Category Archives: Carolingians

Seminar CCXXXV: putting Archbishop Chrodegang in his place

Again, rather than alternate I’ll follow a seminar report with a seminar report, partly because at this point in the notional sequence I was lamenting dead entertainers but mainly because of the sixty pages of Italian already mentioned. It only advances the seminar backlog by one day, however, since on 18th March 2015 I was apparently back in London again, to see a then-fellow-citizen of the Midlands 3 Cities University Partnership do his stuff at the Earlier Middle Ages Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research. He was (and is) Stephen Ling and his paper was called “Regulating the Life of the Clergy between Chrodegang’s Rule and the Council of Aachen, c. 750-816″.

Reliquary of Saint Chrodegang in Metz cathedral

Contemporary pictures, or indeed any pictures, of Chrodegang are quite hard to find, which in itself tells us something about how important he was to the Carolingians, but to my surprise one Paul Budde has provided the Internet with a picture that is in some sense of the actual man, in as much as his mortal remains are supposedly in this casket in Metz cathedral!

Now you can be forgiven for never having heard of Archbishop Chrodegang of Metz—it’s OK, really—but in a certain part of the historiography of the Carolingian Empire, and specifically of its longest-lived impact, the Carolingian Renaissance, he has a great importance as a forerunner, a man with the vision to see what needed doing before the opportunity really existed to do it. What he thought needed doing, it is said, was a general tightening-up of discipline and standards in the Frankish Church, and especially of the lifestyle of cathedral priests, or canons (students: note spelling), and to this end he wrote a Rule for their lives which involved having no individual property as such, living off stipends paid from a common purse, as well as more basically necessary things like priests not carrying weapons in church and so on. All of this he was doing in the 740s and 750s when he was effectively number one churchman in the Frankish kingdoms, but its full impact didn’t really come around until the 780s and 790s when Charlemagne’s international brains trust developed very similar agendas that went even further and found Chrodegang’s Rule exactly the sort of thing they needed. So, at least, the conventional wisdom goes.1

London, British Library Additional MS 34652, fo. 3r.

One reason for this conventional wisdom in English-language scholarship may not least be that the Rule was later picked up in England; here is an eleventh-century translation of it, London, British Library Additional MS 34652, fo. 3r, although that is the only leaf of it in the manuscript!

Well, of course, every now and then these things need checking. Mr Ling has been doing this, looking firstly into what can be verified of Chrodegang’s importance in the church of his days and secondly into the uptake, use and impact of his Rule, and it’s not looking as good as the archbishop might have hoped. It is only possible to verify his attendance at two of the five big councils he supposedly convened to sort out the Church, and he was not by any means the sole player at these events; Abbot Fulrad of St-Denis and Angilramn, Chrodegang’s successor at Metz, were not only also big names but lasted into the Carolingian period, so had a more direct influence on what was done then, both indeed being heads of the court chapel in their day. As for the Rule, well, firstly there are only four manuscripts of it surviving, two of which, significantly, were added to by Angilramn. More importantly, though, it is quoted only rarely, and most of the instances that Stephen had gathered were from Metz, which you might indeed expect but isn’t exactly widespread impact. It’s not that Chrodegang wasn’t known to the Carolingian reformers: Theodulf Bishop of Orléans used it in laying down rules for his diocese’s clergy and a council of 813 refers to the Rule direct, although it then goes on to apply part of it to parish clergy rather than canons. But it was not the only source of authority, with Isidore of Seville and Saint Jerome coming in much more often, and at times the Carolingian legislation flatly contradicted what Chrodegang had laid down. Compare these two, Chrodegang’s Rule and the Council of Frankfurt in 794 respectively:

“If we cannot bring ourselves to renounce everything, we should confine ourselves to keeping only the income from our property, and ensure that, whether we like it or not, our property descends to our not to our earthly heirs and relations, but to the Church.”2

“The relatives or heirs of a bishop should in no circumstances inherit after his death any property which was acquired by him after he was consecrated bishop… rather, it should go in full to his church. Such property as he had before then shall, unless he make a gift from it to the Church, pass to his heirs and relatives.”3

OK, it is true that the two don’t expressly contradict: a bishop, let alone a canon, could make a donation such as Chrodegang recommends and still be within the ruling of the Council, but the Council also allows for him doing exactly the opposite, as long as it’s not with anything that could be considered Church property. And this is kind of the way it goes with Chrodegang’s Rule: it’s a model way of being, but other ways are usually considered preferable. I’ve given only one of Stephen’s numerous examples, and I found the case basically convincing. It’s not so much that Chrodegang didn’t show the way: it’s more that, when someone has cut a cart-track through woodland and then forty years later the local authority widens, levels and grades it and puts tarmac down you can’t really trace the original route in any detail…

Cologne, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 68, f. 6v

The replacement! The opening of a manuscript copy of the Aachen Rule for Canons of 816, it being Cologne, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 68, f. 6v

Indeed, looking back at it with ten months to reflect, I can see how perhaps Chrodegang’s lack of impact shouldn’t be surprising. The Carolingian reformers liked antiquity in their authority, and Chrodegang was a figure of living memory (indeed, died only two years before Charlemagne’s succession), one who had, furthermore, become a figure of importance under the notional kingship of the last Merovingian, Childeric III, whom Charlemagne’s father had deposed. It would thus have been awkward for the new régime to admit that, even with the help of the noble Mayor of the Palace and eventual replacement king, Pippin III, good things had been done then, rather than everything needing fixing.4 This is perhaps why rather than contesting the basic thesis, except for Jinty Nelson pointing out that a council of 791 comes a lot closer to Chrodegangian positions than the more definitive Frankfurt three years later, most of the questions revolved around canons, and whether they were at all usual or well-defined in the age that Chrodegang was legislating for. Was, in short, the reason this Rule mostly got used at Metz because that was one of the few places that had the relevant institution defined? Certainly, the eventual Institute of Canons laid down by Emperor Louis the Pious’s council of Aachen in 816 not only allowed for a lot of variety but closed even more down. In my metaphor of above, that was the tarmac, which just like many a modern road turned out to need continual patching and maintenance and probably went further than the old track. People working on that project did at least know the track had been there; but they also had other ideas.


1. Classically this position is developed in J. Michael Wallace-Hadrill, The Frankish Church (Oxford 1983), but there is now a much more detailed attempt in Michael Claussen, The Reform of the Frankish Church: Chrodegang of Metz and the Regula canonicorum in the Eighth Century (Cambridge 2004). [Edit: I should also have remembered to add to this the obvious starting point, Julia Barrow, “Chrodegang, his rule and its successors” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 14 (Oxford 2006), pp. 201-212, DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0254.2006.00180.x.]

2. I take this from Mr Ling’s handout, which tells me that he took it from Jerome Bertram (transl.), The Chrodegang Rules: the rules for the common life of the secular clergy from the eighth and ninth centuries. Critical Texts with Translations and Commentary (Aldershot 2005), p. 78.

3. Again from the handout but this time from Henry Loyn & John Percival (edd./transl.), The Reign of Charlemagne: documents on Carolingian government and administration, Documents of Medieval History 2 (London 1975), pp. 61-62.

4. See Paul Fouracre, “The Long Shadow of the Merovingians” in Joanna Story (ed.), Charlemagne: Empire and Society (Manchester 2005), pp. 5-21.

What happened to Roman municipal archives: an old problem solved?

