Charter a Week 30: A Property Transaction in Three Acts

Technically speaking, I’m spoiling you today, because this week’s Charter A Week is in fact not one, but three charters. In fact, as you’ll see, that’s probably overselling them. Most medievalists are familiar with the concept of the chirograph, where two copies of the same charter are written on the same piece of parchment with the word chirographum in the middle which is then cut through so each party can have a copy of the transaction which can be compared against the other. Here, though, something more complicated is happening:

DD CtS no. 54 (7th September 906, Laon)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by the gracious favour of divine clemency king.

Whatever We confer by Our clemency on places given over to divine worship at the suggestion of Our followers, We should truly trust God to repay Us thereafter.

Therefore, let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, both present, to wit, and future, know that Our most beloved follower Robert, abbot of the monastery of the nourishing bishop and confessor of Christ Amandus, approaching Our Serenity, made known to Our Highness that he had sought from the monks of the aforesaid abbey certain of their goods, once given by that most blessed pontiff Amandus to his monks and confirmed for their particular uses by royal and imperial precepts, but needful and useful to him in Our service, sited in the district of Laonnais: that is, the cell which is called Barisis with everything pertaining to it, that they might concede the same goods to him in benefice for his lifetime alone. But lest his petition should seem absurd and burdensome, and lest he should hence incur the offence of God and His most dear of priests Amandus, and lest he be seen to inflict any harassment on the servants of God because of this act and lest in the course of receiving these stipendiary goods necessary resources fail them, insofar as it can be done, he requested from Our Mildness that We might consign from that abbey and from his demesne the estate which is called Dechy with all of the goods pertaining to it to their particular needs, and that We should deliver it up perennially from the present day to benefit their uses.

We proffered assent, thinking his request just and reasonable, and We commanded this precept of Our authority be made about this matter, and We gave it to the same monks, through which We enact and wish to firm in perpetuity that the said estate of Dechy, which We concede to them at present with everything pertaining to it, should be yielded forever to their demesne, and after the death of Our follower Robert, the cell of Barisis with everything legally pertaining to it should be recalled to their dominion without contradiction from any abbot.

In addition, We decree that whatever was bestowed on the same holy congregation by emperors and kings, Our predecessors, or any good people, in any districts or territories, as We previously confirmed in Our edict made for the same monks at the petition of Archbishop Fulk [of Rheims], should also in the same way now endure perennially undisturbed under the fullest tutelage of immunity.

And that this precept of Our Royal Majesty might obtain inviolable firmness, We confirmed it below with Our own hand, and We commanded it be sealed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Ernust the notary subscribed on behalf of Bishop Anskeric [of Paris].

Given on the 7th ides of September [7th September], in the 9th indiction, in the 14th year of the reign of Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 9th of his restoration of the kingdom’s unity.

Enacted at the castle of Laon.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

DD RR no. 46 (24th September 906, Saint-Amand)

In the name of God, Robert, abbot of the monastery of the nourishing bishop and confessor of Christ Amandus, to the beloved brothers of the same abbey.

We wish it to be known to many that I sought from you some of your goods, given by that most blessed pontiff Amandus to his monks and confirmed for your particular uses by royal and imperial precepts, but needful and useful to me in the service of our lord and master King Charles, sited in the district of Laonnais: that is, the cell which is called Barisis with everything pertaining to it, that you might concede the same goods to me in benefice for my lifetime alone. Because I wish to do nothing presumptuously or by force, as I ought not to, but rather having before my eyes the just judgement of God, and lest I incur the offence of His most holy and dearest priest Amandus, and lest I inflict any harassment on you thereby, I sought and accepted the aforesaid goods by a precarial grant in right of benefice.

