Charter A Week 66: Coalitions and Königsnahe in Poitiers

Last time we saw Louis IV, he had been pounded flat by Otto the Great and a group of West Frankish allies, and it’s safe to say his position had not massively improved in the meantime. In mid-to-late 941, he had been caught in a surprise attack by Hugh the Great and Heribert of Vermandois, suffering an embarrassing defeat and losing key supporters, notably Archbishop Artald of Rheims, who threw in the towel and surrendered to the two magnates. This was a worrying position to be in – but Louis was not out yet. Owing to the importance of Flodoard’s Annals, historians tend to focus on the kingdom’s north-east, but there was a lot more kingdom than that, and in late 941 Louis set out to strengthen his position in the rest of it. He began by approaching Vienne, where he met Count Charles Constantine. From there, he set out into Aquitaine, where Flodoard loses sight of him, beyond saying that he received the submission of the Aquitanians. However, the charter record gives us a sense of both what Louis was doing and how it was received. By the turn of the year 941/942, Louis was in Poitiers. Poitou was a part of Aquitaine which had enjoyed close ties to the West Frankish monarchy since the reign of Charles the Bald, and Louis set out to capitalise on that. And to demonstrate what’s happening, we have no fewer than three acts! 

D L4 no. 18 = ARTEM no. 1106 = D.Kar VIII.6 (5th January 942, Poitiers)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis, by propitiation of divine clemency king of the Franks.

If We rightly ordain and deal with holy places surrendered to divine worship on account of love of God and reverence for the saints resting within, We little doubt God will be propitious towards Us on account of it in the present world and that to come.

Wherefore let the skillful industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God both present and also future know that, approaching the presence of Our Serenity, the count and margrave William [III Towhead of Poitiers] and his brother Ebalus [later bishop of Limoges] and Count Roger [II of Laon] humbly asked that We might deign to confer upon the brothers of the most excellent confessor of Christ Hilary a precept of Our authority concerning the estates and churches assigned to their divers usages by Our predecessors, and concerning their prebends and houses; and this We did.

Whence We ordered this decree of Our Highness to be made and given to the said brothers, through which We command and sanction by royal authority that the aforesaid canons should with everlasting right possess all this: the aforesaid estates with their churches, that is, Champagné-Saint-Hilaire, Rouillé, Pouant, Luzay, Frontenay, Benassay, Mazeuil, Cuhon, Gourgé, Vouzailles, Vieracus, Saint-Laurent, in the county of Quercy, a church in honour of Saint Hilary; and Cainontus in the district of Toulousain, and in the district of Carcassès the place of Saint Mamet and the field of Olivetus; and in the county of Poitou, Allemagne, Moussay, Neuville, with allods, that is Crispiacus, Eterne, Remcionacum, Clavinnus, Belloria; let their prebends too always be under their power. We also concede the houses with the land within the walls recently built around the monastery, and establishing without and within the walls of the city in the same way to the same brothers, that each might have licence to do as he wishes with his own goods, except alienate them to an outsider; and let no count or other official of the commonwealth dare to become an invader of these goods and of the land placed mutually within the walls from a quarteron in the estate of Pouant without the will of the canons.

If anyone might presume to violate the muniment of this royal authority, in the first place let them incur the wrath of God Almighty and of Saint Hilary and of all the saints, and have perdition with Dathan and Abiron, whom the Earth swallowed alive, and know themselves to be perpetually damned, immersed in the inferno with Judas the betrayer, consumed all over by flames and worms, under the chains of anathema.

Whence, so that this testament of royal dignity persevere through the course of times to come, and be more firmly believed and attentively observed by all, confirming it under Our own hand, We commanded it be corroborated by the image of Our ring.

Sign of lord Louis, the glorious king.

Odilo the chancellor witnessed on behalf of Bishop Heiric [of Langres].

Enacted at the city of Poitiers, on the nones of January, in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 942, in the 15th indiction, in the 6th year of the reign of the most glorious king of the Franks Louis.

In the name of God, amen. 

The original of this diploma, from D.Kar linked above.

D L4 no. 19 (7th January 942, Poitiers)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Louis, by God’s grace king of the Franks.

If We rightly deal with places surrendered to divine worship on account of love of God and his saints, and reform them for the better, We are certainly confident to be repaid for this by the Repayer on High.

Wherefore, let the skill and prudent industry of all the followers of the holy Church of God both present and future know that, approaching the presence of Our Dignity, the illustrious Count Roger [II] of Laon and Ebalus [later bishop of Limoges], humbly asked Our Clemency that We might deign to confer a certain abbey in honour of St John the Baptist, in the place which is called Angély, which is now completely devoid of its original honour, on a certain servant of God named Martin through a precept of Our Regality in order to improve it; and this We did.

