Charter a Week 57: North or South?

Bear with me here. I said last time that the mid-930s was a problematic time to be focussing on whilst running a series which looks at charters, and this week is a case in point. It doesn’t help that my plans for the 933 charter were completely ruined when writing up the commentary for my charter from a few weeks ago. You see, originally my choice for a 933 charter was a no-brainer. However, doing the reading around the charter of Bishop Godeschalk of Puy that I put in the 931 slot, it turns out that it is by no means clear that my 933 choice was actually from 933, and rather more likely that it wasn’t. I had a look at other options, but none of them were very inspiring. So, I thought, I don’t often get into the weeds of technical diplomatic here – why not look at this act’s problematic dating, and explain which this fairly dry discussion matters to our knowledge of the period?

D RR no. 21

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pious, invincible and ever august king of the Franks and Aquitanians and Burgundians.

Since ‘there is no power but of God’, who (as is written) ‘doth establish kings upon their throne’, it thus follows entirely that those on high should humble themselves below His powerful hand and that the ministers of their realm ought to conduct themselves in accordance with His will.

Wherefore let it be known to all carrying out duties to the realm in time both present and future that I, solicitous to restore to wholeness the state of religion, decreed that the abbey of Tulle should be renewed in a Regular way of life, as once it was. It is sited in the district of Limousin, on the river Corrèze, built in honour, that is, of the most blessed lord Martin. In this place, by God’s largess, the ancient reverence is preserved to this day by new miracles.

By the prayers of the noble man Adhemar, who has until this point held that place, and also at the suggestion of Count Ebalus [Manzer], I commended the same place to a certain religious abbot named Aimo to restore a Regular way of life; and I made it subject to the abbey of Saint-Savin. However, because experience proved that this subjection was an obstacle to religion, wishing to take complete care of that same religion, by wiser counsel We decreed that, in accordance with ancient custom, it should be held under the protection – as opposed to the domination – of the king alone.

However, no-one may decide to do this against the laws of the realm. Seeing that the most excellent emperors are read to have changed their decrees whenever the situation made it necessary and – as the apostle adduces – ‘there is made of necessity a change in the law’, We therefore by the authority of this Our precept establish this monastery, with everything which now pertains to it or which might fall to it hereafter, should endure such that they might be subjected to the domination of no-one save only the holy Rule.

Furthermore, after the death of Our most faithful and beloved lord Odo [of Cluny], who succeeded the aforesaid venerable Aimo, and after Adacius, whom the same venerable Odo asked be ordained to supply a replacement for him, let them have permission in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict to elect from amongst themselves whomsoever they, through wiser counsel, choose.

And let neither king nor count nor bishop nor any other person presume to disturb their goods nor give them to anyone; and let no-one at all dare to dominate them. Let them receive after his death the whole part of the abbey which the aforesaid Adhemar, by the abbot’s consent, retained. When he dies, let whomsoever they communally wish have mundeburdum and legal oversight.

In addition, We concede the right of immunity and the reverence which now and previously has been divinely observed in that holy place, such that no-one should undertake to inflict any violence on either it or the goods pertaining to it. As for the rest, let both the abbot and the monks together – as if before the eyes of God – conserve a regular way of life.

But that this Our precept might persevere undiminished, We signed it in the name of the Creator on High with Our signet.

Sign of the most glorious king Ralph.

Godfrey the priest, on behalf of Bishop Ansegis [of Troyes], witnessed and subscribed.

Enacted at Anatiacus, on the ides of [most copies: September; one copy: December] [13th September/December], in the third indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of the most glorious King Ralph.

So, what’s the problem here? The problem is the fact that the elements of the diploma’s dating clause don’t add up. The third indiction (a Byzantine system – figuratively and literally – to do with Roman tax collection) ought to be 930; the 11th year of the reign of King Ralph ought to be 933. How do we tell which is which? There are a few methods. First, we might note that scribes tend (although by no means universally) to be more confident about the regnal year than the indiction. This would point us towards 933. Second, though, we might look to contextual elements. Take Abbot Aimo, for instance. Aimo is last attested at Tulle in May 931, and this again pushes us towards 933.

