Source Translation: Charles the Bald’s Proclamation against a Traitor Archbishop

Today finds me en route to charming Aberdeen, where I’ll be taking part in the Bishops’ Identities, Careers and Networks conference (and as I write this I realise I’ve forgotten my little cartoon Lambert of Liège badge, which makes me very sad). However, lest you should fear that I would abandon you, dear readers, I have (for once) prepared something special for today: a translation of the Libellus contra Wenilonem. This text, usually thought to have been written for King Charles the Bald perhaps by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims (whom this blog has encountered before, it being hard to avoid him when dealing with the Frankish episcopate) in 859. In 858, Charles’ persistent difficulties with the Neustrian part of his realm had come to a head, and a group of major nobles had invited Charles’ elder brother King Louis the German to become ruler in the West Frankish kingdom. Thanks in large part to his support from the West Frankish episcopate, Charles was able to beat off Louis and re-establish his rule.

There was one major exception to the general support Charles received from his bishops, and that was Archbishop Wanilo of Sens. Wanilo had crowned Charles, but switched sides to Louis and; well, let’s hear Charles’ side of the story:

[EDIT: Latin text here.]

The outline of lord king Charles’ case against Wanilo, archbishop of Sens, promulgated by his own hand before archbishops Remigius of Lyons, Herard of Tours, Wanilo of Rouen, and Ralph of Bourges, chosen as judges from amongst a holy synod of twelve provinces, held in the diocese of Toul, in the suburb of the same city which is called Savonnières, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 859, in the 7th indiction, on the 18th kalends of July [i.e. 14th June].

Chapter 1: Because, as Saint Gregory said and you know to be true from time immemorial, kings in the kingdom of the Franks come from one dynasty, by divine provision, my lord and father Emperor Louis of pious memory gave me, like my royal brothers, a part of the realm. In this part of the realm, the metropolitan archbishopric of Sens happened to be lacking a pastor; so, in accordance with the custom of my predecessors as king and with the consent of the holy bishops of that archbishopric, I gave it to Wanilo to govern – at that time, he was serving me as a cleric in my chapel. He commended himself to me after the fashion of free clerics, and swore an oath of fidelity, and I got all the bishops of my entourage to ordain him as archbishop in Sens.

Chapter 2: After that, there came to pass between my brothers and I the well-known settlement concerning the division of the realm, as a result of which I received a portion of the division to hold and govern, with mutual oaths on the parts of us and our followers, in the manner whereof the leading men of the whole realm had devised. Like the other bishops present, Wanilo swore to me and my brothers, with his own hand, to uphold in future this division between me and my brothers in future as, in essence, my supporter. Wanilo also confirmed the peace and agreement of mutual aid between me and my aforesaid brother Louis with an oath.

Chapter 3: After his election, by the will, consent and acclamation of the rest of the bishops and the other faithful of Our realm, in his diocese, at the city of Orléans, in the church of Sainte-Croix, Wanilo and other archbishops and bishops consecrated me as king in accordance with Church tradition, and anointed me to rule the kingdom with sacred chrism, and elevated me to the throne with a diadem and royal sceptre. As a result of this consecration, I ought not to have been overthrown or supplanted by anyone, at least not without a tribunal of and judgement by bishops, by whose ministry I was consecrated as king, who are called the ‘Thrones of God’, in whom God sits and through whom He declares His judgements; and to whose paternal reproofs and castigatory judgements I was prepared to submit myself and now submit myself to.

Chapter 4: Then, when sedition had begun to grow within Our realm thanks to impudent men, by the consent of Our bishops and other followers, we wrote a mutual agreement concerning how I, with the Lord’s help, intended to act towards them, and how Our same followers ought thereafter to bring me solace through help and counsel. At the estate of Bayel, Wanilo subscribed this document with his own hand, as you can now see.

Chapter 5: After that, when Our followers and I had, as you know, gone to fight the pagans [the Vikings] at the island of Oissel on land and sea, some defected from Us and fled. Wanilo, however, returned to his own see, saying he was too infirm to go to Oissel. But while We remained there, girded for battle although under strength, Our brother Louis, as you know, invaded Our realm from his own with hostile intent, accompanied by seditious men. Wanilo went to his assembly without my agreement and permission. He knew that he wanted to supplant me. No other bishop from Our realm did this.

