Tag Archives: Beaulieu

How a saint’s cult gets started

When as medievalists we are told by our sources about a saint’s cult, it is most often of all via hagiography, a written Life of the saint that explains his or her lifelong holiness and authenticates it by means of miracles, especially by miracles after death, since these tell you that the person in question has gone to Heaven (because God does not hear the prayers of the damned). Such an account is still part of the required apparatus for recognition of saints by the Catholic Church now, I believe, but it’s also reckoned to have been a vital part of a cult site’s own propaganda. We don’t often catch the cult before that point, when the propaganda hasn’t really got started and everyone’s only just cottoning on that something special may be happening here. But there is such an episode in the charters of St-Pierre de Beaulieu, with which I was finishing in April 2014 when I stubbed this post. Let me introduce you to the Blessed Rainer.

Apses and chapels of St-Pierre de Beaulieu en Limousin

Let’s have a different picture of St-Pierre from the normal one… By MOSSOT (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Rainer’s cult doesn’t seem to have stuck, but a man called Remi wanted it to and at some point in the reign of King Lothar III (954-967) he gave Beaulieu a manse in Oriols (in Davazac in the Limousin) for the benefit of his own soul and someone called Robert, and:

“in honour of the blessed Rainer who was provost of the selfsame place already said, and because of this, that the selfsame man showed his great virtue to all who were there present, when a crippled adolescent who had been brought to his tomb, through the great felicity of his intercession, quickly came running before the altar of Saint Peter; and this great miracle was produced on the feast of Saint Martial.”1

This is almost all we get on Rainer; one other charter from 968 refers to a church or altar of St-Rainer that had already received some of the testator’s land in a place called Flexo in Puy d’Arnac, right by the monastery, so perhaps he was moved out into his own chapel, and that’s the last notice as far as I know (not that I have gone looking).2 Even here there are some interesting questions, though. Why didn’t the monks keep him, if he was already a focus of popular devotion? (Presumably one doesn’t dump one’s invalids in front of a nobody’s tomb when there’s an altar of St Peter nearby…) Why is it on the feast of Saint Martial (who was culted not here but at the local diocesan of Limoges) that all this occurred? It may be that, since this was a monastic church, people simply couldn’t access it except on feast days, of course, and the house’s ties to its bishops were usually pretty good early on so an open house for Beaulieu on St Martial’s in recognition of that is not implausible.

View down the nave towards the altar of St-Pierre de Beaulieu en Limousin

A view down the nave to that same (well, not *the* same, but a similarly-positioned) altar of St Peter. By MOSSOT (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Still, one would expect Peter to make a better showing here. Was he just too big and universal to petition? Beaulieu did have other saints present, though: at various points in its charters it claims additional dedication to all of Felix, Felicitas, Felician, Denis, Martin, Benoît and Eloy, so you’d think that one of them at least meant something to the visitors. I wonder if that wasn’t perhaps precisely the problem: they had all this holy weight stored up and it was one of their provosts who attracted the popular attention. Was he getting out and doing good works and making the rest of them look bad? (Another Cuthbert?) We can’t know, of course, but today is as good a day as any to take notice of one medieval man who was thought a bit more remarkable than most by those who remembered him.


1. Maximin Deloche (ed.), Cartulaire de l’Abbaye de Beaulieu (en Limousin) (Paris 1869), doc. no. LXX:

“in honore B. Rainerii qui de ipso loco jam dicto præpositus fuit, et propter hoc quia ipse virtutem magnam omnibus qui aderamus ostendit, adolescens etiam qui deportatus ad ejus tumulum contractus fuit, ipsius intercessione cum magna felicitate, ante altare S. Petri currendo festinus pervenit; et illud magnum miraculum ostensum fuit in festivitate S. Martialis.”

