Tag Archives: Hraban Maur

Seminars CXLII & CXLIII : tracing text transmission by means old and new

I am back from my international appearance, and fell immediately into a nest of twisting deadlines, most of which I have now beaten and so I resume the slightly foolhardy attempt to get caught up on my seminar reports. Let’s start with 23rd May 2012 (hopefully I won’t actually get a full year behind) when Professor Jo Story spoke to the Institute of Historical Research’s Earlier Middle Ages Seminar with the title, “Bede, Willibrord and the Letters of Pope Honorius I on the Genesis of the Archbishopric of York”. This was an excellently clear and clever paper that went into the messy question of when exactly York became the second archbishopric of the English. There’s a lot of difficult detail here and Bede, our most important source for it all, was unfortunately up to his neck, it seems, in an attempt to find dubious precedent for the promotion of Bishop Egbert, recipient of that there letter, to the archiepiscopal dignity in 735. The precedent should have been Bishop Paulinus, to whom the pallium that marks the archiepiscopal dignity out from a more usual metropolitan bishop’s was sent by the Pope Honorius I of Professor Story’s title in 634. Unfortunately, by then he had been kicked out of his see at York and his patron king Edwin murdered by King Penda of Mercia, so the precedent is not what you would call ideal. The question then arises what was going on in 735, and here the fact that the new archbishop of Canterbury, Nothelm, had earlier also been responsible for much of the archival research in Rome on which Bede relied, and which would have presumably turned up the relevant papal letters, was probably significant. Also significant, as Alan Thacker pointed out in questions, is that Nothelm may have been from Mercia, to which Roy Flechner then joined the fact that initially, of course, the southern metropolitan was supposed to be based at now-Mercian London, not Kentish Canterbury… There’s room for quite a lot of shifting of ground here and Professor Story certainly gave us good reason to suppose that Bede’s sheet isn’t quite as clean of misrepresentation as once used to be thought. I won’t say more for the very good reason that the paper is now published in English Historical Review so you may be able to see the argument for yourself, but it was fun to hear in advance.1

Hraban Maur presenting his Liber de Sancti Crucis to Archbishop Otgar of Mainz, encouraged by Alcuin: Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 652

A close-to-contemporary manuscript image of Hraban Maur, he being the young one (from Wikimedia Commons)

Then a week later there was a paper that I was sure Magistra had covered but in fact I can’t see that she has, so I better had. This was Dr Clare Woods of Duke University speaking with the title, “Ninth-Century Networks: books, (gifts), scholarly exchange”. This was a very interesting report on an ongoing attempt to turn network analysis to the service of the study of transmission of manuscripts, specifically manuscripts of the sermons of Hraban Maur, Abbot of Fulda. We do already sort of do this via stemma diagrams, which are a kind of network, but this doesn’t tell us what manuscripts were being used for, if at all, what they are copied with, where they physically are, where they were actually made, and so on, and Dr Woods was interested in seeing just how much of that one could represent and network. The paper was thus a kind of walk-through of methods she’d tried, starting with the most basic (sticking them all on Google Maps with different colour pointers like this), which opens up possibilities of comparison between works and might tell us about where a master’s pupils wound up, moving through putting routes to manuscript movements using tools like Stanford University’s marvellous ORBIS, because after all these things moved with people and those people must have taken routes, and so on. From this kind of location-centric, rather than author-centric or text-centric, networking, we get some idea of what areas were interested in an author’s work, where he was big news and where he was no news, and perhaps some hints of the people to whom he was news. The next step would be GIS, and there is the problem looming that many people who use GIS have found, that in an effort to find the most relevant factor one winds up mapping so much that nothing is distinguishable from it… There are methods to deal with this, though, and we can hope for some interesting things from Dr Woods’s work if I’m any judge.

