Geoffrey Koziol’s Peace of God

I’ve now had the time to read Geoff Koziol’s new book on the Peace of God (called, with agreeable straightforwardness, The Peace of God) a couple of times, and spend a week thinking it over. I only got hold of it about a fortnight or so ago so this isn’t my final, definitive opinion or anything; but I reckon I can put together a coherent-enough first impression.

It’s a bit of a disappointing book. That’s a bit of an unfair opinion, because it’s not like it’s bad or anything, but the last two books Koziol wrote were game-changers, even if you don’t agree with them, so simply putting out a book that’s perfectly fine is a bit deflating. It must also be said that the book is literally lightweight as well – here’s a photo of all three of Geoff’s books to show you what I mean.

It’s the one on the right. You can’t tell from this photo, but it’s also less tall than the others as well.

Anyway, it’s divided into three chapters, ‘Before the Peace of God’, ‘The Peace of God’, and ‘Institutionalising the Peace and Truce’. The first covers previous ideas of peace in Late Antiquity and the Carolingian empire and the Aquitanian context in which the Peace emerged. The second looks at what the Peace of God said, how it changed region by region, how the Peace of God worked, and how it was enforced. The third (which might in fact be a game changer if you work on twelfth-century law, I dunno) largely looks at late eleventh and twelfth-century institutionalisation of the Peace, and I’m basically going to ignore it in what follows because I don’t have much to say about it.

There are – for me at least – three big takeaway arguments from the first two chapters. First, the Peace of God genuinely was something new and different to the way the Carolingians talked about peace and violence. Second, it worked by regulating the lordships which proliferated alongside castles in a way which worked because it relied on the self-interest of lords. Third, although it was a consistent approach, it was very adaptable and needs to be approached in each region in that region’s own context.

Many of these points are very well made. Point one, for instance, is largely a response to Elisabeth Magnou-Nortier’s argument that the way the Church talked about its enemies didn’t change much from Late Antiquity onwards, and it’s able to express convincingly the point that, yes, there was actually something which had changed between 500 and 1100. Equally, Point 2 seems reasonable, at least in part.

However, there’s a lot in here which is dealt with oddly, where his actual argument doesn’t match his admirable statements about approach, or which are arguably wrong.

The context is a big one. Yes, every iteration of the Peace of God needs to be looked at from its specific context – it’s a great point; but a lot of the time he either doesn’t do this, or does and doesn’t get it quite right. In the latter case, his description of Aquitaine immediately before the Peace of God emerged, in the second half of the tenth century, relies heavily on the work of Christian Lauranson-Rosaz, and so reproduces much that Lauranson-Rosaz got wrong as well as some of his peculiar biases. In particular, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont doesn’t count as regional supremo because he’s just a bishop and not a ‘real’ lay ruler. The opposite view is quite findable out there in print – Anne-Hélène Brunterc’h published an article about this thirteen years ago, for instance. So what we have is a Peace of God emerging in a fragmented political vacuum which may in fact be illusory. In the former case, Koziol deals with lordship in chapter 2 as basically undifferentiated; but (as you can read in the last blog post, actually) even ‘a southern Aquitanian region with lots of castles’ has lots of different ways of being locally in charge depending on whether you’re in the Limousin or Quercy. Some more contextualisation of what ‘lordship’ meant would have put words into practice; and, sure, it would have meant a bigger book, but this book may be too small for its topic anyway.

Equally, Koziol is, quite simply, wrong when he talks about how there were very few aristocratic assemblies in tenth-century Gaul, and the Auvergne was unusual for the number it had. What is true is that aristocratic assemblies in tenth-century France – or immediately thereafter, actually – have never been studied. (As such, anyway; there’s a literature about local courts, especially in the Mâconnais, but not on political assemblies, with maybe one honourable exception) They are, though, there to find, even if no-one’s done it systematically yet – my own familiarity with the evidence from, in particular, Neustria and Poitou, suggests that princely assemblies existed and persisted during the tenth century. An examination of the Peace of God in the context of assembly politics in tenth-century regions, then, needs to actually be done rather than assumed.

Third and finally, I’ve noticed before that Koziol has an overt anti-Carolingian bias and here it’s on full display. A major part of what is called his second point above is that, unlike Carolingian capitularies (‘fervent, ideological, and utterly unpragmatic’ (p. 131)), the Peace of God was good legislation, because it’s ‘crisp, clear, to the point, and eminently practical’ (p. 65); and I don’t know what documents he’s reading, because it’s clearly not the same ones I am. In fact, immediately after saying this, he quotes the Peace of Narbonne (1054):

Let no Christian harm any other Christian or presume to mistreat him or despoil him of property.