2. Ibid. doc. no. CIX.

More curiosities of the Beaulieu cartulary documents

One of the things that can happen with charter collections that interests me most is when we find that an institution has for some reason or other preserved two versions of the same document. My pet case of this is the bequest from the will of Count Guifré II Borrell to the cathedral of Vic in 911: there are two versions of this, with slightly different witness lists but differing most significantly in whether or not the grant includes a third of the revenues from minting in the city.1 Both appear to be more or less contemporary with the grant date, both are single sheets, both are properly signed off, they are diplomatically ‘authentic’ but one of them is obviously not true. If you want to get properly thinky about it, there are scenarios in which which one that was could change: for example, say the count originally intended to make the grant, and a document was drawn up, but he was then persuaded to reconsider and keep the mint for himself and his heirs, so a new one was drawn up. Then, maybe a century later or maybe sooner, the cathedral outs with the first version at some argument with the count and get the rights conceded. Certainly the bishops of Vic struck coin by the eleventh century, but the other version of this grant must only exist because at some point the opposite was preferred.2 So, true, false, then true again, authentic all the time! I think it should be that way round, because otherwise why would the cathedral keep the one in which they got less? But anyway, these cases help illustrate that several versions of a text could exist from the beginning and even be preserved by the same people, which means a bit of rethinking over some of the classical assumptions of diplomatic.

An episcopal diner of Vic, showing Saints Peter and Paul facing each other paired with a man ploughing with an ox right

An episcopal diner of Vic, showing Saints Peter and Paul facing each other paired with a man ploughing with an ox right, probably of the late eleventh century and now in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

The example I’ve come across at Beaulieu is more mundane but also more personal. It is from May 885, when one Ermenric became concerned about the end of the world (in the way that we’ve discussed) and the state of his soul if it did, or at least was made to say so by the scribes who wrote his resulting donation to the monastery of Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu. He was no minor person, Ermenric, holding some of his land by direct gift from King Carloman, and Beaulieu got richer by twenty-four distinct farmsteads, most of whose tenants were named (three being empty), and a castle that was on one of these properties. They also got richer by the slaves, who were mostly not named (unusually for Beaulieu documents) but among whom, it is specified, were to be counted those who had run away, presumably a trick to stop landlords moving their slaves off an estate before it was transferred and then recovering them and redeploying them as their own still.3 Thirteen men witnessed, including some of the men who show up in these documents most often at that time. It was presumably quite the affair.

The abbey of Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

The abbey of Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu again, presumed setting of the transaction. Par Wester (Travail personnel) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ou CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.

I had not, when I first wrote this in January, got my head round how the Beaulieu cartulary is organised; I’m still not sure I have. Foundational and royal documents open it, intermingled, and then the organisation may be vaguely geographical, or there may be other links, perhaps of donor families, that I’m not yet seeing. Either it’s much subtler than I think, anyway, or it fails here because, more than a hundred documents further on, this transaction is copied again with the same date, same donor and same witnesses, and indeed the same properties transferred.4 There is some change, though: one part of the donation that looks like a copyist’s error (a place that turns up twice in different vicairies, but which doesn’t seem to be significant for the organisation of the cartulary) is eliminated, and one of the farmsteads acquires an extra slave. So, just an update because the transaction had taken a while to organise? Or just a bug-fix that didn’t replace its faulty predecessor in the archive? Well, only if it’s quite some bug, because the other change is in the religious payback. The monks are to have an annual feast in memory of the donation and offer up prayers and thanks, and although this is unusually specific it’s not odd, it’s just that in the first version the anniversary is to be Ermenric’s death and in the second it’s his brother’s. And that, I’ve never seen before. I guess that the most upsettingly possible explanation is his brother died while they were sorting the gift out and this was what they could do to look after his soul. The brother isn’t named so I can’t check if such a person disappears from the record about then. But both versions still made it into the archive, apparently in such a way that the later copyists didn’t realise. I wonder if they just had two feasts?