One interesting question that came up was how to publish this kind of work. If you look at the example above, one of Matt Gabriele’s coming out of the background work on his book on the legend of Charlemagne, you see the beginnings of the problem, which is that the data is dynamic. Lots of what we were being shown in this paper was animated, extra spots appearing on a map, ideally things being added or taken away according to the presenter’s whim. With Matt’s test diagram you could just about publish it as a series of maps to compare with each other, but for something like Dr Woods was doing you’d rapidly head towards a paper that was forty or fifty slides and almost no descriptive text between them apart from a bewildering set of cross-references. The obvious form would seem to be an interactive website but as Dr Woods observed, we have yet to work out how to count such things as peer-reviewed publication (though getting interested and qualified people to spend an hour playing with it would be easy enough, you’d think…). I gamely suggested electronic journal publication with an embedded Flash game, but though I’d love to see it (and I bet somewhere like The Heroic Age would love to host it) I still suspect it’ll be a while before it’s the new form… Wendy Davies raised worries about a species of the Grierson Objection, whether books moving as gifts were behaving the same as books moving as goods, but as Susan Reynolds pointed out, one would only be able to distinguish these cases by first of all mapping the survival, so… Another problem raised by Alice Rio was that the manuscripts might not be moving permanently, but just long enough to be copied; we see that possibility in the letters of Lupus of Ferrières, for example, though with him we mainly see it in theory as Lupus protests that he is going to send the book back, just, like Augustine and chastity, not yet.2 Thus this wound up being one of those best but frightening of IHR Seminars, where the assembled great and good of the field are so piqued with interest by your project that they start trying to work out how they would have done it. I’m not sure how it feels to be the speaker in those circumstances but it’s always slightly awe-striking to see a lot of very agile brains all focused on a single objective for a while like that. Papers and discussions like this are why I always think it worth going, basically…


1. J. Story, “Bede, Willibrord and the Letters of Pope Honorius I on the Genesis of the Archbishopric of York” in English Historical Review Vol. 127 (Oxford 2012), pp. 783-818.

2. The standard translation of his letters, Graydon Regenos (trans.), The Letters of Lupus of Ferrières (The Hague 1966) is not the easiest book in the world to get hold of, but if you can, you’ll see it is a bit of a theme…

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What would a late-Carolingian bishop read? The will of Riculf of Elna

One of the awkward things about working on Catalonia is that not many people immediately know where it is, and it’s hard to explain, not least because it wasn’t a unit in the period that I’m interested in but a bunch of loosely-associated counties, some of which later became parts of other things. Such union as there was was sort of expressed in who came to Church councils in Barcelona, and there there was a kind of core of always-included bishops and a scattering of more peripheral ones (including the ephemeral per-county ones that occasionally got created). But one of those core areas was definitely the bishopric of Elna, which is now in France (Elne) in its county of Roussillon (Cat. Rosselló) but was usually ruled from Empúries which is now in Spain. It must be included, but it isn’t where Catalunya now is. I’m too used to reading about the place as Elna not to spell it ‘en català’ (as I will below), but that’s not what they speak there now. And so on.

I don’t think that its being on the north side of the Pyrenees makes Roussillon distinctly more Frankish and less Gothic, since it was still in Gothic Septimania and so on, but there are some differences there that I can’t yet put my finger on, as I have always worked further out on the frontier and it may just in any case that documentary survival back here is poorer. Elna’s cartulary was lost in the early part of the twentieth century, though there is a sort-of-edition of it, and other major ecclesiastical centres of the area, most obviously the fantastic half-ruin of Sant Pere de Rodes, have suffered even worse.1 So rather than the fairly thick picture we get in certain areas of the frontier, about which I have written, what one gets from Roussillon tends to be snapshots.2 But they’re often exceptionally interesting snapshots, and this is one such.

Southern belltower of Santa Eulàlia d'Elna

Southern belltower of Santa Eulàlia d'Elna, from Wikimedia Commons

If we ever wrote the book I’ve suggested before now about Interesting Bishops of the Tenth Century, I don’t think Riculf I of Elna (885-915) would make it in. This might be not least because half of his episcopate belonged to the ninth century, but it’s also because we don’t know a great deal about him. For the most part his documentary trace shows him pursuing his cathedral’s rights in its property, getting defences of that property from the kings.3 (It is concessions of rights over Hispani to the bishops of Elna that principally show that the Frankish kings gave up on trying to protect such ‘king’s freemen’ after, say, 865.4) This is not really a fair picture of him, we might suspect; the lack of early narrative material from Catalonia largely dooms almost all its historical figures to this kind of picture as landowners only, because land records are the only ones we have. He does seem to have been strenuous in that line, but at the very end of his life there is a clear hint that he could have been seen in other lights too, and this is a bequest from his will to his cathedral.5

Ornament from the cloister of Elna cathedral

The treasures of the cathedral of Elna that I can easily find images of are all architectural and too late to relate to Riculf at all, but some of them so gorgeous as not to be missed, like this bit of ornament from the cathedral cloister

