for historians of the Crusades, because the concept of a papal indulgence for those who participated in the campaign is at the heart of many definitions of a Crusade. But in most scholarly accounts the letter merits half a sentence and a footnote. This is a shame, because it’s a fascinating text. Because of this neglect, and because if people on the internet are going to argue about medieval holy war they should at least have access to decent sources and I don’t think the Fordham translation is particularly good, I thought it might be useful to offer one of my own.
1. Put aside all fear and panic, and endeavour to act manfully against the enemies of the holy faith and the foes of all lands.
2. Likewise. Up until now your forebears have always proved to be victorious when they marched forth in military array, and no multitude of people could overcome them. For we have not heard that they ever returned without the fame of a victory.
3. Likewise. Beloved, we want all of you to know that whoever dies faithfully in this contest of war (which we say not wishing it comes to pass) will by no means be denied the kingdom of heaven. For the Almighty knows that if any of you die, he died for the truth of the faith and the salvation of the soul and the defence of the country of Christians, and therefore he will obtain the aforesaid prize [i.e. heaven] from Him.
An important thing to note about this letter is that it only survives in later legal collections. The full text is preserved in a manuscript known as the Collectio Britannica (BL Add MS 8873 f.167v) which contains a collection of canons probably assembled in France in 1108. The canonist Ivo of Chartres (d. 1114) included it in his Decretum (X.87) and in slightly shortened form in his Panormia (VIII.30). An abbreviated version of Leo’s letter, attributing it to the more celebrated Pope Nicholas I (r. 858-867) makes an appearance in Gratian’s Decretum (C. 23 q. 8 c. 9). The letter survived because it was used as a legal precedent, but this means we don’t have any sense of context for when it was written, who exactly Leo was addressing or how it circulated before the late-eleventh century (i.e. when the Crusades began), although the Collectio claims to be drawing the letters from Leo’s Papal Register. The conventional date of 853 assigned to the letter has no particular evidence behind it and is not to be trusted, particularly as there was no Frankish army near Rome in that year.
We can say a little more about the context of Leo’s pontificate. It was defined by an event that took place the year before he was elected, when in August 846 a Saracen raiding party sacked the part of Rome that lay outside the Aurelian walls, including the basilicas of Old St Peter’s and San Paolo fuori le Mura. As Pope, Leo responded to this disaster by repairing the basilicas, fixing the city walls and establishing a new set of fortifications, known as the Leonine Walls, which contain what is now the Vatican City. Knowing that the raiders might return, he also sought to mobilise aid from the Carolingian rulers of Italy, Emperor Lothar I (r. 817-855) and his son Louis II (r. 844-875), and from southern Italian cities such as Naples, Gaeta and Amalfi. This preparation paid off when a Christian naval coalition intercepted and defeated a Saracen fleet heading towards Rome at the Battle of Ostia in 849. Despite this success, the sack of 846 was an immensely traumatic moment, which sent shockwaves across Christian Europe and threw Rome into a state of emergency. Although we know that the Eternal City would remain safe from the Saracens from then on, Leo obviously didn’t. In 847 Saracen pirates took over Bari, establishing an Emirate that would raid into southern Italy for the next two-and-a-half decades. This atmosphere of crisis helps to explain the unusual contents of the letter.
Although Leo specifies that the Frankish army is fighting against enemies of the faith in c.1, the discussion of holy war is mostly confined to c.3, where it is pretty explicit. Franks who die righteously in this war will go to heaven. Leo lays stress on the causes they are defending – the truth of the faith, their souls, and the defence of Christendom. It’s hard to find much in the way of precedent for this statement. This is surprising given how many of the elements that made it were already available. Paul compared Christians to soldiers fighting for the cause. Christian martyrs had been dying for the faith from the very beginning, and they automatically won eternal life for doing so. As I have discussed elsewhere, Charlemagne waged wars that were meant to bring Christianity to new peoples such as the Saxons, or to rescue Christians believed to be suffering persecution in the Iberian Peninsula. Bringing together the ideas of fighting for the faith and going to heaven for dying for the faith seems like an obvious thing to do.
