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.
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…
Last year we finished a lengthy trundle through Aquitanian history which began as a spin-off from one sentence in my post-doc grant and has turned into a lengthy chapter subsection and an article idea. Unlike the liturgy series which ran roughly alongside, this one was definitely useful for me. But, alas, all good things come to an end and now it’s time to summarise. We’ll certainly return to Aquitaine – in fact, I’ve planned a different section on the viscounts of the Limousin and the lords of La Marche in the same chapter, so either that’ll work and I’ll have things to report or it won’t and I’ll be able to complain about how nuts the whole area is – but our journey here stops. What have we learned? Actually, don’t answer that (I have the unnerving feeling that for large chunks of my audience the take-home point will be ‘Fraser needs an editor’…). What have I learned?
Mostly, it’s a question of nuance. The basic argument I came up with for my thesis was about the increasing importance of local ideological communities in the post-Carolingian world, and a large chunk of what I’ve been doing since has been finding out what the right kinds of nuance are to stick on top of that. So on one hand, we’ve definitely got ourselves some local ideological communities in the Auvergne. Stephen of Clermont and his successors are using languages of legitimacy which build on their own local and/or regional traditions which aren’t terrifically portable. They are still mostly built out of the toolbox of elements available to the late-Carolingian world, but putting them together in such a way that it’s particular to their local environment. Even in terms of something as simple as ‘bishop + assembly + abstract concept the Carolingians like’, Stephen and his successors in western Aquitaine look very different to the kind of diocesan synods that his contemporaries are holding in Langres (and the abstract concept is different as well, being ‘peace’ rather than ‘improvement’). These strategies are different rather than alien, but they do need translating for a wider audience. (And indeed, when the Peace of God becomes the ‘Peace of God capital-P’ in the 1020s, this seems to be what happens. There’s actually a gap of a decade plus between meetings fading out in Aquitaine and starting up under royal patronage which no-one has satisfactorily explained yet…)
On the other hand, the Aquitanian business has highlighted two important points. The first is the difference between ‘continuity’ and ‘stasis’. Really in-depth reading helps with this, because looking at William the Pious in the 910s and William the Great in the 1010s, they can look quite different. Maybe my readers find this easier than I do, but identifying continuity, by which I mean gradual and incremental change rather than the dramatic or catastrophic variety, is hard. Nonetheless, this exercise has helped with working out which aspects of Aquitanian ideology are dropping out, which are switching up, and which are actually novel.
Which is the second major point, I think. Stephen II does actually do some novel things. The proto-Peace of God does genuinely look like personal quirk. Look, I would love – I think most people would love – to find some kind of immediate precedent for what happens with councils in Auvergne in the mid-tenth century, but I can’t find one and to the best of my knowledge neither has anyone else (caveat: convincingly). Nonetheless, it clearly struck a chord and got incorporated into the regional sheaf of potential legitimising devises. Maybe you have to be the biggest cheese on the smorgasbord to change the nature of the buffet, but you can do it…
And with that, we bid goodbye to Aquitaine. It’s been fun. But, evidently, now I should go and have some lunch…
Do you know it’s been over a year since the first of these came out? This isn’t the last post – there’ll be a wrap-up to follow – but it is the last with actual content. We’ve gone to some unexpected places over the course of this story, and not least is the Peace of God. Today, we finish the story by returning, once again, to the counts of Poitou – or, as we can now reasonably call them, the dukes of Aquitaine.
Since we last saw them in the 950s and 960s, it’s been a fairly quiet few decades for William Fierabras, count of Poitou and son of William Towhead(*). The big innovation is that he has begun to fairly consistently take on the title of ‘duke of Aquitaine’ in a way which none of his predecessors managed, but his rule is still basically limited to the greater Poitou region and perhaps Limousin, although Poitevin control there looks to have been rather tenuous. This all changes in a big way in 989, when all of a sudden William’s entourage blows up. In that year, a council was held at Charroux featuring all the Aquitanian bishops; if we are to take a twelfth-century Chronicon from the abbey of Maillezais at all seriously, William was closely involved in organising this. At the beginning of the year, William appears in a charter for the abbey of Saint-Hilaire with Count William of Angoulême, Viscount Guy of Limoges, and Bishop Hildegar of Limoges – not too far-flung, but wider than is typical. But this is just the start of an expansion of Poitevin power which is clear from the charter evidence extending from this point well into the reign of William the Great.
What’s going on? The short answer is that I’m still not sure. Historians consistently take the Council of Charroux as being self-evident – as in, ‘what else are bishops going to do?’ – but as we’ve talked about before, it really isn’t. I’ve since found evidence to push the last provincial council presided over by an archbishop of Bordeaux to the seventh rather than the third century, but this is not typical behaviour. I have speculations about what’s going on, none terribly convincing. What I would like to emphasise for you is that this is not a Peace of God council. For one thing, the Peace of God doesn’t exist yet. Even otherwise, the Council of Charroux doesn’t mention peace, and there’s no mention of oath-swearing either. If you just had the text of the decrees without names or dates (or hindsight), this looks basically like any other Church council.
