Charter a Week 2: The Synod of Troyes and Papal Monasteries

The big story of 878 – indeed, the big story of the entire reign of the short-lived Louis the Stammerer (notoriously, one scholar spent their PhD studying Louis’ reign for longer than Louis had actually reigned… I’ve read that PhD thesis, actually, it’s quite good) – was the synod of Troyes. Pope John VIII, beset by Italian factional politics, journeyed to Arles and then to Troyes, where he held a lengthy synod with all of the Gaulish bishops and crowned King Louis. Today’s charter is one of several documents from this synod, and I’ve chosen it because it shows just how big the synod was, and illustrates an important port about papal monasteries.

MGH Conc. 5, no. 9L (18th August 878, Troyes) = JE no. 3176

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to all bishops throughout all the provinces of Gaul, abbots, priests, and all similar orders given over to divine ministry, as well as counts, viscounts, vicars, hundredmen (vicarii, centenarii), judges, and everyone established in positions of power, and all the people and similarly the whole general Church. With God Almighty the Creator in our midst, in the year of the Incarnation of our lord Jesus Christ 878, on the 15th kalends of September [18th August], in the 11th indiction, happily in the Lord, in the presence of lord Louis [the Stammerer], most serene of kings, residing in the present council.

Amongst the beginnings of other complaints, let it be known to all celebrating a synodal council for the state of the holy Church of God at the town of Troyes, Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims, Archbishop Ansegis of Sens, Archbishop Aurelian of Lyon, Archbishop Rostagnus of Arles, Archbishop Sigebod of Narbonne, Archbishop Theodoric of Besançon, Archbishop Otrand of Vienne, Archbishop Frothar of Bourges, Archbishop Adalald of Tours, Archbishop John of Rouen, Archbishop [sic] Isaac of Langres, Bishop Otulf of Troyes, Bishop Ingelwin of Paris, Bishop Hadebert of Senlis, Bishop Berno of Châlons-sur-Marne, Bishop Hincmar of Laon, Bishop Girbald of Chalon-sur-Saône, Bishop Rainelm of Noyon, Bishop Odo of Beauvais, Bishop Walter of Orléans, Bishop Macarius of Lodève, Bishop Alaric of Béziers, Bishop Theotard of Girona, Bishop Frodoin of Barcelona, Bishop John of Cambrai, Bishop Berner of Grenoble, Bishop Arnulf of Turin, Bishop Rainelm of Meaux, Bishop Agenulf of Mende, Bishop William of Limoges, Bishop Radbert of Valence, Bishop Gislebert of Chartres, Bishop Hildebald of Soissons, Bishop Egfrid of Poitiers, Bishop Adalbert of Thérouanne, Bishop Agilmar of Clermont, Bishop Adalgar of Autun, Bishop Lambert of Mâcon, Bishop Abbo of Nevers, Bishop Aetherius of Viviers, Bishop Ratfred of Avignon, Bishop Walafrid of Uzès, Bishop Gerbert of Nîmes, Bishop Abbo of Maguelone, Bishop Radbert of Valence (*), Bishop Gerald of Amiens, Bishop Wandelmar of Toulon, Bishop Leutgar of Carcassonne, Bishop Audesind of Elne, Bishop Waldric of Ampurias, Bishop Waltbert of Reôme [Porto], Bishop Leo of Rennes; let it be known to all the aforesaid that in times gone by, when We went by sea to Arles to deal with the affairs of all the churches there, recollecting the monastery of Saint-Pierre in which rests the body of the blessed Egidius, in Flavian Valley in the county of Nîmes, within the limits of Septimania, which valley the late king of the Goths Flavius [Wamba] gave to the aforesaid blessed Egidius, and Saint Egidius in turn gave as a donation entirely to the apostolic see of Rome.  Since, though, a large distance separates this abbey from Our church, because We did not want to send a legate there due to Our other cares, the bishop of Nîmes presumed with great temerity to usurp that monastery. But when We sought in Our archive the muniments of charters, We found the precept given by the blessed Egidius.

