Charter a Week 39: Big Synods and Big Problems

Since we last checked in with William the Pious, duke of Aquitaine, things have not gone well for him. A bunch of his important allies – including the archbishop of Bourges – have died, and Charles the Simple and Robert of Neustria are breathing down his neck in the north. Meanwhile, Charles the Simple was consolidating his control of Lotharingia, Rudolf I of Transjurane Burgundy had died (in 912), and Hugh of Arles is looking pointedly at the Italian throne. This is the context for one of the most frustratingly fascinating sets of documents to have come out of the early tenth century. In 915, a murderer’s row of bishops set up a council at the church of Saint-Marcel-lès-Chalon, and transacted the following business:

Cartulaire de Saint-Vincent de Mâcon, no. 144 (915)

When in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ the venerable archbishop lord Auster was residing in the suburb of the city of Chalon, in the church of Saint-Marcel the martyr, with a college of archbishops and bishops (that is, with Ardrad, venerable bishop of the same town; Gerald of Mâcon; Archbishop Aimoin of Besançon; Archbishop Agius of Narbonne; Bishop Elisachar of Bellay; Odilard of Maurienne), that is, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 915, in the 3rd indiction, and they were canonically settling no few matters therein for the rights andconcerning the state and advantage of the church, a certain priest named Bererius approached their presence, making a complaint that a certain priest named Ivo had usurped a certain estate named Lente, in the parish of Saint-Clément which Bererius held, against ecclesiastical right. The pontiffs, looking with diligent inquiry into his complaint, decreed that the said estate of Lente should revert to its former holder, that is, to the mother church of Saint-Clément, i.e. from the public road which begins at the Saône, which flows to Fredeco’s Hate before it goes across to the road which goes to the spring at Le Bioux; concerning which matter the aforesaid bishops commanded this writing of testimony, which they call a ‘restoration document’, be made in this wise, such that in future the church of Saint-Clément should endure no calumny concerning its parish. And that it might be held more firmly, they undersigned it with their own names.

So far, so clear. Things get wonkier with the next one:

Sixteenth-century text, from Paradin’s book (source)

G. Paradin, Histoire de Lyon, II.xxvi (915)

“Raculf, count of Mâcon, wishing to take his part of the spoils,had occupied the goods of the church of Saint-Clément of Mâcon, assured of the favour of King Carloman [sic], on whose behalf he was an échevin in the duchy of Burgundy. And this belief was justified, knowing the service which his father Bernard had done for King Carloman in recovering the city of Mâcon, knowing King Boso, who had been chased out of it thanks to his said father. The bishop of Mâcon, named Gerald, seeing himself lesser in credit and favour, did not know what better thing he could do than to take himself to Auster, archbishop of Lyon, his metropolitan, to whom he complained of the wrong which Raculf, count of Mâcon, had done to him. Then Archbishop Auster brought up with the king the affair of the bishop; he, unwilling to sadden Raculf nor to favour him in his wrongdoing, ordained that the affair should be decided by a provincial council of bishops. They forthwith convened at the priory of Saint-Marcel, outside the town of Chalon, and present there were Auster, metropolitan archbishop of Lyon, who presided; Archbishop Aimoin of Besançon; Archbishop Agius of Narbonne; Bishop Elisachar of Bellay; Odilard of Maurienne; Ardrad of Chalon; and Gerald of Mâcon. It was demonstrated to them, through Auster’s own words, that those who in earlier times had stolen the goods of the Temple of God has been visibly punished with strange punishments, like Antiochus, Heliodorus, Nicanor, Shoshenq, and others; and that the kings were the protectors of churches, not meaning that lords should undertake to take them and enrich themselves from the goods which had been donated by their predecessors for the support of ministers of churches and of the poor. It was quite possible to recognise this from the benefactions of the great emperor Charlemagne, of Louis the Pious, Charles the Bald, Louis the Stammerer, father of the present kings; therefore he was of the opinion that Count Raculf should restore to the church of Mâcon everything which he had occupied there. After this remonstrance, the assembly of bishops made a decree by which the count was condemned to restore the goods he occupied, directly or indirectly, to the church of Mâcon. He did this, as much out of fear of the excommunication which was appended to the decree, as through that which he saw was not advised by the king in this detention…”

So, to start with there are problems of preservation here. The first charter is from the cartulary of Saint-Vincent de Mâcon, and is thus less problematic (although there has clearly been some corruption – the name given above as ‘Archbishop Agius of Narbonne’ is actually gibberish in the text itself). The second section of text here, as you can see in the image, is actually an Early Modern French paraphrase made by a Humanist named Guillaume Paradin in the late sixteenth century. It’s not clear precisely what he was basing it on, either, although odds are good it’s a synodal document of some sort.

His notes, though, were clearly not very good. For one thing, this document evidently does not come from the reign of Carloman II; and the count in question is equally evidently not Raculf of Mâcon. For one thing, the reference to Bernard is clearly to Bernard Plantevelue, who captured Mâcon from Boso of Provence back in 880. For another, Raculf was almost certainly dead by this point. What seems to be happening is that Paradin has mixed up his notes somewhere, and confused Charles the Simple for Carloman II and Raculf for William the Pious.

In terms of content, the first thing to notice is that this is a big, big synod. We have no fewer than three archbishops, and they come from no fewer than three kingdoms. This is the first way in which these documents are frustrating – a trans-regnal synod like this must have been a hub for politics across the Frankish world, but we don’t even know enough about the background to suggest what they might have been talking about. In an Aquitanian context, though, we can make some suggestions. For one thing, the presence of Agius of Narbonne is significant – Agius’ predecessor Arnulf had been murdered in 913, in a chain of events which remain murky but which William was bound up in. Notably, it was in the aftermath of Arnulf’s murder that Viscount Alberic of Narbonne fled to Mâcon – where he married Raculf’s daughter. Bishop Gerald of Mâcon – the beneficiary of the council’s decision in the second document – was not particularly close to William. We may therefore be seeing here an attempt to retrench William’s authority in Mâcon at a time when the duke was weak, putting Alberic in place and dealing with the fallout from events in Narbonne. In this case, perhaps Bishop Gerald was using his position in the region to leverage some advantage for his church off William. However, this document is so fragmentary and so frustrating – the role of the king makes sense in terms of the reign of Carloman II but not of Charles the Simple in the 910s – that we end up scratching our heads. If only Paradin had transcribed the original document!  

Charter A Week 38: Paganism and Response in Normandy

Huh, I guess we’re getting to Normandy earlier than I’d anticipated. Anyway, we saw a few weeks ago that one of the criticisms levelled at the early Normans was that they were disloyal to their new Christian faith. This wasn’t just polemic (although it was definitely also polemic). Archbishop Guy of Rheims – probably the only bishop left in post in early tenth-century Normandy – was also having problems. He apparently wrote a panicked letter to his neighbour Archbishop Heriveus of Rheims, who in turn wrote to Pope John X, who, in his turn, wrote back:

PU no. 38 (914) = JL no. 3553

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to Our most reverend confrere Heriveus, archbishop of Rheims.

