The Church of Utrecht between Vikings and Carolingians

If we were to examine the tapestry of Carolingian history around 858, we’d see some arresting images: a Northman plying the salt-way to reclaim his birthright; two warring brothers, fighting over the west; a young king plotting how to rejoin his true love. Somewhere in the bottom corner, there’s be one further image which might catch our attention: a bishop fleeing his ruined cathedral city for the refuge of a secure monastery further inland. This is Bishop Hunger, and we’ve already briefly met his alleged flight from the viking menace when we talked about the Church in Frisia. It’s an important episode to discuss, because it’s the single strongest pillar holding up the case that there was really serious, long-term viking-led disruption. Today, though, I’m going to argue that this episode has been misinterpreted. I’m not the first person to try this: a Dutch historian named Tuuk has also made the attempt, although I think they go too far in trying to argue that Lothar II’s diploma awarding Hunger the refuge-abbey of Sint Odiliënberg is a forgery. Instead, what’s happening here has a lot less to do with serial devastation by raiders, and a lot more to do with overlapping spheres of high politics.

Let’s start with what’s been happening in the Carolingian world. Thanks to Sam, we’ve got a reasonable sense of the politics of the early 850s (although his interpretation and mine are not entirely overlapping). To summarise: after the partition of Louis the Pious’ empire at Verdun in 843, the normal situation was for Charles the Bald and Louis the German (who had made a sworn alliance against their eldest brother at Strasbourg in 842) to co-operate, whilst Charles and Lothar I’s relations varied from cool hostility to outright conflict. However, by the end of the 840s this changed. Lothar and Charles began to grow closer in the face of a different branch, of sorts, of their family. The viking leader Guthfrith Haraldsson was Lothar’s godson, and in the early 850s he launched a major attack on the Seine, to which Charles and Lothar made a joint response. However, Louis the German perceived this rapprochement between his brothers as breaking the Strasbourg Oaths, and he grew angry. He also began cultivating dissident nobles from his brothers’ kingdoms, most obviously rebellious Aquitanians; but he also met some of Lothar’s magnates in Cologne in 852. In 854, his cultivation of the former group paid off in the form of an invitation to make himself king of Aquitaine. Louis sent his second son Louis the Younger into the area in his stead, to limited success. The following year, in 855, Lothar I died after a relatively short illness. He divided up his realm: the destiny of Italy, under the rule of his eldest son Louis II since Louis the Pious’ reign, was settled; but now his son Lothar II was to inherit Francia and his other son the young Charles of Provence was to inherit the kingdom which would provide his nickname. This division left Louis II out, and he was furious about not inheriting anything north of the Alps. A group of Lothar I’s magnates present Lothar II to Louis the German at Frankfurt to get his approbation for the young monarch, which was duly provided. However, in 856 a meeting at Orbe between Lothar I’s sons resulted in Lothar II being forced to actually hand Provence over to Charles rather than having him consecrated as a cleric. Over the course of the following couple of years, Lothar II renewed Lothar I’s alliance with Charles, developed tense relations with Louis the German, and handed over more of his kingdom to his brothers (Bellay and Tarantaise to Charles of Provence in 858, the whole Transjurane to Louis II in 859). Louis’ relationship with Charles also deteriorated, and in 858 he launched an invasion of the West Frankish kingdom. The invasion failed, and in 859 Louis withdrew. In the wake of his withdrawal, Charles’ and Lothar II’s bishops held a series of interlinked councils at Savonnières and Tusey to condemn the invasion and try and restore some kind of familial and political order to the Frankish world. 

The second thread we need to follow takes us across the Heligoland Bight to Denmark. Compared to the Danish kingdom, Frankish politics seems calm and relaxed. We have looked previously at the complicated and mostly violent conflicts over the Danish throne, but since the late 830s it had been under the overkingship of Horic I, a son of Charlemagne’s old enemy King Godefrid. As we saw in our previous post, in 850 there was a civil war in the Danish kingdom. Horic was forced to partition the kingdom with two of his nephews, and other candidates also tried to make their play for the crown, notably Guthfrith Haraldsson and Roric of Dorestad. Both men launched major raids in 850 after long periods of quiescence. Instability persisted, and in 855 an even bloodier civil war broke out. Horic, along with his co-kings and most other members of the royal families present, was killed in battle. A new regime coalesced around the child-king Horic II, but it still looked very vulnerable. Roric tried to become king twice, once in 855 and once (more successfully) in 857. Horic II’s reign lasted into the mid-860s, but it seems to have been fragile; he, alongside most Latin references to a Danish kingdom, disappears after 864.

Our final thread of events relates to Frisia itself and political developments there. Following the partition at Verdun, Frisia was most probably split between Lothar I’s portion and Louis the German’s. At this point, the most important figures in southern Frisia were Bishop Alberic of Utrecht and probably Roric of Dorestad, who had been given Dorestad in benefice sometime in the reign of Louis the Pious. However, in the mid-840s Alberic died. His replacement, Bishop Eginhard, appears in a royal diploma of 845 as vocatus episcopus – ‘bishop-elect’, roughly – and seems never to have been consecrated. Ultimately, in 850, Alberic’s brother Liudger succeeded to the see. A little before, Roric had been accused (seemingly falsely) of treachery to Lothar, and had fled to Saxony. In 850, he, along with Guthfrith Haraldsson, gathered a large fleet and plundered Frisia and the surrounding area, forcing Lothar to re-grant him Dorestad and the surrounding regions. It seems to have been a fairly large benefice, stretching from near modern Haarlem almost to the current border between the Netherlands and Germany. Moreover, Guthfrith got no part of it, and led the fleet to the Seine as noted above. He was eventually granted land by Charles the Bald, but abandoned it in 855 when he and Roric left to make their bid for the Danish throne. This decision may also have been prompted by Lothar I’s decision to place Frisia under the subordinate authority of Lothar II. Meanwhile, in 854 Liudger had died and been succeeded not by his relative the cathedral provost Kraft but by a deformed priest named Hunger. It was Hunger who was in post when, in 857, Roric left once more for Denmark and Betuwe and Dorestad were raided by other viking fleets. The following year, in 858, he fled to Sint Odiliënberg.

