Charter A Week 76: Charles Constantine in the Viennois Void

…so, erm, when I said that 948 was the last we’d see of Provence for a while, ‘a while’ in this instance turned out to mean ‘a bit over three weeks’. There are a couple of reasons for this U-turn: first, I wanted to go a little more into Louis IV’s 951 trip to Aquitaine that we spoke about last time; and second (it occurred to me as I sat down to write this), it might provide an interesting illustration of some of the ‘mandala polity’ stuff from last week. For those of you concerned about consistency in the one-year-per-week thing, incidentally, there will be a 952 act; but for reasons which will become clear in the next of these posts I’m covering it alongside the 953 charter.

With that out of the way, a brief reminder of what happened in 951. With peace in the north fragile, Louis went south to shore up his alliances in southern Burgundy and Aquitaine. Last time we looked at the Aquitanian side of this; this time, I want to talk a bit about Provence. The last time we met Count Charles Constantine of Vienne, son of Louis the Blind, he had been low-key compelled to submit to the Transjurane king Conrad the Pacific. Now, though, he went back to Louis IV and submitted to him. This was not a sham, either:

CC no. 1.797 (January 952)

It is clear to all reasonably considering it that the dispensation of God has looked out for certain rich men such that from the goods which are possessed in this passing world, if they use them well, they can earn prizes which endure forever. Divine speech shows this to be possibly, saying ‘The riches of a man are the redemption of his soul’, and also ‘give alms, and everything shall be made clean unto thee’. I, Count Charles, solicitously thinking of this, decided it was necessary that from the goods which have been, by Christ’s largess, bestowed on me in this world, I should impart a little bit for the improvement of my soul, so that – in accordance with Christ’s precept – I might make for myself friends of His poor, so that in future they might receive me in eternal tabernacles. 

Therefore, let it be known to all the faithful that I, the aforesaid Count Charles, donate something from the goods of my right, for love of God, to His holy apostles, that is, Peter and Paul, at the monastery of Cluny, in alms for the brothers dwelling there and assiduously serving them: that is, my allod and estate in the district of Viennois which is called Communay with its churches, one in honour of the blessed Lazarus, and the other in honour of St Peter; in addition with all appendages, to wit, vineyards, fields, meadows, woods, waters and watercourses, serfs of both sexes and all ages, incomes and renders, visited and unvisited, cultivated and uncultivated, in its entirety. 

I donate all this to God Almighty and His said holy apostles for the remedy of my soul and the salvation of the souls of my parents, and also of all my kinsmen, and finally for all the faithful of Christ, living and dead; on the condition, to wit, that as long as I live, I might hold and possess it and each year, on the feast of St Peter, I should pay 12 shillings in rent. After my death, though, let the rulers of the aforesaid place immediately receive it into their uses without any contradiction. 

If anyone, then, might endeavour to inflict a calumny against this donation, unless they make amends, let them be subjected to every curse. And let this charter of donation endure stable and undisturbed. 

Sign of Count Charles, who asked this donation be made and confirmed; of Count Leotald [of Mâcon], Narduin, Iter, Hugh, Rather.

Andrew wrote this. 

Given in the month of January, in the 16th year of the reign of King Louis, who commanded a precept be made concerning the same donation and signed it with his seal. 

That last line is interesting, isn’t it? Louis’ diploma doesn’t survive aside from this one mention. There are a few lines like this in Cluniac charters, and they’re key evidence for a proposition I hold dear to my heart: that absence of evidence for late Carolingian royal diplomas is far from being evidence of absence. The Cluniac archives, after all, are massive; and even here they don’t preserve everything. This has serious repercussions for our understandings of the sphere of action of West Frankish kings. Analysis of the mentions of non-surviving diplomas in Cluniac charters indicate that royal influence in the region was intense, and that Burgundy remained a royal heartland in the tenth century much as it had been in the ninth.

Charles Constantine himself, lest we forget, had history with Louis. Ten years earlier, when Louis had made his last support-seeking southern trip, Charles had received him in Vienne and given him his support. Now, Louis’ presence offered Charles a way to shore up his position against what I have argued was an unfriendly Transjurane court. Intriguingly, when Archbishop Sobbo of Vienne died in 949, he doesn’t seem to have been replaced. The next archbishop, Theobald, is traditionally assigned to the late 950s. (You know, whilst writing this post I was wondering if anyone had written on the archbishopric of Vienne between Sobbo and Theobald; and, hey, sometimes the system works!) Theobald’s Vita says that there was significant dissension between the clergy and laity of the region on Sobbo’s death; but Conrad the Pacific wasn’t able to intervene and ensure that a new bishop was appointed. Instead, there was stalemate. This strongly suggests that Conrad’s power in the Viennois was in fact weakened in the years around 950. Turning to Louis IV to shore up his position would have come naturally to a politician such as Charles Constantine whose power-base lay in the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone.

At this point, it occurred to me: this is another case where the ‘mandala polity’ model can come in handy. After all, what is the Fluidity Zone if not a region pulled in different directions by the ‘gravitational pull’ of multiple different realms? James C. Scott has discussed cases where such overlapping sovereignties cancelled each other out, and that seems to be what’s happening in the Viennois at this time. The Viennois, within the pull of the West Frankish kingdom and Transjurane Burgundy, ended up being functionally part of neither.


Charter A Week 72: Manasses of Arles

Another short one this week, as I’ve discussed the background to this one extensively in a previous post. Just to give a little bit of context, though: in 947, Hugh of Arles, king of Italy and overlord of southern Provence died. Provence had already been in a political vacuum since the death of Louis the Blind in 928, and this further disrupted the balance of power. Who would take better advantage of the situation: Louis IV or Conrad the Pacific? The machinations which took place are invisible to historians, but there are tantalising hints. Hints such as:

CC 1.726 (September 948)

While one lives in the difficult pilgrimage of this world, since it is permitted during this time and whilst an acceptable time and the days of salvation are seen to be imminent, the highest care should be taken that, if we can do any good, putting aside all delay, we should not hesitate to act in making our debtors those whom we truly know and little doubt look after the safety of bodies in the present and will be judges of the soul in future. Because, indeed, we can do no good after death, we believe that before we are led to that subtle judgement beyond understanding, to satisfy the hidden Judge, we should not cease to cleanse with the work of prayers and the hand of penitence in this brief life however we can what we have negligent committed.

Therefore I, the unworthy archbishop Manasses, considering the enormity of my sins, and, which is more salubrious, adoring the sweetest voice of our lord Jesus Christ, who said ‘give alms and behold, the whole world shall be made clean unto thee’; ‘store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt’, and ‘the riches of a man are the redemption of his soul, give and transfer wholly and entirely in perpetuity these which are my goods which lie in the county of Chalon, which fell to me from paternal inheritance, which my father [Count] Warner [of Troyes] possessed by right of dominion, to God Almighty and St Mary mother of God and as well His holy apostles, to wit Peter and Paul; and I ultimately entrust this deed to the monastery of Cluny and establish it as preceptor and vicar, so that from this day and hereafter lord abbot Aimard, who now, by God’s assent, administers the governance of the aforesaid abbey with pious rule, and all his successors, might rule and ordain and dispose the same goods for all time as pleases them in God’s service. This place, indeed, is consecrated in honour of God and in veneration of the blessed Mary ever-virgin and the same apostles, and is sited in the district of the Mâconnais. These goods are, as already mentioned above, sited in the county of Chalon, in the vicariate of Buxy, that is, Jully, with all its appurtenances pertaining to it, that is, a church consecrated in honour of St Maurice and a church of the holy mother of God Mary, and of St John, and also another of St Martin, in their entirety, as was written above, with male and female serfs and all buildings, vineyards, meadows, fields, woods, pastures, waters, mills, incomes and renders, orchards, cultivated and uncultivated lands, sought and to be sought, I donate and wish to be donated in perpetuity to Lord God, for the remedy of my soul and also for the soul of my father and my mother Teutberga, and my brothers, that is, Hugh and Richard and also Boso and all my other relatives, and in addition for the salvation of the living and the rest of all the dead, so that the rulers of the said monastery and those serving God there might without any challenge always hold them firmly and solidly in perpetuity.

If, though, anyone (God forbid!), I myself or any person, might endeavour to inflict any calumny against this donation, let them be subject to every curse, unless they come to make amends.

Sign of Manasses, who commanded this donation be made. S. Gunther. Airard, humble bishop of the holy see of Avignon, confirmed. S. Countess Bertha. Abbot Warner. Lambert. Odilo. Pons. Ado. Warmund. Ragembert. Archembert. Rostagnus. Boniface. Hildegar. Madalgaud. Arnulf. Hugh.