We don’t have all of this, even in its current state, but it was a big old bequest, and by no means all of it is land, although a lot is and it includes mills suggesting that he had no problem with monopolising control of his city’s food supply. Quite a lot of it, also, is what we can happily call treasure, including a lot of ecclesiastical vestments some of which, I noted with joy when I first read this text, actually had bells on, and a lot of precious metalwork (chalices and patens but also other stuff). But, most interestingly I think, and here my McKitterickian training is going to show big-time, it also includes a 28-volume library. This is not a small individual collection by any standards, and represented a substantial investment in parchment and, presumably given the rest of his stuff, ornament. Of course we can’t automatically assume he read everything he owned—this blogger is emphatically no stranger to the aspirational book purchase—but he did at least choose to own them, and some of them are really unusual and interesting choices. Mostly when books turn up in wills here they were liturgical works, either books of the Bible (most common of all) or service books or ordines, and very occasionally some Patristics. Riculf was a different kind of reader. His bequest (which may not have been everything he owned) contained very little liturgical stuff (and the cathedral presumably had its operational requirement of that already) but did number the following:

  • several collections of exegesis and Patristic material, in which the author most represented appears to be Gregory the Great
  • a copy of Augustine’s Contra Hæreses
  • two other texts by Augustine on Genesis
  • a “Rabanum“, presumably a collection of Hraban Maur‘s stuff, though if a single text I wonder about the De institutione clericorum or the Martyrology (probably more likely) given the other stuff below
  • a “Smaragdum“, and again one wonders what (and indeed which Smaragdus)
  • two books of canons, unspecified
  • two books of prayers (or orationes anyway)
  • a ‘best martyrology’ (better than Hraban’s? There are copies of Ado’s Martyrology at Vic and Girona that appear to have been imported with Carolingian rule in the area, it’s possible that Elna had one too, but if so it probably wouldn’t have been Riculf’s property)
  • several books of the Bible including a Song of Solomon
  • two lawbooks, one ‘Roman’ and one ‘Gothic’, the latter presumably being the Forum Iudicum but who knows about the other?
  • and then, most interestingly of all, a series of apparently loose-bound stuff, quaderni, that look like working manuals:

  • two quires on consecrating churches
  • two quires on visiting the sick
  • one on ecclesiastical ordinations
  • and one ‘Medicinal’

There are loads of interesting things about this I could point out, but let me just say one or two of them before making my take-away point, and you can say the rest yourselves if you like. Firstly, Riculf was at least a bit current with the scholarship of his day: Hraban was his teacher’s generation (whoever that teacher might have been! And wouldn’t I like to know?) and not that long dead, and Smaragdus (as long as it was the Carolingian-era one) at least within a long living memory. There are older scholars here but he was not afraid to get new work (though Hraban’s careful avoidance of obvious novelty might have been the safest choice of new work possible). Secondly, he seems to have had views about these texts that imply quality judgements: a ‘best’ martyrology, note. Best for what? Presumably selection of saints, if only we knew which saints he was interested in, but it’s not blind respect for the written word. And thirdly there are the working texts, that show two things. Firstly, that he was seemingly genuinely concerned about the pastoral work of his job, including not just visiting the sick like a good Christian but also, perhaps, trying to treat them (the Medicinal), and also getting more churches up and running and training priests to minister in them. This is what we don’t get from the land-grants: ‘Yes, I will determinedly reduce your independence if you have cleared woodland in space that I consider belongs to the cathedral until you have to admit you owe me renders, tithes and first-fruits, BUT, if you break your leg growing them, I will ALSO turn up and try and splint it for you in your jerry-built hut while your concerned wife stands by, and if there are a lot of people here I will eventually build you a church to go to for Mass, too’. Secondly, it is clear that when he needed to do something one of Riculf’s responses was to get written instructions on how, and in a form that he might carry with him on circuit, too.

Manuscript illumination of Gregory the Great giving a copy of one of his works to Bishop Leander of Seville

Manuscript illumination of Gregory the Great giving a copy of one of his works to Bishop Leander of Seville; I don't know the manuscript and it's the Moralia in Iob not the Cura Pastoralis, but hey, picture!