Sint Odiliënberg today (source)

With these three strands having been laid out, we can look at how they intertwine. After all, what we’ve seen just now is interaction between a set of individuals and groups with mutually interconnected histories going back decades, sharing diverse links of fidelity and kinship (both biological and spiritual) cross-cutting ethnic lines and political borders. Thus, looking at where Utrecht fits into North Sea politics considered as a whole gives us a different picture. So far as we can see, Utrecht’s early ninth-century bishops had been supporters of Lothar I. However, bishoprics, especially frontier bishoprics like Utrecht, were fragile places. For instance, Bishop Eginhard of Utrecht could not be consecrated because Utrecht’s metropolitan see, the archbishopric of Cologne, spent the whole 840s torn between Louis the German’s candidate and Lothar’s. It is therefore significant that Bishop Liudger was not succeeded by his relative Kraft but by Hunger, a priest who may have been out of favour under Liudger’s administration. The roughly contemporary Vita Odulfi says that Kraft refused to stand because he thought amassing personal wealth would make him a target for vikings. Given that – from charter evidence – Kraft was clearly being set up as Liudger’s successor in his predecessor’s lifetime, this reads a bit like a modern politician retiring ‘to spend more time with their family’. Hunger’s first actions as bishop are relevant here. In 854, he got Utrecht’s immunity renewed – by Louis the German. This was no simple administrative matter. It was a public declaration of Louis’ authority over Hunger and his church. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to see Hunger as the representative of a pro-Louis faction who staged a putsch in the Utrecht church and actualised his bonds with his Carolingian patron. This was no petty matter. When factions in his brothers’ kingdoms reached out to Louis the German in the mid-850s, he did not send them away with pretty words and a gift certificate. In 854, as he issued his diploma for Utrecht, he was in the midst of trying to take Aquitaine from Charles the Bald by main force. A couple of years later, after Lothar I’s death, he seems to have tried to annexe another frontier bishopric, Strasbourg. And, of course, in early 858 he launched the largest-scale invasion of one Carolingian realm by another Carolingian ever seen outside of succession crises. If someone in Lothar II’s kingdom was trying to win Louis the German’s support, in other words, there were good reasons for him to be worried. This was less important in the very early years of Lothar II’s reign, when he and his followers were trying to cultivate Louis’ benevolent oversight. However, after Lothar II’s failure to hold on to the whole of Lothar I’s Cisalpine inheritance at Orbe, the young king abandoned the attempt and, as we saw, renewed his father’s alliance with Charles the Bald. This could have painted a target on his back. Meanwhile on the viking front, Roric had done a relatively effective job of defending southern Frisia, with only one raid (in 851) recorded after 850. However, after 855 he was an active participant in the civil war in Denmark. It may thus be significant that southern Frisia is recorded as having been attacked in 857. That very year, Roric intervened in the Danish civil war, taking over ‘the land between the Eider and the sea’ (probably southern Schleswig). This would inevitably have made him, too, a target; and what the Annals of Saint-Bertin gestures vaguely towards as random raiding may well have been a targeted act of intra-Danish political violence. If all this is so, what we have is not poor clergy fleeing wicked Northmen, but the intersection of two sets of frontier conflicts. The viking plundering of Dorestad and Betuwe, in this reading, was not in fact a massive disruption, but it gave Lothar II an opportunity to compel Hunger and his clergy out of Utrecht and into the wilds of the diocese of Liège, easier to oversee and to control: in short, he was hiding sharp political practice and probably hostility under a false smile and a pretence of generosity.


Charter A Week 38: Paganism and Response in Normandy

Huh, I guess we’re getting to Normandy earlier than I’d anticipated. Anyway, we saw a few weeks ago that one of the criticisms levelled at the early Normans was that they were disloyal to their new Christian faith. This wasn’t just polemic (although it was definitely also polemic). Archbishop Guy of Rheims – probably the only bishop left in post in early tenth-century Normandy – was also having problems. He apparently wrote a panicked letter to his neighbour Archbishop Heriveus of Rheims, who in turn wrote to Pope John X, who, in his turn, wrote back:

PU no. 38 (914) = JL no. 3553

Bishop John, servant of the servants of God, to Our most reverend confrere Heriveus, archbishop of Rheims.

Very freely receiving the honey-sweet letters of Your Fraternity and Your Reverend Sanctity and very diligently considering them, We became both very sad and fiercely joyful. To explain: We grieved over such calamities and such pressures and difficulties as have befallen your region (as the statement of your letters made plain), not only from pagans, but also from Christians. We rejoiced, though, over the race of the Northmen, which has been converted, by the inspiration of divine clemency, to the faith. Once it delighted to prowl in search of human blood, but now, by your exhortations, with the Lord’s co-operation, it rejoices that it is redeemed and to have drunk of the divine blood of Christ. For this, We give tremendous and profuse thanks to Him from whom all which is good comes forth, submissively entreating that He might confirm them in the firmness of true faith and cause them to know the glory of the eternal Trinity and lead them in to the unspeakable joy of His visage.

Now, concerning what should be done about those things which Your Fraternity has made known to Us – that is, what should be done with those who are baptised and re-baptised, and live like pagans after baptism, killing Christians, butchering priests and sacrificing to idols and eating to the sacrifices after the pagan custom – those who are not novices in the faith should be tried by the full force of canonical judgement.

As for those who are unwrought in the faith, We commit them entirely to the scales of your judgement to be tried. You have this people near your borders, and you are better placed than anyone to diligently attend to and recognize both their habits and acts and way of life. This, though, should be done gently. Your Industry knows full well what the sacred canons judge decree for them. But it should not come to pass that the unaccustomed burdens which they carry should seem, God forbid, unbearable to them. They will fall back to the former man of their old life, whom they had improved, owing to the plots of the Ancient Enemy. If some, however, are found amongst them who prefer to soften themselves in accordance with the canonical statutes and expiate such sins as they have committed by worthy laments, do not hesitate to judge these people canonically; being in this way being vigilant towards them in everything, so that when you come before the tribunal of the Eternal Judge with the manifold fruit of souls, you may deserve to gain eternal joy with the blessed Remigius.

On another note, We received the gift which Your Sanctity deigned to send to Us, with that love and affection with which you sent it. May Divine Majesty grant you and all who are subject to you such a life in this world as, by the intercession of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, might loose the chains of all your sins and lead you to the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven without any offence.

We bid Your Sanctity farewell, and to intercede for Us with pious supplications before the most pious of Lords.

This image, which is a Swedish tapestry from the c12th, may or may not have much to do with what c10th vikings believed; but as I upload this I’m in a rush and it’s a pretty picture. (source

The conversion of the Northmen to Christianity was a long-term project, and from the mid-910s we have not only John’s letter to Heriveus but also Heriveus’ letter to Archbishop Guy of Rouen, giving him advice and excerpts from the canons about various disciplinary issues. Lying behind much of this is Gregory the Great, and especially his letter to St Augustine of Canterbury giving similar advice about newly-converted pagans; and both Heriveus and John advise a tread-lightly approach.