Every now and then, when I can still find the time to read, I read something really clever. One of my favourite sorts of cleverness, furthermore, is that which takes an old old historiographical problem and finds an elegant and satisfying solution to it, and this post was occasioned by me finding one. The problem is the fate of the Roman municipal archives known as the gesta municipalia and its solver is quite possibly Warren Brown.1

One obviously needs to start by explaining what the gesta were, and this is part of the problem. Where we see them most clearly, in Northern Italy in the sixth century, they seem to have been city tax registers, in which transfers of property had to be noted so that the liability to tax travelled with the owner. If you did this, you got a docket saying that you had, so that no-one could get you for tax evasion. The trouble is firstly that this process is not evidenced very much outside Northern Italy, which raises the prospect that we are seeing something either regional or else the result of Emperor Justinian’s fiddling with documentary practice, but the gesta themselves are evidenced, across quite a lot of Frankish Europe, and the further trouble is that they are almost always attested in formulae, that is, documents abstracted from once-real charters to provide models for future practice.2 This means that it’s possible reasonably to hold opinions right the way from ‘the gesta were all gone by the sixth century at the latest and the formulae are just throwbacks that people copied because they were old but which no-one actually used’ through to ‘the gesta were still going in some places in the Carolingian era’.3

Early woodcut image of Ravenna

Images for this post are really hard to find. No-one seems to have put images of any of the relevant manuscripts online and the one ancient book that has one which is on Google Books is there in a scan for which the operatuve didn’t open the gatefold, so you can only see the left margin. Consequently, here is an early woodcut image of early modern Ravenna, which is where most of the relevant documents survive, you’ll just have to imagine the documents somewhere in it, invisible…

Of late the weight of the argument seems to have fallen into ‘the Church sort of replaced the gesta as a place where you could store documents’, but on the other hand in the Lay Archives book I lauded so much when it came out (and even before I’d read it, though now that I am I’m not changing my mind) Nicholas Everett now pushes the scepticism still further out, to ‘the gesta are not some ancient practice, they were new in the fifth century and died with the tax system, which is why we only functionally see them in Italy where that survived longest’.4 He doesn’t know about my colleague Arkady Hodge’s suggestion that the gesta are attested in Cherson in the Crimea also, but Arkady’s astute observation would not actually make the theory wrong: Cherson too could have held a limited tax system together quite late, and there are all kinds of reasons why it might have had a central institution of record like this, starting with it being a tiny exclave miles away from any other government.5

Ruins of the Byzantine city walls of Cherson

Ruins of the Byzantine city walls of Cherson

So it is debated! I have always felt uncomfortably torn between sides here: I am persuaded that the mentions of the gesta in a formula probably mean something, but if they had survived into the era in which the formulae were being copied, the ninth century, it seems too much to explain away the fact that we have nothing surviving that looks like actual gesta records like those from Italy, and i don’t think churches filled the role because they obviously preserve actual charters, not records that such existed somewhere else. So I wind up uncomfortably believing that there probably were gesta municipalia in Frankish Europe but that our best evidence for them is atypical because of Justinian, and though this sort of works I’d really like a better answer.

The mosaic of Emperor Justinian I and Empress Theodora in San Vitale di Ravenna

It’s all his fault! As with so much else. “Meister von San Vitale in Ravenna 003” by Meister von San Vitale in Ravenna – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

This, however, Warren has now provided! But! he is on record in several places arguing that the Frankish formulae were fairly flexible resources that people copied, and changed, because they were useful, not just out of some antiquarian spirit of editorialisation.6 How can he, therefore, follow Everett’s shattering argument, as he quite literally has to in the book in question? In two ways, it transpires; with a perceptive thesis and a wealth of previously uncollected examples (the latter of which was, of course, what the Lay Archives project was supposed to find). The thesis is the clever bit, and goes roughly like this.

What do people get out of reporting a transaction to the gesta? Obviously, yes, protection against tax liability, but also and as well as that, they get an officially-witnessed documentation of their new property. That is a thing people might want almost as much as the protection against the taxman, and most importantly it is a thing that people plainly continued to want even once (and where) the Roman tax system was inarguably dead.7 There are lots of ways we see that being done: people took their documents to court and got royal confirmations, under Merovingians and Carolingian rulers both; they took them to an ordinary court and had a confirmation issued by the gathering; they even, arguably, set up spurious lawsuits between each other so as to get the verdict publically issued that the recipient did indeed own the land.8 And, in some places where the formulae were known and the practice remembered, they went to a town and got the local bigwigs to fill the rôles of the old Roman curiales and issue something saying they’d seen the transaction documents, and the scribes who were writing this up knew the old formulae and wrote the dockets or records up accordingly. There doesn’t need to have been any surviving central archive: that wasn’t why people still did this. What was important to them was the document they got to take home.

Well, then, you may ask, why don’t we have any? And the answer to that is probably because they took them home! It is odd how few we have, even so, but we do have some, and it’s enough to convince me. The latest one Warren can find is from Prüm in 804, that monastery’s only gift of land from Angers, a city where they had a formula collection and knew about gesta (though, oddly, the Angers formula is not the one this record uses).9 That illustrates a further preservation problem, however; the scribe there copied four separate documents up as if they were one, but the first was a donation charter and really, that’s all you would need for a later cartulary. What good would it do you in the eleventh or twelfth century to copy up how this document had been confirmed by courts that no longer existed? The purpose of copying was no longer to prove possession, but to list and to remember, and for that the original charter was quite sufficient.10 Really, we shouldn’t expect any such documents to survive outside the original, and where would preserve them in the original except the personal archives that we hardly ever still have, the whole problem the Lay Archives project was meant to address?

So I think it all works, personally. It’s certainly much better than my halfway house answer and I’m very glad to have read it, certainly glad enough to share!


1. W. C. Brown, “The Gesta municipalia and the Public Validation of Documents in Frankish Europe” in idem, Marios Costambeys, Matthew Innes & Adam J. Kosto (edd.), Documentary Culture and the Laity in the Early Middle Ages (Cambridge 2013), pp. 95-124.

2. The surviving examples are almost all in Ravenna, and edited in Jan-Olof Tjäder (ed.), Die nichtliterarische Papyri Italiens aus der Zeit 445-700 (Lund 1955 and Stockholm 1969), 3 vols, and are now discussed in Nicholas Everett, “Lay Documents and Archives in Early Medieval Spain and Italy, c. 400-700″ in Brown, Costambeys, Innes & Kosto, Documentary Culture, pp. 63-94, with refs; for the Justinian problem see Francesca Macino, “Documenti d’Impero: precedenti di età tardoantica (V-VI sec.)” in Peter Erhart, Karl Heidecker & Bernhard Zeller (edd.), Die Privaturkunden der Karolingerzeit (Zürich 2009), pp. 23-30.

3. I first met this debate in Ian N. Wood, “Disputes in Late Fifth- and Sixth-Century Gaul: some problems” and Paul Fouracre, “‘Placita’ and the Settlement of Disputes in Later Merovingian France”, both in Wendy Davies & idem (edd.), The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge 1986), pp. 7-22 and pp. 23-43 respectively, and I never really thought either side had enough evidence for their case. Scepticism has more recently been raised in Warren C. Brown, “When Documents are Destroyed or Lost: lay people and archives in the early Middle Ages” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 11 (Oxford 2002), pp. 337-366; Alice Rio, Legal practice and the written word in the early Middle Ages: Frankish formulae, c. 500-1000 (Cambridge 2009) argues for limited continuity and according to Brown at least, Josiane Barbier for rather more in her “‘Dotes’, donations après rapt et donations mutuelles : les transferts patrimoniaux entre époux dans le royaume franc d’après les formules (VIe-XIe s.)” in Régine Le Jan, Laurent Feller & François Bougard (edd.), Dots et douaires dans le haut Moyen Âge. Actes de la table ronde “Morgengabe, dos, tertia … et les autres …” réunie à Lille et Valenciennes les 2, 3 et 4 mars 2000, Collection de l’École française de Rome 357 (Roma 2002), pp.353-388, although in looking that up I find that she has now apparently got more to say in the subject in the form of Barbier, Archives oubliées du haut Moyen Âge : Les gesta municipalia en Gaule franque (VIe-IXe siècle) (Paris 2014), which must have been done without knowledge of Brown, “‘Gesta municipalia'”; I wonder how it compares?

4. The argument for Church replacement is started in Brown, “When Documents Are Destroyed” and made more fully by Rio in Legal Practice and the Written Word, but cf. Everett, “Lay Documents and Archives”.

5. A. Hodge, “When Is a Charter Not a Charter? Documents in Non-Conventional Contexts in Early Medieval Europe” in Jonathan Jarrett & Allan Scott McKinley (edd.), Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Charters, International Medieval Research 19 (Turnhout 2013), pp. 127-150.

6. Brown, “When Documents are Destroyed”; idem, “Die karolingischen Formelsammlungen – warum existieren sie?” in Erhart, Heidecker & Zeller, Privaturkunden, pp. 95-102; and there are certainly other things of his I haven’t read on similar subjects.

7. As to when that was, well… I can best refer you to Chris Wickham, “The Other Transition: from the ancient to feudalism” in Past and Present no. 103 (Oxford 1984), pp. 3-36, rev. in Wickham, Land and Power: studies in Italian and European social history 400-1200 (Londin 1994), pp. 7-42.

8. Examples of all these in Brown, “‘Gesta municipalia'”, but on the fake trials, Scheinprozesse, see most of all Chris Wickham, “Land Disputes and their Social Framework in Lombard-Carolingian Italy, 700-900” in Davies & Fouracre, Settlement of Disputes, pp. 105-124, rev. in Wickham, Land and Power, pp. 229-256; there is more work to be done finding such cases for sure outside Italy, though see Jonathan Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2005 for 2003), pp. 229-258, for at least one.

