Some Issues in Aquitanian History: Wrapping Up

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?

Look upon my prose ye readers and despair!

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…


The Bishop of Laon is Minted, and Career News II

Some good career news came down the pipeline last week: I have been elected to be an Associate Committee Member of the SCBI/MEC projects! What this means in practice is loads of coins – the M[edieval] E[uropean] C[oinage] project has been well underway for a while, and further volumes are in preparation as we speak. Further news on the projects’ activities as and when it’s ready to print; but from my point of view what’s exciting is being able to talk about some of my previously-mentioned difficulties in understanding tenth-century coinage with some of the best numismatic minds in the country…

Meanwhile, to celebrate, a post on some coins which I think I do have a handle on. As it happens I have written about these elsewhere, but not here, and not really with the textual links in play. So, let’s talk about Adalbero of Laon. Famous as ‘the old traitor’ because of his betrayal of the last Carolingian candidate for the West Frankish crown into the hands of Hugh Capet, he left behind a relatively extensive corpus of work, including a poem excoriating Count Landric of Nevers as an ambitious and scheming womanizer, and another work addressed to King Robert the Pious complaining about how kids these days weren’t doing things properly. There’s lots in this poem, the Carmen ad Rotbertum Regem, but one clear thing is that Adalbero is worried about the blurring of social roles. He particularly takes to task Abbot Odilo of Cluny for leading a monastic ‘army’ which, as monks aren’t supposed to fight, is useless as well as wrong. What does he propose instead? Well, in the words he gives to the king,

Let [Saint] Basil and [Saint] Benedict[, two of the founding fathers of monasticism,] possess their realms,

Let their realms observe and hold all of their commands.

Let bishops never throng fields hereafter,

If they would keep their rights; if not, let them tend crops!

Let Our order [of warriors] never dare to give up the rule of justice;

Rather, let it apply itself thereto with the greatest effort.

What Adalbero wants is for all the different bits of society to do what they’re supposed to and stop doing otherwise: monks should observe the monastic Rule, bishops shouldn’t be messing around in the fields like peasants, and warriors should protect clerics and labourers justly.

Whatever one might think of Adalbero as politician or as social philosopher, there’s no doubt that he was committed to this point of view, and this does come through in the coins of Laon around the year 1000. During the reign of Louis V (986-987), the mint at Laon began to mint a very unusual double portrait issue. As you can see, the figure on the right is supposed to be a king. I’m not sure the figure on the left is supposed to represent anything – the coin is too worn to tell any iconography, and the inscription around that side is just the word for ‘Minted at Laon’.

obole louis v
Gallica says it’s an obol of Louis IV for some reason, but the numismatical consensus is Louis V (source)

By the 1000s, however, Adalbero had taken this design and changed it slightly towards his ideological views of society. Have a look at this:

That’s more like it! (source)

As you can see, Adalbero had evidently found a slightly more technically-skilled mint master since 987. The design of the coin has also been updated, too. The portrait of the king is not simply a king, it’s a reasonable facsimile of Robert the Pious’ seal.

A picture-heavy post, today (source)

The other portrait is now not just any old male figure, it’s specifically Bishop Adalbero himself. Partly you can tell this from the stonking great cross on his head, and partly from the fact that the coin has the name ‘Adalbero’ engraved around the outside. What we have here, then, is coinage as medium for the political message outlined in the Carmen: the king doing his job, the bishop doing his job, each distinct, both together the two authorities ruling Christian society – in a quite literal sense, two sides of the same coin.

Charter a Week 11: Governing Burgundy with Bishops

Has it really taken this long to get to a private charter? Huh. I guess back when I was going to talk about Neustrian governmentality under 882 the overwhelming predominance of royal diplomas up to this point seemed less obvious; but that’s been moved well down the schedule; and so it’s come to pass that up to this point it’s been all kings all the time. To some extent, of course, this is a function of the nature of the surviving material. Private charter preservation (although there is a small blip in the 890s and 900s) doesn’t really ramp up until we’re dealing with material from the mid-tenth century, so to some extent it was inevitable, especially given that I prefer to be dealing with documents which are individually significant.

Today, though, we’ll be talking about, not Neustrian governance, but Burgundian. During the mid-to-late-ninth century, the West Frankish rulers lashed together their rule out of a series of regionally-customised compromises, deals, and experiments which meant that, despite the presence of a common political culture, different regions can look quite unlike one another under the hood. Burgundy is no exception here. Where in previous weeks I was able to use phrases like ‘Hugh the Abbot basically was Neustria’, I couldn’t say the same about Burgundy. Instead, the figures we’ve been meeting from that region are men like Adalgar of Autun and Geilo of Langres: super-bishops, who despite not being archbishops or provincial metropolitans, are very rich and very powerful; and I think it is they, rather than lay magnates, who are the Carolingian kings’ go-to guys for dealing with certainly southern Burgundy. Which brings us to 887 – what does this look like in practice?

MGH Conc. 5 no. 21C (18th May 887, Chalon-sur-Saône) = ARTEM no. 146

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 887, and in the 2nd year of the imperial rule in Gaul of the most serene emperor augustus lord Charles, in the 5th indiction, on the 15th kalends of June [18th May], a sacred convent of bishops was in the name of Christ brought together at the church of the holy martyr Marcellus in the suburbs of Chalon-sur-Saône to establish the peace and tranquillity of the holy Church of God and settle Church business. Present there were the lords and most holy archbishops Aurelian [of Lyon], Bernoin [of Vienne], Theotrand [of Tarantaise], and as well the most reverend bishops Adalgar [of Autun], Geilo [of Langres], Stephen [of Chalon], Gerald [of Mâcon], Adalbald [of Belley] and Isaac [of Valence].