Very freely receiving the honey-sweet letters of Your Fraternity and Your Reverend Sanctity and very diligently considering them, We became both very sad and fiercely joyful. To explain: We grieved over such calamities and such pressures and difficulties as have befallen your region (as the statement of your letters made plain), not only from pagans, but also from Christians. We rejoiced, though, over the race of the Northmen, which has been converted, by the inspiration of divine clemency, to the faith. Once it delighted to prowl in search of human blood, but now, by your exhortations, with the Lord’s co-operation, it rejoices that it is redeemed and to have drunk of the divine blood of Christ. For this, We give tremendous and profuse thanks to Him from whom all which is good comes forth, submissively entreating that He might confirm them in the firmness of true faith and cause them to know the glory of the eternal Trinity and lead them in to the unspeakable joy of His visage.

Now, concerning what should be done about those things which Your Fraternity has made known to Us – that is, what should be done with those who are baptised and re-baptised, and live like pagans after baptism, killing Christians, butchering priests and sacrificing to idols and eating to the sacrifices after the pagan custom – those who are not novices in the faith should be tried by the full force of canonical judgement.

As for those who are unwrought in the faith, We commit them entirely to the scales of your judgement to be tried. You have this people near your borders, and you are better placed than anyone to diligently attend to and recognize both their habits and acts and way of life. This, though, should be done gently. Your Industry knows full well what the sacred canons judge decree for them. But it should not come to pass that the unaccustomed burdens which they carry should seem, God forbid, unbearable to them. They will fall back to the former man of their old life, whom they had improved, owing to the plots of the Ancient Enemy. If some, however, are found amongst them who prefer to soften themselves in accordance with the canonical statutes and expiate such sins as they have committed by worthy laments, do not hesitate to judge these people canonically; being in this way being vigilant towards them in everything, so that when you come before the tribunal of the Eternal Judge with the manifold fruit of souls, you may deserve to gain eternal joy with the blessed Remigius.

On another note, We received the gift which Your Sanctity deigned to send to Us, with that love and affection with which you sent it. May Divine Majesty grant you and all who are subject to you such a life in this world as, by the intercession of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, might loose the chains of all your sins and lead you to the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven without any offence.

We bid Your Sanctity farewell, and to intercede for Us with pious supplications before the most pious of Lords.

800px-three_kings_or_three_gods
This image, which is a Swedish tapestry from the c12th, may or may not have much to do with what c10th vikings believed; but as I upload this I’m in a rush and it’s a pretty picture. (source

The conversion of the Northmen to Christianity was a long-term project, and from the mid-910s we have not only John’s letter to Heriveus but also Heriveus’ letter to Archbishop Guy of Rouen, giving him advice and excerpts from the canons about various disciplinary issues. Lying behind much of this is Gregory the Great, and especially his letter to St Augustine of Canterbury giving similar advice about newly-converted pagans; and both Heriveus and John advise a tread-lightly approach.

One thing which I don’t think scholars have previously picked up on: I don’t think this letter is entirely about converts. At the beginning of the letter, John refers to disturbances in northern Neustria wreaked by Christians as well as pagans, and although there is something of a trope about this, we know it happened. If you remember Bernard of Gothia, one of the three Bernards, his brother Imino was accused of plundering the area around Évreux in a Viking-like fashion by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims.

In this light, I don’t think John is simply drawing a distinction between more- and less-experienced converts to Christianity. It seems to me that he’s giving Guy and Heriveus carte blanche to deal with ‘those who are not novices in the faith’ – which could mean long-time converts but could also mean those who were born to it – as they would with anyone who raided or despoiled Church property. It is even possible that there was some ‘conversion’ the other way, from Christianity to paganism; or, at the very least, that northern Neustrian Christians didn’t object to eating meat which had been sacrificed to pagan gods, and that this was also a problem for the two archbishops. (In the ninth century, Pippin II of Aquitaine had been accused of living like a Northman and it is clear that this was a major problem in the Frankish world.)

In short, this letter does not only testify to the canny, long-term conversion strategies of those in charge of winning the Neustrian Norse for Christianity. It also testifies to the problems besetting the future Normandy at this point – even if the king could dispose of property there, there were evidently major disruptions.

Charter A Week 37: Princely Power at Cluny

Another week, another trial. This time, we’re back in William the Pious’ Aquitaine, where the abbey of Cluny – by now up and running as such – is having trouble with one of its estates.

CC no. 1.192 (30th October 913, Ennezat)

A notice of how and in what manner Count William, by the law’s favour, acquired a certain estate named Ainé from Anscher.

Therefore, let everyone who will hear or read this know that the aforesaid duke, within the timeframe prescribed by the law, laid a case against the same Anscher, to wit, because he held the estate of Ainé contrary to right either civil or public. Neither inflicting any force nor (although he was a prince) exercising any power, he conceded to him a time and place so that he could legally defend himself, if he could.

When the case had been discussed thoroughly for a long time, and in the end brought in an orderly manner to a conclusion, since the same Anscher could show in his defence neither a testament nor proof of inheritance, he made restoration, and during a great assembly in the estate of Ennezat, on the 4th kalends of November [29th October], with everyone looking on, he returned the same estate and restored it to its legal possessor, that is, Count William.

Then he presently endeavoured to restore it to Cluny, which had previously owned it and to which it pertained through the testament which Abbess Ava made concerning the same to Cluny, and to Abbot Berno and the monks of Cluny, and he had them receive it to be possessed in perpetuity for the honour of God and the holy apostles Peter and Paul.

Count Roger [Rather of Nevers?], Wigo, Wichard, Humfred, Bego, Franco, Bernard, Geoffrey, Herbert, Madalbert, Acbert, Ginuis, Gerlico.

Enacted publicly at Ennezat, on the 3rd kalends of November [30th October].

I, Ado, wrote this on behalf of the chancellor, in the 16th year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

There are three small things I want to pick out here. First, this is one of the few documents from our period which indicate that there was such a thing as separately conceived princely power. With that said, and with all due respect to Karl-Ferdinand Werner, the principalis potestas envisioned here is not evidently some kind of sub-royal legal jurisdiction. The implication seems to be that William could, if he wanted, exercise untrammelled force in his own interests and there’s not really anything anyone could do about it. This is fair enough – it is more or less what we saw Hugh of Arles doing last week – but it’s not some special jurisdictional privilege.

