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!  


Charles the Bald: Overdrive

I noticed something weird lately, and it’s made me think that Charles the Bald came very close to utterly ruining the late-Carolingian political system. But let’s start at the beginning. One of the things which is supposed to be a big black mark on the record of tenth-century kings is their limited reach. This doesn’t sit right with me on either end, and I’ve written here before about you can see the tenth-century Carolingians in all kinds of places traditional historiography says you shouldn’t find them. But it’s also the case that there are big swathes of ninth- and even eighth-century Gaul which don’t have much to do with royal power. Martin Gravel uses the phrase ‘non-communicating elites’, and I haven’t got far enough through his book to find out how badly I’m misusing his words (suspicion: badly), but I like talking about these people in those terms. Whereas the movers and shakers of the Loire valley, say, or the bishops of southern Burgundy will have plenty of contact with the court, the bishops of what will become Rouen or the leading men of Quercy don’t seem ever to have had much contact with the Carolingian rulers, not in the ninth century and not in the tenth.

Here, indeed, is a contemporary picture of some of those Neustrian movers-and-shakers: this is Charles the Bald receiving a delegation of Neustrian monks in the 840s (source).

Given that the amount of documentation for the later tenth and eleventh century in these regions increases dramatically, what I think we then see is something of an optical illusion. The combination of ‘more stuff’ and ‘no kings’ makes historians think that the ‘no kings’ is a new development, whereas it’s more likely that if we had more stuff from earlier, we’d see kings as very distant figures then as well. (The original charters of the cathedral of Rodez, where we do have more stuff from earlier, seem to bear this out.)

A good way to look at this are the witness lists of Church councils. These are good because they essentially eliminate preservation bias as a factor – their preservation is so widely-distributed that if we see patterns in who does and does not attend, it’s unlikely to be because the archbishops of Trier (or whoever) were left out deliberately by dozens of scribes over dozens of institutions. And as it happens if we look at the witness lists of big, realm-wide Church councils under the Carolingians, we do see some consistent absences, a major one being the bishops of Cahors, who don’t show up at any Church councils that I’ve been able to find, not under Charles the Bald, not under Louis the Pious, and not under Charlemagne. This seems pretty good evidence that these bishops were never more than tenuously associated with Carolingian governance.

But, there is one exception to this rule. The Council of Ponthion in 876, called by Charles the Bald as part of his grand imperial dreams of the last few years of his life, had a ludicrously-large number of bishops taking part, including Cahors. Now, Cahors is just one example of this, but one thing I think we can see in the last part of Charles’ reign is the presence of more and more people around the king-emperor, including many more of these ‘non-communicating’ elites. At the same time, though, Charles’ inner circle was being more and more reduced (sometimes to the relief of the later historian – it’s during this period that the number of important Bernards around Charles goes from about five to one).

Now, it doesn’t help that both Charles and his son Louis the Stammerer die fairly shortly after one another, but I’m not sure its coincidence that the years around 880 see a serious factional crisis in the West Frankish kingdom. I’m starting to think that Charles, by demanding increased participation and cutting off the flow of reward, ran his kingdom into overdrive. Earlier medieval government doesn’t do well with density, and the years from 875 to 877 see a lot of actors in very little space – the subsequent explosion may well have something to do with this…

The Language of Competent Administration in the Bishopric of Langres

A few weeks ago, we took a look at a charter of Bishop Argrim of Langres, and I mentioned in passing that there were a few things about the language. This week, I’d like to look at that in a bit more detail.

Here are Argrim’s words:

When… I was residing in the bosom of the same mother church in general synod… and was settling the affairs and advantages of the churches committed to Our Unworthiness with pastoral solicitude, insofar as Our ability and understanding allowed; and was giving an equal amount of attention to disposing that what was legitimately established should endure undisturbed; and, if anything, perchance, could be found to be twisted and without authority, with divinity propitious was busying myself to get it back in line…

Here’s his successor Heiric 31 years later:

When I was residing in the bosom of the mother church committed to Us by God, and was inquiring and investigating how its status, with Christ’s favour, could improve for the better, along with the counsel of Our faithful men…

And his successor Achard 31 years after that:

When I was sincerely residing in the womb of the mother church committed to Us by Christ on the days of holy synod, and, as far as the quality of Our strength allowed, seeking and requiring in an orderly manner and investigating to reasonably deal with the business of the same church so that, by Christ’s administration, with the counsel and prayer of Our faithful men, to wit, of both orders, it might be improved to a better state…

And his own successor Widric 9 years after that:

When We were dwelling in the bosom of the Mother Church granted to Us by Christ, according to Our potential and knowledge equally, along with the faithful men of Our aforesaid church, and diligently and freely laboured over the state and progress of it, so that, with God’s bestowal, it might be effected to be sublimated, and the sons of the said church might be able to endure therein and serve God Almighty and Saint Mammet with devoted minds without end…

This kind of language stretches forward right up to the eleventh century, and in fact if we were rewinding the clock you could see it in the late ninth. You might be thinking that this seems unexceptional, insofar as all of the above appears to be a reasonable thing for a bishop to be saying; and certainly these aren’t iconoclastic sentiments – but they are unusual.