Then, the abovewritten Geilo, reverend bishop of the church of Langres, along with the aforesaid fathers residing in this sacrosanct convent, brought to their attention the edict of a precept from the aforesaid lord and most excellent of emperors the ever august Charles, bestowed on him, that is, concerning all of the goods of the church committed to him by God, both those which emperors and kings had presented to his aforesaid church in ancient times and restored by a precept of their authority, and also those which he had acquired in his own time through precepts from the most glorious lord emperor, so that through this aforesaid edict not only he, but all of his successors, should in the name of God be able to rightfully hold onto them without disturbance from anyone.

In fact, here are the names of these goods: that is, the castle of Dijon, where there is a church in honour of the blessed protomartyr Stephen, and next to the same castle the monastery of the holy martyr Benignus, and in the district of Tonnerrois the monastery of Saint-Pierre de Molosmes, and the castle of Tonnerre itself, where there is a church in honour of the blessed Anianus, with all the things properly its own; as well in the same district the little abbey of Saint-Symphorien, in the place which is called Ligny-le-Châtel, and many other goods lying in the same county. Finally, within the walls of the same city of Langres is the abbey of Saint-Pierre, and nearby, in the suburbs of the same city, two little abbeys, to wit, Saint-Amateur and Saint-Ferréol, and the monastery of Saints-Geômes; moreover, in the district of Atuyer, the monastery of Saint-Pierre de Bèze. There are many other goods, little abbeys and possessions of divers other goods which this same church of Langres is seen to justly, reasonably, and rightfully hold onto.

It was also shown in the same edict that the abovementioned bishop had in his time acquired through precepts from the aforesaid lord and most serene emperor augustus estates and other goods properly his church’s in castles, moneying-rights, markets, and immunities: that is, in the district of Tonnerrois, the abbey of Moutiers-Saint-Jean; and in the district of Mémontois, the abbey of Saint-Seine; and in the district of Atuyer, estates of these names: Gray-la-Ville, Pontailler-sur-Saône, Montigny-sur-Vingeanne, and as well Rancenay; and in the district of Lassois, and in the castle of Mont-Lassois itself, the little abbey of Saint-Marcel; and in the district of Troiesin, the estate which they call L’Ormeau.

Later, the same venerable Bishop Geilo humbly appealed to the aforementioned lords and most holy fathers and bishops, with as many prayers as he could, that they might deign to corroborate the edict of this precept by a privilege of their authority, so that it might be held more firmly and certainly and lest it be able to be infringed by anyone’s thoughtless obstinacy.

The aforementioned lords and most holy fathers, lending the ears of Their Mildnesses to his most pious and praiseworthy of solicitations, confirmed the aforesaid edict established concerning all the goods of the church of Langres through this privilege of their authority in this manner, and in confirming it established by their episcopal sanction that, in the manner in which the said emperor augustus had confirmed these aforesaid goods for the church of Langres by his imperial institution, so too do we confirm them by our canonical and episcopal authority, to wit, on the terms that no prince or any judicial power hereafter, or any presumptuous person, should presume to impede, disturb or sacrilegiously invade them; rather, let them be inviolably and perpetually held in their entirety in the same state as they are currently united to and stabilised for the said church of Langres.

But if anyone, overcome by thoughtless and sacrilegious obstinacy, and blinded by unshakeable greed, presumes to infringe in any way that which We have confirmed by Our and God’s authority, let them know that they shall pay the penalty of eternal damnation and be burned in the everlasting fire with the Devil and his angels and with Judas, the betrayer of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ and tortured by a perpetual penalty with Dathan and Abiram; and in addition, let them be kept from the threshold of the holy Church of God and from the company of all the Christian faithful for as long as it takes until they repent of their criminal obstinacy and take care to assuage the wrath of God Almighty, which they feared not to incur, with worthy penitence and satisfaction and amends.

And thus, in subscribing We marked down a very clear confirmation of these enactments with Our hands below, and We requested it be similarly corroborated through Christ and in Christ with the no less worthy subscriptions of absent priests.

Geilo, humble bishop of the holy church of Langres, related, consented to, and subscribed this privilege. Aurelian, poor bishop of the holy church of Lyon, in the name of Christ, strengthened this privilege. Bernoin, humble bishop of the holy church of Vienne, subscribed. Adalgar, bishop of Autun, subscribed. Stephen, humble bishop of the holy church of Chalon-sur-Saône, subscribed. Adalbald, bishop of the church of Belley, subscribed. Gerald, bishop of the holy church of Mâcon, subscribed. Isaac, humble bishop of the church of Valence, subscribed.

Langres - Rue du Cardinal de la Luzerne - View NNW on Cathédrale Saint-Mammès 1768
Frustratingly, although this is an original charter, there aren’t any pictures of it I can find. Instead, this is what Langres cathedral looks like now. (source)

Pretty high-powered, huh? Three different archbishops, most of the major bishops of southern Burgundy and northern Provence… it’s all happening. This actually reflects some of the fallout from the death of King Lothar II decades previously – at this point, the ecclesiastical provinces of Vienne, Lyon and Tarantaise all make a sensible political unit. In that light, this synod can only be seen as a way to run that unit.

What we can’t do is see this as a strictly ecclesiastical affair. Synods are something bishops are supposed to do in any case, but when all the most important figures in your region are bishops, a synod becomes not simply a tool of ecclesiastical governance but a tool of, well, governance-no-qualifier-needed. Most of our evidence for the synod of Saint-Marcel comes from acts like this, charters in favour of Geilo of Langres’ churches. If you look at the language, these are in fact often confirming diplomas of Charles the Fat. That is to say, in practice, they are mediating the emperor’s authority and deciding on how (and indeed if) it is going to be applied in their area.