And, lest in the course of receiving these stipendiary goods necessary resources should fail you because of this act, insofar as it can be done, I requested from the lord king Charles that he might despatch from that abbey and from Our demesne the estate which is called Decy with everything pertaining to it to your particular needs, and deliver it up perennially from the present day and confirm it to benefit your uses by a precept of his authority, that is, after an agreement had been confirmed between us that I should hold in usufruct, develop and improve the said goods which I accepted from you as long as I live, and not alienate or diminish anything from them; rather, I should endeavour in every way to add and improve therein whatever I can in any fashion, and each year I should have 12 pennies paid on the feast of Saint Amandus, which is the 7th kalends of November [26th October], in vestiture.

After my departure from this light, whenever God wills it, let the aforesaid cell of Barisis in its entirety be recalled to your dominion without contradiction from any abbot. No less should the estate of Dechy be held from this day without any prejudice under your dominion in perpetuity.

But in pursuit of firmness, we had two documents written, made in your manner, which We confirmed below with Our own hand, that they might endure stable and undisturbed, and We had them strengthened by the hands of good men.

Enacted at Elnon, in the monastery of Saint-Amand, in the 14th year of the reign of the glorious king lord Charles, on the day of the 7th kalends of October [4th September].

Sign of Abbot Robert.

[Column 1:] S. Bishop Robert [of Noyon]. S. Count Altmar [of Arras]. S. Count Odilard [of Laon]. S. Count Hilmerad. S. Count Richer [of Astenois]. Count Erlebald [of Châtresais].

[Column 2:] S. Ralph. S. Letrand. S. Eilfred. S. Frodo. S. Walter. S. Ingelmar.

[Column 3:] S. Hugh. S. Rainard. S. Madelgaud. S. Ermenfred. S. Rainald. S. Hagano.

I, Hucbald the notary, related and subscribed this.

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One of the surviving bits of Saint-Amand (source)

DD RR III.1 (24th September 906, Saint-Amand)

To the venerable in Christ Abbot Robert of the monastery of the nourishing bishop and confessor of Christ Amand, we, the brothers of the congregation of the same abbey.

We wish it to be known to many that you sought from us some of our goods, given by that most blessed pontiff Amandus to his monks and confirmed for our particular uses by royal and imperial precepts, but needful and useful to you in the service of our lord and master King Charles, sited in the district of Laonnais: that is, the cell which is called Barisis with everything pertaining to it – that is, Vallemont, Haidulphi cortis, Bouvincourt, Mactaldi cortis, Normezières, Fresnes, Pierremande, Mennessis, Cessières, Marcilly, Hauteville, Persicus – that is, that we might concede the same goods to you in benefice for your lifetime alone. Because you wish to do nothing presumptuously or by force, as you ought not to, but rather having before your eyes the just judgement of God, and lest you incur the offence of His most holy and dearest priest Amandus, and lest you inflict any harassment on us thereby, you sought and accepted the aforesaid goods by a precarial grant in right of benefice.

And, lest in the course of receiving these stipendiary goods necessary resources should fail us because of this act, insofar as it can be done, you requested from the lord king Charles that he might despatch from that abbey and from your demesne the estate which is called Decy with everything pertaining to it to our particular needs, and deliver it up perennially from the present day and confirm it to benefit our uses by a precept of his authority, that is, after an agreement had been confirmed between us that you should hold in usufruct, develop and improve the said goods which you accepted from us as long as you live, and not alienate or diminish anything from them; rather, you should endeavour in every way to add and improve therein whatever you can in any fashion, and each year you should have 12 pennies paid to us on the feast of Saint Amandus, which is the 7th kalends of November [26th October], in vestiture.

After your departure from this light, whenever God wills it, let the aforesaid cell of Barisis in its entirety be recalled to our dominion without contradiction from any abbot. And as well, let the estate of Dechy be held from this day without any prejudice under your dominion in perpetuity. And on the anniversary of your demise, a great feast shall be prepared from that estate of Dechy in memory of you, after solemn masses and offerings for you have been carried out.

But in pursuit of firmness, we had two documents written, made in the same manner, which We confirmed below with Our own hand, that they might endure stable and undisturbed, and We had them strengthened by the hands of good men.

Enacted at Elnon, in the monastery of the blessed Amandus in the 14th year of the reign of the glorious king lord Charles, on the day of the 7th kalends of October [4th September].