Seminar CCXVI: Umayyad connections in early medieval architecture

The backlog remains larger than a year but the only way to deal with that, apart from ceasing to go to or think of things about which I want to blog, which ain’t gonna happen, is for me to keep writing. So, let me now bring you to the General Seminar of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies in the University of Birmingham on the 20th November 2014, where you could have found myself among a good number of others there to hear Professor John Mitchell speak to the title: “Abul-Abbas and all That: the West and the Caliphate in the age of Bede, Desiderius and Charlemagne”.1

The desert palace of Qasr Amra, in modern-day Jordan

The desert palace of Qasr Amra, in modern-day Jordan, which will be made to bear a great deal of weight in this report. “Qasr Amra“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Despite the venue, Professor Mitchell had come not to praise Byzantium but to sideline it, in as much as he was out to contend with the common idea that most early medieval art was basically attempting at one or more removes to look Byzantine, that being the current reflection of the inheritance of Rome to which so many western rulers and patrons wished to lay claim. Instead, he suggested that the evidence is just as strong for early Islam, the alternative and more recently successful superpower of the Eastern Mediterranean and in control of the Holy Places where Westerners more often voyaged than they probably did to Constantinople.2 For example, he argued that the idea of a palace with an inbuilt chapel, found in Byzantine and Lombard contexts and adopted from the latter by Charlemagne, most famously in Aachen, can be found earliest at Khirbat al-Mafjar; that the ornamental projecting towers found on Charlemagne’s palace at Paderborn were best paralleled from the Umayyad desert palaces at Qasr el-Hayr; that Khirbat and Qasr Amra both boast baths like the ones in which Charlemagne sometimes held councils at Aachen (and that Caliph al-Walid is said to have done this himself at Qasr al-Hallabat). More specifically, he pointed to the use of gypsum stucco, not a Roman technique but found at Saint-Germigny-des-Prés, Cividale and San Salvatore di Brescia anyway and for which there are many Islamic examples, and diagonal marbling of columns, another trick with no known Roman roots but good Islamic ones and also found at Brescia; and there was more besides.3

Diagonally-marbled columns at San Salvatore di Brescia

Diagonally-marbled columns at San Salvatore di Brescia, a Lombard foundation much modified by the Carolingians. By Stefano Bolognini (Own work) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

To this, Professor Mitchell met several kinds of counter-argument. Archie Dunn invoked parallels from Greece, and specifically a place with a name like ‘Lulutheis’ which my notes obviously don’t have right (Eleutherai maybe?), for the towers and bath-house, as evidence that such things could also be found in Byzantine contexts and Leslie Brubaker pointed out how much Byzantine evidence is gone, not least because this was the era of the supposedly Iconoclastic emperors whose works were subsequently largely derided and replaced, and both together argued that, if the traditional view is not to hold, at best it must be replaced with one of a three-way conversation, in which the two superpowers both influenced each other and which one then influenced the West is yet to be decided. I, meanwhile, was struggling with some of the supposed influence: the palace chapel idea seemed too vague of definition, since after all what is a palace? The projecting towers at issue seemed to me to clearly be echoes of Roman camps, rather than anything palatial, and in any case Paderborn’s towers were curved, unlike those at Qasr el-Hayr; arguments about connections showing in the fact that these places’ walls contained plumbing seemed to me to forget that they would presumably all have had latrines in; and the stucco work, while the technique may be as Professor Mitchell says unknown in the Roman world, was certainly being used for very different imagery on his Western and Eastern examples. The best parallels of all seemed to be at San Salvatore di Brescia, but that reduces the question to what was going on at that one centre, not over the West as a whole…

Theoldulf of Orléans's church at Saint-Germigny-des-Prés

Nothing survives of Paderborn above the surface, and we’ve had San Salvatore already, so here is Saint-Germigny-des-Prés which I suppose we have to remind ourselves was commissioned by someone who’d grown up in Muslim Spain, for what relevance that may have… « Germigny des Pres » par user:CancreTravail personnel. Sous licence CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

Nonetheless, I don’t want to appear wholly sceptical; after all, it’s not as if there’s any good reason why people in the West who’d been East shouldn’t have tried to imitate some of the wonders they’d seen there, particularly if, as I speculated in questions, they didn’t necessarily know that these palaces and baths and so on were new and Muslim rather than slightly older and Roman or Byzantine, given how imitative of late Roman building some Umayyad stuff was. If even a tenth of what Professor Mitchell suggested was accurate, we probably should be thinking of such people’s ideas being thus inspired, and in that case what I find most intriguing about this paper in retrospect is the apparent importance of Lombardy as a conduit. I can see how, once someone in Benevento built a palace like the one he’d seen at Qasr Amra or wherever, and then people from there went north or someone from the Frankish court came south and saw it and wanted to build something ‘like they have in Italy’, the style might leak north. But the thing about Umayyad desert palaces is their location, you know? And now I wonder what on earth was taking Lombards to Qasr Amra about which we have no other idea…

Ruins of the Umayyad desert palace at Khirbat al-Mafjar, in Palestine

Again, we’ve had Qasr Arma, so here’s the ruins of the Umayyad palace at Khirbat al-Mafjar, in Palestine. “Hishams Palace site view Author MDarter” by MichaelDarter at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.


1. I was there not least because of an excellent chapter of Professor Mitchell’s I read a long time ago which was the first thing that made me think about monumentality as a political statement properly—who could see what and what would they take from it?—that being J. Mitchell, “Literacy Displayed: the use of inscriptions at the monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno in the early ninth century” in Rosamond McKitterick (ed.), The Uses of Literacy in Early Mediaeval Europe (Cambridge 1990), pp. 186-225.

2. On contacts of this kind between Islamic East and West Professor Mitchell cited Oleg Grabar, whose most relevant work would I suppose be his “Trade with the east and the influence of Islamic art on the ‘Luxury Arts’ in the west” in Atti del XXIV congresso internazionale di Storia dell’Arte (Bologna 1982), 10 vols, II pp. 27-34, but his “La place de Qusayr Amrah dans l’art profane du Haut Moyen Âge” in Cahiers Archéologiques Vol. 36 (Paris 1988), pp. 75-83 and his “Umayyad Palaces Reconsidered” in Ars Orientalis Vol. 23 (Ann Arbor 1993), pp. 23-38, also look worth investigating on the topic. One could add John Wilkinson, Jerusalem Pilgrims before the Crusades (Jerusalem 1977), to which cf. for now Peter Darby and Daniel Reynolds, “Reassessing the ‘Jerusalem Pilgrims’: the Case of Bede’s De locis sanctis” in Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant Vol. 9 (London 2014), pp. 27-31, DOI: 10.1179/1752726014Z.00000000022; Dan has more work on this sort of thing under way.

3. I was wondering whether Professor Mitchell might have published some of this material by now, but websearching for it has brought to my attention Beatrice Leal, “The stuccoes of San Salvatore, Brescia, in their Mediterranean context” in Gian Pietro Brogiolo & Francesca Morandini (edd.), Dalla corte regia al monastero di San Salvatore – Santa Giulia di Brescia (Mantova 2014), pp. 221-247, which appears to be part of the same project. On the desert palaces more widely see Grabar, “Umayyad Palaces” as above and on the Carolingian palace at Paderborn the latest word seems to be Antonella Sveva Gai, “Die karolingische Pfalzanlage in Paderborn (776-1002). Vom militärischen Stützpunkt bis zum Bischofssitz” in Götz Alper (ed.), Sulzbach und das Land zwischen Naab und Vils im frühen Mittelalter, Schriftenreihe des Stadtmuseums und Stadtarchivs Sulzbach-Rosenberg 19 (Sulzbach-Rosenberg 2003), pp. 135-154, apparently transl. as “La residenza palatina di Paderborn in Westfalia tra la fine dell’VIII secolo e l’anno mille. Da centro militare a sede vescovile” in Sveva & Federico Marazzi (edd.), Il cammino di Carlo Magno (Napoli 2005), pp. 13-40, though I haven’t seen either so can’t be sure.

Seminar CCXV: class warfare in ninth-century Saxony—or not

We now push on through my awful backlog to 19th November 2014, which was a great day because on it I was able to walk into the Institute of Historical Research in London for the first time in some years, it having completed its lengthy refurbishment. This made me very happy; it has been as close as I’m ever likely to get to having a London club for some years and I had missed it sorely. I’m not a huge fan of the new æsthetics of the Common Room but the tea and cake is the kind of value you don’t see elsewhere in London and they have expanded the Spain and Portugal Room to more than twice its previous size, so I could go and commune with my source materials knowing that it was no longer possible for one person determined to spread out the day’s newspapers together on the table to make it impossible for anyone else to work in there. But leaving such personal glee aside, what was I doing back in the old IHR? Why a seminar of course, namely Dr Ingrid Rembold, presenting to the now-legendary Earlier Middle Ages Seminar with the title “The Stellinga, the Saxon Elite and Carolingian Politics”.

