The Medieval Review

TMR 01.08.05

Reviewed: Bouchard, Constance
The Cartulary of St.-Marcel-Les-Chalon, 779 - 1126
Medieval Academy Books, No. 102

Cambridge, MA
Medieval Academy of America
Pp. x, 179
$24.00, ISBN: 0-915-65107-6
Reviewer: Geoffrey Koziol, University of California, Berkley,
TMR ID: 01.08.05

After narratives, cartularies are our most important historical source. The charters collected within cartularies allow us to establish the dates local prelates and princes lived and held office, reconstruct genealogies and alliance networks, and identify the territories within which this or that king was recognized. Charters reveal the contours of domains and the patterns and motivations by which domains were established and organized. They show us what caused disputes and how those disputes were settled. The vocabulary of charters lets us trace changes in conceptions of social status and institutions of power, their witness lists help us reconstruct entourages, their preambles record the religious sentiments churches nurtured and changes in those sentiments over time. The things charters can tell us are almost endless; and right when one thinks they've nothing more to say, some bright historian comes along, looks at charters a little differently, and tells us something wholly unsuspected. The publication of a cartulary is therefore always a cause for celebration and anticipation, and that is no less true of the cartulary of Saint-Marcel-les- Chalon, edited by Connie Bouchard.

Sometime between 561 and 579, King Guntram of Burgundy built a basilica in the villa of Hubiliacus, just across the Saone from the episcopal city of Chalon, to house the relics of Marcellus, a second-century missionary martyred at Chalon. A few years later (around 584), Guntram attached a monastery to the basilica, mandating that the monks celebrate the laus perennis already instituted at Agaune by his grandfather Sigismund. Despite such elite patronage, the monastery seems never really to have flourished. After its foundation, next to nothing is known about it until 779, when Charlemagne confirmed the immunity said to have been granted by his father and other kings (no. 3). The same diploma makes it clear that by this date Saint-Marcel already had a lay abbot, while a diploma of Louis the Pious (833-835) indicates that the monks had been replaced by canons (and that the count of Chalon was now lay abbot) (no. 4). A desultory handful of charters and papal privileges over the next 150 years suggests a lackluster ecclesial life in which Saint-Marcel's domains were co-opted by the local counts who held the abbey (no. 28, Gislebert of Burgundy; no. 107, Robert of Dijon). Then, sometime in the 980's, Geoffrey Greymantle, count of Anjou and husband of Countess Adelaide of Chalon, gave Saint-Marcel to Maieul of Cluny for reform. From that time until the Revolution, Saint- Marcel remained a Cluniac priory, though never a particularly important one.

From my point of view, this is the real value of the cartulary. Saint Marcel wasn't Cluny. It was a small, ordinary house that produced a small, completely manageable cartulary. Since Saint-Marcel was only moderately important and wealthy, its cartulary includes just 122 charters (by Bouchard's method of counting), the vast majority dating from the 1070's to the 1120's (when the cartulary was compiled). The charters are so concentrated in date and locale that they let us easily see patterns that are harder to grasp in the more massive cartularies of more important houses. In particular, one can easily see the structure of Saint-Marcel's domain and the care and foresight with which it was created. Five dimensions describe it:

Territory: Even the most distant holding of Saint-Marcel (Traves) was no more than 120 km away, and that lay straight up the Saone. Few domains were so far. The vast majority lay within an area only 50 km across, centering on Saint-Marcel itself, and within this area by far the densest concentration of holdings lay in the immediate vicinity of the monastery within an area no more than 25 km across--every domain here not even a day's journey on foot from the monastery. The domain was relatively compact.

Geography: The domain tended to group in three areas: first along the Saone immediately to the south of Saint-Marcel; second an area farther to the north, near the juncture of the Saone and the Doubs; and third in the hills to the west of Chalon. Each of these groups had a core of holdings, and then outlyers, the outlyers usually being along stream valleys (the Ouche, the Seille) that made communication easy. The domain was both varied in terrain yet efficiently and intelligently concentrated.

Chronology: Many outlying areas that were part of Saint- Marcel's original domain were stripped away in the ninth and tenth centuries during the regime of the lay abbacy. When the domain was reconstituted pursuant to Saint-Marcel's reform, it appears to have been on an organically evolving plan that took advantage of existing strengths and practical capacities, through a long process of piecemeal acquisition of properties and rights. The core domains in the immediate vicinity of Saint-Marcel were filled in first, before 1070. In the second half of the eleventh century development occurred in all directions, and new outlying areas were acquired. Finally, in the first three decades of the twelfth century, the core territories having reached their final shape, the outlying areas were filled in.