Langres today. (source)

Let’s start with the form. This kind of ‘synod-form’ charter is actually very rare in the tenth century. Let’s go outside of Burgundy for a second. We have large numbers of episcopal charters from the bishops of Laon, Poitiers, Verdun and Tours. Of those, Poitiers has two, Verdun and Tours one, and Laon none. It’s clear from other evidence that synods continued to happen; it’s just that they didn’t use this charter form. The bishops of Langres do.

Now, so to do the bishops of Autun and Mâcon. The difference is that in Langres the synod-form charter is paired with the language of good administration – diligently and studiously labouring to improve the affairs and utilities of the Church, that sort of thing. I don’t want to get categorical here, but this kind of language is much, much more typical of the bishops of Langres than their neighbours.

So what’s going on? Partly, it’s a late-Carolingian inheritance. We’ve seen before on this blog the significance of Burgundian bishops in the late ninth century, and those ninth-century bishops talk and govern like this. Langres preserves this inheritance particularly well for two (well, three) reasons: first, it never stopped being important; and second, it never really fell under the spell of the dukes of Burgundy the way that, say, Autun did for several decades there. (The third has to do with the particular legacy of Bishop Isaac of Langres, but maybe we’ll cover that another time.)

This has implications for the regional power of the bishops, of course – and if you want to know about that, the book is still underway – but I’d like to touch on the Peace of God in relation to it. I’ve already drawn parallels between Peace councils and the bishops of Langres, but here we can look at it from the other direction. Holding councils and making a big deal out of holding councils is known practice during the tenth century, and when the Aquitanians come to do the same in the latter half of it, they’re not necessarily doing anything new. What changes is that they pick a different selling point – ‘peace’ rather than ‘inquiring and investigating how the status of the mother Church might be improved for the better’. Pithier, certainly, but not necessarily all that dissimilar in principle.

Charter a Week 28: This Church was a Steal!

After 903, we are definitely at the point where trying to do conventional narrative is basically impossible, at least until the double-whammy of happenings in 911. With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to what’s going on the provinces… As we saw with Geilo, the bishops of Langres were big deals, and they stayed so into the tenth and (as we’ll see) the eleventh centuries. So what’s up with them?

Cartulaire de Saint-Bénigne no. 1.157 (3rd June 904) = ARTEM no. 151

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 903, in the 6th indiction, in the month of September, when, in the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity, I, Argrim, by the favour and succour of the mercy of our same holy saviour humble bishop of Langres, residing in the bosom of the same mother church in general synod, along with those faithful to that church and to Us, of every order, that is, abbots, archdeacons, priests, monks, deacons and other ministers of the churchly order, and also lay followers, was settling the affairs and advantages of the churches committed to Our Unworthiness with pastoral solicitude, insofar as Our ability and understanding allowed; and was giving an equal amount of attention* to disposing that what was legitimately established should endure undisturbed; and, if anything, perchance, could be found to be twisted and without authority, with divinity propitious was busying myself to get it back in line, amongst other endeavours of Our reckonings, which everyone together sweated to fortify and confirm with ecclesiastical sanctions, and We were sorrowing over the destitutions of certain churches pertaining to Our diocese and seeking how, with the Lord’s help, they could be restored by a common vow, the case of the church of the holy martyr of Christ Vincent sited in the castle of Dijon was aired and considered by us, for it seemed at that time to be destitute of necessities and widowed of a ruler and nearly brought down to nothing.

When We sought a recoverer and diligent restorer for it, amongst Our other good-willed followers, there presented himself someone fully devoted to Us and rightly cooperating with Our intention, an archdeacon of Our church named Rather, along with his nephew named Aldefred, saying that they wanted to receive and restore the same church, as far as they could, and were prepared to increase it from their own goods, as befit them, if We would succour it by an increase of Our beneficence and assist it so that it could enjoy legitimate stability in future times.

Favouring them with a resolution of pious generosity, with everyone cleaving to Our Goodwill, in honour and love for God and Saint Vincent, and for the eternal salvation and remuneration of Our soul and of Our predecessors and those who will come after Us in the sacred governance of pastors, and for an assiduous and unfailing remembrance in the prayers in the same church, We consigned and bestowed a certain manse of Our power and authority to the same place of Saint-Vincent, with the serving-people duly dwelling there, and with the vineyards, lands and all the goods beholden to it, sited near the suburbs of the aforesaid castle of Dijon, in the estate which is called Fontaine-lès-Dijon, to benefit that church perpetually as Our alms. Furthermore, Our aforesaid followers, to wit, Archdeacon Rather and his aforesaid nephew Aldefred, giving to that church for divine love another manse sited in the district of Oscheret, in the estate of Seroiches, with what is thereon, and 5 serving-people, and dwellings and meadows, and everything beholden to it, as is laid out in the charter of donation, asked that that church and the aforesaid things and the entrance-hall next to it be conceded and given to them in benefice for their lifetimes, on the condition that they should restore it as far as they could and respect it with due honour and have in it a necessary refuge whilst they lived. After their death, the same goods should no less serve the same church in perpetual stability.