You see there is this odd moment recorded in the sources for the wars between the sons of Emperor Louis the Pious (814-840 as I’m sure you know) over their succession, in which something that looks suspiciously like a popular revolt flared up in the not-long-conquered province of Saxony. The reluctant and unfortunate historian Nithard gives the fullest account:

“… The gens is divided into three orders, and indeed they are called in those parts edhilingui, frilingi and lazzi, that is in Latin noblemen, freemen and serfs. Yet a part of the Saxons, who are held to be noble in those parts, was divided into two factions in the dissension between Lothar and his brothers, and one part followed Lothar; the other, Louis. Considering these things, Lothar recognised that, following the victory of his brothers [at Fontenoy, 841], the people who had been with him might wish to defect, and, being obliged by various necessities, he sought help from whomever he could in any way possible. He therefore started putting public property to private use, giving freedom to some, promising others that he would reward them after victory, and he also sent into Saxony for the frilingi and lazzi, of whom there are an innumerable multitude, promising that if they would follow him, he would let them have from then on the law which their ancestors had had in the times when they were worshippers of idols. Desirous of this above all, they established a new name for themselves, that is Stellinga, and having pressed together into one group almost expelled the lords from the kingdom and were living by whatever law they wished in their former manner.”

This ended badly for them: once it had become clear that despite this and Viking backing Lothar was not going to be able to keep his younger brother Louis the German out of Saxony, in 842, Louis was more less left free, as Nithard put it, to ‘nobly curb the mutineers in Saxony… with lawful slaughter’. And thus ended the rebellion, though there was another brief burst of it a year or two later.1

Rather worryingly, there seems to be a lot of modern film made about this episode. I omit the one that manages to segue from a dramatisation of a Frankish rape of a Saxon woman straight to an interview with Johannes Fried—I kid you not—and instead use this one which seems mainly to be darkness and fire

Other sources vary the picture somewhat. The Annals of St Bertin, being written in the Western kingdom claimed by Charles the Bald, the other two’s younger half-brother, come much closer to saying that the Saxons went pagan again, choosing “to imitate the habits of the pagans rather than to preserve the sacraments of Christian faith”, and says that Louis executed 154 ringleaders. The Annals of Xanten, however, from Lothar’s kingdom, more or less explicitly call it a slave revolt that seriously weakened the local nobility, whereas the Annals of Fulda, from Louis the German’s side, say something similar but call the rebels liberti, ‘freedmen’ or ex-slaves and only mention the 842 part of the episode.2 It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the lower-class revolt angle that’s been picked up by most modern writing about this so far, at the most extreme seeing it as a kind of proto-communism fuelled by the kind of Germanic democracy described by Tacitus seven centuries before by way of signalling to Rome what it had lost by abandoning the Republic for an emperor. The Stellinga thus get lumped together with the similarly ambiguous Bacaudae of the fifth century and the unfortunate ninth-century Frankish peasants who banded together against the Vikings, causing their nobility to put down such initiative “with fire (and according to certain obstinate historians, the sword)”.3

That tendency is understandable, since it looks like things we recognise from much more recent eras, but it has the whiff of anachronism about it, and Ingrid duly called it into question. If I read back through my notes well enough, she argued for an initiative by relatively low-level élites in Saxony looking to climb into the higher levels of status in the area by means of the imperial generosity, and finding themselves with either more liberty or less support than they had expected, and perhaps both, leaving them with no way back and their only hope being to take what they could now get and hope to hold onto some of it, in other words a not very abnormal power-grab entirely within the usual operation of Carolingian power politics.4 And this does make much more sense in terms of contemporary categories than proto-Communism, but I can’t help but object that it isn’t what the sources say. There was a language for such operations, which is focussed on leaders and the justice or otherwise of their claims, and I felt an alternative reading could easily be constructed and that Ingrid’s involved taking a rather fastidious route through the sources. To be fair, although questions forced her to broaden her admission of this dissonance, she managed to defend the basic core of her argument.

Weapons from the early Saxon cemetery of Liebenau

It’s hard to find very many illustrations for early Carolingian Saxony; these weapons, from the Liebenau cemetery, have at least a decent claim to be actually Saxon and have apparently been dated between the fourth and ninth centuries. Foto: Axel Hindemith / , via Wikimedia Commons.

I remain a bit uncomfortable with it, though. Chris Lewis made a point that I thought was probably right, that the sources’ authors seem to be recording something unusual which they don’t understand, and we have inherited their confusion. The things that emerge from all the reports for me are that this was a large-scale movement, involving people under lordship threatening those lords’ control, and that (to editorialise a little) Louis was therefore able to win those lords for his party by enforcing their lordship again. Some of our sources however seem to have remembered that in Saxony a deep hierarchy of lordship was a comparatively new phenomenon, and that the Saxons had used to be such a range of unconnected groups that it had been very hard to impose treaty terms made by any one of their leaders upon them at large.5 It seemed to me that what our sources feared was a return to those bad old ways in which there were fewer and less organised leaders and therefore less outside control, especially since many of those lords (domini, as Nithard and the Annals of Fulda both put it) were presumably immigrant Franks ruling over people whose background they did not share. This seems to me to fit well with how Nithard sententiously winds up his report: “And thus died by authority what had presumed to rise up without authority”; in other words, what killed them—Carolingian top-down lordship—was what they had aimed to escape. That said, Ingrid is right that this obviously didn’t seem like a danger to Lothar and she may therefore be right that the group’s aspirations changed as the war went on, but I still think that the roots of this revolt were more likely to be a wish for a return to older and lighter hierarchies of lordship (though not no lordship at all!) rather than certain people trying to climb higher in them.6


1. Nithard, Historia, ed. Philippe Lauer as Histoire des fils de Louis le Pieux (Paris 1964), rev. Sophie Glansdorff (Paris 2012), transl. in Bernhard Walter Scholz & Barbara Rogers (transl.), Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories (Ann Arbor 1972), pp. 127-174, IV.2, IV.4 & IV.6 (where quoted, quoted in Ingrid’s translation modified by me).

2. Annals of St-Bertin, ed. Félix Grat, Jeanne Vielliard & Suzanne Clemencet as Annales de Saint-Bertin (Paris 1964), trans. Janet L. Nelson as Annals of St-Bertin (Manchester 1992), s. aa 841-842; Annals of Xanten, ed. Bernhard von Simson in idem (ed.), Annales Xantenses et Annales Vedastini, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores Rerum Germanicum in usum scholarum separatim editi) XII (Hannover 1909, repr. 2003), online here, s. aa. 841-842; Annals of Fulda, ed. Friedrich Kurze as Annales Fuldenses sive Annales regni Francorum orientalis, MGH (SRG) VII (Hannover 1891, repr. 1993), online here, transl. Timothy Reuter as The Annals of Fulda (Manchester 1991), s. a. 842.

3. References are collected in Eric J. Goldberg, “Popular Revolt, Dynastic Politics and Aristocratic Factionalism in the Early Middle Ages: the Saxon ‘Stellinga’ reconsidered” in Speculum Vol. 70 (Cambridge MA 1995), pp. 467-501, which until Ingrid gets this into print remains the best available treatment of the episode. The quote, however, is from W. C. Sellar & R. Yeatman, 1066 and All That: a Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates (London 1930, many reprints), p. 6.

4. Depending on what you think was usual, of course; cf. Matthew Innes, “Property, Politics and the Problem of the Carolingian State” in Walter Pohl & Veronika Wieser (edd.), Der frühmittelalterliche Staat – europäische Perspektiven, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 16 (Wien 2009), pp. 299-313.

5. A perspective that I admit starts with a straight reading of Einhard, Vita Karoli, ed. Oswald Holder-Egger as Einhardi Vita Karoli Magni, MGH (SRG) XXV (Hannover 1911, repr. 1965), trans. D. Ganz in idem (ed.), Two Lives of Charlemagne: Einhard and Notker the Stammerer (London 2009), pp. 17-44, cap. 7.