There’s also a political context here. At this point, Geilo has fairly recently returned from the emperor’s side in Alsace. Boso of Provence, long a friendless fugitive in the hills around Vienne, has finally died; and this raises the question of what to do with his son Louis the Blind. Louis’ mother Engelberga was negotiating with Charles in February, and Charles and Louis were reconciled that summer, with Charles adopting Louis (whatever that meant). This is particularly significant in light of the attendance here: Aurelian of Lyon, Adalgar of Autun, and Theotrand of Tarantaise had been supporters of Boso in 879, and Stephen of Chalon, Gerald of Mâcon and Isaac of Valence were successors of men who had. MacLean proposes quite reasonably that Geilo’s role here is to work through the Charles-Louis deal with these men, reinforcing his status both as the most important imperial fidelis in Burgundy and as the Burgundian bishops’ point man at court. The synod, then, comes across even more as a political assembly of the regional potentates; and we will see in upcoming months how this transitions into the tenth century. But first: 888.

Source Translation: Electing an Anti-King at the Convention of Mantaille

So this is another thing I’ll be doing over the next (does mental calculations) three years of Charter A Week. (Three years. Yikes! Too late to back out now…) Sometimes, there are documents I’d like to show you, but which aren’t charters. In that case, I’ll turn them into regular Source Translation posts, as in this case here.

After all, on Monday we saw Boso of Provence slowly inching his way towards kingship. He knew it was coming, his charter scribe knew it was coming, and most of the aristocracy of south-east Gaul knew it was coming, but how to effect it? Well, happily, we have a description of the synod where Boso was chosen as king, and it goes as follows:

MGH Capit. II.284 (15th October 879, Mantaille)

1) The Synod’s Delegation to the King-Designate Boso.

The holy synod gathered in the name of our Lord at Mantaille in the territory of Viennois, along with the leading men, by the inspiration of the Highest Majesty’s divinity, approached Your Prudence, O most shining of princes, seeking to learn by your certain response whether you wish to show yourself to everyone in that princely rule to which we, through divine mercy, choose you to be raised.

That is: if you will truly strive for the honour and love of God Almighty in the catholic faith, and exalt His Church as far as you can and conserve the privileges of each church with their bishops and priests; if you wish to concede and conserve for everyone, like the good princes who preceded you and whose type you have known by records written and oral, law, justice and right; remaining humble (which is the foundation of the virtues), with patience and a serene heart, most humbly; to judge the undisciplined, but stable and certain in everything justly promised; through the grace of God well-prepared and fitted-out, suitable in delightful sobriety; if you will be accessible to all who suggest right things and intercede for others; striving rather to profit than to preside; following in the footsteps of holy princes; trampling down wrath, savagery, hardness, avarice, greed, indignation and pride; appearing as a just patrician to your people, greater and lesser; preferring truth in word and deed; freely hearing beneficial counsel; avoiding and persecuting the signs of the vices; loving the virtues; providing defence and mundeburdum to each; so that neither the same holy synod and the leading men currently making this judgement with it might be cursed or detracted in good faith because of you in future, nor might your sacred princely rule, which we believe will profit us, be justly disparaged.

Rather, let the peace and truth of the saints come through divine grace to those who support you, whether they are in charge or a subject, the priests and the leading men committed to them, since you shall have preserved for them and have observed evangelical and apostolic authority with just human law, so that God is blessed through everything and in everything. Priestly and lay fidelity also prays that Your Prudence should act that each ‘may possess their vessel in your house in sanctification and honour’ [1 Thessalonians 4:4].

2) The response of King-Elect Boso to the Synod.

Boso, a humble slave of Christ, to the most holy synod and all Our faithful leading men. First, I give thanks in word and in feeling for your sincerest devotion, because I know for certain that I am clasped to your bosoms, although unworthy, solely by your benevolence, through the unchangeable grace of God; and equally, that your charity’s fervour chooses me to be promoted to that office so that My Smallness might be able to fight for my mother, which is the Church of the Living God, for an immortal repayment.

But I am conscious of my condition and fragile created state, and, judging myself utterly unequal to business of this kind, I had refused unless I should observe that through the will of God one heart and one soul had been given to you in one consensus. And thus, knowing for certain that you are inspired by God, I am not reluctant to obey both the priests and Our friends and followers, nor am I rash in obeying your commands.

I very freely undertake to be what you have required in terms of the sort of man I should show myself to be in joining, through God’s mercy, in the future regime, and also the norm you have extended and instructed with sacred dogma. I embrace the catholic faith, in which I was raised, which I hold with the purest of hearts, which I proclaim with the truest of tongues, for which I am prepared to lay out again and again if it so pleases our lord God. I will take care to restore and conserve the privileges of churches, with the assistance of our lord Jesus Christ, through your common counsel. I will take care to give and conserve for everyone, as you have admonished, law, justice and right mundeburdum, with God’s help. In this, following in the footsteps of the good princes who came before, let me strive to consult both the sacred orders and you, Our followers, in conserving equity.

Regarding my behaviour, although I know that I am a sinner before all, I truly assert that this is my will: that I should yield to good people in everything and to bad ones in nothing. But if, because I am human, this slips my mind in dealing with anyone, I will take care to make good in accordance with your counsel.  In this respect, I reverently pray that you should honour yourselves in me by suggesting to me in a manner befitting the time and place what you find more just and reasonable, because I in turn, if any of you do me wrong, will make myself available and reasonably expect you to make amends.

I will follow gospel and apostolic authority and just human law, so that as He leads and accompanies God might be blessed through everything and in everything. As you have admonished me, because God lives in the saints, I will show care for Our household; I will very studiously take care that everything proceeds properly.

Therefore, my lords, sacrosanct pontiffs, bishops of the Church of our God on high, and all you Our followers, chief men and underlings, I, confident of God’s grace and help through the support of His saints because I favour your commands, pray and entreat you that through Him and with Him you should assist my necessity and humility in helping with such labour through pious interventions with Him; and also that you should strive to support me as far as you can with human supports and aids. But if this displeases anyone and they have something else in mind, I ask that he declare it openly, and not deceive himself or us in any way. At the same time, I pray through the charity with which you burn that, favouring the common advantage, you should exhort our lord God with three days of solemn prayer with the people committed to you, so that He might not permit you or me to err and deceive His people, but that He might mercifully reveal His will about this.

