Charter a Week 39: Big Synods and Big Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Name in Print VI

As a nice cap to my frantic end-September deadline drive (ends this evening, hurrah!), today I found this in my office pigeonhole:

img_20190927_111901-1
Yaaay!

This, as you can see, is the new volume of The Mediaeval Journal, and I am in it. You may remember that a while back, I came runner-up in their essay competition, and now the article has seen the light of day as ‘Kingship and Consent in the Reign of Charles the Simple: The Case of Sint-Servaas (919)’, The Mediaeval Journal 7.2 (2019), pp. 1-22. I’m proud of this one – anyone who’s met me (or indeed read this blog) will know that I am an unashamed Charles the Simple fanboy, and whereas my last article about him unavoidably focussed on his failures, this one aims to put down one particular historiographical myth, that of Charles’ absolutism. In wider terms, it’s about the shades of royal ideology and the use of charters to convey ideology, so if any of this strikes your fancy, please do have a look!

It is unfortunately not freely available online, but if you can’t get hold of the journal I have a PDF I’d be happy to send you – if you don’t have my contact details, you can find them under the ‘About’ page on the right-hand side of the blog.

The gritty details: My word, do you know it’s been five years since this thing first saw the light of day?! That was as a conference paper back in 2014, which then became my IMC paper in 2015. It then got written up for the Mediaeval Journal Essay Prize when I moved to Brussels in 2016, the results of which you know already. This came with a cash prize (and I’d already been asked if I wanted to publish a previous entry with them which was only short-listed) so I waited to hear about publication, given they’d already given me some money for it*. I then waited some more, until several months later I asked if they wanted to publish it, to which the answer was thankfully ‘yes’. Reviewer reports wanted a few minor revisions, which I submitted by year-end 2017. Then it was another waiting game, in large part because the previous issue of the journal was taken up with a special issue, but final proofs were off by year-end 2018 and now, nine months later, it’s out!

*For non-academics, this is unusual and only because this was a prize – we don’t get paid for articles.

Charter A Week 35: Acquiring A Larger Inheritance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

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

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

Enacted at the villa of Cruzy-le-Châtel.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charter A Week 31: Ring Out Those Wedding Bells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

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

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

Enacted at the palace of Attigny.

Happily in the name of God, amen, amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Ernust the notary witnessed on behalf of Bishop Anskeric.

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

Enacted in the estate of Le Gros Dizy.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

Charter a Week 30: A Property Transaction in Three Acts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

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

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

Enacted at the castle of Laon.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign of Abbot Robert.

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

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

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

I, Hucbald the notary, related and subscribed this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prior Ricfred.

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

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

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

I, Hucbald the notary, related and subscribed this.

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

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

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

Charter a Week 29: Carolingian Normandy

The coast of the English Channel is a highway for ships. This has, as we’ve seen, already caused the Carolingian kings some problems, and it will, spoiler warning, continue to do so in future. The extent to which Charles the Simple could exert any control over Rouen at this time is the subject of some debate. Anything we know here comes from the archaeology: there was a new street plan laid out at some point in the late ninth century, but who was behind it we don’t know. Pierre Bauduin thinks that there was a modus vivendi between the Vikings and the people of Rouen in place by the 890s; Jacques le Maho thinks that the Franks were able to kick out the Vikings under King Odo. And then there’s this:

DD CtS no. 51 (17th December 905, Laon) = ARTEM no. 2045 = DK 6.xv

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

Whoever takes great care to serve the king’s faithful commands should advance honoured by his gift.

Therefore, let the entirety of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, to wit, present and future, know that the venerable bishop Ralph [of Laon] and Count Odilard [of Laon], coming before the presence of Our Highness, made an appeal that We might concede to a certain deacon, Our chancellor Ernust, certain bondsmen of Our property to be held perpetually.

In short, We freely assented to their petitions, and We donate to him these bondsmen from the fisc of Pîtres on the river Seine, in the district of Roumois, to be possessed in right of property, whose names are as follows: Enguerrand, Hildegard, Blismodis, Engelhard, Engelmund, another Enguerrand, Ingelburgis, Ermengard, Elemburgis, Amalberga, and Dominic; and We consign, transfer and make a disposition of them from all right and power into the right and power of the same deacon Our chancellor Ernust, so that from this day forth, with no-one contradicting, he might have, hold and possess them in perpetuity, and freely do through this precept of Our authority whatever he wants to do, and dispose of them at will.

