Source Translation: The Fragmentary History of Anjou

Fragmentum Historiae Andegavensis

I, Fulk, count of Anjou, who am son of Geoffrey of Château-Landon and Ermengard, daughter of Count Fulk [Nerra] of Anjou, and nephew of Geoffrey Martel, who was also the son of my grandfather Fulk and my mother’s brother, in the twenty-eighth year in which I held the consulate of Anjou and Tours and Nantes and Maine, wanted to set down in writing how my ancestors acquired and held their honour up to my time, and then about how I myself held the same honour, with the assistance of divine mercy.

Therefore, my ancestors, as my uncle Geoffrey Martel told me, were very valorous counts, and these are their names: first Ingelger, second Fulk the Red, his son; then Fulk, who is called ‘the Good’; afterwards, his son Geoffrey Grisegonelle. These four consuls held the honour of Anjou and snatched it from the hands of the pagans and defended it from Christian consuls. The first, Ingelger, had this honour from the king of France, not from the family of the impious Philip [I], but from the offspring of Charles the Bald, who was the son of Louis [the Pious], son of Charlemagne.

We cannot properly remember the virtues and acts of these four consuls, because they are so far away from Us that the places where their bodies lie are unknown to Us; but We can with those which are closer to Us, that is, those of my grandfather Fulk [Nerra], and of his father Geoffrey Grisegonelle, and of my uncle Geoffrey Martel.

Therefore, Geoffrey Grisegonelle, father of my grandfather Fulk, whose feats of prowess We cannot list, struck Loudun from the hand of the Count of Poitiers, and overcame him on the battlefield at Les Roches and pursued him all the way to Mirebeau. And he put the Bretons who came to Angers with a marauding army, the leaders of which were the sons of Conan, to flight. Later, he was with Duke Hugh [Capet] at the siege of Marçon, where the sickness from which he died took hold of him. His body was taken to Tours, and he was buried in the church of the blessed Martin.

His son Fulk succeeded him – that is, my grandfather – whose prowess was great and admirable. He, indeed, acquired the district of Maine and added it to the consulate of Anjou, and he built many castles on his land, which remained deserted and full of woods due to the savagery of the pagans. So, in the district of Touraine, he built Langeais, Chaumont, Montrésor, Sainte-Maure; in Poitou, Mirebeau, Moncontour, Faye, Montreuil, Passavant, Maulévrier; in Anjou, he built Baugé, Château-Gontier, Durtal, and many others it is a bother to name. He captured the castle of Saumur when Count Odo [II of Blois-Chartres-Tours] came to Angers with an army and set up camp in the salient between the city itself and the river Loire. Again, Fulk fought two very mighty field battles: one on the land of Conquereuil against Conan, the Breton consul, over the city of Nantes, which Conan wanted to take from him. The same Conan and a thousand of his knights perished in this battle. He fought the other battle, though, against the aforesaid very powerful count Odo on the river Cher, at Pontlevoy, in which battle the Count of Maine Heribert, who is called Wake-Dog, was with him, where, by God’s grace, he was the victor. He also built two abbeys: one in honour of Saint Nicholas next to the town of Angers, and the other at the castle of Loches, which is called Beaulieu, in honour of the Lord’s Sepulchre. He went to Jerusalem twice. On his second visit, he left this mortal coil, around the feast of Saint John, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord one thousand and forty. His body was taken to the aforesaid abbey of Beaulieu and buried in the chapter there.

His son, my uncle, that is, Geoffrey Martel, succeeded him, whose prowess and prudence in worldly affairs was substantial and whose reputation was praiseworthy throughout the kingdom of France. He was a knight in his father’s lifetime, and he led his young soldiery against his neighbours, and he fought two battles: one at Moncontour [actually Mont-Couër] against the Poitevins, where he captured the count of Poitiers; and the other against the Manceaux, where he similarly captured their count, who is called Herbert Bacon. He fought a war against his father, in which many evils were done, for which he was later very penitent.

But after his father left this life, as was said above, on the return from Jerusalem, he possessed his father’s land and the city of Angers and began a war against Count Theobald of Blois, that is, the son of Count Odo, and by the will of King Henry [I], he received the gift of the city of Tours from the king, for which reason afterwards the conflict (guerra) between him and Count Theobald deepened, and they committed it to battle between the town of Tours and the castle of Amboise [at Nouy], in which Theobald was captured with around a thousand of his knights. And thus he received the city of Tours and the castles around: Chinon and Ile-Bouchard and Château-Renaud and Saint-Aignan. But another part of the district of Touraine fell to him because his father had possessed it.