Whence We commanded this decree of Our Highness to be made and given to the said Martin, through which he might hold the aforesaid abbey in its entirety as long as he lives, and gather, with God’s help, monks there in accordance with the Rule; and let the monks after his death for all time elect an abbot for themselves in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict; and let no count or any other powerful person inflict any damage on the aforenamed abbey of Saint-Jean. Rather, in accordance with the custom of other places soldiering under the Rule of the said nourishing Benedict, let it remain immune under Our defence and that of Our successors.

And that this emolument of Our authority might persevere inviolably through the course of times to come, confirming it beneath Our own hand We commanded it be corroborated with the image of Our signet.

Sign of lord Louis, the most glorious king.

Odilo the notary witnessed on behalf of Bishop Heiric.

Enacted at the city of Poitiers, on the 7th ides of January, in the 10th indiction, in the 6th year of the reign of Louis king of the Franks.

Happily in the name of God, amen. 

Let’s start with the obvious. The first document has three petitioners, and the first two are brothers, the sons of Ebalus Manzer, Count William Towhead, and Ebalus, abbot of Saint-Maixent. Ebalus also shows up in the second document. Both of them are receiving a big dose of Königsnahe. William, you’ll note, gets the prestigious title of marchio (‘margrave’), something neither he nor his father had at any other time. Ebalus doesn’t get anything quite that formal, but he was given a more concrete reward for his support. As we’ve discussed before, it was likely at this time that Ebalus was assured of his succession to the bishopric of Limoges, which he would then assume a few years later. This alliance had real and ongoing effects. After Louis’ return to the north, he mustered his armies at Rouen, and William Towhead showed up with troops. The royal army then marched to the Oise, where they were able to compel Hugh and Heribert to negotiate. 

The role of Abbot Martin here is also significant. Martin had been a very big name in Aquitanian monasticism for about a decade. He was abbot of institutions in Limoges, Angoulême and Poitiers, as well as of Jumièges in Normandy. That is, he was extremely well-connected, better so even than William Towhead, and drawing him into the coalition that was being assembled was an important was of stretching that coalition’s boundaries. Indeed, after leaving Poitou Louis actually went to Rouen, where he confirmed his alliance with William Longsword, count of Rouen.

This is all well and good, though – but what makes this set of actions really something special is that we also have a charter from William Towhead issued during Louis’ stay.

Saint-Hilaire no. 20 = ARTEM no. 1107 (January 942)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

William, by God’s grace count of the palace of the Poitevins.

We wish it to be known to all of the faithful of the holy Church of God, to wit, present and future, that one of Our followers, named Viscount Savaric [of Thouars], and his vassal Elias, approaching Our Mildness, beseeched Us that We might deign to concede to a certain man named Hosdren and his wife Aldesind something from their benefice, which is sited in the district of Poitou in the lower district of Thouars, in the vicariate of Thénezay, in the estate which is called Vaulorin* and in the place which is named Ad Illo Maso, amongst the goods of Saint-Remi, which is in the brothers’ wasteland, that is, more or less 8 uncultivated quarterons with no heir, along with meadows and arable land along the stream of the Vandelogne, cultivated and uncultivated, visited and unvisited, and as much as is beholden or seen to be beholden to these quarterons, through this writing of Our authority under an rent from a rental agreement; and this is please Us in every way to do.

We, then, considering their petition just did not deny it, but freely granted to him what he asked, that is, on the condition that each year on the feast of St Hilary which falls on the kalends of November [1st November], the aforesaid Hosdren and his wife Aldesind should without any delay act to render a rent of 3 shillings to the ruler who is seen to hold the same benefice under their rule, and after their deaths… their… have, hold and possess it, and if they appear tardy or negligent with this rent for any difficulty, let them render the rent twofold, and let them in no way lose the aforesaid goods.

But that this rental agreement might in God’s name obtain firmness, I confirmed it below with my own hands and after Us We decreed that venerable men should corroborate it below.

+ Count William. Sign of Viscount Savaric. Sign of Viscount Fulk. Sign of Lambert the auditor. Sign of Acfred. Sign of Ebbo. Sign of Rorgo. Sign of Gozlin. Sign of Boso. Sign of Rainald. Sign of another Boso. Sign of Adalelm. Sign of Abiathar. Sign of Aimeric. Sign of Elias. Sign of Rocco. Sign of Dilibal. Sign of Odo. Sign of Thietmar. Sign of Geoffrey. 

Given in the month of January, in the 6th year of the reign of King Louis.

Warner wrote and subscribed.