Pope Leo’s letter is perhaps not as isolated as it may appear. Many of the papal letters preserved in the Codex Epistolaris Carolinus on Charlemagne’s orders in 791 contain suggestions that going to war on behalf of the pope could ensure one’s path to heaven. A particularly striking example appears in a letter of 756 sent by Pope Stephen II (r. 752-757) to King Pippin III (r. 751-768) and his sons, which purports to be the words of St Peter addressing the Franks. Stephen wanted Frankish help against the Lombard king Aistulf (r. 749-756). St Peter lists the crimes of the Lombards to the Franks before stating that he was:
Offering you the rewards of eternal recompense and the unending joys of heaven – provided that you have very speedily defended my Roman city and my own people, your Roman brothers, from the hands of the evil Lombards.
There are some obvious differences with Leo’s letter. Peter/Stephen doesn’t state that the Franks would have to perish while on this campaign to enjoy this heavenly perk. More surprising is the target of this campaign, the Lombards being Christian, albeit not behaving particularly so from a papal perspective.
Despite these differences, this letter and others in the same collection offer a Carolingian context for Pope Leo’s exhortation to the Frankish army. Something similar appears in material celebrating Gerold, the Prefect of Bavaria, who died fighting the Avars in 799. Heito’sVisio Wettini from 824 declared that Gerold deserved ‘everlasting life’ because he died ‘in defence of the holy church against the infidels’. Fraser recently drew my attention to a sermon of Abbo of Saint-Germain from the 880s, translated by Charles West, which calls upon the listener:
Do not let your enemies multiply and grow but, as Scripture commends, fight for your homeland (patria), do not fear to die in God’s war (bellum Dei). Certainly if you die there, you will be holy martyrs.
I suspect that such ideas were not unknown elsewhere in the Carolingian world, but they might not have been commonly expressed. This is hinted by the fact that in 878 Pope John VIII (r. 872-882) had to reassure the bishops of the West Frankish kingdom that those who died fighting against pagans would go to heaven, suggesting that it wasn’t an idea that they regularly encountered. Likewise, the importance of Leo’s letter for the canonists was in large part the result of the absence of other authorities to draw upon. When Peter Comestor (d. 1179) sought to defend the point in a tract addressed to a Patriarch of Jerusalem, his only sources were Leo and Pope Urban II (r. 1088-1099).
Looking at c.3 of the letter alone makes Leo IV look like a solitary prophet of the age of the Crusades. The rest of the text however very firmly places him in the Carolingian world. This is a letter written by Leo to stiffen the spine of a Frankish army, and the consolations of heaven to the fallen is the very last argument he uses to steady the troops. He begins by emphasising the evil of the enemy, who are both inimical to the faith and the peace of all people (c.1). Interestingly, Leo addresses the men in the context of the history of the Franks in c.2, recalling to them the example set by their ancestors. In doing so, the Pope was probably doing more than reminding them of the formidable achievements of Frankish arms over the previous century and a half. He also implicitly harked back to the relationship between the Carolingians and the Papacy that stretched back to the days of Pippin and Stephen, in which the Franks protected Rome against all threats. The sack of 846 was a shocking moment for the Carolingians as well as the Papacy, prompting Lothar and, particularly, Louis II to pay much more attention to southern Italy. The latter would define his reign by his capacity to protect Italy and the Pope from Saracen threats. That bond was acknowledged by Leo as he steeled the Franks of his own day by celebrating the deeds of those long past.
This may give us a clue for dating the letter. Louis II arrived in southern Italy with a Frankish army in 847, and spent much of 848 campaigning against Muslim pirates while trying to end the civil war that had riven Benevento, leading to the formal division in 849 of the troubled principality. He returned south in 852 to campaign against Bari. This suggests 847-8 or 852 as the most likely contexts for the Leo’s address to a Frankish army. Although it could be either, I’m tempted to go with the earlier date, simply because praising the efforts of the ancestors of the Frankish army seems like a slightly odd move if there had already been an expedition five years earlier in which some of the army of 852 had probably participated. By contrast, before 847 there hadn’t been a Frankish army south of Rome since the days of Charlemagne, a full generation earlier.
Even if we can’t pinpoint the exact year of the letter, we can locate it in a Carolingian milieu. Leo’s comments on the souls of those fallen in holy war were unusual for his period. They would go onto be highly influential in the very different circumstances of the Crusades. But by reading the entire letter as it survives to us, we can see it as the product of the Carolingian world, written not to be an example for lawyers, but as a rallying cry for desperately scared and fiercely proud men in a time of crisis.