Second, we have (as Barbara Rosenwein has pointed out) at least four overlapping claims to this land: Anscher’s, which on this occasion goes unrecognised although he definitely had land here; William, who is the ‘legal possessor’, and Cluny, who used to own (unde dudum fuerat) it and to whom it ‘pertained’, has two different kinds of claim. How this works out in practice I don’t know, but those of you who are interested in land tenure might find it interesting. That William possesses the land suggests that, despite Cluny’s famous foundation charter completely giving up any claims from William’s family to rule the place, it was being used as a kind of land-bank. (I have work on this coming down the pipeline fairly shortly, I hope.)

Third and finally, note that Ava gave Aine to Cluny through a testament. This is particularly interesting because Cluny’s foundation charter from 910 was explicitly issued after Ava’s death and in memory of her. In fact, William the Pious probably didn’t found Cluny. There appears to have been a small church there beforehand, and it was probably this foundation of which Ava was abbot. Despite William’s foundation charter setting itself up as the Year Zero of Cluniac history, then, this act does appear to show that Cluny’s institutional prehistory did have some effect.

Charter A Week 36: Justice is Blind

Whilst Charles the Simple was winning over the Lotharingians, things were going less well for his southern relative Louis the Blind. In 905, Louis’ attempt to become king of Italy had gone horribly wrong and he had indeed been blinded. He then retreated back to Provence. This is a very interesting and unusual period of rule. Being blinded, in the Byzantine world, typically disqualified you for the throne; and traditionally had done in the Frankish one. Yet Louis just keeps on truckin’. Although he never again left Vienne, people continued to come to him, and here’s an example of this:

DD Provence no. 52 (912, Vienne)

While lord Louis, most glorious of august emperors, was residing at Vienne, in the palace of the blessed apostle Andrew, the venerable man Remigiar, bishop of the holy church of Valence, coming before him into the presence of his magnates, lodging a complaint concerning Villeneuve, which his predecessors as king and emperor had conceded to God and the outstanding confessor and pontiff Saint Apollinaris from the tame of Charlemagne, including, most recently, his father, Boso, the most glorious of kings, and his mother, the most glorious Ermengard, along with our said lord the most glorious of emperors, who had presented it to Saint Apollinaris, the extraordinary confessor of Christ, through a royal precept. The famous duke and margrave Hugh [of Arles] held the said Villeneuve wrongfully, and had alienated it from God and Saint Apollinaris.

The aforesaid duke and margrave, hearing the outcry of this pontiff, was struck by piety, and through the command of our lord the emperor and through the counsel of the bishops and through the judgment of the counts, the nobles, and his other followers, restored this land to God and Saint Apollinaris through his wadium, promising that he would never in future be negligent concerning it.

Hearing this, the lord emperor restored that land to the aforesaid bishop through a stick which he held in his hand, ordering that his deeds and the precepts of his predecessors as king and emperor should in God’s name endure for all time.

But that it might be believed by everyone and that the aforesaid estate might never be harassed by anyone, that most glorious of emperors commanded this document to be made and confirmed it with his own hand and commanded that it be strengthened by his followers and ordered it be signed with his signet.

Sign of Louis, most serene of august emperors. Alexander, humble bishop of the holy church of Vienne, confirmed this document. S. Isaac, humble bishop of the holy church of Grenoble. S. Theodulf, consecrated bishop of the holy church of Embrun, confirmed this. S. Hugh, famous duke and margrave. S. Count Boso [of Arles]. S. Count Adelelm, S. Boso his son. S. Gozelm.

Theudo the notary composed this document at the command of Archbishop Alexander of Vienne, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 912, in the 15th indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of our lord Emperor Louis.

Enacted at Vienne.

Happily in the name of God.

cathédrale Saint-Apollinaire
The apse of Valence Cathedral in modern times (source)

My strong suspicion is that this is a Scheinprozess, a fake trial designed to show Remigiar of Valence’s title to the land in a court situation. Hugh of Arles (for it is he) was the most important man in the kingdom, and I don’t think he could have been forced to hand over the land if he didn’t want to. That he is presented as doing it out of his own piety is important here. Although Remigiar makes his complaint to the king, it’s Hugh who hears it – unlike previous cases we’ve seen, there’s no attempt to make a defence, simply an acknowledgement of the duke’s own piety. We know from other sources, notably the Vita Apollonaris, that Remigiar and Hugh were collaborators during this period, so it’s likely that the two men were colluding to confirm the land in the church’s possession.

In fact, the Miracula Apollonaris’ formula for Hugh’s role at this time, ‘ruling the commonwealth under Emperor Louis’ is itself remarkable. This charter shows the remarkable degree of consensus Louis’ regime had built up – we have the most significant figures of the realm here, from north and south, and even – in the person of Theodulf of Embrun – from the mountainous regions to the east. Most – we’ll talk about some exceptions in future, but most – of the great magnates of Louis’ kingdom seem to have been quite happy with his regime. (This is, incidentally, a useful refutation of the idea that Carolingian government had to be itinerant to be effective.) No-one cared that the emperor had no clothes – well, no eyes – because royal rule was going along perfectly well anyway.

Charter A Week 35: Acquiring A Larger Inheritance

911 was a busy year. In that year, traditionally, Charles finally came to an agreement with the Viking leader Rollo, officially handing over to him the city of Rouen and the neighbouring districts. This was to go on to have long-term implications, but what everyone at the time was probably more concerned about was the other big event: the death of King Louis the Child.

Louis’ death came at an unstable time in his own reign. Evidence is short, but it appears that the magnates of Lotharingia had risen up in rebellion against him, and this was still ongoing when he died. The question was open: who would be king now? The new East Frankish ruler, Conrad, made a game effort, but the eventual winner was Charles the Simple.

This gain tends to be massively under-rated by historians. Charles gained and held control of Lotharingia. No West Frankish ruler had successfully done this ever. Charles the Bald had tried and failed; but Charles the Simple, in the face of active opposition, managed to defeat a military rival and build a functioning coalition of governance in his new realm.

How’d he do it? Well, this is the kind of thing it involved:

DD CtS no. 68 (20th December 911, Cruzy-le-Châtel) = ARTEM no. 356 = DK 7.xxvi

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by the gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks, vir illustris.

As often as We make reasonable provision for the advantages of churches and the convenience of those who serve God, We are totally confident that this can benefit Us both in the salvation of both body and soul, and as well the stability of the whole realm bestowed on and conserved for Us by God.

As such, We wish the vigour of all of Our followers, not only present but also future, to know that the venerable man bishop Stephen of the holy church of Cambrai, approaching Our Magnificence, indicated to Us that the clerics of his said see held certain goods of the same bishopric consigned to their victuals, concerning which they had also once held a royal precept by the largess of King Zwentibald. But, when the same city burned down, the precept was also consumed by the hungry flames.

On the business of this matter, therefore, he humbly supplicated Our Piety that We might by Our munificence make good the loss of the old edict, which We in turn quite freely agreed to do for love of God and the brothers serving God therein, and We commanded that this authority should be renewed to them and for them for their protection. We therefore order and proclaim that the aforesaid clerics of the church may freely and at will concede amongst one another their houses which they have in the city to whomever they wish within the congregation of the same place, by no less than hereditary right, whether through sale and purchase or through exchange or simply through a gift.

