Source Translation: The Fragmentary History of Anjou

Fragmentum Historiae Andegavensis

I, Fulk, count of Anjou, who am son of Geoffrey of Château-Landon and Ermengard, daughter of Count Fulk [Nerra] of Anjou, and nephew of Geoffrey Martel, who was also the son of my grandfather Fulk and my mother’s brother, in the twenty-eighth year in which I held the consulate of Anjou and Tours and Nantes and Maine, wanted to set down in writing how my ancestors acquired and held their honour up to my time, and then about how I myself held the same honour, with the assistance of divine mercy.

Therefore, my ancestors, as my uncle Geoffrey Martel told me, were very valorous counts, and these are their names: first Ingelger, second Fulk the Red, his son; then Fulk, who is called ‘the Good’; afterwards, his son Geoffrey Grisegonelle. These four consuls held the honour of Anjou and snatched it from the hands of the pagans and defended it from Christian consuls. The first, Ingelger, had this honour from the king of France, not from the family of the impious Philip [I], but from the offspring of Charles the Bald, who was the son of Louis [the Pious], son of Charlemagne.

We cannot properly remember the virtues and acts of these four consuls, because they are so far away from Us that the places where their bodies lie are unknown to Us; but We can with those which are closer to Us, that is, those of my grandfather Fulk [Nerra], and of his father Geoffrey Grisegonelle, and of my uncle Geoffrey Martel.

Therefore, Geoffrey Grisegonelle, father of my grandfather Fulk, whose feats of prowess We cannot list, struck Loudun from the hand of the Count of Poitiers, and overcame him on the battlefield at Les Roches and pursued him all the way to Mirebeau. And he put the Bretons who came to Angers with a marauding army, the leaders of which were the sons of Conan, to flight. Later, he was with Duke Hugh [Capet] at the siege of Marçon, where the sickness from which he died took hold of him. His body was taken to Tours, and he was buried in the church of the blessed Martin.

His son Fulk succeeded him – that is, my grandfather – whose prowess was great and admirable. He, indeed, acquired the district of Maine and added it to the consulate of Anjou, and he built many castles on his land, which remained deserted and full of woods due to the savagery of the pagans. So, in the district of Touraine, he built Langeais, Chaumont, Montrésor, Sainte-Maure; in Poitou, Mirebeau, Moncontour, Faye, Montreuil, Passavant, Maulévrier; in Anjou, he built Baugé, Château-Gontier, Durtal, and many others it is a bother to name. He captured the castle of Saumur when Count Odo [II of Blois-Chartres-Tours] came to Angers with an army and set up camp in the salient between the city itself and the river Loire. Again, Fulk fought two very mighty field battles: one on the land of Conquereuil against Conan, the Breton consul, over the city of Nantes, which Conan wanted to take from him. The same Conan and a thousand of his knights perished in this battle. He fought the other battle, though, against the aforesaid very powerful count Odo on the river Cher, at Pontlevoy, in which battle the Count of Maine Heribert, who is called Wake-Dog, was with him, where, by God’s grace, he was the victor. He also built two abbeys: one in honour of Saint Nicholas next to the town of Angers, and the other at the castle of Loches, which is called Beaulieu, in honour of the Lord’s Sepulchre. He went to Jerusalem twice. On his second visit, he left this mortal coil, around the feast of Saint John, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord one thousand and forty. His body was taken to the aforesaid abbey of Beaulieu and buried in the chapter there.

His son, my uncle, that is, Geoffrey Martel, succeeded him, whose prowess and prudence in worldly affairs was substantial and whose reputation was praiseworthy throughout the kingdom of France. He was a knight in his father’s lifetime, and he led his young soldiery against his neighbours, and he fought two battles: one at Moncontour [actually Mont-Couër] against the Poitevins, where he captured the count of Poitiers; and the other against the Manceaux, where he similarly captured their count, who is called Herbert Bacon. He fought a war against his father, in which many evils were done, for which he was later very penitent.