Given in the month of September, in the 13th year of Louis, king of the Franks.

Ralph the levite wrote this.

This cannot have been a private party. Hugh of Arles’ niece Countess Bertha (wife of Raymond III of Toulouse) and the bishop of Avignon are a delegation if ever there was one. Manasses must have spoken to Conrad, and probably to Hugh the Black as well. At the time, moreover (and we’ll see more of this next time), Louis was also talking a lot to Hugh. Something must have been going on – but, as I said in the original post, it’s really not clear what.

This is the last we’ll see of Provence for a while, so it’s worth giving a little epilogue. After the late 940s, Louis IV and, eventually, Lothar lost all control of northern Provence, and the whole kingdom minus the east bank of the Rhône passed under the sway of Conrad the Pacific. It would remain part of the Transjurane kingdom until there wasn’t a Transjurane kingdom anymore – but that’s a story for much, much later.

Charter A Week 67: The Tide Turns in Provence

If you cast your mind back several years, you may remember me complaining about the incredibly inconsistent nature of mid-tenth century Provençal dating clauses. I had done some research and worked out that if you correlated the date and the day of the week in a selection of charters from the area, you could get dates for the beginning of Conrad the Pacific’s reign which stretched over a spectrum of about seven years. What I then did not talk about in any detail was how Conrad did, in fact, take over Louis the Blind’s former kingdom. After all, when we were following Louis IV on his whirlwind tourof Aquitaine last we, we noted that his first stop was in Vienne, where he met the local count, Charles Constantine, and received his submission. This makes sense: ever since Ralph of Burgundy had taken over northern Provence, it had stayed under West Frankish rule.

What had changed by the early 940s, however, was the geopolitical situation. After the death of the Transjurane king Rudolf II in 937, Otto the Great was able to swoop in and kidnap Rudolf’s son and heir, the young Conrad the Pacific. (At the ripe old age of 24 in 937, Otto was already an elder statesman of European politics compared to Louis IV (17) and Conrad himself (12, perhaps?).) What this meant was that when Otto and Louis ended up on opposite sides, Otto had a convenient pawn to move into northern Provence to nibble away at Louis’ powerbase there. Thus, in 943, one of the first things Conrad did after being sent back south was to go to the Rhône valley, where the young monarch issued several documents, one of which was this:

D Burg no. 29 (27th June 943)

In the name of God Eternal.

Conrad, by will of God Almighty most serene king.

Let it be known to all of Our followers, that servants of God, monks from the monastery of Cluny, lodged a complaint in Our presence, in the district of Viennois, about Our kinsman Charles [Constantine]; the same Charles unjustly contested their goods, which Ingelbert had given to the same place through a charter of donation. He, though, when he saw and heard that he did not hold this rightly, presently gave up every quarrel and immediately corroborated the charters which Ingelbert had made, and confirmed them again in the king’s hand. And then the lord king commanded this judgement be written, through which let the said charters endure inviolable for all time; and We commanded the names of Our followers be inserted below and it be sealed with Our seal.

Sign of lord Conrad, the most pious king.

Bishop Aimo [of Geneva] was present. Archbishop Guy [of Lyon] was present. Archbishop Sobbo [of Vienne] was present. Bishop Bero [of Lausanne] was present. Bishop Odalbert [of Valence] was present. Hugh [the Black], count and margrave, was present. Odalric, count of the palace, was present. Henry, son of Louis [of Thurgau], was present. Count Anselm was present. Count Odalric, Anselm’s brother, was present. Count Azo was present. Count Leotald [of Mâcon] was present. Humbert [of Salins, Leotald’s brother], was present; and all the dominical vassals, greater and lesser, were present.

I, Henry the notary, wrote this judgement, given on the 5th kalends of July [27th June], in the 6th year of the reign of the most pious king lord Conrad. 

Since the end of 941, Louis’ position had already started to crumble. A bad sign was when Viscount Ratburn of Vienne, perhaps seeing an opportunity to undermine Charles Constantine, issued a charter in November 942 dated by Conrad’s rule. Conrad himself had arrived by Spring 943, issuing a set of diplomas which – notably – prominently feature Hugh the Black. Hugh had of course been cut off from Louis’ courtby Otto the Great, but he also had strong ties to Transjurane Burgundy which allowed him to pursue Königsnahe elsewhere – which is precisely what he seems to be doing in the witness list of this diploma.

In fact, the witnesses to this act are balanced neatly between Transjurane figures like the bishops of Geneva and Lausanne and Conrad’s cousin Henry on one hand; Transjurane allies in the Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone like Hugh the Black and Leotald of Mâcon on another; and on a mutant third hand more strictly Provençal figures like the archbishops of Lyon and Vienne, whose closest ties at this point were probably to Hugh of Arles. What brought these men together was the opportunities provided by the shifting balance of power, expressed in immediately terms by the opportunity (or the requirement) to gang up on Louis IV’s most prominent supporter in the region.

Charles Constantine was of course present at this judgement, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen someone arrive at court to find the deck stacked against them. This diploma can reasonably be seen as an attack on Charles. Note, for instance, that he’s not given any title, even the comital one. With a coalition banded against him, Charles was humiliated and forced to accept Conrad’s authority. The following year, in fact, Charles appears in a charter alongside a similar list of people, with his comital title restored, apparently reconciled, however begrudgingly, with the Transjurane regime. It was a very, very bad sign for Louis IV’s authority in Provence.

Charter A Week 58: A Triple Alliance in Provence and Italy

934 and 935 continue to be pains to pick charters for, so once again I’m playing a little fast and loose with the format. In this case, like last week, the dating elements in the document we’re going to look at are discordant: the AD year is 934, but the indiction gives 933. Schiaparelli, who edited the act, plumped for 933; the Regesta Imperii isn’t so sure, and that’s good enough for me to put it here.

So, somewhat unusually, we’re in Italy. We’ve spoken before about the multipolar Europe of the 930s, and this act is an interesting insight into that.

D HL no. 34 (8th March 933/934, Pavia)

In the name of Lord God Eternal.

Hugh and Lothar, by God’s grace kings. 

If we grant worldly benefits on places venerable and dedicated to God, we do not doubt we will gain eternal prizes from the Lord.

Consequently, let the entirety of all the followers of the holy Church of God and ourselves, to wit, present and future, know that we, for love of God Almighty and of the holy virgin Mary and of the blessed apostles, to wit, Peter and Paul, and for love of the other apostles, and for the remedy of our souls and those of Our father and mother, to wit, Theobald and Bertha, and our other relatives, concede to the holy and venerable monastery of Cluny, where Odo is at present now seen to be abbot, two curtilages from the right of our property lying in the county of Lyon, of which one is called Savigneux and the other Ambérieux-en-Dombes, in their entirety (besides Leotard the baker and five other servants pertaining there, who now serve us, whom we reserve for our power); that is, with chapels, houses, lands, vineyards, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, salt-pans, feeding grounds, waters and watercourses, hills, valleys, mountains, plains, male and female serfs of both sexes (besides those six servants whom we reserved for our power above), labouring men and women, and with everything they can say or name justly and legally pertaining to these two curtilages in their entirety (these six servants put to one side), so that from the present day, in their entirety (these six servants, as we said, put to one side), they might be in the right and dominion of the same abbey and of the abbot who is there now and of his successors, for the common advantage of the brothers serving God there at the time, rightly, quietly, and without any contradiction. 

If anyone might with reckless daring endeavour to infringe or violate our donation, let them know themselves to be damned by God Almighty like a sacrilege; in secular terms, as well, let them know themselves to be liable for a fine of one hundred pounds of pure gold, half to our treasury and half to the abbot of the aforesaid abbey and his successors and the brothers who are there at the time.

And that this might be more truly believed and diligently observed by all, we strengthened it with our own hands and commanded it be marked below with our signet.

Sign of the most serene kings Hugh and Lothar.

Chancellor Peter witnessed on behalf of Abbot and Archchancellor Gerland.

Given on the 8th ides of March [8th March], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 934, in the 8th year of the reign of the most pious lord king Hugh and the 3rd of lord king Lothar, in the 6th indiction

Enacted in Pavia.

Happily in God’s name, amen.

By itself, this might not look like very much. It’s a royal grant of property with added extra memorialisation, to Cluny no less – and royal diplomas for Cluny, from across Europe, are ten a penny. However, what’s interesting about it is the way that it takes us into the middle of alliances spanning most of western Europe: Hugh of Arles, for this short period, was the man in the centre of almost everything, and right behind him was Odo of Cluny. Hugh and Odo may have known each other (so thinks Isabelle Rosé) from Odo’s upbringing at the court of William the Pious, and they seem to have remained on good terms. However, this was particularly expressed in the early 930s. Besides this diploma, in 929, Hugh arranged his own betrothal with the important Roman noblewoman Marozia, who in 931 imposed her son as Pope John XI. Shortly afterwards, he granted Odo a papal privilege. He also intervened in 932 to confirm the new archbishop of Rheims, Artald, who (as we will have much cause to hear about in subsequent weeks) had recently been imposed on that church by Ralph of Burgundy.