All of which takes me to the big point, which is: this man was a Carolingian Renaissance prelate. He not only had lots of books, and some by noted scholars of the Carolingian courts, but a lot of the books he had were instructions and authorities: canons, laws, even the martryology (or martyrologies) and of course the quires. When in doubt, he consulted texts, and he apparently had good sources of them even though one at least had been written only a generation or two before and in Germany. He was, therefore, connected in a range of ways to the wider intellectual world, and that connection partly drove a sense of responsibility in his office (want to bet one of the Gregory texts was the Cura pastoralis?) which he bolstered with yet more words. Now, other bishops of Riculf’s era and area had more conventional libraries, though even those have their practical aspects.6 He may have been the last of his kind for a while, and the generation of a century on were getting their books from all kinds of places including, we might note, Córdoba.7 All the same, texts like this, and the priests’ examinations that Carine van Rhijn has found in the Netherlands, and other such ephemera of a working, if patchy, organisation, make me want some kind of equivalent to the famous XKCD t-shirt about Science. It wouldn’t be quite as defiant, but some slogan like, “The Carolingian Renaissance! It worked! here and there” is definitely what I have in mind.


1. The cartulary edition, such as it is, is Raymond de Lacvivier (ed.), “Inventaire sommaire des documents copiés dans le « cartulaire de l’église d’Elne » par Fossa” in Ruscino: Revue d’histoire et d’archéologie du Roussillon et des autres pays catalans Vol. 3 (Perpignan 1913), repr. separatim (Prades 1914). Most of the documents are now in the Catalunya Carolíngia of course but not all, because that’s not finished yet, and otherwise such full texts as there are are scattered over about five or six older editions that I don’t have space or will to detail here; ask if you need more.

2. When I say ‘I have written’, I mean of course the book, which I don’t seem to have plugged for several posts now so it must be about time. The most detailed picture of frontier society I give in it is probably the section of Gurb, J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (London 2010), pp. 100-128.

3. The documents I know of in which he appears, not quite the same list as that of Joan Vilaseca’s linked above, are, in publication order: Pierre de Marca, Marca Hispanica sive Limes Hispanicus, hoc est geographica & historica descriptio cataloniæ, ruscinonis, & circumiacentium populorum, ed. Étienne Baluze (Paris 1688; Barcelona 1972; 1989), ap. LVIII; Claude Devic & J. Vaissete, Histoire Générale de Languedoc avec les Notes et les Pièces Justificatives. Édition accompagnée de dissertations et actes nouvelles, contenant le recueil des inscriptions de la province antiques et du moyen âge, des planches, des cartes géographiques et des âvues des monuments, rev. E. Mabille, E. Barry, E. Roschach & Auguste Molinier & ed. M. E. Dulaurier, Vol. V (Toulouse 1875; Osnabrück 1973), Preuves : chartes et diplômes 28, 32, 40 & 42 & Preuves : Catalogues et Inventaires Elna XXI, XXII, XXVI, XXIX, XXX, XXXIV, XXXV & XXXIX; Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis a Catalunya, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica II & III (Barcelona 1926-1952), Elna III & IV & Particulars XXI; J. Morera Sabater, “Un conato de secesión eclesiástica en la marca hispánica en el siglo IX” in Anales del Instituto de Estudios Gerundenses Vol. 15 (Girona 1962), pp. 293-315, ap. I; Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Els documents, dels segles IX i X, conservats a l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 2 (Montserrat 1979), pp. 78-143, doc. no. 35; and Eduard Junyent i Subira (ed.), El Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic, segles IX i X, ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), doc. no. 62. Almost all of these will by now be printed in Pierre Ponsich (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia VI: Els comtats de Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir i Fenollet, ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXX (Barcelona 2006), but I just haven’t yet had time to inventory that’s contents, and now it’s Easter and the libraries are shut so you’ll have to make do.

4. See J. Jarrett, “Settling the Kings’ Lands: aprisio in Catalonia in perspective” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 18 (Oxford 2010), pp. 320-342 esp. pp. 328-330, there citing esp. Aymat Catafau, “Les Hispani et l’aprision en Roussillon et Vallespir” in Frontières 2 (Perpignan 1992), pp. 7-20, which talks especially about Riculf’s area and actions.

5. Devic & Vaissete, Histoire générale de Languedoc V, Preuves : chartes et diplomômes no. 42. Again, it’s presumably in Ponsich, but currently I can’t get at that, for which reason you are also going to have to make do with my notes and not the actual text. I imagine that by the time someone wants to check with me about that I’ll be able to verify again.