But that this edict of Our Magnitude might be held more firmly and be believed more truly and be guarded and observed more inviolably, having been confirmed below with Our own hand, We commanded it be sealed by Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Ernust the notary wrote this down and subscribed on behalf of Bishop Anskeric [of Paris].

Given on the 16th kalends of January [17th December], in the 10th indiction, in the 13th year of the reign of Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 8th of the restoration of the kingdom’s unity.

Enacted at Laon.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

cw 29 905
The original diploma, from Diplomata Karolinorum as linked above.

What’s important about this diploma is that Pîtres is directly downstream from Rouen. It’s maybe half a day’s walk, probably gentler by ship. This act, though, seems to suggest that five years before Charles officially recognised Rollo’s control, he was able to control the royal fisc in what would become Normandy. So what’s going on? Who’s in charge in Rouen – the Normans or the Franks?

Well, there are a few potential options. First, this act is issued in Laon with the local bishop and a local count as intercessors, and it only concerns mancipia (slaves, sort-of) rather than real property. This raises the possibility that the whole transaction is going on in Laon and that Enguerrand, Hildegard et al. could be refugees from Pîtres rather than still living there.

This is possible, but I prefer a second possibility. There is an underlying assumption behind discussions of Rollonid control over Rouen c. 900 that either the Franks or the Vikings were in control. That is, if Rollo was already based in Rouen by 905 then it couldn’t possibly be the case that Charles the Simple (or Robert of Neustria, or whoever) could get anything done there, and vice-versa. Yet historians have at the same time been emphasising the role which Rollo’s ties to the Frankish world played in the concession of Rouen and the surrounding region. There is a tension here.

In fact, if Rollo had decided to settle down, why wouldn’t this involve making deals with local royal agents such as fiscal overseers? There’s no reason to assume that Rollo would have been able to lock the kings out of all the fiscal property on the lower Seine. Assuming that royal and Rollonid power in early Viking Rouen could co-exist lets us untangle several problems: first, it explains why Charles could dispose of property in the Roumois in this diploma. Second, it means that we don’t have to envision a very short time for Rollo to establish himself in Rouen. Third, if there were this longer history between Charles and Rollo, it helps explain the generous grants made by the treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte – Rollo might not have been completely reliable, but neither was (e.g.) Robert of Neustria. But both had proven themselves reliable enough in the past to be worth rewarding when it was opportune to do so.

Charter a Week 27, part 1: Robert’s Back!

The split between Robert and Charles didn’t last forever. In 903, the Neustrian ruler was back in the West Frankish king’s good graces. Quite why then is a little bit open to question. My preferred answer is that there are hints in the sources that 903 was a time when Viking attacks were starting up again – in that year, Tours was burned down by two leaders named Bard and Eric – and Charles, being basically unable to lead an army out of a wet paper bag, needed his most experienced anti-Viking commander to help. This doesn’t really explain why he wouldn’t turn to Richard, who had form fighting Vikings as well, but it’s the best answer I’ve got. Another possibility is that the death of Charles’ mother Queen Adelaide in around 902 had opened the way to reconciliation. But what did the reconciliation look like?

DD CtS no. 47 (5th June 903, Melay) = ARTEM no. 3043 = DK 6.xiv

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

If We pay heed to the petitions of servants of God and things advantageous to churches, and bring them into effect, We are confident that the Lord will make repayment for it.

Therefore, let the profit and skill of people both present and future know that the venerable Count Robert, truly beloved of Us, abbot of the monastery of the holy martyr of Christ, the champion and Our special patron Dionysius and his companions came before Our Clemency and made known a certain little abbey in the realm of Our most beloved kinsman Louis, that is, Lièpvre in the Vosges, which the late venerable abbot Fulrad of the aforesaid monastery had bestowed on the most holy Dionysius and the brothers serving him by charters’ firmness and the authority of precepts; and which the aforesaid brothers had always held from then for their own uses with one salt-pan and one saline in the township of Marsal; and he humbly appealed to Our Clemency that We might deign to renew and confirm the aforesaid goods through a precept of Our authority against abbots to come, so that the brothers might be able to hold the aforesaid goods for all time without any disturbance or invasion or division from any abbot.

