Local Communities and the Church in Trier at the Beginning of the Tenth Century

At the beginning of the tenth century Regino, in exile from the monastery of Prüm, composed a collection of canon law in two books at the request of his patron, Archbishop Ratbod of Trier. According to the preface, he intended this to be a portable guide for the bishop to take with him when touring his diocese. It circulated across the tenth- and early eleventh-century Empire and then more widely through being one of the primary sources for Burchard of Worms’ highly influential canon law collection, the Decretum.

Regino’s first book deals with the behaviour of the clergy, the second with that of the laity, and each book starts with a set of questions which the bishop should ask upon arriving in a new community. The ordo translated here comes from the start of book II and prescribes how the bishop should undertake a visitation of his diocese, and the questions he should ask of a lay jury about the behaviour of their fellows. It serves as an introduction to, and is supported, by the canons which follow; on the details see Wilfried Hartmann’s edition. This ordo thus serves as a helpful summary of the pastoral ambitions of ninth-century Carolingian bishops, as they were recorded in episcopal capitula, councils and penitential.

It is also one of the first guides to set out how a bishop should conduct a visitation of his diocese. It presumes a parochial structure. It repeats earlier expectations that the laity should take communion three times a year, observe fasts during Lent, Advent,  and Rogationtide (questions  49 and 56) and go to confession at the beginning of Lent (question 65). It includes several provisions to uphold episcopal authority. At the same time it includes some features that are unique to Regino, including his assumption that each community will include decani, that is god-fearing men who are tasked with ensuring that everyone in their community attends mass on Sundays and feast days, and with reporting any misbehaviour to the priest (question 69), and his concern about the laity talking in church, observing wakes for the dead, and dancing around the church (questions 55, 87 and 88).

It thus serves as helpful case study of how the ideas and teachings of Carolingian bishops were taken up and developed by their tenth-century successors. But it is also of interest for modern scholars of medieval pastoral care more generally because it not only summarises ninth-century practices but anticipates many of the concerns of thirteenth-century bishops in their synodal statutes, pointing to the crucial role played by tenth-century churchmen in the development of later medieval institutions.

Bibliography: for an English-language introduction to Regino see the introduction by Simon MacLean to History and Politics in Late Carolingian and Ottonian Europe. The Chronicle of Regino of Prüm and Adalbert of Magdeburg, trans. and annotated by Simon MacLean (Manchester, 2009), 1-9; and for a introduction to some of the issues raised by Regino’s text see Sarah Hamilton, Church and People in the Medieval West, 900-1215 (Harlow, 2013), 11-15, 31-33.

Translated from: Reginonis Prumiensis Libri Duo de Synodalibus Causis et Disicplinis Ecclesiasticis, ed. F. G. A. Wasserschleben, rev. with German translation as Das Sendhandbuch des Reginos von Prüm, ed. Wilfried Hartmann (Darmstadt, 2004), pp. 235-50.

1. How the bishop ought to go around his diocese (From the Council of Rouen)

When the bishop goes around his diocese, the archdeacon or archpriest ought to go ahead of him by one or two days to each of the parishes which he will visit and, calling the people together, ought to announce the visit of their pastor, and so that they all do not forget to come to the synod on the set day, admonish all of them, from the authority of the holy canons, and announce threateningly that if anyone fails to attend, except through grave necessity, he shall be expelled from the Christian community.

Then associating himself with the priests, who are in the bishop’s service in that place, he ought to try to correct the lesser and lighter offences, so that when the pontiff comes he is not at all tired by the easier business. For the Lord said to Moses about such assistants: that they may bear with thee the burden of the people, and thou mayest not be burthened alone (Num., 11, 17). And blessed John the Baptist who proceeded the coming of the Lord by preaching and saying Do penance (for the kingdom of heaven is at hand) (Matt. 3,2).  And as well, Prepare ye the way of the Lord (Matt. 3,3).  When the bishop appears as Christ’s vicar, he should be received with joy, fear, and great reverence by the peoples under his command, so that it is said of them with praise, what the Apostle said to his disciple: I bear witness that you received me as an angel of God, as the Lord Jesus (cf. Gal. 4, 14-15).

