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Abbatial Elections at Saint Florent-de-Saumur (ca. 950–1118)

  • William Ziezulewicz (a1)


Research into the origins of bishops is not new, but it has taken on increasing importance within the last twenty years. In 1965 an important introductory study of the social origins of French bishops between the years 1150 and 1350 appeared under the auspices of the Institut de Droit Canonique de Strassbourg. Since then, other studies on the origins of the French episcopate have followed. Despite the fact that these studies possess intrinsic value as manifestations of interest in the family and social origins, the method employed in them raises questions. It is the scope of the studies—not so much in terms of chronology as in numbers of bishops considered—that is problematic. The large numbers of candidates considered render scrutiny of individual candidates and electoral processes impossible.



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1. Schulte, Aloys, Der Adel und die deutsche Kirche im Mittelalter (Stuttgart, 1910);Gaudemet, Jean, “Recherches sur l'episcopat médiéval en France,” in Proceedings of the Second International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, ed. Kuttner, Stephen and Ryan, J. Joseph (Vatican City, 1965), pp. 139154; for bibliography, see Bouchard, Constance B., “The Geographical, Social and Ecclesiastical Origins of the Bishops of Auxerre and Sens in the Central Middle Ages,” Church History 46 (1977): 277295. In addition, see Guillemain, Bernard, “Les origines des évêques en France aux XIe et XIIe siècles,” Le Istituzioni Ecciesiastiche della “Societas Christiana” dei Secoli XI-XII. Atti della Settimana Internazionale di Studio Mendola, 26–31 agosto, 1971 (Milan, 1972), pp. 374407;Locatelli, René, “Les élections episcopales á Besançon (XI–XIII siècles),” Etudes en souvenir de Roland Fiétier. Droit, économie et société au Môyen Age, vol. 2 (Dijon, 19811982), pp. 93108;Laharie, Muriel, “Evêques et sociétés en Périgord du Xe au milieu du XIIe siècle,” Annales du Midi 94 (1982): 343368;Ravaux, Jean-Pierre, “Les évêques de Châlons-sur-Marne, des origines à 1789,” Mémoires de la Société d'agriculture, commerce, sciences et arts du département de la Marne 98 (1983): 49121;Piveteau, Cécile, “Les évêques d'Angoulême aux XIII et XIV siècles,” Bulletins et mémoires de la Société archéologique de la Charente (1983): 119139;Fanning, Steven, “Family and Episcopal Election, 900—1050, and the Case of Hubert, Bishop of Angers (1006—1047),” Medieval Prosopography 7 (1986): 3956.

2. For numbers of candidates, see Gaudemet, , “Recherches,” p. 140;Guillemain, , “Origines,” p. 396 (table 1); Bouchard, , “Bishops of Auxerre and Sens,” pp. 278279 (tables 1 and 2). Bouchard makes a valuable point that there has been little attempt to relate episcopal origins to the electoral process (pp. 277–278), but then proceeds to consider thirty-five bishops from two sees in an eighteen-page study! The statistics presented by Gaudemet are vitiated by the use of the Gallia Christiana as a primary source.

3. The Rule of St. Benedict (chapter 64) is silent concerning the procedure for electing an abbot. It states only that he must be elected by the whole community, or at least by that part of the community which possesses sounder judgement. The expression Benedict uses, pars quamvis parva congregationis saniore consilio, is constitutionally vague and has lain behind many a disputed election. See Vogüé, Adalbert de and Neufville, Jean, eds., La Regle de saint Benoīt, 7 vols. (volumes 1–6 are Sources chrétiennes series 181–186 [Paris, 19711972]; volume 7 was published separately [Paris, 1977] and has been translated by Hasbrouck, John, The Rule of Saint Benedict, a doctrinal and spiritual commentary, vol. 2 [Kalamazoo, 1983], p. 648).

4. The consensus seems to be that bishops were by and large noble (Schulte, , Adel und die deutsche Kirche, p. 62;Génicot, Léopold, “Haut clergé et noblesse dans le diocèse de Liége du XIe au XVe siècle,” in Adel und Kirche, ed. Fleckenstein, Josef and Schmid, Karl [Freiburg, 1968], p. 249;Guillemain, , “Origins,” pp. 378, 394;Bouchard, , “Bishops of Auxerre and Sens,” p. 282), and of local origin (Gaudemet, , “Recherches” p. 139 n. 1;Bouchard, , “Bishops of Auxerre and Sens,” p. 281). Bouchard notes the emergence of the cathedral chapter by the end of the eleventh century (p. 285); this also seems to be Guillemain's conclusion (pp. 379–380).