The original of William’s charter, taken from ARTEM linked above.

 *ID mine based on looking at the map; to be taken with a large pinch of salt. 

The really key part of this charter is William’s title. Comes palatii is new, a title never held by Ebalus Manzer or by William before now. That William issued his own charter with this title whilst Louis was present and in a position to be seen to personally endorse it shows that the count of Poitiers was actively taking advantage of the king’s being there to take to the stage himself and display his Königsnahe and bolster his legitimacy. That is, we know that Louis was not shouting into a void: William was in fact integrating his new-found role as the king’s close ally into his own strategies of legitimacy.

One final note. It’s interesting that the recipient of this charter is named Hosdren. Hosdren is a Breton name. It’s not wise to rest too much about this, but at the very least it’s interesting to note in this regard two things. First, that the Breton duke Alan Barbetorte was also part of this alliance, and also showed up with troops alongside the two Williams. Second, that Alan and William were also negotiating concerning the disposition of some districts south of the Loire, the Mauges and its neighbours, at about this time. It might be that Hosdren played a minor role here, or that his reward was part of these negotiations; it might well be that Louis was arbitrating these negotiations to give them the stamp of royal approval. This is speculative, certainly, but it’s not wise to underestimate the authority of kingship…

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.

The Three Orders and Adalbero of Laon

In 987, King Louis V fell off his horse and Hugh Capet became king. Soon after, Hugh made his son Robert the Pious co-king, and Robert went on to rule until 1031. For all that Hugh’s accession was the decisive break with Carolingian rule, it’s Robert’s reign that is perhaps the most interesting. A good chunk of the reason for this is that it is in texts from Robert’s reign that we start to get a sense about how varied – and polemical – ideas about kingship had become since the early tenth century. (I have a sneaking suspicion as to why these writings come disproportionately from the early eleventh century rather than the mid tenth, but that’s another story…)               

One of the most polemical authors of the period was Adalbero of Laon. We have discussed Adalbero before briefly on this blog, but the most relevant thing about him today is that he is usually considered a conservative thinker, a crotchety old man who didn’t like what he was seeing in the realm. At some point, possibly around the year 1003, roughly thirty years or half-way through his career, Bishop Adalbero wrote a lengthy and vituperative poem to Robert the Pious, excoriating what he perceived as a world turned upside-down and setting forth his vision for society as it should be ordered. The poem has attracted a lot of attention, for a couple of reasons: it is one of the most explicit and colourful reactions against monastic reform; and it sets out a vision of society known as the Three Orders, which would go on to have a very long life, and I mean a very long life – we still refer to the press as the ‘Fourth Estate’, and the other three ‘estates’ are the orders Adalbero lays out: oratores, bellatores, labores – those who pray (Churchmen), those who fight (nobles), and those who work (peasants).

A later medieval image of the Three Orders (source).

The poem has some wonderful imagery. Adalbero’s complaint is that the world is topsy-turvy, and no-one knows their assigned place any longer, and the main target of his bile is Abbot Odilo of Cluny. To emphasise how far he thinks Odilo has led monks from their proper role of cloistered contemplation, he images ‘King’ Odilo leading his warrior-monks to fight the Saracens in the south of France; but, of course, as monks, they are completely inept. “Ride two to a donkey! Ten to a camel!” “Upon your head, place a garland of flowers, and tie your helmet to your loins! Hold a sword in your teeth!” he exhorts his men. Unsurprisingly, they lose the battle.

The question of what exactly Adalbero is protesting here is open to more question than, to my mind, it has got. There are a couple of references to monks going to fight Saracens at around this period; but these don’t refer to an organised Cluniac proto-crusade but to a band of rag-tag monks from Provence forced into self-defence. Odilo himself, it’s worth saying, did not lead any military forces. Rather, what I think Adalbero is doing is parodying a work written by Odilo’s predecessor, Abbot Odo of Cluny, the biography of St. Gerald of Aurillac. In this work, Odo describes how Gerald, who was not a cleric, behaved in a particularly holy manner more befitting a monk than a layman. In particular, he tells of Gerald fighting a battle and ordering his men to fight with the butts of their spears and the flats of their swords. Odo is aware of how ridiculous this is, for the record; but he says that Gerald was so favoured by God that he won anyway. Of course, this kind of thing – making laymen behave like clerics – is exactly what Adalbero is complaining about, and his poem illustrates how little he thinks getting one type of person to do another type of person’s job would work in practice.