In 933, too, Ralph of Burgundy was active in northern Provence. In 931, Count Charles Constantine of Vienne had promised his loyalty to Ralph; in 933, he actually handed it over. Hugh of Arles may well have had a hand in this. In 929, he had played an important role in ending the rebellion of Count Heribert II of Vermandois, the jailer of Charles the Simple, who had released his captive from prison and set him up against Ralph. Part of the deal was that Hugh agreed to grant Heribert the ‘province of Vienne’ (whatever that meant) on behalf of Heribert’s son Odo. West of the Rhône, the role of Odo of Cluny in West Frankish politics is something we’ve covered a lot recently; but to summarise, Ralph’s takeover of the duchy of Aquitaine was thoroughly aided along by the fact that he had the support of Odo, along with the networks of alliances surrounding his abbeys.

We have here a three-pointed alliance. Hugh can help both Ralph and Odo on the Italian side, as in the cases of Artald and Odo’s papal privileges (notably, both papal interventions came before the breakdown in relations between Hugh and the Romans later in 932). Odo can help Ralph in Aquitaine. His use for Hugh is a bit more obscure to me, but my guess is that, amongst other things, his connections with the Transjurane court and thus with Hugh’s rival for the kingship of Italy Rudolf II may be the operative factor. Ralph, meanwhile, can help Odo against his monastic rival Guy of Gigny; and he can ensure that the situation in northern Provence remains relatively stable. In fact, I would say that ensuring regional stability in the face of the deaths of both William the Younger and Louis the Blind (at least, once they’ve all helped themselves after the initial instability) is probably the most obvious binding force between these three men.

This diploma hints at that more than it says any of it. It is nonetheless significant that the estates in question are right next to Anse, where Ralph issued a diploma for Cluny in summer 932; and are also in William the Younger’s former county of Lyon. These gifts have presumably, therefore, been selected to implant Odo more firmly in Lyon and to emphasise the ongoing role of Hugh and Ralph together in ensuring a stable division of power in Provence. Much of the diplomatic activity of this period is hidden from us, and so there’s a lot of inference in this picture. Nonetheless, our box of hints builds up to a pretty convincing picture of a multipolar Frankish world in the 930s, all centred on the Trans-Ararian region.

Charter a Week 53: The High Point of Bosonid Europe

Big times in the Middle Kingdom! (And I know I use ‘Middle Kingdom’ as a synonym for Lotharingia, which was the area I meant last post, but this time I mean the whole thing.) As we’ve had cause to mention before multiple times, Louis the Blind, ruler of Provence, died in June 928 and then everything went to hell in a handbasket. The twists and turns of the aftermath of Louis’ death have been covered on this blog before, but what matters for our purposes today is that there were four branches of the same extended family all competing for parts of Provence, and all of them ended up with bits of it: Ralph of Burgundy got most of the north, his maternal cousin Rudolf II of Transjurane Burgundy got most of the mountainous eastern bit, his paternal cousin Charles Constantine of Vienne got to be the biggest non-royal cheese in Louis the Blind’s capital, and their more distant relative (by blood, anyway; he was Rudolf II’s stepfather) Hugh of Arles got to be the most important guy in the south even if not the ‘actual’ king. Outright warfare was avoided, but there were tension – until this charter. 

CC 1.379/Romainmôtier 3 (14th June 929, Boyer)

It is clear to all sensibly considering it (that God’s disposition has looked out for certain rich persons such that if they use will those things which are fleetingly possessed they can earn prizes which endure forever. Divine speech, indeed, shows this to be possible, and urges it in every way, saying ‘the riches of a man are redemption of the soul for him’ [Proverbs 13:8]. I, Countess Adelaide, solicitously thinking of this, and desiring whilst it is permitted to provide for my own salvation, thought it certain – indeed, very necessary – that I should impart some small part of the things which have been bestowed on me in this world for the benefit of my soul – I, indeed, who am seen to have become so prominent in these matters – so that I could not possibly be found guilty at the last of having expended it all on the care of the flesh, but rather so that, when final destiny takes everyone, I might rejoice to have reserved something for myself. This purpose truly seems to be unachievable in any more fitting way or form than to make for myself, in accordance with the Lord’s command, friends of His poor; and that an action of this sort might be done not at any given point in time, but continuously, I should sustain from my own resources a group gathered in the monastic profession. Accordingly, it is in this faith, in this hope, that, although I, Adelaide, am unable to scorn all things, I might nonetheless receive the reward of the just as long as I take care of those who do scorn the World, whom I believe to be just.)

Therefore let it be known to all those living in the unity of faith and awaiting the mercy of Christ that [I, Adelaide, by God’s gift countess] transfer goods of my right, which fell to me through a precept of the lord king Rudolf [I of Transjurane Burgundy], that is, my sweetest and most beloved brother, specifically the monastery which is called Romainmôtier, which is sited in the district of Vaud, with the whole abbacy and with all the goods and adjacencies pertaining to the abbey, which were previously set in order there by the holy fathers. This aforesaid monastery of Romainmôtier was once built in honour of the prince of the apostles, to wit, Peter and Paul, under the monastic profession; but is now completely empty of any who live there. For love of our lord Jesus Christ and the same apostles, I, the said Adelaide, transfer it from my right and domination into the dominion and oversight of the monks in every way, that is, of the venerable and most reverend abbot Odo [of Cluny], and all of the brothers and monks of the crowd dwelling in the abbey of Cluny under his rule. This is done on the condition that the monks, as far as they can, should endeavour to reform this monastery, with Christ propitious, through the intercession of the apostles, into its prior state. Let the aforesaid abbot, then, as long as he lives, and the monks, possess the same monastery in such a way that although it might be delegated to the apostolic see just as Cluny is, they should nevertheless always act and be disposed as one congregation under one abbot in such a way that when he dies it should not be permitted to one group or the other to place an abbot over themselves without joint consent; nor might they presume (God forbid!) to substitute for him anyone except him whom the other group has, because it would be very unjust if those who happen to grow up like sons in the monastery of Romainmôtier should be at any time divided from the society of Cluny, who raised them up, like fathers, once more. Of course, in ordaining an abbot the constitution of St Benedict should always be prominent to the extent that if a smaller part of either one congregation or the other should, with wiser counsel, wish to elect a better person, the others should give them their consent in accordance with the Rule. Concerning the matter of brothers whom it is useful to send there from here, or here from there; and also concerning the transference of subsidies, which might perchance be more abundant in one place than in the other, from one placed to the other, let this be in the abbot’s power. And that a more brotherly society might endure between them, let them communally hold ordinations of divine service or almsgiving or any good works, such that what is done at Cluny for William [the Pious] of good memory, and (without doubt) others, whether living or dead, at Cluny should benefit Us and Ours; and in like manner they should share in that which has been done at the monastery of Romainmôtier for Us in accordance with God’s will.

Therefore, I make this donation in the first place for love of God and of the holy apostles; then for the soul of my sweetest brother the lord king Rudolf, that is, the bestower of these goods; then for the rest of my lord of pious memory Prince Richard [the Justiciar], and for Queen Willa [wife of Rudolf I]; then for myself and my son the lord king Ralph [of Burgundy]; and also King Rudolf [II of Transjurane Burgundy], my nephew; and for my other sons Hugh [the Black], Boso [of Vitry] and my nephew Louis [son of Rudolf I, count of Thurgau], and furthermore for our other kinsmen, and for those who are attached to our service; also for my father and mother, and lord Hugh, the distinguished abbot [Hugh the Abbot], and for our other relatives of both sexes; finally, for those who offer help and defence to the monks dwelling there, for the state of all of religion too, and for all Catholics whether living or dead.

Let the monks dwelling therein conserve the way of life which they now transfer from Cluny to shape those yet to come such that they in no way diminish this same way, in food and clothing, in abstinence, in psalmody, in silence, in hospitality, in mutual love and submissiveness, and in good obedience.