What is interesting to me is the point where developments in Greater Poitou overlap with those in east-central Aquitaine, which seems to be at the Council of Limoges in 994. Getting a handle on what happened here is tricky, because there are lots of sources but they’re all later and many of them are written by one man, Adhemar of Chabannes, famous for being a liar and possibly a lunatic. What we can say is that it was a) big, b) convoked without overt ducal influence and c) saw the bishops of Clermont and Le Puy present. These two are interesting. They were not regular figures in the councils of ducal Aquitaine, and their presence here is unusual for that reason. It also provides a conduit for the bringing of a discourse of ‘Peace’ into conciliar developments in western Aquitaine.
Why take it up, though? Here we turn back to the high politics. In the third quarter of the 990s there was a big brouhaha involving a bunch of people in northern Aquitaine, most notably for our purposes William the Great and Boso II of La Marche. We don’t need to go into the details – if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Greater Poitevin politics in this period is insanely complicated – because what matters to us is the outcome: a peace agreement between the two men which involved William marrying Boso’s widowed sister-in-law Adalmodis. Why does this matter? Because of who Adalmodis is. Remember Adelaide-Blanche of Anjou, quondam queen of Aquitaine, sister of Guy of Le Puy and mother of Count Pontius of Gévaudan who helped Guy overawe his subjects at Saint-Germain-Laprade? Well, she’s also Adalmodis’ mother. The marriage took place in around 997/998, and shortly thereafter, around 1000, we find another council being summoned at Poitiers. This one looks much more like those held by Guy of Le Puy and before him by Stephen of Clermont, and not least because the council’s surviving acts start with a big ol’ declaration that ‘splendid is the name of peace’. The language of peace has taken over the conciliar tendency of western Aquitaine.
At the same time, William’s entourage begins to display evidence of a push to the east not seen since the 950s. Specifically, his brother-in-law Count Pontius of Gévaudan witnesses several ducal charters in the 1000s and 1010s. At the same time, we have also got precious evidence from an unpublished charter of William’s in favour of the abbey of Saint-Léger d’Ébreuil in Auvergne itself – the first evidence of ducal patronage in the Auvergne since the 930s. Equally, William’s reach extended north to Berry, where he wangled Odo of Châteauroux into his following. Bourges was the metropolitan of Clermont and Le Puy and the archbishop had taken part in Limoges in 994 and approved of Saint-Paulien a little before that, so the peace-councils discourse might have had purchase there as well.
The ‘Aquitanian Peace of God’ movement, as it developed in the early eleventh century, has therefore a place not just as the precursor to the Peace of God proper which would spread across Europe from the 1020s and 1030s, but as part of the history of attempts to control Auvergne. Assimilated into a Poitevin tradition, the ‘Peace of God’ movement reaches back to Stephen II of Clermont, and is part of an attempt to harness his legacy and replicate his influence in east-central Aquitaine.
(*) OK, that’s not true, but trust me, you don’t want to know the details, which are detailed.
So I discovered something really cool but also quite frustrating, not least because although it’s been noticed by a few people before as far as I can tell I’m the only one whose ever thought it noteworthy, and it’s giving rise to one of those situations where I’m convinced the problem is my ability to find literature despite the increasing probability that the literature just isn’t out there. What I’ve found is an unusual pattern in Aquitanian charter dating clauses. At the end of most charters, there’s a date given, often in the king’s regnal years (e.g., ‘the tenth year of King Charles’, or suchlike), and these can as you’d expect have political overtones – so if you don’t accept the legitimacy of any of the claimants to the throne, for instance, you might put ‘two years since the death of the last emperor’, or in one particularly striking case I saw ‘with Hugh reigning, but hoping for Charles’.
But first, some background. Charlemagne had the dubious good fortune to outlive all but one of his sons, so when he died there was relatively little controversy about who got what – the empire went to Louis the Pious. Louis, on the other hand, had no fewer than three sons, and trying to divvy the empire up between them was difficult. Louis’ firstborn son Lothar was crowned co-emperor, and reigned alongside his father; the other two sons, Louis the German and Pippin I, got sub-kingdoms (Bavaria and Aquitaine respectively). So far, so good; but Louis the Pious remarried and had another son, Charles the Bald, which meant he needed to provide a kingdom for the new kid. This meant that the Carolingian family was divided between Louis (trying to take their inheritance away from them to provide for their half-brother) and Lothar (trying to assert an unfraternal predominance over them; and also kinda take their inheritance away from them), and there were coups and plots and tension and it all got very messy and resentful. In 838, Pippin I died, leaving two sons; but rather than giving Aquitaine to Pippin II, Louis decided to give it to Charles the Bald instead. Some Aquitanian nobles made Pippin king anyway, and Louis and Charles invaded, which was what Louis was doing when he died in 840.
Pippin II’s key support in these early years belonged to a family descended from Count Rodulf of Cahors, and included especially Count Rodulf’s son, also Rodulf, whom Pippin made archbishop of Bourges. Rodulf of Bourges had a complicated career over the next decade-and-a-half, flipping between Charles and Pippin, until Pippin’s royal ambitions came to an end in the mid-850s (which is another story).