One thing which I don’t think scholars have previously picked up on: I don’t think this letter is entirely about converts. At the beginning of the letter, John refers to disturbances in northern Neustria wreaked by Christians as well as pagans, and although there is something of a trope about this, we know it happened. If you remember Bernard of Gothia, one of the three Bernards, his brother Imino was accused of plundering the area around Évreux in a Viking-like fashion by Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims.

In this light, I don’t think John is simply drawing a distinction between more- and less-experienced converts to Christianity. It seems to me that he’s giving Guy and Heriveus carte blanche to deal with ‘those who are not novices in the faith’ – which could mean long-time converts but could also mean those who were born to it – as they would with anyone who raided or despoiled Church property. It is even possible that there was some ‘conversion’ the other way, from Christianity to paganism; or, at the very least, that northern Neustrian Christians didn’t object to eating meat which had been sacrificed to pagan gods, and that this was also a problem for the two archbishops. (In the ninth century, Pippin II of Aquitaine had been accused of living like a Northman and it is clear that this was a major problem in the Frankish world.)

In short, this letter does not only testify to the canny, long-term conversion strategies of those in charge of winning the Neustrian Norse for Christianity. It also testifies to the problems besetting the future Normandy at this point – even if the king could dispose of property there, there were evidently major disruptions.

Charter a Week 27, part 1: Robert’s Back!

The split between Robert and Charles didn’t last forever. In 903, the Neustrian ruler was back in the West Frankish king’s good graces. Quite why then is a little bit open to question. My preferred answer is that there are hints in the sources that 903 was a time when Viking attacks were starting up again – in that year, Tours was burned down by two leaders named Bard and Eric – and Charles, being basically unable to lead an army out of a wet paper bag, needed his most experienced anti-Viking commander to help. This doesn’t really explain why he wouldn’t turn to Richard, who had form fighting Vikings as well, but it’s the best answer I’ve got. Another possibility is that the death of Charles’ mother Queen Adelaide in around 902 had opened the way to reconciliation. But what did the reconciliation look like?

DD CtS no. 47 (5th June 903, Melay) = ARTEM no. 3043 = DK 6.xiv

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by the gracious favour of divine clemency king.

If We pay heed to the petitions of servants of God and things advantageous to churches, and bring them into effect, We are confident that the Lord will make repayment for it.

Therefore, let the profit and skill of people both present and future know that the venerable Count Robert, truly beloved of Us, abbot of the monastery of the holy martyr of Christ, the champion and Our special patron Dionysius and his companions came before Our Clemency and made known a certain little abbey in the realm of Our most beloved kinsman Louis, that is, Lièpvre in the Vosges, which the late venerable abbot Fulrad of the aforesaid monastery had bestowed on the most holy Dionysius and the brothers serving him by charters’ firmness and the authority of precepts; and which the aforesaid brothers had always held from then for their own uses with one salt-pan and one saline in the township of Marsal; and he humbly appealed to Our Clemency that We might deign to renew and confirm the aforesaid goods through a precept of Our authority against abbots to come, so that the brothers might be able to hold the aforesaid goods for all time without any disturbance or invasion or division from any abbot.

And thus, assenting to the prayers of the aforesaid Count Robert, in accordance with what is contained in the testament of the venerable abbot Fulrad and in the privilege of the apostolic lord Leo [III], We perpetually confirm by a precept of Our authority the aforesaid goods for the monks of the aforesaid monastery of Saint-Denis, both for food stipends and for the lighting and for the reception of the poor, reminding and invoking future abbots that they should guard inviolably what We have conceded and strengthened. May he who hears and observes this precept receive an eternal reward, but let anyone who violates it, if they do not come to their senses, remain bound by the chains of the anathema concerning the confirmed goods in the privilege of the apostolic lord Leo.

But that this precept, written after the fashion of a privilege, might be more truly believed and more fully observed, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it to be sealed by Our ring.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Ernust the notary related and subscribed on behalf of Bishop Anskeric [of Paris].

Given on the nones of June [5th June], in the 6th indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of Charles, most glorious of kings, in the 6th of his restoration of unity to the kingdom.

Enacted at the estate of Melay.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

CW 27 903
Original diploma taken from dMGH as above.

Once again, this charter has been analysed by Koziol, and in this instance he’s basically right. The Saint-Denis diploma came as the culmination of a series of acts for Robert (I didn’t translate them because there are some minor questions of authenticity over their surviving versions), where he was restored to Charles’ grace over the course of the Easter celebrations. The big difference between my reconstruction and Koziol’s is that I don’t think Robert had prior claim to any of the abbeys he received, so when Charles presented him with the major Parisian abbeys of Saint-Denis and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, these were bribes not restorations.

This diploma is also a reminder of how wide-spread these abbey’s resources were. When anyone talks to you about ‘narrowing horizons’ and ‘territorial consolidation’ in the tenth century then, well, they might have a point, but it’s evidently not in terms of the extent of landholding. As you can see if you click through to the map, the cell of Liepvre is in the middle of Alsace; but Robert has to take it into account along with the closer-to-home estates in the Paris Basin. Also interesting is that Charles apparently has no problems confirming an estate in Louis’ kingdom. Unlike when he did the same to Zwentibald, though, here Louis is marked as being the king and being, officially at least, well-regarded. The dynamics at play here are a little shadowy to me, honestly. Maybe it’s something as simple as Charles keeping his hand in re: claims to Lotharingia…

Charter a Week 24, Part 1: Making Allies in Northern Neustria

So far, Charles the Simple’s sole rule has being going reasonably well; in this year, 900, things kick off a bit. There were some major shake-ups at court. Baldwin Iron-Arm of Flanders, who’d been operating as a bit of a third party for most of the civil war, tried to get back in at court. His two local enemies, Archbishop Fulk of Rheims and Count Heribert I of Vermandois, both of whom were high up in court circles, opposed this; so Baldwin had Fulk murdered. No sooner had Charles lost his adopted father-figure to terrible violence than a meeting to determine what to do about Viking raids fell apart spectacularly: Manasses of Dijon, the right-hand man of Richard the Justiciar, apparently said something terrible to Robert of Neustria and so Robert stormed out of court, not to return for another three years.

That some naughty words led to a break of this length speaks to just how fractured things had got at the court. The leading figure of Charles’ reign, Fulk of Rheims, was dead; and with him went both a source of advice (although I question how good that advice always was) and the stability of having an obvious leading figure in the realm. Robert, who had played that role under Odo, may be at fault here: it could well be that the reason that Charles backed Richard and Manasses rather than Robert was that Robert was seen to be claiming something unduly. Robert, though, had been a prime mover in getting Charles on to the throne in the first place. Both William the Pious and Richard the Justiciar had waited to see if Robert would submit to Charles, something he apparently did without hesitation. Charles therefore needed to look for new allies and broaden his appeal.

DD CtS no. 35 (31st October 900, Fleury)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Charles, by ordinance of divine clemency king.