2. Of the jurors of the synod (see above)

When the bishop has sat down in synod, after a wise address, he must summon seven of the mature, honourable and honest people of the parish – more or less, depending on the need – and bind each one of them by the following oath over the sacred relics:  

3. The synodal oath (see above):

From today on and forever, if you have experienced or heard or later find out that in this parish something happened or will happen in the future against the will of God and against right Christianity, if it happens during your time, so that you know about it, or it is indicated to you, that it should be a synodal case, and belongs to the jurisdiction of the bishop, that neither on account of love, nor on account of fear, nor on account of reward, nor on account of any relationship, ought you to conceal from the archbishop of Trier or his legate, whom the archbishop has commanded to examine it,  whenever he asks you about it.  So may God help you and these relics of the saints. The rest should be so sworn.  You will observe this oath, which is sworn for the synodal investigation, as far as you know or hear something, and from this henceforth you will enquire. So may God help you. 

4. After giving the oath to the jurors, the bishop should address them:

See brothers that you keep your oath to the Lord. For you did not swear to men but to God your creator.  For we, who are his ministers, we do not desire your earthly possessions, but we require the salvation of your souls. Be careful not to hide anything lest you are damned for the sin of another.   

5. After this he should interrogate (them) in this order:

1. Is there a killer in this parish, who killed the man, either through free will, or passion, because of greed, or by chance, or unwillingly under orders, or to avenge a relation, what we call a feud (faidam), or in war, or on the orders of the lord, or those of his servant?
2. Is there a parricide or fratricide, that is anyone who has killed their father, mother, sister, brother, uncle or any other relation?
3. Is there anyone who has killed a priest or a deacon or any other cleric, or cut off any of their limbs?
4. Is there any man or woman who has oppressed an infant or suffocated (the infant) with clothing? And, if this has happened, was it before or after baptism?  Or, if any sickly infant was denied baptism through the negligence of the parents?
5. Is there a man or woman who has cast out the offspring of another?  Or has a woman through her own wish cast out her own offspring, or started a miscarriage?
6. Is there a woman who, having conceived in fornication, fearing lest it become known, has her child either thrown into the water or hidden in the earth, what is called morth?
7. Is there any man who has his wife killed without a legal claim or proof of her guilt?
8. Is there any woman who has killer her husband or another man through poisonous herbs or deadly potions, or who has taught another how to do this?
9. Is there any man or any woman who has done this or has taught another how to do this, that the husband is not able to procreate or the wife to conceive?
10. Is there any one who has killed his own servant without a judgement, and any woman who has murdered her own maidservant inflamed by jealousy?
11. Is there any one who, impelled by the devil, has killed himself?
12. If there is anyone who has wounded men in war, and he does not know if anyone perished from his wound. And if it is attributed to someone, that he killed a man, and he denies this?
13. Whether someone was involved in the planning, so that a man should be killed, but he did not commit it, so that the man was nevertheless killed through his plan and encouragement?
14. Is there anyone who has cut off the hand, feet, tongue and testicles or rooted out the eyes of another?

