Tag Archives: Investiture Crisis

Propaganda coinage from the Investiture Controversy?

Pope Gregory VII deposes King Henry IV of the Germans

Here is something a bit lighter-weight before we get back to Leeds: about 0.9 g, in fact, I’m told. But first some background. Some of you don’t need introducing to King Henry IV of Germany (1056-1106, crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1084) and Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085): in fact, almost anyone I’ve ever taught probably still feels their jaws tighten when those names are spoken near them, but let’s forget that. For those of you who don’t know, the coincidence of these two in power was pretty much the ultimate clash of ruling ideologies in the Middle Ages. Put in extremely over-simplified brief, the question was which was the superior power, pope or emperor? The papacy maintained, unsurprisingly, that ultimately the popes held authority over the emperors because they were ultimately responsible to God for the emperors’ soul and because their concerns were eternal not worldly and so forth; and the emperors maintained that the papacy had no business mucking round in affairs of the world for exactly that reason and should back out. This was a less theoretical conflict than that makes it sound because hanging down from this high position were concerns about how far kings or popes could choose or appoint bishops, how far those bishops could hold lands from kings and under what terms, how far they had to obey the pope, and ultimately the only point about which anyone was even slightly prepared to compromise was the details of the ceremony by which bishops were given, or invested with, their landed properties by the king. As a result of this the whole shebang, which extends beyond Henry and Gregory but of which they were the mutual pinnacle, is usually known as the Investiture Controversy, or Crisis, or Contest, whatever, but it was not, really, about investiture; at a purely realistic level it was about land and men and power over them, at a more theoretical level it was about spiritual purity and freedom from corruption on the part of those administering the sacraments of Christianity to the people, and at the ultimately theoretical level it was about nothing less than control of the world.1 So you can see why tweaking a few procedural details didn’t ultimately solve very much.

Teaching diagram of powers in the Investiture Controversy

Teaching diagram of powers in the Investiture Controversy, not my best diagram ever alas

There are some tremendous sources for all this mess, because nothing got medieval churchmen writing so much as a threat to the medieval Church, and both Henry and Gregory had clever men on side who likely genuinely believed in their positions and argued them with heartfelt fervour.2 There had also been genuine ties of respect between the young king and the middle-aged pope, and that probably also led to an extremity of feeling. Only thus, really, can you get a royal letter to a pope that addresses him by his old worldly name and as “false monk”, and finishes by commanding him to get down off the papal throne, “Descende, descende“, and be damned. And Gregory’s stuff was no less angry. Henry wound up excommunicated, and with papal backing for his opponent for the kingship, and Gregory eventually wound up dying in exile. All the same, heavy though this all is one could be forgiven for thinking that it was pretty much exclusively a concern of men of letters. OK, in Milan Gregory was encouraging street-mobs who broke in on the homes of priests whom they thought had paid for their orders and took all their property (the Patarenes) but otherwise, did any ordinary person care about all this stuff? It wasn’t as if either Gregory or Henry would actually be in control of the world if one of them won, after all. Well, thanks to a cunning numismatic contact, I can now say that it does look as if a bit more than parchment was used to try and get these points across, by Henry at least.

Reverse and obverse of silver penny of Liège depicting royal investiture with ring and staff, found in Estonia as part of the Kose hoard

Reverse (top) and obverse (reverse) of silver penny of Liège

This appears to have been struck in Liège, then part of the Holy Roman Empire, and it does appear to show an investiture. The person who brought it to my attention suggests that it represents Henry IV investing his son, the future Henry V, with the regalia of kingship, but I’m not quite sure myself if that’s what it does in fact show, because the things that the senior, and certainly crowned, figure on the left appears to be conferring are a ring and a staff, the very symbols of episcopal investiture over which (in the Empire, at least) the Investiture Controversy was fought. And Liège was an episcopal mint under imperial control. Either, in other words, this coinage is explicitly saying, “You know what? Kings are kind of like bishops, and the Emperor gets to invest them, amirite?” or else it actually is a bishop getting his stuff, which would be an even clearer statement of the royalist orthodoxy. Presumably the relevant bishop owed the king pretty heavily: that would not be unusual.3 Anyway: there are apparently seven of these coins (which used to be attributed to Maastricht, but which my informant thinks—and I agree for what that’s worth—don’t quite match the types there), and they’ve been found as far afield as Estonia (which is where this one came up), in hoards and in single finds, so, although they presumably weren’t common, neither do they seem to have been a ceremonial issue that didn’t go anywhere.4 So I think we have to look at this as a genuine propaganda coinage and the Investiture Controversy must be where it fits. There’s a lot more to work out here but it’s the kind of thing historians should have paid attention to a while ago, really. I wonder what other types might have something to say about these issues?