Chapter 6: Moreover, when I, in the company of those faithful to God and me, marched against my aforesaid brother and my enemies and those with him, who plundered the Church and pillaged the realm, he sent no help, either in person or through the due assistance which my royal ancestors and I had been accustomed to have from the church committed to him, even though I sincerely asked this of him.

Chapter 7: I then had reason and need to retreat from my aforesaid brother at Brienne. My brother Louis returned to my kingdom for this reason: that he might steal my nephew [King Lothar II] from me and take my men from me and violently oppress my followers. Wanilo went to my aforesaid brother Louis with all the help he could muster, acting against me. With him were excommunicate and seditious men of this realm, concerning whose excommunication he had received letters from his fellow bishops. And Wanilo celebrated public masses for my brother and the seditious men who accompanied him, in my palace of Attigny, in the diocese and province of another archbishop who was loyal to Us, without the permission and consent of his fellow bishops, and for excommunicates and the accomplices of excommunicates. And it was in that council and by his counsel (as much as Lothar’s counsellors’) that my nephew Lothar was stolen from me through lies, and the consolation and help due from him and promised by an oath was taken from me.

Chapter 8: Wanilo was no less present amongst the counsellors of my aforesaid brother in dealings both public and private, with his special favourites and amongst the foremost of his entourage, along with, as We said, those excommunicated by episcopal judgement and condemned by the judgement of the realm. This was so that my oft-mentioned brother might gain and I might lose that part of the realm concerning which my same brother and Wanilo swore an oath to me, and in which Wanilo had consecrated me as king.

Chapter 9: Wanilo advised and discussed how the bishops who owed me sworn fidelity and ought to give me the counsel and help they had confirmed with their own hands might desert me and give their service and obedience to my brother Louis.

Chapter 10: He obtained from my brother Louis a precept concerning the abbey of Sainte-Colombe and goods and honours in my kingdom, and asked for letters to send to agents who could retake the same abbey, Heccard and Theodoric.

Chapter 11: In the same letters to the aforesaid agents, Wanilo procured my brother Louis’ order that they should have permission to take stones from the wall of the castle of Melun, which rightly belongs to royal power. This shows how he endeavoured to cherish and tried to support him amongst all the people of the realm bestowed on me by God.

Chapter 12: Wanilo was present in council and dealings with the aforesaid excommunicates, where it was considered how those men who were loyal to me and had promised me loyalty with an oath might willingly or unwillingly swear loyalty to my brother Louis and give him help, and how he could obtain my kingdom from me. And Wanilo was not only present in council, but he himself gave the same counsel to my brother Louis, against the loyalty which he had promised me by an oath.

Chapter 13: Wanilo, both in person and through his companions, to wit, the abovesaid excommunicates, got my brother Louis to give a vacant bishopric, to wit, that of the city of Bayeux, to his kinsman, my cleric Tortald, who had commended himself to me and sworn an oath of loyalty. He, acting unfaithfully towards me and against the loyalty he had promised me, accepted the same bishopric with the consent of my brother Louis.

Chapter 14: Finally, after God, through the assistance of my followers against my brother, had given me the strength to recover, I came to Wanilo’s city. He knew to come to me against my brother to recover my realm; and offered no help, either in person with the counsel he had promised and signed off on, or through the soldiers who are usually provided by the church committed to him.

Wanilo reconciled with Charles later in 859, although his name became a by-word for treachery in later generations. There are a few things that could be said about this, but in the name of space I’ll limit myself to just one, relating to Chapter 3. It’s been said that there was no theory of deposition in Carolingian times, but Charles’ statement that he could, in theory, have been removed as king by a council of bishops looks very much like one. It does look as though Charles is accepting the legitimacy of the very procedure whereby his father Louis the Pious was deposed in the 830s (although in that case the deposition didn’t stick). It’s also remarkably favourably to the Church – admittedly correcting the ruler and giving him admonition and guidance is very much a bishop’s role at this point; but I have trouble imagining this idea coming from the court of Charles the Simple whilst it was justifying itself in handing out bishoprics like Halloween candy. So I have a question for the audience, if anyone’s working on a later period: does this ever get cited?  I can imagine Gregory VII (as a bishop who claimed the right to depose rulers) enjoying this one, but does it ever actually come up?


