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…

Multifaceted Liturgy: Passio Imaginis Domini and Visualising Devotion

The legend of the Passion of the Crucifix arrived in Western Europe with the Second Council of Nicaea (787). This text recounts a Jewish blasphemy concerning the image of Christ on the Cross, which had occurred in Beirut. The story goes that at a dinner at someone’s house in Beirut, a group of Jews noticed…

The Many Faces of Pelayo

The centrepiece of the Chronicle of Alfonso III, written in the late 9th or early 10th centuries, is the description of a certain Pelayo and his rebellion against the Saracen foreign rulers of the Iberian Peninsula. Pelayo, as the chronicle describes it, led a small group of Asturians in the pathless mountains in the North…

Eadgifu, Louis IV, and Female Power

Over the last two decades there has been much discussion of why so few women are described as hostages in early medieval sources. Yet to date, there has been very limited interest in the role of women as active participants in hostage practices, here interpreted as brokering agreements, giving hostages, receiving them, or releasing those…

Source Translation: King Henry the Fowler frees the priest Baldmunt from slavery, 11 August 926

Henry I, known as ‘The Fowler’, was the first ruler of the new Ottonian dynasty (named after his son Otto I). His rule is often seen as a new phase in East Frankish kingship, distinct both from the members of the Carolingian dynasty whom he followed and that of his son Otto I.  On 11…

The Liber iudicum popularis and the blending of Visigothic and Frankish legal culture in Catalonia in the early 11th century

When it formed the heart of the Carolingian marca Hispania just after 800, Catalonia had spent over 200 years under Visigothic rule, followed by 80 years under Arab dominion. With Catalonia’s new position as a frontier region, the counts of Barcelona attained a higher degree of political independence from France in the process of the Carolingian…

Good King Wenceslas? Royal Justice in the Tenth Century (Part I)

The Bohemian Duke Wenceslas has been closely associated with Christmas ever since 1853, when John Mason Neale set his ‘Good King Wenceslas’ to the tune of a medieval spring carol. Despite Neale’s effort being described as ‘ridiculous’, ‘doggerel’ and ‘poor’ by critics of the time, it has become a ubiquitous part of December for many,…

The Christmas messages of tenth-century bishops

Later this month, heads of state throughout the world will deliver their Christmas messages, which tend to stress reconciliation and unity, but can also, more rarely, contain words of admonition and even invective. Although the modern ‘Christmas message’ given by heads of state on national television is a relatively recent invention, the feast has been…

Liturgy Matters

Last week I made my first visit to the current British Library exhibition, Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War. My first, but I hope not my last: it brings together such a wealth of written material, alongside other artefacts, that it’s hard to maintain proper scholarly decorum when faced with so many manuscripts, familiar from scholarship,…