It is also pleasing to insert into this testament that from this day the same monks congregated there should be subject to the yoke neither of Us, nor Our relatives, nor the pride of royal highness, nor of any terrestrial power; nor should any worldly prince, nor any count, nor any bishop, nor the pontiff of the aforesaid see of the town of Rome (I beseech and call as my witness, through God and in God, all of His saints and the day of the Tremendous Judgement) invade the goods of these servants of God, nor steal, nor diminish, nor exchange, nor give to anyone in benefice, nor establish any prelate above them against their will. And that such an abomination might be more tightly forbidden to all temerarious and wicked persons, to drive home the same point, I add [and] implore you, O holy apostles and glorious princes of the Earth Peter and Paul, and you, O pontiff of pontiffs of the apostolic see, that through the canonical and apostolic authority which you have accepted from God, you should estrange from the fellowship of God’s holy Church and eternal life robbers and invaders and thieves of these goods, which with a joyful mind and willing heart I donate to the aforesaid servants of God; and you should be protectors and defenders of the said place of Romainmôtier and the servants of God dwelling and staying therein, and of all of these resources, for the alms and clemency and mercy of Our most pious redeemer.

If, perchance, anyone (God forbid! And which, through the mercy of God and the patronage of the apostles I do not think will come to pass), whether from my kinsmen or an outsider or of any condition or power should with any craftiness try to inflict any injury against this testament, which I have sanctioned be made for love of God Almighty and out of veneration for the princes of the apostles Peter and Paul, in the first place let them incur the wrath of God Almighty, and let God take their part from the land of the living, and delete their name from the Book of Life, and let their part be with those who said unto the Lord ‘Depart from us’ [Job 22:17], and incur everlasting damnation with Dathan and Abiron, whom the Earth swallowed into its open mouth, and took living into the inferno, and be held thrust into eternal tortures as a companion of Judas, betrayer of the Lord; and – that they should not seem unpunished to human eyes in the present world – let them endure the torments of their future damnation on their own body, sharing the fate of a double plunderer with Heliodorius and Antiochus, of whom one was battered with terrible scourges and barely escaped half alive; and the other, struck by Heaven’s will, perished in a most wretched fashion with their limbs putrescent and bubbling with worms; and be a fellow of the other sacrileges who presumed to defile the treasury of the house of the Lord; and unless they come to their senses let them have the keymaster of the whole monarchy of churches, and Saint Paul along with him, as an obstructor and contradictor of their approach to the amen-worthy paradise – whom, if they had wished, they could have had as most pious intercessors on their behalf. In accordance with worldly law, let those who inflict a calumny be compelled by judicial power to pay 100 pounds of gold, and let their conflict be frustrated and obtain no effect whatsoever; but let the firmness of this testament be buttressed with all authority and endure every inviolate and undisturbed, relying on this guarantee.

S. Countess Adelaide, king’s mother and abbess, authorising this testament and commanding it be made. S. Hildegang, an unworthy priest. S. Odalric. S. Judith, daughter of King Rudolf. S. Alberada. S. Guy, Henry. S. Hugh [the Black], famous count and brother of the august King Ralph. S. Geoffrey. S. Ralph, son of Emperor Louis. S. Stephen, Christian, Gunfred, Humbert, Boso, Bavo, Leofred, Blitgar, Ralph.

Given on the 14th June.

I, Hildebrand the priest, on behalf of the chancellor, wrote and subscribed this, in the 5th year of the reign of the most glorious King Ralph, in the 2nd indiction.

Enacted publicly in the estate of Boyer.


The abbey of Romainmôtier as it looks today (source)

A quick note on the technical diplomatic of this document – it survives in both the Romainmôtier and Cluny cartularies in slightly different forms. I have put (stuff from only Romainmôtier in brackets) and {stuff from only Cluny in hooked brackets}. Normally this merging of documents would cause a bit more methodological hand-wringing; but in this case the Cluny version is clearly just an abbreviated version of the Romainmôtier one. The only major difference, other than the Cluny charter omitting the preamble, is at one key point in the witness list. I have followed the Romainmôtier version in rendering Hugh the Black as ‘famous count and brother of the august King Ralph’. The Cluny version, though, has ‘S. Hugh, famous count and brother. S. the august King Rodulfus’. Read literally, this implies the presence of Rudolf II (probably him rather than Ralph); but it leaves the word ‘brother’ hanging awkwardly so I think it’s just a scribal error somewhere.

The underlined bits are direct quotations of Cluny’s foundation charter. (Honestly, between Adelaide, Ebbo of Déols, and others, I must have translated Cluny’s foundation charter around five times now.) It’s an interesting decision. We saw in previous weeks that this is within a few years of Ralph of Burgundy and Odo of Cluny conspiring to take Cluny, and the Mâconnais, out of the hands of Acfred of Aquitaine. Referring directly back to William the Pious’ charter is a direct way of establishing continuity with the new set of masters. It also speaks to Adelaide’s spiritual goals: Romainmôtier was to become, quite simply, Little Cluny in the Jura. Of course, the point of that is to tap into the spiritual benefits of William’s foundation (and vice-versa), so it’s not distinct from political goals… And, of course, William was also part of this extended family through marriage – his wife Ingelberga was the sister of Louis the Blind.

This charter is evidence for extended family diplomacy, such that I have previously pointed to it as the high point of ‘Bosonid Europe’ (my term for the multipolar Frankish world between c. 900 and c. 950). It’s clearly Adelaide who’s important here, working as a ‘peace-weaver’ between all these different groups. Even the location bears this out: Boyer, as we have in fact seen on a previous instalment, was one of Adelaide’s estates, granted by her to the cathedral of Chalon a few years previously. The witness list reveals a kind of summit meeting. I’d like to say ‘with Adelaide and Hugh the Black on one side and Judith on the other’ but given the number of ties of kinship and office-holding the two sides are actually very mixed-up. Hugh was a count in Rudolf’s kingdom as well as Ralph’s; Adelaide was – as this charter is itself evidence for – a major landholder in Transjurane Burgundy. Given the relatively low stakes of the division of Provence, these were useful people to negotiate a settlement, and indeed we do not see Rudolf II trying to make any push towards Vienne after this. The nominal goal of the charter, the grant of Romainmôtier to Cluny, fits the political objectives perfectly: creating a bond of brothership between a West Frankish and a Transjuranian abbey as symbolic of inter-regnal co-operation; allowing all the different members of the family to be seen to consent on a worthy public act; and indirectly further legitimating the takeover of Aquitaine. It’s the good old Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone at work again!

Politics, Provence, and Proving Nothing

The COVID-19 pandemic has not generally, I get the impression, been good for research. Libraries have been shut, there’s been almost no chance of archive access, and lots of the usual venues for exchanging knowledge have either not happened or gone online which – even as someone who’s run a couple of online conferences myself – just isn’t the same. The pandemic has had the same impact on me – my ongoing research has been heavily disrupted for about a year, so I’ve been working on a couple of pandemic projects I can do with the resources at hand. The biggest, and the one into which I’ve put the most time, is writing an actual narrative history of tenth-century France. It seems to me that there’s a need for such a book. For one thing, if you want detailed narrative for the period then at the moment your normal recourse is to a series of about six studies all of which are over a century old, in which time our fundamental assumptions about tenth-century history have changed notably. What this means is that the current boom in work on the period is in the strange situation where very theoretically and critically advanced material is being put in the context of a narrative all of whose assumptions come from the historiography of belle epoque France. This isn’t to say that these books need replacing, necessarily – the scholars who wrote them were deeply immersed in the sources and the world, and their insights remain valuable – but it would be nice to have something a) more up-to-date and b) in fewer than half-a-dozen volumes. This isn’t just a question of synthesis – in basically every chapter, I have to argue for my story; and this is – as always – ever more the case when it comes to Provence.

Yes! Surprise – it’s another Provence post. This time, we’re going later than we usually do, to the late 940s and the reign of Conrad the Pacific. You may remember from previous posts about Provence that after the death of Louis the Blind there is a period of confusion where it’s not entirely clear who’s in charge. There is a long-standing historiographical tradition that this comes to an end in 933 when Rudolf II of Transjurane Burgundy makes a deal with Hugh of Arles that Rudolf gets to rule Provence in return for not trying to overthrow Hugh in Italy. I have argued before that this is more-or-less nonsense, and there is a solid and separate historiographical tradition which agrees with me. However, that tradition in turn would give a date of 942, when Otto the Great and Louis IV met at a place called Visé and made a pact. The argument is that we know Conrad the Pacific was in Otto the Great’s train in 942; in late 942 and early 943 we see Conrad for the first time in Provence; so it must have been the case that Louis, Otto, and Conrad made some kind of settlement over northern Provence. Given Flodoard says absolutely nothing about any of this, such an argument gets me muttering about correlation and causation (not that Flodoard’s silences are clinching proof, but they do get me suspicious); and there is a further historiographical tradition which is happy for Conrad’s assumption of power in Provence to have been a much more drawn-out affair.

