Charter A Week 51/2: A Sad, Angry Gesture of Defiance

Acfred of Aquitaine was not a well man. When his brother died in 927, Acfred himself was in poor health. This is one of the reasons that, as we saw last week, Ralph of Burgundy was able to gobble up big parts of Acfred’s duchy. Still, Acfred might not have been able to carry on the fight he had begun the year before during the defence of Nevers, but he could still get his revenge from his sickbed, with a little bit of Deific help:

Sauxillanges no. 13 (11th October 927, Sauxillanges)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Acfred, by the bestowal of divine mercy duke of the Aquitanians.

Let it be known to all administering the care of God’s holy Church, that is, present and future, and as well all the famous men of the Earth that I, Acfred, a most humble servant of the servants of God, considering the disaster of human fragility, in order that the pious and merciful Lord might deign to mitigate something from the enormity of my crimes, both for myself and for my father Acfred and my mother Adelinda and my uncles William and Warin and my brothers Bernard and William and for all my kinsmen and followers and friends, restore a certain small portion to my Creator, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, from the land which He deigned to bestow through his bountiful clemency on my relatives and my most unworthy self, so that it might be built in His name, held in His honour, and governed under the shadow of His majesty, such that no count, nor bishop, nor abbot, nor any of Our progeny, or any mortal might dominate the same land, nor should the land be subject to any of the saints, nor to angelic spirits, but to the Lord alone, who lives and reigns in perfect Trinity, and the ministers allotted to the church therein should expect no protection and no ruler from saints or men. Nor should any judicial power presume to inflict any force on them or distrain them, or exact anything dishonest or unjust from them. Rather, let them serve God Almighty alone, and live in His name; and if they are questioned in any matter, let them make a claim through Him; and let the serfs and tenants who live on the land be subject to Him. If they are accused or questioned or rebuked, let them seek no other protector or governor except our lord Jesus Christ and the ministers of the church who are established therein at that time. 

In order that He who mightily created me from the mud of the Earth, clemently gave me the breath of life and mercifully restored me with the ruined world and gave me knowledge of Him and caused me, a sinner, to reach this age and conceded as much as pleased Him to me from His goods might know that I have restored to Him some small part of the land which He deigned to bestow upon me, and in honour of the twelve apostles who, obeying the Father’s command, believed in their heart and professed with their mouths His son, our lord Jesus Christ, I establish twelve monks therein, who should give unceasing praise to the Lord, the Creator of all, day and night, and humbly and devotedly beseech Him for the state of the Church and ask for mercy for Our sins and those of all Christians with many prayers. 

And thus let all the faithful men of the holy Church of God know that I restore to God, Creator of all, in the district of Auvergne, in the county of of Brioude and in Tallende, in the vicariate of Usson and in Ambron

  1. in the first place my indominical curtilage which is called Sauxillanges, with two churches, one constructed in honour of St Peter and the other in honour of St John the Evangelist, and my indominical house, and the indominical wood, and five mills with manses, fields, meadows, woods, vineyards, and and from all which beholds or is seen to behold to that curtilage, and all appendages which are seen to pertain to it, that is:
    1. in Gignat, one church constructed in honour of St Julian with everything pertaining to it; 
    2. and in Chargnat, a church constructed in honour of St Remedius, with everything pertaining to it; and four manses in that villa, with one shed;
    3. and in Brand, three manses and one house with a vineyard; 
    4. in Merdantio three houses with a close;
    5. in Vinzelette one house with a vineyard;
    6. in Lachaux, one house with a vineyard; 
    7. in Montaigner, one shed; 
    8. in Castellum, four sheds and a close; 
    9. in Usson, four manses with vineyards; 
    10. in Mons-Moriacus, two manses, two sheds;  
    11. in Brenat, two manses, one shed;
    12. in Montbenoit, five manses, four sheds; 
    13. at Le Say, three manses, three sheds; 
    14. at Illa Calma, one shed; 
    15. in Sacot, two manses, one shed; 
    16. in Jarrige, four manses, three sheds; 
    17. in Riberia, one shed; 
    18. in Genestogilla, two manses, one shed; Sperendeus has one manse; 
    19. at Mansionem-Guntardi, two manses; 
    20. at Mansionem-Baseni, two manses, two sheds; 
    21. at Le Montel, two manses; 
    22. in Le Picondry, two manses, four sheds; Balfred has two manses; Gozbert has one shed, Armand has one manse, Rodina has two manses, Dacbert one manse, Gadlindis one manse, the children of Sicbert, one manse, Siegfried, one manse, Gozbert, one shed; 
    23. at Le Theil, six manses, four sheds; 
    24. at Lemovicas, one manse, nine sheds; 
    25. in Charel, five manses, one shed; 
    26. in Illa Buffaria, one manse, three sheds; Benedict has one manse; 
    27. in l’Équinlerie, three sheds, Adalbert and Ingilbald have one sheds; Aldegaud, one shed; two sheds for the fishermen; Bernard, one shed; Peter, one shed;
    28. in Poius Lacpatricius, one shed;
    29. Victriarius, one shed;
    30. in le Cros, one shed; Ingirand has one shed;
    31. in Saint-Quentin-sur-Sauxillanges, two sheds with a church;
    32. between Condamina and Conros, twelve sheds;
    33. in Crizilonus, one manse, three day-labour’s worth of vines; 
    34. in Caldemaisons, one manse, one shed.