Odilo’s failure to defeat the Saracens lets Adalbero outline his own vision for society, and this is where his reputation for conservatism comes in. What Adalbero wants is, in content, very Carolingian, going back to the 829 Council of Paris. He wants the king to defend the Church, do justice, and crush the overmighty. He wants monks to be contemplative and cloistered, he wants bishops to pray for the community’s wellbeing and give learned advice to kings. However, it is also striking how Adalbero must find what are actually novel reasons for his conservative vision: new bottles for old wine, if you will. Old Carolingian justifications like royal ministerium are missing, and instead Adalbero justifies the royal duty of protecting the Church in terms of the schema of the Three Orders. The king’s duties come from his being a bellator, one of the order of those who fight.

Historians have pointed out that Adalbero’s scheme of the Three Orders was not a new invention. Two scholars in the ninth century named Haimo and Heiric of Auxerre described society as divided between ‘priests, soldiers and farmers’; this was possibly taken from the highly respected Church father Isidore of Seville. It may have been taken up in late tenth-century Rheims, and this may have been where Adalbero found it. However, it was not particularly common in either the ninth century or the tenth, and Adalbero’s use of it to justify what amounts to a caste system is completely new. Adalbero was not drawing on a common aspect of his time’s thought, but underpinning traditional conceptions of kingship with a new justification to make up for the fact that the old ones had gone. 

This scheme of the Three Orders was not conjured out of whole cloth. Haimo and Heiric of Auxerre has described something very similar in the ninth century, and versions of their formulation appeared in Alfredian England and mid-tenth century Italy. However, in Gaul it was not common in either the tenth century or the ninth, and it is noticeable that when in the eleventh century it gains two very high-profile spokesmen, Adalbero and Bishop Gerald I of Cambrai, both of whom were educated at Rheims in the late tenth century. This is notable because Archbishop Adalbero of Rheims (Adalbero of Laon’s uncle) renovated the cathedral school at this time. What I suspect we are seeing, therefore, is not a widespread intellectual idea, but a development in political thought specific to Rheims c. 970 which then found some long-lived and voluble advocates. In short, Adalbero’s nominal conservatism illustrates how little purchase Late Carolingian thought had in early Capetian political debates, and how fragmented the landscape of post-Carolingian political thought had become.

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.

Switching Sides in the Tenth Century

That post from a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned the ascendency of the family of the counts of Anjou at King Lothar’s court got me thinking. After all, the Angevins were second-rank vassals of the Robertians, with whom Lothar’s father Louis IV had had some trouble – why pick them for special treatment? Aaaaages ago, we had a brief look at the Neustrian succession crisis of the 950s – and 960s, and that must be something to do with it, but where’s the ‘in’? I’m slightly sceptical that Geoffrey Grisegonelle sent a chap to Lothar with a message along the lines of ‘going to throw off overlord’s authority, fancy giving me a hand?’ and got a hearing sight unseen.

Then it occurred to me – if you look at what the Angevins, and by that I mean Geoffrey and his brother Abbot Guy of Cormery who later became bishop of Le Puy, are doing on the home front, a lot of it revolves around the abbey of Saint-Aubin. Saint-Aubin was the major abbey of the city of Angers, and Geoffrey and Guy’s ancestors had been its lay abbots for several decades. By the 960s, Guy (who was a cleric but probably not a monk) was abbot in turn. He issued a very strange charter in which he seems to say that he tried and failed to become a ‘proper’ abbot and is very sorry about it. Certainly in 966 he gave up the abbacy and a monk-abbot, one Widbold, was put in his place. What’s relevant here is the figure behind this admonition and reform: Geoffrey and Guy’s paternal uncle, Bishop Guy of Soissons, who seems to have paired up with Abbot Hincmar of Saint-Remi, at the time the royal monastery par excellence, to reform Saint-Aubin. ‘Aha,’ I thought, ‘a royal connection!’

Then I went to look at the career of Guy of Soissons, and it’s actually rather interesting. Guy began his career as a canon in Saint-Martin of Tours (as did so many other tenth-century bishops). In 937, he became bishop of Soissons. Flodoard of Rheims does something very unusual when describing how Guy acquired the see – he uses a word (potitur) which he otherwise only employs to describe the capture of cities or plunder of treasure, so I think he saw this episcopal choice as illegitimate. In context, this is probably because Guy was forced on Soissons by the Neustrian overlord Hugh the Great.

Certainly, Guy was Hugh the Great’s creature for a good decade thereafter. In 940, he was the bishop who ordained Hugh of Vermandois (at the time claiming the archbishopric of Rheims against the king’s candidate Artald) a priest. He shows up again in a charter shortly after Hugh’s ordination as archbishop at what looks like quite an important council of war under Hugh the Great’s auspices. In 945, he did no less than hand himself over to Vikings – they had captured King Louis IV, and Guy put himself forward as a hostage so that they would hand him over to Hugh the Great’s tender mercies. So that all looks pretty partisan.