But after his father left this life, as was said above, on the return from Jerusalem, he possessed his father’s land and the city of Angers and began a war against Count Theobald of Blois, that is, the son of Count Odo, and by the will of King Henry [I], he received the gift of the city of Tours from the king, for which reason afterwards the conflict (guerra) between him and Count Theobald deepened, and they committed it to battle between the town of Tours and the castle of Amboise [at Nouy], in which Theobald was captured with around a thousand of his knights. And thus he received the city of Tours and the castles around: Chinon and Ile-Bouchard and Château-Renaud and Saint-Aignan. But another part of the district of Touraine fell to him because his father had possessed it.

After that, he fought a war against William [the Conqueror], count of the Normans, who later acquired the kingdom of the English and was a magnificent king; also, with the Gauls and with the Berrichons and with William [the Fat], consul of the Poitevins, and with Viscount Aimeric [IV] of Thouars, and with Hoël [II], count of Nantes, and with the counts of the Bretons who held the city of Rennes, and with Hugh, consul of Maine, who quit his fidelity. Because of all these battles, and because of the valiant spirit which he displayed there, he was worthily named ‘Martel [the Hammer]’, as one who smashed his enemies to bits.

In the last year of his life, he knighted me, his nephew, in the city of Angers, on the feast of Pentecost, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord one thousand and sixty, and he committed to me the district of Saintois with the city of Saintes because of a certain conflict which he had with Peter of Didonne. I was seventeen years old when he made me a knight. After that, in the same year, King Henry died on the feast of the birth of Saint John [actually 4th August] and my uncle Geoffrey reached a good end on the third day after the feast of the blessed Martin [14th November]. The night before he died, he laid down all care for knighthood and worldly affairs, and was made a monk in the monastery of Saint-Nicolas, which his father and he had build with great devotion and supplied from their goods.

And thus he left his honour, which he had held securely and richly in great tranquillity and defended from foreign peoples, to be troubled with a certain tribulation, that is, by the arising of dissension over the same honour between me and my brother. When we had prolonged this tribulation , often conflicting and having truces sometimes, and I had also, by the command of Pope Alexander, freed my brother from the chains in which I held him, the same brother attacked me again, besieging one of my castles which is called Brissac. I rode out against him there with those magnates whom the clemency of God permitted me, and I fought with him on the battlefield, and there, by God’s grace, I overcame him, and he was captured and returned to me, and a thousand of his people with him. So then I got the city of Angers and Tours and the castle of Loches and Loudun, which are the chief places in the honour of the consuls of Anjou.

Therefore, I held that honour for twenty-eight years until the time I decided to write this document. If you want to hear what I did during those twenty-eight years, and in the other eight which preceded them, follow what I write and you will know what was done. But before I retell this, I want to recall certain signs and prodigies which came to pass in the last year of the aforesaid time, pertaining not only to our people but to the whole kingdom of Gaul, as affairs made manifest afterwards. At that time, indeed, stars fell from heaven to earth like hail. Many who saw them marvelled, and many were fearstruck. Following this sign came a great plague throughout the kingdom of France, and a very hard time where food was lacking. From this, in our city of Angers a hundred of our leading men died, and more than two thousand of the lesser citizens.

At the end of that year, as Lent was drawing near, the Roman pope Urban came to Angers and admonished the people that they should go to Jerusalem to fight the pagan people who occupied that city and the entire land of the Christians up to Constantinople. Then, in Lent, the church of Saint-Nicolas was dedicated by the pope, and my uncle Geoffrey’s body was moved to the chapter of the same church. The same apostolic man established and commanded by an edict that a public feast should be celebrated each year at Saint-Nicolas on the same date he had carried out the dedicated, and a seventh part of penances should be remitted for suitable people at that celebrations. Leaving there, he came to Le Mans and then to Tours; there, decrees were given to a venerable council in the middle of Lent, and afterwards he was crowned and led in solemn procession from the church of Saint-Maurice to the church of the blessed Martin. There, he gave me a golden flower which he bore in his hand, which I also, for memory and love of him, established would be ever defended by me and my successor, hosanna. After his departure, on the next Palm Sunday, the church of the blessed Martin burned down. But the pope went to Saintes and celebrated Easter there…


This post fulfils a promise. When I first put up the source translation page back in June, I ran a poll promising to translate something extra ‘this week’. ‘This week’ turned into ‘within the next twelve months’, but I have nonetheless done it! What we have here is a history which is purportedly, and per recent work likely actually, the memoirs of Count Fulk IV of Anjou from the latter part of the eleventh century. It is fragmentary because after the bit I’ve given you it breaks off into an account of the First Crusade and then breaks off entirely.