What no-one seems to have picked up on are some charters from the abbey of Beaulieu. Rodulf founded Beaulieu, and what seems to have happened is that his personal archive got shoved in with that of the abbey, because there are several charters there from before its founding which are not directly connected with it. Of those charters, there are about half-a-dozen which deal with the period between 840 and 855. All of them feature Rodulf and/or close family members (mother, sister), and all of them are dated not by the reign of Pippin II, and certainly not by the reign of Charles the Bald, but by the reign of Emperor Lothar.
Lothar did provide important political support to Pippin at several points, but that Rodulf so consistently dated his charters by Lothar suggests that the archbishop of Bourges – Pippin’s core supporter – wasn’t Pippin’s core supporter so much as Lothar’s. This does actually make some degree of sense in understanding Rodulf’s flip-flopping, but it raises a whole bunch more questions about things like how far Pippin II was conceived of as a ‘real’ king, how far the Frankish polity was still conceived of as a unity, and how far Lothar’s position in the Frankish world genuinely was a kind of proper overkingship of the kind we’ve discussed before (and whilst these questions are interesting, they are not helping make the book sub-chapter this came up whilst researching any more a manageable length!).
Just as interesting is that after Lothar’s death and Pippin II’s political eclipse in 855, Rodulf, equally consistently, dates his charters by Charles the Bald’s son, King Charles the Child of Aquitaine. What we have here is a case where a ‘pan-imperial’ political operator seems to have dramatically changed register to being a ‘regional’ one; and also a case which does seem to be an ‘any king but Charles the Bald’ party in Aquitanian politics – which does make me wonder, what was their beef?
(Lots of Aquitaine lately. I should do a Burgundy post…)
So I recently had cause to be in Cambridge, and whilst catching up with the University Library there I discovered a fascinating new document which provides insight on Auvergnat history and the Peace of God, and I’d like to share it all with you. You see, I went back to Christian Lauranson-Rosaz’s L’Auvergne et ses marges. This is a very large book, and I’ve never read it cover-to-cover because in addition being very large it’s also quite blinkered and in a lot of ways a bit weird. But you can’t fault it for comprehensiveness, and so it was that I turned to the passage on early eleventh-century Auvergne and found reference to the Vita of St Amabilis of Riom.
What does it say? The relevant portion of the text opens with a reference to a Bishop Stephen of Clermont, whom everyone loved. He was a great pastor, and he got everyone in Auvergne to swear an oath to him on holy relics. However, the Devil inspired them to leave the path of peace and they called on William, count of Poitiers and Aquitaine, who attacked Stephen and besieged Riom, although they couldn’t take it. Eventually, Stephen was able to overcome William despite his smaller forces and the count returned home empty-handed.
Now, Lauranson-Rosaz dates this text – as far as I can tell entirely arbitrarily – to the reign of Duke William the Great, around 1015-ish. But I read the excerpts in the footnotes and went ‘Count William of Poitiers fighting Bishop Stephen of Clermont in the Auvergne? That sounds familiar!’ and rushed off to Gallica to check the text. And it turns out if you read the Vita Amabilis, a) there’s no reason at all to put is in c. 1010, but b) there are hints that it is a tenth-century composition. First, the William in question is described as comes Pictavensium et Aquitanicum. By the eleventh century, the counts of Poitiers have been claiming to be dux Aquitanensium for several decades – the terminology is unusually consistent. But right in the 960s, at the very beginning of the dukes’ claims to be dukes, they’re a bit more fluid, and William Towhead is at one point comes ducatus Aquitanici, much closer to the version in the Vita. This is far from proof, but it is suggestive. Just as important is the other name the text gives, that of a cleric named Ragenfred. I was able to look through my charters, and as it happens there isn’t anyone named Ragenfred recorded in the early eleventh century, only in the late tenth. It could still be that this is an otherwise-unrecorded Ragenfred, of course, but personally I’m fairly confident that this is a text written in the 960s.
As a description of Auvergnat politics in the 950s, in addition to according quite well with the other sources, it sheds some extra light. First off, it raises a very exciting possibility about the earliest origins of what would become the Peace of God. Most historians see the Peace as reactive, a response to… well, something, it’s debated, but often social disruption or knightly violence. What the text seems to suggest though is that at its earliest point, swearing an oath to a bishop within a discourse of peace was itself an act of disruption. This makes sense to me – as we’ll see in a couple of weeks, I’m happy seeing the peace tradition, small-p and big-P, not as a pragmatic peacekeeping measure so much as a claim to local or regional authority, so the idea that it started as a hegemonic gesture by Stephen II fits that neatly. This is also probably what annoyed the Auvergnat magnates – as far as I know, taking general loyalty oaths is a royal thing, and Stephen may well have been perceived as a usurper, especially given how tied in he was to royal legitimacy. It’s a shame that we can’t fit it too closely with that 958 charter, because it would be nice to know how the ‘princes of the Auvergne rebelling against one another’ matched with this document’s chronology… (I suspect the 958 charter is after these events, which puts Stephen’s oath-taking in around 954, which is very interesting timing, as King Louis IV would have recently died… More to think on here.)