Furthermore, let both the current clerics and their future successors in the same place now and henceforth in perpetuity hold and possess the monastery’s territory which is outside the town, and equally the villas consigned to their uses, to wit, in the district of Cambrésis, Carnières, Viesly, Cateau, Montigny, Gouzeaucourt, Gondrechies; plus Onnaing in the county of Hainaut; Thorigny in Vermandois, Carseuil in the Soissonnais as well, together with bondsmen of both sexes, with lands cultivated and uncultivated, meadows, waters and watercourses, mills, fields, and everything pertaining the brothers’ aforesaid goods, having power as if by hereditary right to do with them whatever they justly choose by common decree through unanimous consent.

If, though, someone hostile to this Our decree (which We little imagine) might strive to inflict any injury no matter how little, let them be judged culpable of a 600 shilling fine, in such a way that two parts of it should fall to the brothers of the same place, and the king’s fisc should receive the third; and in addition let them be unable to vindicate what they have iniquitously struggled towards, so that no-one might presume to usurp anything of this sort again.

And that the authority of this edict might perennially obtain inescapable vigour, We strengthened it with Our own hand, and We commanded it be adorned with the worth embellishment of Our ring.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Hugh, notary of royal dignity, underwrote and subscribed this on behalf of Archbishop Heriveus.

Given on the 13th kalends of January [20th December], in the 14th indiction, in the 19th year of the reign of the most glorious king Charles, in the 14th year of his renewal of the kingdom’s unity, and in the 1st year of his taking-up of a larger inheritance.

Enacted at the villa of Cruzy-le-Châtel.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 35 911
The original diploma, taken from the Diplomata Karolinorum as given above. 

There’s a big burst of diplomatic activity in 911 and 912, and the recipients are from quite a wide spectrum of grandees. This is Bishop Stephen of Cambrai, but there are also acts for the major lay magnate Reginar Long-Neck, Bishop Drogo of Toul, Bishop Stephen of Liège, Count Ricuin of Verdun, and Count Berengar of Lommegau. The major absence here is Archbishop Ratbod of Trier, who doesn’t appear in Charles’ entourage until 913; but this is a fairly long list of Lotharingia’s great and good.

Some of them, like Reginar Long-Neck and Stephen of Liège, Charles had close prior contacts with. Others, like Stephen of Cambrai, appear to have been quickly brought into Charles’ circles with rewards such as this confirmation diploma. Charles distributed access to his presence fairly evenly over Lotharingia, and this reaped rewards.

Not the least of Charles’ rewards was getting to call himself king in Lotharingia (although not king of Lotharingia), and we can see in this charter that there has been a quite important shift in his diplomatic. There are a couple of elements here I’d like to pick out. The first is that he has assumed the title of vir illustris, an old Roman senatorial title. Charles probably wasn’t claiming specific continuity with Rome so much as with his Carolingian and Merovingian ancestors. Tenth-century figures knew that vir illustris was an important rank and an old one. With that said, Charles dropped it fairly quickly, and it was ‘king of the Franks’, rex Francorum, which persisted. This was also explicitly backwards looking. As we’ve seen, until now kings in royal diplomas have tended to be simply entitled rex, king. Now, by hearkening back to the earlier Frankish rulers, Charles was (probably, this is disputed) trying to assert his overlordship over the whole Frankish world.

The absence of evidence for the 910s is a pain. Make no mistake, after the acquisition of Lotharingia, Charles probably was the most powerful man in the Frankish world, by quite a large margin. His two competitors, Berengar I of Italy and Conrad I of Germany, ruled territories racked by civil war and Saracen and Magyar invasions. Having beaten out his rivals and settled the Norman problem in the West, Charles was at the height of his power; and it’s a shame we can’t see how that worked in his relations with his neighbours.

Charter A Week 34: Saint-Julien de Brioude, and Who’s King, Again?

Here’s a fun one! Last time we saw William the Pious it was seventeen years ago, and there was nothing particularly surprising about the diplomatic. Now, however, things have changed, and so…

Cartulaire de Brioude no. 51 (12th May 910)

In the name of God on High. William, by grace of God duke and margrave of the Aquitanians.

If We lend the ears of Our Serenity to the just petitions of loyal men, We tender the commerce of Our largess and beneficence.

And thus, We wish to make it known to all those administering the care of the holy Church of God, both present and future, and as well Our successors, and all Our followers, that Our faithful priest, named Erlebald, came and humbly sought that We might exchange with him certain lands from the domain of Saint-Julien de Brioude pertaining to Erlebald’s own benefice.

We did not refuse this, having consulted Our followers, that is, Heraclius and Stephen and Prior Eldefred and Dean Nectard and the other canons of the same place.

And thus, We gave the aforesaid Erlebald in right of property one field next to the township of Brioude from the goods of Saint-Julien formerly pertaining to his benefice, which are bordered on the upper and lower sides by land of Saint-Julien, on the other two sides by streets. Within these borders, We exchanged the said field in right of property, that he might have, hold and possess it and in everything do whatever he wishes.

In recompense for this give, We received from Erlebald’s own allod for the part of Saint-Julien four fields in that area. One of these is bordered on two sides by comital land, on the third side by the land of Saint-Jean, and on the fourth by public streets. Another field is bordered on three sides by land of Saint-Julien,  and on the fourth by public streets. The third field is bordered on two sides by public streets, on the third by comital land, and on the fourth by land of Saint-Julien. The fourth field is bounded on three sides by comital land, and on the fourth by a public street.

Within these aforesaid brothers, We received these fields from Erlebald’s allod for the part of Saint-Julien, that the ruler of Saint-Julien might from this day forth hold them and do in everything whatever he wishes, as Erlebald may do with that which We exchanged with him.

So that this exchange, which now seems very useful and pleasing to both sides, might endure for all time firm and stable, I confirmed it below with my own hand and I wanted it to be signed by the hands of other men.

I, Erlebald, recalled this charter made by me. Witnessing were Heraclius, Stephen, Robert, Abbo.

Enacted on the fourth ides of May [12th May], in the twelfth year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple], prince of the Franks and Aquitanians.

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A twelfth-century fresco from Saint-Julien. (source)

This is a royal diploma. Well, it’s not quite, but it’s pretty close. (In fact, it’s got some close intertexual links to a diploma of Odo for Clermont Cathedral.) It’s a fairly direct parallel to the acts of King Alan the Great of Brittany, really – quasi-royal, in a fairly exact sense.