3) The Election of King Boso.

When, in the name of the Lord and saviour of the world, holy fathers had gathered to celebrate a convent at Mantaille in the territory of Viennois, to deal with much Church business and to enter the conclave of holy solicitude, many things were brought forth and gathered in their consideration. Priestly affection, poured from old into the hearts of the fathers, clearly dictated to the conclave that it should have a care for the role [of king] by means of which an appropriate regime was usually provided for the people both in the Old Testament and in the New. And because both those holy fathers (whom divine grace has conceded be called ‘bishops’) and  the princes and the whole mass of the people had for a while been missing the protection provided by the same role, nor had they been supported or helped by the assistance of any compassionate person, particularly since after the king was taken by that death which is common to all things, no-one had opened their bowels to them (*)  through the largess of charity. Many were compelled to worry, because the holy mother Church was seen to be being completely destroyed not only in inner matters through the Invisible Enemy, but also in visible affairs through visible enemies, even from those whom it had birthed in Christ.

And so, as they turned their minds’ sharpness every which way, and at the same time considered with the more noble persons the promotion of suitable person to deal with this need; but not finding anyone who wished to respond to their inquiry, insofar as everyone despised to take up such a labour for the honour of God and His saints, everyone was inflamed to exhort God, prince of all princes, from the depths of their heart owing to these difficulties, so that He, Who has the sole care of mortal man and Whose disposition turns the course of all the ages, might both give right counsel and disclose a clear sign of help.

Finally, He to Whom every heart is open and every mind speaks, considering the wearied souls of the people great and small, caused a certain consolation to shine forth, and in a particular way presented some support. Truly, through divine visitation all these wise men with one accord sought one and the same thing. They had one man in mind, previously a necessary defender and helper under the princely rule of lord Charles [the Bald], whose son after him, the son of the same emperor, the lord king Louis, knowing his manifest prudence, chose to magnify. He also so stood out to everyone not only in the Gauls but also in Italy that the apostolic lord John [VIII] of Rome embraced him like his own son and proclaimed the integrity of the same in many proclamations, and, returning to his own see, delegated it to his tutelage.  Therefore, by God’s will, through the support of the saints, due to the pressing need and that desirable advantageousness and most prudent and provident wisdom which they discovered in him, with one heart and one wish and one consensus, with Christ leading the way, they sought and unanimously elected for this royal business the most shining of princes lord Boso.

And, in consideration of the size of the work, he refused and rejected the offer, but those who were of God and His Church opposed this, and eventually he obediently bowed the neck and promised to do it. The king-elect was established by God, prayers were poured out, and the grace of our lord Jesus Christ which preceded this wish remains fully effective in the certain completion of it.

And that this election might be made known more certainly to people present and future, the subscription of all the bishops shows it in a clearer light.

Enacted publicly at Mantaille, in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 879, in the 12th indiction, on the ides of October [15th October].

For the sake of removing ambiguity, one…   

Otrand, poor archbishop of Vienne. Aurelian, archbishop of Lyon. Theotrand, archbishop of Tarentaise. Robert, poor bishop of Aix-en-Provence. Archdeacon… on behalf of Adalgar, bishop of Autun. Ratbert, bishop of Valence. Berner, bishop of Grenoble. Elias, bishop of the church of Vaison-la-Romaine. Henry, humble bishop of the church of Dié. Adalbert, bishop of Maurienne. Biraco, bishop of the church of Gap. Eustorgius, bishop of Toulon. Girbald, bishop of the church of Chalon-sur-Saône. The base bishop Baldemar [of an unknown see, if any]. Jerome, bishop of Lausanne. Richard, bishop of Apt. Guntard, bishop of Mâcon. Rostagnus, archbishop of Arles. Theodoric, archbishop of the church of Besançon. Aetherius, bishop of Viviers. Leodoin, bishop of Marseille. Germard, bishop of Orange. Ratfred, bishop of Avignon. Walafrid, bishop of the church of Uzès. Edold, humble bishop of the church of Riez. Chorbishop Leoboin. The humble abbot Geilo [of Langres, at this point abbot of Tournus].

(*) This is a long-standing metaphor referring to the ‘bowels of compassion’ as found in e.g. 1 John 3:17, ‘whoso… seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?’. A less precise translation would be ‘no-one had displayed any compassion to them’, but given how long the search and how painful some of the search results were that I had to do in order to find this out, I’m leaving it in there so that you all can share my pain.

The ruins of Mantaille today (source, photo by Pascal Rey)

The first thing to note here is that Mantaille itself was a secure, fortified location. Evidently whoever decided to hold the assembly here was concerned about being interrupted. And well might they have been! West Francia already had, after all, not one but three potential kings, all of whom had by this point been crowned. (Louis the Younger was already crowned and Louis III and Carloman II had been crowned in September.) Boso was pretty much any way you sliced it a usurper. Interestingly, the document doesn’t acknowledge that, clearly putting forth the story that there was no king. I reckon that’s because that was the key issue which could sink Boso. It wasn’t necessarily that he wasn’t Carolingian, it was that there were already a number of viable kings and Boso was late to the party.