What it also shows is William Towhead taking advantage of Auvergnat dissension to try and increase his own power there. The counts of Poitou, as we’ve seen before, had no history in the Auvergne and no reason to intervene there – unless they were drawn in. In short, this text might also be an important insight into the origin of the wider hegemony of the dukes of Aquitaine in the early eleventh century as well as into the very beginnings of the Peace of God. Watch this space!
You may have been wondering why I spent last week dealing with Rudolph I of Burgundy rather than our old friend Odo, formerly count of Paris and ruler of the Neustrian March, but after 888 West Frankish king. The answer is that he didn’t issue any diplomas in 888. Why? Because he had to spend that entire year putting out fires.
As mentioned, the succession to Charles the Fat was a horrendous mess of muddle and improvisation, no less in the West Frankish kingdom than anywhere else. Quite apart from anything else, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims appears to have loathed Odo for reasons which remain unclear, and he and Geilo of Langres invited Guy of Spoleto to be king instead. However, Guy couldn’t make his claims stick, and despite being crowned by Geilo at Langres, quickly shuffled off back to Italy. (Geilo died shortly thereafter, meaning we have to bid a sad farewell to a man who’s been one of our main characters until now.) Meanwhile, Fulk, along with some Flemish allies, turned to Arnulf, who was delaying in the East, and who evidently preferred to have Odo as a respectful underking than rule himself: Fulk got a flat no, and Odo performed due homage to Arnulf at a meeting at Worms. At the same time, Odo was continuing to mop up the Viking invaders, winning an important victory at Montfaucon.
Only in 889 did he get round to moving towards the south of the kingdom. The main figure in western Aquitaine, Count Ramnulf of Poitiers, had for reasons unknown given up on his own bid for kingship, and now acknowledged Odo as king. Odo thereafter held an assembly at the abbey of Micy, on the Loire, where he issued a lot of diplomas. (Very) roughly one in five of Odo’s surviving diplomas come from this one meeting, as Odo was recognised as king over the Aquitanians.
In the name of God, the highest and eternal king. Odo, by grace of God king.
Whenever We lend the ears of Our Highness and proffer assent to the just and reasonable solicitations of servants of God and Our followers, We exercise the custom of royal majesty and through this We doubt not at all that We will more easily gain possession of the prize of eternal happiness.
For that reason, let it be known to all of those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, present or future, that the venerable man Theodoric, abbot of the monastery of Solignac which was constructed of old by Eligius, bishop of Noyon, in the time of that most glorious king of the Franks Dagobert [I], located on the river Briance, which the said pontiff constructed in honour of the holy mother of God Mary and Saint Peter and all the apostles and Dionysius and his companions and Pancratius, Crispin and Crispinian, and the holy confessors Hilary, Martin and Medard, coming reverently before Our Clemency, appealed to Us that We might deign to receive the same monastery, with all the men and estates and goods justly and legally pertaining to it, and also at the same time with those things divine piety might wish to bestow upon the said monastery through its followers, under the tutelage of Our immunity and the cover of Our defence.
We assented to his prayers with clement favour, and moreover because of them We commanded a precept of Our Magnitude be made with a special condition, through which We wish it to be known to all Our followers that We have taken the aforesaid monastery, as previously stated, with all the goods pertaining to it, under the tutelage of Our immunity, and We order and command that none of those faithful to God and Us, in present or future times, should be permitted to enter the same monastery or any of the estates or fields or woods pertaining to it to hear cases or determine public judgements or seize provisions or exact billeting or spare horses or exact any render of any kind. Rather, let whatever can be exacted from the goods of the aforesaid monastery accomplish an increase in the stipends for the abbots and monks serving God in the same place.
We establish, meanwhile, that the monks serving the Lord in the same place should have, in accordance with the institution of the Rule of Father Benedict, permission for all time to elect an abbot from amongst themselves, and no-one should be permitted at any time to diminish or take anything away from them, or to disturb or distrain the men pertaining to them or dwelling on their land or take securities. Rather, let whatever can be gotten from them benefit for all time the rulers and monks of the oft-said monastery in acts of charity and accomplish the liberation of Our soul.
On the other hand, if anyone should endeavour to expunge these enactments of Our goodwill, let the Lord strike him down with such vengeance that he who wished to infringe this Our authority can in no way make good his wish.
But that this authority of Our Magnificence might be observed for all time inviolably both by Us and by Our successors, We confirmed it below with Our hand and We had it sealed with Our signed.
Sign of Odo, most glorious of kings.
Troand the notary witnessed on behalf of Ebalus [of Saint-Denis].
Bishop Frothar [of Bourges] ambasciated, Troand the notary wrote this.
Happily in the name of God, amen.