Structure: There is a clear effort to create consolidated holdings, first in the area closest to Saint-Marcel, and secondarily in a limited number of villages in the intermediate zone (i.e., outside the core domains but not too distant from them: Ruffey, Fleurey, and Pontoux (for example). Such areas of strongly consolidated holdings often included a church, usually given to the monastery after 1070 as part of the dismantling of proprietary churches common in the wake of the reform movement. For the monks, significant landed presence in a village and control of the village church went together.

Patronage: To judge by the extant charters, there was an unmistakeable shift over time in the class of laity with which the monastery interacted. In the late tenth and early eleventh centuries, donors were almost entirely free but non-noble landholders, their donations often small: a manse or curtilis here, a vineyard or the right to pasture pigs there. Only after 1070 did the local aristocracy begin to make donations to the monastery, and then persistently and in extremely complex interactions. Patrons were not only donors but also mortgagees and disputants, and often received some sort of countergift, usufruct, or spiritual benefit in return for their donations and quit-claims. (Among spiritual benefits mentioned in the charters, continuing prayers for salvation are extremely common, burial within the monastery and reception as a monk before death fairly common.) Interestingly, though the counts of Chalon reformed Saint-Marcel, they did not patronize it, nor were they its particular protectors. Patronization came from the families and knightly clients of the lords of the villages where Saint-Marcel had rights. Conflict came with them too, and the conflicts were, by and large, settled informally, directly, and ad hoc, without the intervention of any great lords. Why the patronage of this aristocracy came so long after Saint-Marcel's reform is a puzzle. Martine Chauney, in one of those sparkling studies that antiquarian societies sometimes produce, suggested that the delay testified to "the difficult work of reconstruction", "the situation of social classes," and the greater religious fervor of the period after 1070. [1] . Given so briefly, the explanations are vague and mundane. On the other hand, at least Chauney tried to give explanations. Bouchard does not.

This is a very odd edition, and one is not quite certain what the editor's purpose was in making it. A previous edition in fact exists, made principally by Marcel Canat de Chizy (whose family had the original twelfth-century cartulary). When Marcel died after a series of illnesses, his brother Paul completed the edition on the basis of Marcel's notes--clearly the cartulary had been Marcel's labor of love and Paul's homage to him. [2] Bouchard justifies her new edition on the grounds that the Canats' was not up to the standards of modern criticism. To be sure, that edition had no apparatus or critical commentary at all and the dating of the charters was broad. Bouchard's apparatus and commentary are naturally far superior and a great help. [3] However, the Canats' readings seem to have been largely correct, Bouchard's changes here being largely orthographic--an improvement to be sure, but the former editors do not deserve Bouchard's summary dismissal. More important, if Bouchard was going to publish a new edition, one wishes she herself had taken the opportunity to do more. Her dating of charters is painstaking and completely trustworthy. She is also careful to hew to the most recent scholarly consensus about cartularies, which sees them as constructed artifacts, interesting as a textual whole quite apart from the individual charters within them. [4] Bouchard therefore consistently respects the integrity of the cartulary's form, orthography, punctuation, and sequencing. And yet, her own apparatus offers so much less than it might have.

The abstracts that introduce the charters are brief, broad, abstract, and inconsistent. Locations mentioned in the charters are usually mentioned but not always, and important details within a charter that might have been pointed out to a skimming reader are lost. Though Bouchard emphasizes the importance she attaches to respecting the organization of the cartulary, she says very little about the principles that determined its organization. In other matters as well, her introduction paints in only the broadest of strokes. There is very little on the reconstruction of the domain that provides any sort of overview (all the information above being taken from Chauney's wonderful study). The single map Bouchard provides is singularly unhelpful in trying to visualize the domain or trace the locations mentioned in the charters. (In contrast, Chauney provides superb maps, not only detailed as to place names but immensely informative and stimulating in their ability to convey a sense for the logic of the domain according to land-type, altitude, and communication routes.) Bouchard makes no effort to determine the size of holdings, brushing off even the attempt by noting how hard it is to reconstruct the exact length of perches and feet in the twelfth-century Chalonnais. Still, that seems no reason not to give ranges where possible; and even without knowing precise measurements, a great of useful information about relative size and location of parcels can still be gleaned from the charters. (Chauney did just that by noting the small size and elongated shape of several vineyards and the fact that such small plantings often seem to have been nestled within ordinary arable. [5]) One is also struck by the frequency with which parcels given or sold to Saint-Marcel are described as lying within its fields or bounded on one side by them, suggesting the monks' desire to consolidate their holdings (e.g., nos. 15, 17, 26, etc.)-- Bouchard strangely coming to the exact opposite conclusion (pp. 9-10).