Thing is, after 946 the winds start blowing strongly for Louis, and in 948, Hugh of Vermandois was condemned at the Synod of Ingelheim. Guy changed sides, coming and committing himself to Louis. This was dramatic – at the Synod of Trier in that year, Guy made full confession and penitence for his sins in front of his fellow-bishops. But it worked – in 949, he was an intercessor in a charter for the abbey of Homblières which has been argued as marking the beginning of a new age for Louis IV’s rule. In 950, he was sent to Burgundy to oversee an important donation at the abbey of Charlieu, and by 959 he was one of the dowager queen Gerberga’s main advisers along with her very brother-in-law Bishop Roric of Laon.

So if there’s an original ‘in’ at the royal court for the Angevin counts, it’s probably him. Yet to conclude today’s post, I’d like to pick out a different aspect of his life. Tenth-century France has a bad reputation for disloyalty. Guy’s career, however, illustrates that swapping sides was, mostly, a rare and dramatic event. After a decade of sterling loyalty to Hugh the Great (would you give yourself to a Norwegian for your boss’ sake?), Guy was proven to be on the wrong side. At Ingelheim, both the man Guy had ordained priest, Hugh of Vermandois, and the one to whom he owed his career, Hugh the Great, had been authoritatively condemned. Sure, we might see it as a stitch-up orchestrated by a domineering Ottonian monarchy to get the West Frankish kingdom to stop bothering it, but content-wise it was an unequivocal condemnation by a council of bishops and the pope. We know that people at this time could do great and terrible things and yet harbour room for doubts. Does it not make sense to see Guy’s sudden and dramatic change of heart as stemming from a realisation that in fact he had been wrong, that the two Hughs’ had no just cause, and that he should henceforth be just as dependable a follower of a new master: the king and his family?

Not the Peace of God

Since last week, I’ve spent much of my time thinking about the Council of Charroux in 989, trying to work out what on Earth they thought they were doing, because seriously you guys it’s –

OK, hang on. Let’s back up. I’ve blogged a couple of times here about the Peace of God, for one thing, and I don’t think I’ve explained what it is, or at least what it’s supposed to be. So, the Peace of God is a term modern historians apply to a series of Church councils held from the latter part of the tenth century onwards, intending to regulate violence within society, especially against the Church and the poor. These councils can be distinguished by 1) a vocabulary of ‘peace’ (pax), 2) legislative activity, 3) the swearing of oaths to enforce the peace, 4) some participation by the people (populus) and 5) the presence of saints’ relics. Basically every aspect of these councils is subject to serious debate: how much of a novelty were they? How important was popular participation? Who were the new rules aimed at? How far did lay rulers take the initiative in calling Peace councils? And so on.

The first council which modern historians call a Peace council was held at the abbey of Charroux, south of Poitiers, in 989. Thomas Head has analysed the context here, basically unconvincingly. He argues that the Council was held to promote good behaviour towards churches, and specifically to do so in the aftermath of a feud between the viscounts of Limoges and the lords of La Marche which had been prolonged and dangerous. He can only argue this, however, with some chronological slight-of-hand, because as far as we can tell the ‘feud’ in question took place over a couple of years in the mid-970s and was resolved a decade before the Council of Charroux.

So this raises the question, what did the bishops who assembled at Charroux and issued three canons against various nefarious persons think they were doing? Because it certainly wasn’t ‘holding a Peace of God council’. As I said, that is a term of art used by modern historians, and they couldn’t possibly have been thinking in those terms. It looks like it could have been a provincial council (i.e. an archbishop and his suffragans getting together), but that’s by itself weird. As far as I have been able to find, the last provincial council held in Second Aquitaine had been seven hundred years earlier, which is certainly a delay, but makes me fairly confident that holding a council was itself a novelty.

Let’s abandon, then, if only temporarily, the ‘Peace of God’ label and think about a ‘Pre-Millennial Aquitanian Conciliar Movement’. In eastern Aquitaine, that is, the Auvergne and its area, there is one of these, associated above all with Bishop Guy of Le Puy, who I think was possibly following in Stephen II of Clermont’s footsteps. Thing is, these are eastern and head more eastwards: Guy gets involved with Burgundian and Provençal bishops, but not with Gascon or Poitevin ones. There’s no overlap between any of the councils Guy is involved with and the bishops who were at Charroux. The language used at Charroux might also be different (although I need to look at that further).