6. Lothar’s perspective is obviously harder to get at than his brothers’, given the lack of an obviously partisan source such as they have in the forms of the Annals of St-Bertin and the Annals of Fulda, but Elina Screen, “The Importance of the Emperor: Lothar I and the Frankish civil war, 840-843” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2003), pp. 25-52, is a good attempt at balance. Other relevant references might be Warren Brown, Unjust Seizure: conflict, interest, and authority in an early medieval society (Ithaca NY 2001), which is a good account of the imposition of Carolingian rule in Bavaria and which I don’t cite half enough, and Innes, “Property, Politics and the Problem of the Carolingian State”, to which see my suggested addition here.

Adding to the Law of the Goths once the Goths were gone

Joan Vilaseca has just mentioned, in comments on the post before last, an instance from Carolingian Catalonia where the pope was called on to amend the Visigothic Law. I had seen this before, at the beginning of my Ph. D., and been reminded of it occasionally since, but while I was looking at the lack of evidence for Carolingian-era liturgical enforcement I had come across it again, and it’s such a peculiar episode it’s worth writing about as an instance of the way that early medieval law was often much more about satisfying competing requirements from those demanding settlement than about following what a lawyer might now say should have applied.1

A Catalan copy of the Visigothic Law, Abadia de Montserrat MS 1109, from Wikimedia Commons

It’s time for the most available image of a Catalan copy of the Law again! Abadia de Montserrat ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

If you’ve been reading a while you’ll probably by now remember that as far as we can see, when the area that’s now Catalonia was adopted into the Frankish empire in the ninth century, it was allowed to continue using the Visigothic law that was still running in the area despite its originating kingdom having ceased to exist in the early eighth century.2 It is much cited and quoted in local documents and it covers most eventualities, but apparently not all, which left the governors of the late-ninth-century province with the question: what do you do when the law of the Goths needs modifying and there’re no Gothic legislators left to do it?

A fourteenth-century depiction of King Louis II of France

A fourteenth-century depiction of King Louis II of France, missing star of this story; as far as I know there is no earlier picture of him surviving. By Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We know that this problem arose because it was brought before the council of Troyes in 878. This was a tense time for the kingdom of the Western Franks under which what is now Catalonia then fell: Emperor Charles the Bald had died in Italy in 877 leaving his eldest, but deeply mistrusted, son Louis II, the ‘Stammerer’, to succeed not just to the kingdom but to the major revolt that Charles had been moving to suppress.3 By the time of the Council of Troyes much of this was quieted but the result was that major reassignments of offices had to be carried out; importantly for Catalonia, this seems to be when Count Guifré the Hairy was given Barcelona to run, because the previous incumbent, Marquis Bernard of Gothia, had been one of the rebels.4 Guifré himself wasn’t apparently present, but others were, including Archbishop Sigebod of Narbonne, who had a while before failed to find the relics of Saint Eulalie in Barcelona, and no less a figure than Pope John VIII. And it was Sigebod who brought up the problem of the law.

Portrait of Pope John VIII

Pope John VIII, actual star of the story, in a no less anachronistic portrait

As the papal bull that records this tells it, Sigebod showed the pope a copy of ‘the book of Gothic law’, and stressed that there was nothing in it about sacrilege and that the book explicitly prohibited its judges from hearing cases about things that it didn’t cover (which indeed it does). We don’t know why Sigebod had brought this up now, but his complaint is clear: “thus the right of the holy Church was being suffocated by the provincial inhabitants of Gaul and Spain”. So they went to look for other law. First up, presumably because they were asking the pope, Bishop of Rome after all, was the “law of the emperor Justinian”, which laid down a penalty of five pounds of the best gold for sacrilege, but they found a more lenient prescription “that was constituted by the pious prince Charles”, a fine of thirty pounds of silver, “that is, 600 solidi of the purest silver”. There’s a range of reasons that’s odd, not the least of which is that that conversion is two-and-a-half times the usual reckoning of twenty solidi to the pound, but anyway, the pope preferred the lighter penalty, and further ordained that anyone not paying this fine will be excommunicated until they do. John concludes: “And we ordered that this law should be written at the end of the book of worldly law.”5

Archivo de la Corona de Aragón MS Ripoll 40, fo. 9r

Actual Carolingian legislation from Catalonia, the Ripoll copy of Ansegis’s collection of capitularies, Archivo de la Corona de Aragón MS Ripoll 40, fo. 9r, from the PARES portal

A theoretically-minded lawyer would quite possibly find this very frustrating. Firstly, Catalonia is under a Carolingian king at this point, and as this council reveals there is Carolingian legislation that covers this, to which surely this area was theoretically subject. It’s not as if Carolingian legislation wasn’t known and used in the area, or known at least; we have copies of it from this era, as you see at right.6 All the same, that apparently didn’t work for Sigebod; he needed to be able to cite the Visigothic Law. Now, that confines the right to make legislation to ‘the prince’, which term surely encompasses whoever is in charge of the secular government.7 That, at this point, was surely King Louis, in whose very court they now stand, but it is not him they consult. And when the pope is consulted instead, his first port of call is not any local law, but the law of a man who had never ruled this area, Justinian I (though it is interesting to see Justinianic law in use here so early rather than the Codex Theodosianus or its derivatives). Admittedly, what they wind up with in the end is Carolingian law, all the same, so you could if you wanted to squint see this as an elaborate confirmation that the Carolingians have indeed replaced the old rulers of the Roman Empire, and if so then there’s no-one more fitting than the pope, whose predecessors had crowned the first Carolingian and raised Charlemagne to the rank of emperor, to make it apparent. But I don’t think that’s what was happening here, because Louis didn’t get to occupy that rôle; it wasn’t he who issued the new decree. He was thus neither emperor-substitute, even though he was son of the last emperor of the West, nor ‘prince’ of what his son would later call ‘our Gothic kingdom’.8

Let’s be as clear as we can: the king still ruled the area, or the relevant people wouldn’t have been asking about this at his council. At this same council, indeed, he would issue a precept to Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona, who was apparently there and whom you might think would be concerned with this legislation given the problems he apparently faced, confirming the rights of Barcelona’s cathedral, that same text which is first to mention the relics of Saint Eulalie being there.9 So the royal word and ruling was worth something still! Apparently not enough, though, for the king to be allowed to add to the Law of the Goths like the real princes of yesteryear. Instead, the pope, whom no-one would yet call a princeps, and the assembled churchmen in council with him, got to add to the “codex legis mundanae”. It seems then that royal authority in Catalonia was already fading into the half-light it occupied for the next century-plus here: it was useful, prestigious and traditional, but passive; it could not now do anything new any more, so for that new solutions were required. The one that was improvised here was not decisive, but it’s surprising. It surprises me not least because apparently Louis accepted this replacement of what we might think should have been his authority; only four years before, after all, his father was still dispatching missi to the Spanish March to check up on the misuse of royally-granted privileges.10 Louis’s position was weaker, but would Archbishop Sigebod really have dismissed it if Louis had issued a capitulary enforcing his great-grandfather’s rules once more? I don’t understand why it was the pope who got to do this, but I think that that fact shows us that something crucial had changed here, very recently.


1. The classic exposition of this view of early medieval law is Patrick Wormald, “Lex Scripta and Verbum Regis: legislation and Germanic kingship, from Euric to Cnut” in Peter Sawyer & Ian N. Wood (edd.), Early Medieval Kingship (Leeds 1977), pp. 105-138.

2. See now Jeffrey Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: Property, Proof, and Dispute in Catalonia around the Year 1000 (Ithaca 2004), pp. 33-55.

3. Rosamond McKitterick, The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians (London 1983), pp. 258-259; cf. Janet L. Nelson, Charles the Bald (London 1992), pp. 250-255 for a more positive reading of the sources.

4. Ramon d’Abadal in de Vinyals, Els Primers Comtes de Catalunya, Biografies Catalanes: sèrie hist&oagrave;rica 1 (Barcelona 1958, repr. 1980), pp. 53-72; cf. now Joan Vilaseca, “Onze de setembre de 878” in idem, Recerques en la Alta Edat Mitjana Catalana (II) (Terrassa 2013), pp. 97-118; I haven’t made up my mind about this yet!