I, an unworthy and most wretched sinner, restore all the abovesaid in their entirety, cultivated or uncultivated, sought or whatever should be sought, with churches, manses, fields, meadows, woods, vineyards, curtilages, gardens, tree-plantations, incomes and renders, waters and watercourses, with mills, with male and female serfs pertaining to the same curtilage who are there now or who will, with the Lord multiplying, be born afterwards, to the Lord, just and a justifier of sinners, that everything might be governed and protected under the defence of His living name, and the monks established therein should bend the knee to Him alone, adore Him, invoke Him as their sole ruler, and that the serfs and tenants pertaining to it all should do the same. 

Moreover, I, a most unhappy man, beseech the mercy of God Almighty that He might grant to me that this same remain in His holy service and be ruled and governed under the protection of His name; and that after my death, in whatever way it please Him I should end my days, none of my heirs, whether son or daughter, if I have one, or any mortal, should presume to do anything because of what is written above. If anyone so presumes, let them know themselves traitors, and let them receive the judgement of damnation from the Lord for such presumption, with everyone looking on, and let them be delivered with Dathan and Abrion and as well with Judas the betrayer into the deepest inferno, and let all the curses which are contained in the Old and in the New Testament come upon them, because they, in present or in future, desire to twist these goods which are written above from God and His saints and the monks who desire to serve the Lord for the state of the world and the salvation of the living, unless they come to their senses and make amends and come to penitence and satisfaction. Let no-one now or in future attempt to do such things. 

And that this uncertain matter might obtain firmer vigour in times to come, I decided to confirm it below with my own hand, and let it be strengthened by the hands of other noble men.

Sign of Count Acfred, duke of Aquitaine, who asked this charter be made and affirmed. Sign of Viscount Robert [of Clermont]. Sign of Guy the listener. Sign of Viscount Dalmatius [I of Brioude]. Sign of Bertrand. Sign of Theotard. Sign of Matfred. Sign of Armand. Sign of Viscount William. Sign of Eustorgius. Sign of another Viscount William. Sign of Rigald. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Leotald. Sign of Erlebald, prior of the church of Saint-Julien de Brioude. Sign of Cunebert, dean of the same church. Warraco the priest was present. Sign of Gozbert.

Enacted on the 5th ides of October [11th October], at Sauxillanges, in the 5th year in which the unfaithful Franks dishonoured their king Charles [the Simple] and chose Ralph as their prince.

In Christ’s name, Ragenbert the priest, although unworthy, wrote this at Acfred’s command. 

1280px-Galeries_sud_et_ouest_de_l'ancien_monastère

There’s not a lot of Sauxillanges left, and it’s definitely not tenth-century. (source)

To start with, we need to comment on the diplomatic because this charter is not entirely kosher. The big list of properties there is a mid-tenth century estate survey document which has been bolted into the middle of the act, and its likely other parts of this charter were also touched up at a later date (Acfred being described as ‘duke of Aquitaine’ rather than ‘duke of the Aquitanians’ is a case in point.

This charter is yet another act where my analysis isn’t really going to add anything to Geoffrey Koziol’s, so I will simply summarize his arguments: Ralph and Odo had taken Cluny, the abbey of St Peter and St Paul, away from Acfred. Acfred, quite simply, refounded Sauxillanges without such extraneities, without celestial traitors, for God alone who, he hoped, would see the justice of his cause. (I might note that Acfred’s revenge was not simply going to be posthumous – he does still envisage the possibility of having children, so this isn’t quite a deathbed bequest.) With God on his side, and no-one else – no-one else was needed – the monks and dependents of Sauxillanges would prosper and so – please Lord? – would Acfred.