If We lend the ears of Our Serenity to the just petitions of Our followers and proffer assent to them, We are seen to imitate the custom of Our predecessors, to wit, Our relatives as king, and through this We do not doubt God will be favourable to Us and We enkindle their souls with devotion to Our fidelity.

Wherefore let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future as well, know that Our sweetest mother Adelaide and Our beloved kinsman Count Hugh [I of Maine], and as well the illustrious count Ecfrid [from around Artois], approaching the excellence of Our Dignity, humbly asked that We might deign to have made for the holy canons of the monastery of Saint-Pierre in which Saint Ebrulf rests in body, which is called Ouche, in the county of Hiémois, such a precept as might benefit them and their successors in future times, that is, that the estates which antiquity allotted to their uses and the goods named below which were given to the same place by the just desire of God-fearing people might by such a precept be joined to them and their church such that it might remain inviolable in perpetuity.

Finding their petition valid, We commanded this precept of Our Highness to be made and given to the brothers, through which We order and command that from this day forth these estates – to wit, in the county of Hiémois, the estate of Heugon, Le Pont, Neuville-sur-Touques, Merri, Mardilly, Villiers-en-Ouche, Bocquencé with Le Pont, Bailleul, the mount of Noyen-sur-Sarthe, Acquigny, Macé, Abrontinus, Le Breuil; in the county of Maine, in the vicariate of Joué-l’Abbé, the estate of Nuillé-le-Jalais, which Count Hugh and his mother Rothild gave to Saint-Evroult with all their dependencies; elsewhere, in the vicariate of Sougé-le-Ganelon, 4 quarterées at La Couture; 4 quarterées in Vallas and Gesne-le-Gandelin; in the vicariate of Beaufay, six manses in Bérus with everything beholden to them; in the estate which is called Mont, one manse with a vineyard, with 1 quarterées, which Isembard gave there; and one manse with 1 quarterées in that estate which Basoin gave there; in the estate which is called Crennes, one manse with a vineyard and outwith arable land which Ingelbald gave with all its things to the monastery of Saint-Evroult.

Let no abbot nor any power presume to grant absolutely or benefice anyone with these estates and goods. Rather, let the canons freely hold and canonically dispose of them.

And that this edict of Our precept or confirmation might obtain inviolable vigour, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be sealed by Our signet.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of kings.

Herluin the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Chancellor Anskeric [of Paris].

Given on the day before the kalends of November [31st October], in the third indiction, in the 3rd year of the restoration of the kingdom’s unity, in the reign of lord Charles, most glorious of kings.

Enacted at the monastery of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire.

Happily in the name of Christ, amen.

The abbey of Saint-Evroult, today in ruins (source)

Fleury is rather outside Charles’ usual itinerary. It’s also right in the middle of the Orléanais, a region which had been important under Odo and which historians usually assume was important under Robert as well; which it was, but probably not this early. Fleury is actually a major royal abbey situated at the border of the interests of William the Pious, Richard the Justiciar, Charles the Simple and Robert of Neustria, and Charles’ presence here must therefore be significant.

Just as significant is who he’s granting the diploma to. Hugh I of Maine is the son of Roger of Maine, whom Charles had probably backed in a dispute over possession of Le Mans in the 890s against a man named Gozlin, and Rothild, daughter of Charles the Bald and past supporter of Charles’ actions. By doing this, Charles is trying to build up his allies in northern Neustria, perhaps against Robert but perhaps in tandem with trying to win Robert back on side. By this point, the narrative sources have ended and won’t start up again until 919, so much of the next several months is going to be fairly speculative.

One final thing to note, though, is that the area around Saint-Évroult – in modern-day southern Normandy – is apparently fine. Whatever is going on with Viking raids in what is going to become Normandy, it evidently hasn’t yet got to the point where secular or ecclesiastical structures of governance and control have broken down.

Charter a Week 12: The “End of the Carolingian Empire”

We’re here! That legendary year 888, the all-caps Fall of the Carolingian Empire, a year of the succession crisis which SHOOK Frankish Europe to its very CORE and had mostly SHORT-TERM CONSEQUENCES with LITTLE IMPACT ON POLITICS OR POLITICAL CULTURE!

Yeah, I said it. Come at me, bro.

Background: things might have been looking relatively placid from our West Frankish perspective lately, but in the wider world, things weren’t so hot. Charles the Fat had systematically failed to produce a legitimate son – not a world-shattering problem in 880, when he was one of five living male Carolingians; but by 888, after a decade of unforeseen deaths in his family, he was the last one left, and had no obvious heir – or, rather, no obvious heir he wanted to recognise.

Of the four potential options, no-one seems to have considered the future Charles the Simple, a young child being fostered in Aquitaine. The emperor tried to have his own illegitimate son, named Bernard, acknowledged as heir by the pope, which didn’t work. He also may have adopted Louis the Blind as his heir – he certainly adopted him in some sense, and although it’s not clear what was intended, a very weird text known as the Vision of Charles the Fat suggests that Louis was being pushed by some people at least as an heir for the whole empire. (Most historians, it must be said, think that the vision dates from Louis’ coronation in 890 rather than from before 888. I don’t think this fits well into the circumstances of 890 and that there is at least a case that it should be dated earlier.)

In any case, the most obvious candidate was Charles the Fat’s illegitimate nephew Arnulf of Carinthia. Arnulf was an adult, a successful warrior, and had support amongst the aristocracy, particularly in his heartland of Bavaria. Yet Charles didn’t want to acknowledge him as heir, in great part because Arnulf had ended up rebelling against him in a series of events known as the Wilheminer War. Notker the Stammerer’s Life of Charlemagne, which is probably the most entertaining work of pseudo-history from the entire Carolingian era, was written not least to try and persuade Charles to stop ignoring Arnulf.

By November 887, two things had come together. First, one of Charles’ schemes to displace Arnulf looked like it would have some degree of success; and second, the emperor was very, very ill. At an assembly in Frankfurt, a group of East Frankish nobles launched a sudden coup to replace Charles with Arnulf. Charles was pensioned off to an estate where he died shortly thereafter – he was very, very ill – and Arnulf…

Arnulf hightailed it back to his powerbase, first to Bavaria then to Pannonia, not coming back west until May 888. In the meantime, things got very muddy very quickly. Arnulf had only been made king by the East Frankish nobility, and Charles the Fat actually hadn’t been deposed. When Charles died, and Arnulf tarried, it must have seemed unclear that Arnulf was even going to try to be king outside the eastern kingdom.