A dining scene from the Luttrell Psalter

The only plausibly related image I can search up is from the Luttrell Psalter, so wrong country and century but at least it has monks in it? London, British Library Additional MS 42130

The other curiosity is a boundary issue. (As so many things are…) There is an odd contrast to my Catalan documents here in the matter of roads on property boundaries. Actually giving property boundaries (or at least, leaving them in documents that are copied into the cartulary) is unusual here, but roads do turn up, they’re just always ‘public’ ones. That does happen in Catalonia but there’s lots of other sorts; here, not so much.5 This is not the odd thing. The odd thing is that when these public roads turn up, they are overridingly often on the fourth boundary of the proprties concerned. Impressionistic you say, so have some numbers: in the 74 ninth-century documents as Deloche dated them, only 12 actually give boundaries at all. These give bounds for total 29 properties, though, so it’s a slightly better sample than that implies. Of those 29, 8 don’t have bounds on a public road at all (which is to say that nearly 3 times as many do). Of the 21 that are actually evidential for my point, then, 16 have such a road on their fourth boundary. Admittedly, 5 also have one on their third boundary (and 4 of these are in the same donation, so le Vert must have been quite the spaghetti junction) but I’m not sure that weakens the point, and 1 of the non-compliants has a road on its third boundary but doesn’t have any more, so if I said `last’ boundary instead it would conform. The remaining 3 have roads on first and second, on first (of three) and on third boundary respectively.6 I think 16 or 17 out of 21 counts as a trend.

Roman and Romanesque bridge over the River Ter at Roda de Ter

The Roman and Romanesque bridge that carries the old strata francisca over the River Ter at Roda de Ter, about the one image I have which I can be sure shows a medieval street

So, as they say, what’s up with that? An outside possibility: we’re looking at wine country here, is it actually possible that most of these properties are just on the same side of whatever valley they’re in, to catch the sun appropriately? I find this implausible: I reckon the marginal lands should be in use too by the 880s, and anyway it’s not all vines (though I will confess that a lot of it is). So if not that, what? The most obvious thing would seem to be that they are actually counting the bounds by starting in such a place as to finish with the road. In Catalonia the bounds are, as we’ve discussed, usually done east-south-west-north around the compass; here, however, it must be subjective, and that leads one to wonder if they’re even necessarily sequential. If I’d met this first, of course, I’d think Catalonia weird for its cardinal points every time but as it is, this implied practice seems weirdly fluid and hard to plot with. What do you folks think, assuming anyone’s read to the end of another post about charter bounds?


1. Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic (segles IX-X), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), 5 fascicles, doc. no. 55.

2. Miquel Crusafont, Anna M. Balaguer & Philip Grierson, Medieval European Coinage, with a catalogue of the coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 6: the Iberian Peninsula (Cambridge 2013), pp. 82-83.

3. Maximin Deloche (ed.), Cartulaire de l’Abbaye de Beaulieu (en Limousin) (Paris 1859), doc. no. LV, my emphasis: “De mancipiis vero ad ipsam curtem pertinentibus sive intermanentibus, fugam lapsis, et unde aliunde transgressi sunt, cedo, pro remedio animæ me&ealig; ad monasterium quod vocatur Belluslocus, ubi Gairulfus abbas præesse videtur custos, ipsam mancipia in integrum….”

4. Deloche, Beaulieu, doc. no. CLXVI.

5. Jordi Bolòs i Masclans, “Aportacions al coneixement de les vies de communicació” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), also published as Memorias de le Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991 & 1992), I pp. 409-436.

6. The 12 documents are Deloche, Beaulieu, doc. nos XX, XLV, LII, LIV, LXIII, CXXXIII, CLII, CLIII, CLVII, CLVIII and CLXXVII, which might look like a cluster towards the end but in chronological order would be XX, CLXXXIII, LIV, CLIII, XLV, CLVIII, CLII, CLXXVII, LXIII, LII, CXXXIII & CLVII, so actually not so much. Of these LXIII is the one with all the roads; the rest, you could look up yourself if you wished

Doorbells of the early medieval Dordogne

[This is the unrelated second part of the post I wrote over last Christmas holidays about interesting stuff in the Beaulieu-en-Limousin cartulary. The first part is here.]

