Kalamazoo and Back, III: bloggers, bishops, Bavaria and bastions*

Right, here we go again. I still hadn’t really mastered the trick of adequate sleep by Friday morning, but I had realised the previous day that the first thing I had to do that day, which was make it to the blogger meet-up, was actually in the same building as my room and also the nearest source of caffeine, and so I figured that this was the best of all available plans and headed up there. And, as previously recorded, they actually make tea at Mug Shots, so within about five minutes of arriving at the blogger meet-up I was something quite like my normal self, which is just as well given the number of people I had to take in. There are lots of us! I think that present were all of Another Damned Medievalist, Clio’s Disciple, Dame Eleanor Hull, Mary Kate Hurley, the Medieval History Geek, Steve Muhlberger, Notorious, Ph. D., the Heptarchy Herald, the Rebel Lettriste, Professor Richard Scott Nokes, both Vaulting and Vellum, Thomas Elrod, Heu Mihi and Meg of Xoom, and that may not be all. Plus which there were other bloggers lurking in the conference who did not make it, so there was really nowhere safe to hide. Many of these fine people I had not met before, some of them alas I still haven’t, it was that full, and all of them it was good to see. I wrote the name of my blog on the reverse of my nametag and then had to explain it to people whenever the wind flipped it over, but I don’t care. (Not least because at Kalamazoo no-one thought keeping an academic blog was a weird thing to do, or if they did they hid it well.) But it couldn’t last forever as someone had unthinkingly scheduled a conference around us, and so off I trotted feeling much the better for the tea and sympathy.

The counter of Mug Shots Coffeehouse, Western Michigan University

Session 189. Bishops and the Papacy, 900-1100

Scribblings in my programme indicate that I was in two minds about whether to come to this, even though a friend was organising, partly because of a competing session and partly because one of the speakers had dropped out, but I’m glad I decided as I did.

  • This was not least because the first speaker was Anna Trumbore Jones, whose name for some reason I keep spelling differently so I hope I have it right here. I’ve very much liked what I’ve met of Dr Jones’s work, particularly a very sane attempt to use a local case-study with some actual evidence in to try and assess the turbid question of Viking violence in Viator a few years back,1 and I feel that she and I are in some ways engaged in the same pursuit, trying to make South-Western Europe’s copious evidence contribute to the bigger questions of European medieval history in the long tenth century. Her paper title, “The Power of an Absent Pope: privileges, forgery, and papal authority, 877-1050”, also chimed well with some work I’ve lately been finishing off about forging papal documents in this area and so we had a lot to talk about afterwards.2 Here she was tangling with a standard narrative of papal power in the South of France, that it is secured by patronising monasteries to give the pope leverage to dominate the bishops. She showed that firstly bishops were often involved in securing these monasteries’ privileges, that (as we know when we look, I think) that papal exemption of a monastery rarely actually excludes a bishop from it in practice unless it was specifically aimed at him, because most houses need a continuing relationship with their bishop even if he can’t tithe them, and that although the idea of the papacy obviously had power because people went to the effort of forging papal documents, they had far rather do that later on than have obtained them from the pope himself. Actually getting a document from the pope might entail one in links to him that would be politically awkward, and a forgery would probably work just as well for whatever the purpose of these documents was anyway. I think we, collectively, are still a bit unclear about what that purpose really is, and the same goes for royal immunities beyond the area of plausible enforcement, but all this was meat and drink to me when reckoning with these questions and it was great to see someone else asking them, in English.
  • The second paper in the session was by John Ott, who was speaking to the title, “Band of Brothers: episcopal solidarities and the limits of papal intervention in Northern France around 1100”. I have less to say here because it’s further from my period, but anyone who’s taught papal reform may have realised that in Northern France it doesn’t get a grip because the bishops tend to band together and claim papal authority doesn’t apply to them in various complicated ways: this was a case-study of that defiance and the network of acquaintance, friendship and tolerance of dubious canonicity that made it possible, based around the election to the bishopric of Beauvais in 1099. It emphasised, among other things, that a bishop didn’t have to have been squeaky-clean in his own past to be a reformer, that reformers mostly would compromise, and that there was a strong middle road here which could be described as “reform on our own terms in our own time” that I think we could find a lot more of even in the Gregorian period if we looked for it in those terms. (It’s worth remembering in that light that for a lot of the Italian bishoprics, the pope is their metropolitan and part of precisely this sort of local acquaintance network.3 Archbishop Manasses of Rheims here and Pope Leo IX fifty years before are not necessarily playing different games in their bailiwicks simply because the latter is pope and also has a wider political position.)
  • There being no third paper meant lots of questions, but mainly for Ott, so I was quite pleased to be able to reassure Dr Jones of my attention to her paper too.