And so, over winter 887 and spring 888, a group of other kings sprang up. This, I think, was fundamentally compelled by necessity. The Franks needed kings, not least to lead their defence – at this time, the north of the West Frankish kingdom was subject to serious Viking attacks not least from the fallout of the 886 siege of Paris – and I think there was also an element of getting in there first – if your guy wasn’t crowned, then your rival’s might be. Hence the confusion over exactly how many kings there were going to be, and where they would rule. In the West, Odo of Paris faced off against both Ramnulf of Aquitaine (who didn’t make any claims to kingship stick) and Guy of Spoleto (who lost and went to Italy). In Italy, Guy fought against Berengar of Friuli. In the Middle Kingdom, Rudolph of Transjurane Burgundy had himself crowned king, largely it appears as a challenge to Arnulf. It’s clear from the degree of confusion that this was an unexpected scenario, and there was a lot of improvising going on, although I’ll be posting more about the fallout from this on Wednesday.

But, speaking of the now-king Rudolph, his kingdom is probably the one genuinely new development of 888. There are strong implications that Transjurane Burgundy was a defined unit before 888, but it had never been the centre of a kingdom. So let’s take a look at this new kingdom’s new king’s first diploma.

DD Burg no. 3 (10th June 888, Walperswil) = ARTEM no. 1796 = DK 9.xviii

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity. Rudolph, by favour of divine clemency king.

Since it behooves royal eminence that it should proffer beneficent attention towards its subjects and bring their just petitions to effect, it is above all befitting that it should clemently share its liberality with those who exert the promptest devotion in its service.

And through this let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God both present, that is, and future know that there came before the clemency of Our Magnitude Our sweetest and most beloved sister Adelaide, seeking and supplicating that We might through a precept of Our royal dignity concede to her for her lifetime the abbey of Romainmôtier, which was constructed in honour of the blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, and is sited in the county of Vaud; and that after her death she might have power to leave it to whichever of her heirs she wishes.

We received this petition with the deepest sincerity and through the authority which We have We bestow upon the same woman the said principal abbey of Romainmôtier for as long as she lives. When, moreover, God deigns to summon her from her body, let her have permission and by all means relinquish it to whomsoever of her heirs she might elect.

And that this Our largess might be held more firmly and be conserved undisturbedly for all time, We confirmed it below with Our hand and We order it be sealed with the impression of Our signet.

Sign of Rudolph, most pious of kings.

Berengar the notary witnessed on behalf of Archbishop and Chancellor Theodoric [of Besançon].

Given on the 4th ides of June [10th June], in the first year, with Christ propitious, of Rudolph, most pious of kings, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 888, in the 6th indiction.

Enacted at Walperswil(*).

Happily in the name of God, amen.

(*) The MGH editor is very firmly against Uabre villa being Walperswil and insists we simply don’t know where it is. Some modern scholars do still go with Walperswil so I’ve included it, but it shouldn’t be taken as a reliable identification.

cw 12 888
Rudolph’s diploma, taken from the Diplomata Karolinorum linked above.

This is very much improvised. The editor notes that the scribe appears to have come from the abbey of Saint-Maurice d’Agaune, where Rudolph was lay abbot and which lay at the centre of his power. The scribe clearly knew what royal diplomas looked like, and was trying to do it properly, but did not himself have any experience in writing the things, hence why the script looks a little off by the standards of regular royal acts. This is probably to be expected – none of the kings of 888 except Arnulf himself expected to be kings a year earlier, so it’s not as though they could have clerics practising for their inevitable moment of triumph.

This also makes sense in the context of Rudolph’s reign, because it’s not immediately clear where he was trying to be king of: he appears to have been made king once in Transjurane Burgundy and then again at Toul, before Arnulf came and attacked him, which suggests that he was trying for the whole of Lotharingia. This is a controversial point, but I lean towards thinking that, like Boso, Rudolph was in fact going for as much as he could get away with. Political geography was fairly fluid at this point, and no-one knew what the surviving kingdoms would eventually shake down as – in the west, for instance, Odo ending up as ruler of Aquitaine as well as the north was at the least not completely certain, thanks to Count Ramnulf; had things gone really badly for Rudolph, Transjurane Burgundy could have been a similar blip.

Consequently, it’s very interesting that the diploma is for Rudolph’s sister Adelaide. Adelaide had probably been married to Richard the Justiciar since the early 880s, and Richard’s connections were quite far-spread: his family had interests in Lotharingia which his son Boso of Vitry would pick up, Richard himself had ties in various places in Burgundy, and – as we’ll be seeing in a few weeks – he was very intimately involved in the early days of Louis the Blind’s regime. We’ve seen before that in this region, things can be very fluid and cross-border activity is the norm rather than the exception. What this diploma looks like, then, is trying to bring Adelaide on side, and through her all her marital family’s links, in order to try and build a wide-ranging network of support for Rudolph’s kingship bid.

This is particularly interesting if Uabre villa is, as several historians have suggested, near Toul – in that case, it becomes particularly intimately tied to Lotharingian politics in a way which, although it didn’t work out in the long term, suggests that Rudolph was making a very serious try to push his kingdom’s boundaries north.

Charter a Week 10: The Robertians

It’s time to introduce another important member of our cast of characters. By late 886, Hugh the Abbot, ruler of Neustria and dominating figure in West Frankish politics, was dead. His command passed to the son of its original ruler Robert the Strong: Odo, count of Paris. Odo’s rise to command the Neustrian March was by no means inevitable. After his father’s death, Charles the Bald had taken his father’s remaining honores away from Odo and his brother Robert – neither of whom can have been terribly old at the time – and they went to live with their relatives in the Rhineland, where Odo can be seen with his uncle Megingoz I of Wormsgau giving land to Lorsch in 876. Megingoz died in around 880, which might have been the impetus for Odo to move back west. Frankly, the beginnings of Odo’s career are very shady: how a relative/client of an East Frankish count went from being a no-one in 876 to being count of Paris in 882 is open to speculation.

But hey, I love speculation! One interesting piece of evidence is an interpolated diploma which can be dated to summer 884, probably in the general area of Worms or Metz, which features a Count Robert as intercessor. This Robert is identified by historians as a) Odo’s brother Robert of Neustria and b) count of Namur, for reasons I in the first case don’t really understand and in the second case think is a dubious assumption – to wit, that because the document deals with land in the area, Robert must have been count there. However, if the identification of Count Robert as Robert of Neustria is correct, then that might be Odo’s in – Robert of Neustria used his family connections to become a count, and then, when Charles the Fat took over the West Frankish kingdom, the emperor was able to appoint the brother of one of his more conspicuously loyal Lotharingian followers to the important stronghold of Paris. This requires Odo’s appointment to be in 885 rather than 882, but we have no solid evidence pinning him to Paris until that year anyway. (It also implies although doesn’t require that Robert is Odo’s older brother rather than vice-versa; but historians are always very quick to assume that the most successful brother is also the oldest. See also Ralph of Burgundy, although I think in that case his not necessarily being the eldest brother is rather easier to make a case for.)