Given on the ides of June [13th June], in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 889, in the 7th indiction, in the second year of the reign of the glorious king lord Odo.
Solignac was an important abbey south of Limoges, dating back to Merovingian times, when the great bishop-saints of the period went all around Gaul founding abbeys. It’s therefore interesting that the charter begins by referencing King Dagobert I, the first king to be buried at Saint-Denis, the most important abbey of Odo’s old county, over which his new archchancellor Ebalus (Ramnulf’s brother and Odo’s old wartime comrade from the Siege of Paris) was abbot. It’s a nice textual link between Odo’s authority and local tradition. (This isn’t, I think, a dynastic thing, because Dagobert is mentioned in an older diploma issued by Pippin II of Aquitaine, a Carolingian; but that it’s brought up here where it hadn’t been under Charles the Bald must be significant.)
Perhaps more important for Odo’s authority is the sheer range of notables he has here, in this one charter alone. We can see the abbot of Solignac, Ebalus himself (who was also abbot of Saint-Hilaire in Poitiers amongst others) and Archbishop Frothar of Bourges, another old hand from Charles the Bald’s court, who was abbot of the abbey of Saint-Julien de Brioude (and, like Ebalus, was someone Odo knew from back when: as lay abbot of Saint-Martin, Odo and Frothar had been part of a property exchange only a year or so earlier). These are major figures, and their visibly taking part in Odo’s court is in itself the king’s rule extending over Aquitaine. Koziol has talked about this assembly in terms of bilateral negotiation between Odo and Ramnulf, and about the shrinking of politics as we go into the tenth century, but doing so ignores the sheer number of stakeholders present in this diploma. Odo had to do a major balancing act, and as we shall see in later weeks, this was a very tricky proposition indeed.
Last time, we bid a fond farewell to Bishop Stephen II of Clermont and his generation in a few-hundred-word jaunt through twenty years of deeply under-sourced history. (To give some idea of the occasional frustrations of tenth-century history writing, that was as much time as between 9/11 and the present day, with rather less documentation that currently exists for my office furniture.) The sources for around 980 are not substantially better, but we can see a generational shift as three groups of people make a play for power in eastern Aquitaine.
The most ephemeral of these is also the best-recorded and in a lot of ways the most interesting, and that’s the Carolingian kings. In or around 980, King Lothar decided to make his young son Louis V king of Aquitaine. It didn’t work. I’d like to say that this incident has not received enough scholarly attention, but that’s rather unfair – having lavished scholarly attention on it, there’s just nothing there; it’s like post-Carolingian Aquitaine has friendzoned me.
But what happened, you ask? Well, I will tell you what the sources say, and then go from there. To start with, let’s bring in a perhaps-unexpected group of magnates: the counts of Anjou and their family. For reasons I shan’t go into, they were becoming increasingly powerful at court over the course of the 960s and 970s, as well as developing interests in the south. Count Geoffrey Grisegonelle apparently married off his sister Adelaide-Blanche to a man named Stephen, probably in the mid-960s (come on, it’s eastern Aquitaine – everyone’s either Stephen, Amblard, Bertrand or Eustorgius) who was not himself of comital rank but who was nonetheless a big damn deal in the area. Geoffrey and Adelaide-Blanche’s brother Guy, abbot of Cormery, as already mentioned on this blog, was appointed by King Lothar to be bishop of Le Puy in around 975. Then, in 980, when Adelaide’s first husband was dead (and in fact so was her second), Geoffrey’s people at court apparently started trying to persuade Lothar to marry Louis off to her and make him king of Aquitaine which he did.
Lothar went south, had his son crowned at Brioude by the bishops of the province, and left him and Adelaide there to deal with things. This did not go very well – Louis was about fifteen and Adelaide about thirty, and we are told that they had little in common. Louis was unable to get the magnates of the area to listen to him and he was left poor and helpless. His father had to come pack down, probably in 982, and get him. Adelaide fled to William the Liberator, count of Provence, and married him instead. It is not clear that she and Louis V were divorced first. In any case, the attempt to revive a sub-kingdom in Aquitaine was a failure.
I have a few issues with this account. The biggest is that it comes almost entirely from the pen of Richer of Rheims, who is not one to let a good story suffer for want of contact with reality. As it happens the account of a different historian, Ralph Glaber (who I think is independent) corroborates the very basic outline of a lot of this. Nonetheless, between the three main historians of the early eleventh century, Richer, Ralph and Adhemar of Chabannes, we have three quite different accounts. All agree that Louis’ marriage was unsuccessful, but that’s about it. Ralph claims that coming south was Adelaide’s idea, and Adhemar doesn’t mention Louis’ kingship at all, although he does know that Louis married Adelaide and that Lothar was active in central Aquitaine in the 980s. So this makes me uneasy.
