Top 10 Charters: The House Selection, pt. 2

We’ve already covered the first half of the #top10charters list I put up on Facebook a couple of months ago; so without any further ado, let’s get on with the second half!

No. 5: Robert of Neustria to Saint-Martin of Tours, 892.

‘I’m supposed to steal the property of Saint-Martin and the brothers and hurt my soul for three shields?’

Roman Deutinger is sceptical of the authenticity of this charter. I’m not: his reasons basically boil down to ‘it’s weird, and it doesn’t look like a trial record’, to which I would respond ‘it’s not that weird, and that’s because it isn’t one’. It’s a notice wherein the brother of Saint-Martin and advocate Adalmar of whom we have spoken go and get some land of Saint-Martin of their abbot Robert; it’s interesting institutionally, and it’s got some nice echoes of personality in it.

No. 4: Richard the Fearless to Saint-Denis, 968.

‘Wherefore let the provident industry of both peoples, to wit, the Franks and the Normans, know…’

This is the foundational document of Norman identity. I’d write more about it, but as it happens I’ve already done that at length elsewhere, so you can read that if this interests you.

No. 3: Louis IV to Saint-Remi of Rheims, 953.

‘…the most blessed bishop, who was specially bestowed by God on Our royal bloodline as a pastor and patron…’

The middle of the tenth century was a crucial time of change for West Frankish kingship. Briefly, after about 920 everything went to hell and stayed there for about thirty years. It took Louis IV his entire reign, quite a lot of desperate improvisation, and in the end the help of some absolutely vast Ottonian armies to establish his throne on solid ground, and when he did so its ideological basis was distinctly different. Key here was the see of Rheims, and this charter exemplifies that, drawing links between the Carolingian bloodline (which is otherwise unusual), the patron saint of Rheims, Remigius, and the office of king.

It also has links to a diploma of Otto I issued at around the same time, linking the three protagonists – Carolingians, Ottonians, and the see of Rheims – together in an ideological framework which reinforces the hegemonic role of the Ottonian kings in stabilising West Frankish kingship.

No. 2: Charles the Simple to Saint-Denis, 917.

‘…similarly let them carry out my memorial, and the memorial of my dead wife Frederuna…’

Rather like no. 4, I’ve already written about this elsewhere. Suffice to say, it is the greatest love story of the entire century.

No. 1: Odo I of Blois-Chartres-Tours to Bourgueil, 995.

‘…and unless he repents, let him join Nero and Diocletian and Julian the Apostate and those who followed them as persecutors of martyrs in the eternal fires of Gehenna’

Coming from the same tradition as number 6, this charter, purely and simply, validates my whole approach to these documents, by proving that questions of legitimacy mattered enough to fight over, and being one of the few direct responses to ideological claims by lay magnates. That legitimacy mattered should, you’d think, be self-evident, but apparently not: I have been told, by a senior scholar as well, that no-one in the tenth century cared about legitimating their power because they were all bloodthirsty warlords who only spoke the guttural tongue of violence.

But no! The situation here is fairly simple. Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, and Odo I of Blois-Chartres-Tours were fighting for dominance in Brittany. In the year 992, Fulk had fought a battle with Count Conan of Rennes at a place called Conquereuil, and massacred him and his army. This was a big deal – killing Christians was never seen as a good thing, and was increasingly frowned on at this time. Thus, when, two years later, Fulk’s castle at Langeais was besieged by Conan’s patron Odo, before setting off to defend it, Fulk issued a charter ‘in penitence for the exceedingly great slaughter of Christians which happened on the plain at Conquereuil’, evidently issued in order to gain divine favour before the siege.

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The author explaining all this at the tenth-century donjon of Langeais, which still survives.

The siege of Langeais lasted for some time, beginning in or around May or June and continuing into the next year. Things got desperate for Fulk, sufficiently desperate that he offered to surrender to Odo. These terms, as recorded in the history of Richer of Rheims, were humiliating: Fulk offered to pay compensation for the death of Odo’s ally Conan of Rennes, to give service to Odo, and to pledge his son to Odo’s service. However, news reached Fulk that reinforcements were coming, and he withdrew the terms. After this, and almost certainly in response to it, Odo issued this charter.