To give you a really quick timeline: Louis IV comes to the throne in 936; Conrad in 937 but he gets quickly kidnapped by Otto the Great. We don’t have any charters from south of the Lyonnais which can be securely dated to this period in the name of either monarch but narrative sources seem to indicate that Louis had more punch in northern Provence than any other ruler. This changes by 943, when Conrad is in Vienne. There, he seems to have most of the region’s elite on side, despite some friction with Vienne’s count, Charles Constantine (son of Louis the Blind). By 946, Conrad looks like he’s firmly in charge of the north. Then, in 947, something important happens: Hugh of Arles, who has been king of Italy all this time, is deposed, and flees north to Arles itself, where he seeks help to regain his throne before quickly dying in April. Hugh’s death changes the picture, and I’m currently trying to work out how Conrad and Louis respond to it.

This is hampered by the fact that there’s already a great story that you can put together from work that’s already out there. Two very serious French scholars, Jean-Pierre Poly and Etienne Fournial, both working on rather different issues, have two arguments which complement one another wonderfully.

To start with, Poly points towards a letter from Rather of Verona, addressed to a series of Provençal bishops including Guy of Lyon and Sobbo of Vienne, refusing to come to a synod, in part at least because he was not properly under their jurisdiction. He infers from this that it was a synod arranged to judge Rather’s claims to the see of Verona against Archbishop Manasses of Arles, who also claimed the see. He then links this to the 947 Council of Tournus, where most of the same bishops were assembled, and argues based on a charter for Cluny that Manasses did show up, and was given the all-clear by them.

Fournial, meanwhile, is also looking at charters, in this case from the abbey of Savigny, and points out an interesting pattern: whilst most charters from the Lyonnais after 942 are dated by the reign of Conrad the Pacific, some are dated by the reign of the West Frankish kings, and nearly all of them come from the region of the western Lyonnais known as Forez. Fournial therefore argued that Forez was reserved to Louis by the Treaty of Visé.

A Late Medieval depiction of Feurs, the town after which Forez is named. (source, originally from Gallica)

Here’s where I come in. The earliest charters Fournial has are actually dated to 949*. Manasses of Arles’ charter is also dated by Louis. Now, Archbishop Odalric of Aix-en-Provence shows up at the Synod of Verdun in winter 947, and in autumn/winter 948 Louis was spending a lot of time making nice with the great magnates of southern Burgundy. Conrad, though, evidently also saw an opportunity because he seems to have been exerting his influence to get his men into important positions in southern Provence, notably in the case of the election of Bishop Honoratus of Marseille in 948. So, this presents us with a picture roughly as follows: after Hugh of Arles’ death, Manasses (the biggest cheese left in the region) comes north and negotiates with the area’s other leading prelates about what to do next. Conrad the Pacific sees opportunity, but so does Louis IV, and Manasses is a swing factor. In the end, Conrad does get southern Provence, Manasses goes back to Italy – but Louis is bought off with Forez. It’s an appropriate closing movement to the long and complicated history of Provence after Louis the Blind.

The problem is that it’s definitely wrong.

Let’s start with Poly’s claims, because they are peculiarly baffling. There’s not much literature about the Council of Tournus, but in what there is it is clear that German and French scholars have not been reading each other’s work. German scholars not being familiar with Poly’s work I can understand – they tend to be Carolingian-focussed Church historians and it’s not immediately obvious that a history of feudalism in the central Middle Ages is relevant to that – but Poly is apparently unaware of basic things, like the ‘modern’ edition of Rather’s letters (‘modern’ in quotation marks because whilst it is a product of modern scholarship in a way which the much older edition Poly cites is not, it’s also from the 1940s), or the extensive German-language historiography on Rather’s career. This is relevant because that scholarship is universally agreed that the letter in question dates from the mid-to-late 930s, and whilst I’m not 100% convinced of the reasoning there, at the very least Rather was back in Verona in mid-late 946 so is unlikely to have had anything to do with the Council of Tournus. Equally, there’s no evidence linking Manasses to that council either – he was certainly in Provence in September 948 but that’s over a year later!

Equally, Fournial’s argument has been respectfully demolished by Pierre Ganivet. The thing with Fournial’s argument is that there are a lot (like, a lot) of charters from Forez dated by Conrad’s reign, and it’s far from clear what factors affected the drafting. Ganivet points out that one of the most likely factors seems to be scribal preference, which if the scribe wasn’t from Forez might not be very helpful. In any case, we definitely don’t have a picture of West Frankish control over Forez, as opposed to a few weird outliers.

(Even the date of 948 for the election of Honoratus of Marseille is probably wrong: it’s dependent on a charter dated by ‘the twelfth year of Conrad’, but we have another charter from the same monastery dated to his thirteenth year, and that also gives an AD date of 955…)

So, is there anything left? …Honestly, not really. I’ve looked at the evidence from every conceivable angle trying to find something, because we definitely have traces of something interesting happening in these years, but there’s no ‘there’ there. Now, on one hand, Conrad’s expansion into the south of Provence is well-documented, and his consolidation of power in the north is also well-known even if not often commented upon. How this interacted with the West Frankish kingdom, though, is unknown, if hinted very obliquely in our sources. For one thing, there are a lot of West Frankish bishops at the Council of Tournus, including the suffragans of the archbishop of Lyon but also Godeschalk of Puy, who wasn’t (but, on the other hand, Godeschalk has lots of ties with Transjurane Burgundy and Provence…). Then, there’s the presence of Bishop Odalric of Aix-en-Provence at the Synod of Verdun in late 947 (but he was running the see of Rheims for years and the evidence he ever went back south after the 920s is very dubious…).

Then, we have Manasses of Arles visiting Cluny in September 948, along with Countess Bertha of Arles and the bishop of Avignon. This is probably the least controvertible piece of evidence we have that something is going on, because that certainly looks like a delegation to me. The charter in Manasses’ name through which we know any of this is dated in the name of Louis IV, which could be significant except that the charter itself deals with lands near Chalon, was issued at Cluny, and was written by a scribe who from what I can tell only worked at Cluny, so it’s – again – probably just scribal preference. The significance of this is that it’s a reasonable leap to say that Manasses is there to talk to Hugh the Black (who in addition to ruling southern Burgundy is also in charge around Lyon and Besançon) and Count Leotald of Mâcon (and Besançon), and probably Bishop Maimbod of Mâcon too – all of them have clout in northern Provence. At precisely the same time, Louis IV is also spending a lot of time talking to precisely these people. But there’s no route through them from Louis to Manasses, and no trace of any kind of deal between Louis and either Manasses or Conrad. Ultimately, this is one of those cases where it’s best not to push the evidence too far…

*OK, not really, but that’s the best interpretation. They’re actually dated to ‘the twentieth year of the reign of Louis, king of the Franks’, who didn’t reign for twenty years. The editor proposed, I think reasonably, that they were dating from the death of Charles the Simple in 929. It must be said, there are also a number of other options, including but not limited to a) they mean ‘Conrad’ not ‘Louis’ and there’s been a scribal error (I’ve seen ‘Charles’ and ‘Lothar’ get mixed up before); or b) ‘twenty years’ is being used as a vague, rounding shorthand by the cartulary compilator.

Charter a Week 14: Unking

Louis the Blind had a really weird career, starting right with his by-name (although sat as we are in 890, there’s still over a decade to go before he’s blinded in an Italian misadventure – of course, unless your name is ‘Otto I’ and it’s after the 950s, I’m not sure anything happens in tenth-century Italian politics which couldn’t be described as a misadventure…). To start with, this is currently year three of dealing with the new kings following Charles the Fat’s succession crisis; but Louis was the only one who didn’t get crowned in 888.

Largely I think this is due to the nature of the Frankish overkingship we spoke about before. Louis’ status is a bit paradoxical: at the same time, his position is very strong and very weak. On one hand, of all the kings who came after Charles the Fat, he’s probably got the strongest claim to legitimacy via his ‘adoption’ – whatever we think happened, it definitely involved receiving Charles’ imprimatur qua kingship. He’s also (as we’ll see this week) got a fairly solid amount of local backing: the bishops of the ecclesiastical provinces of Lyon and Vienne, as well as further south, and a fairly substantial chunk of magnates. On the other hand, he was also the son of a sort-of king and his royal legitimacy was thus heavily tied in to the Carolingian system. This necessarily put him in a strange position after the accession of Arnulf of Carinthia: Louis might have been adopted by Charles the Fat, but what would happen next?

