Charter a Week 44: Late Carolingian Absolutism

…so, I might be cheating again this week. For the second instalment in a row, we’re covering a charter I’m already in honest-to-goodness peer-reviewed print about; this time in the Journal of the Medieval Low Countries. This time, though, I’ve spoken less about it on the blog, so let’s start from the beginning.

Last week, we saw Charles and the prominent noble Gislebert of Lotharingia have a spectacular falling out. Gislebert raised the standards of rebellion, and one of the things he did at this time was to try and install a friendly bishop at Liège. The recently deceased bishop Stephen had been one of Charles’ most consistent supporters, and so there was a zero-sum game involved here. As for what happened, we have a remarkable and almost unique round letter from Charles explaining the events which have taken place, and why they are so bad:

MGH Conc. 6.1, no. 2 (920)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. The illustrious man Charles, by gracious favour of divine clemency king of the Franks, to all archbishops and bishops established in the realm committed to Us by God, peace and health from the same God eternal.

Cap I: Because We cannot possible enumerate the benefits of divine favour which We have known from Him from the cradle, therefore ‘shall my mouth speak the praise of the Lord and bless His holy name for ever and ever’ [Psalm 145:21]. Concerning the which, because (receiving Our just desserts) We have endured many adversities, We believe that this has been permitted to Us not to earn Our damnation but for the sake of reconciliation with Him, so that having been taught a lesson by His scourges We might learn to beware the perverse and obey His will in everything. As you know from many sources, some of Our followers deviated from the loyalty due to Us and tried to snatch from Us life and realm. They went to Our enemies and befriended them, and desired that they should give them the goods and bishoprics of Our realm. Leaving, therefore, many things unmentioned, We will make manifest to Your Sanctity of one of these men who poured into Our guts a serpent’s venom; that is, Hilduin, who acted against royal power and against the words of the Apostle, where it is said ‘Fear God, honour the king’ [1 Peter 2:17] and ‘whoever resists the authority resists against what God has instituted’ [Romans 13:2], ‘for there is no power except from God’ [Romans 13:1]; and against the words of David the harpist, who said to the Lord ‘You have set men over our heads’ [Psalm 66:12]. He crossed the Rhine to Our enemies, paying little heed to the oaths he had sworn to Us. Casting them over his shoulder, he asked for the bishopric of the church of Tongres [i.e. Liège] from Our enemy Henry [the Fowler, the East Frankish king], and usurped it to his own damnation against every statute both of the holy Fathers and of the kings, that is, Our ancestors. This is what the book of royal capitularies says concerning such matters: ‘If anyone should presume to a dignity he does not merit from a prince or just lord, he has committed sacrilege’. The blessed Gregory says ‘Just as he who refuses the invitation and flees the summons should be brought to the sacred altars, he who seeks office voluntarily and ruthlessly thrusts themselves forward should certainly be repelled. For what will he who struggles to reach a higher position do except diminish it by his gain? Why does he not consider that this blessing will become a curse for him who is promoted in such a way that he becomes a heretic?’

Cap. 2: When certain pestiferous men, as We said above, strayed from Our fidelity, We assembled 16 bishops and archbishops of Our realm, and no small number of magnates, margraves, counts and grandees, so that by their counsel, authority and virtue, We might resist such madness. It was found that new cankers should be severed and healed with new cures: by episcopal authority and the ordinance of the sacred canons, they should be driven from the company and consort of Christians. Hilduin united himself with their presumption and abominable tyranny, and gave Henry and his magnates many pounds of gold and silver. He not only knowingly joined in with them, but also, using the treasures of the church of Liège which he, instinct with the Devil, had snatched away and plundered, acted with threats and terrors to have himself consecrated as bishop by Hermann, archbishop of the city of Cologne, through the violence of Henry and his followers. Indeed, if Hermann had refused – as the venerable archbishop told Us later in the presence of many people – he would have taken his life and the goods of his church, butchered all its dependents and laid waste their goods. And so he consecrated him without the authority of legitimate precedents, as he himself has hitherto testified, but only because he was compelled by great terrors and dire cruelties. Concerning this, it is found in the Council of Nicaea: ‘If any clergyman is discovered to have communicated with an excommunicate, let him be deprived of communion like a rule-breaker. This is widely known from many councils and royal capitularies concerning excommunicates.