We freely did this, with the assent of all Our men, and We conceded that they might hold the same church with these goods more certainly and securely in future times through this constitution of Our Liberality, which We strengthened with Our own hands and gave to be confirmed by everyone.

I, Argrim, poor bishop of the holy church of Langres, strengthened and subscribed. Prior Otbert subscribed. Archdeacon Isaac subscribed. Alberic the levite subscribed. The unworthy priest Helgaud subscribed. Archdeacon Pazus subscribed. Deacon Fulculf subscribed. Deodatus the priest subscribed. Bernard, under-sacristan of Saint-Mammès, subscribed. Deacon Gozelm subscribed. Archdeacon Arnald subscribed. Arnald the priest subscribed. Everard the levite subscribed. Subdeacon Lambert subscribed. Ursino the priest subscribed. Ingelbert the levite subscribed. Arembert subscribed. Christian the priest subscribed. Garemagnus the levite subscribed. Dominic the priest subscribed. Subdeacon Warner subscribed. Winerand the priest subscribed. Deodatus the priest subscribed. Alexander the priest subscribed. Seguin the priest subscribed. Letulf the levite subscribed. Gozelm the acolyte subscribed. Aimbald subscribed. Robert subscribed. Alger subscribed. Eilbert subscribed. Wandalmar the acolyte subscribed. Witbert subscribed. Archembald subscribed. Gisleher subscribed. Eldulf the levite subscribed. Ferlagius the levite subscribed. Ermenald subscribed.

I, Siric, an unworthy priest, wrote and subscribed this tenancy agreement.

Given in the month of June, on the 3rd nones of the same month [3rd June], in the 7th indiction, in the 8th year of the reign of King Charles.

*The phrase is praeponderans aequo libramine, ‘weighing on an even scale’, which I have taken as a poetic flourish for ‘considering similarly’, but could as well refer to the manner of Argrim’s dispositions.

Original document taken from ARTEM, as given above.

This is at first glance fairly straightforward. The church of Saint-Vincent in Dijon has gone to rack and ruin, Archdeacon Rather – who as prior of Saint-Etienne in Dijon is in a position to know – has volunteered to rebuild it and has devoted some funds for its upkeep, which Argrim, to help them out, adds to.

There is, of course, more going on. First, Saint-Vincent is far from destitute – it was at the time owned by the monks of the abbey of Saint-Bénigne, who still resented having their church usurped in the mid-eleventh century; and who were able, eight years later, to get Argrim’s successor to restore Saint-Vincent to them. So Rather is actively trying to get control of someone else’s church here. Even more, as we will see more of on Wednesday, Rather was particularly able to benefit from this kind of transaction under Argrim. Given Argrim’s slightly tenuous hold on the bishopric, the support of a major archdeacon must have been significant, and these transactions suggest that Rather was able to exact quite a price for that support.

The other thing that I want to flag up regarding this charter is its form. This document takes the form of a synodal record, something quite unusual in the tenth century. It’s not unknown (this being why as far as I can tell no-one else has ever commented on its unusual degree of employment by the bishops of southern Burgundy), but outside of the Church province of Lyon it’s hard to find tenth-century examples of this charter form (as opposed to records of synods themselves, which are more frequent). Why might this be? Well, we’ve already seen that provincial synods were particularly prominent in late-Carolingian Burgundy, and this seems to be a case of ‘as above, so below’ – what happens on a provincial level being reproduced on a diocesan one. There’s something else which makes the charters of the bishops of Langres particularly interesting – but we’ll leave that for another time…

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 10: The Dukes of Aquitaine and the Peace of God

Do you know it’s been over a year since the first of these came out? This isn’t the last post – there’ll be a wrap-up to follow – but it is the last with actual content. We’ve gone to some unexpected places over the course of this story, and not least is the Peace of God. Today, we finish the story by returning, once again, to the counts of Poitou – or, as we can now reasonably call them, the dukes of Aquitaine.

Since we last saw them in the 950s and 960s, it’s been a fairly quiet few decades for William Fierabras, count of Poitou and son of William Towhead(*). The big innovation is that he has begun to fairly consistently take on the title of ‘duke of Aquitaine’ in a way which none of his predecessors managed, but his rule is still basically limited to the greater Poitou region and perhaps Limousin, although Poitevin control there looks to have been rather tenuous. This all changes in a big way in 989, when all of a sudden William’s entourage blows up. In that year, a council was held at Charroux featuring all the Aquitanian bishops; if we are to take a twelfth-century Chronicon from the abbey of Maillezais at all seriously, William was closely involved in organising this. At the beginning of the year, William appears in a charter for the abbey of Saint-Hilaire with Count William of Angoulême, Viscount Guy of Limoges, and Bishop Hildegar of Limoges – not too far-flung, but wider than is typical. But this is just the start of an expansion of Poitevin power which is clear from the charter evidence extending from this point well into the reign of William the Great.