Practical, huh? ‘Don’t be nasty’ is about as practical as the diatribes of Archbishop Hincmar which Koziol rails against. Equally, on the other side, Koziol uses the 884 Capitulary of Ver as an example of ‘unpragmatic’ Carolingian legislation. Here’s the second heading of that capitulary, just as an example:

We therefore decree that everyone who lives in Our palace or visits it from any place should live in peace. If anyone breaks the peace and commits robbery let them by Our royal authority and the command of Our representative be brought to a hearing in the palace, and, in accordance with what is contained in the capitularies of Our ancestors, by a legal judgement be punished with a threefold fine and the royal ban.

How’s that for fervent, otherworldly lawmaking? It’s longer, sure, but it’s just as enforceable as any Peace of God clause. Koziol is right that Peace of God legislation tends to forego some of the sermonising found in Carolingian legislation, but only by focussing narrowly on the texts: on the day, as it were, given these things were issued at large assemblies with lots of major clerics present, there would have been all the preaching you could eat. (Equally, we know from manuscripts that Carolingian capitularies were used as guidebooks for legal practice – some manuscript comparison would have been useful, because I don’t think Peace of God legislation tends to get written down much at all, which suggests Koziol is comparing apples and oranges here…) So I think Koziol’s dislike of the Carolingians has led him into an unsupportable binary distinction between Carolingian and Peace of God legislation which in turn means that his ideas about how different the Peace of God was from the Carolingian peace start to look a lot shakier.

Now, I’ve spent 1200 words – gosh, really? This was supposed to be short… – criticising it, but like I said, it’s not bad. I suspect it’ll go down as a footnote in the Koziol oeuvre, but it offers useful precepts for people looking the Peace of God in the future, even if it puts them into practice imperfectly. Personally, I think the call to contextual analysis is key. No staggering new insight on the Peace of God is going to emerge unless we have a much better idea than we currently do about political formations, assembly practices, and local, regional, and regnal communities both in Aquitaine and elsewhere before the Peace of God emerged.


Capetian Kingship and Neustrian Tradition

So back when I was puzzling over the caritas-prologue in the diplomas of Robert the Pious, I mentioned off-handedly that I disagreed with Geoffrey Koziol’s theory about Robert’s use of the cross monogram; and given the topic’s fairly interesting, I thought I might discuss it further today.

First of all, what’s a monogram? Well, it’s this*:


That is, a visual symbol of a ruler’s name, made as a sign of their authority.  Here, for instance, we have a diploma and a coin of Charles the Bald, and you can see the Latin form of his name – Karolus – here, the K on the right, and the thing in the middle acting as AO, and U. These things are very common under the Carolingians, and for much of the tenth century they look like this:


Under Robert the Pious, however, the form changes to look like this:

Robertus; note the longer arms

Geoff argues in this article** (which includes prettier pictures, such as can be found here) that this change is a very personal one for Robert, reflecting his particular devotion to Christ’s holy Cross; an innovation in his kingship and deriving from the very particular context of his reign. And sure, it is a new innovation in terms of Frankish kingship, but not, I would argue, a novel expression of Robert’s authority. Rather, it appears to me more likely that it’s an amalgamation of a very long-standing tradition of Neustrian rulership into Robert’s kingship.

As long-time readers will know, Robert the Pious came from the so-called Robertian family, who had been rulers of the Neustrian March in western France for much of the tenth century. One peculiarity of Neustria was that lay abbots in the region (such as Robert’s family) sign charters with the signum sanctae crucis (the sign of the Holy Cross), as it’s usually expressed. I can find examples of this in a Neustrian context back to the early ninth century; and, moreover, I can’t find it outside Neustria, at least not in the regions of the West Frankish kingdom I know the evidence for – no Aquitanian or Burgundian parallels here.

Signing charters with the sign of the Cross, by the mid-tenth century, was one of the few visible markers of Robertian status they didn’t share with other Neustrian magnates. It’s a consistent, if low-key, part of the visual repertoire of their authority: they sign with the Cross because they’re just that little bit closer to God than everyone else. What I think is happening in Robert’s reign, then, is that this Neustrian tradition of the sign of the Cross is mixed with that of the royal monogram, not so much putting Robert’s personal mark on Frankish kingship as a wider Neustrian one. After all, when the non-royal Robertians became the royal Capetians, they inherited a lot of Carolingian traditions of how to be a king – but they had their own century-long tradition of rulership as well; and this particular example is a nice little case of how that influenced earlier Capetian kingship as well as the flashier traditions of the descendants of Charlemagne.

(This does of course raise questions about timing, such as why Hugh Capet didn’t do it, and why it took Robert until 1019 to start, which I need to think on; but that will wait until another day.)

*So it turns out I can’t do my usual trick of putting image sources in the captions, so I’ll put them here instead:

Diploma of Charles the Bald 

Coin of Charles the Bald

Diploma of Charles the Simple

Diploma of Ralph of Burgundy

Diploma of Louis IV

Diploma of Lothar

Diploma of Robert the Pious

**Which I actually really like, for the record; I just happen to think he’s wrong about this specific point.


Charity and Kingship: Eleventh-Century Royal Diplomas

Yesterday was going so well. Writing the last bit of written work I’ve got scheduled for while I’m still here, I polished off one section, and prepared to move onto the next. So, King Robert the Pious’ chancellor puts together a new prologue to his charters, does he? Let’s pull out the textual models of that, write about how the historiographical consensus is wrong about him and monks, and then all I need to do is spend a few days counting witness lists and I can spend my last two months in Brussels napping and playing video games.