Certainly, no mention is made of Ermengard. This is a striking difference with the Montiéramey charter we looked at on Monday. The lack of any mention of bloodline is also a contrast to what Regino of Prüm describes in his Chronicon, where it is said that Boso saw the sons of Louis the Stammerer as inferior by birth. Kingship here is a function of Boso’s superlative character, which it the only thing capable of properly protecting the Church. This is not an unknown discourse in Carolingian politics – when we looked at the 829 council of Paris, their description of good kingship was in terms of a character appropriate to its duties, and Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, no less, also made the claim in his tract on the divorce of King Lothar II that hereditary right was secondary to good character and that there were many ways of making a king. However, what’s really important here is that the entire argument is based on it. It’s kind of the opposite in many ways of the letter of Archbishop Fulk of Rheims we talked about the first time hereditary succession came up on this blog. Both of them put all their eggs in one basket, Fulk in the ‘hereditary right’ basket and Boso and company in the ‘good character’ one. Notably, Boso’s extremism worked better than Fulk’s. Fulk was never able to get much support for his cause; Boso and his backers managed to pose a serious threat to their royal neighbours, and it took multiple kings working in unusually close harmony to take them down. That’s a strong hint that Boso’s arguments were more convincing…

Admittedly, this document is really going all-out in describing Boso here. Compared to the promissio of Louis the Stammerer which we’ve translated on this blog, he’s being asked to do a heck of a lot more – not just preserve for each church their rights, but be a perfect example of wisely-guided and divinely-inspired rulership. One wonders whether, had Boso managed to maintain his position, his followers would not have been disappointed by the sequel…

Charles the Simple’s First Invasion of Lotharingia

First, for what it’s worth, I’d like to express my support for my UK friends and colleagues striking over the proposed cuts to their pensions. Good luck!

Now, blog. One of the key planks in my argument for ‘Charles the Simple: Best King Ever’ is that he manages to successfully take and rule Lotharingia, something which is actually rather difficult in this period. This, though, passes over the fact that his successful attempt in 911 was actually his second, and it’s his first, in 898, which I’ve been revisiting recently, and which is interesting not least because of what it says about the military potential of late Carolingian kingship.

So, we’re in 898. Charles the Simple has been undisputed king of the West Franks for about four months, having spent most of his adolescence figureheading a largely-undermanned rebellion against the previous king Odo. During this rebellion, Charles turned out to have as many connections to Lotharingia as to the West Frankish kingdom, and was even able to pull on them to the extent of getting King Zwentibald of Lotharingia to come and give him a hand in besieging Laon, although it seems pretty clear that in this case Zwentibald was using Charles as cover to try and militarily extend his own kingdom westwards. In any case, some of the first things Charles does are to try and appeal to Lotharingians.

In particular, Zwentibald was at the time just finishing the first phase of a prolonged feud with a group of counts around Metz known as the Matfredings. Thanks to an intervention in May 897, Zwentibald and the Matfredings had been reconciled, but there were probable still tensions. Charles (and his eminence gris/substitute father figure Archbishop Fulk of Rheims) had actually had prior dealings with one of the Matfreding’s closest allies, Abbot Stephen of Saint-Mihiel, for whom, in February 898, Charles issued a diploma. This diploma did two things: 1) it confirmed property in Zwentibald’s kingdom and 2) confirmed property which Zwentibald had already confirmed himself, at his and Charles’ joint siege of Laon no less. I think one has to read it as Charles advertising himself as king for the Lotharingians and the Matfredings more specifically.

Zwentibald’s response, it appears, was to seek friends in the southern bit of Lotharingia, where the Matfredings were strong. Certainly, he reached out to Archbishop Radbod of Trier, and that’s as good an explanation for why as any I’ve seen. Problem was, Radbod had his own local rivals, and one of them was another Lotharingian aristocrat with ties to Charles from old, Reginar Long-Neck. Radbod was able to persuade Zwentibald to kick Reginar out of his court, and Reginar went all the way to Charles.

The chronology here is slightly unclear, but it seems that Charles was once again trying to push himself as king for the Lotharingians, because at the end of June 898 he was sitting on the river Aisne at Vienne-la-Ville, a boundary between his kingdom and Zwentibald’s, issuing diplomas for recipients on the Spanish March of all places. Why make people from Narbonne come to you so far north and east, rather than at Rheims or Laon? I reckon it’s because Charles is sitting there, displaying his appropriately kingly status, hoping that Reginar (and/or others) is going to come and say hello – which is exactly what Reginar ended up doing.

(Some historians have put Reginar’s appeal for Charles’ help a little earlier, and had the June diplomas as signalling the point when he was moving in with an army, but a) that makes the chronology of the fighting between Zwentibald and Reginar compressed to the point of unworkable and b) it doesn’t really fit with Regino of Prüm’s history of events, which strongly implies all of the fighting took place in Autumn.)

So, Reginar and another Lotharingian count, Odoacer, come and ask Charles for help. Charles and his men duly invade, going first to Aachen and then to Nijmegen. Zwentibald, meanwhile, heads south, but is able to gain Matfreding support and win over some key northern bishops, Franco of Liège and Dodilo of Cambrai. I am as of yet unclear why they go for him and not Charles, but go for him they do. Charles goes down to Prüm, probably although not certainly against the will of Regino of Prüm – for it is he – the then abbot*, and then there’s a stand-off, where neither side commits to battle, Charles goes home, and the matter rests there.

Conspiracy then follows, and Lotharingia actually ends up with Zwentibald’s young half-brother Louis the Child, but this is where the actual invasion stops, and it’s enough to pull out a few threads. First, Charles’ actual support in Lotharingia appears to have been very limited on this occasion, basically Reginar and a few mates. This means that their initiative, although useful in giving him an excuse to intervene, probably wasn’t all that helpful in terms of active support. Second, and further, Charles was clearly angling very strongly for someone to give him an excuse. Third, he was apparently by himself able to put together a credible enough army to mount a serious potential challenge to Zwentibald.

Fourth and finally, despite this his lack of Lotharingian support was key, because without overwhelming backing from the Lotharingian magnates, his army and Zwentibald’s appear to have been sufficiently well-matched that neither wanted to risk pitched battle. Pitched battle in this period, quite apart from the risk of losing, was morally-fraught, so one can sympathise with him here – but it did mean that the war was probably going to be negotiated out soon rather than later as soon as it became clear that no-one wanted to roll the dice. In these senses, in fact, the 898 invasion of Lotharingia by Charles the Simple is pretty typical, almost archetypical of inter-regnal warfare in the late Carolingian period.

