XXXI.11 The state of Europe in the time of Charles Martel

Charles Martel, who under­took to divest the clergy, found him­self in the hap­piest cir­cum­stan­ces : he was fea­red and loved by men of war, and he wor­ked for them ; he had the pre­text of his wars against the Saracens1 ; howe­ver hated he was by the clergy, he had no need of them : the pope, to whom he was neces­sary, exten­ded his arms to him ; we know about the famous embassy that Gregory III sent to him.2 These two autho­ri­ties were very uni­ted, because they could not do without each other : the pope nee­ded the Franks to sup­port him against the Lombards and the Greeks ; the Franks nee­ded the pope as a bar­rier against the Greeks and to hin­der the Lombards ; so Charles Martel’s enter­prise could not fail.

St. Eucher, bishop of Orleans, had a vision that sur­pri­sed the prin­ces. I must relate on this sub­ject the let­ter which the bishops assem­bled in Reims wrote to Louis the German,3 who had ente­red the lands of Charles the Bald, because it is most apt to show us what was the state of things in those times, and the situa­tion of minds. They say that St. Eucher, having been taken up to hea­ven, saw Charles Martel tor­men­ted in lower hell by order of the saints who are to attend the last judg­ment with Jesus Christ ; that he had been condem­ned to that punish­ment ahead of time for dives­ting the chur­ches of their pro­per­ties, and the­reby convic­ting him­self for the sins of all those who had endo­wed them ; that king Pépin had a coun­cil cal­led on this sub­ject ; that he had res­to­red to the chur­ches all of the Church pro­per­ties he could reco­ver ; that as he could get only part of it back because of his dis­pu­tes with Vaifre duke of Aquitaine, he had pro­vi­sio­nal let­ters in favor of the chur­ches writ­ten on the rest,4 and ruled that lay­men would pay a tithe of the pro­per­ties they held from the Church, and ten deniers for each house ; that Charlemagne did not give away the pro­per­ties of the Church, that on the contrary he issued a capi­tu­lary by which com­mit­ted both him­self and his suc­ces­sors never to give them away ; that eve­ry­thing they are advan­cing is writ­ten down, and even that seve­ral of them had heard it rela­ted to Louis the Debonaire, father of the two kings.5

The sta­tute of king Pépin men­tio­ned by the bishops was issued in the coun­cil held in Leptine6 ; the advan­tage in it for the Church was that those who had recei­ved some of this pro­perty hen­ce­forth held it only pro­vi­sio­nally, and that moreo­ver the Church was recei­ving its tithe and twelve deniers for each house that had belon­ged to it. But that was a pal­lia­tive remedy and the disease was still pre­sent.

Even that much met with oppo­si­tion, and Pépin was obli­ged to issue ano­ther capi­tu­lary in which he enjoi­ned those who held some of these bene­fi­ces to pay that tithe and those fees, and even to main­tain the hou­ses of the bisho­pric or monas­tery, under pain of for­fei­ting those pro­per­ties.7 Charlemagne rene­wed Pépin’s sta­tute.8

What the bishops say in that same let­ter that Charlemagne pro­mi­sed for him­self and his suc­ces­sors, never again to par­cel the chur­ches’ pro­per­ties out to men of war, is consis­tent with that prince’s capi­tu­lary issued in Aix-la-Chapelle in the year 803, made to calm the eccle­sias­tics’ ter­rors on this sub­ject ; but the dona­tions already made still stood.9 The bishops add, and rightly so, that Louis the Debonaire fol­lo­wed the conduct of Charlemagne, and did not give Church pro­per­ties to sol­diers.

Nevertheless, the old abu­ses went so far that, under the chil­dren of Louis the Debonaire, lay­men esta­bli­shed priests in their chur­ches, or expel­led them, without the consent of the bishops.10 The chur­ches were divi­ded among the heirs11 ; and when they were not decently main­tai­ned, the bishops had no other recourse than to remove the relics from them.12

The capi­tu­lary of Compiègne13 esta­bli­shes that the king’s envoy could ins­pect all the monas­te­ries with the bishop, with the agree­ment and in pre­sence of whoe­ver held it14 ; and this gene­ral rule pro­ves that abuse was eve­ryw­here.

It is not that laws were lacking for the res­ti­tu­tion of church pro­per­ties. The pope having reproa­ched the bishops for their negli­gence in the res­to­ra­tion of monas­te­ries, they wrote to Charles the Bald that they had not been affec­ted by this reproach because they were not res­pon­si­ble for it, and they remin­ded him of what had been pro­mi­sed, resol­ved and deci­ded in many assem­blies of the nation. Indeed they cite nine of them.15

The dis­pu­tes conti­nued. The Normans came, and made eve­ryone agree.

See Annals of Metz.

Epistolam quoque, Decreto Romanorum Principum, sibi prædictus præsul Gregorius, miserat, quod sese populus Romanus relicta imperatoris dominatione, ad suam defensionem et invictam clementiam convertere voluisset (Annals of Metz, year 741). Eo pacto patrato, ut a partibus Imperatoris recederet (Fredegar).

Anno 858, apud Carisiacum, Baluze ed., vol. II, p. 101.

Precaria, quod precibus utendum conceditur, says Cujas in his notes on book I of the Fiefs. I find in a diploma of king Pépin, dated from the third year of his reign, that this prince is not the first to establish these provisional letters ; he cites one written by Mayor Ebroïn, and continued since. See this king’s diploma in vol. V of Historiens de France des bénédictins, art. 6.

Ibid., art. 7, p. 109.

Year 743. See book V of capitulaires, art. 3, Baluze ed., p. 825.

That of Metz, year 756, art. 4.

See his capitulary of the year 803 issued at Worms, Baluze ed., p. 411, where he settles the precarious contract, and that of Frankfort in the year 794, p. 267, art. 24 on the reparations of houses, etc ; and that of the year 800, p. 330.

As appears from the previous note and from the capitulary of Pépin king of Italy, where it is said that the king would give monasteries as fiefs to those who applied for fiefs ; it is appended to the Leges Langobardoroum, book III, tit. 1, §30, and to the Salic laws, Collection of the laws of Pépin in Echard, p. 195, tit. 26, art. 4.

See constitution of Lothaire I in the Leges Langobardoroum, book III, loi I, §43.

Ibid., §44.


Given the 28th year of the reign of Charles the Bald, year 868, Baluze ed., p. 203.

Cum concilio et consensu ipsius qui locum retinet.

Concilium apud Bonoilum, 16th year of Charles the Bald, year 856, Baluze ed., p. 78.