1. There’s approximately eighty thousand pages of work on this subject – approximately – some of which I mentioned a while back, but basically the best introduction is Uta-Renate Blumenthal, The Investiture Controversy: church and monarchy from the ninth to the twelfth centuries (Philadelphia 1988, repr. 1995), and there’s a handy update to the scholarship in Maureen Miller, “The Crisis in the Investiture Crisis Narrative” in History Compass Vol. 7 (Oxford 2009), pp. 1570-1580, DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2009.00645.x.

2. If you’re just trying to get a grip on all this the assembly of source excerpts in Brian Tierney (ed./transl.), The Crisis of Church and State, 1050-1300, Sources of Civilization in the West (Englewood Cliffs 1964), repr. Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching 21 (Toronto 1988), is still really handy. Heavier texts can be found either in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica series Libelli de lite or in various translations, often by Ian Robinson.

3. My starting point for this is still Timothy Reuter, “The `imperial church system”‘ of the Ottonian and Salian rulers: a reconsideration” in Journal of Ecclesiastical History Vol. 33 (Cambridge 1982), pp. 347-374, reprinted in his Medieval polities and modern mentalities, ed. Janet Nelson (Cambridge 2006), pp. 325-354. What should it be by now?

4. This has all come up because there are three of these things, badly battered, in the Pimprez hoard, which has been broken up for sale now but was catalogued and imaged for publication prior to that and should be coming out soon; the clearer example here however is from the Kose hoard, found in Estonia in 1982, and now in the Tallinn National Museum. I’m not quite sure where the image is from, although I’m guessing that the hoard was published in summary fashion in Coin Hoards Vol. 6 (London 1982) or Vol. 7 (London 1983), and that that is probably the source. Google Books tells me that there’s some brief account of the hoard in Jüri Selirand and Evald Tõnisson, Through past millennia: archaeological discoveries in Estonia (Tallinn 1984), p. 135, but won’t let me see enough of it to get at the references below that alas.

Book bit bullets III

I expected that the end of teaching would free up some time, but somehow before Kalamazoo I still have to finalise a paper for print, write another one for Kalamazoo itself, fend off my book’s editor with answers to a range of queries, apply for twoa jobs and stay employed in the current one. So content may be a bit thin here for a while. For the moment, therefore, I offer the tried and trusted bullets inspired by recent reading!

  • I had not realised it from his later work on charters, but Hartmut Atsma when young appears to have been the German David Dumville, in as much as almost every section of a large part of his thesis printed in Francia for 1983 ends with a quick round-up of the ways other scholars, especially Friedrich Prinz, were wrong, specifically about the evidence for the early Church in Auxerre. “Es zeigt sich also, daß der von F. Prinz und R. Borius abgenommene kausale Nexus zwischen der Beeinflussung des Germanus durch das lerinensische Mönchtum und seiner Klostergründung nicht in einen plausibilen und durch die Quellen begründbaren chronologische Zusammenhang zu stellen ist.” So there!1
  • Also in that volume, apart from the edition of the Vita sancti Marcelli I mentioned last post and the excellent Jane Martindale article I actually got the volume out for, is a lengthy article by Hans-Werner Goetz about the ideology of the investiture controversy.2 Meanwhile, in a different book that I had out for an excellent article by Jinty Nelson, I find another paper by Hans-Werner Goetz.3 The former is about fifty pages of elaborate German in a style I’ve mentioned here before, in which sentences take up four or five lines of print and contain eight clauses and at least four compound nouns I’ve never seen before; the latter is English, clear and only slightly literary, and is fourteen pages including tables, albeit that is on the long side for the volume. I’m not entirely sure there aren’t two Hans-Werner Goetzes (Goetzen?) who write in one language each.
  • While I was still teaching I had to deliver a lecture on art and architecture, about which I had a rough idea due to how much I’ve wound up reading about Romanesque churches, but where some orientation seemed like a good idea, and so I fished out of the library the only likely-looking thing, Art of the Middle Ages by Janetta Rebold Benton.4 While this was up in the Currently reading… sidebar section there I had it linked to a fairly negative review by Joanna F. Ziegler, which describes it as, “a quite staid reiteration of the voluminous, but uninspiring, factual minutiae that has permeated the genre”.5 And, well, yes, it’s not deathless prose and does tend to take one or two exemplary objects or sites per trend, briefly explain them and then list all their siblings. But I’m still thinking about getting a copy, because what that tendency makes it is a volume to look things up in when you already know the basics. Inspiring read? No. Handbook with which to hit up Wikimedia Commons for high-class imagery? Absolutely. Its own plates are also rather lovely. And the final chapter on art in everyday life nearly makes up for the high-culture architectural concentration of much of the middle.
  • And, lastly, I have a well-documented tendency on this blog towards protochronism. You may all remember the thirteenth-century notary called Catto whose authentication mark was a dog, well, this is from 906 and Vic:
    Scribal signature from Junyent, Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic segles IX i X, no. 37, by Teudila