*Simon MacLean thinks that Regino gave Charles help; this is possible but perhaps unlikely, insofar as one of Zwentibald’s first gifts in late autumn 898 is to Prüm…

Reading the West Frankish Coronation Liturgy, no. 4: The Ordo of Seven Forms

[From MSS BCE]

1. An Ordo for how a king should be ordained.

2. “O Eternal God Almighty, creator of all, emperor of the angels, king of those who rule and lord of those who lord, Who caused thy servant Abraham to triumph over his foes, gave many-fold victories unto Moses and Joshua, who were set above thy people; and elevated thy humble child David to the peak of the realm, and enriched Solomon with the ineffable gift of wisdom and peace, hear our humble prayers we beseech thee, and upon this man thy servant N., whom we elect as king with lowly devotion, multiply the gifts of thy blessings upon him, and cover him always and everywhere with the hand of thy power, so that he, firm in the faithfulness of the aforesaid Abraham, trusting in the mildness of Moses, defended with the fortitude of Joshua, exalted with the humility of David, ornamented with the wisdom of Solomon, might please thee in everything, and walk ever on the path of justice with uninterrupted steps, and so nourish and teach, defend and instruct thy Church and the people joined to it, and powerfully and regally administer the government of thy virtue for it against all enemies visible and invisible, and restore their souls to the concord of true faith and peace by thy grant, that he, supported by the due subjection of the people, might be glorified with worthy love, and, by thy mercy, merit to decently ascend to the throne of his fathers; and, defended by the helmet of thy protection and constantly protected by an unconquerable shield and girded with celestial arms, faithful and happily gain the triumph of a desirable victory, and inflict the terror of his power upon the unfaithful, and joyfully carry back peace for those soldiering for thee, through our Lord, who destroyed Tartarus with the Cross’ virtue, and, having overcome the Devil’s realm, ascended to Heaven, in whom all power and the victory of kings dwells, who is the glory of the humble and the life and salvation of the people, who lives and reigns with thee, God in the unity of the Holy Spirit.”

3. Unction by sacred chrism.

“May God, the son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was anointed by the Father with the oil of exaltation before his partakers, through the present infusion of the sacred oil of the paraclete Spirit upon thy head, pour out a blessing and cause it to penetrate thy innermost heart, so that thou might merit through this visible and tangible gift to take up invisible gifts, and by pursuing just government in this worldly kingdom to reign eternally with Him, Who alone is without sin, king of kings, and lives and is glorified with God the Father, God in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.”

4. The royal coronation.

“Take the crown of the realm, which is placed upon thy head by the hands, though unworthy, of bishops. Know that it is a clear sign of the glorious and honour of sanctity and the work of fortitude and do not be unaware that through it thou art a participant in our ministry, such that, just as we know ourselves to be pastors and rulers of souls in inner matters, thou also might always appear as a true worshipper of God, and a vigorous defender of the Church of Christ against all adversity, and a useful executor of the realm given to thee by God and through the office of our blessing, committed to thy governance on behalf of the apostles and all the saints, and a beneficial ruler, so that, decorated with the jewels of virtue amongst the glorious athletes and crowned with the prize of eternal happiness, thou might glory with Jesus Christ the saviour and redeemer, whose name and position thou art entrusted to bear, without end. He lives and rules, God with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.”

5. The handing-over of the sceptre.

“Take the rod of virtue and equity, by which thou might know to delight the pious and terrify the reprobate, to lay out a path for the erring, to reach out a hand to the lapsed; destroy the proud and raise the humble; and may Jesus Christ our Lord open to thee the door, who said of himself, ‘I am the door, if any man enter in, he shall be saved’. And he, who is the key of David and the scepter of the house of Israel, ‘he that openeth and no man shutteth, that shutteth and no man openeth’, may he be to thee a supporter, who ‘brings out the prisoners from the prison, and those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death’, that thou might merit to follow in everything him of whom the prophet David sang, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom’. And by imitating him, ‘You have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, wherefore God, your God, has anointed you’, after the example of him who was anointed before the world, ‘with the oil of gladness beyond your companions’, Jesus Christ our lord, who lives and reigns.”

6. The handing over of the ring.

“Take the ring of royal dignity, and know a sign of catholic faith in thyself through it, because, as today thou art ordained the head and prince of realm and people, thus too should thou endure an ongoing supporter and stabiliser of Christianity and the Christian faith, that, happy in deeds, wealthy in faith, thou might be glorified with the king of kings forever, ‘to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever’, amen.”

7. The handing-over of the sword.

“Take the sword, royally imposed on thee through the hands, although unworthy, of bishops, yet consecrated on behalf and by the authority of the holy apostles, and divinely ordained in defence of the holy Church of God by the office of our blessing, and be mindful of what the Psalmist prophesied, saying ‘Gird the sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty’, so that in this, through the same, you might exercise the might of equity, powerfully destroy the mass of iniquity, and fight for and protect the holy Church of God and His faithful, and no less execrate and destroy those false in faith, who are enemies of the Christian name, clemently help and defend widows and orphans, restored what is desolate, conserve what is restored, avenge injustice, confirm what is rightly done, so that in enacting this triumph of virtue, glorious, an outstanding cultivator of justice, thou might merit to reign without end with the saviour of the World, whose type thou bearest in name, who lives and reigns with Father and Holy Spirit.”

8. The designation of royal status.

“Stand firm and hold fast henceforth this place, which thou hast held thus far delegated to thee in hereditary right by paternal succession, through the authority of God Almighty and our present gift, to wit, of all the bishops, and the other servants of God; and as much as thou see the clergy to be closer to the sacred altars, by that much more take care to give them greater honour; so that the mediator between God and Man might confirm thee as a mediator between clergy and people in the throne of the realm, and make thee to reign with him in the kingdom eternal, Jesus Christ our lord, king of kings and lord of lords, who is with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

[Rites for queen-making snipped.]