But, as we’ve seen, Charroux is the first in the west. Does the political context help? Yeah, a little. The thing to note here is that there has been a fairly major shift in personnel in the preceding two years: a new viscount of Limoges, a new count of Angoulême, and a new archbishop of Bordeaux. Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers has been around for a while, but it’s only in the past few years he’s been showing up at the side of William Fierabras, duke of Aquitaine and count of Poitou. The time is ripe for the expansion of Poitevin influence over the neighbouring regions. And in fact this is more-or-less what happens: whereas before 989 the counts of Poitiers are fairly strictly confined to Poitou minus some very sporadic influence over the city of Limoges, afterwards their power is visibly wider-spread. This is probably deliberate – Head, in the article above, notes that Charroux was at the start of a programme of episcopal bolstering of William’s monastic reform programme over the next year or so. For that and other reasons, I think we could actually give William some initiative in calling the council, rather than just taking advantage of it.

The political context may just give us the ‘why then’, but it doesn’t answer the ‘why a legislative council’ question. Why not a lay assembly like the rulers of Neustria and indeed the dukes of Aquitaine have been holding for the previous century or so? This aspect of Charroux is why historians like to point at Guy of Le Puy – because he’s also been legislating at councils in the immediate vicinity within the last few years. It’s not him the bishops at Charroux themselves point at, though. The acts of the council begin ‘reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors…’ Our only manuscript copy of these acts – as far as I know, the only one we can ever show to have existed, because it’s what the Early Modern printed editions are based on – was scribbled in the back of a very nice mid-ninth-century codex of conciliar decrees from Angoulême around the year 1000 (Vatican Lat. Reg. 1127, which is very well-digitised). (1)
And this in fact is it. Usefully, it comes with its own copyright notice. 

I therefore have to wonder whether or not these are the ‘synodal authorities’ the council is referring to…* It would make sense if they were, because the manuscript is full of tenth-century additions, mostly about councils – synodal blessings, canons, etc. Evidently the canons of Angoulême were interested in keeping up-to-date with best synodal practice.

Which is doubly interesting because, as I said, as far as we know there hadn’t been any provincial synods in Aquitaine since the later days of the Roman Empire. Abbo of Fleury thought that the Frankish kings had erred in not holding proper Church councils, so the idea that councils were important was evidently in the air. I’d love to find the origin of this idea. If it had been later, we might have said that Abbo was the source – our one manuscript of his canonical collection comes from Adhemar of Chabannes – but Charroux is too early. Lots to still research here, therefore (although not in the immediate future because I need to write my paper for the Leeds International Medieval Congress) – but I’m pretty sure that the term ‘Peace of God’ won’t help me get further with it.

* Head elsewhere argues that the opening of the council is a pastiche of the forged decretals of Pseudo-Isidore, which got me very excited, before a fair chunk of time spent searching the canons came up completely empty and left me shaking my head over how this claim got past the reviewers…


(Oh, and for good measure a translation of the source (again, it’s short)):

Reinforced by the synodal authorities of our predecessors, in the name of the Lord and our saviour Jesus Christ, on the 1st June, I, Archbishop Gunbald of Second Aquitaine, with all the bishops of this province, convened in the hall which was once called Charroux. Both bishops and also religious clerics, and yet more as well everyone of both sexes implored the help of divine piety in order that – by consideration of divine grace – the harmful things which we know have flourished for a long time in our abodes by pestilential customs due to the long delay in the Council might be eradicated and useful ones planted. We, therefore, specially gathered in the name of God, decree this which shines openly in the following.

  • An anathema against those who violate churches.

If anyone should violate a holy church or steal anything from there by force, unless they come quickly to satisfaction, let them be anathema.

  • Anathema against those plunder the goods of the poor.

If anyone should pillage a sheep or a cow or an ox or a ram or a goat or pigs from a farmer or other poor person, unless the victim were at fault, if they neglect to make amends for everything, let them be anathema.

  • Anathema against those who strike clerics.

If anyone should attack or capture a priest or deacon or any kind of cleric at all not bearing arms (that is, a shield, a sword, a hauberk, a helmet) but simply walking or staying at home, except if after examination by his own bishop he [the priest] had fallen into any sin, if he [the attacker] does not come to satisfaction, let them be held a sacrilege and outside the threshold of the holy Church of God.

I, Archbishop Gunbald of Bordeaux, subscribed.

I, Bishop Gilbert of Poitiers, subscribed.

I, Bishop Hildegar of Limoges, subscribed.

I, Bishop Frothar of Périgueux, subscribed.

I, Bishop Abbo of Saintes, subscribed.

I, Bishop Hugh of Angoulême, subscribed.