So far, it’s sounding like 933 is a pretty solid choice for a date. But wait! There’s one key element we have to talk about here, and that’s the place at which the act was issued, Anatiacus. The act’s editor, Dufour, plumped for Anizy-le-Château, roughly halfway between Soissons and Laon. However, Jean-Pierre Brunterc’h pointed out that Anizy’s Latin form is always something like Anisiacus – it’s always got that first i and a following s, not an a and a t. He pointed instead towards Ennezat, a centre for assemblies under the Guillelmid dukes and – crucially – a place whose Latin orthography fits Anatiacus notably better. The problem now is that by dint of his itinerary, Ralph cannot have been at Ennezat at any point in 933. However, as we’ve seen, thanks to the reference to Abbot Aimo, 930 is also out. Brunterc’h therefore proposes 931, a time when we know that Ralph was in the Auvergne and one which requires the scribes who wrote the later copies in which this act survives to have simply misplaced a minim, turning ‘the IXth year’ into the ‘XIth year’ (as well, perhaps, as the ‘IVth indiction’ into the ‘III indiction’), something known to have happened elsewhere.

That such changes to the no-longer-surviving original might have been made are indicated by other signs this charter has been tampered with. This is, for reasons we’ll discuss below, an unusual document anyway, which makes our job harder; but the sections in first person singular (‘I’) rather than first person plural (the royal ‘We’) are very suspicious to my mind, and may have been added later. (I doubt, though, that it was much later.) Similarly, the reference to miracles at Tulle strikes me as a later addition – we know from a letter of Odo of Cluny to the brothers at Saint-Martin of Tours that Tulle was experiencing a surge of miracles at this time, but as a former canon of Saint-Martin himself I don’t think any act in which Odo was so heavily involved would have made quite so much of them at Tulle. For these reasons, I think December 931 (as Brunterc’h suggests) is the most plausible date, although it’s far from conclusive.

Why does this matter? It matters because this act is crucial evidence for Ralph’s involvement with the Aquitanian elite, and that involvement looks very different depending on whether this diploma comes from Ennezat in 931 or Anizy in 933. I covered the Ennezat side in my previous installment of Charter A Week, so you can go there for the details; but the short version is that if it’s from there he appears as a regional peacemaker in the wake of the disturbances following the death of the last Guillelmid duke of Aquitaine Acfred. If it’s from Anizy, it’s a different story. In 933, Ralph’s attention was firmly focussed on attacking and defeating the persistent northern rebel Count Heribert II of Vermandois, in pursuit of which goal he besieged Château-Thierry and Ham. In this context, Adhemar and Ebalus Manzer are most likely north to provide Ralph with military support. This would be far from unprecedented – the most clear-cut example comes from the reign of Ralph’s successor Louis IV, where Ebalus’ son William Towhead is unambiguously attested doing just that for the new king – but in that case this diploma would be firm evidence that connections between the king and the Aquitanian magnates were less arms-length than often supposed.

Whether the act is from 931 or 933, though, one important thing remains unchanged. The unusual preamble and titulature Ralph is given here has usually – and in my view correctly – been taken to show the influence of Odo of Cluny on the drafting of the diploma. We’ve noted the importance of Odo to Ralph’s regime at this time in previous posts, but this is quite a dramatic departure for West Frankish diplomatic, and is an interesting view of a road ultimately not taken, where Cluniac  – or, better, Odonian – ideology became a crucial part of West Frankish kingship.

Charter a Week 50 – The Long Long Long Trek to Carolingian Justice

It is striking: the longer this goes on, the greater the likelihood that I’ve already written about the charter. Still, it does mean anyone who wants to see the charter can come and read the blog, so I guess this is synergy?

In any case, this week we’re in Neustria and Aquitaine. The western end of the Loire valley (i.e., Touraine-Anjou, south-east Brittany, and Poitou) form a reasonably coherent geographical area, so it’s not surprising that they were all so often up in each other’s business. This was true not least of the abbey of Saint-Martin in Tours: as one of the richest and most important churches in Europe, it was particularly well-endowed in its native region. Of course, the bigger you are the bigger a target you are, and so it proved in this case:

Chartes Poitevines 925-950, no. F004 (21st May 926, Thouars; 29th May 926, Avrigny)

A notice of how the power of Saint-Martin made a complaint at Poitiers before the lord count Ebalus [Manzer] and the lord viscount Aimeric [of Loudun] and also lord Savaric, viscount of Thouars, saying that they had lost most of the goods of Saint-Martin which they held for their daily uses in the district of Thouarsais, to wit, in the curtilage of Curçay and Antogné and everything pertaining to them. This reclamation went on for nearly six years, but they could never get it to go to justice because of the greed of the Frankish men who (in whatever way) possessed them. At that time, with the help of God and St. Martin withdrawn, it became necessary for the canons of Saint-Martin to go from there and make their claim to lord Hugh [the Great], their abbot and count.

He gave them the counsel that they should go and once again make their claim before lord count Ebalus, his special friend, and his aforesaid followers on behalf of Saint-Martin and his property; and if they did not do them justice, they should wait until they could see them all together to talk, and they should pursue their case at that time.