And thus, assenting to the prayers of the aforesaid Count Robert, in accordance with what is contained in the testament of the venerable abbot Fulrad and in the privilege of the apostolic lord Leo [III], We perpetually confirm by a precept of Our authority the aforesaid goods for the monks of the aforesaid monastery of Saint-Denis, both for food stipends and for the lighting and for the reception of the poor, reminding and invoking future abbots that they should guard inviolably what We have conceded and strengthened. May he who hears and observes this precept receive an eternal reward, but let anyone who violates it, if they do not come to their senses, remain bound by the chains of the anathema concerning the confirmed goods in the privilege of the apostolic lord Leo.

But that this precept, written after the fashion of a privilege, might be more truly believed and more fully observed, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it to be sealed by Our ring.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

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

Given on the nones of June [5th June], in the 6th indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 6th of his restoration of unity to the kingdom.

Enacted at the estate of Melay.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 27 903
Original diploma taken from dMGH as above.

Once again, this charter has been analysed by Koziol, and in this instance he’s basically right. The Saint-Denis diploma came as the culmination of a series of acts for Robert (I didn’t translate them because there are some minor questions of authenticity over their surviving versions), where he was restored to Charles’ grace over the course of the Easter celebrations. The big difference between my reconstruction and Koziol’s is that I don’t think Robert had prior claim to any of the abbeys he received, so when Charles presented him with the major Parisian abbeys of Saint-Denis and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, these were bribes not restorations.

This diploma is also a reminder of how wide-spread these abbey’s resources were. When anyone talks to you about ‘narrowing horizons’ and ‘territorial consolidation’ in the tenth century then, well, they might have a point, but it’s evidently not in terms of the extent of landholding. As you can see if you click through to the map, the cell of Liepvre is in the middle of Alsace; but Robert has to take it into account along with the closer-to-home estates in the Paris Basin. Also interesting is that Charles apparently has no problems confirming an estate in Louis’ kingdom. Unlike when he did the same to Zwentibald, though, here Louis is marked as being the king and being, officially at least, well-regarded. The dynamics at play here are a little shadowy to me, honestly. Maybe it’s something as simple as Charles keeping his hand in re: claims to Lotharingia…

Charter a Week 25: Richard the Justiciar’s Time in the Limelight

After Robert of Neustria’s departure from court in summer 900, he stayed away for several years. Charles, whose favouring of Richard the Justiciar had probably instigated the conflict in the first place, continued to favour Richard. Although he continued to build up wider alliances, it was unquestionably Richard who held the dominant place at court:

DD CtS no. 38 (22nd April 901, Troyes)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by grace of God king.

If We freely give a hearing to the petitions of servants of God, We copy works of royal excellence and through this We do not doubt that We will gain possession of the prize of eternal life.

Therefore, let the industry of all the faithful of the holy Church of God, to wit, present and future, know that Our follower, the venerable, the most noble of counts, and as well abbot of the monastery of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre, Richard [the Justiciar], approaching the clemency of Our Highness, sought from Our Munificence that We might concede certain goods from the same abbacy to the monks of the same most holy place for use in the stipends of the monks; to wit, twenty little manses sited in the district of Auxerrois, in the estate which is called Irancy, which Walcaud and Leotard used to hold in benefice.

Lending the ears of Our Sublimity to his right salutary requests, which are beneficial for Our soul, We conceded the aforementioned goods to the same sacrosanct place, and We commanded this precept of Our Magnitude be made and given to them concerning it, through which We confirm that the same goods should eternally serve their uses, and, disturbed by no-one, no abbot, nor any officer or judicial power, We decree in entrusting them to them that they be perennially possessed, on the authoritative terms that they should possess the freest judgement in anything whatever they should decree be done with the same things for their needs, and that the aforesaid monks, faithfully and worthily thinking upon this largess, should not desist from beating the pious ears of God Almighty with continuous prayers for Our safety and the state of Our whole realm and the salvation of Our beloved and faithful Richard.