The coronation of an emperor from the Bamberg Apocalypse. OK, it’s a stretch, but at least there’s an East Frankish link here… (source)

Another Friday, another anonymous, undated ordo. This one, moreover, is the subject of a bit of terminological confusion. It’s most often known as the Ordo of Seven Forms, but also as the Ordo of Eleven Forms and the Stavelot Ordo. It’s preserved in one thirteenth-century manuscript from Stavelot in the form I’ve translated it, although there are other variant versions in other contexts.

The date of the Ordo of Seven Forms is generally accepted as being the first half of the tenth century. Jinty Nelson has argued that the queen-making rites, which I’ve not included, were used to crown the West Frankish queen Gerberga in 939, which is interesting, and suggests that the king-making rites may have been used for her husband King Louis IV in 936. Something of this may be suggested to the changes the author has made to the Erdmann Ordo, particularly the references to ‘paternal throne’ and ‘hereditary right’ which are actually new elements and make sense in a context where you’re importing an untried sixteen-year-old who probably doesn’t speak the language very well because of who his dad was, something in itself making a bit of a break with earlier practice.

In terms of its actual content, Walter Ullmann back in the ‘60s and ‘70s got very excited about the exalted role of the bishop in this ordo, and, y’know, he’s got a point. The emphasis of the bishop’s role in handing over the sword and the crown and indeed in making the king (note heading 8) is tremendous. Note also that whereas in previous ordines we’ve had references to the people helping in the royal ministerium, here the king becomes a participant in episcopal ministerium.

What this reminds me of more than anything else, especially in light of all the references to the king as a type of Christ (i.e. a Christus, an ‘annointed one’) is the 916 Council of Hohenaltheim, which does basically the same thing. This would repay further thought – I may well get back to you on this…

Next Friday: The Ratold Ordo.

All the Bishops in the ‘Verse: Part 1 of the Ghent/Bruges Conference Report

Although the kind of reporting I ended up doing on the Tübingen conference was born out of necessity, I discovered that I actually enjoyed doing it more than a straightforward conference report. Thus, for the next conference on the reportage list, Bishops in the ‘Century of Iron’: Episcopal Authority in France and Lotharingia, 900-1050, I’ll do as I did before, only commenting on the papers where I had anything interesting to say in response.

The first of these was in fact the first paper, the keynote lecture, given by Professor John Ott of Portland State University, with the title ‘In Praise of Bishops’, a title originally picked, he told us, because ambiguous titles let you change your subject at the last minute; but as in this case the topic was episcopal praise-poetry, it was thoroughly appropriate. Professor Ott led us through a cavalcade of poets from the eleventh- and twelfth-century archdiocese of Rheims, arguing that poetry in episcopal courts was so common as to be omnipresent: from declamation before the bishop himself to little inscriptions engraved on common items. At Rheims, for instance, a chalice commissioned by Archbishop Adalbero bears these lines:

Hurry, O faithful, hunger and thirst flee from here:

Bishop Adalbero divides these treasures amongst the people.

This is not that chalice, nor from that century, but it is a chalice from Rheims.

Professor Ott argued that the Gregorian reforms of the late eleventh century saw the beginning of the end of these poetic practises: Pope Gregory VII and those of like mind to him just don’t seem to have been very interested in poetry. He noted that while Gregory received poetry, he never wrote any himself. This was seen as an important cultural change – he argued that because poems were so widespread in episcopal culture, poetry, from cups to epitaphs to letters in verse, needs to be taken more seriously by historians if we are get a proper idea of what the courts of tenth- and eleventh-century bishops were like.

I agreed with this, for the most part, but one niggling doubt stuck in my mind. The verse of Adalbero mentioned above rather sets the tone for the kind of poetry Professor Ott was dealing with; ‘worthy’, I think, would be the appropriate word. Something of the exception which proved the rule was an inscription on a (no-longer-surviving) bronze statue of a stag from Rheims, commissioned in the mid-eleventh century by Archbishop Gervaise. Gervaise was a Loire valley magnate who had originally been bishop of Le Mans, but had been kicked out and given Rheims instead: by all accounts, he was bellicose, flamboyant, and very wealthy. He commissioned the stag as a reminder of his old home to the west; the poem on it reads:

              When he wandered in the woods of Maine,

              Gervaise had many stags.

              So that it might stand always as a memorial to his fatherland,

              He had this one cast in bronze.

This in turn made me think of one of my favourite bishops, Archbishop Archembald of Sens, who reigned in the late tenth century. Archembald had a terrible reputation by the eleventh century, when he was accused of having kicked the monks of Saint-Pierre-le-Vif out of their monastery to make room for his hunting dogs, but seems to have been reasonably well-respected at the time. The question which arises for me, then, is ‘what was episcopal court culture like under Archembald?’

(The same question, albeit reversed, could be asked about Archembald’s successor Anastasius, who seems to have been extremely aesthetic, and – it might be speculated – have seen Latin poetry as frippery).

As I said, most of the poetry which survives is very worthy, moral stuff, supposed to teach the audience moral lessons and impart theological messages. This, though, presumably made it more likely to survive than, say, an episcopal joke-book, and certainly more so than hours and hours of silent prayer. Given this, I wonder if this kind of poetic episcopal culture was as pervasive as Professor Ott was arguing, or whether it was only one of a number of modes of tenth- and eleventh-century episcopal culture, and the one which just happened to be usable for other things outside its immediate context – and thus the only one which survives?

This post is the last before the Christmas break. I’ll be back in January. In the meantime, as, for the first time in a while, I’ll have access to a computer rather than a slowly-decomposing tablet, I’ll be putting up a poll about the look and layout of the site, so keep an eye out for that. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

I Swear The Tenth Century Was Around Here Somewhere: Part 3 and last of the Tübingen not-conference-report

For all I enjoyed going and thought that the individual papers were thought-provoking and interesting, something about overall thrust of the Tübingen conference I have previously blogged about failed to add up for me, and during the last panel it became fairly clear what that was. At one point during the question and answer session, Charles West opened a question by stating that he and Steffen Patzold, the other conference organiser, had deliberately left out the tenth century in order to focus on the ninth and the eleventh. I have an almost-embarrassing amount of respect for the organisers – indeed, I have embarrassed myself in front of Charles with excessive fanboy-ing – but in this case, I thought this was the wrong decision, for a very simple reason: setting things up this way tended to give a picture of the tenth century that was more static than was the case.