  What’s going on? The short answer is that I’m still not sure. Historians consistently take the Council of Charroux as being self-evident – as in, ‘what else are bishops going to do?’ – but as we’ve talked about before, it really isn’t. I’ve since found evidence to push the last provincial council presided over by an archbishop of Bordeaux to the seventh rather than the third century, but this is not typical behaviour. I have speculations about what’s going on, none terribly convincing. What I would like to emphasise for you is that this is not a Peace of God council. For one thing, the Peace of God doesn’t exist yet. Even otherwise, the Council of Charroux doesn’t mention peace, and there’s no mention of oath-swearing either. If you just had the text of the decrees without names or dates (or hindsight), this looks basically like any other Church council.

Charroux today (source)

What is interesting to me is the point where developments in Greater Poitou overlap with those in east-central Aquitaine, which seems to be at the Council of Limoges in 994. Getting a handle on what happened here is tricky, because there are lots of sources but they’re all later and many of them are written by one man, Adhemar of Chabannes, famous for being a liar and possibly a lunatic. What we can say is that it was a) big, b) convoked without overt ducal influence and c) saw the bishops of Clermont and Le Puy present. These two are interesting. They were not regular figures in the councils of ducal Aquitaine, and their presence here is unusual for that reason. It also provides a conduit for the bringing of a discourse of ‘Peace’ into conciliar developments in western Aquitaine.

Why take it up, though? Here we turn back to the high politics. In the third quarter of the 990s there was a big brouhaha involving a bunch of people in northern Aquitaine, most notably for our purposes William the Great and Boso II of La Marche. We don’t need to go into the details – if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that Greater Poitevin politics in this period is insanely complicated – because what matters to us is the outcome: a peace agreement between the two men which involved William marrying Boso’s widowed sister-in-law Adalmodis. Why does this matter? Because of who Adalmodis is. Remember Adelaide-Blanche of Anjou, quondam queen of Aquitaine, sister of Guy of Le Puy and mother of Count Pontius of Gévaudan who helped Guy overawe his subjects at Saint-Germain-Laprade? Well, she’s also Adalmodis’ mother. The marriage took place in around 997/998, and shortly thereafter, around 1000, we find another council being summoned at Poitiers. This one looks much more like those held by Guy of Le Puy and before him by Stephen of Clermont, and not least because the council’s surviving acts start with a big ol’ declaration that ‘splendid is the name of peace’. The language of peace has taken over the conciliar tendency of western Aquitaine.

At the same time, William’s entourage begins to display evidence of a push to the east not seen since the 950s. Specifically, his brother-in-law Count Pontius of Gévaudan witnesses several ducal charters in the 1000s and 1010s. At the same time, we have also got precious evidence from an unpublished charter of William’s in favour of the abbey of Saint-Léger d’Ébreuil in Auvergne itself – the first evidence of ducal patronage in the Auvergne since the 930s. Equally, William’s reach extended north to Berry, where he wangled Odo of Châteauroux into his following. Bourges was the metropolitan of Clermont and Le Puy and the archbishop had taken part in Limoges in 994 and approved of Saint-Paulien a little before that, so the peace-councils discourse might have had purchase there as well.

The ‘Aquitanian Peace of God’ movement, as it developed in the early eleventh century, has therefore a place not just as the precursor to the Peace of God proper which would spread across Europe from the 1020s and 1030s, but as part of the history of attempts to control Auvergne. Assimilated into a Poitevin tradition, the ‘Peace of God’ movement reaches back to Stephen II of Clermont, and is part of an attempt to harness his legacy and replicate his influence in east-central Aquitaine.


(*) OK, that’s not true, but trust me, you don’t want to know the details, which are detailed.

Charter a Week 15: The Council of Meung-sur-Loire

A short post for a quiet year. The early years of Odo’s reign were, if not salad days, at least less hectic than what would come after, although by that I just mean he was fighting Vikings rather than civil wars. Our main source, the Annals of Saint-Vaast, are mostly concerned with Viking fights and don’t say much about what was going on outside the north-east. Hence, if we were reliant on them, we wouldn’t know about this:

MGH Conc. V, no. 33 (July 891, Meung-sur-Loire)

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 891, in the ninth indiction, by the royal command of the glorious king Odo, a synod was celebrated at Meung, on the river Mauve or Loire, in the church of the blessed confessor of Christ Liphard. Sundry bishops of churches gathered there.