According to Bouchard, "the cartulary provides few details on conflict resolution", most disputes being signalled only by a charter's brief statement that a claim had been remitted. (11) Though true in a narrow sense, her conclusion is too quick. The fact that so many disputes seem to have been settled without recourse to public assemblies and formal procedures is itself a negative finding of considerable importance in the context of past and current work on law and disputing, particularly in Burgundy. [6] It points to a local culture in which a discourse of sin and alms had overtaken a discourse of law and judgment. Even more importantly, it points to a society in which the establishment of recurring, multiple, complex ties within localities allowed disputes to be settled locally by direct, ad hoc negotiations between parties. [7] Besides, a number of charters do describe extremely interesting processes, such as the one involving Duke Hugh II of Burgundy (1104, no. 36). Bouchard's abstract summarizes the quarrel as being about some serfs at Fleurey--an inadequate summary both in terms of what the charter actually says and in terms of topics of current historiographical interest such as the rise of the seigneurie banale--for the settlement makes it clear that the dispute really concerned exactions and claims made by Hugh's provost on Saint-Marcel's serfs. In any case, the details of the settlement process are fascinating. The prior of Saint-Marcel first approached Hugh through a number of the duke's familiares. Before those same familiares, Hugh agreed to renounce his claims; in return, he received a palfrey, 200 solidi (a not insubstantial sum), an anniversary mass for his father, and a promise that one poor person would be fed at Fleurey for his father and himself each. Only once this agreement had been reached did the duke come to Fleurey to make his formal public surrender. He did so during Easter week, standing in front of the altar of Saint-Marcel's church in the village and stating out loud the exact terms of the settlement. And here the charter mentions something explicitly that one often suspects but can rarely prove: the duke's rite of guerpitio before the altar was a way of taking God and the saints as witnesses to his quit- claim: "Under the witness of God and the saints before whose altar he stood, all those present seeing this, he knelt until the end of the Miserere mei Deus, in absolution for his sins and those of his father, and he placed the book he had received on the altar, with a kiss of peace and truth."

This ritual was not an anomaly within the local religious culture which Saint-Marcel knit with its lay patrons. Another dispute-charter (no. 67) ends the usual long list of witnesses with the name of Christ himself. [8] Another mentions the rare detail that in remitting an important claim, the donors kissed the altar, as if St. Marcel himself were receiving the kiss of peace that ended the dispute (no. 99). Yet another, adding even more interesting detail, has the disputant placing the token of his quit-claim on the altar while a priest stands by and celebrates mass--and the missal through which the mass is read is the very token of his quit-claim. Perhaps this, and not the charter or a liber vitae, was the "book" that Hugh II placed on the altar at Fleurey. In any case, I know of few charters that are so explicit about the details of quit- claims, or that allow us to see lay patrons standing, kneeling, and speaking before the altar of the monks who were their neighbors and special friends.

The preambles of some of the more solemn charters are also somewhat unusual. Most monasteries develop a house rhetoric mobilized throughout their charters. The two most common tropes state the need to preserve memory of transactions from the oblivion of time or insist on Christ's injunction to give alms (Luke 11:41). Saint-Marcel's follow the latter tradition but expand and embroider it until the preambles sound like catechisms that rehearse the whole scheme of salvation--the sin of Adam, the incarnation of Christ, the blood sacrifice of the Crucifixion, the harrowing of Hell, the Ascension, Christ's mandate to the apostles who continued his work to baptize the people and preach to them, how the apostles did preach to the people they converted, teaching them to keep the devil at bay by giving alms to cleanse the impurities of the world, thereby fulfilling the word of the Lord in the New Testament as transmitted through the prophets of the Old (no. 25; see also no. 20). If monks actually shared with their lay patrons anything close to this kind of teaching, that special Burgundian lay aristocratic piety evident in almsgiving to monasteries, monastic reforms like Citeaux's, and the Crusades becomes much more comprehensible. Indeed, it is most comprehensible only if we assume that ordinary monasteries like Saint-Marcel succeeded in creating a distinctive local religious culture that knit together monasteries and patrons through interactions that fostered deep belief and understanding on the part of the lay aristocracy.