Shadow Popes: Part 2 of the Tübingen not-conference-report

At one point during the Tübingen conference, Charles West described the eleventh-century reform movement as (to paraphrase slightly) ‘Carolingian ecclesiology with added pope’. The role played by the popes in the eleventh century – particularly Pope Gregory VII – has been and still is subject to major historical scrutiny, as is probably to be expected when an emperor stands barefoot outside your door in the snow asking you to forgive him; at the least, it indicates a good publicity machine. Talking to us about popes was Kriston Rennie of the University of Queensland, and what stood out for me was one comment in particular he made, about how the mixed reputation of the tenth-century papacy does not seem to have had any particular impact on its appeal.

Henry IV at the gates of Canossa, from Wikimedia Commons

The tenth-century ‘not-called-the-pornocracy-anymore’ papacy is notorious for its bad behaviour. Of course, a large part of the reason for that is that Ottonian historians, particularly but not exclusively Liutprand of Cremona, had a lot of fun in the latter tenth century trashing the reputations of Italian politicians in the name of justifying the Saxon kings’ interventions in the peninsula, so quite how badly-behaved the popes really were is a matter of some debate. Nonetheless, tenth-century Rome was home to popes deeply entrenched in often-vicious local politics and possible sexual scandal. Pope Sergius III (904-911), for instance, is supposed to have strangled his rivals for the papal throne and engaged in a number of sexual liasons.

And, of course, none of this seems to effect the papacy’s moral authority. The question this provoked for me was ‘how far can one remove the actual popes from the history of the papacy during this period?’ This is something of an intellectual game, because I certainly wouldn’t want to argue that individual popes had no agency. Nevertheless, if we imagine, say, that after the Cadaver Synod Pope Stephen had dropped dead and they’d just decided to keep Pope Formosus’ body as pope for the rest of the century, how much would have changed?

In several cases, not much. Take, for instance, the foundation of the abbey of Cluny in 910. One of the things which eventually turns out to be important about Cluny is that it is, from the start, made subject to papal authority. To quote the foundation charter:

Let the said monks pay 10 solidi every five years to the threshold of the apostles at Rome, to provide them with their lighting, and let them have the protection of the same apostles and the defence of the Roman pontiff… And I appeal and entreat through God and in God, and by all His saints and the tremendous day of Judgement that no secular prince, no count, nor any bishop, nor the pontiff of the aforesaid seat of Rome should invade the things of those servants of God… And I beseech you, O holy apostles and glorious princes of the Earth, Peter and Paul, and you, pontiff of pontiffs of the apostolic seat, that through the canonical and apostolic authority which you accepted from God, you should remove from the company of the holy Church of God and eternal life the robbers and invaders and abductors of these goods… and that you might be tutors and defenders of the said place of Cluny, and the servants of God living there… (translation here mine; link goes to the Internet Medieval Sourcebook)

And so, put under the pope’s protection, Cluniac monks eventually come to be of paramount importance to wider trends in monastic reform, and then Church reform more generally, and next thing you know it’s emperor-in-the-snow time.

Henry IV again. I have no idea about the context of this. Also from Wikimedia Commons.

None of this would have been tremendously apparent at the time, so the question becomes, why invoke the pope? The pope at the time was the aforementioned Sergius III, whose personal moral authority may or may not have been questionable, but who in any case wasn’t going to lead an army into the Mâconnais (the region of France where Cluny is) to defend it.

An important contextual element here is that the Mâconnais, in 910, was a frontier region between two massive personal hegemonies: the Aquitaine of William the Pious, who founded Cluny; and the Burgundy of Richard the Justiciar. (This map is about as good as it gets…) Mâcon was under William’s control, but on the fringe of his sphere of influence, which was centred further to the west. Richard, who must win the prize for ‘tenth-century Gaul’s biggest opportunist’, probably saw an opportunity for territorial expansion at William’s expense (as he certainly did later in Bourges, which was similarly placed). An important method of gaining control of a region was to take control of its most important monasteries, through an institution known an lay abbacy, which is exactly what it sounds like: laymen ruling an abbey as abbot. This gave them access to the abbey’s resources, which could be substantial. Richard’s rise to power in Burgundy had been facilitated not least by takeovers of lay abbacies in this manner, including Sainte-Colombe in Sens and Saint-Germain in Auxerre.

So when William founded an important abbey in this region, it could potentially be a support of his rule there – or it could be a target for a regional takeover. By placing the abbey under papal protection, William effectively removed the possibility of Richard (or anyone else) taking over Cluny’s lay abbacy, whilst retaining a personal hegemony in the form of an informal alliance. As several generations of West Frankish nobles were to discover, being ‘close friends’ with an abbey was as effective a means of influence over monasteries as being the official ruler.  To accomplish this, though, it was enough to invoke papal authority – the pope didn’t actually need to get involved in any way, because the main point was to de-legitimize other modes of interaction with the abbey than the one William was already monopolising, i.e., informal alliance.