There, while it dealt with divers matters regarding the welfare and business of the Church, the plea of the brothers of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, an abbey of the church of Sens, located in its suburb, was set out. They said that they had endured a great and dangerous loss for an immoderately long time.

Therefore, because many abbots from alien abbeys had been established over them as governing prelates by their pontiffs, that is, the bishops of the church of Sens, and certainly because it appeared against the rule of the blessed Benedict and the institution of the holy canons, it was enacted by the most blessed pontiffs, with Walter, venerable pontiff of the same place, the church of Sens, advising and even appealing for it, that no-one henceforth should be ordained and established as father of the monastery except he whom they should elect from amongst themselves by their disposition and free will.

Wherefore, it was solemnly decreed by the aforesaid bishops in this present privilege that anyone so thoughtless as to presume to violate this authority of such fathers, let them be held in the chains of anathema by the authority by which our lord Jesus Christ bestowed on his disciples the power to bind and loose, saying ‘Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matthew 18:18].

Therefore, it was strengthened by the hands of everyone, so that it might be confirmed by the assent of everyone. And everyone who was there subscribed, that is, the bishops and archbishops whose names are here:

Walter, undeservedly archbishop of the holy Church of Sens confirmed this. Edacius, archbishop of the church of Bourges. Erbern, archbishop of Tours. Theodard, archbishop of the church of Narbonne. Adalgar, bishop of Autun. May you always endure under the firm name of Agilmar [of Clermont](*). Herfred, a sinner bishop [of Auxerre]. Eumerius, bishop of Nevers. Aimeric, bishop of Chartres. Adolend, unworthy bishop of Albi, confirmed. Agilbert, by grace of God bishop of Béziers. Bishop Walter [of Orléans]. Servus Dei, humble bishop of the see of Girona. Warin, bishop of Cahors.

The humble archbishop Adald [of Sens](*).

An early ninth-century image of a church council (Nicea, specifically) (source)

(*) These two subscriptions are idiosyncratic: evidently Agilmar felt like showing off; whilst Archbishop Adald subscribed these acts several years later, something not unknown for Burgundian bishops.

Meung-sur-Loire is an abbey in the Orléanais, traditionally considered a heartland of Robertian power although probably more accurately in this time called a heartland of Odo’s personally (my suspicion is that’s because he’s closely allied to Bishop Walter of Orléans). Odo spent a lot of time here, and it makes sense that he’d gather a council of bishops together here.

This document is the only record we have of the synod of Meung-sur-Loire, but from the witness list it looks like it was a big ‘un – I count three different episcopal provinces, which isn’t bad. Noticeably absent are bishops from Rheims (probably because Archbishop Fulk absolutely hates Odo) and Rouen (quite possibly because Vikings are a bigger distraction).

What this shows most of all, once again, is that under Odo an awful lot stayed the same. In fact, big church councils weren’t to disappear until the 930s, even if their synodal records are no longer preserved. This doesn’t mean, though, that there was a late ninth-century sea change – Odo’s kingship is late Carolingian rule as normal. The sea change will come later…

Burgundian Blues, pt. 1: The Princely Court? 

Work on the book continues apace. In terms of putting it together, I’m only just at the start, but I somehow ended up doing the theoretical heavy lifting first. You’d have thought that it would be some aspect of charter antiquarianism which would be higher on the priority list but no; to the surprise of even myself, it’s the chapter on ‘what is a prince?’

Starting my research as I did with the Neustrian March, my answer, in contradistinction to most but not all of the scholarship, is ‘basically nothing analytically useful and we should probably stop using the term outside of poetic flourishes’. What I’m currently writing (Chapter 4 Subsection 1, for those you keeping score) is entitled ‘was there specifically princely power?’, and is aimed at all the people who say ‘yes’. In particular, the bit I’m doing right now is about whether there was a specifically juridical princely power. That is, were the greatest magnates of the West Frankish kingdom distinguished by being the specific possessors of delegated and/or usurped sovereign rights? My answer is basically ‘no’, on a variety of levels, and so far my examples are going well – you can’t see the Neustrian marchiones acting in any way other than bigger and fancier versions of Neustrian magnates more generally, the counts of Anjou, Blois-Chartres-Tours and Auvergne don’t look juridically different from their peers, and whilst the Guillelmid dukes of Aquitaine do, I’m happy that’s because they’re weird and the explanation of why is going in Chapter 6.

That said, there is always a sticking point, and this is it:

ARTEM no. 156 (18th May 918,

Richard, count and duke of Burgundy.

We wish it to be known to all of those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us that, struck by holy terror while We were considering the honour and reverence of God Almighty and the fidelity of His holy Church, it roared at Us that We should know that certain goods of the church of Saint-Mammès which were consigned to the table of the brothers from antiquity, that is, the rates from the land of the estate of Lucy in the district of Langrois, which Count Amadeus a long time ago acquired for his uses through a rental agreement from the same church in his name and that of his wife and his son Anskar for their lifetimes alone, in accordance with worldly custom. After their deaths, we heard that certain people were consistently neglectful and various seizures threatened and the matter was not managed in such a manner nor diligently investigated, and neither up to this point legally prosecuted by anyone.