In it, there is one key clause in the charter which demonstrates that the siege of Langeais was an ideological as well as a literal battleground. Odo threatens violators of his grant thusly: ‘let him be associated in the flames of eternal gehenna with Nero and Diocletian and Julian the Apostate and their followers as persecutors of martyrs.’ This formula is unique in tenth-century France, and it is a directly and unsubtle attack on Fulk Nerra: Fulk was a killer of Christians, Fulk was an insincere penitent, Fulk would not get the salvation he claimed.

The greatest princes of tenth-century France, then, were sufficiently concerned about justifying their rule to go beyond simple school-bully tactics. They developed and contested ideological claims, going beyond simple coercion to develop strategies of legitimacy which not only existed, but mattered. For Odo, denying Fulk the moral high ground was as important as denying him the literal high ground.

Top 10 Charters: The House Selection, pt. 1

Well, my list of the #top10charters has now come to an end, so here and in an upcoming post I’ll list them for posterity, and for those of you not following me on Twitter. It was a fun little experiment. What makes a charter top ten material is wildly subjective: some of them show interesting things about the way documents were used, others about specific historical moments, others about longer-term trends; some were the most elevated of politics, and others snapshots of individual life. Into this latter category falls:

No. 10: Adalelm the knight donates some land and a silver crucifix to the abbey of Fleury, 975.

“… I offer to our Lord and Saviour… an exquisite silver cross… with the wish and desire that He who, by his death hanging on the wood of the Cross, destroyed death and defeated the Devil might deign to wipe out the weight of my crimes…”

It goes without saying that the Cross has always been important for Christians, and this was no less true for tenth-century Christians. The abbots of Saint-Martin of Tours – who, by 975, had also been the Robertian rulers of Neustria for almost a century, and whose contemporary representative Hugh Capet was Adelelm’s lord and hosted the assembly at which this gift was made – had as one of the key visual representations of their authority the fact that they signed their documents, explicitly, with the sign of the Holy Cross. Nonetheless, Adalelm is doing something interesting here. He’s participating in a renewed Cross-focused spirituality, and he’s also picking up on an artistic trend for making large, monumental crucifixes, which at this time were becoming more common in the Ottonian empire. This was quite important for the Church in the area around Orléans – this 975 charter is actually the first evidence for monumental crucifixes in the Orleanais. And it was pretty substantial – thanks to a later description of it, it seems likely that this cross was made of about ten kilos of silver.

In light of the solemnity of the occasion, the charter offers a meditation on the role of the Cross in the salvation of mankind, and it’s this which makes it worthy of a spot on this list. The role of charters was to communicate information, but this information wasn’t just legal. A charter was as much a sermon as a notification of donation – in the charter, Adalelm communicates to the audience not just that he’s given Fleury some holy bling and land near Sens, but why he’s done it and how the sacrifice of Jesus works for him and the whole world.

No. 9: Albert III of Habsburg donates a hunting horn to the abbey of Muri, 1199.

“Let everyone who sees this horn know that Count Albert… enriched this horn with sacred relics…”

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Photo by author.

As the picture indicates, this is not a single sheet of parchment, or a cartulary copy of a text. This is in fact an ivory horn. But it is no less a charter – the text inscribed on it uses the formulae of charters, albeit in this case of a short charter. What’s particularly interesting about this one is that the donation and the text recording it are identical. This isn’t how we use documents nowadays, but it was much more common in the earlier medieval period. At least in some cases, the issuance of a (parchment) charter text served itself as a symbol of the donation, aiding in the performance of handing over property from one party to another. This horn is probably the epitome of this way of using the written word.

No. 8: Robert of Neustria donates land to the abbey of Saint-Denis, 923.

