Charter A Week 51/2: A Sad, Angry Gesture of Defiance

Acfred of Aquitaine was not a well man. When his brother died in 927, Acfred himself was in poor health. This is one of the reasons that, as we saw last week, Ralph of Burgundy was able to gobble up big parts of Acfred’s duchy. Still, Acfred might not have been able to carry on the fight he had begun the year before during the defence of Nevers, but he could still get his revenge from his sickbed, with a little bit of Deific help:

Sauxillanges no. 13 (11th October 927, Sauxillanges)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Acfred, by the bestowal of divine mercy duke of the Aquitanians.

Let it be known to all administering the care of God’s holy Church, that is, present and future, and as well all the famous men of the Earth that I, Acfred, a most humble servant of the servants of God, considering the disaster of human fragility, in order that the pious and merciful Lord might deign to mitigate something from the enormity of my crimes, both for myself and for my father Acfred and my mother Adelinda and my uncles William and Warin and my brothers Bernard and William and for all my kinsmen and followers and friends, restore a certain small portion to my Creator, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, from the land which He deigned to bestow through his bountiful clemency on my relatives and my most unworthy self, so that it might be built in His name, held in His honour, and governed under the shadow of His majesty, such that no count, nor bishop, nor abbot, nor any of Our progeny, or any mortal might dominate the same land, nor should the land be subject to any of the saints, nor to angelic spirits, but to the Lord alone, who lives and reigns in perfect Trinity, and the ministers allotted to the church therein should expect no protection and no ruler from saints or men. Nor should any judicial power presume to inflict any force on them or distrain them, or exact anything dishonest or unjust from them. Rather, let them serve God Almighty alone, and live in His name; and if they are questioned in any matter, let them make a claim through Him; and let the serfs and tenants who live on the land be subject to Him. If they are accused or questioned or rebuked, let them seek no other protector or governor except our lord Jesus Christ and the ministers of the church who are established therein at that time. 

In order that He who mightily created me from the mud of the Earth, clemently gave me the breath of life and mercifully restored me with the ruined world and gave me knowledge of Him and caused me, a sinner, to reach this age and conceded as much as pleased Him to me from His goods might know that I have restored to Him some small part of the land which He deigned to bestow upon me, and in honour of the twelve apostles who, obeying the Father’s command, believed in their heart and professed with their mouths His son, our lord Jesus Christ, I establish twelve monks therein, who should give unceasing praise to the Lord, the Creator of all, day and night, and humbly and devotedly beseech Him for the state of the Church and ask for mercy for Our sins and those of all Christians with many prayers. 

And thus let all the faithful men of the holy Church of God know that I restore to God, Creator of all, in the district of Auvergne, in the county of of Brioude and in Tallende, in the vicariate of Usson and in Ambron

  1. in the first place my indominical curtilage which is called Sauxillanges, with two churches, one constructed in honour of St Peter and the other in honour of St John the Evangelist, and my indominical house, and the indominical wood, and five mills with manses, fields, meadows, woods, vineyards, and and from all which beholds or is seen to behold to that curtilage, and all appendages which are seen to pertain to it, that is:
    1. in Gignat, one church constructed in honour of St Julian with everything pertaining to it; 
    2. and in Chargnat, a church constructed in honour of St Remedius, with everything pertaining to it; and four manses in that villa, with one shed;
    3. and in Brand, three manses and one house with a vineyard; 
    4. in Merdantio three houses with a close;
    5. in Vinzelette one house with a vineyard;
    6. in Lachaux, one house with a vineyard; 
    7. in Montaigner, one shed; 
    8. in Castellum, four sheds and a close; 
    9. in Usson, four manses with vineyards; 
    10. in Mons-Moriacus, two manses, two sheds;  
    11. in Brenat, two manses, one shed;
    12. in Montbenoit, five manses, four sheds; 
    13. at Le Say, three manses, three sheds; 
    14. at Illa Calma, one shed; 
    15. in Sacot, two manses, one shed; 
    16. in Jarrige, four manses, three sheds; 
    17. in Riberia, one shed; 
    18. in Genestogilla, two manses, one shed; Sperendeus has one manse; 
    19. at Mansionem-Guntardi, two manses; 
    20. at Mansionem-Baseni, two manses, two sheds; 
    21. at Le Montel, two manses; 
    22. in Le Picondry, two manses, four sheds; Balfred has two manses; Gozbert has one shed, Armand has one manse, Rodina has two manses, Dacbert one manse, Gadlindis one manse, the children of Sicbert, one manse, Siegfried, one manse, Gozbert, one shed; 
    23. at Le Theil, six manses, four sheds; 
    24. at Lemovicas, one manse, nine sheds; 
    25. in Charel, five manses, one shed; 
    26. in Illa Buffaria, one manse, three sheds; Benedict has one manse; 
    27. in l’Équinlerie, three sheds, Adalbert and Ingilbald have one sheds; Aldegaud, one shed; two sheds for the fishermen; Bernard, one shed; Peter, one shed;
    28. in Poius Lacpatricius, one shed;
    29. Victriarius, one shed;
    30. in le Cros, one shed; Ingirand has one shed;
    31. in Saint-Quentin-sur-Sauxillanges, two sheds with a church;
    32. between Condamina and Conros, twelve sheds;
    33. in Crizilonus, one manse, three day-labour’s worth of vines; 
    34. in Caldemaisons, one manse, one shed.