This is a fairly exalted status claim for an aristocrat to be making. What’s going on? Well, partly Aquitaine does have more experience than much of the rest of the kingdom of quasi-royal rulers. For a big chunk of the ninth century, Aquitaine was ruled by sub-kings, kings who weren’t “proper” kings, or kings in the fullest sense of the word. William must be pulling on that tradition here.

On the other hand, it’s also much more pointed. Evidence is, as you can probably imagine by now, slim; but it looks like Charles the Simple is making a major effort at this time to push his influence in Berry. A charter of 912 refers to the abbot of Saint-Sulpice in Bourges as having been appointed by royal largess, and in the foundation charter for the abbey of Cluny (which was issued in the same year as this one for Brioude), William explicitly excluded the king from interfering with the abbey. It looks as though Charles was pushing his way into northern Aquitaine successfully enough that William was bringing out the big ideological guns to remind his followers that he, not Charles, was the person you had to go to in the region…

Charter A Week 33: Clearing Up a Deposed King’s Messes

It’s a quiet year in Charles the Simple’s kingdom. (Actually, in June of this year there’s a prominent Church council held at a place called Trosly, but I didn’t think of that far-enough in advance to put it up as a source translation. We may get back to it anyway.) Given this, we haven’t turned our attention eastwards for a while, not really since the death of Zwentibald. As it happens, though, his legacy is still a live issue:

DD LtC no. 70 (9th November 909, Ingelheim)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Louis, by ordinance of divine grace king.

Every time We succour the needs of holy churches of God with the defence of regality, We imitate the custom of Our ancestors and We believe without hesitation that this will profit Us in securing aid in the present age and the prize of future blessing.

Wherefore let the prudent knowledge of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, present and future, know for certain that the venerable archbishop Hatto and Gebhard approached Our Highness and recounted how Our brother Zwentibald, after the magnates of the kingdom of Lotharingia deposed him from the government of the realm, gave a certain property to a man named Roing, which Roing afterwards consigned in whatever way to the resources of the canons dwelling in the place named Chèvremont. And when the aforenamed count scrutinised such an act, he brought it to Our ears and, with the aforesaid pontiff Hatto, he sought that We might confirm the same goods for the aforenamed canons through a precept of Our authority for the salvation of Our soul.

We, freely acquiescing to their petition, concede and confirm the aforesaid goods, sited in the county of Liège, and the place named Mortier, with all their appendates, as the said Roing is seen to have held them up to the present, for the resources of the said canons henceforth, that is, with a demesne and a church with 12 other manses, cottages, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, cultivated and uncultivated land, waters and watercourses, mills, fisheries, passable and impassable land, roads out and in, incomes claimed and to be claimed, mobile and immobile goods, and bondsmen of both sexes residing there; establishing and enacting strenuously that the aforesaid canons should have, hold and possess them by ecclesiastical custom from this day for their portion of the abbey’s resources (mensa), and delight to become remembrancers of Us because of it.

And that this present precept of Our largess and confirmation might be more truly believed and more diligently observed through times to come, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our seal.

Sign of lord Louis, most serene of kings.

Theodulf the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and Archchancellor Ratbod [of Trier].

Given on the 5th ides of November [9th November], in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 910, in the 13th indiction, in the 10th year of lord Louis.

Enacted at Ingelheim.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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Chèvremont today. I have actually been here – the church is nineteenth century, but it’s a big darn hill… (source)

My commentary this week is going to be pretty short, but this charter has some unusual features. The first is that Zwentibald’s kingdom is now, apparently, ‘Lotharingia’, none of that ‘that some men call Lothar’s business’ of previous years. The second is that Louis’ court is apparently chill with Zwentibald having been deposed. Admittedly, this is probably because it ultimately worked out in Louis’ favour; but it definitely goes against the idea that you’ll see occasionally that the Carolingians don’t really know how to deal with deposition.

The final thing is that Zwentibald’s gift to Roing apparently took place after his deposition, whilst he was a man on the run. I get the feeling from this charter that Roing was a little unsure of his tenure: the ‘consigned in whatever way’ makes me think that he’s handed the land off to Chèvremont in the hope that with their backing he’ll be less vulnerable that he’d be by just himself… In any case, the presence of Gebhard of Lotharingia and Archbishop Hatto of Mainz shows that he’s firmly back in Louis’ good graces. Still, apparently even ten years later trying to re-integrate Lotharingia as a political unit is apparently an ongoing process.

Charter a Week 32: Running a Court in Governmentalised Neustria

This week’s theme was originally supposed to be dealt with about twenty-six years – erm, five months – ago, in 882. But, it turns out there were some cool royal diplomas and it would have duplicated this week’s material anyway, and so we’re dealing with it now. I’ve mentioned before that in the later part of the ninth century, Charles the Bald and his point-man in Neustria, Hugh the Abbot, engaged in a process of calcifying and formalising the hierarchies of what had previously been a chaotic atelier of civil war. Robert of Neustria inherited their efforts, and as of the middle of Charles the Simple’s reign, they’re still going:

ARTEM no. 1434 (23rd June 908, Tours)

A notice of how and in what way the power of Saint-Martin de Marmoutier – that is, Dean Erlald and Dodo, levite and precentor, representatives in court – came and issued a complaint on behalf of all the brothers that lord Robert, levite and treasurer from the flock of the basilica of the blessed Martin and also a canon of the aforesaid Marmoutier, held one of their meadows, sited in the district of the Touraine in the place which is called Mercureuil, against their will. Lord Robert, though, diligently investigated and examined the complaint which had been raised, and found in this regard that the brothers of Marmoutier’s complaint was very true.

Wanting not to work against them anymore, he then made restoration. Coming, then, to the public gathering-spot (locus accessionis) with Adelelm, by then dean of the same flock, and Deacon Dodo, and Ingelger the priest, he quit that meadow before them, and declared before everyone that he would not hold it anymore.

However, Amalric, attorney (legislator) and ruler of the gatehouse of the basilica of Saint-Martin immediately asserted that lord Robert should neither make that meadow over to them nor litigate with the brothers over it; and he wished to reclaim it for the work of the gatehouse which he held. Yet with the brothers immediately contradicting him over that meadow, Amalric sent his followers – that is, Wichard and Erlo and Martin, who wanted to acquire that meadow for their benefice, which they held from the aforesaid gatehouse – to make diligent inquiries into the matter amongst their own cottars and see that they had not unjustly stolen the meadow from the brothers.

They, shaking down their own cottars, found no-one who dared to go either to judgement or to oath in the matter, because everyone knew that the brothers’ complaint was very just.