After that, he fought a war against William [the Conqueror], count of the Normans, who later acquired the kingdom of the English and was a magnificent king; also, with the Gauls and with the Berrichons and with William [the Fat], consul of the Poitevins, and with Viscount Aimeric [IV] of Thouars, and with Hoël [II], count of Nantes, and with the counts of the Bretons who held the city of Rennes, and with Hugh, consul of Maine, who quit his fidelity. Because of all these battles, and because of the valiant spirit which he displayed there, he was worthily named ‘Martel [the Hammer]’, as one who smashed his enemies to bits.

In the last year of his life, he knighted me, his nephew, in the city of Angers, on the feast of Pentecost, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord one thousand and sixty, and he committed to me the district of Saintois with the city of Saintes because of a certain conflict which he had with Peter of Didonne. I was seventeen years old when he made me a knight. After that, in the same year, King Henry died on the feast of the birth of Saint John [actually 4th August] and my uncle Geoffrey reached a good end on the third day after the feast of the blessed Martin [14th November]. The night before he died, he laid down all care for knighthood and worldly affairs, and was made a monk in the monastery of Saint-Nicolas, which his father and he had build with great devotion and supplied from their goods.

And thus he left his honour, which he had held securely and richly in great tranquillity and defended from foreign peoples, to be troubled with a certain tribulation, that is, by the arising of dissension over the same honour between me and my brother. When we had prolonged this tribulation , often conflicting and having truces sometimes, and I had also, by the command of Pope Alexander, freed my brother from the chains in which I held him, the same brother attacked me again, besieging one of my castles which is called Brissac. I rode out against him there with those magnates whom the clemency of God permitted me, and I fought with him on the battlefield, and there, by God’s grace, I overcame him, and he was captured and returned to me, and a thousand of his people with him. So then I got the city of Angers and Tours and the castle of Loches and Loudun, which are the chief places in the honour of the consuls of Anjou.

Therefore, I held that honour for twenty-eight years until the time I decided to write this document. If you want to hear what I did during those twenty-eight years, and in the other eight which preceded them, follow what I write and you will know what was done. But before I retell this, I want to recall certain signs and prodigies which came to pass in the last year of the aforesaid time, pertaining not only to our people but to the whole kingdom of Gaul, as affairs made manifest afterwards. At that time, indeed, stars fell from heaven to earth like hail. Many who saw them marvelled, and many were fearstruck. Following this sign came a great plague throughout the kingdom of France, and a very hard time where food was lacking. From this, in our city of Angers a hundred of our leading men died, and more than two thousand of the lesser citizens.

At the end of that year, as Lent was drawing near, the Roman pope Urban came to Angers and admonished the people that they should go to Jerusalem to fight the pagan people who occupied that city and the entire land of the Christians up to Constantinople. Then, in Lent, the church of Saint-Nicolas was dedicated by the pope, and my uncle Geoffrey’s body was moved to the chapter of the same church. The same apostolic man established and commanded by an edict that a public feast should be celebrated each year at Saint-Nicolas on the same date he had carried out the dedicated, and a seventh part of penances should be remitted for suitable people at that celebrations. Leaving there, he came to Le Mans and then to Tours; there, decrees were given to a venerable council in the middle of Lent, and afterwards he was crowned and led in solemn procession from the church of Saint-Maurice to the church of the blessed Martin. There, he gave me a golden flower which he bore in his hand, which I also, for memory and love of him, established would be ever defended by me and my successor, hosanna. After his departure, on the next Palm Sunday, the church of the blessed Martin burned down. But the pope went to Saintes and celebrated Easter there…


This post fulfils a promise. When I first put up the source translation page back in June, I ran a poll promising to translate something extra ‘this week’. ‘This week’ turned into ‘within the next twelve months’, but I have nonetheless done it! What we have here is a history which is purportedly, and per recent work likely actually, the memoirs of Count Fulk IV of Anjou from the latter part of the eleventh century. It is fragmentary because after the bit I’ve given you it breaks off into an account of the First Crusade and then breaks off entirely.

What interests me about this is the sense of identity Fulk has. People tend to see the count of Anjou as a ‘territorial prince’, but Fulk’s sense of Angevin identity isn’t attached to territory, because he’s very explicit about the shifting territorial fortunes of his family: he holds, as he saws, an honor comprising Anjou and Touraine and Nantes and Maine, but not defined by it. The continuity of the honor is separate from its territorial composition. It is, however, still something coherent. Note how Fulk talks about ‘foreign peoples’, meaning his neighbours from other French regions.