Saint-Michel des Bannières, Lot, from afar

If this isn’t the place, it’s not far off: Saint-Michel des Bannières, Lot, France, pretty close to Bio, one of the hamlets where what I’m discussing is documented

The other interesting thing that I’ve found in [the editor’s introduction to the cartulary], though, is nothing like as debated [as the debate over fear of the Year 1000] and far more mundane. Deloche [the editor] was quite keen on protochronism for the Limousin, largely directed at studies based on Paris and the locality, but this is a thing he seems to have thought quite normal but which I’ve never seen before. While talking about ceremonies of property transfer, he says:

[Symbolic transfer] took place by means of a bellpull that the donor offered the recipient, at the door of the house, per cordam signi et hostium domus

This he quotes from an 887 document, although it also occurs in an 881 one in a bit more detail.1 Now, I’m really not sure that it means what Deloche thought it meant. There’s nothing about bells in the Latin and I would, unguided, have read the first phrase there as referring to a seal tie or something like that, and the second is only really explicable in the variant Deloche reports from the 881 instance, “ostium de domo”, but it is quite hard to think what else a cord “of the sign and doors of the house” could be. Something here at a door has a string on it. Presumably it makes something happen when people pull on it. Is there any earlier evidence for how this would have been done? The doorbell seems like a device someone should have come up with 887, but it doesn’t seem to fit with how we imagine medieval homes, does it? You don’t expect to get to the front door of a farm before someone spots you walking through the yard…


1. M. Deloche (ed.), Cartulaire de l’Abbaye de Beaulieu (en Limousin) (Paris 1869), doc. no. CLXIII, discussed (and misquoted) p. XCII whence quote; also instanced in doc. no. CLXXIII, where it comes up in a longer list of tokens that were offered, “per cordam de signo et hostium de domo et cespitem de terra sive ramum de arboribus”.

Ceasing to fear the End in the millennial Limousin

[This entry was written as a part of a larger one over the Christmas period of 2013/2014, and stuck in the queue at a position I’ve only now reached in my backlog. The second part, which bore no actual connection, will follow in a couple of posts’ time. I’ve completed the links, images and footnotes and edited for better style, but the text is still something I wrote in my previous job and this shows. I think it’s still interesting though!]

It’s probably the kind of thing that belongs in a list of phrases headed by, “You know you’re a medievalist when…”, when you select a medieval French cartulary for your holiday reading. Although the cartulary of Beaulieu is relevant to one of my eternally-developing draft papers, as those with long memories may recall, it wasn’t exactly relevant to what I should have been doing over the holiday, which was substantially write about the Spanish frontier and work up course materials for a course on the Apocalypse. And yet, by that process of scholarly coincidence that seems to follow us around, the thing that was in front of me turns out to have a strange relevance.

The abbey of Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

The abbey of Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, original home of said cartulary. Par Wester (Travail personnel) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ou CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.

You may be aware from previous exchanges on this here blog between myself, others and Professor Richard Landes that there is something of a debate over the significance of the date 1000 A. D. for those who lived shortly before or through it. With various more-or-less reputable Biblical or Patristic texts fairly set on the idea that Christ could be expected to return after a thousand years, it’s certainly understandable that such prospects might have worried those alert enough to chronology to realise this, or those to whom they preached, but there is little or no agreement about how many people those people were, how widespread and how influential, and the whole debate has become somewhat impassioned and polemical.1 One of the counter-arguments made against the original idea of the ‘terrors of the year 1000’, in which this was supposed to be a general cause of worry and social upheaval in the run-up to 1000 or 1033 (1000 + Christ’s birth and crucifixion respectively) was that texts suggesting the end of the world was imminent are fairly easy to find long before 1000. This can be worked either way of course: either 1000 was not therefore as significant as it’s been made, or apocalyptic worry was much more general than we assume.2

Illustrated page from the Catedral de Girona, Núm. Inv. 7 (11)

Several people cared about the Apocalypse in 975 enough to order really luxurious copies from the Leonese monastery of Tábara of this illustrated commentary on it by Beatus of Liébana, this one of which has now wound up in Girona, but the actual commentary was written closer to 800… So the same problem arises only more colourfully. This is from the Girona Beatus, which is Catedral de Girona, Núm. Inv. 7 (11). By Meisterin der Schule von Távara [Public domain], it says at Wikimedia Commons whence the file.

