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…

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…

A Letter from Abbot Odilo of Cluny

In the early middle ages, letter-writing was a difficult art to master. Letters were supposed to follow elaborate stylistic models. The language was supposed to be sophisticated and rhetorically complex. Many letters were conspicuously public documents, written to be read aloud, and not only by the recipient. But accomplished letter-writers could use their skills to…

I’ll be in Rome for Christmas: Ottonian memories of the past at Christmas

Where do you spend Christmas? For medieval rulers, this was a very important question, and one that had many possible answers. In the tenth century, the itinerant Ottonian rulers spent Christmas at many different places across the empire, often at major cities like Frankfurt, Pavia, Rome, Cologne and Ravenna. Celebrating Christmas was one of the…

A Reminiscence of Carolingian oath practice in Wipo’s “Deeds of Conrad II”

‘Charles’s stirrups hang down from Conrad’s saddle’. For the first ruler of the Salian dynasty, Conrad II (1024‒1039), to whom this proverb refers, Carolingian traditions mattered a great deal: Conrad reportedly visited Aachen soon after his election to take possession of Charlemagne’s throne and to emphasise his family’s Frankish roots. But the author of this…

Embodying Dynasties II: cults, politics, and genealogies

As my earlier blog post laid out, my research project as part of After Empire looks at royal mausolea as sites of historical memory in the tenth and early eleventh centuries. As we are already almost one year into the project I thought I’d give an update on how my own research is going. Over…