Cap. 3: Hilduin also invaded, pillaged and stole the goods of the aforesaid bishopric in Our realm at will, against the statue of Pope Anacletus, in which it is said: ‘St. Anacletus, who was ordained a priest by Peter the apostle, and was later made his successor as bishop of the see of Rome, with all the world’s priests, judged: “Whoever steals anything from their father or mother has committed murder. Our father is certainly God; our mother is the Church, who renews us in baptism. Therefore, whoever snatches away, steals, or defrauds the properties of Christ and the Church is a murderer, and will be regarded as a murderer in the sight of the Just Judge. He who snatches away the property of his neighbour is iniquitous; he who steals the property or goods of the Church has committed sacrilege, and should be judged as a sacrilege”’. 

Cap. 4: Finally, with insatiable greed, Hilduin carried off the treasures of the church of Liège and the palace of Aachen, which had been placed in a strong-box next to the body of the blessed martyr Lambert – he stole them from the Church and gave them to Our enemies, that is, his accomplices. Concerning this, the sacred canons decree that: ‘If anyone is found to have sold or stolen anything from the ministers of the Church, he has committed sacrilege. Let him not be kept in an ecclesiastical order.’ ‘Further concerning this matter, the blessed Augustine says in his 37th homily on the Gospel of John: “Behold, Judas is among the saints; behold, Judas is a thief; and lest you think little of this, this thief has committed sacrilege, for he has not stolen from just anywhere but from the Lord’s sacred treasures”. And a little later: “Whosoever should rob or defraud the Church of anything, let him be compared to Judas the traitor”.’  

Cap. 5: He gave these treasures of the Church to bishops and counts and accomplices for his ordination, not having before him the statutes of the Council of Africa, in which it is orders that no-one should be ordained for money, saying: ‘If any bishop pays money to obtain the dignity, let him be deposed and totally expelled, just as Simon Magus was expelled by Peter’; and in the Council of Chalcedon: ‘If any bishop, priest or deacon should to obtain the grace of the Holy Spirit for money, he will be in peril of losing his rank. Let this ordination or promotion, made for money, profit him naught, but let him be anathematized.

Cap. 6: The said Hilduin, to cap his damnation, came before the venerable Herman and swore an abominable oath on sacred relics: that I, Charles, gave him the bishopric of Liège; and he compelled some clerics and laymen to swear it as well. Various testimonies of holy writings prove that this is absurd and detestable.  

Cap. 7: Although called three times to a synod by lord bishop Hermann, so that he might, if he had just cause, respond to these things of which he was accused; or if he could not, be struck with the barb of the canons. Hilduin, because he put off coming, incurred the sentence of Pope Boniface, who said this: ‘He who does not want to come to refute what is said against him proves it to be true. And lest anyone doubt that the guilty flee judgement in this way, an innocent man seeks how he can be absolved.’ And a little later: ‘Whoever thinks themselves able to avoid judgement through delay confesses to everything’. Also: ‘If he wishes to be present in person, let him respond to the charges, if he is sure. If he neglects to be present, let him not win postponement of his sentence through his absence’.  

Cap. 8: All the clerics and laymen of the aforesaid church approached Our Sublimity, making it known to Us in mournful voices that Hilduin and his robbers had laid waste their property and taken away all their supplies and household goods. Nothing remained to them, even so much as to live off. They added in their prayers that this, by your counsel, lest they be exposed to further looting and plundering, it might be done that We should give them Richer to be ordained as pontiff, whom they had all elected. We beseech you pontiffs concerning everything which has been written in these chapters: for God and the due fidelity which you promised to Us, help as much as your strength allows in preventing Our honour from decreasing further in this matter and stabilising the state of the holy Church of God.

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Image: the seal of Henry the Fowler (source)

The first thing to note about this letter is the emergence of a new figure in our cast of characters. In 918, the East Frankish king Conrad I had died. Conrad was a beleaguered figure who had already been beaten by Charles in their war over Lotharingia, and it seems that the threat he posed to Charles after that was minimal. Conrad’s successor Henry, though, was a different question: his position was more secure, and he appears to have been looking for ways to aggrandise himself at West Frankish expense. We will see him, and his descendants, ultimately achieve that over the course of the next sixty or so years.

In this case, though, he’s starting small, by helping Gislebert get his man in to Liège. Precisely what happened in these events has been confused because Hilduin claimed – and he was backed up by the usually reliable historian Flodoard – that Charles actually did appoint him before changing his mind. Now, Hilduin has an obvious motive for lying here; and, as it happens, so does Flodoard, who really doesn’t like Charles. Given this, I’d normally be inclined to dismiss the claim completely, except for the fact that Charles’ denial here is so weak. If he had a better case, I’d expect it to come with more force; maybe that’s just from dealing with Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims recently, who never met a weak case that prolixity couldn’t buttress. On balance, I still think the source tend towards Hilduin rather than Charles being the liar, but it’s not an open-and-shut case.