Unaware of how this debate would later develop, however, in 1869 we find M. Maximin Deloche, in the process of writing a lengthy and very erudite introduction to his edition of the Beaulieu cartulary, adding an obvious extra step to the ‘terrors’ argument that I haven’t seen anywhere in the more modern literature, as follows:

The Christian centuries that preceded the year 1000 were busily preoccupied with that date’s approach, which, after a certain interpretation of Revelations and according to popular belief, would witness the end of the world. It is an error to believe that this sentiment of fear had its birth shortly or even one or two centuries before this era that one should have considered so fatal. We find a manifestation of this in a monument of which the sincerity is incontestable, the will of St Radegund, dated to 584: it begins with the words, “Mundo in finem currente…”

So far we are conventionally stood against those arguing for a millennial spiritual crisis, but after another pre-1000 example of such sentiments, he goes somewhere unexpected:

Several of our charters contain this [fear] in their preamble. If we consult their dates, we see that they embrace a period of a century and a half before the year 1000. Thereafter, we find it announced only once more, in a title of the year 1060, but this redaction is without doubt only a reproduction, made mechanically and without discernment, of a preceding formulaic usage.

He takes it no further, but it’s important: what does it mean if, even if the idea that the end might be coming soon was common long before 1000, after that it stops?3 Studies on the disappointment of such prophecies suggest that they were usually quickly retooled for a new date, but if the Beaulieu pattern were to be found more widely, we might need to think in terms of disappointment with and even cynicism about such learned predictions, which might indeed find echoes in the rise of popular heresy that Robert Moore more than anyone has demonstrated from, say, 1030 onwards.4 There was so much else going on, of course, including a sea-change in the way that documents were being written that could maybe explain the abandonment of a purely formulaic usage, so this too could serve both sides of the argument over apocalypticism’s importance, but just methodically I really like this use of negative evidence. Why should such a thing disappear, and if it doesn’t elsewhere then why here? It’s worth thinking about…


1. The resort to dismissal and ad hominem examined, not without involvement, in Richard Landes, “Introduction: The Terribles Espoirs of 1000 and the Tacit Fears of 2000″ in R. Landes, A. C. Gow. & R. Van Meter (edd.), The Apocalyptic Year 1000: religious expectation and social change, 950–1050 (Oxford 2003), pp. 3–15.

2. A good clear account of the earlier historiography is Edward Peters, “Mutations, Adjustments, Terrors, Historians and the Year 1000” in Michael Frassetto (ed.), The Year 1000: religious and social response to the turning of the Millennium (New York City 2002), pp. 9–28.

3. M. Deloche (ed.), Cartulaire de l’Abbaye de Beaulieu (en Limousin) (Paris 1869), pp. XCV-XCVII, quotes XCV-XCVI & XCVI.

4. Retooling of expectations studied in depth in Richard Landes, “Lest the Millennium Be Fulfilled: Apocalyptic Expectations and the Pattern of Western Chronography 100–800 CE” in W. Verbeke, D. Verhelst & A. Welkenhuysen (edd.), The Use and Abuse of Eschatology in the Middle Ages (Leuven 1988), pp. 137–209. On the rise of heresy in this period see Robert I. Moore, The Birth of Popular Heresy (London 1975, repr. Toronto 2005), and for heresy’s connection to the millennuium, Moore, “The Birth of Heresy: a millennial phenomenon?” in Journal of Religious History 24 (Oxford 2000), pp. 1–24, vs. Richard Landes, “The Birth of Heresy: a millennial phenomenon”, ibid. pp. 26–43.