Certainly Saint-Marcel's charters reveal intensely local networks of monastic and aristocratic interaction, of the sort much discussed by Stephen White, Barbara Rosenwein, and Constance Berman. [9] Since Bouchard herself has written of them, it is all the more surprising that her commentary does so little to elucidate them. [10] For on the basis of these charters, a nice sequence of linked prosopographies could be written of any of a number of aristocratic families that patronized Saint-Marcel--beginning with the lords of Saint- Marcel themselves, who appear in countless charters as witnesses, donors, protectors, neighbors, and disputants. Bouchard doesn't provide such prosopographies, nor genealogies, nor commentary on the networks that knit together monastery and aristocracy into tight little communities, the communities being defined not by any abstract sense of the public good for some imagined social "body" but--far more effectively--by discrete yet overlapping interests of individuals and families in this village, that fishery, these co-mingled lands.

For myself I will use this cartulary often. It constantly surprised me with sudden small revelations, and its unusual combination of manageable size and chronological density made it rather like a bonzai cartulary, a miniaturized and therefore comprehensible representation of a reality normally incomprehensible because too profuse. Such virtues should make it a particularly fine source for introducing graduate students to the wonders of cartularies. But in using it and teaching from it, I will keep thinking of the phenomenal introduction that might have been written, an introduction that used this cartulary to survey all the great themes of monastic history as they have been developed in the last half-century, and the last generation in particular, a history of monasticism in which land, people, and beliefs come together in a social ecology


[1] Martine Chauney, "Le temporel du prieure de Saint-Marcel- les-Chalon au XIe siecle et au debut du XIIe siecle," Memoires de la Societe d'histoire et d'archeologie de Chalon-sur-Saone 42 (1970-71), 45-88.

[2] Cartulaire du prieuré de Saint-Marcel-les-Chalon, publie d'apres les manuscrits de Marcel Canat de Chizy par Paul Canat de Chizy (Vice-president de la Sociéte d'histoire et d'archeologie) (Chalon-sur-Saone, 1894). See especially the opening of the introduction, which mentions the delay in publication due to "la derniere maladie de l'auteur," i.e., Marcel, and Paul's efforts to collect, organize, and verify the quantities of notes left by his brother.

[3] Bouchard does leave a number of locations unidentified; in fact, identification is nearly impossible. However, I do not know why she does not take "Escociolas" and perhaps also "Escoens" as Ecussolle (west of Macon), or at least discuss the possibility.

[4] Les Cartulaires: actes de la table ronde organisee par l'Ecole Nationale des Chartes et le G.D.R. 121 du C.N.R.S., eds. Olivier Guyotjeannin, Laurent Morelle, and Michel Parisse (Paris: Ecole Nationale des Chartes, 1993).

[5] Chauney, "Le temporel du prieure," 64.

[6] François-Louis Ganshof, "Etude sur l'administration de justice dans la region bourguignonne de la fin du Xe au debut du XIIe siecle," Revue Historique 135 (1920), 193-218; Georges Duby, "The Evolution of Judicial Institutions in Burgundy," The Chivalrous Society (Berkeley, 1980), 15- 58; Sharon Farmer, Barbara Rosenwein, and Thomas Head, "Monks and their Enemies: A Comparative Approach," Speculum 66 (1991), 764-86.

[7] Barbara Rosenwein, To Be the Neighbor of Saint Peter: The Social Meaning of Cluny's Property (909-1049) (Ithaca, 1989).

[8] "Huic donationi interfuerunt, Walterius de Sancta Helena, Wido de Camiliaco..., et multi alii, et insuper omnes Ihesus Christus dominus noster...."

[9] Rosenwein, To Be the Neighbor of Saint Peter; Stephen White, Custom, Kinship, and Gifts to Saints: The Laudatio Parentum in Western France, 1050-1150 (Chapel Hill, 1988); idem, "Feuding and Peace-Making in the Touraine around the Year 1100," Traditio 42 (1986), 195-263; Constance Berman, Medieval Agriculture, the Southern French Countryside, and the Early Cistercians, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 76/5 (Philadelphia, 1986).

[10] Constance Bouchard, Sword, Miter, and Cloister: Nobility and the Church in Burgundy, 980-1198 (Ithaca, 1987).

The Medieval Review
The Medieval Institute, Western Michigan University
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