Prior Ricfred.

[Column 1:] S. Theobert the priest. S. Ageric the priest. S. Ludio the priest. S. Motgis the priest. S. Eligius the priest. S. Madalgar the priest.

[Column 2:] S. Stephen the priest. S. Hildebrand the priest. S. Rodualus the deacon. S. Magenard the priest. S. Gerard the deacon. S. Everbern the priest.

[Column 3:] S. Rather the priest. S. Mainer the priest. S. Blitgar the deacon. S. Dumher the deacon. S. Winebert the subdeacon. S. Lideric the subdeacon. S. Fredenod the subdeacon.

I, Hucbald the notary, related and subscribed this.

So what we have here isn’t an identical copy of an exchange: it’s both sides of a contract, confirmed by a royal diploma. This isn’t as odd as it sounds. There are a fair few Carolingian royal diplomas from the ninth century confirming exchanges, and if I had to guess I’d say that charters like those of Robert of Neustria and the monks formed the basis of those transactions but weren’t subsequently preserved because they weren’t as authoritative as a royal diploma. This raises interesting questions about why there were preserved, though. I can’t think of any other examples of this where we still have all the documents – perhaps some of my learned readers can help?

In any case, these charters are not just rare diplomatic birds, they also provide important insight into West Frankish politics at this point. The first thing to note is that, despite his by-name, Robert of Neustria – for it is he – wasn’t just limited to Neustria in terms of his power-base. Saint-Amand was an important abbey in the kingdom’s north-east, and as its abbot Robert was able to draw on its resources. Not, however, its ideological resources. Note that the scribes felt the need to reclad the transaction in appropriately royal garb for Charles’ diploma, but with Robert’s charter they just changed the pronouns from the monks’ own act. For one of the first so-called ‘territorial princes’, Robert’s authority is not visibly either territorial or princely…

Robert’s charter does, however, shed some light on the composition of the royal court. The witnesses there are all figures from the royal court rather than Robert’s own entourage. We’ve already met Odilard of Laon last week, and from our past and future narrative sources, we know that Altmar of Arras and Erlebald of Châtresais were Charles’ allies. What we seem to have here, then, are some of the more important people at Charles’ court at the time. The problem is, this isn’t a full snap-shot. We have a witness list full of – insofar as we can place them – entirely north-eastern figures, but the transaction is also taking place in the north-east, and the witnesses are thus probably being selected not just for prestige but for relevance. That is, there is probably a selection bias against people who don’t come from the area, meaning that although we can say that Charles appears fairly well-planted in the north-east, we can’t say he isn’t outside of that region. The witness list hides one other bit of foreshadowing, though. See that guy Hagano who susbscribes last in the third column? We’ll see him again in future…

Charter a Week 28: This Church was a Steal!

After 903, we are definitely at the point where trying to do conventional narrative is basically impossible, at least until the double-whammy of happenings in 911. With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to what’s going on the provinces… As we saw with Geilo, the bishops of Langres were big deals, and they stayed so into the tenth and (as we’ll see) the eleventh centuries. So what’s up with them?

Cartulaire de Saint-Bénigne no. 1.157 (3rd June 904) = ARTEM no. 151

In the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 903, in the 6th indiction, in the month of September, when, in the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity, I, Argrim, by the favour and succour of the mercy of our same holy saviour humble bishop of Langres, residing in the bosom of the same mother church in general synod, along with those faithful to that church and to Us, of every order, that is, abbots, archdeacons, priests, monks, deacons and other ministers of the churchly order, and also lay followers, was settling the affairs and advantages of the churches committed to Our Unworthiness with pastoral solicitude, insofar as Our ability and understanding allowed; and was giving an equal amount of attention* to disposing that what was legitimately established should endure undisturbed; and, if anything, perchance, could be found to be twisted and without authority, with divinity propitious was busying myself to get it back in line, amongst other endeavours of Our reckonings, which everyone together sweated to fortify and confirm with ecclesiastical sanctions, and We were sorrowing over the destitutions of certain churches pertaining to Our diocese and seeking how, with the Lord’s help, they could be restored by a common vow, the case of the church of the holy martyr of Christ Vincent sited in the castle of Dijon was aired and considered by us, for it seemed at that time to be destitute of necessities and widowed of a ruler and nearly brought down to nothing.