So when did Cluny become so special, exactly?

Exterior view of the transept of the abbey church of St-Pierre de Cluny, from Wikimedia Commons

Exterior view of the transept of the abbey church of St-Pierre de Cluny, from Wikimedia Commons

Some of my recent reading has led me back to thinking about Cluny. I’m not thinking so much about the place, however, or even the historical entity, but about how we approach it as historians. If you’ve ever been taught about the Church reform movement of the tenth and eleventh centuries, which since it more or less led to the Investiture Crisis which brings up the sort of issues that even modern historians love about theories of sovereignty and so forth, you probably have—I’m just going to let that sentence drop, actually. Breathe a minute while I get my style under control. OK. Ready? Right, here I go again. If you’ve studied the reform movement you’ve been told about Cluny, I guess. Similarly, if you’ve taught it, you surely mentioned Cluny, because except for Gregory VII and Henry IV’s poison-pen exchanges, Henry standing in the snow in sackcloth at Canossa while Gregory bit his fingernails, and the final denouement quote, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity, wherefore I die in exile”, which is all good stuff but late, the biggest thing in the topic is Cluny.1 And although it is a bit like teaching the geography of mountains with Everest, when something more average might be more representative, we all want the students to go away enthused, and so we pick on Cluny, with its 24-hour prayer cycle, unceasing commemoration, and Europe-wide donations, grants from the King of León man, places Cluny’s never heard of donate to Cluny because it’s so famous and it has strings of daughter houses, some of which acquire their own strings and so on. It also generates some truly spoony sources, either in quantity or in content, and so it is the obvious thing to try and cover all reform-period bases with. I get this, I’ve done it myself. If they’re really interested, they can go on to look at one of the lesser houses that Cluny reformed, like for example St-Martin de Tulle, themselves.2

All the same. When Cluny starts, no-one knows this is going to happen. But when I first taught this, I was told to do so from Cluny’s foundation charter, as if it set out new principles, as if it might be read as a manifesto for the New Age. This kind of distinction is, I think, also implied by the way it’s in the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, where charters are a rarity.3 This one was significant enough to get in however. And it is quite a startling document as you can see there, albeit mainly for its grandeur and curses. But anything else? Well, I wasn’t quite sure at the time, and then the other day my reading put this before me:

William of Aquitaine had no thought of monastic reform when he founded Cluny. His donation charter, usually dated 11 September 910, states clearly that the foundation was to ensure his salvation and prayers for his soul and for the souls of the members of his family…. William also granted the monks their freedom to elect [the first abbot] Berno’s successor from among their number and the monastery was commended to the protection, not of any lay ruler or member of William’s family, or to any bishop, but to the apostles Peter and Paul and their representative the Pope. Cluny was in fact to enjoy full immunity in the technical sense, though the actual word was not used in the charter. No secular prince, count, bishop or pope was to enter the possessions of Cluny, or to sell, diminish, exchange or in any other way take anything from the monastery’s property.

Much has been made of the clause making Cluny only answerable to the Pope alone and free from all secular interference. The precise legal position as a result of this position, however, is not at all clear. In practice the links established between the new monastery and Rome seem to have been very limited, and it was the elimination of future family or outside lay interference… which can be counted as the most important feature of the foundation charter. As Cowdrey has pointed out, the Cluny foundation charter contained almost nothing for which there was not already a precedent.4

Well, she’s right. It’s not that special. I mean, it’s a very splendid read but so are many ecclesiastical charters for solemn occasions. The whole ‘no secular prince’ bit sounds grand but that’s because it’s lifted wholesale out of royal immunity charters; it’s interesting that William chooses to grant like a king, and even more interesting how he leaves himself out, but the form itself is not new, it’s quite old.5 Likewise, the family exclusion could be read just as an elaborate way of saying to his heirs that they absolutely can’t have this land back or impose a family abbot. In fact Cluny is very far from being averse to forming relationships with families and family property, though the way that the place is set up does mean that these have to go through some fairly elaborate hoops where other places might just, you know, have a member join and hold their lands for the house.6 And the subjection to Rome, well, keen readers may remember that this happens in other places too (albeit later) and there it’s basically a fun way of getting your land outside of normal secular jurisdiction without cost,7 because obviously the pope isn’t going to come and stay, is he? Actually, of course, at Cluny he does, but only after Cluny has become the sort of place that trains future popes so that they want to come back and visit, you know?