Even taking the account as it stands, however, there are a few things which we can pick out about this. First, it wasn’t a stupid decision either in terms of Aquitanian politics or the wider world. Adelaide-Blanche was connected by blood or marriage to some of the most important people in Aquitaine, and it was reasonable to think that marriage to her would give Louis some sway there – something similar had proven true a century earlier in the case of King Charles the Child. Second, and more importantly, Lothar and Louis weren’t trying to put Louis over any old Aquitaine – they were looking specifically at Guillelmid Aquitaine. Louis V was crowned at William the Pious’ Auvergnat monastery par excellence, at Brioude, rather than at Poitiers or Bourges or one of the old royal palaces. That Auvergne and eastern Aquitaine, rather than Poitou and the west or Limoges and the centre, was chosen, suggests the kings were trying to pull on the ongoing tradition of Königsnahe which Stephen of Clermont had cultivated – Louis’ kingship was not in its envisagement an alien imposition but an attempt to inscribe Louis into the Guillelmid polity as it had developed under Stephen II. It didn’t work, but it was an honourable failure. Next week, we look at something more enduring: the emergence of the Counts of Clermont under Stephen’s nephew Guy.
All twenty of them. Thing is, and why this post has been less than forthcoming, is that with the end of hostilities in the Auvergne in the early 960s, we lose even a semblance of narrative. Piecing together tenth-century history is always difficult, but here it becomes close to impossible. We, quite simply, do not have enough evidence to build any kind of story here, let alone the relatively coherent and/or detailed one ofthelastfiveposts. Thus, the last twenty-odd years of Bishop Stephen II of Clermont’s career can be covered in about a quarter of the space of the first twenty.
Rather than going chronologically, it’s best to speak about what the evidence does and doesn’t have in it. Let’s start with the basics: when did Stephen die? We know he was still alive in 977, when he is noted as owning land bordering a donation to the monastery of Sauxillanges. After that, things get complicated. A couple ofcharters from the abbey of Conques have him as being still alive in the thirtieth year of the reign of King Lothar, which should in theory be 984. However, two more charters, one from 981 and one from 980, give the abbot of Conques as Hugh and the bishop of Clermont as Bego respectively, both Stephen’s successors. I think what’s happening here is either that some scribes are taking Lothar’s reign as beginning earlier than 954 (as we know some did) or there’s been a transcription error – Lothar’s XXX-th year and his XXV-th year, or something like that, aren’t too difficult to mix up. It is also possible these charters might be right, but that doesn’t change things too much. Bego and Hugh had both been Stephen’s co-rulers before 980, so even if the by-this-point-rather-elderly bishop of Clermont was still alive, what has probably happened is that he is no longer active – living, but out of the picture. One way or another, we can put the end of Stephen’s career in around 979-980.
So what was Stephen doing between the early 960s and the later 970s? Ruling Auvergne, probably. The charter evidence from these decades shows that Stephen is pretty much the only substantial authority figure visible in the region – no counts of Poitiers, no viscounts of Brioude that matter, just the bishop. What this says to me is that he probably didn’t face much by way of challenge. Our closest look at him comes from what’s known as the Landeyrat Charter of 972, where he consecrates the abbey-church of Aurillac in the presence of a large assembly. The problem is that this document is at minimum heavily interpolated, although some scholars argue strongly for an authentic core (and that it’s a precursor to the Peace of God, an idea we will return to in a later post), so we need to be cautious in dealing with its actual provisions.
More interesting is a charter from the cartulary of Sauxillanges. The big problem with this thing is that it is undated, and by formal criteria undatable. It’s not likely to be earlier than about 960, and it can’t be later than 979, and it can’t be pinned down more closely than that. With that said, the man giving the charter, one Rigald, gives off the impression that he’s dying – he appoints people as his executors – and he appears fairly frequently in the 950s but not in the 960s or 970s, so this is probably in the earlier part of the period, 963-965 or so. What’s interesting about this charter is that it features both Stephen, the four main viscounts of the Auvergne, and Archbishop Amblard of Lyon who was himself from a prominent Auvergnat family and had major interests in the region. We saw him last time helping broker peace in the Auvergne, and his presence here surely implies that he remained an important figure there. On his own death in 979, he donated the Auvergnat abbey of Ris to Cluny, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he acted (as in this Sauxillanges act) as a supporter of Bishop Stephen.
By this time, though, a new generation was clearly coming up. Amblard of Lyon was dead, Stephen of Clermont was either dying or incapacitated, and other figures were circling. A new bishop in Le Puy, Guy, was taking some of Stephen’s ideas; a new group of counts was emerging; and King Lothar himself was preparing to take an interest. And that’s what we’ll get into next time…
Since last week, I’ve spent much of my time thinking about the Council of Charroux in 989, trying to work out what on Earth they thought they were doing, because seriously you guys it’s –
OK, hang on. Let’s back up. I’ve blogged a coupleof times here about the Peace of God, for one thing, and I don’t think I’ve explained what it is, or at least what it’s supposed to be. So, the Peace of God is a term modern historians apply to a series of Church councils held from the latter part of the tenth century onwards, intending to regulate violence within society, especially against the Church and the poor. These councils can be distinguished by 1) a vocabulary of ‘peace’ (pax), 2) legislative activity, 3) the swearing of oaths to enforce the peace, 4) some participation by the people (populus) and 5) the presence of saints’ relics. Basically every aspect of these councils is subject to serious debate: how much of a novelty were they? How important was popular participation? Who were the new rules aimed at? How far did lay rulers take the initiative in calling Peace councils? And so on.
