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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

2 - Charters and Influences from Saint-Denis c. 1000–1070

  • Edited by Tom Licence, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History and Director of the Centre of East Anglian Studies at the University of East Anglia
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 22-30



In comparison with the large number of manuscripts at Saint-Denis from the Carolingian period and the twelfth century, the sources for the eleventh century, the time of Abbot Baldwin of Bury St Edmunds, are meagre. This is one indication that the abbey suffered severe losses in the tenth century at the hands of the Normans. It lost many of its domains, the fabric of the church seems to have deteriorated greatly, and the performance of the liturgy seems to have become lax.

Abbot Suger, writing in the 1140s, saw the division of the Carolingian empire under the sons of the son of Louis the Pious, that is, Charles the Bald, as the major reason for Saint-Denis's losses. In addition to the problem the monks faced in recovering their illustrious past, the monastery encountered two major challenges to its prestige in the first half of the eleventh century. First of all, the monks at Saint Emmeram, Regensburg, claimed that they had the relics of St Denis. In response to this, the saint's body was exhumed in 1053, and a new feast, the Detection of Saint Denis, was celebrated on 9 June to commemorate this event. Secondly, the bishop of Paris challenged Saint-Denis's claims of exemption from episcopal control. So it is perhaps not surprising that the extant manuscripts and charters from the eleventh century reflect both of these topics: charters were forged to prove the monastery's independence from episcopal control, and manuscripts were created for its new liturgical celebrations.