Louis, by the preordaining clemency of the Highest King king of the Franks.
If We come to help and concede any gift of honour and restoration to the holy church of God and also extend the hands of Our Highness and Piety to those who should dwell Catholically in it and devotedly seek the gift of His clemency for the state of this realm and of Christianity, through the deliverance of the King on High Jesus Christ and the most clement intercession of His saints such that they might not be illegally and unjustly oppressed by violence from anyone, We hold most firmly that it will benefit Us temporally and eternally in the augmentation of Our honour.
Thus, let the skill of those both present and future discover that the brothers of the abbey of Compiègne, when We first came there, made a complaint before the summit of Our Highness concerning Bishop Rothard of Meaux, previously prior of the same place, regarding their own land, which ought to pertain to their allowance of food, and clothing, and which had been conceded by Our progenitors to the nourishing mother of God and undefiled virgin Mary and the most precious martyrs Cornelius and Cyprian, for the work of the brothers serving therein; to wit, concerning the estate which is called Chauny and also concerning Gury and concerning Mareuil-la-Motte and Marest-sur-Matz and Manseau and concerning Margny-sur-Matz and concerning Elincourt and concerning the churches sited in them, that is, Notre-Dame, Saint-Denis, Saint-Médard, Sainte-Marguerite, and concerning their tithes and concerning the other side of the river Aronde and the mill which is called Frost and concerning the land which lies besides the same river, on this side of the aforesaid river and on the far side, and also concerning the space next to the aforesaid river on which he had strengthened a residence, which space, that is, is named Coudun; all of which, when in fact he should have been a servant of the said place, he kept hold of and usurped for himself, purportedly for rent, which he also never paid any of.
We, then, hearing this and enjoying the common consent of Our followers, to wit, of Hugh [the Great], Our most beloved and the duke of the Franks, who is second to Us in all Our realms; and Our most faithful pontiff Walbert [of Noyon], and also with the counsel of the most prudent man Bernard [of Beauvais], tremendously great in Our fidelity, and Ermenfred [of Amiens], restore to them, to the common portion of the brothers serving the Lord therein, all the said land with all the aforesaid things, in order that from this day forth they might hold and possess that land and all the aforesaid things for their allowance of food, and clothing in times to come without the trouble of any contradiction.
In addition, moreover, We concede to the said brothers that they should have free power to distribute prebends and that they should have all the service given for them for their own uses, just as Our most glorious father King Charles [the Simple] conceded to them in a precept of renewal.
Let them have the same power over the appointed ministers of the place as well, except the prior and dean, treasurer and cantor; and in these cases, with the counsel of the senior brothers and the election of the other clerics.
Let them have the same, too, over houses given between them or over land within and without the castle pertaining to the same brothers.
We concede to them, furthermore, in regard to the castle and its ramparts and concerning the outside area inside the walls and defensive ditch, that none who is an outsider to the same place should accept command on the pretext of overseeing the castle; and that no-one should claim rights of hospitality there.
Next, We concede to them in regard to the cultivated land which they have for outward uses that no-one should presume to enter their residences; and the toll from the ovens which have been or will be built there and from the wine-taverns within the castle and without the castle which customarily came to the part of Our predecessors.
From the confluence of waters next to the estate of Clairoix up to the bridge of Venette, We concede to them the river with both banks, and fishing-rights, and ship-passage and wherever nets ought to be dragged out of the river, whether going upriver or downriver, and from there up to Magnicurtis; also that no-one should presume to fish or hunt there without permission from the brothers; and if any fleeing wild animal comes there without being pursued by hunters, let it be brought to the brothers’ table. And similarly We concede to them whatever might be found from the confluence of waters next to Clairoix up to Magnicurtis.
We also concede permission that if any fiscal servant wishes to sell or give anything from his allod to that holy place or to the canons of that place, they may have free power to do it and the deed may endure perpetually, as Our father King Charles [the Simple] once established and conceded there through a precept.
If, though, anyone might presume to violate this statute and that which Our father established and Pope John of the holy Roman see conceded in his privilege and excommunicated and cursed those who might try to violate it, let them have portion with Judas, the betrayer of the Lord, and be anathema maranatha, and be excluded from the company of the faithful and be burned forever in the punishments of Hell.