The aforesaid Adelelm, priest and dean of the aforesaid Marmoutier, and Deacon Dodo and Ingelger the priest, who had first brought this case forward on behalf of the brothers, went on the 9th kalends of July [23rd June] to the city of Tours, on the wall on the side of the Loire, to the assembly which thereupon, before Viscount Theobald [the Elder], and Walter and Fulcrad and Corbo, royal vassals, and all the aforementioned of both orders, accepted their right. Present there as well was lord Peter, sacristan of the aforesaid monastery, with other brothers, who had there legitimate and worthy and very truthful witnesses from amongst their own cottars, that is, Rainfred, who the local headman at the time when that meadow, through God’s judgement, had previously been proven in the work of Saint-Martin de Marmoutier, and Adalher and Gerald, also Robert, who was now local headman, and Adalgis, who undergo God’s judgement [i.e. undertake an ordeal] at any time to come. All of them once more were prepared to undergo God’s judgement and swear oaths.

Seeing this, the aforesaid followers of Amalric dared to receive neither a second judgement of God atop the first, nor an oath. Rather, they quit the aforesaid complaint and judgement and oath and also the meadow before everyone, in the same place and assembly.

Concerning which, the brothers found it necessary to receive a notice about this sentence, lest anything be shaken up again about this claim, which they commanded them to make and confirm immediately, through the undertaking of everyone.

These people were present when the act was enacted:

Robert, dean and custodian of the basilica of Saint-Martin and an unworthy canon, subscribed. Viscount Theobald confirmed this. Walter confirmed this. Ebalus the vicar confirmed this. Dean Erlald confirmed this. Dodo the levite subscribed this. Fulcrad confirmed this. Ingelger the priest subscribed this. Corbo, a proven vassal, confirmed this. Adelelm the priest confirmed this. Amalric the attorney, who then made restoration, confirmed this. Wichard confirmed this. Herlend confirmed this. Martin confirmed this.

Given on the 9th kalends of July [23rd June], in the year of the Lord 908, in the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

I, Gozlin, a priest of the flock of the blessed Martin and master of the school, wrote and subscribed this.

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The original charter, from ARTEM, as linked above.

So, important things to note. First, despite how it’s described (and in Latin, the words used to talk about Erlald and Dodo there are quite formal), the initial complaint to Treasurer Robert appears to have been done informally. Erlald, Robert’s nominal superior, showed up and told him that he was holding some of Marmoutier’s property wrongfully, and this appears to have been settled amicably out of court.

It is only when Amalric gets involved that things go to trial. This makes sense, really: as we’ve talked about before, Amalric is a lawyer. The court itself is constituted in the way we might expect. It’s the local vassi dominici, overseen by the viscount – this is how other Neustrian courts run at this time. In fact, the viscount running things seems to be a policy decision. I can point you at a charter from 895 where the marchio is actually there, but it’s the viscount still in charge of the mallus court.

Despite its dry and legalistic tone, the notice that survives is a parti pris record of what must have been more colourful events. Amalric’s men allegedly, even after some light intimidation, can’t find anyone willing to act as a witness for their side; but the thing still goes to court. There, two interesting things happen. First, apparently neither side’s witnesses are enough on their own. Second, and relatedly, the whole things seems to have turned on a previous ordeal, and this is what ends the trial now: Marmoutier evidently won the last time, and the other side aren’t quite willing to try again.

On the gripping hand, note that we have this charter but not a record of the first ordeal. It’s possible that it just wasn’t written down. It’s also possible that this, second, contest got preserved because it was seen as less ambiguous than the first (the first one, after all, was demonstrably subject to challenge). It’s also also possible that it just seems that way because the canons of Saint-Martin got to write the charter…

What is important, though, is that dry and legalistic tone. No matter how informal, how compromised, or how morally-weighted the actual events were, the people of governmentalised Neustria knew that this is how you wrote down disputes. Government, in this sense, happened by portrayal rather than by action.

Charter A Week 31: Ring Out Those Wedding Bells

By this point, things are going well for Charles. He’s been undisputed king for coming on a decade, the last major Viking raid was four years ago, relations with his cousin Louis seem pretty OK, most of the major magnates are on board (apart from the Aquitanians, who were never really all that on board with any of the West Frankish Carolingians anyway). There is one major question, though: who will succeed him?

DD CtS no. 56 (19th April 907, Attigny)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by the gracious favour of divine clemency king.

If We follow the customs of ancient kings and imitate the habits of the fathers who came before and benignly receive the counsels of Our followers, We far from doubt magnify royal honour, and We indubitably believe that this will benefit Us.

Hence, let it be learned by all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, present and future that when We and Our counsellors were dealing with the realm’s affairs, they brought to Our attention Our marriage, saying usefully that it would be suitable if a worthy spouse were at the royal side, from whom, by God’s largess, a breed of sons might proceed, for the whole realm’s benefit.

And thus, incited by their admonitions and persuaded by their counsel, We joined to Ourself in the bond of marriage a certain girl from a noble bloodline, named Frederuna, only insofar as by the common consent of Our followers, with God, as We believe, co-operating, in accordance with the laws and states of those who came before, and We established her as consort of the realm.

Wherefore, disposing to enrich her, by royal custom, from Our own goods, We concede to her two fiscs, to be constantly possessed in the name of dowry and disposed of at will, that is, Corbeny in the county of Laon, with the cell which is named in honour of the blessed apostle Peter, where the body of the confessor of Christ Marculf rests; and one church in Craonne; moreover Ponthion, in the district of Perthois, on the rivers Sault and Brusson. We present both through this present authority and We transfer them from Our right into her right and property and dominion and We consign them to be held perpetually.

Wherefore, We commanded this edict of royal munificence be made and given to Our said beloved spouse Frederuna, through which We order and in ordering command that she should perpetually have, hold and possess the aforesaid fiscs, to wit, Corbeny and Ponthion, as they are presently seen to pertain to Us, in their entirety, that is, with the aforesaid churches and bondsmen of both sexes, lands cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, woods, meadows, pastures, waters and watercourses, mills, fisheries, mobile and immobile goods, roads in and out, and all legitimate borders justly and legally pertaining to it; and let her have the firmest free power in everything to do whatever she wishes henceforth.

But that this dowry of Our largess and corroboration of concession might obtain continual vigour of firmness, having been confirmed below with Our own hand, We ordered it signed with Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Ernust the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Bishop Anskeric [of Paris].

Given on the 13th kalends of May [19th April], in the 10th indiction, in the 15th year of the reign of lord Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 10th his restoration of the kingdom’s unity.

Enacted at the palace of Attigny.

Happily in the name of God, amen, amen.

I’ve put down my thoughts on Charles and Frederuna’s relationship elsewhere. I do think that no matter what the political motives were which lay behind it, it eventually grew into a genuine bond of affection. I also think that the purely political motives are fairly subdued. Frederuna’s family appears to have been respectable, but not one of the first-rank magnate families – a brother became bishop of Châlons, she may have had another brother who became archbishop of Trier but this is at best unproven – so an alliance with her relatives is unlikely to have been very significant. It may just have been that she was pretty enough, noble enough, and of the right age to be fertile, exactly like the diploma says.