15. If there is any married man who has committed adultery with the wife of another; if there is any wife who has done it the husband of another.
16. If any man who has a wife also has a concubine, either his own maidservant or another woman?
17. If any married man has dismissed his lawful wife and accepted another in marriage?
18. If any woman has dismissed her own husband and married another?
19. If any [husband and wife] having been separated by divorce, scorn the divorce, and stay together?
20. If any man without the consent of his wife, has abandoned his lawful marriage and entered a monastery?
21. If any man has abandoned his spouse, however guilty, without episcopal judgement?
22. If any wife has knowingly fornicated with her husband?
23. If any man has abstained from his spouse whilst he was fornicating with the spouse of another, or if any wife has not had her husband when [going with] the husband of another?
24. If any man who does not have a wife has fornicated with a woman who does not have a husband?
25. If any lay girl has slept with a youth?
26. If anyone has not led a betrothed girl [into marriage] and has broken his promise of betrothal?
27. If any man has seized the betrothed of another and joined with her?
28. If any man has abducted a woman, virgin or widow and joined with her in matrimony, and, if any of them joined [him] and helped with this?
29. If any man has committed adultery with a jewess or if a jew or pagan man has committed adultery with a Christian woman?
30. If any man has abducted a nun or widow consecrated to God and joined in marriage, or whether he has fornicated with her with her consent?
31. If any one has been accused of adultery with the wife whilst her husband is living, and as soon as he is dead, taken up with the woman (with whom he is accused of adultery)?
32. If any wife has said that her husband is not able to have sexual relations with her, and demands a divorce on this grounds, and wishes to take another husband?
33. If any man has fornicated with his godmother or accepted her in marriage, or similarly, with his goddaughter, whom he received from the holy font (in baptism), or held before the bishop (i.e. confirmation)?
34. If any one has accepted as wife in matrimony his near blood relation, or fornicated with her?
35. If any one has become irrationally embroiled, that is against nature, with men and with dumb animals?
36. If any wife has made allurements?
37. If any one has tolerated the commitment of adultery in his household, with his maids or his workers?

38. Ask if anyone is a thief or sacrilegious person, who breaks into the churches of God, or steals anything from the church or publicly robs or steals secretly or if anyone is a rapacious robber or plunderer of the church of God? For although these are crimes must be corrected and made good according to human law, the bishop is responsible for determining the penance.  

39. Ask if any man has perjured himself or if knowingly and because of earthly greed, sworn falsely?  And if he was unaware he swore falsely, or if he was acting on the order of a senior, or to save limbs or a life, or if he knowingly was not alone, but led others into perjury also?

40. Ask if any man has knowingly given false witness against another, because this is a capital crime, and whether anyone was damned through this testimony?
41. Ask if any man has stolen from a free man or the unfreed man (servus) of another or a pilgrim or a stranger, or by flattery, sold or sent into captivity outside the patria, or if anyone has sold a Christian slave (mancipium)  to a jew or a pagan , or if jews themselves sell their Christian slaves (Christiana mancipia)

42. Ask is if there is any man who is a magician, fortune teller, prophetic magician or soothsayer?
43. [Ask] if any man has made an offering to trees or to springs or to certain stones as if to altars, or brought a candle or some other offering, as if there were a deity that could work good or evil there.
44. Investigate where there is any swineherd or oxherd or hunter or others of this sort who recite devilish songs over bread or herbs or nefarious bandages, and hide these in a tree, or throw them on the floor in a place where two or three roads meet, so that their animals may be free from plague and other diseases, and ruin those belonging to others. There should be no doubt for any of faithful that all these practices are idolatrous, and for that reasons these practices should be completely eradicated.
45. Investigate whether there is any woman who claims she can change people’s minds through sorcery and spells – that is, that she turns hate into love, or love into hate, or harms or steals the goods of other people.  And if there is any woman who claims that she transforms herself on certain nights with a crowd of demons into the appearance of a woman to ride on beasts and to be their consort, then she is to be wholly ejected from the parish.