But that this precept of Our authority might endure firm and inviolable eternally without fear, confirming it below with Our own hand We mandated it be signed with the signet of Our royal dignity.
Sign of the most glorious king Louis.
Gerard the notary witnessed on behalf of Artald, Archbishop and High Chancellor.
Enacted at the royal palace of Compiègne, on the day of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the 10th indiction, in the 1st year of the reign of the most glorious King Louis.
The closest surviving thing we have to part of the Carolingian palace, and it ain’t that close (source)
Christmas at Compiègne was by itself a sign that something new was in the air. Under Ralph of Burgundy, Compiègne was not a significant royal palace. In fact, it seems to have been something of a neutral zone – there are a couple of times when Ralph and his squabbling brothers-in-law met there seemingly because it was a liminal location where they could get together on a roughly even footing. Compiègne was Charles the Simple’s place, and it’s appropriate that Louis IV issued his rehabilitative diploma for ‘the glorious king Charles’ quoting at length from one of Charles’ own diplomas for the abbey. Louis also pulled in Count Ermenfred of Amiens, whom we’ve met before as a prop of Charles’ late period regime. Hugh’s own father Robert of Neustria had been rehabilitated in the early 930s – but, of course, rehabilitating Charles was more fraught, given Hugh’s personal role in his overthrow.
This isn’t to say that Hugh was opposed to this. In fact, one wonders if it was the bone he threw Louis, because otherwise the diploma shows off Hugh’s power over the king. Note the presence of Bernard of Beauvais, with a remarkably exalted epithet. Bernard had been Hugh’s right-hand man during the Burgundy campaign, and his presence – and elaborate praise – here gives an insight into how cloying Hugh’s oversight of the king may have been. Bernard was also the cousin of Heribert II of Vermandois, who had led Charles to imprisonment at Saint-Quentin, and thus his presence was at best ironic. Too, Ansegis of Troyes has been replaced as archchancellor by Archbishop Artald of Rheims. Given later developments, it can be hard to remember this, but in 936 Artald was Hugh’s ally, the man to whom he owed his position. Most important of all, though, is the description of Hugh himself. Hugh’s new title, ‘duke of the Franks’, was ambiguous, and it seems that he may have been pushing for a clarification. The act spells it out, and it is startling. Raymond Pons was right: Hugh was a menace to the ambitions of every other aristocrat in the kingdom. He is placed as greater than all the realm’s other magnates, not simply in the north of Gaul but in Aquitaine and Burgundy as well. Even Robert of Neustria at the peak of his power had never had his status exalted in such concrete terms.
Perhaps the most appropriate presence was Bishop Walbert of Noyon. This diploma was the last thing he ever did: he died on Boxing Day 936. Hugh and Louis’ alliance would follow suit soon after.
Last week, we took a break from high politics for 939. This was not an unimportant year to pass over. That year, a huge rebellion amongst the magnates of Lotharingia asked Louis IV to become their king. He did – although, sadly, no diplomas survive from his abortive reign there – but not for very long. At the Second Battle of Andernach, the two main East Frankish rebels, Eberhard and Gislebert of Lotharingia, were killed and the whole thing collapsed. Louis was forced back on the man who, after he had torn himself away from Hugh the Great, had become his most important supporter: his predecessor’s brother, Hugh the Black.
If We lend Our ears to the fitting petitions of Our followers, We maintain the customs of Our predecessors as king and We render them rather more familiar to Our Highness.
Wherefore let it be known to all Our followers, both present and future, that the famous Count Hugh approached Our presence and beseeched that We might give certain abbeys, sited in the district of Porthois, to one of Our followers, named Adelard, and his wife Adele and their heirs. One of these monasteries is called Faverney, named in honour of St Mary; the other is called Enfonvelle, and it is named in honour of the holy martyr Leodegar.
And thus, most freely favouring the prayers of the aforesaid glorious Count Hugh, We concede to the same Adelard and his wife Adele the aforesaid abbeys in their entirety, that is, Faverney in its entirety, with its appendages, that is, with churches, estates, bondsmen of both sexes, fields, meadows, woods, waters and watercourses, mills, incomes and renders, visited and unvisited; and Saint-Léger similarly wholly and entirely with everything pertaining to it; only on the condition that by this precept of Our Highness which We commanded to be made and given to the same couple, as long as Adelard and his said wife and their heirs live, they might hold and possess the abovewritten abbeys, and after their deaths (whenever they are), let the same abbeys revert without diminution or deterioration to that state they are known to have been in until now.