5. Ramond d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis a Catalunya, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica 2 & 3 (Barcelona 1926-1952), 2 vols, ap. IX:

“… venit ante praesentiam nostram filius noster Sigebodus primae sedis Narbonensis episcopus cum suis suffraganeis episcopis, & detulit nobis librum Gothicae legis, ubi nihil habebatur de sacrilegiis; & in eisdem legibus scriptum erat ut causae quas illae leges non habent, non audirentur a judicibus illius patriae. Atque ita jus sanctae Ecclesiae suffocabatur ab incolis Galliae & Hispaniae provinciis. Unde nostra serenitas cum praescriptis episcopis, inespectus legibus Romanis, ubi habebatur de sacriliegiis, invenimus ibi a Justininiano imperatore legem compositionis sacrilegii constitutam, scilicet in quinque libras auri optimi. Sec nos leniorem legem praecipimus esse tenendam qua a Karolo est constituta pio principe de compositione sacrilegii, videlicet in triginta libras examinati argenti, id est, secxentorum [sic] solidorum argenti purissimi. Ideoque quisquis inventus fuerit reus sacrilegii, istam leviorem compositionem emendet ipsis episcopis vel abbatibis sive personis ad quos sacrilegii querimonia juste pertinuerit. Et si ipse reus sacrilegii facere noluerit, tamdiu excommunicationi subjaceat usquequo praedictam compositionem sexcentorum solidorum persolvat. Et si in hac obstinatione mortuus fuerit, corpus ejus cum psalmis et hymnis non deferatur ad sepulturam. Et praecipimus ut in fine codicis legis mundanae scribatur haec lex.”

6. Barcelona, Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, Manuscrits Ripoll 40, on which see M. E. Ibarbaru Asurmendi, “Translatio Sancti Stephani ab Hierosolymis Constantinopolim. Capitularia Regum Francorum (Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó: Ms. Ripoll 40)” in Antoni Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya Romànica X: el Ripollès (Barcelona 1987), pp. 291-292.

7. Karl Zeumer (ed.), Leges Visigothorum, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Leges Nationum Germanicum) I (Hannover 1902, repr. 2005), transl. S. P. Scott as The Visigothic Code (Boston 1922), II.1.XII.

9. Charles the Simple, in Abadal, Catalunya Carolíngia II, Elna IV.

9. Ibid., Barcelona: Esglesia Catedral de Santa Creu II.

10. Ibid., ap. VII.

Liturgy, coins and buried saints in 870s Barcelona: Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona reexamined

I’m sorry as usual about the gap between posts here; my excuse this time, apart from the treadmill of lecture preparation (which is actually teaching me stuff and making me think, as subsequent blog will eventually show), is that this post actually required research, because not least I know that one of the regular readers has written around this topic and I wanted to make sure I knew what they’d said before I charged in. The background to this post is a conversation at the Ecclesiastical History Society conference in 2014, when people were encouraging me to come to next year’s meeting, whose theme was translation. Someone making the point that for the Ecclesiastical History Society that could as well include the ‘translation’ of saints’ relics from one site to another got me thinking about Saint Eulalie of Barcelona, and from there I was tempted to try and intervene in the messy but inescapable historiographical circle that seems to orbit her early medieval cult. In the end, I never did offer the paper, but I did a bit of reading around it and realised all the problems afresh, consulted some of the primary evidence and wanted to express my uncertainty about what people have written. That meant I had to read more of it and now, here we are and I’ve written what’s nearly a paper anyway. But let me explain the problem.

Crypt of Saint Eulalie in cathedral of Santes Creu i Eulàlia de Barcelona

Crypt of Santa Eulalia” by Bernard GagnonOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Saint Eulalie, to whom the cathedral of Barcelona is jointly dedicated and where her remains are held to rest in the very snazzy Gothic sarcophagus above, was supposedly martyred under the auspices of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, as are a great many martyrs whose stories are only known from much later. After suffering various and eventually lethal tortures her body was laid to rest in Santa Maria de les Arenes, which was subsequently rebuilt into the rather lovely Santa Maria del Mar, on which more in a future post. According to the narrative of Eulalie’s own translatio, her remains were hidden in 713 when the city was about to fall to the Muslims, and only recovered at some point before 878 (perhaps 877), when Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona and the visiting Archbishop Sigebod of Narbonne made a determined search which came up with nothing, and then Frodoí made a return visit and was divinely guided to the spot where her body was. She was duly moved to the bishop’s cathedral of Santa Creu, with a certain amount of difficulty eventually overcome, and now the cathedral is Santes Creu i Eulàlia.1 So far so conventional, right?

Interior of the cloister of Santes Creu & Eulàlia de Barcelona

Interior of the cloister of Santes Creu & Eulàlia de Barcelona

Now, the earliest manuscript of the translatio is fourteenth-century, and the ninth and tenth centuries are periods that just don’t generate saints’ lives from Catalonia as far as we know, so it is likely that this was written up rather later than the events, but there is some reason to believe at least the chronology of the story.2 Sigebod and Frodoí were contemporaries and a royal precept for Frodoí of 878 mentions the saint’s remains at the cathedral, the first text to do so.3 Frodoí had been bishop of Barcelona since at least 862 but Sigebod archbishop only since 873 so if that detail’s right the window is actually quite tight. The problem is Frodoí, and the translatio is tied into this problem. Now, if you can find anything to read about Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona (attested 862-890), it will probably say three things:

  1. he was a Frank appointed by Charles the Bald;
  2. that he found the body of Saint Eulalie;
  3. and that he oversaw the change of the liturgy in Barcelona from the old Hispanic rite of worship to the Gallo-Roman one favoured by the Franks.

It will, indeed, usually link all these things: he was appointed to deal with the liturgical independence, so needed to be a Frank, and this was so unpopular that we find him poking round Santa Maria de las Arenes looking for some way to increase his standing and show God’s backing for his plans.4

Diner de transició supposedly of Bishop Teodoric of Barcelona (904-922)

Diner de transició supposedly of Bishop Teodoric of Barcelona (904-922), according at least to Martí Hervera S. L. in 5 July 2011, but they have the supposed tomb the wrong way up and didn’t sell it, so what did they know?

The other thing that whatever you’re reading may also say is that Frodoí was responsible for the beginning of independent minting in Barcelona. This also winds up being connected, because the reason that the particular coin type in question is assigned to him is that it may (or may not) show the tomb of Saint Eulalie.5 There at least we have the coins, and we also have a concession to his see of the right from King Louis II (877-879), though many such concessions exist that we can’t show were ever used.6 But for the first three points, and particularly the first and third, evidence is really very hard to find, and without them the basic interpretation of the second, in its fourteenth-century post facto write-up, becomes very shaky indeed. There is one key piece of evidence that is usually dragged into this, the records of a council at Attigny in 874 at which Frodoí and his see were most of the business dealt with, but if you look at it without these preconceptions it’s not at all clear to me that it supports this case, as I’ll show below.7 Instead, all of the suppositions cling to each other for mutual support but lack a solid footing. I started into this post because I’d just re-read the Attigny record and realised this afresh, but if I want you to believe my scepticism I need to tackle points (1) and (3) first, and I might as well also set out my stall about the coinage as I go.

The Palais de Charlemagne at Attigny

Lacking a more relevant image. I searched for the palace of Attigny and it turns out firstly that something survives called that, and secondly it was built in the sixteenth century but looks weirdly like whoever built it knew the Lorsch Torhalle. Doesn’t it? I guess, with no knowledge, that this is a rebuild of a palace gatehouse from before people could remember… “Palais de Charlemagne d’Attigny” by Adri08Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

So, was he Frankish? The only evidence for this that is ever adduced is his name, which is basically unparalleled in Catalonia. “On devine dejà par son nom qu’il était originaire d’une région germanique de l’empire”, wrote Anscarí Mundó without citation in 1971, for example.8 This is a dangerous thing to say from a local context; it may not look like a local name, sure, but that doesn’t tell you where it is from. But these days, we can check this thanks to the Nomen et Gens project. As it happens, they lump the name in under Chrodoin and have no cases of it spelt with an initial F. They have 65 cases of it spelt otherwise, but almost all of them are from Wissembourg, only two not and those two are someone acting as a scribe for a royal charter at the same sort of time, end of the seventh and beginning of the eighth centuries. The Wissembourg occurrences also feature a number of scribal appearances as notarius and so on, and so there is at least a starting possibility that these are in fact all the same guy.9 Even if not, it’s obviously not a common name anywhere as far as we can tell except maybe the modern Saarland two centuries before our bishop comes to notice, and he spells and pronounces it differently. So I’m calling suspicion on that conclusion; we obviously can’t say where Frodoí was from, we can’t even say where his name was from but if we could that wouldn’t prove anything, and while he did have dealings with Charles the Bald and his son Louis the Stammerer, so might any bishop of their kingdom have during the messy civil war of the era, in which Barcelona, famously (at least for old readers here) and unlike more ‘Germanic’ areas closer to the court, stayed loyal to the kings. So while I don’t say that Frodoí wasn’t a Frankish reformer, the evidence is weak apart unless we allow the liturgical change to be part of it.