Later, verily, reliable prosecutors from the abovementioned church came before Our presence, when they sought from Us a correct judgement to be observed. Having diligently investigated their just and reasonable prosecution, for love of God and for the absolution of Our sins and Our wife and Our sons, and as well the remedy and salvation of our souls, We rendered in their entirety the aforesaid goods, with all their appendages, to the table of the brothers of the congregation of Saint-Mammès, through the appeal and advice of Manasses [the Old, count of Dijon] and Our other followers who were present there, and We restored them to be perpetually possessed in their uses for Our soul’s vow, entreating Our successors with submissive devotion that they should guard the deed of this constitution, established in this manner by Us for the remedy of our souls, to be observed for all time to come, for an eternal repayment from Christ; and in guarding it should consent that it endure unharmed.

Now, that this might be held more certainly and firmly now and forever, We confirmed it with Our own hand, and We asked it be confirmed by the hands of Our wife and Our sons and followers.

Adelaide, who consented. Hugh [the Black] consented. Ralph [of Burgundy] consented. Boso [of Vitry] consented. Aldo consented. Willing consented. Walter consented. Witbod consented. Odalbert consented. Godfrey consented.

I, Arnald the levite, wrote and subscribed this writing of restitution, established by the lord count and duke Richard.

Given on Friday, in the month of June, on the 15th kalends of that month [18th May], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 918, in the 6th indiction, in the 20th year of the reign of King Charles.

Is this supposed to look like delegated royal authority? I’d quite like it not to, but here’s the dilemma. In terms of the actual language used – ‘diligently investigated’, ‘legally prosecuted’, ‘correct judgement’ – Richard’s authority is being presented in terms of the Carolingian judicial system, not a million miles removed from the discourse which surrounds the advocates of Saint-Martin and the court system in Neustria. There’s nothing in here which can’t be paralleled from other private charters from the time and region, up to and including the language of counsel which surrounds the role of Manasses the Old. On the other hand, if you dress that up in a first-person charter and add in a big prayer clause, it starts looking distinctly royal. Records of non-royal judgements are virtually always in third-person; and in fact Richard the Justiciar himself is the main actor in another charter from 916 which is much more typical of the genre.

So this is the issue: if you look at all the individual trees, Richard’s authority is being presented in the same way as other late-Carolingian legal actors. If you look at the wood, this adds up to a bit more than the sum of its parts…

There is one other option. Some of this language, especially talking about ‘proclamations’, is reminiscent of charters issued at episcopal synods; and there are a few examples of judgement records from episcopal synods written in first person. Given that as we know these are big deals in Burgundy, I wonder if rather than ‘quasi-king’, the intended effect might not be ‘one-man synod’…

So that’s the first thing about Richard which is bothering me at the moment. Let me know what you all think, and part 2 will be up very shortly…

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…

Not the Peace of God

Since last week, I’ve spent much of my time thinking about the Council of Charroux in 989, trying to work out what on Earth they thought they were doing, because seriously you guys it’s –

OK, hang on. Let’s back up. I’ve blogged a couple of times here about the Peace of God, for one thing, and I don’t think I’ve explained what it is, or at least what it’s supposed to be. So, the Peace of God is a term modern historians apply to a series of Church councils held from the latter part of the tenth century onwards, intending to regulate violence within society, especially against the Church and the poor. These councils can be distinguished by 1) a vocabulary of ‘peace’ (pax), 2) legislative activity, 3) the swearing of oaths to enforce the peace, 4) some participation by the people (populus) and 5) the presence of saints’ relics. Basically every aspect of these councils is subject to serious debate: how much of a novelty were they? How important was popular participation? Who were the new rules aimed at? How far did lay rulers take the initiative in calling Peace councils? And so on.

The first council which modern historians call a Peace council was held at the abbey of Charroux, south of Poitiers, in 989. Thomas Head has analysed the context here, basically unconvincingly. He argues that the Council was held to promote good behaviour towards churches, and specifically to do so in the aftermath of a feud between the viscounts of Limoges and the lords of La Marche which had been prolonged and dangerous. He can only argue this, however, with some chronological slight-of-hand, because as far as we can tell the ‘feud’ in question took place over a couple of years in the mid-970s and was resolved a decade before the Council of Charroux.

So this raises the question, what did the bishops who assembled at Charroux and issued three canons against various nefarious persons think they were doing? Because it certainly wasn’t ‘holding a Peace of God council’. As I said, that is a term of art used by modern historians, and they couldn’t possibly have been thinking in those terms. It looks like it could have been a provincial council (i.e. an archbishop and his suffragans getting together), but that’s by itself weird. As far as I have been able to find, the last provincial council held in Second Aquitaine had been seven hundred years earlier, which is certainly a delay, but makes me fairly confident that holding a council was itself a novelty.