I, an unworthy and most wretched sinner, restore all the abovesaid in their entirety, cultivated or uncultivated, sought or whatever should be sought, with churches, manses, fields, meadows, woods, vineyards, curtilages, gardens, tree-plantations, incomes and renders, waters and watercourses, with mills, with male and female serfs pertaining to the same curtilage who are there now or who will, with the Lord multiplying, be born afterwards, to the Lord, just and a justifier of sinners, that everything might be governed and protected under the defence of His living name, and the monks established therein should bend the knee to Him alone, adore Him, invoke Him as their sole ruler, and that the serfs and tenants pertaining to it all should do the same. 

Moreover, I, a most unhappy man, beseech the mercy of God Almighty that He might grant to me that this same remain in His holy service and be ruled and governed under the protection of His name; and that after my death, in whatever way it please Him I should end my days, none of my heirs, whether son or daughter, if I have one, or any mortal, should presume to do anything because of what is written above. If anyone so presumes, let them know themselves traitors, and let them receive the judgement of damnation from the Lord for such presumption, with everyone looking on, and let them be delivered with Dathan and Abrion and as well with Judas the betrayer into the deepest inferno, and let all the curses which are contained in the Old and in the New Testament come upon them, because they, in present or in future, desire to twist these goods which are written above from God and His saints and the monks who desire to serve the Lord for the state of the world and the salvation of the living, unless they come to their senses and make amends and come to penitence and satisfaction. Let no-one now or in future attempt to do such things. 

And that this uncertain matter might obtain firmer vigour in times to come, I decided to confirm it below with my own hand, and let it be strengthened by the hands of other noble men.

Sign of Count Acfred, duke of Aquitaine, who asked this charter be made and affirmed. Sign of Viscount Robert [of Clermont]. Sign of Guy the listener. Sign of Viscount Dalmatius [I of Brioude]. Sign of Bertrand. Sign of Theotard. Sign of Matfred. Sign of Armand. Sign of Viscount William. Sign of Eustorgius. Sign of another Viscount William. Sign of Rigald. Sign of Hugh. Sign of Leotald. Sign of Erlebald, prior of the church of Saint-Julien de Brioude. Sign of Cunebert, dean of the same church. Warraco the priest was present. Sign of Gozbert.

Enacted on the 5th ides of October [11th October], at Sauxillanges, in the 5th year in which the unfaithful Franks dishonoured their king Charles [the Simple] and chose Ralph as their prince.

In Christ’s name, Ragenbert the priest, although unworthy, wrote this at Acfred’s command. 

1280px-Galeries_sud_et_ouest_de_l'ancien_monastère

There’s not a lot of Sauxillanges left, and it’s definitely not tenth-century. (source)

To start with, we need to comment on the diplomatic because this charter is not entirely kosher. The big list of properties there is a mid-tenth century estate survey document which has been bolted into the middle of the act, and its likely other parts of this charter were also touched up at a later date (Acfred being described as ‘duke of Aquitaine’ rather than ‘duke of the Aquitanians’ is a case in point.