By this stage the sun had come out and the prospect of eating lunch in it in the shades of Kalamazoo’s precipitously forested campus meant that as far I was concerned this day was now going pretty well. I think this was also the point at which I hit the book exhibit, with thrift and determination not to come away with anything I didn’t actually have a use for. Now, as is well documented That Never Works, but I didn’t spend too much and, as someone observed later in a conversation about this with me, I have passed some kind of level here beyond which I now mainly buy books I have already read, and know I need, rather than books I feel I should read but subsequently don’t for years. But this time my purchases, which included being introduced to Olivia Remie Constable just as I was buying her book, which was nice, mainly seemed like sound choices and none too heavy, either. The next session maintained my bonhomie….

Session 285. The Carolingians and their Neighbors

    I think this session managed to run in parallel with one of similar focus, as quite a few people I might have expected to be there weren’t, but it was a good one.

  • First up was Isabelle Lachat, speaking to the title, “Charlemagne’s Foreign Policy and the Manufacturing of Empire”, which was some detailed riffing on Stuart Airlie’s paper about Duke Tassilo of Bavaria,4 pointing out how he and Charlemagne were using very parallel strategies of legitimisation including sponsoring of missions to the pagans on their Eastern frontiers, and that among the other gains that Charlemagne made from his eventual conquest of Bavaria was Tassilo’s ideological ideas bank that Lachat thought he could be shown appropriating. This, sadly, attracted less attention in questions than an unsustainable idea of Carl Hammer’s about the identity of Tassilo’s wife, but never mind.5
  • Third paper, but so closely associated with this topic-wise that I want to take it out of order, was Jonathan Couser, my session organiser indeed, talking about, “Clergy and the Laity on the Eastern Marches”, in which he argued that the Bavarian and eventually Carolingian missions in the East proceeded in phases, with rotating staffs of clergy from Salzburg who neither made nor wanted local recruits while new monastic foundations took the heat in the very far borders, then a new episcopal policy under Charlemagne driving missions from several new bishoprics, and lastly a monastic phase led principally from the East, the missions of Cyril and Methodius, the only saints really worth celebrating on February 14th, which operated in competition with the Carolingian strategy not just politically and linguistically but also institutionally. There was a lot of material in this paper and it went very fast, but it made a few things quite a lot clearer for me.
  • Distribution map of the so-called Ulfberht sword-blades in Europe

    Distribution map of the so-called Ulfberht sword-blades in Europe, from Stalsberg's article cit. n. 7

  • Between the two, and less fast because less comfortable with English, something she heroically overcame, was Anne J. Stalsberg, asking, “Did the Carolingians Export Swords to their Pagan Neighbors during the Viking Age (ninth-tenth centuries)?” You’d think that the answer was a fairly obvious ‘no, duh, why would they do that?’ but actually the find patterns of the so-called Ulfberht swords, of which Dr Stalsberg is building a corpus, rather seem to suggest otherwise, since the maker’s name is held to be Frankish but the swords occur thickly all over Scandinavia and rather more sparsely over a very thin but wide range inside the Carolingian Empire. She therefore questioned the amount of state control over such things, and asked for help about the inscriptions on the swords, some of which bear legend +ULFBER+HT, with the cross breaking the name as shown, what would appear to be nonsensical punctuation. If anyone has anything to add, I have her contact details, because I stopped afterwards to suggest coin legends might give parallels and wound up with a copy of a paper she’d recently published about the swords and a fervent wish that I would get in touch if I found anything out.6 I think she may in fact have got more out of the session than some of her audience, whom I think may have been hoping for more pictures of swords and fewer distribution maps, but this is how we learn, people, and I thought it was good.