Therefore, Theotolo, dean of Saint-Martin [and later archbishop of Tours], and lord Walter the treasurer came into the chapter of the brothers at Tours; and in turn, with the general counsel of the brothers sent out their messengers (that is, Farmann, the provost of the said estates, and with him the priests Arduin and Archenald) to the said lord count Ebalus and his followers concerning the same matter.

However, when they came to the castle of Loudun, they discovered the abovesaid viscount lord Aimeric there, and they let him know the sorrow and difficulties of the brothers, and that their lord and master Hugh had send them to his friend lord Ebalus. He, hearing the brothers’ sorrow, consoled them, and advised them that they should remain in the estate of Curçay until such time as he might talk further with them and with the above-said viscount Savaric. But the following day, the representative of lord viscount Savaric came to them at Curçay, and said to them that they should accompany him as far as Orbé, and that he and his companions (to wit, Boso and Berengar and Ingelbald) and many of his followers would meet them there.

Therefore, the aforesaid messengers from the brothers – that is, Farmann and Arduin and Archenald – came to the aforesaid estate of Orbé on the 12th kalends of June (21st May), into the presence of lord viscount Savaric and other noblemen and followers of Christ, and there publicly deplored the straits of the brothers. Inspired by divine clemency, they were goaded to repentance by love of St Martin, to the point that none of them would deny to the brothers and St Martin whatever they wished from them. Therefore, lord viscount Savaric, knowing their wishes and statements to be right and just, and also in accordance with what lord Ebalus and his followers had judged concerning this matter in Poitiers, through the counsel and consent of those residing thereabouts restored to Farmann the provost (on behalf of all the brothers) all the power over the goods of Saint-Martin which were in his viscounty through a staff which he held in his hand, such that he might have permission and power to do with the same things whatever he could in fidelity to the brothers; and if there should be anyone in his viscounty who might resist this ordinance, he, with the help of his lord and their followers, would help as much as possible for love of St Martin. This was enacted in the presence of these people.

After that, the said three canons came to the castle of Colombiers, before the aforesaid lord count Ebalus and lord Frothar, bishop of the Poitevins, and their followers, and they read this notice before everyone, who gave them the counsel that Provost Farmann should wait for them with this notice until he and his viscounts could come together to the estate of Avrigny, and there they would confirm it in front of everybody.

Therefore, on the 4th kalends of June (29th May) Provost Farmann came to the estate of Avrigny, and the lord Ebalus confirmed it there first, and asked his followers to confirm it.

[cross] Sign of lord Count Ebalus, who carried out this justice faithfully for love of Saint Martin.

[cross] Lord Bishop Frothar [of Poitiers], devotedly touching it, confirmed.

[cross] Sign of lord Savaric, viscount of Thouars, who judged it, consenting.

Sign of Berengar. Sign of Amelius. Sign of Boso. Sign of Geoffrey. Sign of Rainald. Sign of Veco. Sign of Turald. Sign of Walter. Sign of Abiathar. Sign of Hildebert. Sign of Isembert. Sign of Roger. Sign of Theobald. Sign of Berengar. Sign of Bego. Sign of Dilebald.

This notice was given on the 12th kalends of June [21st May] in the castle of Thouars, and corroborated on the 4th kalends of June [29th May] in the estate of Avrigny, in the third year of King Ralph.

 I, Godnedram, having been requested, wrote and subscribed.

Image illustrative de l’article Château de Loudun
The (slightly later but still post-Carolingian) tower at Loudun, the first stop on the canons’ journey. Click for source.

The way this charter is written means that what’s going on can be quite difficult to follow, so here’s a summary:

  • In about 920, representatives of Saint-Martin had made a complaint before Ebalus Manzer and some of his chief viscounts that their estates in northern Poitou had been stolen.
  • However, whilst they got a verdict in their favour, they couldn’t get it implemented.
  • So, the most important canons of Saint-Martin went to their lay abbot, Hugh the Great, to try and get him to help out, which he agreed to do.
  • Thus, the canons sent a delegation to Poitiers, but – what a coincidence! – just happened to come across Aimeric of Loudun, whom they told of their newfound support from Hugh and Ebalus.
  • Aimeric sent them to Curçay (almost exactly halfway between Thouars and Loudun) to meet Viscount Savaric of Thouars.
  • In turn, Savaric’s messengers ask them to come to Orbé.
  • At Orbé, the delegation makes a similar complaint to Savaric and his followers as they made to Aimeric.
  • Savaric finally agrees to give back Saint-Martin’s estates (and this is in some way formalised in Thouars itself).
  • Just to be sure, the brothers go further south-east, to Colombiers just south of Châtellerault, to meet Ebalus Manzer and the local bishop, who tell them to go back up towards Loudun and meet them at an assembly at Avrigny.
  • There, the account of the proceedings is confirmed in front of Ebalus’ leading followers.