And that this largess might be held more firmly through many times to come and be more diligently be conserved in perpetuity by all God’s faithful, confirming it below with Our own hand, We commanded it be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Given on the 10th kalends of May (22nd April), in the 3rd indiction, in the 9th year of the reign of and 3rd year of the restoration of unity to the kingdom by Charles, most serene of kings.

Enacted and confirmed at the city of Troyes.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

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The abbey of Saint-Germain-d’Auxerre as it appears today (source)

This is one of the five royal diplomas Richard petitioned for between summer 900 and spring 903 (out of a total of 11 surviving acta). It was issued at Troyes, well outside of Charles’ usual travel range. The 22nd April in 901 was just after Easter – the implication seems to be that Charles went to visit Richard in Burgundy for Eastertide, an idea perhaps reinforced by a diploma purporting to have been issued in Autun in March 901. As it currently stands, it is an obvious forgery; but if real information is underlying that dating clause, it could support this suggestion.

In any case, this diploma shows how high Richard’s star was at court in the early 900s. His description as venerabilis et nobilissimus comes, set et fidelis noster necnon et abbas monasterii Sancti Germanii is a very high-flown bit of titulature, and his inclusion in the prayer clause is very unusual in Charles’ diplomas. This is a remarkable bit of favour.

Richard’s time in the spotlight would come to an end relatively shortly. Next week, however, we’ll be taking a quick peek outside the West Frankish kingdom.

Charter a Week 23: Kingship and Bishops in Langres

Remember how Burgundy was unusually violent during the civil war? Well, now it’s 899 and we’re still dealing with the fallout from that. Bishop Adalgar of Autun’s murder wasn’t the only bit of violence Richard the Justiciar oversaw – he also tried to take advantage of a dispute in the see of Langres. There was a dispute between two candidates, Theobald and Argrim. Of the two, Theobald looks to have been the local choice but Argrim was more willing to lend a hand to Richard, and so Theobald was blinded and Argrim supported. Argrim, however, ordained Bishop Walo of Autun and this ticked off Pope Stephen V, who deposed him. Stephen’s successor Formosus, however, restored Argrim as Archbishop of Lyon. Then, however, Argrim was moved back to Langres, and everyone basically agreed on him as a candidate. This is where our story starts:

Papsturkunden no. 10 (May 899) = JL no. 3520

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved sons the clergy and people of the holy church of Langres.

We accept this trust from the blessed Peter, the lord of this holy see and the founder of the apostolic church, and the prince of the apostles: that We should with an energetic disposition labour for the whole Church redeemed by the blood of Christ, and succour all the servants of the Lord and help out everyone living piously with apostolic authority, and not delay to correct and emend, by the Lord’s assistance, whatever is harmful.

To this end, the foresight of divine dispensation has established divers grades and distinct orders, so that when lessers show reverence to the more powerful and the more powerful give love and assistance to their lessers, one bond of concord should be made out of diversity and the administration of each office should be borne correctly.

We freely received the letters of Your Belovedness, indeed, which you sent to the see of the blessed apostle Peter to deal with your affairs not simply once, but twice and even three times, along with the letters of Our beloved son King Berenger [I of Italy]. Indeed, We sorrowed to no small degree over your afflictions and misfortunes, which you sorrowfully complained of having endured for such a long time: to wit, that your church, worn down by many calamities, should be devoid of all pastoral solace from the point when the venerable Bishop Argrim – whom you testify that you all concordantly elected, sought and acclaimed –  left his church owing to the deceitful theft of certain people, and you did not receive any bishop after him of your own free will, as the outline of your complaint fully laid out.

In fact, We already knew this thanks to Count Ansgar [of Ivrea], Our beloved son, who humbly confessed that he had gravely erred in this. We, therefore, who bear the care and concern for all the churches of God and wish and ought to incontestably observe undefiled right and canonical authority for every church, shall not permit you to endure such a thing. Rather, having compassion for Your Brotherhood and confirming by truthful assertions that your tearful complaint is true, with a college of Our brother bishops, with the service of the other orders, We canonically restore to your Our aforesaid confrere the venerable bishop Argrim, and We send him into his church, which is in need of restoration. We do not find fault with the sentence of Our predecessor Pope Stephen [V] but We do change it for the better for the sake of advantage and necessity, in the same way that We are manifestly aware that Our predecessors did in many cases.