What interests me about this is the sense of identity Fulk has. People tend to see the count of Anjou as a ‘territorial prince’, but Fulk’s sense of Angevin identity isn’t attached to territory, because he’s very explicit about the shifting territorial fortunes of his family: he holds, as he saws, an honor comprising Anjou and Touraine and Nantes and Maine, but not defined by it. The continuity of the honor is separate from its territorial composition. It is, however, still something coherent. Note how Fulk talks about ‘foreign peoples’, meaning his neighbours from other French regions.

Now, Fulk is trying to do several things here. Not the least of them, as you may be able to tell, is to justify and to an extent cover up the particulars of his usurpation of his brother Geoffrey, whom he deposed and imprisoned. (He avoids, for instance, mentioning that Pope Alexander didn’t just command him to release Geoffrey, but also excommunicated him.) So at least in part Fulk is trying to write a history of glorious ancestors who ruled a coherent entity – they are great and I am like them – and so his portrayal of that entity as coherent fits his purposes. On the other hand, this was a longer process as well – Fulk was both exploiting and developing an ‘Angevin’ identity.

Talkin’ Angevin, Talkin’ Burgundian: Geoffrey Grisegonelle of Anjou and his rule in Chalon-sur-Saône

This may well come as a surprise to readers who’ve been following the blog the last few months – or indeed to anyone who’s sat opposite me in a pub – but I’m not just an antiquarian/aspiring story-writer. My thesis, and even more so my book as it’s developing, is fundamentally about legitimacy – how did people in charge persuade people not in charge that they should be in charge. I mean, think about it: if every serf had banded together and obstinately refused to provide renders to their lord, could the lords have stopped them? You can’t repress everyone all the time, and you certainly can’t kill all your productive workers. (In fact, the Carolingians were perfectly aware of this, which is why they were so worried about associations amongst the peasantry.) If that’s the case with serfs, it’s much more so with lower-level members of the elite. You might get away with whipping Bellerophon the serf, but you definitely can’t do that with Corbo by God’s grace the noblest of knights – you have to persuade him that you have right on your side.

My fundamental argument about the West Frankish kingdom by the end of the tenth century is that the way you do this, as a ruler, has fractured. Rather than one landscape of political discourse, there is a proliferation of them, in a way which would make ninth-century Carolingian reformers blanch. Some of these are really obviously both new and local: the development of Norman identity which is so beloved to my heart is an example of this. But there are more subtle examples as well.

One admittedly not subtle example is the case of Anjou. I will undoubtedly talk about Anjou more in future, but for now let it be said that, by the end of the tenth century, the Angevin counts have developed a regionally-peculiar discourse of legitimacy, wherein they are in charge because they are saved – as in, Jesus Christ has guaranteed the posthumous state of their souls – and their followers, whilst committing the same sins, aren’t. This is ‘proven’ not least through some entertainingly brazen misuse of Biblical quotations in their charters; but it’s fairly consistent for the last quarter of the tenth and first decade or so of the eleventh centuries.

However, the counts of Anjou weren’t just counts of Anjou. Recently, we spoke about how transregional aristocrats didn’t just go away with the end of the reign of Charles the Fat, and Geoffrey Grisegonelle, count of Anjou from c. 960 to 987, is a prime example of this. This is actually one of the things which the only English-language author on Geoffrey, Bernard Bachrach, gets absolutely right – despite Bachrach’s apparent belief that the counts of Anjou are infallible crosses between Napoleon and Brainiac, he is very, very good at pointing out that they have interests all over the West Frankish kingdom; and in fact we’ve already met them in eastern Aquitaine.