The first council which modern historians call a Peace council was held at the abbey of Charroux, south of Poitiers, in 989. Thomas Head has analysed the context here, basically unconvincingly. He argues that the Council was held to promote good behaviour towards churches, and specifically to do so in the aftermath of a feud between the viscounts of Limoges and the lords of La Marche which had been prolonged and dangerous. He can only argue this, however, with some chronological slight-of-hand, because as far as we can tell the ‘feud’ in question took place over a couple of years in the mid-970s and was resolved a decade before the Council of Charroux.
So this raises the question, what did the bishops who assembled at Charroux and issued three canons against various nefarious persons think they were doing? Because it certainly wasn’t ‘holding a Peace of God council’. As I said, that is a term of art used by modern historians, and they couldn’t possibly have been thinking in those terms. It looks like it could have been a provincial council (i.e. an archbishop and his suffragans getting together), but that’s by itself weird. As far as I have been able to find, the last provincial council held in Second Aquitaine had been seven hundred years earlier, which is certainly a delay, but makes me fairly confident that holding a council was itself a novelty.
Let’s abandon, then, if only temporarily, the ‘Peace of God’ label and think about a ‘Pre-Millennial Aquitanian Conciliar Movement’. In eastern Aquitaine, that is, the Auvergne and its area, there is one of these, associated above all with Bishop Guy of Le Puy, who I think was possibly following in Stephen II of Clermont’s footsteps. Thing is, these are eastern and head more eastwards: Guy gets involved with Burgundian and Provençal bishops, but not with Gascon or Poitevin ones. There’s no overlap between any of the councils Guy is involved with and the bishops who were at Charroux. The language used at Charroux might also be different (although I need to look at that further).
But, as we’ve seen, Charroux is the first in the west. Does the political context help? Yeah, a little. The thing to note here is that there has been a fairly major shift in personnel in the preceding two years: a new viscount of Limoges, a new count of Angoulême, and a new archbishop of Bordeaux. Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers has been around for a while, but it’s only in the past few years he’s been showing up at the side of William Fierabras, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitou. The time is ripe for the expansion of Poitevin influence over the neighbouring regions. And in fact this is more-or-less what happens: whereas before 989 the counts of Poitiers are fairly strictly confined to Poitou minus some very sporadic influence over the city of Limoges, afterwards their power is visibly wider-spread. This is probably deliberate – Head, in the article above, notes that Charroux was at the start of a programme of episcopal bolstering of William’s monastic reform programme over the next year or so. For that and other reasons, I think we could actually give William some initiative in calling the council, rather than just taking advantage of it.
The political context may just give us the ‘why then’, but it doesn’t answer the ‘why a legislative council’ question. Why not a lay assembly like the rulers of Neustria and indeed the dukes of Aquitaine have been holding for the previous century or so? This aspect of Charroux is why historians like to point at Guy of Le Puy – because he’s also been legislating at councils in the immediate vicinity within the last few years. It’s not him the bishops at Charroux themselves point at, though. The acts of the council begin ‘reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors…’ Our only manuscript copy of these acts – as far as I know, the only one we can ever show to have existed, because it’s what the Early Modern printed editions are based on – was scribbled in the back of a very nice mid-ninth-century codex of conciliar decrees from Angoulême around the year 1000 (Vatican Lat. Reg. 1127, which is very well-digitised).
I therefore have to wonder whether or not these are the ‘synodal authorities’ the council is referring to…* It would make sense if they were, because the manuscript is full of tenth-century additions, mostly about councils – synodal blessings, canons, etc. Evidently the canons of Angoulême were interested in keeping up-to-date with best synodal practice.
Which is doubly interesting because, as I said, as far as we know there hadn’t been any provincial synods in Aquitaine since the later days of the Roman Empire. Abbo of Fleury thought that the Frankish kings had erred in not holding proper Church councils, so the idea that councils were important was evidently in the air. I’d love to find the origin of this idea. If it had been later, we might have said that Abbo was the source – our one manuscript of his canonical collection comes from Adhemar of Chabannes – but Charroux is too early. Lots to still research here, therefore (although not in the immediate future because I need to write my paper for the Leeds International Medieval Congress) – but I’m pretty sure that the term ‘Peace of God’ won’t help me get further with it.
* Head elsewhere argues that the opening of the council is a pastiche of the forged decretals of Pseudo-Isidore, which got me very excited, before a fair chunk of time spent searching the canons came up completely empty and left me shaking my head over how this claim got past the reviewers…
(Oh, and for good measure a translation of the source (again, it’s short)):
Reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors, in the name of the Lord and our saviour Jesus Christ, on the 1st June, I, Archbishop Gunbald of Second Aquitaine, with all the bishops of this province, convened in the hall which was once called Charroux. Both bishops and also religious clerics, and yet more as well everyone of both sexes implored the help of divine piety in order that – by consideration of divine grace – the harmful things which we know have flourished for a long time in our abodes by pestilential customs due to the long delay in the Council might be eradicated and useful ones planted. We, therefore, specially gathered in the name of God, decree this which shines openly in the following.