Then, We sought it from Bishop Gerbert of Nîmes, who sits in the present council, through Our advocate Deusdedit, duke of Ravenna. The same Gerbert wanted to vindicate his claim through a precept of lord [pope] Nicholas [I], which he secretly obtained by fraud from the apostolic see as if it concerning his own property; and through a precept which he had falsely received from a certain king of the Franks, which had no proper validity. But I admonished all the bishops and judges of Rome and the provinces to speak and act in accordance with true law in this matter, under the anathema of excommunication. Then Archbishop Rostagnus of Arles and Archbishop Sigebod of Narbonne and Archbishop Heribert of Embrun, Bishop Walbert of Porto, Bishop Pascal of Amelia, Bishop Radbert of Valence, Bishop Leodoin of Marseilles, Bishop Aetherius of Viviers and other bishops of Provence, and the judges, John, duke and representative of Ravenna, Ardus, Adbert, Gislefred, Ardrad, Godulf and no few other provincial judges, as they heard the precept read, quickly understood that the apostolic judgement of lord Nicholas was only an excuse. Protesting, they said that this monastery could not be defended with that precept, and immediately judged that Bishop Gerbert should restore the aforesaid monastery to Us and should pay to me the penalty for his invasion of the abbey. Because of his poverty, We acquit him from the penalty, if he sins no more; and We received the monastery in its entirety, sending Our advocate Duke Deusdedit there, who accepted concerning this matter the physical handover of all the goods of the aforesaid monastery from the aforesaid Bishop Gerbert.

Also because of this, supported by divine assistance, I and all the bishops of this council, by the authority of our lord Jesus Christ, through which and through whom and in whom are all things [see Romans 11:36], curse and interdict and forbid by excommunication under every anathema that none of Our successors in this holy apostolic see which, by God’s action, We serve should at any place or time present or future, nor any emperor nor king or any worldly power, should be able to give in benefice, exchange, or concede for a census anything from the same goods in future times; nor should any pontiff of the same diocese to whose parish [i.e. diocese] the place itself pertains, nor any count of the same power dare to accept anything from within that monastery’s immunity. And in addition, let no-one be permitted in any way to inflict any diminution or force on any of this.

Rather instead, We confirm at the present council all of this at the said monastery, with all its appendages and the throne and other places and the mobile and immobile goods which are known to have been bestowed there through the largess of the God-fearing, for Amelius, priest and archdeacon of the church of Uzès. In respect of this matter, We commend to you this notice to be managed and protected and well-established, in such a way that they, receiving from you each and every year 10 silver solidi and 12 pennies by way of a pension for ecclesiastical reasons, should endeavour to give the support of pious paternity to the same monastery against all who trouble it (**).

 ‘No-one, brothers, should doubt that the apostolic Church, from whose rules it is not proper for us to deviate, is the mother of all churches; and just as the Son of God came to do the will of the Father [see John 6:38], thus should you fulfil the wish of your mother which is the Church, whose head, as was said before, is the church of Rome.’ [Pseudo-Calixtus, Letter 1, cap. 2]

‘Our father, therefore, is without doubt God Who created Us, and Our mother the Church, who renewed us spiritually in baptism, and thus whoever steals the riches of Christ and the Church is a fraud and a plunderer, and will be considered to be a murderer in the sight of the Just Judge. It is written of this: Whoever steals his neighbour’s riches commits iniquity; so whoever takes away riches or goods from the Church commits sacrilege. Like Judas, who embezzled the riches which by the command of the Saviour (in whose place bishops stand) he should have distributed in Church uses, that is, to the poor, whom the Church ought to feed, they are made not only a thief but a bandit and a sacrilege. Indeed, concerning such people, that is, those who plunder, defraud or steal the Church’s means, the Lord threatens everyone, speaking through a prophet and saying: “Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God” [Psalm 83:1], and so on.’ [Pseudo-Lucius, cap. 7]