Let’s abandon, then, if only temporarily, the ‘Peace of God’ label and think about a ‘Pre-Millennial Aquitanian Conciliar Movement’. In eastern Aquitaine, that is, the Auvergne and its area, there is one of these, associated above all with Bishop Guy of Le Puy, who I think was possibly following in Stephen II of Clermont’s footsteps. Thing is, these are eastern and head more eastwards: Guy gets involved with Burgundian and Provençal bishops, but not with Gascon or Poitevin ones. There’s no overlap between any of the councils Guy is involved with and the bishops who were at Charroux. The language used at Charroux might also be different (although I need to look at that further).

But, as we’ve seen, Charroux is the first in the west. Does the political context help? Yeah, a little. The thing to note here is that there has been a fairly major shift in personnel in the preceding two years: a new viscount of Limoges, a new count of Angoulême, and a new archbishop of Bordeaux. Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers has been around for a while, but it’s only in the past few years he’s been showing up at the side of William Fierabras, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitou. The time is ripe for the expansion of Poitevin influence over the neighbouring regions. And in fact this is more-or-less what happens: whereas before 989 the counts of Poitiers are fairly strictly confined to Poitou minus some very sporadic influence over the city of Limoges, afterwards their power is visibly wider-spread. This is probably deliberate – Head, in the article above, notes that Charroux was at the start of a programme of episcopal bolstering of William’s monastic reform programme over the next year or so. For that and other reasons, I think we could actually give William some initiative in calling the council, rather than just taking advantage of it.

The political context may just give us the ‘why then’, but it doesn’t answer the ‘why a legislative council’ question. Why not a lay assembly like the rulers of Neustria and indeed the dukes of Aquitaine have been holding for the previous century or so? This aspect of Charroux is why historians like to point at Guy of Le Puy – because he’s also been legislating at councils in the immediate vicinity within the last few years. It’s not him the bishops at Charroux themselves point at, though. The acts of the council begin ‘reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors…’ Our only manuscript copy of these acts – as far as I know, the only one we can ever show to have existed, because it’s what the Early Modern printed editions are based on – was scribbled in the back of a very nice mid-ninth-century codex of conciliar decrees from Angoulême around the year 1000 (Vatican Lat. Reg. 1127, which is very well-digitised). (1)
And this in fact is it. Usefully, it comes with its own copyright notice. 

I therefore have to wonder whether or not these are the ‘synodal authorities’ the council is referring to…* It would make sense if they were, because the manuscript is full of tenth-century additions, mostly about councils – synodal blessings, canons, etc. Evidently the canons of Angoulême were interested in keeping up-to-date with best synodal practice.

Which is doubly interesting because, as I said, as far as we know there hadn’t been any provincial synods in Aquitaine since the later days of the Roman Empire. Abbo of Fleury thought that the Frankish kings had erred in not holding proper Church councils, so the idea that councils were important was evidently in the air. I’d love to find the origin of this idea. If it had been later, we might have said that Abbo was the source – our one manuscript of his canonical collection comes from Adhemar of Chabannes – but Charroux is too early. Lots to still research here, therefore (although not in the immediate future because I need to write my paper for the Leeds International Medieval Congress) – but I’m pretty sure that the term ‘Peace of God’ won’t help me get further with it.

* Head elsewhere argues that the opening of the council is a pastiche of the forged decretals of Pseudo-Isidore, which got me very excited, before a fair chunk of time spent searching the canons came up completely empty and left me shaking my head over how this claim got past the reviewers…


(Oh, and for good measure a translation of the source (again, it’s short)):

Reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors, in the name of the Lord and our saviour Jesus Christ, on the 1st June, I, Archbishop Gunbald of Second Aquitaine, with all the bishops of this province, convened in the hall which was once called Charroux. Both bishops and also religious clerics, and yet more as well everyone of both sexes implored the help of divine piety in order that – by consideration of divine grace – the harmful things which we know have flourished for a long time in our abodes by pestilential customs due to the long delay in the Council might be eradicated and useful ones planted. We, therefore, specially gathered in the name of God, decree this which shines openly in the following.

  • An anathema against those who violate churches.

If anyone should violate a holy church or steal anything from there by force, unless they come quickly to satisfaction, let them be anathema.

  • Anathema against those plunder the goods of the poor.

If anyone should pillage a sheep or a cow or an ox or a ram or a goat or pigs from a farmer or other poor person, unless the victim were at fault, if they neglect to make amends for everything, let them be anathema.

  • Anathema against those who strike clerics.

If anyone should attack or capture a priest or deacon or any kind of cleric at all not bearing arms (that is, a shield, a sword, a hauberk, a helmet) but simply walking or staying at home, except if after examination by his own bishop he [the priest] had fallen into any sin, if he [the attacker] does not come to satisfaction, let them be held a sacrilege and outside the threshold of the holy Church of God.