Anyway, in 885 Odo became the West Frankish celebrity count. That year, a huge Viking army besieged Paris, and Odo, Bishop Gozlin of Paris (who died during the siege), Abbot Ebalus of Saint-Denis, and Gozlin’s eventual successor Anskeric led the Frankish resistance, which was eventually successful, although it took over until 886 for Charles to lead an army to relieve the city.

Some Carolingian soldiers, from the Golden Psalter of St Gallen (source)

In the aftermath, and with Hugh the Abbot having meanwhile died, Charles granted Odo the Neustrian March. Odo was Charles’ favourite in the West Frankish kingdom.

DD CtF no. 143 (27th October 886, Paris)

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

If We clemently lend the ears of Our Imperial Dignity to the petitions of servants of God and Our followers, and We furnish the work of Our Munificence for their advantage, We little doubt that this will benefit Us both in the state of Our empire and in the reward of perpetual repayment.

And so, let the industry of all Our followers, to wit, present and future, know that one of Our followers, Count Odo, made known to the highness of Our Dignity how, by a tenancy agreement, the venerable abbot the late Hugh [the Abbot], that is, Our dearest kinsman, with the consent of the canons of Saint-Aignan [d’Orléans], gave to certain venerable bishops, Archbishop Adalald [of Tours] and also the brother of the same, Bishop Raino [of Angers] a certain estate named Aschères-le-Marché, in the district of Orléanais, in the vicariate of Lion-en-Beauce, with all its appendages and goods appertaining to it, by a tenancy agreement as We said; and in recompense for the same service, they gave from their own goods to Saint-Aignan and to the same Abbot Hugh and the canons dwelling in the abbey 7 manses with bondsmen of both sexes, with a chapel constructed therein in honour of the mother of God Mary, such that as long as the aforesaid bishops lived, they should hold and possess everything , all the same goods, to wit, the estate of Aschère and the estate of Bracieux, where the aforesaid 7 manses are located, in the district of Blésois in the vicariate of Huisseau-sur-Cosson, quietly, on the condition that they pay each year 5 silver solidi for the lighting of Saint-Aignan, and in addition that they should pay the tithes from the demesne labour and from the demesne vineyards and from the corvées to the canons of the aforesaid Saint-Aignan, for the hospice of the same saint.

They appealed to the serenity of Our Highness on this matter, that We might deign to confirm it through a precept of Our authority.

Observing their petition to be valid, We commanded this precept of Our rule to be made for them by imperial custom, through which We decreed and at the same time in ordering command that from this day and in time to come, the aforesaid bishops should hold and possess all the aforesaid goods in their dominion and power, corroborated by Our authority, quietly, by a tenancy agreement, without disturbance from anyone, rendering each year the rate laid out above.

But that this imperial authority liberally conceded by Us to the same might be observed more freely and devotedly by everyone, We confirmed it with Our own hand and We commanded it be authenticated by the signet of Our Dignity.

Sign of Charles, most glorious of august kings.

Amalbert then notary witnessed on behalf of Liutward [bishop of Vercelli].

Given on the 6th kalends of November [27th October, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 886, in the 4th indiction, in the 6th year of Emperor Charles’ empire in Italy, the 5th in Francia, the 2nd in Gaul.

Enacted in Paris.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

In terms of Odo’s career, this diploma is fairly straightforward. One of several diplomas Charles the Fat issued at Paris in the aftermath of the Viking siege, this diploma honours Odo, the hero of that siege, by showing him as the emperor’s counsellor. It also shows him as ruler of Neustria, written in as successor to Hugh the Abbot, and intervening on behalf of the two main bishops of the Neustrian March, those of Tours and Angers.

In fact, it is one of a series of diplomas issued in late October 886, almost all of which deal in one way or another with the siege of Paris or Hugh the Abbot’s legacy. Thus, Charles issued a diploma in favour of a man named Germund who is almost certainly one of Odo’s followers. He issued a diploma for Saint-Martin (although interestingly the petitioner there is Archbishop Adalald rather than Odo – maybe Odo hadn’t been invested at that point); and he issued a diploma for Saint-Germain d’Auxerre, where Hugh the Abbot had been buried. Unlike Neustria, Saint-Germain went not to Odo but to Bishop Anskeric of Paris: next time we see it, in 889, Anskeric is the abbot. It’s possible that it was given to him by Odo in 888/889, but I think it’s more likely it was given to him by Charles the Fat at this point, in 886, as another reward for a hero of Paris.

A final point: Odo’s ending up in Neustria was largely accidental. The fact that his father had also been marchio there can lend it a whiff of familial right, but this is mostly illusory. It just so happened that an important military command had opened up at the same time that Odo proved himself militarily competent. Had Hugh the Abbot lived an extra few years, I think it likely that Odo would have been reward with honores elsewhere, perhaps in Burgundy or Lotharingia; and history would have taken a very different course.

Charter a Week 8: Integrating the North

The factional politics of Carloman II’s reign, as we have been learning these last weeks, are very complicated. However, one region above all did not want Carloman: the region known as Francia, which is the part of northern France east of the Seine. This was ultimately a personal clash between Gozlin, abbot of Saint-Amand and later (as of 883, in fact) bishop of Paris, and Hugh the Abbot. Whilst Carloman’s brother Louis III lived, each of these groups could have their own king: Carloman got Burgundy and Aquitaine and Louis got Francia (and Neustria, although given that in practice ‘Neustria’ meant ‘Hugh the Abbot’ I wonder how far this ever translated into practice). After Louis’ death, however, things got tense.

The northern magnates did invite Carloman to be their king, but they seem to have broken with him immediately afterwards. At the assembly in Worms in 882, Hincmar notes that a group of magnates had withdrawn their support from Carloman, hamstringing his efforts to fight off the Viking menace; this group was probably this northern collective. The objection was probably that they weren’t being given a role in Carloman’s government: the king’s diplomas in 882 and 883 are almost entirely destined for and petitioned by southerners. Some northern magnates were clearly trying to work with the king – Count Theodoric of Vermandois petitioned for a diploma in favour of Adalgar of Autun – but this was the exception not the rule.

Carloman clearly realised this was a problem, and began trying to with the northerners over, with a key moment here being when Gozlin was made archchancellor in summer 883. This coincided with a campaign against the Vikings in the north which led to the king’s forces retreating at Grand-Laviers and Vikings raiding the north-east during the winter.