“…by divine clemency, because the situation made it necessary, with the support of all the princes, We took up the sceptre of royal majesty to steer the ship of the kingdom…”

This is the only charter on this list that isn’t important to me because of work I’ve done on it, but rather because, if it weren’t for Geoffrey Koziol’s work on this charter, I’d never have worked on any of the others. We’ve mentioned here before how Robert of Neustria rose in rebellion against Charles the Simple; and, as Koziol, demonstrates very clearly, this document is not simply a donation, but a manifesto very specifically justifying Robert’s actions and his claim to the throne. I don’t agree with everything Koziol says, but his article is fantastic.

 

No. 7: Geoffrey Grisegonelle confirms his reformation of Saint-Aubin d’Angers, 966.

“…so that the mercy of the pious Redeemer might be well-disposed to concede His help and aid to me, Geoffrey, caught up in the whirlwinds of worldly wars…”

I’m going to be a bit less fulsome with these last two. Here, it’s because I wrote about this charter for my thesis and when that eventually becomes a book, this document is going to feature prominently; so, you know, spoiler warning…

What I will say about it is, whatever my own very particular theories, this charter commemorates what may be the single most cynical ‘reform’ of a monastery in the tenth century. Saint-Aubin had been ruled by Geoffrey’s ancestors as count of Anjou as lay abbots, but by the 960s it was under the rule of his brother Guy, who might have been a cleric but probably wasn’t a monk. A very strange charter exists in which Guy appears to say that he tried and failed to be a good abbot, and so turned it over to monks out of Saint-Remi de Rheims. However, Geoffrey appears to have used the opportunity to assert his control over the abbey, and Geoffrey’s son Fulk Nerra even more so: the counts of Anjou appear to have disposed of Saint-Aubin’s land to reward their own followers. This lack of interest in reform for its own sake comes through in the document itself: ‘Supposedly,’ Geoffrey says,  ‘monasticism flourished in the monastery once upon a time; but because there’s no obvious proof, We don’t care whether it flourished or not’.

No. 6: Liutgard of Vermandois and Godeleva make a bequest of land to the abbey of Saint-Père de Chartres, 979.

“I myself, and another woman dedicated to God, Godeleva by name, joined to me in both body and soul…”

This one I won’t say anything about at all, because I have promised a whole blog post about the Lesbian Nun Property Magnate Commune of Chartres before, and by thunder, a whole blog post you will get… Possibly soon, although not this week. The week after is a possibility, though. Also, I’ll be posting part 2 of this countdown soon, outside my normal schedule for posts – so stay tuned!

Charter Top Tens: The Sunny South

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@ralphtorta *winks*) probably already know that, this week, I’ve been listing my Top 10 charters. This has provoked a little response, because, as one might expect, my favourite charters (almost) all come from my research period and area, that is, tenth-century northern France. However, the world of charters is vast and endlessly fascinating, and as evidence of that Thomas Lecaque (@tlecaque) posted his own list of documents from Languedoc. So this week’s blog will be something of the text equivalent of a response video*, as I talk about what struck me about these documents as an outsider to the area. I won’t respond to them all, but I will list them all – let’s get started.

10: ARTEM no. 3960, Bernard of Peyrolles to the Holy Sepulchre, 1060: http://www.cn-telma.fr/originaux/charte3960/.

What struck me is that Bernard doesn’t give directly to Jerusalem, but to Rodez cathedral, instructing Dieudonné Bordet, the sacristan, to send the Holy Sepulchre itself a cash sum each year. This might not be a banking network, but at the least it’s an indication that people think you can move money over long distances reliably enough for it to be worth doing.

9. Cartulaire de Saint-Sernin no. 133, a notice of the end of the quarrel between the canons of Saint-Sernin and Saint-Etienne de Toulouse, 1076/7: http://www.cn-telma.fr/chartae-galliae/charte217764/.