When We sought a recoverer and diligent restorer for it, amongst Our other good-willed followers, there presented himself someone fully devoted to Us and rightly cooperating with Our intention, an archdeacon of Our church named Rather, along with his nephew named Aldefred, saying that they wanted to receive and restore the same church, as far as they could, and were prepared to increase it from their own goods, as befit them, if We would succour it by an increase of Our beneficence and assist it so that it could enjoy legitimate stability in future times.

Favouring them with a resolution of pious generosity, with everyone cleaving to Our Goodwill, in honour and love for God and Saint Vincent, and for the eternal salvation and remuneration of Our soul and of Our predecessors and those who will come after Us in the sacred governance of pastors, and for an assiduous and unfailing remembrance in the prayers in the same church, We consigned and bestowed a certain manse of Our power and authority to the same place of Saint-Vincent, with the serving-people duly dwelling there, and with the vineyards, lands and all the goods beholden to it, sited near the suburbs of the aforesaid castle of Dijon, in the estate which is called Fontaine-lès-Dijon, to benefit that church perpetually as Our alms. Furthermore, Our aforesaid followers, to wit, Archdeacon Rather and his aforesaid nephew Aldefred, giving to that church for divine love another manse sited in the district of Oscheret, in the estate of Seroiches, with what is thereon, and 5 serving-people, and dwellings and meadows, and everything beholden to it, as is laid out in the charter of donation, asked that that church and the aforesaid things and the entrance-hall next to it be conceded and given to them in benefice for their lifetimes, on the condition that they should restore it as far as they could and respect it with due honour and have in it a necessary refuge whilst they lived. After their death, the same goods should no less serve the same church in perpetual stability.

We freely did this, with the assent of all Our men, and We conceded that they might hold the same church with these goods more certainly and securely in future times through this constitution of Our Liberality, which We strengthened with Our own hands and gave to be confirmed by everyone.

I, Argrim, poor bishop of the holy church of Langres, strengthened and subscribed. Prior Otbert subscribed. Archdeacon Isaac subscribed. Alberic the levite subscribed. The unworthy priest Helgaud subscribed. Archdeacon Pazus subscribed. Deacon Fulculf subscribed. Deodatus the priest subscribed. Bernard, under-sacristan of Saint-Mammès, subscribed. Deacon Gozelm subscribed. Archdeacon Arnald subscribed. Arnald the priest subscribed. Everard the levite subscribed. Subdeacon Lambert subscribed. Ursino the priest subscribed. Ingelbert the levite subscribed. Arembert subscribed. Christian the priest subscribed. Garemagnus the levite subscribed. Dominic the priest subscribed. Subdeacon Warner subscribed. Winerand the priest subscribed. Deodatus the priest subscribed. Alexander the priest subscribed. Seguin the priest subscribed. Letulf the levite subscribed. Gozelm the acolyte subscribed. Aimbald subscribed. Robert subscribed. Alger subscribed. Eilbert subscribed. Wandalmar the acolyte subscribed. Witbert subscribed. Archembald subscribed. Gisleher subscribed. Eldulf the levite subscribed. Ferlagius the levite subscribed. Ermenald subscribed.

I, Siric, an unworthy priest, wrote and subscribed this tenancy agreement.

Given in the month of June, on the 3rd nones of the same month [3rd June], in the 7th indiction, in the 8th year of the reign of King Charles.

*The phrase is praeponderans aequo libramine, ‘weighing on an even scale’, which I have taken as a poetic flourish for ‘considering similarly’, but could as well refer to the manner of Argrim’s dispositions.

