Charter a Week 28: This Church was a Steal!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original document taken from ARTEM, as given above.

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

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

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

Charter a Week 9: Imperium

Charles the Fat rather fell into his empire. For sure, he acted decisively to take proper control of it; but the circumstances he took advantage of were the result of complete coincidence. As we’ve seen over the course of the last couple of months, male, adult Carolingians in the 880s just would. Not. Stop. Dying.

In 885, the most relevant recent death was Carloman II, who died in December 884. This was a bad time for him to die, because Charles the Fat – the only crowned king in the Frankish world and thus, absent any other debilitating factor, the king – was in northern Italy, and couldn’t show up in the west until the snows melted. In practice, this turned out to be in May, although he was preparing months in advance. By 20th May, though, Charles was in Burgundy, where he issued three diplomas featuring Geilo of Langres, of which this is one:

DD CtF no. 117 (20th May 885, Grand) = ARTEM no. 793 = DK 7.ii

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by favour of divine clemency emperor augustus.

If We proffer assent to the just and reasonable solicitations of venerable pontiffs, which they recount to Our Serenity’s ears for the advantages of the churches committed to them, and We busy Ourself to bring them to the effect of perpetual stability, We not only exercise imperial custom, but truly as well do We not doubt that this will benefit Us to pass through the present life in happiness and to lay hold of future blessing as quickly as possible.

Wherefore let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, both present and future, ascertain that Geilo, the reverend bishop of the church of Langres, came and made known to Our Excellence that he had for love of God Almighty and the blessed Benignus and in memory of Us and Our wife and offspring restored to the abbey in honour of the blessed Benignus, the extraordinary martyr, next to the castle of Dijon, in which the same outstanding martyr rests, certain goods once consigned to the same place and since taken away from there, that is, in the district of Dijonnais, in the villa of Plombières-lès-Dijon, to wit, 12 manses to perpetually serve for lighting the same monastery.

Therefore, bringing himself before Our Majesty because of this, he humbly requested that, for love of God and the honour of the same blessed Benignus, We might deign to confirm the aforesaid goods restored to the aforesaid place through a precept of Our authority, lest henceforth in later times they should be diminished or stolen therefrom by anyone’s obstinacy or thoughtlessness.

Lending the ears of Our Domination to his praiseworthy petitions, We commanded this precept of Our Sublimity to be made, through which We decree and establish and confirm through Our imperial authority that the aforesaid goods should in the name of Christ persevere in future times as they are seen to have been restored there with all their dependencies, to wit, meadows, vineyards, woods, pastures, waters and watercourses, and bondsmen of both sexes, for the purposes which were ordained above, perpetually, without disturbance from anyone.

And that this authority of Our confirmation or permission might endure firm and undisturbed for all time, and endure stable in future, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it in God’s name to be signed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of the most glorious and serene Charles, ever augustus.

Chancellor Amalbert witnessed on behalf of Archchancellor Liutward [of Vercelli].

Given on the 13th kalends of June [20th May], in the year of the Incarnation of our lord Jesus Christ 885, in the 4th indiction, in the 5th year of Emperor Charles’ imperial reign in Italy, the 4th in East Francia, the 1st in Gaul.

Enacted at the estate of Grand.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

cw 9 885
Charles’ diploma, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

This diploma is interesting from a diplomatic point of view not least because it was written in a Langres hand – that is, it was Geilo himself who showed up with the diplomas. This is significant because the meeting at Grand featured a number of powerful men: Anskeric, later bishop of Paris (a rival of Gozlin), Pippin of Vermandois, Bishop Wibod of Parma, and Rudolph of Transjurane Burgundy. Geilo, by having no fewer than three diplomas – which he had written himself, or had his clerics write for him; and which favour his close followers or himself; and which, in this case, presents him as the epitome of a proper bishop in restoring property to his church – was pushing himself to the top of the heap, all in a huge Gallo-Roman amphitheatre.

What did Charles get out of this? Simply put, he got Geilo and his clients, and he got to be king. These diplomas are one of Koziol’s key examples in arguing for the performativity of diplomas, and for good reason. Charles was claiming to be king ‘in Gaul’, and these diplomas made him such. When the Gauls were calling him king, and he was commanding them like a king, in what respect was he not king?