This kind of ‘demand-driven’ expansion of papal authority appears to have been cumulatively significant over the course of the tenth century; the influence of Rome expanded organically, without the popes necessarily getting involved at all. However, it carried with it the potential to turn influence into power – to take the Cluny example, once the pope’s authority was invoked, the abbey was inextricably linked with the papacy, at the very minimum because someone actually had to go to Rome to give them the 10 solidi, and friendships, correspondence, and political and personal ties would naturally follow on. This kind of connection then provides a pope who does want to get actively involved something on which to pull to get his way; it doesn’t explain why a pope might want to start interfering in the Church at large, but it is an important part of the picture as to why they can.

        (As a final note, I should mention here that Barbara Rosenwein has a different explanation of the political context here, one where the specific pope does in fact matter…)

Getting Your Property Back As A Tenth-Century Bishop

One of the texts I occasionally come back to is something called the Dialogus de statu sanctae ecclesiae (‘A Dialogue on the State of the Holy Church’).  It was written (probably) in the 960s by Macallan, the Irish abbot of the abbey of Saint-Vincent in Laon, in north-east France. (Side note: before I found that map reference, I actually didn’t know that the abbey doesn’t exist anymore, except for a burned-out shell of an eighteenth-century dormitory, which makes me a bit sad.)

The Dialogus was written for the attention of Macallan’s patron, Bishop Roric of Laon. Roric’s a more obscure figure than he probably deserves to be. He was the bastard son of King Charles the Simple (AKA, the greatest Frankish king), who became a royal scribe and thence bishop of Laon, one of the most important royal strongholds, under his half-brother King Louis IV. He was elected in 949, but was unable to take up residence in the city because it was at the time under the control of Louis’ arch-enemy, Duke Hugh the Great, and he was forced instead to remain in the fortress of Pierrepont, a short way north-east of Laon proper. He did eventually get into Laon, where he seems to have been an important figure at court until his death in 976. Among other things, he was briefly archchancellor (the man responsible, at least in theory, for the production of royal diplomas), and in 965, he mediated Louis IV’s son King Lothar’s conquest of Flanders after the death of Arnulf the Great. This last one is a particular mystery, and one I’d like to know more about – why him? There’s no particular indication from other evidence that he had any particular ties to Flanders… But I digress.

To return to the Dialogus, the subject of the treatise is Church property, and, more specifically, the inalienability of Church property. Macallan’s self-insert character Theophilus says:

And thus, the alienation of the holy Church’s patrimony (which is the coheir of Christ) by its guardians and promoters – that is, bishops and clerics – or its bestowal on their friends and relatives is fearfully opposed by laws both divine and human…

(Although he goes on to say you can lawfully bestow the usufruct.) But, Theophilus says, previous bishops have ignored this rule, and the Church’s property is now in the hands of unsuitable people. This raises an obvious question: how does one reclaim it? Theophilus’ answer is that it’s the bishop’s job: he must persuade, cajole or coerce usurpers of Church goods to return them to the Church.

The question then becomes: what to do if asking nicely doesn’t work? For our purposes today, the interesting part is not so much the way Macallan answers the question (you go up the chain of command to your archbishop, and then to his primate), but the way he phrases it. Eutitius, the character Macallan uses as a stand-in for Bishop Roric, asks ‘What should be done for a bishop who defends justice and tries to reclaim these lost goods if he is not supported by the help of either the king or his men, whose job it is (qui esse debuerant)?’

What’s interesting here is the assumption that, in general, the normal way of things is that the bishop would, in fact, have royal help in reclaim his property – what Eutitius is asking about is if things go wrong with the way you’re supposed to do it. The reason this is interesting is that West Frankish kingship is, at this point, supposed to be down the toilet – as I mentioned earlier, for instance, Roric couldn’t originally get into his own city, the most important military hardpoint for West Frankish royalty, because King Louis was not actually in control of it at the time. Despite this, the first turning point for a bishop who needs actual, practical help is still thought of as being the king.

It’s similarly noticeable that, at the very beginning of the Dialogus, the reason Eutitius comes to Theophilus to ask about the question of Church property is that a discussion on the subject arose while he was at the royal palace. Now, Roric himself was, as previously said, an important court figure, but Eutitius is fictional. Macallan didn’t have to portray him embedded in a royal context – he chose to, apparently because that was the most plausible place to find a local bishop.  This partnership between bishops and kings is, for me, one of the defining features of post-Carolingian politics. Even in the latter days of the tenth century, royal authority was still deeply intertwined with that of bishops.