Whatever the actualities, we can see Charles responding to this particular problem in his time-honoured manner: calling an assembly and getting the appearance of consensus. In this case, though, that is paired with a remarkable emphasis on the inviolable nature of his royal authority. In fact, Charles’ stress on his own authority is not the most extreme version of this stance we have from this dispute: letters from the pope of the time are even more forthcoming about his absolute right to appoint a bishop. (Something, incidentally, noticed hundreds of years later during the Investiture Controversy when a writer from Liège used this example in his tract against papal power.) It’s a sign of how royal power had changed from the mid-ninth century by the time of Charles the Simple: the balance of authority had slowly changed in favour of kings, both relative to bishops and to aristocrats. However, all this garnish comes in a letter which is about how all these ostensible norms have been broken. There’s a kind of dissonance – Charles’ position is crystallised in the troubles, but it’s a position which might make solving the troubles themselves difficult. Charles’ royal authority might have been strong, but it was also brittle.  

Charter a Week 23: Kingship and Bishops in Langres

Remember how Burgundy was unusually violent during the civil war? Well, now it’s 899 and we’re still dealing with the fallout from that. Bishop Adalgar of Autun’s murder wasn’t the only bit of violence Richard the Justiciar oversaw – he also tried to take advantage of a dispute in the see of Langres. There was a dispute between two candidates, Theobald and Argrim. Of the two, Theobald looks to have been the local choice but Argrim was more willing to lend a hand to Richard, and so Theobald was blinded and Argrim supported. Argrim, however, ordained Bishop Walo of Autun and this ticked off Pope Stephen V, who deposed him. Stephen’s successor Formosus, however, restored Argrim as Archbishop of Lyon. Then, however, Argrim was moved back to Langres, and everyone basically agreed on him as a candidate. This is where our story starts:

Papsturkunden no. 10 (May 899) = JL no. 3520

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved sons the clergy and people of the holy church of Langres.

We accept this trust from the blessed Peter, the lord of this holy see and the founder of the apostolic church, and the prince of the apostles: that We should with an energetic disposition labour for the whole Church redeemed by the blood of Christ, and succour all the servants of the Lord and help out everyone living piously with apostolic authority, and not delay to correct and emend, by the Lord’s assistance, whatever is harmful.

To this end, the foresight of divine dispensation has established divers grades and distinct orders, so that when lessers show reverence to the more powerful and the more powerful give love and assistance to their lessers, one bond of concord should be made out of diversity and the administration of each office should be borne correctly.

We freely received the letters of Your Belovedness, indeed, which you sent to the see of the blessed apostle Peter to deal with your affairs not simply once, but twice and even three times, along with the letters of Our beloved son King Berenger [I of Italy]. Indeed, We sorrowed to no small degree over your afflictions and misfortunes, which you sorrowfully complained of having endured for such a long time: to wit, that your church, worn down by many calamities, should be devoid of all pastoral solace from the point when the venerable Bishop Argrim – whom you testify that you all concordantly elected, sought and acclaimed –  left his church owing to the deceitful theft of certain people, and you did not receive any bishop after him of your own free will, as the outline of your complaint fully laid out.

In fact, We already knew this thanks to Count Ansgar [of Ivrea], Our beloved son, who humbly confessed that he had gravely erred in this. We, therefore, who bear the care and concern for all the churches of God and wish and ought to incontestably observe undefiled right and canonical authority for every church, shall not permit you to endure such a thing. Rather, having compassion for Your Brotherhood and confirming by truthful assertions that your tearful complaint is true, with a college of Our brother bishops, with the service of the other orders, We canonically restore to your Our aforesaid confrere the venerable bishop Argrim, and We send him into his church, which is in need of restoration. We do not find fault with the sentence of Our predecessor Pope Stephen [V] but We do change it for the better for the sake of advantage and necessity, in the same way that We are manifestly aware that Our predecessors did in many cases.

In this case, We admonish you and We exhort you through these letters of Our pontificate and We order by the authority of God and Us, that you should receive the same Bishop Argrim, whom We have restored to Your Unanimity as you sought, with beneficent love and harmonious devotion without any delay; and be obedient to him in everything, and you should honourably hold and cherish him as a pious pastor of your souls, observing his canonical commands in everything.