DD Provence no. 28 (890, Varennes)

In the 898th [sic] year from the Incarnation of the Lord, in the 8th indiction, when Queen Ermengard and all the princes of Louis, son of Boso, had convened at an assembly at the place which is called Varennes-le-Grand, there came before her presence the monks of the monastery of Gigny, that is, Abbot Berno and the others placed under his rule,  lamenting and bewailing with monastic humility that the same queen’s vassal Bernard had possessed their goods by a wrongful invasion, that is, the cell of Baume, which they had previously acquired through a precept from King Rudolph [I of Transjurane Burgundy]. Both this most beneficent and venerable of queens and all the princes, who had come together from all over, diligently paying attention and more diligently listening to this, summoned the aforesaid Bernard into their midst and questioned him as to by what right he held the same goods.

He responded that he believed that he held the aforesaid goods through Louis’ gift. The queen did not agree with his responses, nor did the others deem that It was worthy to consent to them.

And then he, by the queen’s command, quit the said place in the presence of everyone, and promised that he would not invade the same goods anymore. Then, when this had been done, the lady queen commanded both the abbot and the other brothers to write this notice of confirmation, so that they might quietly hold the aforesaid place, contradicted hereafter by no-one.

And, that this notice might be able to endure firm through the course of many ages, she confirmed it with her own hand and asked it be affirmed by the hands of both the bishops and the magnates who had had come together there from all over.

S. Bernard, who made this quitclaim. S. Queen Ermengard, who commanded this be done and asked it be confirmed. S. Archbishop Rostagnus of Arles. S. Bishop Ardrad of the holy church of Chalon-sur-Saône. S. Bishop Isaac of Grenoble. The glorious Count Richard [the Justiciar] confirmed this. Count Guy [of Oscheret] confirmed this. Count Hugh [of Bassigny] confirmed this. Count Adelelm [of Valence] confirmed this. Count Rather [of Nevers] confirmed this. Count Theobert [of Apt] confirmed this. Count Ragenard [of Auxerre] confirmed this. Ansegis confirmed this. Raimbald the herald confirmed this. Gormar confirmed this. Adelard confirmed this. Aldemar confirmed this.

Enacted at Varennes.

The polities in the middle (source)

So, as you will have noticed, as of this point Louis is not in fact king. This is particularly interesting because it means we need to change tack dramatically and talk about Ermengard. We’ve met her before providing the ballast of legitimacy to Boso’s claims for a throne, but here she is the queen, and that’s very strange. Carolingian queens could be very important; Ottonian queens even more so; and this effect is amplified when we’re talking about Italy. Ermengard’s mother Engelberga remained a potent force in Frankish politics after death of her husband Louis II even though she was not the mother of any sons. However, in both the Carolingian and Ottonian periods it’s generally predicated that the power of queens rests largely on their status as consort, regent for an under-age king, or queen mother and here – well, stop me if I’m wrong and I will immediately qualify this sentence, but is Ermengard not here a ruling queen?

OK, sure, looking at things in terms of the big picture her power in Provence rests on the eventual accession of Louis the Blind. But here in 890, and presumably for several years before that, we have a situation where there is one person with a royal title making the decisions and it’s not Louis. In fact, Ermengard is directly and on her own authority overruling Louis here: what seems to have happened is that the princeling tried to reward a follower and the queen no-selled it. This is perhaps understandable – Louis is, maybe, eight years old at this point – but in equivalent situations, for example with Otto III, the royal child was still treated as a full king. Thus, Ermengard’s power seems unusually explicit here.

That’s not the only interesting thing about this charter. The political response to 888 was as we have noted at length heavily improvised, and it’s very striking that here major figures from what would later be ‘West Frankish’ Burgundy are attending court with ‘Provençal’ magnates. We’ve commented before on the fluid nature of politics in the region south of the Vosges, west of the Rhine and the Haut-Jura, north of the Vercors and east of Velay, Forez and the Morvan – basically, northern Provence, southern Burgundy, and what is now western Switzerland. I like to call this the Transararian Fluidity Zone (after the old name for the river Saône, which lies in the middle of its core), and it’s here in full force. Exactly where the border between Louis’ sphere of influence and Odo’s in this region actually was is very fuzzy. Odo has by this point received the submission of northern Burgundy as well as Adalgar of Autun, but not of the southern bishoprics of Chalon and Mâcon. Moreover, Richard the Justiciar and his followers are here in force, many from north of Chalon, and I don’t think it’s really right to classify them as belonging to one kingdom or the other – they are equally well parts of both. These guys are by now used to working together, and whether or not they’re currently dealing with Louis or with Odo probably doesn’t matter all that much.

There is a bit of personal advantage in this. Richard the Justiciar, as we will also see on Wednesday, appears in Louis’ early documents as a very high-status figure indeed, much higher than he appears in West Frankish contexts at this point; and the same extends to his followers. Ragenard of Auxerre up there is otherwise almost universally known as a viscount, not as a count. But a lot of it is simply the natural flow of politics in this region – note how the meeting is enforcing a grant by Rudolf of Burgundy (who, if you remember, had as one of his first acts in 888 made a major grant to Richard’s wife Adelaide), adding an extra king to the proceedings.

It almost wouldn’t matter who the judgement was on behalf of, except that Abbot Berno will show up again. This is the first presaging we have of one of the most significant developments we’ll be covering: Berno, in 890, is abbot of the Juran abbeys of Baume and Gigny; but he also has ties to Aquitaine, and in about twenty years, these are going to come to fruition…

Source Translation: Electing an Anti-King at the Convention of Mantaille

So this is another thing I’ll be doing over the next (does mental calculations) three years of Charter A Week. (Three years. Yikes! Too late to back out now…) Sometimes, there are documents I’d like to show you, but which aren’t charters. In that case, I’ll turn them into regular Source Translation posts, as in this case here.

After all, on Monday we saw Boso of Provence slowly inching his way towards kingship. He knew it was coming, his charter scribe knew it was coming, and most of the aristocracy of south-east Gaul knew it was coming, but how to effect it? Well, happily, we have a description of the synod where Boso was chosen as king, and it goes as follows:

MGH Capit. II.284 (15th October 879, Mantaille)

1) The Synod’s Delegation to the King-Designate Boso.

The holy synod gathered in the name of our Lord at Mantaille in the territory of Viennois, along with the leading men, by the inspiration of the Highest Majesty’s divinity, approached Your Prudence, O most shining of princes, seeking to learn by your certain response whether you wish to show yourself to everyone in that princely rule to which we, through divine mercy, choose you to be raised.

That is: if you will truly strive for the honour and love of God Almighty in the catholic faith, and exalt His Church as far as you can and conserve the privileges of each church with their bishops and priests; if you wish to concede and conserve for everyone, like the good princes who preceded you and whose type you have known by records written and oral, law, justice and right; remaining humble (which is the foundation of the virtues), with patience and a serene heart, most humbly; to judge the undisciplined, but stable and certain in everything justly promised; through the grace of God well-prepared and fitted-out, suitable in delightful sobriety; if you will be accessible to all who suggest right things and intercede for others; striving rather to profit than to preside; following in the footsteps of holy princes; trampling down wrath, savagery, hardness, avarice, greed, indignation and pride; appearing as a just patrician to your people, greater and lesser; preferring truth in word and deed; freely hearing beneficial counsel; avoiding and persecuting the signs of the vices; loving the virtues; providing defence and mundeburdum to each; so that neither the same holy synod and the leading men currently making this judgement with it might be cursed or detracted in good faith because of you in future, nor might your sacred princely rule, which we believe will profit us, be justly disparaged.

Rather, let the peace and truth of the saints come through divine grace to those who support you, whether they are in charge or a subject, the priests and the leading men committed to them, since you shall have preserved for them and have observed evangelical and apostolic authority with just human law, so that God is blessed through everything and in everything. Priestly and lay fidelity also prays that Your Prudence should act that each ‘may possess their vessel in your house in sanctification and honour’ [1 Thessalonians 4:4].

2) The response of King-Elect Boso to the Synod.

Boso, a humble slave of Christ, to the most holy synod and all Our faithful leading men. First, I give thanks in word and in feeling for your sincerest devotion, because I know for certain that I am clasped to your bosoms, although unworthy, solely by your benevolence, through the unchangeable grace of God; and equally, that your charity’s fervour chooses me to be promoted to that office so that My Smallness might be able to fight for my mother, which is the Church of the Living God, for an immortal repayment.

But I am conscious of my condition and fragile created state, and, judging myself utterly unequal to business of this kind, I had refused unless I should observe that through the will of God one heart and one soul had been given to you in one consensus. And thus, knowing for certain that you are inspired by God, I am not reluctant to obey both the priests and Our friends and followers, nor am I rash in obeying your commands.