Then, because I want to do the liturgy last, the coinage. This is pinned to Frodoí by the so-called tomb of Saint Eulalie—but if that’s what that symbol really is it would also work for any bishop of Barcelona after him (like Teodoric above). King Charles the Bald (840-877) had reformed the coinage of the West in 864 and this seems not to have been carried out in Catalonia, suggesting to some that they were already doing their own thing, but that still doesn’t mean that they had to start their own at the reform date; perhaps they just weren’t minting at Barcelona in 864 and when they resumed, perhaps in the 890s, Charles’s specifications were a dead letter.10 So the reasons to suppose they’re Frodoí’s are basically his association with Saint Eulalie, which his successors would have shared, and that assuming that that is what that coin shows, and that otherwise Barcelona would have had no coin in production, which is just horror vacui. Furthermore, if these coins are Frodoí’s, it messes somewhat with point 1, because they show him ignoring royal instructions rather than carrying them out despite opposition, and this from a man who would visit the Carolingian court at least twice more thereafter. So I do think, on balance, that they are more likely to be later.11

Crypt of Santa Eulàlia de Barcelona

A different shot of the crypt, this one chosen because you can just see the supposed original tomb in it, because it is stashed at the back of the crypt, here just visible between the pillars of the Gothic one in which the saint now resides. the crypt is kept locked and this is as good a camera angle as one can get on it, I know having tried. It’s really frustrating. This photo is by vinpet942 on Panoramio and used under their Creative Commons license.

So the translatio and the liturgical change are the crucial diad that anchors the rest of this, and you’ve seen what the evidence for the translatio is: a fourteenth-century copy of a text maybe little earlier (since it regards the cult as well established) which has some details in it that look right but could have come from the 878 charter. It’s not implausible but it’s not a lot and it certainly doesn’t mention liturgical reform. So what’s the evidence for that? Well, all too often it is just that Frodoí was a Frankish royal appointment and therefore must have danced to the conformist tunes of the Carolingian cultural project, but as we’ve seen the evidence for that is non-existent, if those coins are his he seems to have been willing to ignore royal legislation when it suited him and anyway we no longer believe so fervently in uniformity as a goal of the Carolingian project anyway.12 One other thing that has been linked is an apparent rebuild of part of the old cathedral of Barcelona at around this time, but although that could be significant it is also circular: the evidence for dating the works to Frodoí’s rule is that we ‘know’ he was instrumental in changing the liturgy, so we can’t really then use the cathedral works as proof that he did so!13 Is there nothing better? And to this, those who know this area will probably already be saying: of course there is, there’s the synod of Attigny in 874! And indeed there is, so let’s have a look at it. It survives as a capitulary, so it’s already conveniently in sections which can be summarised.14

  1. Bishop Frodoí reports that a Cordoban priest called Tirs has set up shop in a church, within the Barcelona city walls but without episcopal authorisation, and managed to appropriate two parts of the city’s tithe from the congregation he’s attracted; here are a whole bunch of canon law citations and cites from the laws of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious about how this is wrong (which actually comprise two-thirds of the document); since it’s a long way and dangerous to bring these people from the March (even though Frodoí had made it, but moving on), King Charles delegates dealing with this to his marquis in the area.
  2. Frodoí also demands that he should get back the ministry of the castle of Terrassa, which ‘by the insolence of the priest’ (presumably still Tirs) has been acquired by ‘the faction of Baió’; there are several council rulings about why that’s wrong too.
  3. Lastly, Frodoí also reports that a Goth called Madeix has taken over the church of Sant Esteve in Barcelona and turned it over to the ‘conversation of rustics’ and another Goth called Requesèn has grabbed the field of Santa Eulàlia, and both of them claim they have these things by royal precepts; the king thus being implicated, he sends missi to investigate this and they are to send a report to the court; if it turns out that these Goths do in fact hold by royal grant, then those grants are to be sealed and sent back to the king too, and examined according to the law so that he can see how they lied to get them and cancel it.

And that’s it. Now, do you see anything about liturgy in there? I mean, it is clear that Frodoí has problems; large parts of his congregation would rather go and listen to some fly-by-night from the south, who seems to be able to reorganise ecclesiastical property at whim, while Frodoí’s church’s property is being nibbled at by people who seem at least to have royal connections, but, even if I put the full text in here you’d see nothing about liturgy.

Now, it may be that liturgy is implied: it has been correctly observed that a priest from Córdoba at this time would be trained in the Hispanic rite still, and maybe this is why he had such an attraction to Frodoí’s flock, but if so in this lengthy complaint about all the things he was doing wrong, it never comes up; instead, his independent operation in the face of the diocesan bishop’s authority is the be-all and end-all of the ruling, some of which is actually supported from Visigothic councils! The other hidden factor that may be here is that Terrassa had once had a bishopric of its own, at Egara, swallowed into Barcelona by the Frankish reorganisation. This gives some context as to how a priest could set up there, presumably in the late antique complex of Sant Pere, Santa Maria and Sant Miquel de Terrassa below, and defy a bishop; but Tirs was working inside Barcelona, where it seems decently obvious Frodoí had almost no power, so while it’s likely that that’s in there somewhere, it’s not clear how.

What we can safely say from this document, then, is that in 874, very few people in Barcelona were willing to listen to their bishop, and were entertaining alternatives; it may be that that is because he was forcing upon them an unpopular but apparently somewhat delayed change of liturgy, but if so that isn’t what he asks for help with; it may because he was a foreigner, and ‘Goths’ do seem to be part of the problem, but Tirs was presumably hardly less so and you know what I think Goths are here anyway.15

Panoramic view of the three churches of Egara at Terrassa.

Panoramic view of the three churches of Egara at Terrassa. “Egara. Conjunt episcopal” by Oliver-BonjochOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

So, really, you have already to believe that liturgy was an issue for Frodoí’s episcopate before you can see it here. So what is the basis for believing that there was a Carolingian attack on the Hispanic liturgy? Good question, to which the answer is basically that that liturgy goes away. There is no legislation against it as such, and in fact really no texts that mention it other than booklists. Now, from those, you can do something: the late Anscarí Mundó long ago argued, from the manuscripts he knew so well but cited so rarely, that the window of change is 785xc. 1000. He thought it was probably early in that window, by reason of it being unlikely that any imported personnel would know or use the Hispanic liturgy, so that with the steady replacement of local priests by immigrant ones or ones trained by the cathedrals of immigrant bishops, the Hispanic liturgy would be less and less used, and he listed the immigrant bishops and observed a near-total dropout of evidence for the copying of texts of the Hispanic liturgy over the ninth century.16

This all makes sense to me, and it is also roughly how I think charter formulae were changed, but where I differ from Mundó is in how much compulsion I think was involved and how total this replacement was. Booklists of course tend to be in the wills of people who had lots of stuff, and it’s at the lower levels that I think we see more interesting things. For example, do you remember my writing about Bishop Nantigis of Urgell and the non-heretical priest Adeudat, who in 901 had an ordo toletanum, a Toledan priest’s service-book, to give to his church at Guils de Cantó? It’s among a bunch of other service books which would probably have been Latin rite, but nonetheless he passed it on and Bishop Nantigis didn’t stop him doing so.17 This far out, having a priest who was able to carry out the ministry at all was probably more important than exactly which service they used. Probably in most cathedrals or old mother churches there would have been a copy, probably increasingly battered and hard to replace, for the rare occasions when the priests from there officiated at such places. And that’s in the early tenth century, pace Mundó.

Part of a leaf from a Hispanic-rite breviary from fourteenth-century Toledo, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 10110, fo 2r

Part of a leaf from a Hispanic-rite breviary from fourteenth-century Toledo, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 10110, fo 2r, borrowed from Ainoa Castro Correa, “Codex of the month (IX): Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, ms 10110″. Littera Visigothica (October 2015), http://litteravisigothica.com/codex-of-the-month-ix-madrid-biblioteca-nacional-ms-10110 with thanks

So, if in fact there wasn’t an effective Carolingian campaign to stamp out the Hispanic liturgy, but a slow and opportunistic replacement of it instead, where does this leave Bishop Frodoí? Not obviously Frankish; not visibly any kind of reformer; extremely unpopular for a time at least in his episcopal city and with only grudging support from local secular authority; backed to the hilt, nonetheless, by the king whose orders some numismatists would have us believe he ignored; and held later, but not in contemporary evidence, to be the finder of Saint Eulalie’s relics. And that might well still be true, or at least I don’t think there’s any obvious reason to disbelieve it and plenty of signs that needed whatever support he could get; but I think any attempt to bring liturgical reform into the reasons he was disliked is just basically unfounded! And that means that everything that is founded on that belief is also in trouble…


1. The stock reference for all this is Ángel Fabrega Grau, Santa Eulalia de Barcelona: revisión de una problema histórico (Roma 1958), online here, which prints the source text pp. 151-155; the revised date of 877 is suggested in Joan Vilaseca Corbera, “Sant Vicenç i Santa Eulàlia, la cristianització del culte a Apol·lo i la política internacional carolíngia de la segona meitat del segle IX” in idem, Recerques sobre l’Alta Edat Mitjana Catalana (II) (Terrassa 2013), pp. 1-95 at pp. 64-65, and he certainly shows that it can’t easily have been 878. I should also mention that I owe my copy of this work to the generosity of the author; thankyou Joan, it has made me think!