If any of you presume to act against this Our apostolic judgement and statue or to minister without Bishop Argrim’s consent in his church of Langres and do not want to receive him in accordance with Our decree, let them know themselves to be excommunicated and damned by Our authority. Farewell!

Written through the hand of Samuel the notary and secretary of the holy Roman church, in the month of May, 2nd indiction.

1280px-san_giovanni_in_laterano_-_seitenansicht
The Lateran Palace in Rome, where all this decision-making took place (source)

This is massaging events. Argrim was probably not the local choice, and it’s noticeable that Pope John IX (for it is he!)’s letter is mostly taken up with implicit threats. In fact, John probably knew this, because he sent a second letter:

Papsturkunden no. 11 (11th May 899) = JL no. 3521

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to his most beloved son the glorious king Charles.

Because We know from the report of many that you, most beloved of sons, manfully act in accordance with the custom of your royal predecessors for the defence and profit of the holy Church of God against the madness of crooked men and also pagans, We rejoice in every way and We venerably embrace you as Our son in Christ, and paternal exhort you that you should work hard to improve, love peace, justice and truth; and never deviate in any way from the right path either, so that you might attain a blessed from Our most clement of lords Jesus Christ as from his gatekeeper and the prince of the apostles Peter, for love of whom you busy yourself with such great things.

Accordingly, We wish it to be known to you, Our son, that the groaning and tearful complaint of the church of Langres came to Our Clemency’s ears not simply once, but twice and even three times, concerning the deposition of their pastor Bishop Argrim, whom they witness that they had all unanimously elected, sought and acclaimed, but who was separated from them owing to the deceitful theft of certain people. Because of this, the church is devoid of pastoral consolation and shaken incessantly by sundry disturbances and misfortunes, so much so that it appears nearly reduced to nothing.

Carefully considering this case with a college of venerable bishops with a diligent examination, and investigating the truth of the matter, and mercifully succouring their unhappiness, We canonically ruled that his church should by Our authority be restored to him, changing the sentence of Our predecessor Pope Stephen [V] to a better one for the sake of necessity and advantage, as We are manifestly aware that Our predecessors to have done in many cases.

We provided for this, and We admonish Your Glory and Religiosity that, because We have canonically restored him to his aforesaid church of Langres, you should always extent a helping hand to him and consent to what We have instituted, and be to him a helper and defender whenever it is useful, for love of God Almighty and reverence of the blessed apostles and Our Apostolic Paternity, so that he might be able to rule the same church peacefully and worthily under your royal munificence, so that he might be able to profit those over whom he should preside. Farewell!

Written through the hand of Samuel the notary and secretary of the holy Roman church, on the 5th ides of May [11th May], in the 2nd indiction.

John here commissions Charles to go and sort out any disturbance in the bishopric, essentially inviting him to give his royal imprimatur to the final settlement of Argrim on the episcopal throne. Given Langres had been so prominent under Charles’ predecessors, this was a sensible decision. What interests me about John’s letter to Charles is two things. First, this letter is absolutely dripping with a very traditional description of Charles in the best traditions of Carolingian kingship. Second, John apparently expects Charles to be able to help him.

This speaks volumes about the efficacy of Charles’ regime. As we saw last week, Charles was able to put together an invading army at short notice in 898, and this letter indicates that he had sway at home as well. There is a certain tendency to chalk this kind of rhetoric up to a kind of wilful blindness on the part of the popes: after all, we already know that kingship had Declined by this point. This has the distinct demerit of assuming that we know what was going on better than contemporaries did. John wasn’t an idiot, nor was he uniformed about events in the West Frankish kingdom. If he thought Charles could help him, that’s probably because he had good reason.

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 9: Peace from the Mountains (Again)

We’re getting towards the end now, folks. So far we’ve seen two attempts to follow Stephen of Clermont as ruler of Auvergne, one big and showy and short-lived and the other smaller-scale but ultimately more successful. Now we have the third immediate attempt, although it’s not per se a ‘succession’ attempt because it begins a few years before Stephen’s death. Still, it’s close enough to his senescence that it’s probably setting up its instigator to be the bishop of Clermont’s successor. So let’s turn our attention to the neighbouring see of Le Puy.