And that this Our statute might endure more firmly, We commanded this precept be made concerning it and be signed with Our signet.
Sign of the lord and most glorious king Louis.
Odilo the notary witnessed on behalf of Heiric [of Langres], bishop and high chancellor.
Given on the 16th kalends of March [14th February], in the 3rd year of the reign of the most glorious King Louis, in the 13th indiction.
Enacted at the estate of Gurziaicus on the river Marne.
The diploma in the original (source above)
If Louis 936 Christmas diploma shows the regime Hugh the Great forced upon him, this act shows him using patronage to develop his support in Burgundy. Hugh the Black is, obviously, the main event; but Hugh’s old rival Bishop Heiric of Langres shows up as archchancellor. Hugh the Black evidently knows how to relate to Louis better than Hugh the Great did: there are no extravagant titles here, but rather a simple ‘famous count’. Nonetheless, Hugh the Black clearly did have demands: Adelard and Adele get two plum monasteries for their own uses.
Notably, this is not the first time we’ve met Notre-Dame de Faverney. Last time, it was the focus of an exchange of property between its holder, Guy of Spoleto, later king of Italy and would-be king of the West Frankish kingdom, and Archdeacon Otbert of Langres. I find it interesting that Louis, in the diploma, is kind of shifty about Faverney’s current state. Given Guy’s withdrawal to Italy after the turn of the tenth century, I see two main possibilities as to what happened to it. First, it’s possible that Hugh the Black took it over as the predominant regional magnates and felt he either needed or wanted Louis’ consent to justify the transfer of monastic property to two laypeople. Second, and I think this is more likely, I suspect Otbert of Langres kept Faverney. In this scenario, Louis’ involvement becomes more crucial, as he is in effect using the legitimacy provided by his royal position and his ties to Bishop Heiric to justify using something which is – sort of – Langres’ property to reward Hugh’s followers.
Whatever the reality, Hugh the Black was not going to hang around in Louis’ following too much longer, although in his defence, that’s not really his fault. Louis’ presence in Burgundy was in part because his support of the Lotharingian rebels had provoked a rebellion of his own in the north, a rebellion which his angry rival, the East Frankish king Otto the Great, was supporting. Shortly after this diploma was issued, Otto headed south and – in essence – absolutely merked Hugh. There was fighting around Troyes, and Otto forced Hugh to give him hostages and an oath not to harm the northern rebels. Hugh’s humiliation was capped when he was made to give Otto his own golden brooch (later donated to the abbey of Corvey). With Hugh’s absence, Louis lost his most powerful support. What would he do next?
More synergy! For the last time, mind, if only because I think this is the chronologically latest document I cite in that article… In any case, this is also another special document, because it’s also (drumroll please) unpublished! In fact, other than my article, I think it’s also unmentioned in the scholarly literature; or, at least, I’ve never seen any references to it. So without further ado, here we go:
It befits everyone to whom pastoral care is at any time committed to solicitously investigate how they might remove any excuse in regard to the allods under their dominion*, lest anyone be able to inflict any molestation on priests or other ministers of the Church attending* to the cells of the saints out of worldly greed.
Wherefore I, Theotolo, although unworthy humble archbishop of the see of Tours, heard that a certain priest of Saint-Mexme, named Elias, and the place of St Maximus, where he rests in body, had been very frequently dishonoured by Our archdeacon Robert and molested by a serious incursion using the excuse of his ministry and Our service against ecclesiastical right deriving from the institutes of the canons. And thus, desiring to completely banish the most savage intention of him and his successors from that place of Saint-Mexme, We made the fixed decision, with the counsel of Our followers of both orders, that for love of God Almighty and out of veneration of His confessor the blessed Maximus We should entirely remit circuit-fees and synod-fees from that place, so that the body of the saint might be more devotedly venerated by priests and by other ministers of the holy Church of God, and be dealt with more securely. Furthermore, chiefly so that no assessment of renders might be carried out there, it was equally worthy that the same place should endure immune from every render of synod- or circuit-fee and also as well from any molestation from archdeacons or lords. Even more than that, I, Archbishop Theotolo, along with the counsel of Our followers, as We said above, and through the sequence of this writing, establish, and in establishing confirm, that the said Elias the priest and his successors should henceforth pay neither Us nor Our successors any synod-fee nor circuit-fee on behalf of that place of Saint-Mexme. Rather, let these go to lighting and food stipends for the same church in alms for Us and Our successors, and for the prize of eternal repayment.