In the letter of Pope Symmachus: ‘As long as by the Lord’s disposition, the doctrine of the catholic faith remains that of the saviour, no bishop of the apostolic see is permitted to transfer an ecclesiastical estate, however great or small, to anyone’s right by a perpetual alienation or exchange.’ [Psuedo-Symmachus,  502 Synod of Rome, cap. 4]

And from a letter of Pope Simplicius: ‘That no bishop should be permitted to in any way alienate or commute the estates of their office or anything of their right. Whoever tries to do this, should be punished by the loss of his rank.’ [see Pseudo-Symmachus, 502 Synod of Rome, heading of cap. 6] Also in the same: ‘Whoever attacks an estate of the Church and accepts it into his own right: or if any priest or deacon or defender subscribes the gift, let them be struck with anathema.’ [see above, heading for cap. 7]

Also in the canons: ‘If a bishop makes a testament and bequeaths anything from the property of the Church’s right, let it not be valid except in the sole case that he makes it good from the means of his own right.’  [Council of Agde 506, cap. 51]

Therefore, both I and all the bishops of this council separate, damn and excommunicate under every anathema all those who plot against this monastery of the apostolic see and this priest [Amelius] (if anyone becomes an adversary and perpetrates such a crime) from the communion of the body of Christ and the company of Christ’s brotherhood and from the association of all Christians. Let them be cursed in the city and cursed in the field [Deuteronomy 28:16]’, ‘cursed be the fruit of their land [Deuteronomy 28:18]’. Let them be cursed within and without. ‘Let the heaven which is over their head be brass and the land on which they tread be iron [Deuteronomy 28:23]’. Let their prayers before God come as a sin [see Psalm 109:7]. Like Dathan and Abiron, let them go living into the inferno. Let everyone who abets them, or takes a meal with them, or knowingly decides to hear their accursed songs (***), be joined in this curse with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of the Lord. Let their water putrify, let their wine boil, let blight consume their bread, let worms eat their garments. What more? Let all the curses of the Old and New Testaments come upon them, until they come to worthy satisfaction and suitable penance with the mother Church.

John of the apostolic see of Peter the Apostle says farewell to all the churches of Christ who observe this.

Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, confirms this. Ansegis, archbishop of Sens, confirms this. Aurelian, archbishop of Lyon, confirms this. Rostagnus, archbishop of Arles, confirms this. Sigebod, archbishop of Narbonne, confirms this. Theodoric, archbishop of Besançon, confirms this. Otrand, archbishop of Vienne, confirms this. Frothar, archbishop of Bourges, confirms this. Adalald, archbishop of Tours, confirms this. Berno, bishop of Châlons, confirms this. John, archbishop of Rouen, confirms this. Hadebert, bishop of Senlis, confirms this. Isaac, archbishop of Langres, confirms this. Ingelwin, bishop of Paris, confirms this. Otulf, bishop of Troyes, confirms this. Hincmar, bishop of Laon, confirms this. Hildebald, bishop of Soissons, confirms this. William, bishop of Limoges, confirms this. Gislebert, bishop of Chartres, confirms this. Radbert, bishop of Valence, confirms this. Girbald, bishop of Chalon, confirms this. Rainelm, bishop of Noyon, confirms this. Abbo, bishop of Maguelone, confirms this. Odo, bishop of Beauvais, confirms this. Gerbert, bishop of Nîmes, confirms this. Walter, bishop of Orléans, confirms this. Walafrid, bishop of Uzès, confirms this. Macarius, bishop of Lodève, confirms this. Ratfred, bishop of Avignon, confirms this. Alaric, bishop of Béziers, confirms this. Aetherius, bishop of Viviers, confirms this. Theotard, bishop of Girona, confirms this. Abbo, bishop of Nevers, confirms this. Frodoin, bishop of Barcelona, confirms this. Lambert, bishop of Mâcon, confirms this. John, bishop of Cambrai, confirms this. Adalgar, bishop of Autun, confirms this. Berner, bishop of Grenoble, confirms this. Agilmar, bishop of Clermont, confirms this. Arnulf, bishop of Turin, confirms this. Hadebert, bishop of Senlis, confirms this. Rainelm, bishop of Meaux, confirms this. Egfrid, bishop of Poitiers, confirms this. Agenulf, bishop of Mende, confirms this.