6. I’ve written about this here before, as linked there, but if you wanted a real scholarly take, there is Antoni Pladevall i Font, “Entorn de l’estada de Gerbert a Catalunya (967-970): l’existència de biblioteques privades perdudes” in Immaculada Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrès Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la Fi del 1r Mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de Novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 651-661, with French résumé pp. 661-662, Provençal résumé p. 662 & English abstract p. 663.

7. As long as you’ve managed to get the book anyway, you could then see on this J. Cassinet, “Gerbert et l’introduction de la numération décimale arabo-indienne en Occident chrétien: le liber abaci” in Ollich, Actes del Congrès Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac, pp. 725-726, or else Miquel del Sants Gros i Pujol, “Els textos d’ensenyament en l’escola catedràlia de Vic al segle XI” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els Orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), II pp. 19-26.

Leeds 2010 Report II

So, Tuesday of Leeds then. I am going to try, though we all know how well this usually works, to keep this shorter than the previous one. I seem to remember that I didn’t sleep very well the Monday night for some reason, but having some years ago discovered that the best way to enjoy Leeds was not to drink as much as I had been doing up till that point (because it was all free, folks),1 I was still on time for breakfast, where the queues weren’t as bad as last year, but still bad enough to make me wonder how on earth this campus copes when it’s got 1,500 students in it instead of 650 medievalists. Thus fortified, I stepped out and my day’s learnings were as follows.

501. Ritual and the Household, I: Anglo-Saxon Settlements

Remains of a sunken-featured building at Shippams Factory, Chichester

Remains of a possibly-Saxon sunken-featured building at Shippams Factory, Chichester

  • Clifford Sofield, “Ritual in Context: patterns of interpretation of ‘placed’ deposits in Anglo-Saxon settlements”, discussed material found out of context in sites of between the fifth and eighth centuries in England, by which he meant, for example, animal bones in foundation trenches, and so on. He had done some fairly heavy graphing of this stuff and found correlations, for example that 122 of his 130 placed deposits of all kinds were from sunken-featured buildings, and usually in the fill from when the structures were demolished. He suggested that this practice marked the end of a building’s ‘life-cycle’. That was interesting all right, and he had other such ideas, but I still would have liked percentages as well as raw figures throughout. How many of the structures he had checked up on were sunken-featured buildings in the first place? Is 122 out of 130 in proportion or not? And so on.
  • Vicky Crewe, “Appropriating the Past: the ‘ritual’ nature of monument reuse in Anglo-Saxon settlements”, tangled with a number of common misperceptions, such as that Anglo-Saxon settlement avoided older burial mounds, whereas pre-kingdoms sites often built on top of the things; that ‘ritual’ practices are unusual rather than every-day, and that fifth- and sixth-century English settlement was egalitarian; it may indeed have been but that’s not how they buried their dead, that’s clearly hierarchical. I would like to know more about the Ph. D. this stuff is presumably part of.
  • Sally Crawford, “Women’s Ritual Spaces in Early Anglo-Saxon Settlements”, for me the winner of the session because of the presenter’s complete comfort with the presentation scenario; she must be an excellent teacher. She was focussing on a tiny area, loom-weights found in the well-known settlement of West Stow, and looking at where they had actually been in buildings; from this she deduced that these were not artefacts related to an individual but to a community and that weaving was therefore a village practice there, not a household one, continuing on the same site through a succession of temporary workshops. This tiny focus thus brought to life people using their living space together in a way that the two prior papers, not less important but more schematic, hadn’t been able to, and there were lots of questions because people felt they had more to contribute I think.

614. Languages in the Early Middle Ages: travel, contact and survival

This one had been a highlight of my planned itinerary, because in the original program Luis Agustín García Moreno had been going to talk about the end of the Gothic language in Spain, and since he is a grand old man of the field I was looking forward to seeing him speak. That said, even in his absence the session was still fascinating. I love listening to linguistics, though I find it awfully dull to read, so this is a good way to make sure I’m faintly aware of lingustic agendas in my stuff. I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t deterred, either; the small room was so full that people like Rosamond McKitterick were sitting on the floor for shortage of seats! These were the papers.