I very freely undertake to be what you have required in terms of the sort of man I should show myself to be in joining, through God’s mercy, in the future regime, and also the norm you have extended and instructed with sacred dogma. I embrace the catholic faith, in which I was raised, which I hold with the purest of hearts, which I proclaim with the truest of tongues, for which I am prepared to lay out again and again if it so pleases our lord God. I will take care to restore and conserve the privileges of churches, with the assistance of our lord Jesus Christ, through your common counsel. I will take care to give and conserve for everyone, as you have admonished, law, justice and right mundeburdum, with God’s help. In this, following in the footsteps of the good princes who came before, let me strive to consult both the sacred orders and you, Our followers, in conserving equity.

Regarding my behaviour, although I know that I am a sinner before all, I truly assert that this is my will: that I should yield to good people in everything and to bad ones in nothing. But if, because I am human, this slips my mind in dealing with anyone, I will take care to make good in accordance with your counsel.  In this respect, I reverently pray that you should honour yourselves in me by suggesting to me in a manner befitting the time and place what you find more just and reasonable, because I in turn, if any of you do me wrong, will make myself available and reasonably expect you to make amends.

I will follow gospel and apostolic authority and just human law, so that as He leads and accompanies God might be blessed through everything and in everything. As you have admonished me, because God lives in the saints, I will show care for Our household; I will very studiously take care that everything proceeds properly.

Therefore, my lords, sacrosanct pontiffs, bishops of the Church of our God on high, and all you Our followers, chief men and underlings, I, confident of God’s grace and help through the support of His saints because I favour your commands, pray and entreat you that through Him and with Him you should assist my necessity and humility in helping with such labour through pious interventions with Him; and also that you should strive to support me as far as you can with human supports and aids. But if this displeases anyone and they have something else in mind, I ask that he declare it openly, and not deceive himself or us in any way. At the same time, I pray through the charity with which you burn that, favouring the common advantage, you should exhort our lord God with three days of solemn prayer with the people committed to you, so that He might not permit you or me to err and deceive His people, but that He might mercifully reveal His will about this.

3) The Election of King Boso.

When, in the name of the Lord and saviour of the world, holy fathers had gathered to celebrate a convent at Mantaille in the territory of Viennois, to deal with much Church business and to enter the conclave of holy solicitude, many things were brought forth and gathered in their consideration. Priestly affection, poured from old into the hearts of the fathers, clearly dictated to the conclave that it should have a care for the role [of king] by means of which an appropriate regime was usually provided for the people both in the Old Testament and in the New. And because both those holy fathers (whom divine grace has conceded be called ‘bishops’) and  the princes and the whole mass of the people had for a while been missing the protection provided by the same role, nor had they been supported or helped by the assistance of any compassionate person, particularly since after the king was taken by that death which is common to all things, no-one had opened their bowels to them (*)  through the largess of charity. Many were compelled to worry, because the holy mother Church was seen to be being completely destroyed not only in inner matters through the Invisible Enemy, but also in visible affairs through visible enemies, even from those whom it had birthed in Christ.

And so, as they turned their minds’ sharpness every which way, and at the same time considered with the more noble persons the promotion of suitable person to deal with this need; but not finding anyone who wished to respond to their inquiry, insofar as everyone despised to take up such a labour for the honour of God and His saints, everyone was inflamed to exhort God, prince of all princes, from the depths of their heart owing to these difficulties, so that He, Who has the sole care of mortal man and Whose disposition turns the course of all the ages, might both give right counsel and disclose a clear sign of help.

Finally, He to Whom every heart is open and every mind speaks, considering the wearied souls of the people great and small, caused a certain consolation to shine forth, and in a particular way presented some support. Truly, through divine visitation all these wise men with one accord sought one and the same thing. They had one man in mind, previously a necessary defender and helper under the princely rule of lord Charles [the Bald], whose son after him, the son of the same emperor, the lord king Louis, knowing his manifest prudence, chose to magnify. He also so stood out to everyone not only in the Gauls but also in Italy that the apostolic lord John [VIII] of Rome embraced him like his own son and proclaimed the integrity of the same in many proclamations, and, returning to his own see, delegated it to his tutelage.  Therefore, by God’s will, through the support of the saints, due to the pressing need and that desirable advantageousness and most prudent and provident wisdom which they discovered in him, with one heart and one wish and one consensus, with Christ leading the way, they sought and unanimously elected for this royal business the most shining of princes lord Boso.

And, in consideration of the size of the work, he refused and rejected the offer, but those who were of God and His Church opposed this, and eventually he obediently bowed the neck and promised to do it. The king-elect was established by God, prayers were poured out, and the grace of our lord Jesus Christ which preceded this wish remains fully effective in the certain completion of it.

And that this election might be made known more certainly to people present and future, the subscription of all the bishops shows it in a clearer light.

Enacted publicly at Mantaille, in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 879, in the 12th indiction, on the ides of October [15th October].

For the sake of removing ambiguity, one…   

Otrand, poor archbishop of Vienne. Aurelian, archbishop of Lyon. Theotrand, archbishop of Tarentaise. Robert, poor bishop of Aix-en-Provence. Archdeacon… on behalf of Adalgar, bishop of Autun. Ratbert, bishop of Valence. Berner, bishop of Grenoble. Elias, bishop of the church of Vaison-la-Romaine. Henry, humble bishop of the church of Dié. Adalbert, bishop of Maurienne. Biraco, bishop of the church of Gap. Eustorgius, bishop of Toulon. Girbald, bishop of the church of Chalon-sur-Saône. The base bishop Baldemar [of an unknown see, if any]. Jerome, bishop of Lausanne. Richard, bishop of Apt. Guntard, bishop of Mâcon. Rostagnus, archbishop of Arles. Theodoric, archbishop of the church of Besançon. Aetherius, bishop of Viviers. Leodoin, bishop of Marseille. Germard, bishop of Orange. Ratfred, bishop of Avignon. Walafrid, bishop of the church of Uzès. Edold, humble bishop of the church of Riez. Chorbishop Leoboin. The humble abbot Geilo [of Langres, at this point abbot of Tournus].

(*) This is a long-standing metaphor referring to the ‘bowels of compassion’ as found in e.g. 1 John 3:17, ‘whoso… seeth his brother have need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?’. A less precise translation would be ‘no-one had displayed any compassion to them’, but given how long the search and how painful some of the search results were that I had to do in order to find this out, I’m leaving it in there so that you all can share my pain.

The ruins of Mantaille today (source, photo by Pascal Rey)

The first thing to note here is that Mantaille itself was a secure, fortified location. Evidently whoever decided to hold the assembly here was concerned about being interrupted. And well might they have been! West Francia already had, after all, not one but three potential kings, all of whom had by this point been crowned. (Louis the Younger was already crowned and Louis III and Carloman II had been crowned in September.) Boso was pretty much any way you sliced it a usurper. Interestingly, the document doesn’t acknowledge that, clearly putting forth the story that there was no king. I reckon that’s because that was the key issue which could sink Boso. It wasn’t necessarily that he wasn’t Carolingian, it was that there were already a number of viable kings and Boso was late to the party.

Certainly, no mention is made of Ermengard. This is a striking difference with the Montiéramey charter we looked at on Monday. The lack of any mention of bloodline is also a contrast to what Regino of Prüm describes in his Chronicon, where it is said that Boso saw the sons of Louis the Stammerer as inferior by birth. Kingship here is a function of Boso’s superlative character, which it the only thing capable of properly protecting the Church. This is not an unknown discourse in Carolingian politics – when we looked at the 829 council of Paris, their description of good kingship was in terms of a character appropriate to its duties, and Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, no less, also made the claim in his tract on the divorce of King Lothar II that hereditary right was secondary to good character and that there were many ways of making a king. However, what’s really important here is that the entire argument is based on it. It’s kind of the opposite in many ways of the letter of Archbishop Fulk of Rheims we talked about the first time hereditary succession came up on this blog. Both of them put all their eggs in one basket, Fulk in the ‘hereditary right’ basket and Boso and company in the ‘good character’ one. Notably, Boso’s extremism worked better than Fulk’s. Fulk was never able to get much support for his cause; Boso and his backers managed to pose a serious threat to their royal neighbours, and it took multiple kings working in unusually close harmony to take them down. That’s a strong hint that Boso’s arguments were more convincing…

Admittedly, this document is really going all-out in describing Boso here. Compared to the promissio of Louis the Stammerer which we’ve translated on this blog, he’s being asked to do a heck of a lot more – not just preserve for each church their rights, but be a perfect example of wisely-guided and divinely-inspired rulership. One wonders whether, had Boso managed to maintain his position, his followers would not have been disappointed by the sequel…

Dating Provençal Charters: It’s A Complete Mess

Yesterday I spent an afternoon matching up charter dating clauses. “Sounds like fun!” you say? Eh, well, at least the results were interesting. But, what do I mean by ‘matching up charter dating clauses’? Well, I’m still looking at mid-century Provence. Charters from this region are usually dated by the regnal year of the king, in this case Conrad the Pacific. Sometimes, you can’t do much with that – a charter dated ‘3rd May, in the 7th year of the reign’ can’t be checked against anything. But, sometimes there’s more – there’s a day of a week, an indiction (a separate dating system left over from the Roman tax administration), or even an anno Domini date! So with a dating clause which says ‘Tuesday, 3rd May, in the 7th year of the reign’, you can look at in which years the 3rd May is a Tuesday, and work backwards from there to see when people thought the reign started. And that’s what I was doing: trying to work out when people thought Conrad the Pacific had begun to be king in Provence. Now, in Burgundy, Conrad succeeded his father in 937, and we can see him in action in Provence for the first time in 943 – so are either of these dates used?