46. Ask if there is any man who has eaten the blood or carrion or pieces of animals left by beasts?
47. If there is any man who has not returned to peace through hatred, or sworn, contrary to God, never to be reconciled with his brother, because this is a sin unto death.
48. If there is any man who drinks the liquid in which a weasel or mouse or other impure animal has died?
49. If there is any man who has not observed (the fast for) Lent or Advent or the Major Litany (25 April) or Rogationtide or a fast ordered by the bishop for a disease?
50. If there is any man who drinks, eats or carries with him something which he considers is able to pervert the judgment of God?
51. If there is anyone who is doing something on the Kalends of January, which has been invented by pagans, and whether he observes the days, the moon, and the months and hopes that by their effective power, something will be turned to the better or the worse?
52. If someone begins a task and murmurs something or does something with the help of magic art, except that – as the Apostle teaches – everything has to be done in the name of the Lord?  For we ought not to call on demons for assistance, only God. Similarly, when one is collecting medicinal herbs one ought to say the Lord’s Prayer and nothing else.
53. Also ask if women say or do anything while spinning or weaving, except that, as stated above, because everything must be said or done in the Lord’s name.
54. If anyone has unjustly retained offerings, that is alms, for dead relatives.
55. If anyone has sung devilish songs during the night over the dead, and eaten and drunk, as if rejoicing over his death, and if he has kept vigil over the dead during the night anywhere else except in church?
56. And if there is anyone who has not communicated three times in the year, that is at Easter, Pentecost and Christmas, unless he has been removed from communion for serious crimes by the judgment of bishop or priest.
57. And if there is anyone who has undertaken work on the Lord’s Day (i.e. Sunday) or other special feast days, and if anyone omits to come to matins and to mass and to vespers on these days?
58. If anyone who has been excommunicated disregards his excommunication sentence, and if anyone has communicated with an excommunicant?
59. If anyone has not observed the manner of penance enjoined on him?
60. If anyone has not honoured their father or mother or has struck them or cursed them?
61. If anyone has vomited after accepting the eucharist because of drunkenness?
62. If anyone has withheld his tithe to God and His saints?
63. If anyone is so perverse and alienated from God that he does not even go to church on the Lord’s Day?
64. If any swineherds or other shepherds come to church on the Lord’s Day and hear Mass? And similarly do they do so on feast days?
65. And if there is anyone who does not go to confession at least once a year, that is at the beginning of Lent, to receive penance for his sins?
66. And if there is anyone who is regularly drunk? For these drunkards will not possess the kingdom of God.
67. If there is anyone who, through contempt for his priest, goes to church in another parish, and communicates and gives his tithe there?
68. Inquire about the beggars, who wander around their homeland, and whether everyone feeds a pauper from their household (familia)?
69. If in each parish (parochia) the decani have been instituted in all the villages (villas), that is truthful, god-fearing men who admonish the others that they should go to church at matins, mass and vespers, and to not work on feast days; and if any one transgresses these injunctions, that the decani  immediately report him to the priest. Similarly (they will report him) for acts of indulgence and other misdeeds.
70. If there is anyone who does not take the ban (bannum) and excommunication of his bishop or priest seriously and disregards it?
71. If the parishioners (paroechiani) render their honourable dues to their priest, or if there is any man who dishonours him through word or deed and spurns his admonishments?
72. If there is any man who has refused hospitality to a pilgrim or traveller?
73. Enquire, which feast days they support.
74. If the godfathers teach or make to be taught the Creed and Lord’s Prayer to their godchildren?
75. If four or five or more of them have killed a man?
76. If there is anyone who has contradicted the (teaching of the) bishop or his ministers that neither workers (coloni) nor servants (servi) should be beaten with rods whilst naked on account of crimes committed.
77. Enquire, whether anyone has presumed, because he wishes to have his own servant to have or to sell or to give to another, to take in a stranger or someone who had fled his homeland because of an attack by the pagans or because of persecution so that he lived in his house and served him day to day as a day labourer?
78. If there is any man who has sell unjust measures of grain or wine when the Lord says: Let the balance be just and the weights equal, the bushel  just, and the sextary equal (Lev. 19)
79. Also denounce what a great sin it is to demand interest, and to wish to grow rich from interest raised by others, and prescribe the sacred canons that people who do this will be expelled  from the church.
80. If anyone has murdered through greed a jew or a pagan.
81. If anyone whilst insane has killed another man
82. If anyone felled a tree, and whilst he was performing this necessary work, someone else came under the tree and was killed unexpectedly.
83. If anyone has taken part in a plot or conspiracy.
84. If anyone has presumed to harass the church or a cleric?
85. Enquire about runaway and treacherous (perfidis) laypeople.
86. Question them about the confraternities and fraternity societies, and how they are conducted in the parish (parochia).
87. If anyone presumes to sing disgraceful songs and to dance laughing around the church?
88. If anyone is accustomed on entering into church to tell stories, and not to listen diligently to divine eloquence, and if they leave church before mass has finished?
89. If men and women offer a gift at the mass, that is bread and wine, and if men do not, that their wives do it for them, for themselves, and for all of them, as recorded in the canon. 

These capitula which we have notified in this order, shall be affirmed by (the following) canonical decrees.