The last session of the day for me turned out to mean not moving very far, but between the two I caught up with some further people whom I’d known were there somewhere but hadn’t yet found, gulped down some emergency coffee and then resumed the trench warfare with the following…

Session 346. The Archaeology of Early Medieval Europe II. Early Medieval Hillforts in Central Europe: strongholds or central places?

    This one has been covered better than I think I would by the Medieval History Geek, so I’ll start by directing you there. For the record however, the papers were:

  • Jiří Macháček, “Great Moravian Central Places and their Practical Function, Social Significance, and Symbolic Meaning”, focussing especially on Pohansko and Staré Mĕsto
  • Hajnalka Herold, “Early Medieval (Ninth to Tenth Centuries AD) Fortified Settlements in Central Europe”, focussing mainly on Gars-Thunau
  • and

  • Sławomir Moździoch, “Early Medieval Strongholds in Poland as Centers of Power in the Light of Recent Archaeological Research”, which covered a wider range of sites and came up with a rather different picture of state-driven castle-building that sounded weirdly familiar…

And then evening fell, and whereas the previous evening I had left my social calendar largely in the hands of ADM, today it fell to Michael of the Heptarchy Herald to see me right, because he had already kindly invited me to join what I gather is a traditional party to a local pizza joint called Bilbo’s, which I gladly did, as did Scott Nokes though again we wound up sort of across the gathering from each other and couldn’t really exchange more than greetings. I get the feeling it could have been a more raucous night than it was if I’d been drinking more heavily and I hope I didn’t slow everyone else down. The food was good, though, very fresh, and the beer likewise actually, and the company greatly enjoyed: thankyou guys (and gals). The quote of the day from this report therefore is uncontestedly:

Friday night at Bilbo’s, Saturday morning in Mordor!

which was the battle cry of Cédric Briand as we set off and which he said he would be proud to have associated with his name on the Internet. There you go, M’sieu!

That was by no means the end of the evening, however, as we had broken from the trenchers mainly to get back for the Early Medieval Europe reception. It took me a long time to find this, and it should technically have been finished by the time I got there, but it wasn’t, even slightly, and I met many useful people (one of whom was the one, who shall remain nameless, who had downloaded my thesis and said, unguardedly, that it was much better than they’d expected given my blog…) and exchanged ideas and gossip until chucking out time. But once back at the Valley I found there were still drinkers a-socialising and so rather than give up entirely, I joined them for a short while too. I think it was at this point that Theo Riches said perhaps the nicest thing I ever heard him say about me while introducing me to a colleague, which was, “but Jon is rare among historians, because Jon can count“. I was very flattered by this and would like to say, by way of gratitude, that I have now forgiven him for the year he was telling people at Leeds that I was a bigamist.7 So there!

Finally, a wander back to my own building saw me fall briefly into step with a person by the name of Elizabeth MacMahon, who is now enshrined in my mind as a sort of Quotational Fairy-Godsister, arriving at impressionable moments to deliver sardonically-memorable one-liners and then disappearing into the ether. (Yes, I was drunk on all of these occasions, I expect she has a normal physical existence really.) In our brief conversation she summed up the whole conference in one of these that had me reeling with admiration (yes, again, may have already been reeling slightly). But we’ve already had the winning quotation for this day so I shall use the lateness of the evening at that point to hold it over for the Saturday, which I will write when I am back from seeing some people about a job. Another short post will precede. Until then!

* The usual meaningless points for anyone placing the song reference, which I couldn’t help but incorporate once it had come to mind. It is related to New Hampshire…

1. A. Trumbore Jones, “Pitying the Desolation of Such a Place: Rebuilding religious houses and constructing memory in Aquitaine in the wake of the Viking incursions” in Viator Vol. 37 (Berkeley 2006), pp. 85-102.

2. Jonathan Jarrett, “Archbishop Ató of Osona: False Metropolitans on the Marca Hispanica” in Archiv für Diplomatik Vol. 56 (München forthcoming).