I would like, though, to make special note of the reference to Charles the Simple. William the Younger (insofar as we have his charters) didn’t do this, dating simply by Ralph. This is clearly something special Acfred picked out. (He clearly took the loss of Cluny personally.) Not that it would have helped Charles the Simple, though, not least because although I think Acfred plumped for this choice in a way William didn’t, the general sense is in the air. Even Ebalus Manzer of Poitiers, whom as we have seen was on generally good terms with Hugh the Great at the very least, was dating his charters by Charles’ reign at this point, and doing so in not terribly flattering terms towards the anti-Charles rebels. Even if Acfred had lived, therefore, Charles probably couldn’t have expected any help from him.

Acfred, though, died soon afterwards. The Guillelmid community in the Auvergne, as we have seen in a different context, persisted; but the Guillelmid family did not. Even worse (from Acfred’s point of view), charters for Sauxillanges continued to refer to it as the abbey of St John. Acfred’s rage against the dying light was, ultimately, futile.  

Charter A Week 51/1 – Dismembering Aquitaine

One disadvantage of the ‘Charter A Week’ format is that charters which are important but not prima facie interesting don’t usually make the cut. Last week is a case in point: there are  pair of related documents in the name of one Gerbald for the abbey of Cluny, which are by themselves not that interesting, but which reveal William the Younger, duke of Aquitaine, gathering his men – and Archbishop Anskeric of Lyon – about him as part of a rebellion he was launching against Ralph of Burgundy. One thing we didn’t cover when we looked at his first diploma is that the Aquitanians refused to play ball with Ralph for a while – that diploma was issued when he made a very carefully stage-managed visit to the Loire to receive William’s homage.

Part of the problem was that Ralph had been fighting William for years well before he became king. We know from various sources that Ralph and Robert of Neustria won and lost possession of Bourges several times in the years around 920. When Ralph became king, as I just said, this hostility carried over, with an extra dollop of ‘he’s really a usurper’ on top Thus, even after William submitted in 924, things were not well and warfare had broken out again by 926. Ralph led an army against Nevers, which was being held by William’s brother Acfred, and was intent on pressing further into Aquitaine until he had to turn and deal with rumours of an Hungarian invasion. The next year, though, William the Younger died.

His was not the only big-name death that year. Abbot Berno of Gigny, the first abbot of Cluny (amongst many other places) also died in 927. His will divided his abbeys between his nephew Guy and a rising star of the monastic world named Odo. Guy objected to the will and started muscling in on Odo’s position. Thanks to Odo’s papal connections, he was able to get a warning against Guy, but the pope’s response also put a burden of protection on King Ralph, pushing Odo and Ralph together.

Odo_Cluny-11

An eleventh-century image of Odo of Cluny. You know, for some reason I’d always imagined him clean-shaven. (source)

Thus the following:

D RR no. 12 (9th September 927, Briare)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pacific, august and invincible king.

Because it is certain that “God is mighty but despith not any” [Job 36:5], and indeed “without Him there is no power” [Romans 13:1], thus it is also clear that He will examine the works of the mighty, and because of this We should take great care that, since by His dispensation We are able to either help or hurt, We should subject Our potential completely to His will in order that it might do what will increase His holy Church’s honour.

Wherefore, let it be known to everyone, both kings and persons of other dignities, that is, either present or future, that William [the Pious], that great and magnificent man of his time,built through the hand of Berno [of Gigny], a certain reverend abbot, a certain monastery named Cluny in honour of the leading men of Heaven, to wit, Peter and Paul, and made this same place free from all worldly dominion under a great and terrible abjuration, and subjugated it to the Apostolic See to be protected (and not to be dominated).

We, rejoicing in his work and favouring what he established, establish through this precept of Our authority that the place – in accordance with what he decreed through a testament – should be completely free and absolved from disturbance and domination both from kings and from all princes, or kinsmen of the same William, and indeed of all men; that is should remain in the monastic order and be administered in accordance with the tenor of the testament which he made thereof; that the inhabitants dwelling there under the order of the Rule might elect for themselves from amongst themselves an abbot in accordance with the rule of St Benedict after Odo, whom Abbot Berno left for them; that they should possess their common goods, either those which they have now or those which will be acquired in future, to wit, whether they be from Our liberality or from the largess of anyone else, without domination or contradiction from anyone; that they should pay no toll on market days; that no-one should distrain their men, free or servile, against their will; that they should have their indominical tithes for the hospice; that they should hold the allod which Gerbald gave to the aforesaid monastery, and they should similarly claim Blanot with its appendages in perpetual right; that no-one should accept any produce-fee from woods where they have a part and from assarts except them; that they should also possess the curtilage which is called La Frette (which the aforesaid Berno, taking from Gigny, freely turned over to Cluny – for it was through him, actually, that each place was founded) on the conditions which he established, with the allod of the late Samson, and the bondsmen and manse which were Larvin’s, with perennial dominion.