Several hours later, I’d spent so much time staring at the damn thing that I’d most of it memorised, but textual parallels weren’t going so well.

So what this means is that today on the blog, I’ll be using it for the purest form of its intended purpose: as a sketch pad. I’m going to take this new standard prologue, read it in excruciating detail, and try and work out what it means about Robert the Pious’ kingship. First, the text:

Cum in exhibitione temporalium rerum, quas humana religio divino cultui famulando locis sanctorum et congregationibus fldelium ex devotione animi largitur, tam presentis quam perpetue vite, ut jampridem multis expertum est indiciis, solatium adquiratur, saluberrimus valde et omnibus imitabilis est hic fructus primitive virtutis, scilicet caritatis, per quam et mundi prosperatur tranquillitas et felici remuneratione eterna succedit felicitas.

Since (as has been proved by many tokens) it is in the presentation of worldly goods, which, by the soul’s devotion, human religion bestows on the places of the saints and the congregations of the faithful for the service of divine worship, that the comfort of both this life and the next is acquired, such an action is very beneficial and imitable by everyone; it is the fruit of the first of the virtues, charity, through which the peace of the world prospers and eternal happiness follows by a happy repayment.

First appearing just after 1020, this prologue is the work of a man named Baldwin, chancellor under Kings Robert the Pious and Henry I. It will go on to be the standard opening of royal documents for most of the eleventh century, so it’s quite important. To deal with it, I’ll start by doing bullet points of each of the individual words, and then pull together some overall observations at the end.

  • Exhibitio temporalium rerum: An exhibitio is literally a handout, but it’s slightly unusual in the context of royal diplomas. Usually one would expect to see a word like largitio (grant), which emphasises royal generosity. Exhibitio suggests something more public – it’s an exhibition of generosity, geddit – which does fit with a consistent theme of Robert’s reign, which is that a lot of his kingship is performed in public, before large crowds.
  • Humana religio: This is an odd one. Religio can mean religion, in the sense that we’d use it day-to-day, but it’s also reverence, and religious awe… Mostly around this time, it would be connected to words like ‘divine’ or ‘sacred’, with the first meaning predominating. Here, though, it’s clearly being used as an opposition to divinus cultus (divine worship), which has the interesting function of really stressing the mediation provided by the clergy between the human and the divine.
  • Congregationes fidelium: This is particularly so in light of the use of the word congregatio, which literally means ‘assembly’ but almost always by the early eleventh century means ‘organised group of clerics’, and – as far as I can tell – usually monks. The word congregatio derives from the phrase for ‘to flock together’, and the word for flock, grex, is almost entirely associated with groups of monks in this context.
  • Fructus primitivae virtutis – Describing royal action as motivated by caritas (usually translated as ‘charity’ but better thought of as ‘lovingkindness’) is again unusual. The reference here is to Galatians 5:22: ‘the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith’. Caritas has a long Christian history, which Guyotjeannin points out about this formula, but it’s hard to find precise textual parallels for how its described here. The closest is perhaps the eighth-century scholar Alcuin’s treatise on Virtues and Vices. He describes caritas as ‘first place in the precepts of God’: to love both God and your neighbour with every fibre of your being.
A diploma of Robert to a church in Châlons, featuring a recognisable predecessor of this formula. (Source. Turns out its a lot harder to find nice images of Capetian royal diplomas than Carolingian ones. You know, the first three Capetians don’t even have their diplomas properly edited yet.)

Thus: it is in giving alms to religious institutions, allowing them to mediate between God and the laity, that relief is acquired in both this life and that to come. This almsgiving is the product of an internal caritas, a virtue which is necessary for both worldly and heavenly success.

It’s not very royal. This is important, because charter prologues are usually imbued with the language of, specifically, royal majesty; but not here. Note that the whole thing is written mostly in the passive: solace ‘is acquired’, for instance. If you parce it, the element of the sentence actually acting is the animus, the soul of the individual believer. It’s therefore noticeable that almsgiving is described as ‘imitable’; it looks rather like the king is being set up not as a figure separate from his subjects, but as an example for them to follow; as a man, not as a king. Geoff Koziol has written about Robert’s self-presentation as a Christian rather than as a king; as it happens, I disagree with him about his specific example (the use of Cross monograms) – I might write about why in the near future, actually – but the idea might be applicable here…

Well, that was a helpful exercise. Much to chew over there, but it was good to get things written down. Am I missing anything? Please let me know if you have any comments – this formula shows up so often that unlocking it is a big deal.


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!