George, secretary of the holy Roman church, who completed and closed the abovewritten judgement, after the subscription of the witnesses and the making of the gift.

Count Raymond confirms this. Viscount Berengar confirms this. Aimeric confirms this. Olunbellus confirms this. Theotrand confirms this. Gozelm confirms this. Viscount Emenus confirms this. Viscount Odo confirms this. Count Hugh confirms this.           

 (*) The MGH notes say that Radbert shows up here twice. The form of the name is different each time (Radbertus Vallensis episcopus vs Rotbertus Valentinensis episcopus) so I wonder if that’s right. In context I’d suspect a bishop of Le Puy or Sion, but neither of those appears to be correct, so I am somewhat mystified.

(**) This passage is somewhat obscure. What I think it means is that Amelius (who is presumably being addressed) should give the Provençal bishops (?) the aforesaid pension per annum and in return they will support him against the bishop of Nîmes. If anyone has a better idea, I’d like to know it!

(***) Cantica maledicta seems like it should be biblical, but I can’t find it.

Before we get into this properly, a little excursus on how I write these things. My commentary (including the hyperlinks in the charter) is actually done in more-or-less the order you read it on the page, which means that, as I write this at mid-afternoon, it’s about three or four hours later than I wrote the bit on the top and since then I have been on a whirlwind excursion through papal diplomatic and the medieval history of the abbey of Saint-Gilles.

IMG_20180808_141412.jpg
Courtesy not least of these gentlemen.

The upshot is that French-language scholarship largely believes that this bull was forged at the end of the eleventh century whereas German-speaking scholars think that, despite some interpolation, it’s a largely-accurate product of the late ninth century.  I’m going with the Germans here because a lot of the context seems to me to be better placed earlier than later, so my comments will be on that basis(*); but bear in mind that this could all be coming two-hundred-odd years after its nominal date.

Anyway, the first thing to point out about the synod of Troyes is that it’s flippin’ huge. Around 50 bishops, plus laymen, plus the king. Assuming all these notables brought a small retinue, let’s say about 10 people each, we’re talking around 600 people and probably rather more, on the order of thousands. And look where they’re from! Italy, the Spanish March, Provence, Burgundy… About the only missing people are the suffragans bishops of Tours and Rouen, and the former are mostly in rebellion and the latter disrupted owing to Viking attack.

So Pope John has a captive audience here for the little sermon which finishes the text. These quotations – and the reason this diploma gets so much attention from canon law scholars – are from a group of materials known as the Pseudo-Isidorian forgeries, which are ninth century and from Frankish Gaul and anything else about their origin is both highly technical and extremely controversial. That said, the citations here are a good idea of its content: decrees, largely forged, of classical and Late Antique popes. So what are they being used for? My best guess involves taking the core narrative of the charter seriously, which may well be a dangerous thing to do; but they all concern how a bishop can’t alienate the goods pertaining to his office, so they might be put there to show why the grant of Pope Nicholas I, which Gerbert of Nîmes was using to prove his entitlement to Saint-Gilles, was invalid. It is possibly unsurprising that the active late ninth-century papacy had the best lawyers…

But what I really wanted to point out about this charter is how it relates to papal jurisdiction over subordinate monasteries. By the late ninth century, a reasonable number of abbeys have been given directly to Rome (although we won’t get to the most famous example until later on…). There’s some question about how serious this is – it’s not like the pope’s going to come a-knocking at the door, so what does subjecting your monastery to him involve? And what this indicates is that, actually, the pope might come a-knocking at the door. Admittedly having him show up in Septimania in person to start making complaints is unusual, but, as surviving papal letters indicate, the popes were concerned about institutions under their jurisdiction, and they did make an effort to keep an eye on them.