One of Geoffrey’s most direct interests, after about 980 or so, was the southern Burgundian county of Chalon-sur-Saône. The local count, Lambert, had recently died, leaving behind a minor son named Hugh and a widow named Adelaide. Geoffrey, a widower himself, married Adelaide and ruled Chalon with her for the next half-decade or so. How did he do it? Not least by adopting the language of legitimacy which Lambert had developed, one quite different from that of Anjou.

Chalon-sur-Saône cathedral today (source)

At some point during his reign, Geoffrey and Adelaide issued a charter in favour of Cluny. (<Looks to see if we’ll be covering it on Charter a Week> Eh, it’s a maybe.) It’s a valuable bit of evidence, because Geoffrey’s time in Chalon is pretty obscure. But what this shows is Geoffrey adapting himself to the different rhythms of discourse prevalent in southern Burgundy.

First off, it’s a charter in favour of Cluny. At this time, Cluny is not the world-conquering monastic empire into which it will mutate in the early eleventh century. It’s big, certainly, but its penetration north of the Loire is pretty minimal – Abbot Odo of Cluny may have been asked to reform Saint-Julien at Tours (but the evidence for that is late and there’s no sign of Cluniac influence on the ground) and although he did reform Fleury, that one really didn’t take and his time at the abbey was quietly forgotten there. When Geoffrey himself tried to reform the abbey of Saint-Aubin in Angers, he brought in monks not from Cluny but from Rheims. Here, though, he patronises Cluny. In doing so, he puts himself into the tradition of Count Lambert, who was also a noted donor to the abbey. (In fact, elsewhere Geoffrey copied Lambert’s lead in this regard even more closely.)

The next thing is that the land, in the delightfully-named village of Jambles, is donated for the soul of Geoffrey and Adele’s fidelis Aimo. As it happens, we have Aimo’s own charter donating the same land to Cluny in 984, so we can say some things about him. First off, he’s quite a significant figure, being an archdeacon of the cathedral of Chalon. That’s a man of local influence – his charter is witnessed by Geoffrey, Adelaide, and Bishop Ralph. Second, he begins his charter with a prologue beginning ‘with the end of the world approaching and ruins increasing…’, a prologue which is relatively familiar elsewhere in the West Frankish kingdom but basically-unknown in the Cluny archive. In fact, the very nifty online edition of the Cluniac charters means that we can say that these two of about only five charters which begin like that before the mid-eleventh century – and that Geoffrey is copying the specific wording of Aimo’s. Geoffrey is having himself written into local languages of legitimacy – he’s not just donating to Cluny, he’s not just donating to Cluny for Aimo, he’s not even just donating to Cluny for Aimo in the same words Aimo had; he’s inscribing the rightness of his rule through the medium of Cluniac patronage, placing himself and the leading men of the Chalonnais in relation to one another via their relationship with Cluny.

Top 10 Charters: The House Selection, pt. 1

Well, my list of the #top10charters has now come to an end, so here and in an upcoming post I’ll list them for posterity, and for those of you not following me on Twitter. It was a fun little experiment. What makes a charter top ten material is wildly subjective: some of them show interesting things about the way documents were used, others about specific historical moments, others about longer-term trends; some were the most elevated of politics, and others snapshots of individual life. Into this latter category falls:

No. 10: Adalelm the knight donates some land and a silver crucifix to the abbey of Fleury, 975.

“… I offer to our Lord and Saviour… an exquisite silver cross… with the wish and desire that He who, by his death hanging on the wood of the Cross, destroyed death and defeated the Devil might deign to wipe out the weight of my crimes…”

It goes without saying that the Cross has always been important for Christians, and this was no less true for tenth-century Christians. The abbots of Saint-Martin of Tours – who, by 975, had also been the Robertian rulers of Neustria for almost a century, and whose contemporary representative Hugh Capet was Adelelm’s lord and hosted the assembly at which this gift was made – had as one of the key visual representations of their authority the fact that they signed their documents, explicitly, with the sign of the Holy Cross. Nonetheless, Adalelm is doing something interesting here. He’s participating in a renewed Cross-focused spirituality, and he’s also picking up on an artistic trend for making large, monumental crucifixes, which at this time were becoming more common in the Ottonian empire. This was quite important for the Church in the area around Orléans – this 975 charter is actually the first evidence for monumental crucifixes in the Orleanais. And it was pretty substantial – thanks to a later description of it, it seems likely that this cross was made of about ten kilos of silver.

