The cult of St Alexius: a new veneration of an old saint and Italian influence in the Catalan region

Although this fourth-century saint had become popular very early among the eastern Christians, in Western Europe St Alexius was the recipient of a wave of devotion only in the ninth and tenth century. From the ninth century onwards, different versions of his life spread in diverse religious communities from Spain to England. Around 1040 his…

All in the family? A beginner’s guide to Carolingian genealogies in the 10th and 11th century

One of the genres of source that I’m closely working with as part of the After Empire project is genealogies. Genealogies are especially interesting texts both for the questions that this project is investigating and for my own research interests: how do people engage with the past? And how in particular do they engage with…

Dealing with the recent past in St Maximin, Trier

Not only were the deeds of saints recorded in hagiographical sources; we regularly find traces of a local past as well. These traces can explain what elements of the past were important for a specific community. For example, in the following, I will argue that the Historia Miraculorum was written to justify a reform movement…

A revitalization of the Carolingian general oath of loyalty under Salian rule?

In the Carolingian period, general oaths of fidelity like those sworn under Charlemagne, Louis the Pious or Charles the Bald created a direct personal bond between the adult male free population and the Carolingian ruler and his family. This has always been taken as indicating a comparatively high degree of statehood, as the oaths had…

Clerical solidarity and King Hugh’s hirelings in Rather of Verona’s Praeloquia

In 933, Bishop Rather of Verona rebelled against his king. Together with the local count he invited Duke Arnulf of Bavaria and Carinthia to take over the Italian throne from King Hugh. Similar schemes had worked before: King Hugh himself had been invited to take over the Italian throne by another rebellious bishop in 926.…

Education Matters

Pessimism is depressingly common amongst modern British commentators upon standards in contemporary education. Public discussion, as in current concerns about the introduction of mandatory multiplication table testing in English primary schools, is always about the need to improve performance, in this case numeracy.    But, as early medieval scholars know only too well, the twin premises…

Back to an unknown monastic paradise: Carolingian Benedictine monasticism in early medieval Catalonia in the mirror of its manuscript tradition

It is a well-known story of early medieval monastic life that the Europe-wide diffusion of the Benedictine life-style was intrinsically connected to the Carolingians’ reform of the Church. This older form of religious life imposed its dominance over other male (and female) monastic rules in the Southwestern periphery of the Carolingian Empire from the reign of…

A tenth-century murder? The strange death of Queen Bertilla

The long tenth century provides plenty of stories of powerful women. Sometimes, we can get to know their lives fairly well. In other cases, they only leave scarce traces in written records. Queen Bertilla (c. 855−915) is one of the latter. For that reason, she is not the best known of the women that fill…

The Battle of Stilo, July 982

According to the chronicler Thietmar of Merseburg (III.20–1), in July 982 Emperor Otto II stood on a beach in Calabria, the southernmost region of mainland Italy. He had just suffered a disastrous loss against the forces of the emir of Sicily, Abū’l-Qāsim, whose soldiers had decimated the troops drawn from across Otto’s empire.  Accompanied by…