01511
Original document taken from ARTEM, as given above.

This is at first glance fairly straightforward. The church of Saint-Vincent in Dijon has gone to rack and ruin, Archdeacon Rather – who as prior of Saint-Etienne in Dijon is in a position to know – has volunteered to rebuild it and has devoted some funds for its upkeep, which Argrim, to help them out, adds to.

There is, of course, more going on. First, Saint-Vincent is far from destitute – it was at the time owned by the monks of the abbey of Saint-Bénigne, who still resented having their church usurped in the mid-eleventh century; and who were able, eight years later, to get Argrim’s successor to restore Saint-Vincent to them. So Rather is actively trying to get control of someone else’s church here. Even more, as we will see more of on Wednesday, Rather was particularly able to benefit from this kind of transaction under Argrim. Given Argrim’s slightly tenuous hold on the bishopric, the support of a major archdeacon must have been significant, and these transactions suggest that Rather was able to exact quite a price for that support.

The other thing that I want to flag up regarding this charter is its form. This document takes the form of a synodal record, something quite unusual in the tenth century. It’s not unknown (this being why as far as I can tell no-one else has ever commented on its unusual degree of employment by the bishops of southern Burgundy), but outside of the Church province of Lyon it’s hard to find tenth-century examples of this charter form (as opposed to records of synods themselves, which are more frequent). Why might this be? Well, we’ve already seen that provincial synods were particularly prominent in late-Carolingian Burgundy, and this seems to be a case of ‘as above, so below’ – what happens on a provincial level being reproduced on a diocesan one. There’s something else which makes the charters of the bishops of Langres particularly interesting – but we’ll leave that for another time…

Charter a Week 17: Brothers and Sisters

Do you know what we haven’t really dealt with? (In this series, anyway…) Aquitaine. It came up in passing when dealing with its submission to King Odo, but that was five years ago now and a lot has changed. For one thing, none of the major figures who submitted to Odo in 889 are still around. Frothar of Bourges died. Ramnulf of Poitiers and Ebalus of Saint-Denis died, the latter in rebellion against Odo. (There’s a whole story about what happened to Poitiers which we can’t deal with, but basically Odo tried to make his brother Robert count of Poitiers and it looks like he rather mismanaged the whole affair, leading to a revolt in Aquitaine which led to a further revolt which will actually be relevant this week.)

So who’s in charge instead? We mentioned Bernard Plantevelue as being one of Charles the Bald’s palatine magnates, but he looks to have died in around 886 and to have been replaced with his son, William the Pious. William’s base of power is rather further east than the word ‘Aquitaine’ might make you think. Do you remember how Bernard took over Mâcon during Boso’s rebellion? The Mâconnais is one of the centres of William’s power. So too is Lyon. The centre of gravity in William’s reign is rather further north and east than it is for Stephen of Clermont, largely because these all get sheared off in the 920s – again, we’ll get to it. The point is that William’s powerbase is big and it’s diverse. His wider interests actually go even further north and east than Mâcon – let me show you.   

CC no. 1.53 (9th November 893) = ARTEM no. 1579 = Plus anciens documents de Cluny no. 2

We are taught by divine and churchly documents that one should before everything do good work in observing a double love: that is, of God and one’s neighbour, so that we who have been pure-heartedly fortified in both might both not be without present assistance and also rejoice in eternal help, because without these it is impossible either to please God or to lead a present life of praiseworthy honour.

I, Ava, a humble servant of Christ, recalling this in divine contemplation, and considering that the nearness of kinship is worth of affection, donate to you, William [the Pious] my brother and glorious count, my certain estate named Cluny, sited in the district of Mâconnais on the river Grosne, in its entirety, with its appurtenances and what is legitimately beholden to it, although only after the course of my present life is complete. After my death, I give and transfer this estate, with everything which pertains to it both in churches and in chapels, bondsmen of both sexes (except 20 bondsmen), manses, portions of arable land, arboreta, fields cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, meadows, mills, waters and watercourses, roads out and in, from my power into your dominion with perpetual right, so that you may have the firmest power in everything to do whatever you want to do with it, whether donation or sale or exchange.