When Arguments Go Wrong: Part 1 of the Tübingen not-conference-report

Having finally had some time in the British Library to brush up on some required reading, here is the first of a couple of posts about the oft-mentioned workshop at Tübingen on The Transformation of The Carolingian World. I’m not going to do a full conference report for a couple of reasons; partly because the papers were explicitly works-in-progress and partly because several of them were in German, which I don’t speak well enough to have followed (relatedly, I would rather shame-facedly like to thank the participants for doing the question-and-answers sessions in English for my sake…). So instead, the plan is to do a few posts on some things which the workshop left me thinking about, some about individual papers and others about wider themes.

The first thing relates to the very interesting paper given by Warren Pezé, whom I was very pleased to see because he’s always been very friendly but by unfortunate coincidence we have only previously met when I had been in a rather grim mood (the last time, for instance, we were both in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, but I was caught up in staring with mounting frustration at the world’s tiniest and least-legible sixteenth-century copies of medieval charters). The paper was about manuscript evidence of engagement with heresy in the ninth century and its potential application to the eleventh. The reason it’s been on my mind is, well, the method is certainly good as showing what it shows, and the results are definitely interesting; but I thought there’d been a category error somewhere and I’m not sure the problem isn’t on my end.

The question Warren was addressing was this: what can manuscript evidence show us about the heresy of double-predestination, promulgated in the mid-ninth century by Gottschalk of Orbais and viciously attacked by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims. Hincmar was one of nature’s middle-managers, and Gottschalk appears to have been a person precisely geared to get stuck in his craw: fiercely intelligent, just as stubborn, and prone to attracting trouble. When Gottschalk advanced was – very­ loosely speaking – a doctrine about salvation which stated that God predestined the elect to be saved and the damned to be, well, damned. This was a function of God’s grace, and there wasn’t really a place for good works in it. Personally, I find the actual content of the controversy a bit esoteric, although it’s been keenly scrutinised by people wanting to see Gottschalk as proto-Protestant; for the purposes of this blog post, it’s perhaps best to see it as another iteration of the eternal Christian debate about faith vs works, with Gottschalk in the ‘faith’ corner and Hincmar over by ‘works’.

For the point which is interesting here isn’t so much the content of what Gottschalk was arguing as the response to it. Gottschalk was condemned as a heretic twice, once at Mainz in 848 by Hrabanus Maurus, archbishop of Mainz (who was still holding a grudge against Gottschalk for the lengthy legal case which Gottschalk had inflicted on Hrabanus when he was abbot of Fulda and Gottschalk was trying to get out of being a monk there…) and once again at Quierzy in 849 by Hincmar. However, Gottschalk refused to accept either council’s authority and, despite being canonically condemned, and thus a heretic, continued to argue his point.

As it turns out, the manuscript evidence can show us quite a lot about this – Warren had several examples of patristic texts which had annotations in the margin along the lines of ‘aha, Gottschalk is right!’, or which had been miscopied to sound less friendly to his point, some of which appear to have been produced at a relatively low social level. So, engagement with heresy, right?

This is where I start to raise questions. Despite Gottschalk’s condemnation as a heretic, the reality of his heresy wasn’t completely clear at the time – significant church figures and intellectuals thought he was right. The prominent theologians Ratramnus of Corbie (of dog-headed men fame) and John Scotus Eriugena (‘Irish-Born’) both came down much more on Gottschalk’s side than Hincmar’s, as did Bishop Prudentius of Troyes and (to a significantly lesser extent) Abbot Lupus of Ferrières (who temporised more than coming down on one side or the other).

So for me the question is, how far were the people in Warren’s manuscripts dealing with heresy, and how far was this instead Carolingian debate culture? The debate surrounding double predestination seems to have been very nasty – but this is largely from Hincmar, Hrabanus, and Gottschalk’s perspectives. Lots of things were bound up here, but at least two of them were strong, conflicting personalities, all of which had their personal authority on the line. Outside that particular hothouse, could it be that both sides looked like points which could have been proven right, and debating which was right was not to engage with heresy, but to try and work out a yet-undefined truth?

On the other hand, I worry that later ideas about heresy are swooping in to affect this picture. Gottschalk was condemned, after all. If I’m unwilling to accept double-predestination as a ‘heresy’, have I drunk the twelfth-century Church’s Kool-Aid and so see heresy as a matter of authority and condemnation rather than a rhetorical stance? If I am arguing that Gottschalk wasn’t really a heretic because there were authoritative people who didn’t condemn him, am I drawing too clear cut a line between heresy and not-heresy? I don’t know, but as my research draws dangerously close to 1022 trial of heretics at Orléans (the first executions for heresy in the West for centuries), these questions will only become more acute…