  • David Stifter, “Facts and Factors Concerning the Fate of Gaulish in Late Antiquity”, discussed a pair of ceramic fragments which are not widely recognised to have what may be the latest examples of written Gaulish on them, from a workshop producing commercial stuff in great numbers celebrating Roman victories; apparently in the reign of Hadrian there was still a market for inscribing a design showing the defeated King Decebalus of Dacia in Gaulish. If so, the survival of the language did not in any way prevent an identification with the Empire.
  • A jar bearing the name of Decebalus, last King of the Dacians

    A jar bearing the name of Decebalus in the more-conventional Latin

  • Roger Wright, “Late and Vulgar Latin in early Muslim Spain: the African connection”, demonstrated with Roger’s usual wealth of reference that the Latin spoken in early Muslim Spain (which, as we’ve discussed here before apropos of a paper of Richard Hitchcock’s that I was surprised not to hear mentioned, would have been substantially the language of the incoming armies, who simply couldn’t have largely learnt Arabic in the time available) was very heavily influenced by African Latin. This involved the nice irony of Isidore of Seville having ticked the Africans of his day off for Latin symptoms that are now characteristic of Castilian Spanish, most obviously betacism (substituting ‘b’ for ‘v’ and vice versa). I liked this one, because it took the less controversial bits of Professor Hitchcock’s paper (which may well have been using Roger’s earlier work) and made them mean something independent.
  • Wolfgang Haubrichs, “Language and Travel in the Early Middle Ages: text and context in the Old High German Pariser Gespräche“, was largely an introduction for those of us who didn’t know them to the selfsame Gespräche. These are a set of useful phrases that appear to have been collected to help someone familiar with fairly Romance Latin cope with the minutiae of managing an estate where Old High German was spoken, and so they deal with the various ways servants can misconduct themselves (sex, food and failing to go to Mass, most largely) and how people identified themselves (by lord, by household, by patria; not, interestingly, by language, though presumably that would already be obvious). I hope the interest of this is obvious, but in case not, let me stress that this text helps prove that the unsavoury French expression “le cul d’un chien dans ton nez” has a very long history (OHG “Undes ars in tine naso”, if that helps). Professor Haubrichs suggested that this text might have arisen out of the close connections between the abbeys of Ferrières and Prüm in the 860s, so that’s how old that phrase might be.

Then there was lunch and I think it was at this point that I first got bitten by the books, having worked out that actually I could afford to buy from Brepols this year. This is a dangerous realisation. Still reeling, I took refuge in diplomatic…

706. Shaping the Page, Forming the Text: material aspects of medieval charters

    Precept of immunity from King Charles the Simple to the canons of Paris, 911 (genuine)

  • Mark Mersiowsky, “The Discerning Eye of the Forger: medieval forgeries as material objects”, saw Professor Mersiowsky, who is now concluding an absolutely huge project on the original charters of early medieval Europe (yes, all of it, he’s seen them all or close to), distinguishing some charters which are meant to actually look like what they are purporting to be, with its flaws, from those that are meant to look like the right sort of thing (I wasn’t sure, and neither were some questioners, that this distinction held up), and a third class where documents of other sorts were the models, such as the way that some forgeries update their model to the current local style so that it looks more like what people recognise as a charter and not some crazy royal thing from centuries past that no-one’s seen before (as demonstrated by the pictures above and below this section, if you like). There wasn’t really time to explore all the ways people used the documents they fabricated in the period but Professor Mersiowsky made it clear that he has a lot to give on this and many related subjects.
  • Claire Lamy, “The Notitiae of Marmoutiers and their Continuations: preparation, shaping, practices (1050-1150)” covered a coherent group of documents from Dominique Barthélemy’s favourite abbey that leave a lot of space on the parchment, far more than was needed for the witness lists or validations that they sometimes never got. Sometimes the space left was so much that another transaction would be put into it, but by and large they weren’t trying to save parchment; the practice remained mostly inexplicable at the end of the paper.
  • Sébastien Barret, “Forms and Shapes: ‘private deeds’ in Cluny (10th-11th centuries)”, should have been a paper that had me champing at the bit given some of the stuff I’ve said here and indeed at Leeds, but he was less concerned with the documents’ contents than their forms, fair enough given the session title, and the interesting thing is that those forms are very plural; Cluny don’t seem to have been working with a clear idea of what a charter needs to look like to be valid in this period. This in turns leads to many different ways of authenticating, and Barret argued that validity is primarily social, which fits with other things we have been told to think about Cluny’s documents.2 This is something I need to think about, because I’ve argued repeatedly that external form of a charter is not what people usually care about so much as what it says; but in my area, there is very much a clear idea of what one looks like, for all that.
  • Schoyen Collection MS 590/49, a sale charter of 965 from Cerdanya

    Schoyen Collection MS 590/49, a sale charter of 965 from Cerdanya; you will observe how it does not resemble Charles the Simple's document much...