Here, the elderly bishop of Lectoure, Raymond Ebo, wants to go to Jerusalem on pilgrimage, but has to resolve a dispute over some land he holds: in addition to being bishop, he is prior of Saint-Etienne, but holds the land from Saint-Sernin, so both sets of canons claim the land. I have to say I don’t agree with one element of Thomas’ comments here:

I’m not sure Raymond Ebo’s role here is much of a problem… As the cartulary of Saint-Florent de Saumur amongst many others could show, reformed monks are no strangers to petty litigiousness, and Raymond Ebo’s links within Toulouse do actually have enough pull to get a settlement to stick, at least temporarily. Which, as an old man wanting the kids to shut up long enough to go on pilgrimage, is presumably all he wanted…

8. Cartulaire de Saint-Sernin, no. 546, Count William IV of Toulouse and Bishop Isarn of Toulouse permitting Peter Benedict to set up a hospital, 1075-1078: http://www.cn-telma.fr/chartae-galliae/charte218192/

7. Cartualire de Saint-Sernin, no. 291, Count William IX of Poitou and his wife Philippa to Saint-Sernin, 1098: http://www.cn-telma.fr/chartae-galliae/charte217926/

I have nothing to add to this, but it’s great.

6. BNF MS Lat. 9189 fol. 25v, Raymond of Saint-Gilles to Lezat, c. 1058: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b525024870/f422.image

Thomas highlights the apocalyptic rhetoric here, and the introductory phrase ‘appropinquante etenim mundi termino et ruinis crescentibus’ (For the end of the world draws nigh, and desolation groweth) in the context of the apocalypticism of Raymond of Saint-Gilles’ Crusade army. I’m more interested by his implication this formula is rare in the Languedoc, because it’s incredibly common in the north – this implies, at the very least, something about the transmission of documentary forms southwards…

5. ARTEM no. 2676, Pons, Geoffrey and Bertrand to Raymond of Saint-Gilles, 1103: http://www.cn-telma.fr/originaux/charte2767/

Ooh, vernacular text!

4. ARTEM no. 3841, Roger II of Foix to Fredelas, 1111: http://www.cn-telma.fr/originaux/charte3841/

Again, I’m not sure about the interpretation of reform here. By comparison, Robert of Neustria makes a similar restoration of property to Saint-Martin in 900, but it’s presented as his own initiative; that Roger highlights the papal role in the restoration indicates how far the papacy has managed to infiltrate discourse by the early twelfth century.

(Also, I like how the ‘comes Fuxensis’ gives no Fux.)

3. ARTEM no. 2443, Gerard I of Roussillon makes his will: http://www.cn-telma.fr/originaux/charte2443/

2. Arles, BM 1242, f. 55v, no. lx, Prior Peter of Arles exchanges lands with two Jews, 1008: http://www.cn-telma.fr/chartae-galliae/charte251699/

There are some royal diplomas in favour of early tenth-century Narbonne which repeat each time the same phrase about how the Jews aren’t paying their taxes to the archbishop’s men, which implies either a scribe wasn’t paying attention or that he had the least efficient tax collectors in the world. (Or, y’know, that the text of these things doesn’t alwaysnecessarily matter; but that’s another argument.)

1. HGL no. 365/CCXCVII, Peter of Melgueil donates his entire county to the papacy, 1085: https://archive.org/stream/histoiregnra05viccuoft#page/n396/mode/1up

Wow. This is indeed a great one to finish on – to me, whose ideas of ‘normal’ political behaviour are based on the mid-tenth century, by the point someone’s donating a whole county to the Pope, there’s definitely been a discursive shift, and this is fascinating evidence of that; as well as the shift from the position of count being an office to being a possession – I don’t think a late Carolingian count would even have conceived of their county as being something they could give to anyone, let alone the pope!

Also interesting is that Peter donates the bishopric of Maguelonne (episcopatum Magalonensem). I don’t know if episcopatum has some other meaning in the south, but how’s that for ‘Church in the hands of the laity’?

Anyway, thanks to Thomas for posting that – he’s certainly illustrated the great richness of southern French charters!

I’ll be posting a list of and commentary on my own picks once the countdown is finished, over the weekend. But if you’re reading this and you have your own nominations for #top10charters, then please do put them up with the hashtag – if I can think of things to say about them, I might do this whole ‘response’ idea again…

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