I, Archbishop Gunbald of Bordeaux, subscribed.

I, Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers, subscribed.

I, Bishop Hildegar of Limoges, subscribed.

I, Bishop Frothar of Périgueux, subscribed.

I, Bishop Abbo of Saintes, subscribed.

I, Bishop Hugh of Angoulême, subscribed.

Exploring the Origins of the Peace of God

Ugh. Y’know, I spent my PhD avoiding the Peace of God movement, and then I started working later and further south, and now I’ve blogged about it, and on Tuesday I went to a really good paper about it, and then there’s all the Aquitanian stuff; and now I’ve kinda got to.

“Why so?” I hear you ask. Well, reader, there is at least a case to be made that if you trace back the intellectual genealogy of these things, you end up with long-time friend of the blog Bishop Stephen II of Clermont. But before I get there, we need to make it clear that you’ve got to be careful when talking about the Peace of God, because it’s not a term from the time, it’s a modern technical term. This might be less important when we’re dealing with the ‘second wave’ of councils around the 1020s, where the influence of one council on another is often very explicit, but in the late tenth century it’s not clear where to draw the line.

Take the 989 Council of Charroux, for instance, often claimed as one of the earliest Peace councils. Absolutely nothing about it cannot be paralleled from earlier tradition. The council claims that there has been a long delay in holding a council and that terrible things have arisen in the land because of it. The 909 Council of Trosly is a fairly direct comparison for this. (That said, one might note that Charroux claims that the council has been delayed and therefore evils have arisen whilst Trosly says that the council has been delayed because evils have arisen, which may indicate an actual strengthening of the power of the conciliar idea by 989; but really I don’t think the difference is particularly important.) Otherwise much of its rhetoric can be compared closely and in some cases verbatim with Carolingian legislation. Notably, the word ‘peace’ does not show up once.

Where it does show up is in 958, at that meeting in Clermont we’ve talked about before. The charter here says… actually, y’know what, it’s short, let’s give you the whole thing:

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 958, in the first indiction, it happened in that year that the princes of the Auvergne rebelled against each other in turn. But, with God’s help and in the reign of Bishop Stephen of Auvergne, peace, which passeth everything, currently reigns within our borders.

Meanwhile, it happened that one of our princes, that is, Calixtus, had invaded some of the goods of another: he obtained, that is, the allod of one of the canons, named Amblard, not justly but unjustly.

For this reason, because of what he was holding unjustly, the aforesaid Calixtus and his wife Oda and their children, that is, Peter and Hugh and Stephen, came into the city of Clermont, where Stephen, bishop of that see, shines. Present there were Viscount Robert and Abbot Stephen and Abbot Robert and other lay and clerical lords and monks, and there the said Calixtus recognised that he had held that allod in Gergovie unjustly, and in the presence of that crowd he gave it up and commanded this notice of surrender be made, and he confirmed it with his own hand and had it confirmed by his children and his knights and by everyone.

Sign of Calixtus. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Stephen. Sign of Bishop Stephen. Sign of Viscount Robert. Sign of Abbot Robert. Sign of Abbot Stephen.

Done in the month of September, on Thursday, in the 4th year of the reign of King Lothar.

Theodoric subscribed.

Told you it was short. Anyway, this is the first use I can find of the combination of a meeting, the word ‘peace’, and the settlement of disputes in a context of violence to show up together in Aquitaine. These are all things that will be develop into the Peace of God, and I think it’s reasonable to see this as a fairly close ancestor, not least because the early ‘Peace of God’ is probably best seen as just one flavour of central Aquitanian discourse which happens to become unusually successful.

Question is, can we push it further back? What I’ve been looking at in the last couple of days is that reference to peace, pax omnia superat. This is a clear reference to Philippians 4:7, ‘the peace of God which passeth all understanding’ (pax Dei quae exsuperat omnem sensem, in the Vulgate – superat is a variant found in some versions of the Old Latin Bible).

Problem is, I’ve been coming up mostly empty. I tried looking in various places for liturgical parallels, and didn’t really find any, although one manuscript of conciliar ordines suggests using it in an assembly for dealing with quarrels, which would be absolutely ideal except that this is only found in a marginal annotation from Mainz. Otherwise, it is also quoted in a section of the 829 Council of Paris about how the council is going to settle civil discord, which given what we now know to be that council’s normative value would also be very useful, except that I can’t find that there’s a manuscript of the council itself in Clermont. I asked some real liturgical specialists, who actually know what they’re doing (thanks, Arthur!) and was told that Philippians is used for readings in Advent, but as this is a summer or early autumn document, I’m not sure there’s direct causation there…

So I wonder if this might not be, in some sense, where the ball starts rolling for this particular strand of political language. It’s not like ‘the New Testament’ is an implausible place for a medieval cleric to be looking for ideas, after all…