805. Texts and Identies, VII: modes of identification, IV

Hraban Maur presenting his Liber de Sancti Crucis to Archbishop Otgar of Mainz, encouraged by Alcuin: Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 652

Hraban Maur presenting his Liber de Sancti Crucis to Archbishop Otgar of Mainz, encouraged by Alcuin: Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 652

I confess that I had been keeping away from Texts and Identities thus far, not out of strategy as sometimes in the past but simply because many of the paper titles looked like postmodern junk. (And you know, I’m more tolerant of that than I used to be, but really.) This one however I chanced because Stuart Airlie was responding and one’s Leeds is not complete without seeing him perform at least once. The actual papers to which he responded outshone their session title, too, and were as follows.

  • Marianne Pollheimer, “Grammars: preaching communities – of sheep and men in the 9th century”, was an extended commentary on a metaphor of Hraban Maur‘s dividing humanity into the sheep and the wolves and asking just what he thought was good about sheep anyway and where the shepherd fits into it all; most obviously he is the preacher, guiding and protecting the flock, but how far up did that metaphor work? Bishops and kings naturally featured, and the whole thing turned into a question of how Hraban or someone reading him would have compared this idea to his world at large.
  • Helmut Reimitz, “Compilation and Convergence: the transformation of the ethnic repertory in Carolingian Europe”, was perhaps a little familiar but this time covered more peoples and more sources; it was worth hearing again to be reminded how important ‘the people of the Franks’ were to Charlemagne’s self-presentation, at least as seen in the Annales regni francorum in its earliest version, and how shortlived that unified ethnic self-perception turned out to be.
  • There were then questions, in which Professor Reimitz got a chance to explain how Frankishness could be class-based, religious, judicial or simply ethnic and how in each of these categories a given person might think of themselves as something else, even though Frankish in whichever was most immediately relevant for the source.

    Once the initial flurry was done Dr Airlie stepped up to take turns with Ian Wood in summarising and responding to the whole subthread, most of which of course I’d missed: Dr Airlie emphasised that the field has changed a lot in twenty years, that the big questions are now irrelevant and subtleties are in, that we are now Elvis Costello not Ozzy Osbourne (to which I say, speak for yourself mate, I’m Hawkwind).3 Professor Wood in turn pointed out how rooted in the war, and not mentioning it, the historiography they were celebrating the retirement of had been, and how ethnicity had been so hijacked between 1914-45 that it had ceased to be a topic anyone could look at. He could have gone further with this, in fact, as one of the problems I think people who work on historical DNA have got is that they appear to be resurrecting ideas of race that we had managed, politically, more or less to bury in the welter of scholarship, that indeed Professor Reimitz had just exemplified, showing how fluid ethnicity was in the early Middle Ages. The DNA guys look dangerously to some people, I think, as if they want descent to explain everything, and it’s partly because of that, though also partly because of how much easier to follow it is, that strontium isotope analysis is becoming so much more important.

    Dr Airlie also argued for the rethinking of Rome and the abandonment of the term ‘Byzantine’, although since he was using it again next day he may only have been flying a kite with the latter. Wood’s closing point was that we are now looking at all kinds of texts, which is great, but that we consequently forget that really, the overridingly most important, most reproduced and most read in the early Middle Ages was the Bible, which is largely missing from traditional scholarship where it should be centred. As Airlie then responded, the most important identity for anyone in this period who owned it was still ‘Christian’. (I would probably contend for ‘patronus‘, ‘paterfamilias‘ or indeed ‘man’ myself, but you know, if that had been important people would have written it down more, right? Right?)

Anyway, that was that for the day, and then I think it was this evening that Another Damned Medievalist insisted on buying me dinner for various reasons, for which I must thank her, and we sat outside the Stables pub getting spattered on by the weather until a table inside became free and then a convivial gathering formed. Things got a lot more confusing once I’d made it back to Bodington, but that’s not your problem and it wasn’t really a problem for me either. The night ended in good spirits and the next day will follow in due course.


1. I should say, I don’t think this is increasing maturity, I put it down entirely to the ceasing of the Utrecht Medieval Studies department’s receptions and my consequent lack of Jenever intake.

2. Here thinking most obviously of Barbara Rosenwein’s classic, To be the Neighbor of St Peter: the social meaning of Cluny’s property, 909-1049 (Ithaca 1989).

3.Turns out, I am…