5. For background on Florent, Saint, see my “‘Restored’Churches in the Fisc of Saint Florent-de-Saumur (1021–1118),” Revue Bénédictine 96 (1986): 106117.

6. Hamon, Maurice, “Un aspect de la reconstruction monastique dans l'Ouest: les relations entre Saint-Florent-de-Saumur et les abbayes de la Loire moyenne (950–1026 environ),” Bulletin philologique et historique du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques (année 1972) (1979): 8794.

7. Historia Sancti Florentii Salmurensis, in Chroniques des églises d'Anjou, ed. Marchegay, Paul and Mabille, Emile (Paris, 1869), pp. 222223 (hereafter cited as HSF).

8. HSF, p. 240; Hamon, “Un aspect,” p. 89.

9. HSF, pp. 241–242; for Amalbert's appointment to Fleury, see Aimo, , De Miraculis S. Benedicti Libri Duo, in Patrologia latina, ed. Migne, J. P., vol. 139 (Paris, 18441864), cc. 820–821 (the Patrologia latina will be hereafter cited as PL).

10. Two sources refer to Elias as a priest: Historia Eversionis Monasterii S. Florentii Veteris, Thesaurus Novus Anecdotorum, ed. Martène, E., vol. 3 (Paris, 1717), c. 847; and Fragmentum Veteris Historiae Sancti Florentii, in Chroniques des églises d'Anjou, pp. 208–209. The HSF states only that he was “mirae religionis” (pp. 240–241). No affiliation with any monastery is mentioned, and it seems odd that Elias would be referred to as a priest if he were a monk of Fleury or any other monastery. Perhaps the historians of Saint Florent were trying to make the best of what they considered a scandalous situation.

11. For Elias and Amalbert at Thibaud's court, see HSF, pp. 241, 246; Thibaud's construction of a turris in the HSF is probably a reference to his fortification of Saumur (p. 248). This is implied later in the HSF when Count Odo II of Blois strengthens the fortifications of Saumur “a suis parentibus… munitum” (p. 273).

12. See HSF, p. 252, for Robert's election. Fleury was the predominant monastic influence in Saint Florent's restoration (Hamon, , “Un aspect,” p. 92); for the method of Amalbert's election, see Aimo, , PL, 139:cc. 820821: “Hic a Lothario… cum electione fratrum regimen nostri susceperat coenobii.”

13. For Robert's family, see Bachrach, Bernard, “Robert of Blois Abbot of Saint-Florentde-Saumur and Saint-Mesmin-de-Micy (985–1011): A Study in Small Power Politics,” Revue Bénédictine 88 (1978): 123146.

14. Morice, Dom Hyacinth, Mémoires pour servir de preuves à l'histoire de Bretagne, vol. 1 (Paris, 1742), c. 346 (dated 959).

15. Bachrach, , “Robert of Blois,” p. 126.

16. HSF, p. 264. Adhebert gave lands of Saint Florent situated in the Touraine to his nephews Hamelinus, Otgerius, and Ogisus (Archives départementales of Maine-et-Loire H 3703, no. 3, part 1).

17. HSF, p. 264 nn. 3–265.

18. Viscount Aimery of Thouars was an ally of Fulk Nerra at the time of the Second Battle of Conquéreuil in 992. After his victory, Fulk placed the young Judicaël of Nantes under the tutelage of Viscount Aimery (Halphen, Louis, Le comté d'Anjou au XIe siècle [Paris, 1906], p. 25 n.3). By 1026 the allies had fallen out. Fulk built his fortress at Montfaucon to guard against attacks from Thouars (ibid., p. 155 n. 2). Odo's patronage of Gerald of Thouars occurs between these two dates and therefore may have been a factor in the break between Anjou and Thouars.

19. HSF, p. 267.

20. Ibid., p. 268.

21. For a detailed account of Frederick's origins, see my “From Serf to Abbot: The Role of the ‘Familia’ in the Career of Frederick of Tours,” American Benedictine Review 36 (1985): 278291.

22. For Sigo's charter of election, see Archives départementales of Maine-et-Loire, H 1910; for analysis, see Guillot, Olivier, Le comte d'Anjou et son entourage au XIe siècle, vol. 1 (Paris, 1972), p. 182 n. 223.