Whatever the motivation behind the match itself, Charles pulled out all the stops celebrating it:

DD CtS no. 57 (21st May 907, Le Gros Dizy)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by the gracious favour of divine clemency king.

If We devote the influence of Our Munificence to sacred places given over to divine worship, We are in every way confident that it will benefit Us both in prosperously passing through the present life and in more happily obtaining perpetual life.

Wherefore, let the religiosity of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, present and future, that Anskeric, venerable bishop of the town of Paris, approaching the presence of Our Serenity, recounted in a happy voice before the presence of Our followers that the church of Notre-Dame, that is, of the aforesaid town, over which the same bishop is recognised as presiding, was nearly destroyed by Northman attacks and reduced almost to nought by their habitual cruelty.  Hence, through the intervention of certain princes attending on Our presence, that is, Our most beloved spouse Frederuna and as well Our beloved Abbess Gisla [of Nivelles], and the venerable Count Robert [of Neustria] and Countess Adele [his wife], moreover Counts Altmar [of Arras] and Erchengar [of Boulogne], and Robert, beloved of Us, he humbly sought that We might deign to concede as compensation for the forsaken church the abbey named Saint-Pierre de Rebais and once named Jerusalem, sited in the county of Meaux, which the same bishop is recognised to have held until now in benefice, through a precept of Our authority, so that it might be sustenance for the same bishop and his successors, by which they might be able to fulfil more freely the duties of Our service.

Therefore, knowing the counsels of the aforesaid princes to be sound, We acquiesced to their beneficent requests, and by the common consent of Our followers, We concede by royal authority the said abbey of Saint-Pierre, by which it might become a perpetual support for the church of Notre-Dame of the town of Paris alone and the bishops of the same place. Wherefore We commanded this precept of Our authority be made and We commanded it be given to the said church of the blessed Mary through the hand of the bishop of the same place Anskeric, through which We transfer the aforesaid abbey into his right and dominion, and We concede it to be perpetually possessed in its entirety, and with all legitimate borders justly and legally pertaining to it, on the terms that the aforementioned bishop Anskeric and as well his successors should constantly have, quietly hold, securely possess and freely dispose of the aforesaid goods, and have the firmest quiet power in everything to do whatever they want for the common advantage of the church.

And that this concession of Our authority might be held more firmly and be conserved for all time by Our successors and in God’s name obtain continual vigour of firmness, We confirmed it below with Our own hand, and We commanded it to be sealed with Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Ernust the notary witnessed on behalf of Bishop Anskeric.

Given on the 12th kalends of June [21st May], in the 10th indiction, in the 15th year of the reign of lord Charles, most glorious of kings, and the 10th of his restoration of the kingdom’s unity.

Enacted in the estate of Le Gros Dizy.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

As I’ve said before, this is a nice little family portrait of the great and the good of the realm. It might not even be everyone there. We know from another diploma that Richard the Justiciar and his entourage were hanging around the royal court at this period, and it seems likely to me that they would have been there to celebrate the wedding. If they were – and, frankly in light of the people in the charter above, even if they weren’t – these acts display that Charles’ court still had a reasonable degree of pull in the kingdom at large.

Charter a Week 30: A Property Transaction in Three Acts

Technically speaking, I’m spoiling you today, because this week’s Charter A Week is in fact not one, but three charters. In fact, as you’ll see, that’s probably overselling them. Most medievalists are familiar with the concept of the chirograph, where two copies of the same charter are written on the same piece of parchment with the word chirographum in the middle which is then cut through so each party can have a copy of the transaction which can be compared against the other. Here, though, something more complicated is happening:

DD CtS no. 54 (7th September 906, Laon)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by the gracious favour of divine clemency king.

Whatever We confer by Our clemency on places given over to divine worship at the suggestion of Our followers, We should truly trust God to repay Us thereafter.

Therefore, let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, both present, to wit, and future, know that Our most beloved follower Robert, abbot of the monastery of the nourishing bishop and confessor of Christ Amandus, approaching Our Serenity, made known to Our Highness that he had sought from the monks of the aforesaid abbey certain of their goods, once given by that most blessed pontiff Amandus to his monks and confirmed for their particular uses by royal and imperial precepts, but needful and useful to him in Our service, sited in the district of Laonnais: that is, the cell which is called Barisis with everything pertaining to it, that they might concede the same goods to him in benefice for his lifetime alone. But lest his petition should seem absurd and burdensome, and lest he should hence incur the offence of God and His most dear of priests Amandus, and lest he be seen to inflict any harassment on the servants of God because of this act and lest in the course of receiving these stipendiary goods necessary resources fail them, insofar as it can be done, he requested from Our Mildness that We might consign from that abbey and from his demesne the estate which is called Dechy with all of the goods pertaining to it to their particular needs, and that We should deliver it up perennially from the present day to benefit their uses.

We proffered assent, thinking his request just and reasonable, and We commanded this precept of Our authority be made about this matter, and We gave it to the same monks, through which We enact and wish to firm in perpetuity that the said estate of Dechy, which We concede to them at present with everything pertaining to it, should be yielded forever to their demesne, and after the death of Our follower Robert, the cell of Barisis with everything legally pertaining to it should be recalled to their dominion without contradiction from any abbot.

In addition, We decree that whatever was bestowed on the same holy congregation by emperors and kings, Our predecessors, or any good people, in any districts or territories, as We previously confirmed in Our edict made for the same monks at the petition of Archbishop Fulk [of Rheims], should also in the same way now endure perennially undisturbed under the fullest tutelage of immunity.

And that this precept of Our Royal Majesty might obtain inviolable firmness, We confirmed it below with Our own hand, and We commanded it be sealed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Ernust the notary subscribed on behalf of Bishop Anskeric [of Paris].

Given on the 7th ides of September [7th September], in the 9th indiction, in the 14th year of the reign of Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 9th of his restoration of the kingdom’s unity.

Enacted at the castle of Laon.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

DD RR no. 46 (24th September 906, Saint-Amand)

In the name of God, Robert, abbot of the monastery of the nourishing bishop and confessor of Christ Amandus, to the beloved brothers of the same abbey.

We wish it to be known to many that I sought from you some of your goods, given by that most blessed pontiff Amandus to his monks and confirmed for your particular uses by royal and imperial precepts, but needful and useful to me in the service of our lord and master King Charles, sited in the district of Laonnais: that is, the cell which is called Barisis with everything pertaining to it, that you might concede the same goods to me in benefice for my lifetime alone. Because I wish to do nothing presumptuously or by force, as I ought not to, but rather having before my eyes the just judgement of God, and lest I incur the offence of His most holy and dearest priest Amandus, and lest I inflict any harassment on you thereby, I sought and accepted the aforesaid goods by a precarial grant in right of benefice.