Pope Urban II celebrating mass at his old home of Cluny, on the eve of the First Crusade

Pope Urban II celebrating mass at his old home of Cluny, on the eve of the First Crusade

So it struck me that it would be useful, perhaps, to put another foundation charter up from before Cluny’s and the reform movement. What with Lay Archives I ought to know where to find such things, but actually there are fewer than you might expect: grants by noblemen to houses that they say they built are one thing, and quite frequent (some of them even by people called William, indeed; Count Guilhem of Toulouse, who founded the abbey of Gellone in Languedoc, first mentions this as we have it in a substantial donation to it that he makes in San Pietro di Roma on pilgrimage, and he is later considered a saint: beat that, Cluny!) but actual foundation endowments, fewer. Nonetheless, there are some out there, and the one I could get most easily was that of Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu in the Dordogne, and so can you if you like because as I’ve mentioned before its cartulary is free to download on Google Books. My translation however isn’t, so I give it below.

The abbey of Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, from Wikimedia Commons

The abbey of Saint-Pierre de Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, from Wikimedia Commons

The authority of the ancients sanctions and a unity of the laws decrees, that whatever one wishes to do with his properties, in every respect, according to the will of God, he shall have free choice in the matter. On the which account I therefore in the name of God Rodulf, high-priest of the Church of Bourges, for the love of omnipotent God and for the remedy of my soul and those of my parents, do cede and wish to be ceded in perpetuity to the monastery, a new endeavour indeed, which is called, previously Vellino but now by us Beaulieu, which I, Christ being propitious, am ordering constructed on the estate in my ownership in honour of Peter Prince of the Apostles, for the stipends and uses of the monks there serving God, some bits of my property, which are in the region of Quercy, in the vicariate of Causse, that is my villa, which they call Sarrazac, as one with the church which is in honour of Saint Genesius, with cultivated and uncultivated lands, vines, woods, houses, buildings and all things pertaining to it, and the slaves of either sex pertaining to that same place; and in another location, in the region of Turenne in the villa whose name be At the Medlar, our manor, which I bought with a given price from Pierre, with all the things pertaining to it; and in another place, in the same region, a vine beneath the castle of Turenne, which I bought from Ragambald. All these aforenamed things and the collected things pertaining to the same places, to the aforesaid place, for the stipends indeed of the monks and for the building of that same place, I wish to be conceded in perpetual right. Indeed, what let not occur and I hardly believe will be brought about, if I myself, this wish having changed, or any of my heirs or kinsmen, or any opposing person whatever, who should wish to make a quarrel, slander or any opposition against this cession, first of all by the authority of my ministry I do bind them with the chain of anathema; next let them incur the anger of omnipotent God and his saints; on top of which, let he who brought the quarrel answer for it under duress with thirty pounds of gold, sixty pounds of silver, along with a similar sum for the fisc, and let whatever evil he sought not be accomplished, but this present cession remain firm and stable with the appended stipulation.
+ Bishop Rodulf subscribed. Signum of Gotbald. Signum of Grimoald. Signum of Deacon Evrald. Signum of David. Signum of Hugh. Signum of Agiulf. Signum of Enedol. Signum of Grimoard. Signum of Odolric. Signum of Ebrard. Signum of Edac. Given in the month of March, in the fourth year of Charles, the most glorious king.