If anyone (God forbid!), roused up by the prick of greed, should henceforth wish to reclaim from the rulers of Saint-Mexme this which We remitted above or inflict any molestation by any evil trick, let them know themselves liable to the wrath of our most pious Lord and aforesaid patron Maximus, unless they quickly come to their senses. In addition, We pray the intention of Our successors in holy pastorality that, just as they would wish their statutes which they have enacted for love of God Almighty and veneration of His saints to be conserved, thus they should permit this thing done by Our Smallness to be violated by no-one. In order that it might be better known and might be presumed to be infringed nor made viler by anyone, We strengthened the current writing with the strength of Our pontificate and established it be confirmed by the hands of Our followers of both orders in Our general synodal convent.
Given in the month of May, in the city of Tours, in the third year of the reign of King Louis, son of King Charles.
So I do have photos from when I went, but I went on a grey and overcast day so Wiki’s is actually nicer… (source)
On a basic level, this document reveals one of the problems with the way they train medievalists. When I did my initial training at Master’s level, I was given a full background in medieval palaeography – only for it then to turn out that I’d be spending most of my manuscript-reading career dealing with Early Modern script. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except that this means rather than dealing with the careful, simple Caroline Minuscule in which most actual tenth-century manuscripts were written, I have to deal with whatever a hungover seventeenth-century notary splurged onto a page that day. This example isn’t that bad, but some of the readings underlying the above are questionable, and I’ve marked them with an asterisk:
Alodis sibi dominissis. This feels like it wants to be ‘dominical allods’, but then I don’t know what to do with the sibi and the clause wants a participle in there…
in cellulis sanctorum ministrantium. This, by contrast, looks like a ministrantibus (going with ‘priests and other ministers’) has been put in the genitive by accident, because it doesn’t make a lot of sense as ‘cells of the ministering saints’.
There are probably more – and if you spot any which mean the translation is wrong let me know and I’ll fix it – but at the very least, the gist of this is pretty clear.
This is another example of clergy in the archdiocese of Tours getting on each other’s nerves. In this case, it’s Tours archdeacon Robert and a priest of Saint-Mexme in Chinon. (I have actually been to Saint-Mexme, which is quite a pretty church; but its archives no longer exist – I’ve seen this and a late eleventh-century charter of Archbishop Bartholomew of Tours.)
But what makes this charter more than just another clerical complaint, though, is the type of clerical complaint it is. Archbishop Theotolo of Tours was, alongside Odo of Cluny, one of the hardcore faction in Saint-Martin (where he had served as dean). It is therefore striking that the theology of attacks on Church property here has similarities with Odo’s (obviously, in the masses of surviving Odonian evidence, much more developed) views. It is also not too dissimilar to some Saint-Martin charters we’ve seen before. In the article, I argued this similarity was genetic, that there was a fundamentally Martinian background to these ideas that evolved out of how the Neustrian March dealt with itself. Of course, if you want to find out more, you’ll have to read the article…
Some time ago, I was asked to contribute a chapter to a volume on land leasing practices in the early Middle Ages, and as part of that I went through the evidence from Burgundy. This week’s charter is something which had somehow escaped me the previous times I had looked through the Autun cartulary, but is nonetheless extremely cool:
Autun Eglise no. 31 (9th January 938, Autun)
In the name of Lord God eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ.
We, the congregation of the famous witness of Christ Nazarius, wish it to be known to all the sons and followers, to wit of this our holy mother church of Autun, both present and future, that Enguerrand, a honourable and dear vassal of Count Gilbert [of Burgundy] very often beat at the hearts of our piety that We might deign to confirm to him a certain portion of our property pertaining to the table of the brothers in the written form of a precarial grant. These goods, to wit, are sited in the county of Beaune, in the estate of Bouilland, to wit, three cultivated manses and five uncultivated pertaining to the fisc of Bligny-sur-Ouche.