Ha, ha, ha. I wish it were that simple. Over the course of yesterday, I found charters which appeared to begin the reign in every year from 931 to 948 except 932 and 947. Some of these dates are clearly the result of people not using the indiction correctly: comparing the indiction and the regnal year on these two charters – and each has a couple of plausible dates they could mean – you find that they appear to think that Conrad started reigning in 931/946 or 933/948 respectively, dates which are so clearly arbitrary and wrong that they must be the result of simple error.

However, some cases are more complicated. This charter (issued by the Archbishop of Besançon, so not actually Provençal, but that just makes it weirder) is dated Friday, 14th May, in the 25th year of Conrad’s reign. If you look at what years had 14th May on a Friday, the only possible candidate in this case in 969 – but that places Conrad’s reign as beginning in 944. This other charter, written in the same regnal year and dated to Wednesday 3rd June in 963, in the 25th year of Conrad’s reign. As it happens, 3rd June 963 was a Wednesday, so that’s right – but following these elements puts the beginning of Conrad’s reign in 938.

Sometimes, there are a couple of possibilities. This document is dated to Wednesday 22nd November, in the 6th year of Conrad’s reign. This could quite plausibly be either 943 or 948, putting Conrad’s reign as beginning in either 938 or 942; there’s no way of telling.

I could multiply these examples – well, not quite endlessly, but I’ve found about fifty documents where you can do this kind of calculation. The most popular single date is 939, but not by very much, and you find varying dates throughout Conrad’s – very long – reign. (What happened in 939, incidentally? Not a clue. It is unclear to me why exactly you’d be dating from 939…) What this says to me is that no-one knew when Conrad had started to be king. They knew he was their king now, but the absence of a generally-agreed date for the beginning of his reign and the sheer range of variables involved suggests that this was an ex post facto treatment of a status quo which only became quo in the mid-940s. So far, so good – most historians would agree with this and I’m not saying anything new here. But you can go further than that, because what it says about Conrad’s legitimacy as king is that it wasn’t hereditary, and it wasn’t connected to his rule in Transjurane Burgundy (otherwise people would have started to date by his rule there starting in 937). Conrad’s rule in Provence had nothing to do with his father King Rudolf II, but was an outside takeover of a separate political community which continued to see itself as separate.

Source Translation: A Challenger Appears! Pt. 2 (Putting Some Charters Behind Provençal Oddness)

In the last post, I mentioned that Sheffield has seen something of an increase in its already fairly substantial online translation presence, and that this had provoked me to action to join in the fun here. A little before that, a translated diploma of King Lothar II of Lotharingia was put up by occasional commentator Charles West, and it’s very interesting and all that, but he introduced it with this Tweet, which hit close to home:

 Indeed, they are very seldom translated; and given I have literally hundreds of the things sitting in my big folder o’ translated texts, I should get on with polishing some up and making them available. And where better to start than with the Kingdom of Provence, which, as we’ve already established, spends much of the mid-tenth century being very weird?

In the name of our lord, the eternal king, Jesus Christ. Hugh, by grace of God, king. If We were to corroborate that which was donated or will be granted hereafter to God Almighty and His saints by Our authority expressed in a precept, We truly know this will be a great prize for Us.

Wherefore, let the industry of all the fideles of the holy Church of God and Us, to wit, present and future, know that the venerable Archbishop Anskeric and Gipper, abbot of Saint-Oyen-de-Joux, humbly exhorted Our Clemency that, out of fear of God Almighty and for the remedy of Our soul, We should deign to confirm and corroborate all the mobile and immobile goods which were donated or will be granted hereafter to the aforesaid monastery of Saint-Oyen by faithful men, to wit, justly and legally, by Our authority expressed in a precept.

Proffering assent to their petitions, We therefore confirm and corroborate geverything whatsoever justly and legally donated there, that is, the estate of Molinges and the estate of Viry, and the estate of Dortin with all their appurtenances; and the estate of Saxio, and Martignat and Cessy and Cosges and Outriaz and Tessonge and Château-des-Prés and Nermier and another Martigny[-Combe?], and Tusonus and Onoz and Moirans, Nants and Banziacus, and the villa of the monks and… Chanaz, Calenadis, Coloniacae, Lentus, Ardio, Loncanus, Cessiat, Idris, Sablo, Soinae, Berius, Quintinadis, Velosus, Taldaurus; both these estates and everything whatsoever Saint-Oyen… and is in Provence, which were justly and legally donated there by faithful men, with houses, lands, vineyards, fields, pastures, woods, groves, land for transhumance, waters and watercourses, mills, fisheries and mountains, valleys, peaks and planes, with male and female serfs of both sexes and with all their appendages, and with everything which can be spoken of or named in the same estates and in the goods of the same church entirely, remote from all human contradiction.

We therefore command and establish that no duke, marquis, count, viscount, or any other official should dare to inflict any molestation or loss on the monks serving God there at this time, nor their men, without just judgment, nor should they presume or try to exact or require any hospitality or provisions or toll or bridge-tax or port-fees or cattle-levies or wheel-tax or any renders in any way.

We therefore command by this Our royal authority, that if, by any fire or disaster any confirmations are lost, the aforesaid church and the monks serving God therein at this time should hold and possess these goods through this Our royal authority, as if they held these confirmations at the present time.

If anyone, without Our just judgement, tries to rise against this Our royal precept, let them know themselves to be liable to pay a fine of a hundred pounds of pure gold, half to Our treasury and half to the aforesaid church and the abbot and the monks serving God there at this time.

That this might be more truly believed and more diligently observed by everyone, strengthening it with Our own hand, We command it be annotated below with Our seal.

Sign of the invincible king lord Hugh.

Peter the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Abbot and Archchancellor Gerland.

Given on the …th of November, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 928, in the third year of the reign of the most pious king lord Hugh, in the first indiction.

Enacted at Vienne, happily in the name of Christ, amen.

The rather unimpressive cathedral of Saint-Claude as it is today. Definitely wouldn’t get my vote on #RealCathedralWorldCup (source)


Context: this diploma is issued by Hugh of Arles, king of Italy, former right-hand man of the late Emperor Louis the Blind, and still probably the most powerful magnate in the kingdom (we know from his niece’s will and a few other royal diplomas that he had land all over the place up to his death in 947). It is issued in winter 928, while Hugh is staying in Vienne, which is odd enough itself given that the reason he went north of the Alps in the first place appears to have been to make a deal with the West Frankish king Ralph involving handing over Vienne to a West Frankish magnate. Nonetheless, he hangs around for a few months making grants to Provençal monasteries of roughly this type.

And that’s odd. I’m still not sure whether or not he’s trying to be king of Provence. This certainly looks like he is – he’s basically putting Saint-Claude under his protection as king, making them particularly reliant on him, and doing so by his own royal authority. But, if he is, no-one at all appears to be taking him seriously. Even his closest family members and allies in the south are still dating their documents by the death of Emperor Louis, right up to the point where they jump ship to Italy to participate in Hugh’s regime there.

So is he trying to be king and failing, or trying to do something else? Another possibility did occur to me: that he’s specifically putting the more important local monasteries under his protection to ensure he’s still got a stake in holding the balance of power in the north between the creeping influence of the West Frankish and Burgundian kings. I think, for reasons involving yet another royal diploma, that Hugh basically accepts that, within the central Rhone valley, Ralph and Rudolph can fight over everywhere north of Valence and leave the southern bit to him; but to ensure that, he needs to maintain a foothold there, and these diplomas may well be what’s helping him do that. Still, Provence between Louis the Blind and Conrad the Pacific remains the oddest bit of Carolingian politics I can think of…