For much of the mid-tenth century, the bishop of Le Puy was a man named Gottschalk. Obviously we can’t say anything about his personality, or even all that much about his career, but he’s always struck me as being fundamentally a bit of a non-entity. Geoffrey Koziol refers to him as ‘the Godfather of Aquitaine’, largely because he features in a royal diploma one time*; but in the handful of private charters he appears in he seems basically harried by the magnates surrounding him. He shows up in the entourage of Raymond of Toulouse in 936, and having the eastern part of his diocese nibbled away by Margrave Geilin of Valence at an undetermined time in the mid-century. In short, he’s not much of a presence, although he’s very long-lived, only dying in around 973.

His successor is a bigger deal, and we’ve met him before: it’s Guy, quondam abbot of Cormery and brother of the count of Anjou Geoffrey Grisegonelle, and also uncle of two important counts in the south-eastern marches of the West Frankish kingdom (or, given that one of them appears to be based in Forez, the western marches of Transjurane Burgundy). Our main information about his reign comes from the Chronicon of the abbey of Saint-Pierre du Puy, written in the twelfth century, although the author does appear to have had earlier sources. This chronicle says that when Guy became bishop, he ordered the people ‘that they should confirm a peace, not oppress the goods of paupers and churches and restore stolen goods, so that they might carry themselves in a manner befitting faithful Christians. When they refused to do this, he commanded [his nephews who were waiting nearby with an army to come by night to the field of Saint-Germain-Laprade, where this was taking place], wishing to force them to swear peace and give hostages for the keeping of it and give back the fields and castles of Notre-Dame [du Puy], and thus it was with God’s help done’.

rocher_st_michel_c3a0_aiguilhe
This appears to have been fairly shortly after his accession in 975, although it’s not dated. It was in any case before Guy dedicated this very cool chapel at Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe in 984. (source)

We need to be cautious here, because the chronicler was writing presumably with full awareness of how the Peace of God later developed. But actually the core event being described here – return of church goods, language of peace, oath-swearing – fits neatly into what we’ve seen taking place in the 958 charter and the Vita Amabilis. Lauranson-Rosaz wrote a quite good article on the origins of the Peace of God movement in Auvergne, which argues that this is exactly when and where the Peace of God proprement dit began, and he makes a good case that the intellectual genealogy of the Peace goes back here, but it’s vitiated by the fact that he apparently thinks the Peace of God sprung fully-formed out of the head of Zeus – that is, he speaks throughout as though Guy were deliberately implementing the capital-P Peace of God in his territories. As I’ve argued before, though, that can’t possibly be the case because the Peace of God didn’t exist at that point – it might have been coming into existence, but if we don’t want to be teleological, we need to ask what Guy actually thought he was doing.

My suggestion to that is: trying to follow Stephen of Clermont. After all, Stephen was the king’s link to the Auvergne before his death/incapacity, and Guy of Puy very much followed in his footsteps in that regard – more so, perhaps, given he was a royal appointment. By taking over parts of Stephen’s discourse of legitimacy, he could appeal to a political community in eastern Aquitaine which was by the 970s increasingly accustomed to talk in certain terms – peace, oath-swearing, royal ties. In this sense, Guy was another person trying to set himself up as Stephen’s successor.

Like Louis and Guy of Clermont, Guy of Puy had only partial success – we can’t see him in Auvergne proper, for example. However, he did have major influence in that eastern frontier area with Transjurane Burgundy. Besides some other ‘maybe’ examples that Lauranson-Rosaz suggests are hinted at in the sources, in 994, he masterminded a ‘Peace’ conference at Saint-Paulien which saw him presiding over a massive collection of bishops from all over. In short, insofar as the fragmented source base allows us to tell, Guy actually didn’t do a bad job setting up as Stephen’s heir. But in time his initiative would be taken up by a familiar set of faces. Next time, in the penultimate post in the series, we’ll be looking at William the Great of Poitiers and his attempts to make the ‘duchy of Aquitaine’ a reality.

 

* I am of course being unfair on Koziol’s reasoning, but I do think that fundamental to it is an assumption that anyone who appears as a petitioner in a diploma must be important. Koziol can show quite clearly that Gottschalk is well-connected, but given that anyone who is anyone in this period has ties all over their sphere of action, making the jump from that to ‘hegemonic’ seems, on the basis of his position in the private charter evidence, unjustified.

Reading the West Frankish Coronation Liturgy, pt. 1: Hincmar’s Ordo for Louis the Stammerer (877)

[n.b.: the numbering follows the edition. Headings 1-9 are the version found in the Annals of Saint-Bertin, which has been translated by Janet Nelson; the text translated here is a separate one found in a manuscript from Liège.]