An anathema against those who violate churches.
If anyone should violate a holy church or steal anything from there by force, unless they come quickly to satisfaction, let them be anathema.
Anathema against those plunder the goods of the poor.
If anyone should pillage a sheep or a cow or an ox or a ram or a goat or pigs from a farmer or other poor person, unless the victim were at fault, if they neglect to make amends for everything, let them be anathema.
Anathema against those who strike clerics.
If anyone should attack or capture a priest or deacon or any kind of cleric at all not bearing arms (that is, a shield, a sword, a hauberk, a helmet) but simply walking or staying at home, except if after examination by his own bishop he [the priest] had fallen into any sin, if he [the attacker] does not come to satisfaction, let them be held a sacrilege and outside the threshold of the holy Church of God.
“Why so?” I hear you ask. Well, reader, there is at least a case to be made that if you trace back the intellectual genealogy of these things, you end up with long-time friend of the blog Bishop Stephen II of Clermont. But before I get there, we need to make it clear that you’ve got to be careful when talking about the Peace of God, because it’s not a term from the time, it’s a modern technical term. This might be less important when we’re dealing with the ‘second wave’ of councils around the 1020s, where the influence of one council on another is often very explicit, but in the late tenth century it’s not clear where to draw the line.
Take the 989 Council of Charroux, for instance, often claimed as one of the earliest Peace councils. Absolutely nothing about it cannot be paralleled from earlier tradition. The council claims that there has been a long delay in holding a council and that terrible things have arisen in the land because of it. The 909 Council of Trosly is a fairly direct comparison for this. (That said, one might note that Charroux claims that the council has been delayed and therefore evils have arisen whilst Trosly says that the council has been delayed because evils have arisen, which may indicate an actual strengthening of the power of the conciliar idea by 989; but really I don’t think the difference is particularly important.) Otherwise much of its rhetoric can be compared closely and in some cases verbatim with Carolingian legislation. Notably, the word ‘peace’ does not show up once.
In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 958, in the first indiction, it happened in that year that the princes of the Auvergne rebelled against each other in turn. But, with God’s help and in the reign of Bishop Stephen of Auvergne, peace, which passeth everything, currently reigns within our borders.
Meanwhile, it happened that one of our princes, that is, Calixtus, had invaded some of the goods of another: he obtained, that is, the allod of one of the canons, named Amblard, not justly but unjustly.
For this reason, because of what he was holding unjustly, the aforesaid Calixtus and his wife Oda and their children, that is, Peter and Hugh and Stephen, came into the city of Clermont, where Stephen, bishop of that see, shines. Present there were Viscount Robert and Abbot Stephen and Abbot Robert and other lay and clerical lords and monks, and there the said Calixtus recognised that he had held that allod in Gergovie unjustly, and in the presence of that crowd he gave it up and commanded this notice of surrender be made, and he confirmed it with his own hand and had it confirmed by his children and his knights and by everyone.
Sign of Calixtus. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Stephen. Sign of Bishop Stephen. Sign of Viscount Robert. Sign of Abbot Robert. Sign of Abbot Stephen.
Done in the month of September, on Thursday, in the 4th year of the reign of King Lothar.
Told you it was short. Anyway, this is the first use I can find of the combination of a meeting, the word ‘peace’, and the settlement of disputes in a context of violence to show up together in Aquitaine. These are all things that will be develop into the Peace of God, and I think it’s reasonable to see this as a fairly close ancestor, not least because the early ‘Peace of God’ is probably best seen as just one flavour of central Aquitanian discourse which happens to become unusually successful.
Question is, can we push it further back? What I’ve been looking at in the last couple of days is that reference to peace, pax omnia superat. This is a clear reference to Philippians 4:7, ‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding’ (pax Dei quae exsuperat omnem sensem, in the Vulgate – superat is a variant found in some versions of the Old Latin Bible).
Problem is, I’ve been coming up mostly empty. I tried looking in various places for liturgical parallels, and didn’t really find any, although one manuscript of conciliar ordines suggests using it in an assembly for dealing with quarrels, which would be absolutely ideal except that this is only found in a marginal annotation from Mainz. Otherwise, it is also quoted in a section of the 829 Council of Paris about how the council is going to settle civil discord, which given what we now know to bethat council’s normative value would also be very useful, except that I can’t find that there’s a manuscript of the council itself in Clermont. I asked some real liturgical specialists, who actually know what they’re doing (thanks, Arthur!) and was told that Philippians is used for readings in Advent, but as this is a summer or early autumn document, I’m not sure there’s direct causation there…
So I wonder if this might not be, in some sense, where the ball starts rolling for this particular strand of political language. It’s not like ‘the New Testament’ is an implausible place for a medieval cleric to be looking for ideas, after all…