The first thing to note here is just how long the whole process takes. Partially, this is because the canons clearly want as many people as possible to see that a) yes, we’re in dire straits because of this crime and b) and all these important people have said they’re going to do something about it. That in turn, though, is a result of how much political pressure the canons have had to exert to get their stuff back. I count four different parties being played off against one another (Hugh the Great against Ebalus Manzer, Hugh and Ebalus against Aimeric, Aimeric and Hugh and Ebalus against Savaric). The canons of Saint-Martin are clearly good at this – it’s more-or-less what we saw them doing way back in 892.

It’s also a useful reminder that long, drawn-out processes of negotiation and compromise are not the result of the end of the Carolingian court. Another thing you wouldn’t get from this charter but which we can see from dispute settlement charters written in Poitiers itself – we’ve seen at least one example – is that the records of Ebalus Manzer’s court look like a fully functioning Carolingian court. This kind of behind-the-scenes peak is another indication that the indications that justice was swift, severe and complete come largely from the records of people who (for various reasons) wanted it to look that way, and that actually trying to get people to do things in practice was much, much harder.

Charter a Week 27, Part 2: Courting the Crowd in Poitou

This one is being written in a bit of a hurry – I was down in London for the last two weekends on research trips and, somehow, although I have a full buffer of regular blog posts, Charter A Week has fallen behind; and I also have marking to do… So, let’s get straight into it:

CC no. 1.81 (14th May 903, Poitiers) = ARTEM no. 1580 = Plus anciens documents de Cluny no. 3

It was decreed by the custom of the fathers of old and the law of all Roman citizens in the orb of the world that worldly princes, preserving legal precepts, should destroy the false and seek the right with judicial power.

Whence it should be known to the whole world that, while the venerable count lord Ebalus was residing with his entourage in the city of Poitiers, on the day before the ides of May [14th May], the advocate of the monastery of Notre-Dame et Saint-Junien de Nouaillé, Waldo by name, was present there, calling before the lord count and his princes for a right judgement concerning Hildebert of Limoges, who by the flame of greed and worldly malice had very unjustly taken the wood of Notre-Dame which is commonly called Bouresse away from the aforesaid monastery.

The lord count and all his magnates, hearing this, questioned him as to why he had done this. Responding, he said that he had a better right to the property.

Then the Poitevins arose, and for love of Saint Mary and Saint Junian (albeit at the count’s command) declared that he should not separate from them until he had judged rightly thither. Everyone bore witness that for two or three hundred years, that monastery had been vested with this property, and that a certain Leodegar had just possession of it until now by gift of all the brothers of that place.

Then Hildebert, bound by princely judgement and legal examination, after an inquest had been carried out by his followers who were there, recognised that he had not acted well, and legally restored what he had unjustly stolen.

Accordingly, both Abbot Warin and the monks of the place and Waldo the advocate found it necessary that they should receive this notice from him, and it is clear that this was done, and it was enacted in the presence of these people.

Sign of Count Ebalus. Sign of Viscount Maingaud [of Poitiers]. Sign of Frotgar. Sign of Aimeric. Sign of Bego the pupil. Sign of Hucbert. Sign of Erland. Sign of Adrald. Sign of Savaric. Sign of Arbald. Sign of Viscount Atto [of Melle]. Sign of Amalric. Sign of Reinfard the vicar. Sign of Rainer the scribe.

Given in the month of May, in the 6th year of the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

Emmo, having been asked to do so, wrote and subscribed this.

15801
Image taken from ARTEM as given in the link above.

This is Ebalus Manzer (‘the Bastard’), count of Poitiers, of whom we have yet to see much. He is seen here overseeing a typical court, the nature of which has sometimes been idealised and shouldn’t be. Note above all, it’s a comital stitch-up – what is presented as a kind of mass rally of support is actually jussu comitis, at the count’s order. This is also a kind of interplay of formal and informal aspects which the legalistic terminology and formal diction shouldn’t blind us to.

Also, it’s interesting that it’s Viscount Hildebert of Limoges who’s on trial here. Limoges wouldn’t really be part of the Poitevin mouvance until rather later in the century – links are there, as on this occasion, but they’re a bit tenuous. That Ebalus apparently has the power to compel him in this regard is interesting. Again, the ‘Poitevins’ must play a role here – it’s phrased as though it’s a formal declaration of piety, but I wonder in light of what they’re actually saying (‘you ain’t gonna leave before we let you’) I wonder if Ebalus has orchestrated Hildebert’s subjection to a mob in order to force his hand…