3. I pull this point more or less straight out of Jochen Johrendt, Papsttum und Landeskirchen im Spiegel der päpstlichen Urkunden, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Studien und Texte) 33 (Hannover 2004).

4. S. Airlie, “Narratives of Triumph and Rituals of Submission: Charlemagne’s mastery of Bavaria” in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th Series Vol. 9 (Cambridge 1999), pp. 93-119.

5. Presumably in Carl Hammer, From Ducatus to Regnum. Ruling Bavaria under the Merovingians and Early Carolingians (Turnhout 2007) (non vidi), the suggestion apparently being that the Lombard wife whom Charlemagne repudiated was then parcelled off to become the Lombard princess who marries Tassilo; Lachat asked, and perhaps Hammer does too, what if the princess had been pregnant when repudiated, but subsequently had to admit that the chronology of Tassilo’s marriage doesn’t really permit these options. I think she just threw it out there for a laugh and then had to deal with everyone’s ears pricking up for scandal.

6. It is Anne Stalsberg, “Herstellung und Verbreitung der Vlfberht-Schwertklingen: eine Neubewertung” in Zeitschrift für Archäologie des Mittelalters Vol. 36 (Bonn 2008), pp. 89-118, though the map above is from what seems to be an English version transl. as “The Ulfberht sword blades: a reevaluation”, separately paginated, online here.

7. I am not now, have never been and do not anticipate being married even once, just for the record there, and I’m sure that this was mostly understood.

26 responses to “Kalamazoo and Back, III: bloggers, bishops, Bavaria and bastions*

  1. I’ll throw a correction in – I wasn’t at the blogger get together. I figured that was an academic meet-up (not that I think I’d have been subject to a rite of shunning or anything).

    Instead I was engaged in my continuing act of rampant, unrestrained book consumption.

  2. Thanks for these Kalamazoo posts. I have never been initially for financial reasons and now because it always falls at just the wrong time of year. It does sound like you would have been more comfortable if you’d taken a tent and camped on the grass!

    Are you Leeds-ing as well this year?

    • I am! This was Julie Hofmann’s fault, that will be Martin Ryan’s fault… As for the accommodation, I was physically comfortable enough except in the ‘attack shower’, but a tent would still probably have been nicer.

  3. The Capitulary of Thionville (no 44) c 7 from c 806 specifically says that arms and armour are not to be sold to the Avars and Slavs, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that they’re found all over the place. After all, how can a country grow prosperous without a large arms export industry?

    • I thought the Inquisitio de theoloneis Raffelstetensis covered swords, but my notes suggest firstly that this is wrong (only salt and slaves) and secondly that it’s much later than I remembered, so I have nothing to say to cast doubt on this. What I would say, however, is that that distribution map gives me no sense of a location for the smith unless maybe it be Norway, and on that score I would say, just because the guy has a Frankish name doesn’t have to mean he’s operating in Francia. Of course his goods travel, but the density there is still suggestive.

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  5. You write:

    James Palmer, “Apocalypticism, Computus and the Crisis of 809″. A series of well-aimed kicks at the idea that there was a widespread belief in the years leading up to 800 that that was going to be year 6000 anno mundi and therefore the end of everything, largely as expressed by Richard Landes.

    actually it’s not the end of everything, but the beginning of the sabbatical millennium.

    James’s position basically is that there is no conspiracy but there are a lot of people really interested in time and how you reckon it.

    and why do you think they’re so interested in time? why do you think that the only scientific discipline to actually break new ground in the early middle ages was computus (discovery of the annus magnus)?

    In making this stand, however, he also dismantled in passing a number of the pro-millennial arguments which was a joy to hear.

    can you explain to me what the emotional stake here is in having no apocalyptic expectations (whether millennial or eschatological)? why is it such a “joy to hear”? and is it possible that your emotions cloud your understanding?

    The significance of 809 is that in that year computistical experts were consulted by Charlemagne and his ecclesiastics on the age of the world, according to a council record, but that came on the back of two years’ famine and a defeat by the Slavs so the date may not have been the big issue.

    false dichotomies: apocalyptic signs redouble concern for the date of the age of the world (esp since, according to the most important system since augustine, AM II, it had passed some eight years earlier.