And, lest in the course of receiving these stipendiary goods necessary resources should fail you because of this act, insofar as it can be done, I requested from the lord king Charles that he might despatch from that abbey and from Our demesne the estate which is called Decy with everything pertaining to it to your particular needs, and deliver it up perennially from the present day and confirm it to benefit your uses by a precept of his authority, that is, after an agreement had been confirmed between us that I should hold in usufruct, develop and improve the said goods which I accepted from you as long as I live, and not alienate or diminish anything from them; rather, I should endeavour in every way to add and improve therein whatever I can in any fashion, and each year I should have 12 pennies paid on the feast of Saint Amandus, which is the 7th kalends of November [26th October], in vestiture.

After my departure from this light, whenever God wills it, let the aforesaid cell of Barisis in its entirety be recalled to your dominion without contradiction from any abbot. No less should the estate of Dechy be held from this day without any prejudice under your dominion in perpetuity.

But in pursuit of firmness, we had two documents written, made in your manner, which We confirmed below with Our own hand, that they might endure stable and undisturbed, and We had them strengthened by the hands of good men.

Enacted at Elnon, in the monastery of Saint-Amand, in the 14th year of the reign of the glorious king lord Charles, on the day of the 7th kalends of October [4th September].

Sign of Abbot Robert.

[Column 1:] S. Bishop Robert [of Noyon]. S. Count Altmar [of Arras]. S. Count Odilard [of Laon]. S. Count Hilmerad. S. Count Richer [of Astenois]. Count Erlebald [of Châtresais].

[Column 2:] S. Ralph. S. Letrand. S. Eilfred. S. Frodo. S. Walter. S. Ingelmar.

[Column 3:] S. Hugh. S. Rainard. S. Madelgaud. S. Ermenfred. S. Rainald. S. Hagano.

I, Hucbald the notary, related and subscribed this.

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One of the surviving bits of Saint-Amand (source)

DD RR III.1 (24th September 906, Saint-Amand)

To the venerable in Christ Abbot Robert of the monastery of the nourishing bishop and confessor of Christ Amand, we, the brothers of the congregation of the same abbey.

We wish it to be known to many that you sought from us some of our goods, given by that most blessed pontiff Amandus to his monks and confirmed for our particular uses by royal and imperial precepts, but needful and useful to you in the service of our lord and master King Charles, sited in the district of Laonnais: that is, the cell which is called Barisis with everything pertaining to it – that is, Vallemont, Haidulphi cortis, Bouvincourt, Mactaldi cortis, Normezières, Fresnes, Pierremande, Mennessis, Cessières, Marcilly, Hauteville, Persicus – that is, that we might concede the same goods to you in benefice for your lifetime alone. Because you wish to do nothing presumptuously or by force, as you ought not to, but rather having before your eyes the just judgement of God, and lest you incur the offence of His most holy and dearest priest Amandus, and lest you inflict any harassment on us thereby, you sought and accepted the aforesaid goods by a precarial grant in right of benefice.

And, lest in the course of receiving these stipendiary goods necessary resources should fail us because of this act, insofar as it can be done, you requested from the lord king Charles that he might despatch from that abbey and from your demesne the estate which is called Decy with everything pertaining to it to our particular needs, and deliver it up perennially from the present day and confirm it to benefit our uses by a precept of his authority, that is, after an agreement had been confirmed between us that you should hold in usufruct, develop and improve the said goods which you accepted from us as long as you live, and not alienate or diminish anything from them; rather, you should endeavour in every way to add and improve therein whatever you can in any fashion, and each year you should have 12 pennies paid to us on the feast of Saint Amandus, which is the 7th kalends of November [26th October], in vestiture.

After your departure from this light, whenever God wills it, let the aforesaid cell of Barisis in its entirety be recalled to our dominion without contradiction from any abbot. And as well, let the estate of Dechy be held from this day without any prejudice under your dominion in perpetuity. And on the anniversary of your demise, a great feast shall be prepared from that estate of Dechy in memory of you, after solemn masses and offerings for you have been carried out.

But in pursuit of firmness, we had two documents written, made in the same manner, which We confirmed below with Our own hand, that they might endure stable and undisturbed, and We had them strengthened by the hands of good men.

Enacted at Elnon, in the monastery of the blessed Amandus in the 14th year of the reign of the glorious king lord Charles, on the day of the 7th kalends of October [4th September].

Prior Ricfred.

[Column 1:] S. Theobert the priest. S. Ageric the priest. S. Ludio the priest. S. Motgis the priest. S. Eligius the priest. S. Madalgar the priest.

[Column 2:] S. Stephen the priest. S. Hildebrand the priest. S. Rodualus the deacon. S. Magenard the priest. S. Gerard the deacon. S. Everbern the priest.

[Column 3:] S. Rather the priest. S. Mainer the priest. S. Blitgar the deacon. S. Dumher the deacon. S. Winebert the subdeacon. S. Lideric the subdeacon. S. Fredenod the subdeacon.

I, Hucbald the notary, related and subscribed this.

So what we have here isn’t an identical copy of an exchange: it’s both sides of a contract, confirmed by a royal diploma. This isn’t as odd as it sounds. There are a fair few Carolingian royal diplomas from the ninth century confirming exchanges, and if I had to guess I’d say that charters like those of Robert of Neustria and the monks formed the basis of those transactions but weren’t subsequently preserved because they weren’t as authoritative as a royal diploma. This raises interesting questions about why there were preserved, though. I can’t think of any other examples of this where we still have all the documents – perhaps some of my learned readers can help?

In any case, these charters are not just rare diplomatic birds, they also provide important insight into West Frankish politics at this point. The first thing to note is that, despite his by-name, Robert of Neustria – for it is he – wasn’t just limited to Neustria in terms of his power-base. Saint-Amand was an important abbey in the kingdom’s north-east, and as its abbot Robert was able to draw on its resources. Not, however, its ideological resources. Note that the scribes felt the need to reclad the transaction in appropriately royal garb for Charles’ diploma, but with Robert’s charter they just changed the pronouns from the monks’ own act. For one of the first so-called ‘territorial princes’, Robert’s authority is not visibly either territorial or princely…

Robert’s charter does, however, shed some light on the composition of the royal court. The witnesses there are all figures from the royal court rather than Robert’s own entourage. We’ve already met Odilard of Laon last week, and from our past and future narrative sources, we know that Altmar of Arras and Erlebald of Châtresais were Charles’ allies. What we seem to have here, then, are some of the more important people at Charles’ court at the time. The problem is, this isn’t a full snap-shot. We have a witness list full of – insofar as we can place them – entirely north-eastern figures, but the transaction is also taking place in the north-east, and the witnesses are thus probably being selected not just for prestige but for relevance. That is, there is probably a selection bias against people who don’t come from the area, meaning that although we can say that Charles appears fairly well-planted in the north-east, we can’t say he isn’t outside of that region. The witness list hides one other bit of foreshadowing, though. See that guy Hagano who susbscribes last in the third column? We’ll see him again in future…