Charles’ paper itself is a good example of this. Its point was fairly simple: that the rhetoric of Carolingian reform was scrutinised with great interest by eleventh-century and later Church reformers (the case study was Hugh of Flavigny), and that the two have many points in common; hence his formulation, which I paraphrased in the previous post, that eleventh-century reform could be seen as ‘Carolingian ecclesiology with added pope’. As it goes, I have no problem with the content of that, but I dispute the presentation.

By leaving out the tenth century, one is implicitly presented with a kind of ‘misunderstood genius’ picture of Carolingian reform, where Carolingian churchmen – usually but not always Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims – came up with such-and-such an idea – in this case, the importance of removing lay influence from episcopal elections – but, unable to be appreciated in their own too-worldly times, languished unread until the eleventh century emerged, ‘cloaked in a white mantle of churches’, and implemented all these reform ideas which we know to be Good Things.

The Consecration of Deodatus, from Wikimedia Commons: a 17th century picture of a 7th century bishop, but hey, at least it’s royalty-free.

I caricature, but separating the ninth and the eleventh centuries in this rather inorganic manner does decontextualize developments in thought. After all, at some point these ideas, having initially been proposed, were weighed in the balance and found wanting; and at some later point, other trends emerged (say, a kingship which became increasing active in influencing episcopal elections) which might provoke their re-examination. Leaving out the tenth century, though, these important factors are passed over, which, at least in my case, doesn’t help understanding; and it meant that the conference called ‘The Transformation of the Carolingian World’ had a starting point and an end point, but no actual transformation in the middle…

I would be interested in hearing what other people who went to the conference thought (for I understand there are some reading this). I worry that I may be projecting here. In any case, my unease about the set-up of what was, as I said, a good conference hopefully doesn’t detract either from the utility or the interest of the subject matter.

Getting Your Property Back As A Tenth-Century Bishop

One of the texts I occasionally come back to is something called the Dialogus de statu sanctae ecclesiae (‘A Dialogue on the State of the Holy Church’).  It was written (probably) in the 960s by Macallan, the Irish abbot of the abbey of Saint-Vincent in Laon, in north-east France. (Side note: before I found that map reference, I actually didn’t know that the abbey doesn’t exist anymore, except for a burned-out shell of an eighteenth-century dormitory, which makes me a bit sad.)

The Dialogus was written for the attention of Macallan’s patron, Bishop Roric of Laon. Roric’s a more obscure figure than he probably deserves to be. He was the bastard son of King Charles the Simple (AKA, the greatest Frankish king), who became a royal scribe and thence bishop of Laon, one of the most important royal strongholds, under his half-brother King Louis IV. He was elected in 949, but was unable to take up residence in the city because it was at the time under the control of Louis’ arch-enemy, Duke Hugh the Great, and he was forced instead to remain in the fortress of Pierrepont, a short way north-east of Laon proper. He did eventually get into Laon, where he seems to have been an important figure at court until his death in 976. Among other things, he was briefly archchancellor (the man responsible, at least in theory, for the production of royal diplomas), and in 965, he mediated Louis IV’s son King Lothar’s conquest of Flanders after the death of Arnulf the Great. This last one is a particular mystery, and one I’d like to know more about – why him? There’s no particular indication from other evidence that he had any particular ties to Flanders… But I digress.

To return to the Dialogus, the subject of the treatise is Church property, and, more specifically, the inalienability of Church property. Macallan’s self-insert character Theophilus says:

And thus, the alienation of the holy Church’s patrimony (which is the coheir of Christ) by its guardians and promoters – that is, bishops and clerics – or its bestowal on their friends and relatives is fearfully opposed by laws both divine and human…

(Although he goes on to say you can lawfully bestow the usufruct.) But, Theophilus says, previous bishops have ignored this rule, and the Church’s property is now in the hands of unsuitable people. This raises an obvious question: how does one reclaim it? Theophilus’ answer is that it’s the bishop’s job: he must persuade, cajole or coerce usurpers of Church goods to return them to the Church.

The question then becomes: what to do if asking nicely doesn’t work? For our purposes today, the interesting part is not so much the way Macallan answers the question (you go up the chain of command to your archbishop, and then to his primate), but the way he phrases it. Eutitius, the character Macallan uses as a stand-in for Bishop Roric, asks ‘What should be done for a bishop who defends justice and tries to reclaim these lost goods if he is not supported by the help of either the king or his men, whose job it is (qui esse debuerant)?’

What’s interesting here is the assumption that, in general, the normal way of things is that the bishop would, in fact, have royal help in reclaim his property – what Eutitius is asking about is if things go wrong with the way you’re supposed to do it. The reason this is interesting is that West Frankish kingship is, at this point, supposed to be down the toilet – as I mentioned earlier, for instance, Roric couldn’t originally get into his own city, the most important military hardpoint for West Frankish royalty, because King Louis was not actually in control of it at the time. Despite this, the first turning point for a bishop who needs actual, practical help is still thought of as being the king.

It’s similarly noticeable that, at the very beginning of the Dialogus, the reason Eutitius comes to Theophilus to ask about the question of Church property is that a discussion on the subject arose while he was at the royal palace. Now, Roric himself was, as previously said, an important court figure, but Eutitius is fictional. Macallan didn’t have to portray him embedded in a royal context – he chose to, apparently because that was the most plausible place to find a local bishop.  This partnership between bishops and kings is, for me, one of the defining features of post-Carolingian politics. Even in the latter days of the tenth century, royal authority was still deeply intertwined with that of bishops.