In light of the solemnity of the occasion, the charter offers a meditation on the role of the Cross in the salvation of mankind, and it’s this which makes it worthy of a spot on this list. The role of charters was to communicate information, but this information wasn’t just legal. A charter was as much a sermon as a notification of donation – in the charter, Adalelm communicates to the audience not just that he’s given Fleury some holy bling and land near Sens, but why he’s done it and how the sacrifice of Jesus works for him and the whole world.

No. 9: Albert III of Habsburg donates a hunting horn to the abbey of Muri, 1199.

“Let everyone who sees this horn know that Count Albert… enriched this horn with sacred relics…”

Photo by author.

As the picture indicates, this is not a single sheet of parchment, or a cartulary copy of a text. This is in fact an ivory horn. But it is no less a charter – the text inscribed on it uses the formulae of charters, albeit in this case of a short charter. What’s particularly interesting about this one is that the donation and the text recording it are identical. This isn’t how we use documents nowadays, but it was much more common in the earlier medieval period. At least in some cases, the issuance of a (parchment) charter text served itself as a symbol of the donation, aiding in the performance of handing over property from one party to another. This horn is probably the epitome of this way of using the written word.

No. 8: Robert of Neustria donates land to the abbey of Saint-Denis, 923.

“…by divine clemency, because the situation made it necessary, with the support of all the princes, We took up the sceptre of royal majesty to steer the ship of the kingdom…”

This is the only charter on this list that isn’t important to me because of work I’ve done on it, but rather because, if it weren’t for Geoffrey Koziol’s work on this charter, I’d never have worked on any of the others. We’ve mentioned here before how Robert of Neustria rose in rebellion against Charles the Simple; and, as Koziol, demonstrates very clearly, this document is not simply a donation, but a manifesto very specifically justifying Robert’s actions and his claim to the throne. I don’t agree with everything Koziol says, but his article is fantastic.


No. 7: Geoffrey Grisegonelle confirms his reformation of Saint-Aubin d’Angers, 966.

“…so that the mercy of the pious Redeemer might be well-disposed to concede His help and aid to me, Geoffrey, caught up in the whirlwinds of worldly wars…”

I’m going to be a bit less fulsome with these last two. Here, it’s because I wrote about this charter for my thesis and when that eventually becomes a book, this document is going to feature prominently; so, you know, spoiler warning…

What I will say about it is, whatever my own very particular theories, this charter commemorates what may be the single most cynical ‘reform’ of a monastery in the tenth century. Saint-Aubin had been ruled by Geoffrey’s ancestors as count of Anjou as lay abbots, but by the 960s it was under the rule of his brother Guy, who might have been a cleric but probably wasn’t a monk. A very strange charter exists in which Guy appears to say that he tried and failed to be a good abbot, and so turned it over to monks out of Saint-Remi de Rheims. However, Geoffrey appears to have used the opportunity to assert his control over the abbey, and Geoffrey’s son Fulk Nerra even more so: the counts of Anjou appear to have disposed of Saint-Aubin’s land to reward their own followers. This lack of interest in reform for its own sake comes through in the document itself: ‘Supposedly,’ Geoffrey says,  ‘monasticism flourished in the monastery once upon a time; but because there’s no obvious proof, We don’t care whether it flourished or not’.

No. 6: Liutgard of Vermandois and Godeleva make a bequest of land to the abbey of Saint-Père de Chartres, 979.

“I myself, and another woman dedicated to God, Godeleva by name, joined to me in both body and soul…”

This one I won’t say anything about at all, because I have promised a whole blog post about the Lesbian Nun Property Magnate Commune of Chartres before, and by thunder, a whole blog post you will get… Possibly soon, although not this week. The week after is a possibility, though. Also, I’ll be posting part 2 of this countdown soon, outside my normal schedule for posts – so stay tuned!