A gratuitous bit of Scandinavian art because this week’s charter isn’t original (source)

This, in turn, led to a crisis. According to the Annals of Saint-Vaast, ‘all the princes of the realm’ gathered at Compiègne to decide what to do about the Vikings, because the king was a minor. The king was actually eighteen, by contemporary standards perfectly adult; so this must represent the magnates trying to bypass royal decision-making entirely. They made an agreement with the Vikings to pay tribute, which bought them eight months. In that time, you can see Carloman trying to retake the reigns of power. Part of this we’ll cover on Wednesday, but part of it we’ll deal with today.

DD LLC no. 76 (13th March 884, Compiègne)

In the name of Lord God Eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ. Carloman, by grace of God king.

If We expend the means of Our liberality on places given over to divine worship or, also, legally restore Church goods rightly pertaining to the same which were once alienated by Our progenitors through pastoral indolence, or rather through the deceitful lips and lying tongues of crooked men, We do not doubt this will benefit the souls of Our predecessors in earning pardon for sin and Us in divinely protecting the state of Our present realm and acquiring the crown of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Wherefore let it be known to all those faithful to the holy Church of God and Us, both present and future, that the venerable Berno, bishop of Châlons-sur-Marne, who is full advantageous and faithful to Us amongst the vanguard of Our realm in both counsel and aid, and who resolved to abide in the same fidelity, approached Our Serenity and made known to Us that the little abbey of Saint-Sulpice, which Our vassal and judge Rothard holds in benefice, was unjustly stolen from the church of the blessed protomartyr Stephen, and submissively requested that We restore the same to him. Our followers, to wit, the venerable Ingelwin, bishop of Paris, and Count Theodoric [of Vermandois], greatly beloved of Us, advising and appealing for the same thing with him.

Therefore, favouring their petitions, We restore the aforesaid little abbey, sited in the suburbs of the city next to the bridge over the river Marne, to the aforesaid church of the blessed Stephen, that he might protect Us and Our realm by his glorious prayers and defend Us and it from the devastation of the pagans, to wit, on the condition that the said Rothard should hold the same little abbey in right of benefice, through the consent of the venerable bishop Berno, for such time as it takes Us to compensate him with something appropriate in place of that benefice. After, however, Our aforesaid vassal has received a substitute benefice or, as it may be, has by the lot of the human condition departed from this life, let the aforesaid church presently gain possession of the same goods freely, as its own, without any resistance or need for further evidence.

Concerning this, We commanded this precept of Our Highness be made, through which We re-endow the church of the blessed Stephen with the aforesaid goods in their entirety, that is, with bondsmen of both sexes dwelling thereon or rightly pertaining to the same, and lands cultivated and uncultivated, vineyards, meadows, mills, pastures, roads in and out, woods, and all legitimate borders, so that it might justly and legally hold and possess them, as We said before, like other Church goods, and dispose of them canonically in accordance with its will.

But that this Our restitution might obtain inviolable vigour through times to come, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be safeguarded by the impression of Our signet.

Norbert the notary witnessed on behalf of Gozlin [of Paris].

Given on the 3rd ides of March [13th March], in the 2nd indiction, in the 2nd year of the reign of King Carloman in Francia.

Enacted at the palace of Compiègne.

Happily in the name of God, amen.

This diploma is weird in a number of ways. The biggest is that Bishop Engelwin of Paris, by March 884, has been dead for several months. I thought that the 883 death date might be a mistake in the literature, but nope, it’s pretty certain. Could it be a fake? Well, it could be, but there’s nothing formally wrong with it. The process of issuing any charter doesn’t take place all in one go, and we know that some diplomas can’t have been issued with everyone present there. What this suggests, then, is that the March diploma was issued regarding an issue which had actually been resolved a while ago.

The diploma, then, is at least in part performative in the purest Koziolian sense. That is, it’s being issued above all to show that the northern magnates are now fully part of the king’s circle. Berno, bishop in the strategic see of Châlons-sure-Marne, Count Theodoric of Vermandois, the new bishop of Paris Gozlin as archchancellor, and the old one, Engelwin, mentioned as a petitioner as a gesture of reconciliation for the last few years – all get to show themselves as key parts of Carloman’s regime.

It’s also clearly being issued in a time perceived as one of disaster – note the need for St Stephen to defend the kingdom from Viking attacks. Carloman, as we’ll see on Wednesday, was very keen on getting the affairs of his realm in order to gain divine support, but it was part of an overall strategy of belligerence – he wanted to fight the Northmen, not least because most of the time he won at least tactical victories!

The final interesting point of this diploma is the dating, which is the regnal year in Francia. This is unique in Carloman’s diplomas, but it’s also (minus one diploma issued on the king’s deathbed for an abbey in Soissons) the only diploma for a Francian recipient, so that does make sense. MacLean has read this as regional posturing, which I think is fair so long as we’re careful to keep in mind that this posturing is a very short-term product of factional politics which Carloman is here validating to gain short-term military support.

Not that it worked. That deathbed diploma I mentioned? Issued in December of this year. Hunting accident, natch. This left only one adult Carolingian male to come and pick up the pieces – but before that, we’ll be looking at the biggest statement of Carloman’s ideas about rule, the Capitulary of Ver.

Charter a Week 5: They Come From the Land of the Ice and Snow

How important were the Vikings? Viking raids are very flashy and get a lot of press, but were they that much of a danger to late Carolingian rulers? The difference between the British Isles and Gaul is noticeable: whereas most of the former was actively conquered by Vikings in the latter part of the ninth century, only the North Sea littoral of Gaul was ever subject to Scandinavian rule (whatever that meant in practice…).

The thing is, Viking attacks got a lot of press at the time, and the Carolingian response was traditionally derided. In part, this is because one of our major sources, the Annals of Saint-Vaast, are just miserable as all get-out. An old colleague of mine once compiled the ‘Saint-Vaast Table of Pessimism’, categorising all of the different ways the annals say ‘They tried X and it didn’t work’. Thing is, this is so consistent and so clearly this one source’s particular bias that it shouldn’t be taken as Gospel – we know that Frankish responses to Viking attacks were often fairly successful, both in terms of winning battles and in terms of changing the strategic picture.

The problem at the start of the 880s, though, was that the West Saxons were currently more successful. Dealing with Viking raids has a lot of similarities to the old saw about running away from a bear – you don’t need to be fast, just faster than the slowest person in the group. The same is true with Vikings: you don’t have to construct impregnable fortifications, just make it more inconvenient to raid you than your cross-Channel neighbour. Thus, when in the late 870s Alfred the Great defeated the Great Army at Eddington and signed an agreement known as the Alfred-Guthrum Treaty, Wessex suddenly seemed like a rather poorer opportunity than the Frankish kingdoms. Remember how they were in the middle of a succession dispute in 879? Vikings love that. It means the Frankish kings are too distracted to respond… A veritable Norman storm fell on the northern shores of Gaul, particularly Flanders; and although the Carolingians had a number of military successes against them, there were too many different Viking bands to have real success.

