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 At that time, with the help of God and St. Martin withdrawn, it became necessary for the canons of Saint-Martin to go from there and make their claim to lord Hugh [the Great], their abbot and count.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 32: Running a Court in Governmentalised Neustria

This week’s theme was originally supposed to be dealt with about twenty-six years – erm, five months – ago, in 882. But, it turns out there were some cool royal diplomas and it would have duplicated this week’s material anyway, and so we’re dealing with it now. I’ve mentioned before that in the later part of the ninth century, Charles the Bald and his point-man in Neustria, Hugh the Abbot, engaged in a process of calcifying and formalising the hierarchies of what had previously been a chaotic atelier of civil war. Robert of Neustria inherited their efforts, and as of the middle of Charles the Simple’s reign, they’re still going:

ARTEM no. 1434 (23rd June 908, Tours)

A notice of how and in what way the power of Saint-Martin de Marmoutier – that is, Dean Erlald and Dodo, levite and precentor, representatives in court – came and issued a complaint on behalf of all the brothers that lord Robert, levite and treasurer from the flock of the basilica of the blessed Martin and also a canon of the aforesaid Marmoutier, held one of their meadows, sited in the district of the Touraine in the place which is called Mercureuil, against their will. Lord Robert, though, diligently investigated and examined the complaint which had been raised, and found in this regard that the brothers of Marmoutier’s complaint was very true.

Wanting not to work against them anymore, he then made restoration. Coming, then, to the public gathering-spot (locus accessionis) with Adelelm, by then dean of the same flock, and Deacon Dodo, and Ingelger the priest, he quit that meadow before them, and declared before everyone that he would not hold it anymore.

However, Amalric, attorney (legislator) and ruler of the gatehouse of the basilica of Saint-Martin immediately asserted that lord Robert should neither make that meadow over to them nor litigate with the brothers over it; and he wished to reclaim it for the work of the gatehouse which he held. Yet with the brothers immediately contradicting him over that meadow, Amalric sent his followers – that is, Wichard and Erlo and Martin, who wanted to acquire that meadow for their benefice, which they held from the aforesaid gatehouse – to make diligent inquiries into the matter amongst their own cottars and see that they had not unjustly stolen the meadow from the brothers.

They, shaking down their own cottars, found no-one who dared to go either to judgement or to oath in the matter, because everyone knew that the brothers’ complaint was very just.

The aforesaid Adelelm, priest and dean of the aforesaid Marmoutier, and Deacon Dodo and Ingelger the priest, who had first brought this case forward on behalf of the brothers, went on the 9th kalends of July [23rd June] to the city of Tours, on the wall on the side of the Loire, to the assembly which thereupon, before Viscount Theobald [the Elder], and Walter and Fulcrad and Corbo, royal vassals, and all the aforementioned of both orders, accepted their right. Present there as well was lord Peter, sacristan of the aforesaid monastery, with other brothers, who had there legitimate and worthy and very truthful witnesses from amongst their own cottars, that is, Rainfred, who the local headman at the time when that meadow, through God’s judgement, had previously been proven in the work of Saint-Martin de Marmoutier, and Adalher and Gerald, also Robert, who was now local headman, and Adalgis, who undergo God’s judgement [i.e. undertake an ordeal] at any time to come. All of them once more were prepared to undergo God’s judgement and swear oaths.

Seeing this, the aforesaid followers of Amalric dared to receive neither a second judgement of God atop the first, nor an oath. Rather, they quit the aforesaid complaint and judgement and oath and also the meadow before everyone, in the same place and assembly.

Concerning which, the brothers found it necessary to receive a notice about this sentence, lest anything be shaken up again about this claim, which they commanded them to make and confirm immediately, through the undertaking of everyone.

These people were present when the act was enacted:

Robert, dean and custodian of the basilica of Saint-Martin and an unworthy canon, subscribed. Viscount Theobald confirmed this. Walter confirmed this. Ebalus the vicar confirmed this. Dean Erlald confirmed this. Dodo the levite subscribed this. Fulcrad confirmed this. Ingelger the priest subscribed this. Corbo, a proven vassal, confirmed this. Adelelm the priest confirmed this. Amalric the attorney, who then made restoration, confirmed this. Wichard confirmed this. Herlend confirmed this. Martin confirmed this.

Given on the 9th kalends of July [23rd June], in the year of the Lord 908, in the reign of King Charles [the Simple].

I, Gozlin, a priest of the flock of the blessed Martin and master of the school, wrote and subscribed this.

14341
The original charter, from ARTEM, as linked above.

So, important things to note. First, despite how it’s described (and in Latin, the words used to talk about Erlald and Dodo there are quite formal), the initial complaint to Treasurer Robert appears to have been done informally. Erlald, Robert’s nominal superior, showed up and told him that he was holding some of Marmoutier’s property wrongfully, and this appears to have been settled amicably out of court.

It is only when Amalric gets involved that things go to trial. This makes sense, really: as we’ve talked about before, Amalric is a lawyer. The court itself is constituted in the way we might expect. It’s the local vassi dominici, overseen by the viscount – this is how other Neustrian courts run at this time. In fact, the viscount running things seems to be a policy decision. I can point you at a charter from 895 where the marchio is actually there, but it’s the viscount still in charge of the mallus court.

Despite its dry and legalistic tone, the notice that survives is a parti pris record of what must have been more colourful events. Amalric’s men allegedly, even after some light intimidation, can’t find anyone willing to act as a witness for their side; but the thing still goes to court. There, two interesting things happen. First, apparently neither side’s witnesses are enough on their own. Second, and relatedly, the whole things seems to have turned on a previous ordeal, and this is what ends the trial now: Marmoutier evidently won the last time, and the other side aren’t quite willing to try again.

On the gripping hand, note that we have this charter but not a record of the first ordeal. It’s possible that it just wasn’t written down. It’s also possible that this, second, contest got preserved because it was seen as less ambiguous than the first (the first one, after all, was demonstrably subject to challenge). It’s also also possible that it just seems that way because the canons of Saint-Martin got to write the charter…

What is important, though, is that dry and legalistic tone. No matter how informal, how compromised, or how morally-weighted the actual events were, the people of governmentalised Neustria knew that this is how you wrote down disputes. Government, in this sense, happened by portrayal rather than by action.