This charter is yet another act where my analysis isn’t really going to add anything to Geoffrey Koziol’s, so I will simply summarize his arguments: Ralph and Odo had taken Cluny, the abbey of St Peter and St Paul, away from Acfred. Acfred, quite simply, refounded Sauxillanges without such extraneities, without celestial traitors, for God alone who, he hoped, would see the justice of his cause. (I might note that Acfred’s revenge was not simply going to be posthumous – he does still envisage the possibility of having children, so this isn’t quite a deathbed bequest.) With God on his side, and no-one else – no-one else was needed – the monks and dependents of Sauxillanges would prosper and so – please Lord? – would Acfred.

I would like, though, to make special note of the reference to Charles the Simple. William the Younger (insofar as we have his charters) didn’t do this, dating simply by Ralph. This is clearly something special Acfred picked out. (He clearly took the loss of Cluny personally.) Not that it would have helped Charles the Simple, though, not least because although I think Acfred plumped for this choice in a way William didn’t, the general sense is in the air. Even Ebalus Manzer of Poitiers, whom as we have seen was on generally good terms with Hugh the Great at the very least, was dating his charters by Charles’ reign at this point, and doing so in not terribly flattering terms towards the anti-Charles rebels. Even if Acfred had lived, therefore, Charles probably couldn’t have expected any help from him.

Acfred, though, died soon afterwards. The Guillelmid community in the Auvergne, as we have seen in a different context, persisted; but the Guillelmid family did not. Even worse (from Acfred’s point of view), charters for Sauxillanges continued to refer to it as the abbey of St John. Acfred’s rage against the dying light was, ultimately, futile.  

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 8: Becoming the Counts of Clermont

If Louis V was the new hotness, the career of Bishop Stephen of Clermont’s nephew Guy shows that the power of the more rooted families was by no means old and busted.

men_in_black_poster
Pictured: Guy of Clermont and Louis V (source: property of Columbia Pictures)

Guy’s attempt to assert his power in Auvergne after Stephen’s death was less showy than that of the Carolingians, but led to longer-term success. Guy appears a few times in Stephen’s reign, first appearing around 950-960 when he must have been fairly young, and then appearing in the Rigald charter we discussed previously as a viscount, signing after his brother Robert. Robert appears to have been the older brother, and to have died around the same time as Bishop Stephen: a charter of May 980 (which is, frustrating, the only document of Guy’s dossier which is dated) has Guy, ‘viscount of the city of the Auvergne’, making a donation for the souls of both men.

It’s an interesting document. May 980 is more-or-less right the time that Louis V is being made king of Aquitaine, so it’s interesting that the donation is of property in southern Burgundy to the abbey of Cluny and that most of the ‘old families’ of the Auvergne appear to be witnessing – it implies they’re not in Aquitaine at that moment. Guy does Bishop Stephen’s old trick of putting himself at the head of a prayer association of his relatives. The introduction of the charter announces that this should be known to ‘everyone… to wit, kings and dukes and counts’, which is very much not Stephen praying for the reigning monarch but hasn’t cut them out the loop either. It’s also interesting that Guy is called viscount rather than ‘count’ here. My suspicion is that this is Guy – and the ‘old families’ more broadly – hedging their bets and waiting to see how Louis V’s kingship works out. After all, Louis’ connections, although significant, weren’t with them…

After the early 980s, though, Guy was more open about his power. At some point, perhaps in 984, Guy was at some more gatherings of the ‘old families’. Two charters, one to Sauxillanges and one to Brioude, feature two different men named Viscount Bertrand donating to these abbeys with Count Guy as their overlord: the donation of Bertrand, husband of Faith, has Guy as Bertrand’s almsman, to whom he entrusts the carrying-out of the donation; the other charter is by Guy’s brother Bertrand husband of Arsinda, where he is viscount and Guy is count. There is some overlap in the witness lists – a scribe named Stephen, a guy named Gozbert – which makes me think these donations are connected. If so, 984 would be a reasonable guess at the year – the first donation is a larger gathering, which suggests a church festival. It took place on a Sunday in March, and as it happens between the early 980s and Guy’s death c. 990 the only year Easter took place in March was 984. This logic ain’t exactly watertight, but it’s a reasonable stab, and in any case I’d be mildly surprised if Guy wasn’t up and running with his full suite of claims to authority by the mid-980s anyway. The difference here would be the chronology – I suspect that these charters are the ‘old families’ actually acknowledging that Guy is now preeminent amongst them, although obviously I can’t prove that.