So, we need to balance the sources written by pessimistic churchmen – monasteries being famously rich and in theory undefended – with the recognition that Vikings might have provoked genuine trauma.  And then there’s sources like the one which follows:

DD LLC no. 55 (5th June 881, Pouilly-sur-Loire)

In the name of God Eternal and our saviour Jesus Christ, Carloman, by grace of God king.

Whatever We strain eagerly to do for the advantage and need of servants of God, We are, far from doubt, confident that it will benefit Us in more easily obtaining eternal blessing and more happily passing through the present life.

And thus, let the skill of all those faithful to the holy Church of God and to Us, both present and future, know that the venerable man and religious abbot Ralph of the monastery of the blessed Florentius, along with the monks soldiering for God therein, coming before Our Sublimity – lamentable to hear –exposed to Our Mildness by his lamentable intimation the misfortune of the aforesaid monastery and other woes of that region cruelly and frequently inflicted for Our sins by those cruellest enemies of God the Northmen, such that the same province, once very beautiful to see, appears reduced to the appearance of a wilderness. Wherefore, there was no dwelling-place at all in the same place, as with other former inhabitants of that countryside, but much worse for the monks of the said monastery overseen by the care of that religious man the same abbot. Therefore, the same venerable abbot Ralph suppliantly prayed that We might deign to concede to him, as a refuge for his monks and to receive the most hallowed body of the blessed Florentius, a cell by the river Loire, sited in the district of Berry, which is called Saint-Gondon, as We are known to have done for his predecessor the late abbot Dido, in which cell the grace of Saint Gundulf is reverently honoured, so that, rejoicing that they have slipped through the hands of the aforesaid enemies of God, they might finally deserve to find a rest therein from such persecution, with Christ propitious, and be able to enjoy a respite in praise of divine mercy.

But We, proffering beneficent assent to the beseechments of the same Abbot Ralph and the prayers of his monks, commanded this precept of Our Highness to be made, through which We concede and bestow the said cell of Saint-Gondon, with dependents of both sexes and the total of all other things to be held by the said venerable abbot Ralph and his successors: that is, so that, in the name of God and for the washing-away of Our sins, that monastery with everything pertaining to it might be lead in accordance with order of the institution of the Rule by the same reverend Abbot Ralph and his successors, and be disposed of in accordance with the Rule without the disturbance of any contradiction, for the advantage and need of the servants of God serving and attending upon the Lord therein in Our and future times in accordance with the norm of the sacred institution of Saint Benedict.

And We concede to the aforesaid monastery four ships in every waterway which flows through Our realm, and permission to sail them without any impediment, that no officers should take river-fees or toll, nor should the aforesaid abbey pay any kind of price for them.

Finally, We wish and decree and command through this precept of Our authority that no public judge or anyone with judicial power should dare to enter into the churches or places or fields or other possessions of the said monastery, which it justly and reasonably possesses in modern times within the domain of Our realm or which hereafter divine piety might wish to bestow upon the said monastery, to hear cases or exact peace-money or tribute or make a halt or claim hospitality or take securities or distrain the men of the same monastery both free and servile dwelling on its land, nor require any renders in Our and future times. Rather, let the said abbot and his successors be permitted to possess the goods of the aforesaid monastery in quiet order under the defence of Our immunity.

In fact, it pleased Our Highness to decree by royal authority that We should establish a privilege for the aforesaid place through a precept of Our authority that if anyone is seen to infringe anything from the aforesaid at any time, they should be compelled to pay an immunity of six hundred solidi to the rulers of the same place. And whatever hereafter Our fisc can hope for, We concede entirely to the aforesaid monastery for eternal repayment, so that it might accomplish an increase in the alms for the poor and stipends for the monks serving God therein for all time. And when, by divine summons, the aforesaid abbot and the others following him depart from the light of this world, let the monks serving God therein through Our permission and consent, in accordance with the order and rule of the blessed Benedict, always have permission to elect an abbot from amongst themselves, so that it might delight these servants of God who serve God therein to constantly exhort the Lord for Our grandfather, father, for Us and the stock of Our bloodline and to conserve the stability of Our whole realm. Let them have an advocate whom they rightly elect, and for Our repayment We remit all torts to him.

But that this authority of Our munificence might be held more firmly and be more diligently conserved in future times, We confirmed it below with Our own hand and We commanded it be signed with Our signet.

Sign of Carloman, most glorious of kings.

Norbert the notary witnessed on behalf of Wulfard [of Flavigny].

Given on the nones of June [5th June], in the third year of the reign of Carloman, most glorious of kings, in the 13th indiction.

Enacted at the township of Pouilly-sur-Loire, happily, amen.

The venerable abbot Hugh [the Abbot] ambasciated.

Were the Vikings trying to Karve up the Carolingian Empire? (wahey!) (source)

First of all, again, there have been questions about the authenticity of this diploma. The modern editor, Bautier, reckons it’s legit, and I agree with him, but it is still within the realms of possibility that this is a later fake. In any case, in terms of its text, the first half is largely a copy of an 866 diploma of Charles the Bald. What that means is that all of the Viking depredations it’s describing had happened twenty years previously. This is a major problem – it doesn’t take very long for Viking raids to become a canard, a fossilised excuse to explain monastic behaviours. This community, which had formerly been located at Saint-Florent-le-Vieil, had now been relocated upriver from Orléans, a region which was passed over by the Viking attacks of the years around 880.

This isn’t to say that the old site of the abbey was peaceful by now. In addition to a Frankish succession crisis, the late 870s also saw the beginning of a civil war in Brittany, and although we don’t know about any Viking raids there during those years, we do know that Vikings were active on the lower Loire during that period and it would surprise me if they weren’t ratcheting up their raids in Brittany and the region west of Angers. Thing is, this wouldn’t necessarily have any impact on the new community in Berry!

In fact, the main object of the diploma appears to be to exempt the abbey’s shipping from river tolls. What we have, then, is a diploma where the rhetorical spectre of the pagan menace overlies a much more mundane goal. This is actually a fairly nice illustration of what I, at least, think is happening with the Vikings: their shadow is much larger than their presence, but that shadow can be quite important in and of itself. It might have been that what the monks of Saint-Gondon wanted was relief more from toll-collectors than Danes, but anti-Viking activity provided a useful cover for royal action. (The parallels between Viking attacks and terrorism in the modern world are there to be found, and I wouldn’t be the first one to notice that by a long shot…)

(I did also do a search for ‘vikings + terrorists’ and… oy. Don’t go down that snake-hole…)