I give and donate this estate to Your Brotherhood on this condition, indeed: that in return for the same estate you should bestow on me a certain allod of your rightful property, which is called Einville-au-Jard, which is sited in the county of Chaumont, for use in my present life; and after my death it should return to you and your kinsmen.

Moreover, if I outlive you and God lengthens my days beyond yours and gives, by divine mercy, the fertility of sons and daughters from a legitimate marriage, let them, after my death, receive the estate of Cluny which I donate to you after my death in perpetual right in the place of an heir, and let them have, hold and possess it as an inheritance, contradicted by nobody.

If anyone, moreover (which I do not believe will happen), either I myself or any of my biological or legal heirs or any person opposed to it, might try to come against or generate any calumny of controversy against this charter of donate made of my own free will, let them be unable to vindicate their claim, but rather let them pay you and your heirs and the associated fisc 50 pounds of gold; and thus let this present donation endure true, free and firm for all time, with this corroboration attached.

Enacted publicly at the estate of Cluny.

Sign of Abbess Ava, who asked this donation be made and confirmed. Sign of Viscount Raculf [of Mâcon].

[First column] Sign of Amalung. Sign of Warulf. Sign of Grimald. Sign of Ramnald. Sign of Fulcrad.

[Second column] Sign of Sigebald. Sign of Achard. Sign of Waning. Sign of Grimo. Sign of Stephen.

[Third column] Sign of Guntard. Sign of Gladirus. Sign of Otbert. Sign of Tullo. Sign of Aloin. Sign of Ungrim.

[Fourth column] Sign of Isengar. Sign of Ernerius. Sign of Heribert. Sign of Amalbert. Sign of Giso. Sign of Eilbert.

Sigebert, having been asked to, subscribed.

I, Ratbod, an unworthy levite, wrote and subscribed this, given in the month of November, on the day of the kalends, the 5th ides of November [9th November], in the first year when two kings contended over the realm, that is, Odo and Charles [the Simple].

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Image from ARTEM as linked above

Surprise Cluny! Yes, this charter is the proximate beginning of the history of everyone’s favourite hegemonic medieval abbey. We’ve covered before on this blog the ‘capillary government’ of William the Pious’ Aquitaine, and here we can see another aspect of it. If Gerald of Aurillac was William’s man in Quercy, Ava was his woman in the northern Mâconnais. Thanks to the even-at-this-point-fairly-dense archives of Cluny, we can see Ava with a fairly dense cluster of properties between Cluny and the river Saône, and plenty of ties to local nobles. In particular, an entry in the Liber Memorialis of Remiremont seems to show her with Viscount Raculf; the sons of Warulf of Brancion, Cluny’s second-biggest patron after William the Pious himself in its early years, donated a fair chunk of property for her soul specifically; and so on – these can (from experience) be worked out into a 5000-word paper. We can see some of this in the witness list, where we have a group of local notables, including Raculf, Warulf, and the man whose name I have rendered as ‘Sigebald’, but who appears in Latin as Sievoldus and who might well be Sievertus, the advocate of Mâcon cathedral (orthography can be very inconsistent; but the ‘Sige’=’Sie’ elision is quite uncommon).

William doesn’t actually appear without Ava during her lifetime, so it makes sense to see these people as here because of the siblings as a pair, rather than just as William’s followers. In this sense, Ava is another version of Gerald of Aurillac – a middlewoman between William and the locality. She pulls the locals into William’s orbit, and is herself pulled into William’s orbit by bonds of kinship and – as in this instance – property.

Interesting is that William gives Ava an estate in Lotharingia. William was another actor in that Transararian Fluidity Zone, as we’ll see a bit down the line; but his interests in Lotharingia are largely a blank book, as are what Ava did with it.

A final note is that dating clause: in 893, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims finally got sick enough of Odo to anoint the young Charles the Simple as king and lead a rebellion. This was not thrillingly successful, but a lot of the southern magnates, including William and Richard the Justiciar, hedged their bets at least at the beginning, and this dating clause expresses that in the most direct way possible: both Odo and Charles are acknowledged, as is their fight, without any side being taken.