Certainly, by what must have been the mid-980s because Guy’s career isn’t that long, he was referring to himself in a charter as princeps Arvenorum, ‘prince of the men of the Auvergne’ (coincidentally this was what Vercingetorix was called, but I’m 95% sure that’s a coincidence), again donating for Stephen’s soul. He makes appearances in a couple more charters, always with some specific reference to his predominant position – for Prior Eustorgius of Clermont Cathedral, Guy was ‘my lord’; for Hugh the priest – who was evidently a member of the same social cluster – he was ‘our defender’.

Guy died around 990, but his brother William became count in his stead, and his descendants after him. The later counts don’t appear to have had to fight for their position in the way Guy did, so clearly he did a good job. In fact, the right of the rulers of Clermont to be counts was retroactively accepted around 1020 – when King Robert the Pious confirmed Guy’s 980 donation to Cluny, Guy was named as count, not as viscount. The line of counts continued until the fourteenth century, so of all the attempts to rule Auvergne it was the longest-lasting. However, that longevity came with a price. We’ve seen Guy using some of the same techniques of legitimation as Stephen, but on a smaller scale. The prayer community wasn’t as large, nor was it any longer connected to the kings. In fact, Guy seems to have worked largely on getting his face-to-face subordinates to acknowledge his superiority in their own documents. This led to a shrinking of the political community, pretty much back to just the ‘old families’ of the Auvergne. There was, however, a closer successor to Bishop Stephen in terms of reach and ambition if not blood, and like Guy he would leave a long-term legacy to the European world – but his would go far beyond the confines of the county of Clermont.

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 6: The Last Years of Stephen of Clermont

All twenty of them. Thing is, and why this post has been less than forthcoming, is that with the end of hostilities in the Auvergne in the early 960s, we lose even a semblance of narrative. Piecing together tenth-century history is always difficult, but here it becomes close to impossible. We, quite simply, do not have enough evidence to build any kind of story here, let alone the relatively coherent and/or detailed one of the last five posts. Thus, the last twenty-odd years of Bishop Stephen II of Clermont’s career can be covered in about a quarter of the space of the first twenty.

Rather than going chronologically, it’s best to speak about what the evidence does and doesn’t have in it. Let’s start with the basics: when did Stephen die? We know he was still alive in 977, when he is noted as owning land bordering a donation to the monastery of Sauxillanges. After that, things get complicated. A couple of charters from the abbey of Conques have him as being still alive in the thirtieth year of the reign of King Lothar, which should in theory be 984. However, two more charters, one from 981 and one from 980, give the abbot of Conques as Hugh and the bishop of Clermont as Bego respectively, both Stephen’s successors. I think what’s happening here is either that some scribes are taking Lothar’s reign as beginning earlier than 954 (as we know some did) or there’s been a transcription error – Lothar’s XXX-th year and his XXV-th year, or something like that, aren’t too difficult to mix up. It is also possible these charters might be right, but that doesn’t change things too much. Bego and Hugh had both been Stephen’s co-rulers before 980, so even if the by-this-point-rather-elderly bishop of Clermont was still alive, what has probably happened is that he is no longer active – living, but out of the picture. One way or another, we can put the end of Stephen’s career in around 979-980.

So what was Stephen doing between the early 960s and the later 970s? Ruling Auvergne, probably. The charter evidence from these decades shows that Stephen is pretty much the only substantial authority figure visible in the region – no counts of Poitiers, no viscounts of Brioude that matter, just the bishop. What this says to me is that he probably didn’t face much by way of challenge. Our closest look at him comes from what’s known as the Landeyrat Charter of 972, where he consecrates the abbey-church of Aurillac in the presence of a large assembly. The problem is that this document is at minimum heavily interpolated, although some scholars argue strongly for an authentic core (and that it’s a precursor to the Peace of God, an idea we will return to in a later post), so we need to be cautious in dealing with its actual provisions.