Naturally, in accordance with the earnest entreaty which the aforesaid William prayed for, We too, in Christ’s name, command and appeal to God that it should never be subjected to any mortal through any kind of agreement, but that they should be permitted to live in accordance with the tradition which they are seen to hold in Our days. If they turn away from it, then by God’s judgement let them be preserved for correction of their rule, and let no donation made to God and the saints ever be taken back.

But that this constitution of Our precept might perpetually endure unbroken, We undersign it with Our seal and We command Our leading men to undersign it.

Sign of King Ralph.

Ragenard witnessed on behalf of Bishop Abbo [of Soissons].

Enacted at the estate of Briare, in the twelfth indiction, on the fifth ides of September [9th September], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation nine hundred and twenty seven, also in the fifth year of the reign of King Ralph.

This diploma is, first and foremost, targeted at Acfred. As Odo’s ally, Ralph had plausible deniability when it came to not exercising dominion over Cluny; Acfred did not, and this act makes a point of noting that as William’s kinsman he has no place at the abbey. Such a gesture is perforce more effective when it’s being issued by a king at the head of an army. At this point, Ralph was returning north from the Mâconnais proper, on his way to Berry where he would receive the submission of William the Pious’ old – if inconsistent – ally Ebbo of Déols. In one fell swoop, he had managed to detach both Berry and the Mâconnais from the Guillelmid family – a hefty chunk of land, and in the case of Mâcon a significant one, given how tightly embedded William the Pious had been there.

Of course, what you may well be thinking – especially given how many royal diplomas we’ve seen on this blog – is ‘what on Earth is happening with the diplomatic here?’ This is the first of a little series of diplomas written in a recognisably ‘Cluniac’ style. We’ve seen elsewhere that the question of Cluniac influence on kingship would become very vexed in the early eleventh century, but there is a case to be made that it was really the years around 930 when Cluny, or at least Abbot Odo (which is not quite the same thing), had the most influence on West Frankish kingship. The preamble to this diploma sets out a coherent, if brief, political theory which is both evidence for Odo’s attitudes to kingship and an explanation of his politics. A king needed to be the humblest of all, because he had the most potential to do either harm or good. Ralph, willing as king to prostrate himself before God (or, at least, to safeguard Odo’s interests, which was more-or-less the same thing), had legitimacy Acfred did not.

So what did Acfred think of this? For the first time in a while, this Charter a Week comes in two parts; and as further evidence of the increasing inapplicability of the name, we’ll see the second part next week.

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 1: A Duchy without A Duke, c. 920-936

Lately I’ve been writing up my paper for the ‘Revisiting the Europe of Bishops’ conference at Liverpool that you should all totally come to (although someone appears to have put my name on the list next to the respectable people), the which paper is all about revisiting the career of Bishop Stephen II of Clermont. In the process, though, I’ve discovered two things. The first is that Aquitanian history is really difficult. For all that with Flodoard of Rheims you occasionally need to read between the lines, he at least usually says something about a given year in the north-east of the kingdom; and at least Dudo of Saint-Quentin is reliably weird. The scraps of detail you have to pin together Aquitaine are another matter entirely. Possibly relatedly, the second thing I’ve discovered is that a lot of what’s been written on it is eyebrow-raising. In particular, you can’t take Christian Lauranson-Rosaz’s narrative on trust…* (Of course, you can’t take the one I’m about to propose now and over the next few weeks on trust either; this is explicitly a work-in-progress blog…) The ultimate question is how yer boy Steve got to be at the head of the Auvergnat network of fideles bound together in a community of prayer; but this context is pretty damn tricky. So, this is my attempt to reconstruct it, starting with the decades immediately before Stephen emerges.

So, let’s begin around 920. William the Pious, duke of Aquitaine, has recently died. His nephew William the Younger has taken over, and does a reasonable job of holding on to his uncle’s properties. He dies in 927, and his own brother Acfred takes over as duke, but only for about six months or so, as he dies shortly thereafter.