The Nuns of Chartres, At Last

Going down my top 10 charters last time, I mentioned that I would finally get round to telling the story of the nuns of Chartres, and so here goes. These particular charters having been bothering me for a while, and I still haven’t worked out what’s going on here. First, a translation of the act, which was charter no. 6 in the list:

I, in the name of God Liutgard, most devoted and faithful of the servants of God. Be it known to all the faithful of the orthodox and catholic Church that I myself and another Deo sacrata, named Godeleva, joined to me both in body and soul [michi tam corpore quam anima conjuncta], having made an agreement, bought a certain allod from a certain man named Otbert, wholly and entirely, whatever was left to him by both his grandfather and his great-grandfather, in the villa which is generally known as Prasville, for an agreed-upon and suitable price, to wit, in the county of Chartres; on the condition that from this day until the end of the world, it might past from his right and person into our dominion and power. This purchase was made in accordance with this condition and vow, that as long as we live, it should remain at our disposition; but after our death, it should pass and go into the power and dominion of Saint Peter, established in the suburbs of Chartres, and the brothers serving God therein, in its entirety, and without calumniation from anyone. That this charter might be believed more firmly and truly, we had it strengthened by our own hand and the hands of the faithful of God’s holy Church.

Acted publicly at Chartres.

Count Odo. Conan, count of Brittany. Landric. Arduin. Robert. Erchambald the cleric. Teduin.

Given on the 15th kalends of September [i.e. 16th August], in the 25th year of the reign of King Lothar.

That ‘joined to me both in body and soul’ is a puzzler, isn’t it? If that were Liutgard and, I don’t know, Hucbert, I’d read it as a poetic description of marriage, but here I think it’s unlikely for two reasons. First, the ‘Count Odo’ in the witness list is actually Liutgard’s son by Count Theobald the Trickster, who we’ve met before. Both these men had lots of enemies, and given how despised same-sex relations were at this time, it seems unlikely that his enemies would pass up the opportunity to criticise Liutgard were she in a prominent-enough same-sex relationship to be putting it in her charters.

The other reason is that Godeleva actually appears elsewhere at around the same time, also donating to Saint-Père de Chartres: ‘Illuminated by [Biblical precepts about the joy of giving] and other proofs of good instruction, and the flame of the Holy Spirit, I, Godeleva, and my mate [compar, a Latin word as ambiguous as ‘mate’ in English] Clementia give… a certain church which we bought… from a canon… named Gerald… to Saint Peter’. So we’re unlikely to be dealing with an elderly nun free love commune.

Saint-Père de Chartres in the Early Modern Period. Source.

Still, this is some very strong language. Fassler says that phrases such as ‘joined in both body and soul’ indicate a kinship link, and I used to think she must be right, but now I wonder whether or not something a little more interesting is going on. Liutgard describes herself and Godeleva as Deo sacrata, a type of religious women who were not strictly speaking nuns, but rather women, often high-ranking widows, who chose to live lives dedicated to God. This seems to be the case here: certainly between them Liutgard, Godeleva and Clementia have cash to throw around and spend on their own salvation.

More than this, though, Godeleva’s language in that second document seems to imply that she perceived herself as perhaps a visionary, ‘illuminated by the flame of the Holy Spirit’. Equally, the use of terms like compar suggests a closeness between the women here which is hard to parallel from other charters in this region. So I wonder if we are not perhaps dealing a semi-communal but non-formalised small female religious community within Chartres: a group of high-status religious women bound together by an unusually intense piety to do acts of charitable giving.

There is another option: these charters are preserved in the cartulary of Saint-Père de Chartres, which was written in the twelfth century by a monk named Paul, who was not above forging documents to better establish his abbey’s claims to land. This does not necessarily make things less odd: instead of a tenth-century property-magnate prayer group, we could be dealing with a twelfth-century monk’s imagining of same…

Anyway, this whole knot still puzzles me somewhat. What do you all think?