    Scribal signature from Junyent, Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic segles IX i X, no. 37, by Teudila

    It’s not actually an authentication mark, just an elaboration for fun of a signum which began, long before, as a triple S with a double abbreviation bar drawn through it, meaning S[ub]s[crip]s[i], ‘I have signed’, but it is, nonetheless, a critter. And as you go through the Vic material you can find weirder and weirder ones, rabbits, chickens and some unidentifiable things we had probably best call zoomorphs, as well as artistic pen-drawn initials full of interlace. I don’t think these things are consistent per scribe, I think they’re just whimsy, but I wouldn’t like to rule out someone doing a study of them and proving me wrong.6


1. H. Atsma, “Klöster und Mönchtum im Bistum Auxerre bis zum Ende des 6. Jahrhunderts” in Francia: Forschungen zur westeuropäischen Geschichte Vol. 11 (Sigmaringen 1983), pp. 1-96, quote from pp. 54-55.

2. Referring to, respectively, François Dolbeaux, “La vie en prose de Saint Marcel, Évêque de Die : Histoire du texte et édition critique”, ibid. pp. 97-130; J. Martindale, “The Kingdom of Aquitaine and the Dissolution of the Carolingian Fisc”, ibid pp. 131-189; and H.-W. Goetz, “Kirschenschutz, Rechtswahrung und Reform. Zu den Zielen um zum Wesen der frühen Gottesfriedensbewegung in Frankreich”, ibid. pp. 193-239.

3. Respectively J. L. Nelson, “Gender and Genre in Women Historians of the Early Middle Ages” in J.-P. Genet (ed.), L’historiographie médiévale en Europe : actes du colloque organisé par la Fondation européenne de la science au Centre de recherches historiques et juridiques de l’Université de Paris I du 29 mars au 1er avril 1989 (Paris 1991), pp. 149-163, and H.-W. Goetz, “On the Universality of Universal History”, ibid. pp. 247-261.

4. J. Rebold Benton, Art in the Middle Ages, World of Art (London 2002).

5. Joanna E. Ziegler, review of ibid. in The Historian Vol. 66 (Tampa 2004), pp. 179-180, quote from p. 179.

6. Miquel Sants Gros i Pujol, “Làmines” in Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic, segles IX i X, ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-96), làm. 22. Anyone wanting to work on this stuff probably ought to start with Rafael Conde Delgado de Molina and Josep Trenchs Odena, “Signos personales en las suscripciones altomedievales catalanas” in Peter Rück (ed.), Graphische Symbole in mittelalterlichen Urkunden. Beiträge zur diplomatischen Semiotik, Historische Hilfswissenschaften 3 (Sigmaringen 1986), pp. 443-452, which I have to admit I haven’t. Maybe in July.

Seminary LVI: what use a Carolingian chronicle?