Now, Fulk is trying to do several things here. Not the least of them, as you may be able to tell, is to justify and to an extent cover up the particulars of his usurpation of his brother Geoffrey, whom he deposed and imprisoned. (He avoids, for instance, mentioning that Pope Alexander didn’t just command him to release Geoffrey, but also excommunicated him.) So at least in part Fulk is trying to write a history of glorious ancestors who ruled a coherent entity – they are great and I am like them – and so his portrayal of that entity as coherent fits his purposes. On the other hand, this was a longer process as well – Fulk was both exploiting and developing an ‘Angevin’ identity.

“Who made you count?”

It’s a good question, and one famously reported by Adhemar of Chabannes. King Hugh Capet was fighting Count Aldebert of La Marche, and, when they met, asked him “Who made you count?”, in an attempt to seize the moral high ground. Aldebert replied “Who made you king?”, and it is for that latter that the story is usually remembered, but the former question is perhaps more important. We have a reasonable idea of how Hugh Capet became king having previously been a duke, as it was described in reasonable detail by several sources. How someone becomes a count without coming from a comital lineage is a bit less clear.*

However, a nice little source snippet on this question fell into my lap recently. I was looking at the Vita, or biography, of St. Gerald of Aurillac, and had to deal with the arguments of Matthew Kuefler to the effect that the version most historians are familiar with was written not in the 920s by Abbot Odo of Cluny but after the year 1000 by… well, by Adhemar of Chabannes, actually. I think this is unconvincing, personally, and the question of countship relates to one of Kuefler’s key arguments. He argues (p. 51, as well as elsewhere) that Gerald is referred to as count of Aurillac, but there don’t appear to have been other counts of Aurillac, so this is anachronistic.

However, this rests on the – very Carolingian – assumption that comital office was acquired through administrative mechanisms, that is to say, that one was granted a countship by the king and thus legally became a count. This, though, is not what the text actually says. Key here is Book 1, chapter 27 (not exactly the most up-to-date edition, but the easiest to link to; there’s a translation of the whole thing here):

On the whole route, he was of the highest rank of nobility, and was famous everywhere for his piety and largess. When, therefore, the traders, as is their custom, were going between the tents and asking if anyone wanted to buy anything, some of the better ones came to the lord [Gerald’s] tent, and asked his servants if, perchance, the lord count (for so everyone called him) would command that cloths or spices be bought.

Key here is the ‘for so they called him line’, because what this indicates is that countship was not necessarily legal, but social. By the tenth century, a sufficiently noble, wealthy and powerful man of good repute could be called a count not because of any formal process, but because his social position was sufficient for him to be acknowledged as at the top rank of regional society. There are other examples of this – the early eleventh-century counts of Ponthieu, and I think something similar happens in the late tenth century with the counts of Ternois – but the best example is roughly contemporary with Gerald, in the case of Fulk the Red, count/viscount of Anjou.

Fulk had been made viscount of Anjou in the first decade of the tenth century, and in the context of the region, with its formal hierarchy of rank and relatively tight governance, I think ‘appointed’ is the right way to describe it. He appears in a charter of 929 issued in his own name as ‘count’ not ‘viscount’. Despite this, he signs charters of his superior, Hugh the Great, ruler of the Neustrian March, as ‘viscount’ up through into the 930s. What seems to be happening here is that, in an Angevin context, he was a sufficiently big player by 929 that he could reasonably and plausibly claim to be a count as a marker of his social status, but this did not yet look plausible on a wider stage.

In any case, a focus on the juridical aspects of being a count is potentially misleading here. Late- and post-Carolingian counthood could be flexible, not necessarily always claimed, and fundamentally a matter of social status not legal role.

*In Aldebert’s case, I assumed the answer Hugh intended was ‘the king, i.e. me’, referring to the comital office as royally-constituted. In poking around, I’ve found that Aldebert became count of Perigord (which is how Adhemar refers to him) after capturing and blinding his brother, so the intended answer may well have been ‘no-one’, in which case Aldebert’s response becomes a bit more pointed, given that Hugh gained the throne by imprisoning his predecessor’s uncle…

Top 10 Charters: The House Selection, pt. 1

Well, my list of the #top10charters has now come to an end, so here and in an upcoming post I’ll list them for posterity, and for those of you not following me on Twitter. It was a fun little experiment. What makes a charter top ten material is wildly subjective: some of them show interesting things about the way documents were used, others about specific historical moments, others about longer-term trends; some were the most elevated of politics, and others snapshots of individual life. Into this latter category falls:

No. 10: Adalelm the knight donates some land and a silver crucifix to the abbey of Fleury, 975.