That year is 844, should you be wondering.7 Some brief background: Bishop Rodulf is from the comital family of Turenne, so he knows that castle well; his father is count, his brother will be count, and neither of them are especially huge donors to Beaulieu, not least because they prefer to give either to their own foundations (his sister gives here but also founds her own nunnery) or to their kinsman the bishop’s cathedral. So this family foundation is not an unusual thing that William is doing at Cluny, but the way he keeps his own family and indeed himself out is genuinely unusual, even if a lot of the rest of what separates that charter from this is pure style and showing-off of Scriptural knowledge. (That, for what it’s worth, would be much easier to parallel.) There are also hints that William was moving in a different political climate: he makes the quasi-royal immunity and remembers King Odo’s soul, but doesn’t mention the current king over his region, Charles the Simple, at all except in the dating clause. Rodulf doesn’t do so either, but he doesn’t give the immunity or anything like that because, when the monastery is nearing completion (in 859! despite various donations it takes them a long time to build the place, it first certainly being finished in 864 and the monks apparently living at Rodulf’s cathedral in the meantime) he goes himself to King Charles the Bald and gets a genuine royal immunity which has a lot of the details in it that William had to, or chose to, provide himself.8

So in sum I do not go quite as far as Professor McKitterick or indeed Cowdrey before her in minimising the special quality of this charter. From what parallels are easy to find William of Aquitaine was doing something actually unusual in the terms by which he established Cluny, which was basically to swear off having any influence over it once it was up and running. On the other hand, the place’s actual purpose is to save his soul and preserve his memory, just like Beaulieu for Rodulf. Rodulf may also have been trying to dump a load of his property into a monastic safety-deposit which would then be made immune from fiscal levies; William can’t have been doing that, because he didn’t need to, he was the fisc. So he was I think, whether it were new or no, doing something unusual and surprising; but I still think that what Cluny was to become does not really derive from what makes William’s establishment of it unusual.


1. Uta-Renate Blumenthal, The Investiture Controversy: Church and Monarchy from the Ninth to the Twelfth Century (Philadelphia 1988); Barbara H. Rosenwein, Rhinoceros Bound: Cluny in the tenth century, The Middle Ages (Philadelphia 1982).

2. Actually as far as I know no-one’s really studied Tulle as a reform centre. There’s apparently a slew of basic local narrative work epitomised by Joseph Nouaillac, “Histoire de Tulle: Les origines de Tulle et de son monastère” in Lemouzi. Revue franco-limousine Vol. 155 (Limoges 2000), pp. 6-18 and Paul Maureille, “La fondation de l’abbaye (Saint-Martin) de Tulle”, ibid. Vol. 65 (1985), pp. 224-227, but outside that, what I’m sure is an honourable and respected local periodical, not so much and its charters are not only published but online, so one could do something: they are Jean-Baptiste Champeval (ed.), Cartulaire des abbayes de Tulle et de Roc-Amadour (Brive 1903), online at Gallica.

3. Auguste Bernard & Alexandre Bruel (edd.), Recueil des Chartes de l’Abbaye de Cluny (Paris 1876-1903), Vol. I, doc. no. 112, transl. Ernest F. Henderson in his Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London 1910, many reprints), pp. 329-333.

4. Rosamond McKitterick, The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians (London 1983), p. 281.

5. On immunities see now Barbara Rosenwein, Negotiating space: power, restraint, and privileges of immunity in early medieval Europe (Manchester 1999).

6. Barbara Rosenwein, To Be the Neighbor of St. Peter: The Social Meaning of Cluny’s Property, 909-1049 (Ithaca 1989).

7. Maximin Deloche (ed.), Cartulaire de l’Abbaye de Beaulieu (en Limousin) (Paris 1859), online here, doc. no. XXXIV.

8. Ibid., doc. no. V, because as with many medieval cartularies, the arrangement here is not by date, but by importance; so the royal and papal privileges come first, then the founder’s documents, then the rest is organised or not according to purpose. On such matters you can see Patrick J. Geary, Phantoms of Remembrance: remembering and forgetting in the tenth and eleventh centuries (Princeton 1985).