(*) [EDIT: People on Twitter have raised questions about this, and so I thought it best to show my reasoning. On one hand, the Flavian Valley bit is, as we scholars say, well dodge, and the whole thing’s clearly been tidied up. On the other hand, the list of bishops, the roles of Deusdedit and John suggest that the interpolator knew quite a lot about the 870s specifically. Moreover, the list of Pseudo-Isidorean citations is about how the Pope can’t grant the monastery away, which fits the 870s but is unlikely when the popes are kicking up a storm about how very in charge they are in the late eleventh century. Finally, per Amy Remensynder, the diplomatic of the act fits well with others from the time of John VIII. So I think the balance of probability is that there’s a genuine act of 878 underlying reasonably closely the version as we have it; but on the gripping hand this absolutely doesn’t prove beyond reasonably doubt that it isn’t falsified or outright forged.]

What Counts As Precedent? Royal Authority over Episcopal Elections

During their heyday, the control that the predecessors of the Carolingian family as kings of the Franks, the Merovingian dynasty, exercised over the choice of bishops within their kingdoms had been quite substantial, both in practice and in theory. In 549, for instance, the council of Orléans had legislated that no-one could become bishop ‘without the will of the king, along with an election by the clergy and people’; and by early medieval standards you can’t say fairer than that. (There was also a long tradition of conciliar statements during this period which were opposed to royal influence in episcopal elections, but they seem to have had less impact in practice.) These conciliar decrees stuck around – the MGH edition is made up of no fewer than eleven manuscripts, which given that someone like, say, Flodoard survives in about three is a pretty generous distribution.

Consequently, looking at things over the long term, it is fair to say that whatever was happening in the late- and post-Carolingian period, it’s part of an ongoing fluctuation of royal control over bishoprics which won’t actually become overwhelmingly dominant until the Early Modern period. That said, one thing which has been striking me lately is how this longer tradition seems to be ignored by tenth-century figures.

In 920, a dispute erupted over the bishopric of Liège. A cleric named Hilduin, supported by the ruler of Lotharingia, Gislebert, took over the see with support of Henry the Fowler, king of Germany and against the rule of this blog’s old friend and Best King Ever, Charles the Simple. In response, Charles summoned a council to judge Hilduin and impose his own candidate Richer, and to explain his reasoning he sent a round letter to the bishops of his realm. The claims made in Charles’ favour during the course of this dispute have been called a ‘high point of royal absolutism in control over the Church’, and this letter is no exception. Charles calls Hilduin out, citing ‘the book of royal capitularies, which says that “if anyone presumes to a dignity they have not earned from a prince or just lord, let them be considered a sacrilege.”’ Among other things, this seems to equate bishoprics with other honores the king could bestow, which is quite a spectacular claim.

What’s interesting here, though, is that it comes from the capitulary collection of Benedict Levita, a ninth-century composition. Looking at the authorities which Charles (or the person writing in his name) cites to justify the king’s position, a pattern emerges. For one thing, virtually everything cited is actually a forgery from the Dionysian Collection of canons; but taking them at face value, most of what is cited falls into three categories: Roman church councils (Nicaea, Chalcedon, an African council), Late Antique papal letters, and Carolingian-era capitulary collections. What’s doubly interesting is what each type of source is cited to justify. The Roman councils are cited against the crime of simony, and most of the papal letters and Martin of Braga against stealing Church property. The big thesis statement about royal control comes from Benedict Levita. Merovingian canons are conspicuous by their absence, be they never so useful in this case.

This seems to say something interesting about what Charles’ court considered to be authoritative. When faced with a situation where it needed to make a strong statement about royal authority, it looked towards the traditions of something which was very definitely from its own political culture, not from the Merovingian period. This in turn implies that, whatever one can say about long-term fluctuations in royal authority, Charles perceived himself as doing something that, if not new, exactly, was at least specifically Carolingian.