Yet because this said man could not bring this to pass by his prayers, he brought with him the aforesaid count and in addition lord Hildebod, whom we once raised from the cradle and who was recently made, by God’s ordinance, bishop of Chalon.
Overcome by their prayers, in the end we began to open to him the bosom of humanity, and thus we ordered a writing of this common decree be made to him, in which we decree and confirm that the said Enguerrand and his wife Wandalmodis might hold and possess the aforesaid goods in their lifetime, on the condition that each year on the mass of St Nazarius they should render two shillings in cash to the table of the brothers. In return for this matter, the same man gave to our part his whole allod which he acquired in the same estate from Alo, brother of the late Archpriest Odilard, through instruments of charters, restoring to us these charters and all his acquisitions and additionally adding nine charters from the side of him and his wife.
But that all this should endure undisturbed through times to come, We commanded it be strengthened worthily below by our own hands via the subscription of names.
Enacted publicly at Autun, happily in the Lord, amen.
Rotmund, [bishop] of the holy church of Autun, proffered assent and subscribed this writing. The humble archdeacon Gerard subscribed. Bishop Hildebod subscribed this decree. The humble archdeacon Theobert subscribed. The humble dean Bernard subscribed. The humble prior Radald subscribed. The humble archpriest Emile subscribed. Archpriest Idgrin subscribed. Heriveus the levite subscribed. Sign of Arlegius. The humble precentor Aidoard subscribed. The humble Odalmand subscribed. Sign of Wandric.
I, Lambert, wrote and subscribed.
Girbald, the humble minister of this work related and subscribed.
Given on the 5th ides of January [9th January], in the second year of the reign of King Louis.
So, you can see my interest in this re: land-lease practices. My main argument for that article is that precariae, leases, are fundamentally worked out on a social, rather than economic level. You can see, for instance, wildly divergent rents for roughly similar lands which are presumably based not on the land’s actual worth but on the social environment the leases are made in. Here, it’s much more direct. Be he never so honourable and dear a vassal, Enguerrand couldn’t get anything from the canons of Autun, so he brought out the big guns. For whatever reason, he was in tight with Gilbert of Burgundy, count of Chalon, whom we have met recently as a follower of Hugh the Black and the newly minted bishop of Chalon Hildebod. With them applying pressure, he was able to get the land he wanted – clearly not an economic problem, but a social one. Enguerrand the vassal couldn’t get what he wanted, but Enguerrand the socially connected guy could.
If you want more on that, then the chapter is out soon enough and you can read it (or, given it’s in German, send me an email for the English version if you’d like); but re-reading it now, something else springs to mind. We saw in 936 that Hugh the Black wasn’t necessarily on good terms with Rotmund of Autun, perhaps because Rotmund had sided with Louis IV and Hugh the Great in 936. I wonder if perhaps Rotmund and the canons are being leaned on by Gilbert and Hildebod because the situation has changed: there’s no chance that Hugh the Great, at least, is going to end up in Burgundy again in the foreseeable future, which gives his opponents carte blanche to extort his old allies for favours? By autumn 938, Hugh the Black was allied to Louis IV – one almost wonders if that was in the works in such a way that royal backing could play a part, but January of that year is probably a bit early. Nonetheless, what we have here is, at the very least, a really interesting insight into how you could leverage social ties to get favours; and perhaps, an unexpected glimpse into high politics.
It did not take very long after Hugh the Great screwed Louis IV over in Burgundy for the king to decide that letting his former uncle-by-marriage monopolise him so thoroughly wasn’t going well. Early in 937, he (as Flodoard put it) ‘separated himself from Hugh’s oversight’. Hugh responded by mending fences with his brother-in-law Heribert II of Vermandois. There was clearly tension in the air. However, the march into outright warfare was much slower than it’s often portrayed. As a case in point, here’s a diploma Louis issued at the same time as the break:
D L4 no. 5 (1st February 937, Laon)
In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.
Louis, by grace of God king.
We are completely confident that whatever We strive to effect with the eagerness of good zeal for love of God and reverence of His saints will benefit Us in more easily obtaining the eternal glory of being blessed and happily passing through the present life.