    I think we all finished this paper remaining comfortably convinced that 800 was a Carolingian high point, not a year everyone spent waiting for the sky to fall on their heads.

    what’s the comfort here? what are you worried about? that the carolingians were worried about/looking forward to the coming apocalypse?

    i really don’t understand your (i think misguided) triumphalism. what are you triumphing over? what is so threatening about what i have to say? what does it do to the carolingians that you find so hard to take?


    • Hullo Professor Landes, and, though I suppose it may not seem that way from this post, welcome! I have enjoyed some of your work, most notably the Peace of God volume which is very useful, your paper especially precisely because of its concern with the people.

      So, firstly I should say that although yours is the name I think of when the millennial arguments come out, James’s target here was more Arno Borst than yourself, hence the heavy computistics. The ‘joy’ in hearing the paper lay largely in the mischief of wit critically applied, I suppose. I don’t find what you have to say threatening, as far as I can tell at the conscious level, and I don’t object on behalf of the Carolingians any more than I do the peoples of the year 1000, or any other date marker that might have been chosen; I just don’t find the arguments that there is an especial concern for such matters at these points, rather than, for example, a running one with eschatology, personal damnation and the unpredictability of death, fuelled by Augustinian thought and whatever disaster was currently happening, compelling as yet. Quantification of contemporary response from such sources can only ever be dicey, I fear. I suppose the emotional reward of this paper was being reaffirmed in these belief by a peer group. If it’s a fair question to ask me, however, I might equally ask you what the emotional reward of marking out and defending a millennial position is and how that may have shaped your thinking!

      • i don’t know how much of my work you’ve read (rather than the straw men set up by the likes of Sylvain Gouguenheim), but there is a fairly strong argument to be made (which i think i’ve at least laid out) that to think that Augustine’s “third opinion on the end of the world” dominated the subsequent centuries is, upon any close reflection, pretty unlikely. you and me and most modern scholars might find it a) correct and b) given the centuries that have passed, reasonable, but i think it’s a lack of empathy for people living back then to imagine it having hegemony anywhere but the archives. (e.g., the idea that in 970 Abbo’s Augustinian reading of the year 1000 (allegorical) carried the day against the priest’s carnal reading (in 30 years) and that either carried the day against the apocalyptic Passion on Friday March 25 (the following year) strikes me as tone deaf.

        as for the emotional reward i find in tracking down such threads, i think the insight into the dynamics of human behavior – a Carolingian coronation on the first day of the year 6000 AM II (by a system every courtier knew, but none mentioned in writing), two waves of peace movements at the advent of the two millennial dates of 1000 and 1033 – are pretty exciting, and, i think, help understand the subsequent developments/consequences – a dazzling but short-lived empire whose theocratic ambitions had alienated its warrior aristocracy, beset by catastrophes that provoked apocalyptic anxieties (eg 809), and the “pieces of God” (communes, church reform, crusades).

        Dominique Barthelemy once wrote that “il faut dédramatiser l’histoire.” i just don’t understand where that command comes from.

        • Well, I’m happy to agree with you about the last bit, but I think the average medieval life probably contained enough daily drama that making certain dates more dramatic than others… well, isn’t necessary to get me excited about the period and perhaps hence doesn’t seem analytically necessary either.

          • this is about evidence, not about “making it up.” we have repeated mentions in the texts about collective beliefs that the “end” (however conceived) is imminent, and that this led to dramatic public events (collective acts of contrition). you just want to ignore that evidence of what i call “apocalyptic moments”?

            • No. I want to contextualise it among other more immediate traumas, and find that to me the traditional apotropaic explanations of public acts of contrition work as well for me for allegedly-millennial dates as they do for less scholarly points on a calendar that few of the penitents could have independently comprehended.

              • it’s not a question of understandingthe scholarly points. all a commoner needs to know (like the “rustici” who so upset Bede, is that the end of the millennium (how soon?) will bring him relief from the sufferings of this world (and the people screwing him now will get it in the neck). you can’t see the appeal of such an ideology to commoners?