23. The necrology of the cathedral church of Chartres (Merlet, René, (Un manuscrit chart rain du XIe siècle [Chartres, 1893]) states: “Et Sigo, factus ex clerico monachus et abba tandem Salmuriensis monasterii” (pp. 106, 107). It is not certain that Abbot Sigo was the same Sigo who composed a hymn for Florent, Saint (HSF, p. 287). The future abbot's position within the cathedral of Chartres is also unclear and probably never will be determined. The issue is complicated by the fact that there were at least three Sigo's at Chartres during the eleventh century. One Sigo, a close friend of Fulbert of Chartres, died on 11 July (Merlet, , Un manuscrit, pp. 37, 49, 50, 108, 169) and was commemorated in Adelman's poem (Havet, Julien, “Poème rythmique d'Adelman de Liége,” in Notices et documents publiés pour la société de l'histoire de France à l'occasion du cinquantième anniversaire de sa foundation [Paris, 1884], pp. 83, 89). This Sigo probably was dead by 1040, when Arnold appears as chanter of Chartres (Clerval, Jules, Les écoles de Chartres au môyen age du Ve au XVIe siècle [Paris, 1895], pp. 5354). The second Sigo is identified in the necrology as “levita et canonicus.” He died on 24 October. This Sigo is probably not our abbot, since he continued to be archdeacon until 1080; moreover, Abbot Sigo died on 12 June (HSF, p. 302). It may very well be that the future abbot of Saint Florent was the magister scolarum who appears in one of the foundation charters for la Trinité-de-Vendôme, 31 May 1040 (Cartulaire de l'abbaye cardinale de la Trinité de Vendôme, ed. Metals, Charles, vol. 1 [Paris, 1893], no. 39), but the evidence is not conclusive.

24. For Albert at Chartres, see Merlet, , Un manuscrit, pp. 108, 164: “VIII kal. jun. obiit Albertus, hujus sancte ecclesie primum decanus et rerum ecclesiasticarum procurator egregrius, qui, postea Majoris-Monasterii factus abbas, monastice regulae fuit observator dilegentissimus.” For Albert's program of reform, see Guillot, , Le Comte d'Anjou, pp. 182183.

25. Ibid., pp. 182–183.

26. See my “A Monastic Forgery in an Age of Reform: A Bull of Pope John XVIII for Saint-Florent-de-Saumur (April, 1004),” Archivum Historiae Pontificiae 23 (1985): 33.

27. Liure Blanc of Saint Florent (Archives départementales of Maine-et-Loire H 3714), fol. 96v. Rivallo appears as a witness in one of William's, Duke charters (Recueil des actes des ducs de Normandie de 911 à 1066, ed. Fauroux, M. [Caen, 1961], no. 159). Later, John, Abbot William's brother, donated to Saint Florent land which he held at Ceaux. This gift was increased by King William I sometime before 26 December 1083. For the text, see Marchegay, Paul, “Chartes normandes de l'abbaye de Saint-Florent près Saumur,” Mémoires de la Société des antiquaires de Normandie, 4th ser., 1 (1879): nos. 9, 10; see also Davis, H. W. C., ed., Regesta Regum Anglo-Normannorum 1066–1164, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1913), no. 158, for the date.

28. Douglas, D. C. and Greenaway, G. W., eds., English Historical Documents, vol. 2, 2d ed. (New York, 1981), p. 263.

29. HSF, p. 302, states: “Quidam bonae indolis adolescens.”

30. The Breton lords of Monmouth, who were from Dol, founded a priory of Saint Florent (Guillotel, Hubert, “Une famille bretonne au service du Conquerant: les Baderon,” Droit privé et institutions regionales. Etudes historiques offertes à Jean Yver (Paris, 1976), pp. 361367.

31. HSF, pp. 302–303, states: “Audiens tam clarescentem famam, illustris dux Apuliae G, compunctus corde et inspirante gratia visitatus, praeclara ornamenta et eximia preciosa huic ecclesiae destinavit.”

32. Marchegay and Mabille in the introduction to the Chroniques des églises d'Anjou (p. xxvi).

33. HSF, pp. 264–270.

34. Ibid., p. 270, states: “turgida Majoris Monasterii concio”; p. 272 states: “Jam Salmurensis locus… Majori Monasterio impar minime videbatur.”

35. Beech, George, “Biography and the Study of Eleventh Century Society. Bishop Peter II of Poitiers, 1087–1115,” Francia 7 (1979): 101120.

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