10. The bishops’ petition
“We ask you to grant to us, that you will conserve for each of us and the churches committed to us (in accordance with the first chapter which your father Emperor Charles very recently announced at Quierzy would be conserved by him and by you, with the assent of his faithful and yours, and the legates of the apostolic see, as read by Gozlin) canonical privilege and due law and justice, and provide defence, as a king ought rightly to provide in his realm to each bishop and the church committed to him.”

11. The king’s promise.
“I promise and grant to you, that I will conserve for each of you and the churches committed to you (in accordance with the first chapter which my father Emperor Charles very recently announced at Quierzy would be conserved by him and by me, with the assent of his faithful and Ours, and the legates of the apostolic see, as read by Gozlin) canonical privilege and due law and justice, and provide defence as far as I can, with the Lord’s help, as a king ought rightly to provide in his realm to each bishop and the church committed to him.”

12. The blessings made over King Louis.
13. “O God, Who takes care of the people by thy virtue and rules them with love, give to this man, thy servant N., the spirit of wisdom, with the guidance of instruction, so that he, wholeheartedly devoted to thee, might always remain worthy in guiding the realm; and so that during his reign the security of the church might be steered with thy defence, and Christian devotion might endure in tranquillity. Through the Lord.”

14. The infusion of sacred oil.
“O eternal God Almighty, creator and governor of Heaven and Earth, maker and manager of angels and men, king of kings and lord of lords, thou Who caused thy servant Abraham to triumph over his foes, gave many-fold victories unto Moses and Joshua, who were set above thy people; and elevated thy humble child David to the peak of the realm, and freed him from the mouth of the lion and the claw of the beast and Goliath, and from the wicked sword of Saul, and all his enemies, and enriched Solomon with the ineffable gift of wisdom and peace, hear our humble prayers we beseech thee, and adorn this man, your servant, with the virtues with which thou adornest thine aforesaid faithful and the blessing of many-fold honour, and place him sublimely in control of the realm, and anointed him with the oil of thy Holy Spirit’s grace, with which thou hast anointed priests, kings, prophets and martyrs, who conquered kingdoms through faith and did works of justice and received promises. Let its most holy unction flow upon his head, and descend within him, and enter into his innermost heart; let him be by thy grace made worthy by the promises which the victorious kings received, so that he might happily reign in the present age and reach their company in the Kingdom of Heaven. Through our lord Jesus Christ, thy son, who was anointed with the oil of joy before his fellows and vanquished the powers of the air with the virtue of the Cross, who destroyed Hell and overcame the Devil’s kingdom, and rose victorious to Heaven, in whose hand all victory, glory, and power consist, and who lives and reigns with thee, God in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.”

15. The coronation.
“May the Lord crown thee with a crown of glory and justice, with honour and works of fortitude, that through the office of our blessing, with correct faith and the many-fold fruit of good works, you might reach a crown of the realm everlasting, by the largess of Him Whose realm and empire endures forever and ever, amen.”

16. The handing-over of the sceptre.
“Take this sceptre, sign of royal power, to wit, the rightful rod of the realm, the rod of the virtue with which thou mayest rule thee thyself and the holy Church; that is, defend with royal virtue the Christian people committed to thee by God from the unrighteous, correct the corrupt, direct the righteous that they might hold to the right path by thy aid, so that you might go from a worldly kingdom to the Kingdom Eternal, by aid of Him Whose realm and empire endures without end, forever and ever. Amen.”