In this case, We admonish you and We exhort you through these letters of Our pontificate and We order by the authority of God and Us, that you should receive the same Bishop Argrim, whom We have restored to Your Unanimity as you sought, with beneficent love and harmonious devotion without any delay; and be obedient to him in everything, and you should honourably hold and cherish him as a pious pastor of your souls, observing his canonical commands in everything.

If any of you presume to act against this Our apostolic judgement and statue or to minister without Bishop Argrim’s consent in his church of Langres and do not want to receive him in accordance with Our decree, let them know themselves to be excommunicated and damned by Our authority. Farewell!

Written through the hand of Samuel the notary and secretary of the holy Roman church, in the month of May, 2nd indiction.

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The Lateran Palace in Rome, where all this decision-making took place (source)

This is massaging events. Argrim was probably not the local choice, and it’s noticeable that Pope John IX (for it is he!)’s letter is mostly taken up with implicit threats. In fact, John probably knew this, because he sent a second letter:

Papsturkunden no. 11 (11th May 899) = JL no. 3521

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to his most beloved son the glorious king Charles.

Because We know from the report of many that you, most beloved of sons, manfully act in accordance with the custom of your royal predecessors for the defence and profit of the holy Church of God against the madness of crooked men and also pagans, We rejoice in every way and We venerably embrace you as Our son in Christ, and paternal exhort you that you should work hard to improve, love peace, justice and truth; and never deviate in any way from the right path either, so that you might attain a blessed from Our most clement of lords Jesus Christ as from his gatekeeper and the prince of the apostles Peter, for love of whom you busy yourself with such great things.

Accordingly, We wish it to be known to you, Our son, that the groaning and tearful complaint of the church of Langres came to Our Clemency’s ears not simply once, but twice and even three times, concerning the deposition of their pastor Bishop Argrim, whom they witness that they had all unanimously elected, sought and acclaimed, but who was separated from them owing to the deceitful theft of certain people. Because of this, the church is devoid of pastoral consolation and shaken incessantly by sundry disturbances and misfortunes, so much so that it appears nearly reduced to nothing.

Carefully considering this case with a college of venerable bishops with a diligent examination, and investigating the truth of the matter, and mercifully succouring their unhappiness, We canonically ruled that his church should by Our authority be restored to him, changing the sentence of Our predecessor Pope Stephen [V] to a better one for the sake of necessity and advantage, as We are manifestly aware that Our predecessors to have done in many cases.

We provided for this, and We admonish Your Glory and Religiosity that, because We have canonically restored him to his aforesaid church of Langres, you should always extent a helping hand to him and consent to what We have instituted, and be to him a helper and defender whenever it is useful, for love of God Almighty and reverence of the blessed apostles and Our Apostolic Paternity, so that he might be able to rule the same church peacefully and worthily under your royal munificence, so that he might be able to profit those over whom he should preside. Farewell!

Written through the hand of Samuel the notary and secretary of the holy Roman church, on the 5th ides of May [11th May], in the 2nd indiction.

John here commissions Charles to go and sort out any disturbance in the bishopric, essentially inviting him to give his royal imprimatur to the final settlement of Argrim on the episcopal throne. Given Langres had been so prominent under Charles’ predecessors, this was a sensible decision. What interests me about John’s letter to Charles is two things. First, this letter is absolutely dripping with a very traditional description of Charles in the best traditions of Carolingian kingship. Second, John apparently expects Charles to be able to help him.

This speaks volumes about the efficacy of Charles’ regime. As we saw last week, Charles was able to put together an invading army at short notice in 898, and this letter indicates that he had sway at home as well. There is a certain tendency to chalk this kind of rhetoric up to a kind of wilful blindness on the part of the popes: after all, we already know that kingship had Declined by this point. This has the distinct demerit of assuming that we know what was going on better than contemporaries did. John wasn’t an idiot, nor was he uniformed about events in the West Frankish kingdom. If he thought Charles could help him, that’s probably because he had good reason.