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The Christmas of 829

  • Allen Cabaniss (a1)


Those historical compositions designated as annals are exceedingly valuable sources for knowledge of the Carolingian period, none more so that the so-called Annales regni Francorum, covering an interval beginning with the death of Charles Martel and ending with the last untroubled year of Louis the Pious (741–829). For half a century (759–808) the chronicle of each year generally includes a note indicating the place where the ruler celebrated the feast of Nativity. Some years also include a reference to Easter. Thirty-seven times the allusion is to both Christmas and Easter (759–774, 777–779, 781–783, 788–792, 795–798, 800–802, 806–808); nine to Christmas only (775, 780, 784, 786, 793, 799, 803–805); four to Christmas and two Easters (776, 785, 787, 794); but none to Easter alone. The repetitive, formulaic way in which the references are introduced suggests the high festival character of celebration and observance.



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1. Rau, Reinhold, Fontes ad historiam regni Franoorum aevi Karolini illustrandam (Berlin: Rütten und Loening, 1956), 1:10155.

2. Anonymi vita Hludowici 1, 20:1, in Cabaniss, Allen, Son of Charlemagne (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1961), p. 52. Hereafter Anon. v. Hlud.

3. Rau, p. 138: “Quo cum venisset et ibi natalem Domini celebrasset, allatum est ei, quod legati regis Bulgarorum essent in Baioaria…”

4. Ibid., p. 154: “Aquisgrani reversus est, ubi et missam sancti Martini ac festivitatem beati Andreae apostoli necnon et ipsum sacrosanctum Dominicae nativitatis diem cum magna laetitia et exultatione celebravit.”

5. Anon. v. Hlud., 2, 43.

6. Annales Mettenses priores, 829, ed. de Simson, B., Scriptores rerum Germanicarum in usum scholarum (Hanover: Hahn, 1905): “Transactis autem nativitatis Domini et sancta epiphaniae inibi solemniter diebus cum quibusdam optiniatibus suis placitum in memorato Aquisgrani palacio tenuit.”

7. See note 15 below.

8. Anon. v. Hlud., 3, 64:2.

9. For documentation, see Cabaniss, Allen, “Judith Augusta and Her Time,” Studies in English 10 (1969): 67109.

10. Ibid.; see also Cabaniss, Allen, “The Woes of Dhuoda,” Mississippi Quarterly 9, no. 1 (Winter 1958): 3849; and Duckett, E. S., Medieval Portraits from East and West (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1972), pp. 197218.

11. Agobard, , “Manifesto” (Liber apologeticus), 2, in Migne, , Patrologia latina, civ, 308D.

12. Annales Mettenses priores, 830 (see note 6 above).

13. Strabo, Walafrid, De imagine Tetrici, line 198: “Organa dulcisono percurrit pectine ludith,” in Poetae latini aevi Carolini (Berlin: Weidmann, 1965; original edition, 1885), 2: 376.

14. Annales regni Francorum, 757 (see note 1 above), and Anon. v. Hlud., 2, 40:1.

15. Thegan, , Vita Hludowici, 19 (Rau., p. 228): “Nunquam in risum exaltavit vocem suam, nec quando in summis festivitatibus ad laetitiam populi procedebant themilici, scurri et mimi cum coraulis et citharistis ad mensam coram eo, tunc nunquam nec dentes candidos suos in risu ostendit.”

16. Radbertus, Paschasius, Vita Walae, 2, 8:3, in Cabaniss, Allen, Charlemagne's Cousins (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1967), p. 160.

17. Agobard, , “Manifesto,” 5 (PL, civ, 314A).

18. Phaedrus, , Fabularum Aesopiarurn libri V, 3, Fabula 8, lines 4f.

19. Little has been added to Chambers, E. K., The Medieval Stage (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1903), 1: 275, 388, but see Ogilvy, J. D. A., “Mimi, Scurrae, Histriones: Entertainers of the Early Middle Ages,” Speculum 38 (1963): 603619.Young, Karl, The Drama of the Medieval Church, 2 vols. (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1933), and Craig, Hardin, English Religious Drama of the Middle Ages (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1955), add nothing to Chambers on this point, nor does the admirable study by Hardison, O. B. Jr, Christian Rite and Christian Drama in The Middle Ages (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1965). Sticca, Sandro, The Latin Passion Play: Its Origins and Development (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1970), is not concerned with this particular problem.

20. My foregoing remarks expanded from a note in my paper, “Judith Augusta” (see note 9 above).

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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