17. Blessings.
“May the Lord God Almighty, who said to his servant Moses, ‘Speak unto thy brother Aaron, and say to his sons, “On this wise ye shall bless my people”, and I will bless them’, bless thee and keep thee. Amen.”
18. “May He shine His face upon thee, and have mercy upon thee. Amen.”
19. “May He turn His face to thee, and gave thee peace. Amen”
20. “May He reach out the hand of His blessing, and pour upon thee the gift of his propitiation, and envelop thee with the happy wall of His watchful protection, by the interceding merits of Saint Mary and all the saints. Amen.”
21. “May He forgive thee the evils which thou hast done, and bestow upon thee the grace and mercy for which thou hast humbly besought Him: and may He free thee from all adversity, and from all the plots of enemies visible and invisible. Amen.”
22. “May He multiply the abundance of His blessing upon thee, and confirm in thee the hope of a Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.”
23. “May He correct thy acts, amend thy life, arrange thy customs, and lead thee to an inheritance of heavenly Paradise. Amen.”
24. “May thou be filled with such intention as might please Him in perpetuity. Amen.”
25. “May He place His good angels always and everywhere to proceed, accompany, and follow thee, for thy protection; and may He liberate thee by His power from sin and sword, and from the crisis of all perils. Amen.”
26. “May He convert thine enemies to the benignity of peace and charity, and make those hateful to thee pleasing and friendly, and may He visit confusion upon those who persevere in hatred and criticism of thee; may an eternal sanctification flourish upon thee. Amen.”
27. “May the Lord always make thee victorious and triumphant over enemies visible and invisible, and fill up thy heart with fear and love of His holy name, and make thee to persevere in right faith and good works, and, having granted peace in thy days, lead thee to a kingdom everlasting with the crown of victory. Amen.”
28. “And may He who has wished to establish thee as king over the people bestow happiness in the present age and a consortship in eternal happiness. Amen.”
29. “May He cause thee to happily govern the clergy and people, whom He has wished by His generosity to place under thy rule, by His dispensation and thy administration through long-lasting time; for which reason, obeying divine commands, being free from all adversity, abounding in good works, serving thy ministry with faithful love, may they be fruitful in the tranquillity of peace in the present age, and merit to become with thee consorts of the heavenly citizens. Amen.”

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A thirteenth-century depiction of Louis the Stammerer’s coronation (source)

As we’ll see later on, this ordo later became extremely influential. Some of it is based on the ordo Hincmar wrote in 869 for Louis the Stammerer’s father, Charles the Bald’s, inauguration as king of Lotharingia. (Jackson argues that at least some of these formulae came from a ceremony for Charles’ father Louis the Pious in 835, but I’m not sure what I think about that.) That said, one of the most influential parts of this ordo, the bishops’ petitio and the king’s promissio, were innovations in 877, and the reason for their presence is, I think, fairly particular to the time. Look, I like defending certain kings with a bad reputation as much as anyone, but Louis does seem to have spent his time up until 877 managing to convince most of his nobility – and certainly his father – than he was untrustworthy and incompetent. Hence, when Charles went to Italy for the second time just before his death in 877, he issued a capitulary at Quierzy intended to ensure that Louis would exercise as little real power as possible during his absence [edit: and Charles has kindly given a link to his English translation of this in the comments]. The specific clause being referenced in this promissio, which Hincmar actually gives in his annals, is a fairly generic one about the importance of protecting the Church. But that they reference this specific text suggests something more menacing. Louis’ accession had been opposed by a clique of the most powerful magnates in the kingdom, and the reference to Quierzy in the promissio, I think, indicates a veiled threat: ‘we don’t really trust you’. [Alternatively, it’s occurred to me, it could be the opposite. Hincmar wasn’t one of this opposition, and the clause in question is the Carolingian equivalent of Mom and apple pie; so I’d maybe be more likely to say that Hincmar was picking out the bit of Quierzy that everyone could rally around…]

In terms of a broader view of kingship, the formula for handing over the sceptre (no. 16) illustrates a very traditional view of royal ministerium, wherein the king must defend the Christian people and defend the erring. On the other hand, the most important part of the text for future coronations was the anointing formula at no. 14 (God Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth…). Its importance will largely come out in comparison with the texts to follow, but here I just want to point out that the reference to the oil of the Holy Spirit anointing ‘priests, kings and prophets’ is taken from prayers to bless the oil. Putting it here, though, changes the meaning so as to put the roles of the three closer together, moving kings more in a priestly direction. This may well be seen as some of those increasingly-spectacular late-Carolingian claims for royal authority that we’ve talked about on this blog before…

Finally, as a note to contemporary relevance, it’s worth noting that no. 13 above (God who takes care of the people etc…) was used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. Hincmar’s words live on! Tune in on Friday for the next ordo I’ll be discussing, that used for the coronation (one of the coronations) of King Odo in 888.

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.

West Frankish ‘Reichskirchenpolitik’? Or, This Title Isn’t Going To Get Many Hits, Is It?

So I mentioned last week that I had papers to write, and several of them relate to the question of how the last Carolingian kings exercised authority over their church. What with this being the research I am currently being paid to do, this probably isn’t much of a surprise (and, indeed, we’ve covered some of this ground before). However, I confess that I’m currently in a state of confusion about the nature of this authority, and so, as is this blog’s wont, have decided to write down the problem in the hope of making things clearer.