                • I can, indeed, but who’s preaching it? Given the problems with the sources for the content of heresy, could we even tell if someone were, or just that the sources’ authors were worried about it?

        • And, in answer to your unspoken question, I’ve got detailed notes on your chapters in Iogna-Prat & Picard, Religion et Culture autour de l’An Mil, and in the Peace of God volume I mentioned, and I have read this article on mille.org, and also I think your Journal of Religious History piece though, if so, it’s odd that I don’t seem to have notes on it. I have not read any Gougenheim though.

          • i recommend this: The Fear of an Apocalyptic Year 1000, and more substantially the book in which a version of this appearsThe Apocalyptic Year 1000.

            the Journal of Religious History debate btw me and Bob Moore is one I think lays out the issues quite clearly (at least in the discussion of heresy). I must confess to being baffled by the resistance to seeing apocalyptic as an important factor in people’s behavior.

            The only way Moore can deal with the issue is to minimize the role of popular heresy in the period (dédramatisant). But given that the number of documents on popular heresy for the early 11th cn outnumbers the number of documents for the previous half a millennium (especially if we exclude apocalyptic issues like Thiota and the “False Christ of Bourges”, that strikes me as a strange way to proceed.

            • Well, Barthélemy et al. would argue that the number of documents overall is rising so much that that kind if absolute increase is to be expected. I don’t buy where he goes with that, but preservation is a problem there. I shall do my best to make time for the article at least before I teach this stuff again, however. I’ve found the pieces on mille.org quite useful for directing students to in the past, but it’s grown a great deal since last I did so!

    • To be fair, I suppose that Texts and Identities and its hangers-on do have a fair old emotional investment in the Carolingians being worthwhile objects of study, and tend to make the most of their sophistication and complexity. As to why a belief in the Millennium’s imminence should challenge that, though, I’m not sure; it shouldn’t equate to ‘hey, those Carolingians were stupid’ but I wonder if for some it still does.

      • this gets at the heart of the matter. because we know that 6000 came (twice) and passed, and so did so many other apocalyptic dates (1000, 1033, 1233, 1500, 1666, 1843, etc. etc.) we have a tendency to consider anyone who took them seriously to be a bit daft. (hence, i don’t think anyone will get worked up when Bede’s year 6000 comes in 2048).

        so it’s an enormous challenge to us to imagine an age where everyone took dating the end seriously (with the exception of some rare geniuses like Augustine).

        so we prefer to project Augustine onto at least the people we admire for their sophistication and complexity, without considering that their sophistication and complexity represent, in part, their struggling with something like (in the Carolingian case) the approach of a massively significant apocalyptic (millennial not eschatological) date which, since the days of Boniface’s reform in 741/2 and the introduction of Bede’s dating system, were no longer openly discussed.

        i’ve found often historians’ offhand remarks about how it’s an insult to an entire generation to say they were swept up in a wave of apocalyptic expectation.

        i think trying to preserve their “honor” by ignoring the evidence is just bad history. they were what they were; they struggled with the outillage mentale that they had, and we don’t do ourselves a favor by projecting our outillage mentale on them, and pretending that they were what they weren’t.

        there’s nothing “stupid” about either anticipating the advent of the millennium or fearing the last judgment, except by modern secular (ironically, Augustinian) standards. indeed (if only i could be around to see it), i think that the year 6000 will have a major impact on Jews (and “judaizing xns”) in 2240 (if any are around).

        in apocalyptic matters, wrong does not mean inconsequential, and how people deal with their disappointments/reliefs at the passage of an apocalyptic crisis, is a mark of their character and intelligence.

        as Colin Morris pointed out, there’s a relationship between (disappointed) apocalyptic and individualism. i suspect that if the West is the only culture to transcend (if only partially) honor-shame dynamics, it’s related to the role of imagining oneself standing before an omniscient judge. nothing quite like it for getting you to consider your deeds in light of morality rather than peer approval/disapproval.


        • I think our generation (in a broad sense) is specially well suited to consider past millennial questions. After all, we have a first hand experience on what a millenium crossing is!

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