Before I disappeared once more into unseminary occlusion, I made it to one at least of the Institute of Historical Research’s Earlier Middle Ages Seminars, not least because the speaker was Dr Simon MacLean of the University of St Andrews, long-time acquaintance of yer humble blogger and someone who will expect to see his paper mentioned here… Also, because of the subject, though mainly because I didn’t have to write a lecture for the next week. The subject was, “Recycling the Franks in 12th-Century England: Regino of Prum and the Monks of Durham”, and since Simon has been raising interest in Regino for some time, to the extent of recently translating his Chronicon into English, I wanted to hear what he was going to say.

Durham Cathedral by Mel Harland

Durham Cathedral, photographed from the river by Mel Harland

As the title suggests, the paper was more about twelfth-century Durham than anything Regino would have recognised, and needed a lot of setting up in terms of the contemporary politics, which were, on the grand scale (and usefully, since I’d been reading up on it for teaching at the time) the Investiture Contest and the aftermath of the marytrdom of Thomas à Becket. Durham, facing Scotland as it did and endowed with plenipotentiary powers which led its incumbent to be called the Prince-Bishop and the associated county a palatinate one, was a see over which royal control was very tight and the incumbent was frequently absent. It was also very often in dispute with its own cathedral chapter, and the special place of the bishop in the kingdom made it easy for the monks of the cathedral to obtain papal judgements against him when they came into dispute. Since Henry II was for a large part of his reign in breach with Rome, it is not a small thing that the monks of one his major sees were regularly going there to get judgements against their own bishop, and it shows you how the big agendas were pulled on by and pulled in smaller disputes and polarised them (as with family, chariot racing factions, Christianity at the adoption stage, and many other grand themes).

Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 139, fo. 17r

Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 139, fo. 17r, where the excerpt of Regino's Chronicon starts

Somewhere in all this the monks amassed a historical compilation, apparently put together out of several lesser parchment pamphlets, themselves all compiled for separate purposes. The result now survives in one lump as Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 139, which of course means that it’s online if you’re in the right places, but Simon was interested in the first pamphlet component, which contains a load of Durham-centric texts and an abstract of Regino’s Chronicon. This looks extremely out of place among its insular companion pieces, but Simon argued, with painstaking analysis lying behind his argument, that it had been selected carefully to make a point, and one of the reasons that we can believe this is that the manuscript of Regino that was being used is still at Durham where you can, apparently see that the text is marked up for excerpting in just the places it was done in CCCC 139. (Not sure if I have this right: the MGH suggests that the antecessor of CCCC 139 is (now) British Library MS Arundel 390 and mentions no Durham MS, but I think that’s what Simon said. The Durham MS collections are not catalogued online yet, sadly.) Regino’s original purpose was, says Simon and I don’t doubt him, to write a dynastic history of the Carolingians charting their rise and fall, but he was also very interested in their relations with Rome, and indeed saw that as crucial to the explanation of that rise and fall. (He is, for example, one of the best sources we have on Nicholas I, who as I keep telling you keeps coming up. Simon made this point without my having to question him, too, and I hadn’t stuck any of my rants about the neglect of the man up here yet.) The monks of Durham didn’t really care too much about the Carolingians, but they certainly cared about kings being deferential to popes, and that’s what they went through this text for, there being plenty to find. They included other things too, and what the agenda was there other than interest Simon admitted he could not yet tell, but where there was something that made that point it was included, and where there was something that went against that particular grain, it was not. All seemed plausible enough to me. That’s what Carolingian history was good for to some twelfth-century English monks, it would seem.

Chapels in the southern transept of Sawley Abbey church

Chapels in the southern transept of Sawley Abbey church

I accept all this, but I would still like to know—not that I know how we find out—more about the audience of the manuscript. Simon said that within a few years of its compilation and binding it seems to have been passed on to the new Cistercian foundation of Sawley Abbey, whose ex libris is visible under UV. Why that might be was hard to understand, given it was so Durham-centric in contents, and Sawley’s a long way from Durham, but Simon said that it did seem to have been connected to the contemporary Bishop Hugh de Puiset. That, to me at least, raised the intriguing (and unverifiable) possibility that the audience, in the end, had been the bishop, for whom many of the texts in the book could have been seen as exempla, and he hadn’t liked it, and had decided to piously get rid of it as far from his rebellious monks as he could easily manage… I like it as a theory, anyway!

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).