For historians of the East Frankish kingdom during the tenth and eleventh centuries, the relationship between the kings and the church was expressed in terms of something called the ottonisch-salischen Reichskirchensystem; the ‘imperial Church system’. Timothy Reuter gave a neat little summary of this idea, which I summarise as follows:

In its idealised form, the Reichskirchensystem under the kings of the Ottonian and Salian dynasties consisted of:

  1. Tight royal control over bishoprics and abbeys, particularly with regard to the appointment of bishops and abbots.
  2. The systematic appointment of royal chaplains to vacant bishoprics and abbacies.
  3. The endowment of bishoprics and abbeys with lands and rights.
  4. The expectation that these lands and rights would be used in royal service.
  5. All this being done in order to gain the support of the more reliable episcopate against the less reliable secular magnates,
  6. And all of this being done deliberately and systematically.

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Emperor Henry II being crowned (source)

Thanks not least to Reuter, historians are now rather wary of this idea, and certainly of points 5) and 6); there aren’t very many hard-core proponents of the imperial Church system left. However, a more moderate version – which Scheffer calls Reichskirchenpolitik – does seem to me to be viable, particular with what interests me about this, i.e., points 1) and 2). It might be a bit haphazard, and there might be lots of qualifications and asterisks which need to be attached to it, but it does look to my eyes that the German kings have a lot of scope to intervene in episcopal elections and to appoint their own men to these positions. And so the question comes up semi-frequently in this context: can we see a West Frankish equivalent to Eastern Reichskirchenpolitik?

Most historians who’ve looked at the question give what amounts to a lukewarm ‘yep’. Me, I don’t know, and this is why. As noted above, one of the big ideas about what makes the Eastern kingdom distinct is the role of the imperial chapel as a ‘nursery for bishops’. However, the Western chapel is tiny, and doesn’t seem to have been very significant – Western kings only usually have one chaplain at once, or at least only one we know about; and between, say, 950 and 1000 only a handful of them seem to have been appointed to bishoprics. Moreover, if Eastern intervention in episcopal elections is unsystematic, in the West it’s outright erratic – whilst I have hyped up King Lothar’s ability to put his own people in bishoprics before, it must be said that in absolute terms, we’re not talking large-scale appointment here. Lothar ain’t exactly Philip II of Spain, if you get me…

But, there’s still something going on. There develops around King Lothar a group of several bishops who, insofar as we can tell, have similar educational backgrounds, close family ties, and who owe their appointments to the king. This original charter from 978 (I know the site says 986; it’s wrong) gives a good idea of this: we see in the witness list Archbishop Seguin of Sens, Bishop Gibuin of Châlons, Bishop Adalbero of Laon, Bishop Liudolf of Noyon, Bishop Widric of Langres and Bishop Ralph of Chalon, several of whom we’ve had cause to talk about before; this is a pretty good chunk of the ‘royal’ bishoprics, and while Widric of Langres doesn’t seem to have been as tightly integrated into Lothar’s political networks as his successor Bruno (who I’ve spoken of elsewhere as well), this kind of gathering is significant.

That is, it’s significant by the standards of non-royal lay rulers, even important and powerful ones. The dukes of Aquitaine and Bavaria, for instance, don’t seem to have had this amount of success building up a network of bishops around themselves. This is particularly interesting in the case of Bavaria, because Duke Arnulf the Bad of Bavaria is supposed to have strong-armed the right to oversee the bishoprics in his region out of King Henry the Fowler – but it seems he never had any luck putting it into practice. The closest analogy is perhaps Richard the Justiciar of Burgundy (who we will examine further in that next tria regna post – I swear it’s coming soon), who had a decent-ish amount of success putting bishops in post in Auxerre, possibly Autun, maybe Langres? Still, it’s not quite on Lothar’s scale, and certainly not with the kind of legitimacy he’s able to command.

And so, we have Lothar: nothing like as commanding as the Eastern kings, but noticeably more so that Just Your Average Lay Magnate. Is this ‘the Ottonians but smaller-scale’ or something sui generis? The question isn’t just one of categorisation – Lothar was raised by his Ottonian mother with close links to the Eastern court, so if we are dealing with ‘smaller-scale Ottonians’, then odds are good we’re dealing with a transfer of political culture from one court to the other, which in turn points towards a genuine transformation of Western kingship in response to Ottonian models in the latter part of the tenth century. Wish me luck in working out the answer…