2. Fabrega used Archivo de la Catedral de Barcelona, MSS 104, 105 & 108 which are early-fourteenth to early fifteenth-century in his estimation.

3. That precept printed as Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis a Catalunya, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica 2 & 3 (Barcelona 1926-1952), 2 vols, Barcelona: Esglésie Catedral de Santa Creu II.

4. I think this must come from Fabrega, but I first met it in Miquel Crusafont i Sabater, “La moneda barcelonina del segle X. Altres novetats comtals” in Acta Numismàtica Vol. 38 (Barcelona 2008), pp. 91-121 at pp. 94-95, without citation, which is how I’ve usually met it since, as e. g. in J.-F. Cabestany, “El culte de Santa Eulàlia a la Catedral de Barcelona (S. IX-X)” in Lambard: estudis d’art medieval Vol. 9 (Barcelona 1996-1997), pp. 159-165, online here, last modified 8th February 2007 as of 20th June 2009, where the only relevant citation is to Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Els primers comtes catalans, Biografies catalanes: sèrie històrica 1 (Barcelona 1958, repr. 1980), which doesn’t in fact support the claims.

5. Crusafont, “Moneda barcelonina”, p. 96, again without citation; Miquel Crusafont, Anna M. Balaguer and Philip Grierson, Medieval European Coinage, with a Catalogue of the Coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 6: the Iberian Peninsula (Cambrdge 2013), p. 73, however says the first publication of the idea is Miquel Crusafont i Sabater, Numismàtica de la Corona Catalano-Aragonesa medieval (785-1516) (Madrid 1982), p. 31; cf. Joaquim Botet y Sisó, Les monedes catalanes (Barcelona 1908-1911), 3 vols, I p. 189, Xavier Sanahuja i Anguera, “La moneda de Barcelona al segle X segons les troballes Epsanya-1 i Espanya-2 (925)” in Acta Numismàtica Vol. 36 (Barcelona 2006), pp. 79-113 at p. 94 and Jonathan Jarrett, “Currency change in pre-millennial Catalonia: coinage, counts and economics” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 169 (London: Royal Numismatic Society 2010 for 2009), pp. 217-243 at p. 220, all of which argue that a modification of the Carolingian ‘temple’ reverse type seems more likely.

6. For the concession see n. 3 above; for unused minting concessions in the area see Jarrett, “Currency change”, pp. 224-225.

7. The Attigny record is printed in Abadal, Catalunya Carolíngia 2, ap. VII, among other places.

8. A. M. Mundó, “Les changements liturgiques en Septimanie et en Catalogne pendant la période préromane” in Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa Vol. 2 (Codalet 1971), pp. 29-42 at p. 38.

9. It doesn’t seem to be possible to link to a search in Nomen et Gens, but it’s easy enough to run; I searched for ‘Frod%’ without quotes. The Wissembourg Chrodoin occurs or Chrodoins occur in Karl Glöckner and Ludwig Anton Doll (edd.), Traditiones Wizenburgenses: die Urkunden des Klosters Weissenburg (661-864) (Darmstadt 1979), doc. nos 36, 45, 46, 169, 186, 194-196, 202, 213, 218, 224-227, 232, 239, 244, 247, 256, 257, 261 & 265 and Theo Kölzer (ed.), Die Urkunden der Merowinger, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Diplomata regum Francorum e stirpe Merovingica) I (Hannover 2001), 2 vols, doc. no. 1. What d’you reckon, Alan?

10. Compare Miquel Crusafont, “Nou tipus carolingi de Barcelona de Carles el Calb: el diner de Barcelona fins a R. Berenguer I” in II Simposi numismatic de Barcelona (Barcelona 1980), pp. 47-55 to Simon Coupland, “The early coinage of Charles the Bald” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 151 (London 1991), pp. 121-158, reprinted in Coupland, Carolingian coinage and the Vikings: studies on power and trade in the 9th century, Variorum Collected Studies 847 (Aldershot 2007), IX, at p. 126; it’s not very often Simon Coupland’s missed a coin, but on this occasion…

11. In this respect I now differ from Jarrett, “Currency Change”, pp. 219-220.

12. See Stuart Airlie, “The Cunning of Institutions” in Jennifer R. Davis & Michael McCormick (edd.), The Long Morning of Medieval Europe: new directions in early medieval studies (Aldershot 2008), pp. 267-271.

13. Cabestany, “El culte de Santa Eulàlia”, tries the logic I argue against here.

14. See n. 7 above.

15. I follow Jesus Lalinde Abadia, “Godos, hispanos y hostolenses en la órbita del rey de los Francos” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium internacional sobre els orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), 2 vols, also published as Memorias de le Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991-1992), II pp. 35-74, online here.

16. Mundó, “Changements liturgiques”.

17. Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Les actes de consagracions d’esglesies del bisbat d’Urgell (segles IX-XII)” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 1 (Montserrat 1978), pp. 11-182, doc. no. 14.

The Church and doubt, mostly in the Middle Ages

You may, by now, have had enough of my conference reporting from a year ago, and believe you me, by the time summer 2014 ended I had had enough of conferences for a bit. But, there is one more to go, which was the 53rd Summer Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, which took place at the University of Sheffield from 22nd-24th July, and I was there. The EHS publishes most of its proceedings and I liked the theme, which was ‘Doubt’, so I pitched a paper and they accepted it and so there I was. Now, in the event my paper was not sufficiently doubt-full to be accepted for publication, but it was still a good conference and slightly off my usual beat, which is generally good for one. Still, because I have less to say about most of the papers than usual, I’m going to get the three days done in one post, and because that will likely be large, I will just give you the list of what I saw and heard, and then stick my commentary below a cut so that those of you reading the actual front page can choose to skip on by if you like. Here’s that list, then:

    Tuesday 22nd July

    Plenary Session 1

  • Frances Andrews, “Doubting John”.
  • Session 1.1

  • Aideen O’Leary, “Devotion to St Andrew in Scotland and Anglo-Saxon England”.
  • Stephen Sharman, “Bede and the Credible Witness: a response to doubt”.
  • Christine Walsh, “Faith and Authenticity: eleventh- and twelfth-century concerns about the cult of saints and their relics”.
  • Session 2.1

  • Christine Oakland, “‘A Box Full of Hay?’ Doubt and Truth in the Diocese of Sens”.
  • Jan Vandeburie, “When in Doubt, Give Him the Finger: Ugolino di Conti’s loss of faith and Jacques de Vitry’s intervention”.
  • Wednesday 23rd July

    Plenary Session 2

  • Janet Nelson, “Carolingian Doubt?”
  • Session 3.1

  • Kimberley-Joy Knight, “Lachrymose Holiness and the Problem of Doubt in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Hagiographies”.
  • Anik Laferrière, “Doubting Monica: the deletion of Monica from fourteenth-century Vitae Augustini in the Augustinian Order of Hermits”.
  • Steven Watts, “Demons and Doubt: the peculiar account of Brother Bernard’s possession in Jordan of Saxony’s Libellus“.
  • Plenary Session 3

  • Ian Forrest, “Trust and DOubt: the late medieval bishop and local knowledge”
  • Session 4.2

  • Emily Ewing Graham, “Heresy and identity: late medieval friars and the kingdom of Aragón”.
  • Patrick Zutshi, “Evidence and Doubt: the beginning of the Great Schism according to the testimony collected at Medina del Campo in 1380-1”.
  • Thursday 24th July

    Session 5.1

  • Jonathan Jarrett, “The Anger of St Peter: the effects of spiritual sanctions in early medieval charters of donation”.
  • Thomas Smith, “Investigating the Pope’s Doubts: the validity of petitions from thirteenth-century England”.
  • Enrico Veneziani, “Doubting the Authority of Peter: the trial of Pontius of Cluny”.
  • Plenary Session 4

  • Kirstie Blair, “Unforming Faith: poetry, doubt and the Church of England in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

And this is (some of) what I thought about it all… Continue reading