Therefore, let the skill of all the followers of the holy Church of God and of Us both present and also future know that Our illustrious followers, Count Hugh and Bishop Walter of Paris and Viscount Teudo [of Paris], approaching the presence of Our Serenity, humbly asked that We might renew and confirm by a precept of Our authority the rental contracts of the church of Saint-Pierre [i.e. Saint-Merri], in which St Mederic rests in body, which Count Adalard and Abbo the vassal made, which the most glorious kings Carloman [II] and Odo corroborated in precepts. And so, it pleased Our Highness to acquiesce to their most salubrious requests, and so We commanded a precept of Our Loftiness on this matter be made and given to John and his mother Alberada and her son, named Walter, through which We order and command that both the above-named persons, that is, Alberada and her two sons John and Walter, and their successors might possess in their uses, for all time, and without any diminution, the little abbey of the aforesaid church of Saint-Pierre and the most precious confessor of Christ Mederic, where are beholden 20 little manses in the estate of Linas, similarly 20 little manses in la Grand-Vivier, 3 manses in Morvilliers, 6 manses in Ivry-sur-Seine; 4 manses where there are 20 arpents of vines on Monsivry and 20 arpents of meadow on the Seine; 2 manses in Belleville where there are 4 arpents; and similarly 20 arpents of vineyard in Morgevalle; 6 bonniers and 6 perches of land below Montmartre; 6 arpents of meadow above the estate of Nigeon; and 4 arpents of vineyard at Vémars, which pertain to the bondsmen of the same church; 12 bonniers of land around the church itself, and at the aforesaid bonniers six where there are threshing-floors; then again at Montmartre 2 arpents of land with a little field; 3 manses at L’Hay; two and a half arpents of vineyard at Thermes; and 4 arpents of meadow in the place which is called ‘Cow’s Head’; 1 manse in Drancy: all this, in the advantages of the said church. Nor should any judicial power henceforth receive toll, nor water-toll, nor fodrum or rivage nor also freight-charge.
But that this precept of Our authority might in God’s name obtain inviolable vigour in perpetuity, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.
Sign of the most glorious king Louis.
Gerard the chancellor witnessed on behalf of Archbishop Artald.
Enacted at Clavate Laon, on the kalends of February [1st February], in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 936, in the 5th indiction, in the 1st year of the most glorious King Louis.
Saint-Merri as it look in the seventeenth century (source)
So, what’s going on here? Well, first of all we’ve got a bevy of Robertian allies showing up at the royal court. The identity of Count Hugh is unclear. Lauer, who edited the diploma, thought it was Hugh the Great himself. If so, that’s a pretty big downgrade in status for a man who, in the last diploma he was in, was literally called one step below the king. It could, however, be Count Hugh II of Maine, in which case this become simply a high-powered delegation from Hugh the Great rather than the man himself.
The timing and location is important here. Part of the way that Louis emancipated himself from Hugh the Great was by inviting his mother Eadgifu to come and join him at Laon. I said above that this was early in the year. What that means is that if this diploma wasn’t issued whilst Eadgifu was there – and I would argue that the sense of the timings we get from Flodoard mean that in all probability it was – she must have been on the way and the Robertians must have known about it.
This diploma, it seems to me, thus represents a kind of olive branch, a way of trying to show Hugh that even without having his yoke on Louis’ neck his interests would still be looked after. Note, for instance, the citation of Hugh’s uncle Odo as a ‘most glorious king’. Louis’ actions here show a young man trying to control how much of a breach his actions are actually going to cause.
It quite reminds me of Zwentibald in 898. As I’ve written elsewhere, in that year the Lotharingian king was forced by a combination of circumstances and his well-meaning but not entirely competent-to-decide father to abandon his chief supporter Reginar Long-Neck in favour of reconciling with a bunch of Upper Lotharingian aristocrats, including Archbishop Ratbod of Trier. We have two copies of the same diploma stripping Reginar of the abbey of Sint-Servaas in Maastricht. I’ve commented before on how the one produced by the church of Trier is vindictive and uncompromising; but that produced by the royal court is much more hesitant, perhaps hoping that a reconciliation with Reginar is still possible. Zwentibald and Louis are trying similar strategies and, I have to say, it didn’t work amazingly for either of them. Zwentibald’s fate we have spoken about on this blog before. Louis had a bit more success, but the forces propelling him and Hugh into conflict were bigger than just the two of them – we’ll hear more about this quarrel again.