Sauxillanges today. (source)

More interesting is a charter from the cartulary of Sauxillanges. The big problem with this thing is that it is undated, and by formal criteria undatable. It’s not likely to be earlier than about 960, and it can’t be later than 979, and it can’t be pinned down more closely than that. With that said, the man giving the charter, one Rigald, gives off the impression that he’s dying – he appoints people as his executors – and he appears fairly frequently in the 950s but not in the 960s or 970s, so this is probably in the earlier part of the period, 963-965 or so. What’s interesting about this charter is that it features both Stephen, the four main viscounts of the Auvergne, and Archbishop Amblard of Lyon who was himself from a prominent Auvergnat family and had major interests in the region. We saw him last time helping broker peace in the Auvergne, and his presence here surely implies that he remained an important figure there. On his own death in 979, he donated the Auvergnat abbey of Ris to Cluny, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he acted (as in this Sauxillanges act) as a supporter of Bishop Stephen.

By this time, though, a new generation was clearly coming up. Amblard of Lyon was dead, Stephen of Clermont was either dying or incapacitated, and other figures were circling. A new bishop in Le Puy, Guy, was taking some of Stephen’s ideas; a new group of counts was emerging; and King Lothar himself was preparing to take an interest. And that’s what we’ll get into next time…

Some Issues in Aquitanian History, pt. 3: Kings and Poitevins, c. 945-955

Previously on ‘Excruciatingly-Detailed Trudge Through The Narrative History Of A Region Where The Sources Aren’t Good Enough To Support Narrative History’, Bishop Stephen II of Clermont had just staked his claim to be the predominant figure in the Auvergne, trading on royal backing and a shift in power after the disappearance from central Gaul of Raymond Pons, the count of Toulouse. You may well be wondering, ‘what happened next?’ Well, for the first half of his reign, up until about 965 or so, that’s easier to answer than the second (which is to say, not very easy at all).

In around 948, Stephen, his father Viscount Robert, and his stepmother Viscountess Hildegard, handed over the Auvergnat abbey of Sauxillanges to be ruled by Abbot Aimard of Cluny. In the document making the handover, Stephen called for prayers for Duke Acfred, William the Pious, and William the Younger, placing himself in a tradition of Aquitanian rulership. This was then confirmed in 951, when Louis IV showed up again at the borders of Aquitaine. Stephen and many of the other Aquitanian magnates went to meet him. Stephen apparently paid him special attention, and was rewarded with a royal diploma confirming his grant of Sauxillanges. So things seem pretty solid on that front – Stephen’s position at the forefront of local society was reinforced through royal confirmation of his special status vis-à-vis the kingship.

A few years later, Louis died. Aquitanians were present at his son Lothar’s coronation, presumably including Stephen; but, as when Louis succeeded Ralph, things were unsettled. Lothar was, as his father had been, under the thumb of Hugh the Great, to whom he granted Aquitaine. Hugh seems to have meant to enforce this: he intervened in a diploma for Bishop Gottschalk of Puy, and he got Lothar to lead an attack on Poitiers. Unlike the similar situation at Langres in 936, there was no complexity here: Count William Towhead had been happily in place for about thirty years, and this invasion can only be seen as a straightforward landgrab. It didn’t end up working, and Hugh died the next year.

Of course, William himself was not innocent here. In 955, he attempted to push his power into Auvergne, where no previous count of Poitiers had had an interest. He held a meeting at Ennezat, a place redolent with the power of the old Guillelmid dukes, where the lords of Auvergne swore to be his men. Rather like Hugh, William seems to have decided to enforce this: it is only at this point that he starts claiming to be ‘Count of Auvergne’, and his name starts appearing in Brioude’s charters. Interestingly, Stephen was also at the meeting, and appears to have had read there a royal diploma for some of his clients; this no longer survives, but I wonder if we might not take it as a sign that William and Stephen were negotiating for how power in the Auvergne would be divided between them?

Anyway, Hugh died in 956 as I said, and the situation changed dramatically. And that’s where we’ll leave it for today, and indeed for this year. This is the last post up before Christmas, and I’m off to relax and unwind after a full and busy year of working, international moves and, not least, blogging. We’ll be back in the New Year. In the meantime, I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy 2018!