Charter a Week 1: ‘Our dearest duke’ (877)

It’s well-known by now that I enjoy translating sources, and that I like charters; and it’s probably becoming clear as well that I like getting narrative about the late/post-Carolingian world. So today is the first entry in a new series, which is exactly what it says on the tin: each Monday, I’ll post a new translation of a charter going right through the long tenth century, one (at least – see below) each year from 877 up to 1032. A couple of caveats before beginning:

  • So far, I’ve planned out about half of what we’re going to be seeing. During this process, I’ve found that the really juicy stuff tends to cluster noticeably – it’s not so much that one year will have two potentially-interesting charters and one three; more that one will have one and another will have five. In most cases I’ve tried to be strict, but some years I just couldn’t pick. In these cases, I’ll post one on Monday and the rest a few days later. As it happens, this first week is one of these cases, so expect another charter later this week!
  • A note on coverage: this is fundamentally a French story. Mostly, we’ll be talking about the West Frankish monarchy, but as you might expect by now we’ll be looking over the border into Provence and occasionally Transjurane Burgundy, and the East Frankish kingdom and Lotharingia will also play a part.

Let’s crack on!

DD CtB no. 419 (6th January 877, Quierzy) = ARTEM no. 788 = DK 5.xix

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by mercy of the same Almighty God emperor augustus.

If We lend Our Serenity’s ears to the just and reasonable requests of servants of God, and bring them into effect, We both follow the custom of the emperors, to wit, Our ancestors; and We in no way doubt that through this will the prize of an eternal blessing follow.

Let the industry, therefore, of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future, know that Boso [of Provence], Our dearest duke and representative in Italy and the chief minister of Our sacred palace, coming before Our Excellence, made known to Our Serenity the appeals of certain monks, that is, from the monastery of the holy martyr Benignus: to wit, that they had appealed to Our Highness that We might for Our soul’s reward and on account of the appeal of the same Boso, who is very worthy of Our affection, restore to the aforesaid holy martyr Benignus and the brothers serving therein goods which had been alienated from their said monastery for a long time.

Therefore, Our Serenity’s clemency complied with the prayers of Our said dearest man and succouring the needs of the aforementioned brothers, We restore to them through this Our precept the goods which are described below, that is, in the district of Oscheret, the estate which is called Longvic with churches and everything justly and reasonably pertaining to it; and in the district of Portois, the estate of Saint-Marcel with churches and everything pertaining to it.

Accordingly, We commanded this precept of Our Imperial Highness be made and given to the aforesaid brothers, through which let them hold and possess eternally all the said goods with everything pertaining to them, and let them turn them back to their own uses without contradiction from any person.

And that this might be inviolably conserved for all time and obtain in the name of God a fuller vigour of firmness, We confirmed it below with Our hand and We commanded it be sealed with Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of august emperors.

Odoacer the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Gozlin [of Paris].

Count Boso ambasciated.

Given on the 8th ides of January (6th January), in the 10th indiction, in the 37th year of the reign of the lord emperor Charles in Francia, and the 7th in succession to Lothar [II], and in second of his rule as emperor.

Enacted at the imperial palace of Quierzy.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 1.1 877
The surviving original, from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

We begin in the last year of the reign of Charles the Bald, not that anyone knew that at the time. Charles, who was 53 when this diploma was issued, had recently become emperor in Italy, and as we’ll see later this week was clearly aiming further. No-one expected him to die within the year, so this diploma was issued not as a deathbed grant from a fading ruler but as a statement from a man who hadn’t stopped pushing for greater power yet. There are a lot of diplomas from early 877 as Charles prepared to head once more to Italy.

By this point, the pattern of Charles’ late reign is clear, because these diplomas in general feature the small clique of supermagnates on whom Charles’ power was based (and who based their own power on Charles’) – men such as Hugh the Abbot (who we will encounter later in this series), Bernard Plantevelue, father of William the Pious, and above all, as here, Boso of Provence.

At the exact point this diploma was issued, Boso was riding remarkably high even for him. His sister Richildis was married to Charles and had recently given birth to a son (in the event short-lived) to whom Boso stood godfather. This diploma, for the abbey of Saint-Bénigne in Dijon, is a testament to his status. Look at Boso’s titulature: not every Tom, Dick or Megingoz gets to be carissimus noster dux et missus Italiae sacrique palatii nostri archiminister! Boso was a high-status, powerful aristocrat – but his position was fragile, and the prospect of the succession of Charles’ son Louis the Stammerer was not an appealing one. To paraphrase Stuart Airlie: when you’re that high up, where can you go but down?