“… I offer to our Lord and Saviour… an exquisite silver cross… with the wish and desire that He who, by his death hanging on the wood of the Cross, destroyed death and defeated the Devil might deign to wipe out the weight of my crimes…”

It goes without saying that the Cross has always been important for Christians, and this was no less true for tenth-century Christians. The abbots of Saint-Martin of Tours – who, by 975, had also been the Robertian rulers of Neustria for almost a century, and whose contemporary representative Hugh Capet was Adelelm’s lord and hosted the assembly at which this gift was made – had as one of the key visual representations of their authority the fact that they signed their documents, explicitly, with the sign of the Holy Cross. Nonetheless, Adalelm is doing something interesting here. He’s participating in a renewed Cross-focused spirituality, and he’s also picking up on an artistic trend for making large, monumental crucifixes, which at this time were becoming more common in the Ottonian empire. This was quite important for the Church in the area around Orléans – this 975 charter is actually the first evidence for monumental crucifixes in the Orleanais. And it was pretty substantial – thanks to a later description of it, it seems likely that this cross was made of about ten kilos of silver.

In light of the solemnity of the occasion, the charter offers a meditation on the role of the Cross in the salvation of mankind, and it’s this which makes it worthy of a spot on this list. The role of charters was to communicate information, but this information wasn’t just legal. A charter was as much a sermon as a notification of donation – in the charter, Adalelm communicates to the audience not just that he’s given Fleury some holy bling and land near Sens, but why he’s done it and how the sacrifice of Jesus works for him and the whole world.

No. 9: Albert III of Habsburg donates a hunting horn to the abbey of Muri, 1199.

“Let everyone who sees this horn know that Count Albert… enriched this horn with sacred relics…”

Photo by author.

As the picture indicates, this is not a single sheet of parchment, or a cartulary copy of a text. This is in fact an ivory horn. But it is no less a charter – the text inscribed on it uses the formulae of charters, albeit in this case of a short charter. What’s particularly interesting about this one is that the donation and the text recording it are identical. This isn’t how we use documents nowadays, but it was much more common in the earlier medieval period. At least in some cases, the issuance of a (parchment) charter text served itself as a symbol of the donation, aiding in the performance of handing over property from one party to another. This horn is probably the epitome of this way of using the written word.

No. 8: Robert of Neustria donates land to the abbey of Saint-Denis, 923.

“…by divine clemency, because the situation made it necessary, with the support of all the princes, We took up the sceptre of royal majesty to steer the ship of the kingdom…”

This is the only charter on this list that isn’t important to me because of work I’ve done on it, but rather because, if it weren’t for Geoffrey Koziol’s work on this charter, I’d never have worked on any of the others. We’ve mentioned here before how Robert of Neustria rose in rebellion against Charles the Simple; and, as Koziol, demonstrates very clearly, this document is not simply a donation, but a manifesto very specifically justifying Robert’s actions and his claim to the throne. I don’t agree with everything Koziol says, but his article is fantastic.


No. 7: Geoffrey Grisegonelle confirms his reformation of Saint-Aubin d’Angers, 966.

“…so that the mercy of the pious Redeemer might be well-disposed to concede His help and aid to me, Geoffrey, caught up in the whirlwinds of worldly wars…”

I’m going to be a bit less fulsome with these last two. Here, it’s because I wrote about this charter for my thesis and when that eventually becomes a book, this document is going to feature prominently; so, you know, spoiler warning…

What I will say about it is, whatever my own very particular theories, this charter commemorates what may be the single most cynical ‘reform’ of a monastery in the tenth century. Saint-Aubin had been ruled by Geoffrey’s ancestors as count of Anjou as lay abbots, but by the 960s it was under the rule of his brother Guy, who might have been a cleric but probably wasn’t a monk. A very strange charter exists in which Guy appears to say that he tried and failed to be a good abbot, and so turned it over to monks out of Saint-Remi de Rheims. However, Geoffrey appears to have used the opportunity to assert his control over the abbey, and Geoffrey’s son Fulk Nerra even more so: the counts of Anjou appear to have disposed of Saint-Aubin’s land to reward their own followers. This lack of interest in reform for its own sake comes through in the document itself: ‘Supposedly,’ Geoffrey says,  ‘monasticism flourished in the monastery once upon a time; but because there’s no obvious proof, We don’t care whether it flourished or not’.

No. 6: Liutgard of Vermandois and Godeleva make a bequest of land to the abbey of Saint-Père de Chartres, 979.

“I myself, and another woman dedicated to God, Godeleva by name, joined to me in both body and soul…”

This one I won’t say anything about at all, because I have promised a whole blog post about the Lesbian Nun Property Magnate Commune of Chartres before, and by thunder, a whole blog post you will get… Possibly soon, although not this week. The week after is a possibility, though. Also, I’ll be posting part 2 of this countdown soon, outside my normal schedule for posts – so stay tuned!