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This chapter considers the history of those polities that were formed across western Europe in the wake of the Roman Empire: many relatively short-lived, but others of much greater longevity, some of which are seen as the ancestors of modern European nation-states. It considers first their nature as ‘states’, questioning the utility of that term to describe what were often very large territories indeed, extensively governed but in a very shallow manner, with only limited purchase on the lives of the governed. It turns then to the question of identity, initially picking up the theme of ethnic labels raised in the first chapter, before turning to law and social status as arguably much more important markers of identity. Finally, it considers the religious life of the period: the great proliferation of holy men (and some women), the Christian saints, accounts of whose lives give us so much of our evidence for this period, and the widespread foundation of monasteries, in which those accounts were written and copied.
Dagobert II was a Merovingian king who ruled for about four years in Austrasia, the Frankish kingdom which included northeastern France, Belgium and the Rhineland. His reign probably began in late 675 or early 676. This chapter first reviews what we know of Dagobert and next examines the Vita Dagoberti. It then looks at how Dagobert II was rediscovered via the Life of Wilfrid in the seventeenth century, and was subsequently re-inscribed in the history of the period. This leads readers to an evaluation of the Life of Wilfred as a source, reflections on the significance of Wilfrid himself, and further thoughts on the relationship between memory and tradition. The Life of Wilfrid is therefore a text that is to readers vital for historical research, but not one of which more than a handful of early medieval people were aware.
This book provides a collection of documents in translation which brings together the seminal sources for the late Merovingian Frankish kingdom. The collection of documents in translation includes Liber Historiae Francorum, Vita Domnae Balthidis, Vita Audoini Episcopi Rotomagensis, Acta Aunemundi, Passio Leudegarii, Passio Praejecti, and Vita Sanctae Geretrudis and the Additamentum Nivialense de Fuilano. The Liber Historiae Francorum was written while a Merovingian king still ruled over the Franks and by someone geographically very close to the political centre of that realm. Late Merovingian hagiography tends to emphasise miracles which heal and eliminate the maladies of the life, and the Vita Audoini follows the pattern. The Vita Sanctae Geretrudis makes no mention at all of Columbanus and his mission among the Franks, a strange omission if the Irish were all one group. The Passio Praejecti provides information on the relationship between the politics of the locality and the politics of the centre, for a land dispute between Praejectus and Hector, the ruler of Marseilles, was heard at the royal court at Autun at Easter 675. The Passio Leudegarii has an overt peace-making element, although the issue of who was on which side is much clouded by the complexity of the political narrative.
This volume of essays in honour of Dame Jinty Nelson celebrates the way in which Jinty has used her profound understanding of Frankish history as a frame for reflecting upon the nature of early medieval culture and society in general. It includes a tabula gratulatoria of those very many others who wish to express their appreciation of Jinty's work and their warm personal gratitude to her. She has remained at King's throughout her entire career. Her early career was combined with young motherhood, a tough experience that has made her strongly supportive of colleagues trying to balance work and family. Although she continued to write about early medieval inauguration rituals, a new departure came with the 1977 paper 'On the limits of the Carolingian Renaissance'. The book discusses what factors determined and informed their particular take on the Frankish world, and how this compares to law-codes and charters. It considers the possibility that land was sometimes taken in early medieval Europe, whether by kings or local lords, for what they claimed was the common good. Whenever only meagre information was available, it was impossible to make sense of the past, that is, to take a prosaic approach to a sense of oblivion. The book explores both the roots of the historical interpretation and the stimuli for change, by considering the long historiographical tradition, attitudes to textual sources, and the changing political environment. The subjects of queens and queenship have figured prominently among Nelson's publications.
The turbulent career of Leudegar, bishop of Autun from 662 to 676 is central to the history of later Merovingian Francia. This chapter looks at how the oldest text of the Passio Leudegarii can be reconstructed and focuses on the context of the work. This will allow us to appreciate the difficulties faced by its author in presenting Leudegar's saintly credentials to an audience which may have had good reason to doubt them. The chapter assesses the value of the Passio as an historical source. In it is a Passio Leudegarii written at Poitiers, home of the saint's cult from the end of the seventh century onwards. Leudegar's family background therefore made him a member of that supra-regional elite which had connections throughout the Merovingian kingdom, and whose vested interests lay in unity rather than in separatism.
The frank details of the Passio Praejecti afford us a unique glimpse into the workings and tensions of Praejectus's native community. Earlier scholars had seen, and published, two versions of the Passio contained in various manuscripts dating from between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries. One version told of Praejectus's career from the time he became bishop until his death; the other related his whole life, and in addition that version had a stylish prologue, evidently from the Merovingian period. It also contained a series of posthumous miracles. Despite its early prologue, the longer version seemed generally to be later than the version of the Passio which dealt merely with Praejectus's career from the time he became bishop. Documenting the endowment of Praejectus's cult was a way of demonstrating the public acknowledgement of his sanctity.
The Annales Mettenses Priores open with an account of Pippin II. Even though he was a secular figure, their treatment of him often resembles the way in which hagiographers portrayed their saintly subjects. Although Charles Martel's early life, and indeed his whole career, are expressly guided by God's will, nowhere is he adorned with the most Christian virtues that Pippin and his holy ancestors had sported. In Annales Mettenses Priores's early pages they treat many of the political events of the late Merovingian age in engaging detail, they were actually written more than half a century after the Carolingians had ursurped the Merovingian throne. Be that as it may, the first section of the Annales Mettenses Priores is clearly far more of an historical justification for the traditional and Frankish system of succession by division than for any idea of united empire.
Audoin, powerful nobleman, bishop of Rouen, and saint, was the most influential and the most famous of the Frankish nobility in mid seventh century. Audoin plays an important role in the hagiographical literature. Late Merovingian hagiography tends to emphasise miracles which heal and eliminate the maladies of the life, and the Vita Audoini follows the pattern. Perhaps through the religious influence of Columbanus, or perhaps for reasons which escape us, Audoin was given a literary education, something which was becoming increasingly rare even among the highranking Merovingian nobility in the course of the seventh century. In fact the events of Audoin's 'Life' upon which the author lavished the most attention were his death, his burial and the translation of his body. The author's primary concern in writing the vita was to display the divine power manifest in Audoin's acts of holy self-denial and especially evident in his deeds of wonder.