When exactly this was is the first problem. Our source for William’s death is the Annales of Flodoard, so that’s fairly good evidence; Acfred’s will was issued in October 927. The issue is that Acfred was in rebellion against King Ralph of Burgundy, and dated his will to show it, taking Charles the Simple as the real king and addressing Ralph as a fake. He also appointed Viscount Dalmatius of Brioude as one of his executors. But, Dalmatius had issued a charter in February 927 which was dated after Ralph’s reign. This is a disconnect. My solution: Dalmatius’ charter is misdated to the fourth rather than the fifth year of Ralph’s reign, and Dalmatius only accepted Ralph after Acfred died. So far, so simple.

After Acfred’s death, a lot of historians will tell you that there was a war in Aquitaine between the counts of Poitiers and Toulouse over who got to be duke of Aquitaine. (I read somewhere a suggestion that it might have been an ethnic conflict, which, what on Earth?!) This is not really supported by the sources. Flodoard refers to the ‘quarrelling Aquitanians’ in 931; but this is years after Acfred’s death and – importantly – the year after King Ralph has come down, crushed the Viking forces operating in Aquitaine, and made the Aquitanians submit to him. So I don’t think they’re arguing over some putative ducal succession, but over something else, perhaps Königsnahe. We don’t really know, to be honest. In any case, we have charters from both sides, and neither of them claims to be dux in their own documents. This wasn’t a problem for old-fashioned French historians, who could happily see this as being because the king hadn’t filed the paperwork yet; but given we now know that titulature was largely socially-determined (and, yes, you can parallel this with the title dux), it looks more likely that no-one was claiming to be Duke of Aquitaine, quite possibly because no-one cared – you only need to be ‘duke’ if there’s some reason to do so, after all; and it’s striking that although Acfred called himself dux (‘duke’), William the Younger didn’t.

In any case, there isn’t a duke of Aquitaine recorded until 936, which could be a function of the evidence, but I don’t think it is. Diplomas of Ralph after 931 refer to ‘Count’ Ebalus Manzer of Poitiers and Dalmatius of Brioude as a ‘famous knight’, and Flodoard says that ‘Prince of Gothia’ Raymond III Pons of Toulouse submitted to the king; so I think what happens is that we have three regions, Poitou, Auvergne and the south (Gothia), with only a loose connection between the latter two (Dalmatius intervened in a diploma for an abbey in Gothia). In 936, though, Raymond Pons of Toulouse is in Brioude for the foundation of the abbey of Chanteuges, titled as ‘duke of Aquitaine’. Dalmatius and the Auvergnians are there, but the count of Poitou is not.

f08-priorat_chanteuges-0333
Chanteuges today (source).

Why does Raymond claim the ducal title now? The probable answer has to do with the death of King Ralph. In his thirteen-year reign, a lot of things shifted politically, not least in relation to Aquitaine. William the Pious’ and William the Younger’s duchy, which had major investments in the north and west – Nevers, Bourges, Mâcon – was dismembered by Ralph. The ‘frontier’ between the authority of Raymond Pons (or, more practically, Dalmatius of Brioude) and everyone else is now a lot further south and east than it used to be. Ralph claimed Mâcon and Nevers, and the Robertians seem to have taken over suzerainty in a lot of northern Berry.  Now, moreover, the new king, Louis IV, has the Robertian ruler of Neustria Hugh the Great as his main support – basically his puppet-master, although this state of affairs won’t last for very long – and Hugh has claimed a new title, duke of the Franks, dux Francorum, which he alleges gives him a vice-regal position throughout the entire kingdom.

Mostly, I think that Raymond’s claim of the title of ‘duke of Aquitaine’ is defensive, a response to Hugh’s claim of being ‘duke of the Franks’ – he might be duke of the Franks, but he ain’t duke of the Aquitanians, he ain’t vice-regal in the kingdom of the Aquitanians, and he ain’t better than Raymond Pons of Toulouse.

On the other hand, there may be an element of opportunity. Things are in flux. This presents a practical threat to Raymond – it’s possible that figures in Transjurane Burgundy are nibbling around the edges of the Velay at this time – but it also presents an opportunity. The agglomeration of territory ruled by Ralph of Burgundy and before him his father Richard the Justiciar was a recent and wobbly creation, and there are hints than on Ralph’s death it started disintegrating. (But that’s another post!) Here, claiming the ducal title might enable Raymond to push his power outwards into the recently-lost western regions. Whether or not he actually did this… well, I think there are hints he might have done, but this is already over a thousand words, that’s including breaking the Burgundian crisis of c. 936 into another post, and we’re still a decade off of Bishop Steve. So I’ll stop here, and we’ll get back to this next time.

*Pleasingly, the late Professor Lauranson-Rosaz put large amounts of his work, including his big book, online at his Academia.edu page, which you can find through the link; so if you want to find what I’m reacting to, it’s there.