IMC 2012 report 3: Hincmar and the rest

Wednesday at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in July 2012 was Hincmar day. (There was also a small over-run into Thursday morning, with a session that I had cunningly arranged for my fellow-organiser to chair, thus meaning I could attend most of the disco). Charles and I am hoping to get many of these papers published in a volume of essays on Hincmar, so I will merely give brief descriptions of them here (as well as a few mentions of the other sessions I went to on Wednesday and Thursday):

Jinty Nelson, The Bearing of Hincmar’s Life on His Historical Writing
The room we had was completely inadequate for the number of people, but those of us able to get in the room heard Jinty give a typically subtle paper trying to tease out how Hincmar’s own experiences filtered into the Annales Bertiniani and others of Hincmar’s works – touching lightly on some old grudges that Hincmar maintained (such as against Prudentius of Troyes) and including the intriguing suggestion that Hincmar may have hoped to “turn” Gottschalk into a more orthodox scholar.

Marie-Celine Isaia, Hagiography vs. Rules (or not)? Hincmar, his Vita S. Remigii and Norms
Marie-Celine’s paper was pointing out that the Vita s. Remigii is less a standard hagiography than an unusual way of communicating Hincmar’s teachings on canon law and the behaviour of clerics. Hincmar turned theology into concrete stories of Remigius’ dealings with simoniacs, heretics, penitents, etc, interspersed with quotes from patristic sources. She also suggested that in the long run this new form wasn’t very successful: later manuscripts cut out most of the teaching and just kept the miracles.

Letha Böhringer, Hero or Villain?: Master Narratives of Archbishop Hincmar in the 19th and 20th Centuries


This was the Hincmar paper that got the most laughs, mainly for the picture shown above of Heinrich Schrörs, the most important C19 biographer of Hincmar; many of us felt it would have been equally appropriate as a picture of Hincmar himself. Schrörs was a Catholic priest and a legal expert and seems to have shared Hincmar’s combative nature and politicisation. Letha contrasted this version of Hincmar with that of Jean Devisse, who also wrote a biography of Hincmar in the 1970s. Devisse was very fond of Hincmar, seeing him not only as intelligent, but having a deep sense of duty and the ‘modern vision’ that allowed a total analysis of his society. Devisse’s vision of his soul mate Hincmar in turn contrasted with Horst Fuhrmann’s disapproval of the archbishop and Devisse and Fuhrmann fought each other in footnotes: Fuhrmann called Hincmar a “little Artful Dodger”. Letha wanted to move away from recent negative views of Hincmar towards a broader and more sympathetic view of him, getting beyond simple condemnation of him as a forger and distorter of sources. She argued that he should be seen as part of a wider political world.

Simon Corcoran, Hincmar and the use and abuse of Roman legal sources
Simon’s paper was one of several on Hincmar’s sources, but was particularly useful for making clear one point that the legally ignorant like me hadn’t realised before: the “Theodosian Code” wasn’t simply available to early medieval writers as one neat volume. Instead, there were collections of extracts in particular manuscripts and the books that had ended up in the Breviary of Alaric. Hincmar used a fair number of Roman law texts, especially on matters of procedure, but he would have been limited by what he could actually get access to.

Karl Heidecker, Picking a ninth-century author’s brain. Observing Hincmar at work on his treatise about King Lothar’s divorce
Karl’s piece complemented Simon’s by showing how Hincmar used his sources once he had got hold of them. Because we have a manuscript of the De Divortio and an earlier one of extracts on sources on marriage, we can see Hincmar first compiling a dossier of texts on the topic and then using it to produce his treatise. And we can also see the final stage of the procedure: Hincmar adding more to the text of De Divortio after he’d had circulated an initial version of it. The margins are filled with additional notes and notes to notes, all presumably written up so as to be handily accessible for Hincmar’s next argument on a particular topic. Hincmar of Rheims: never knowingly outcited.

Elina Screen, An unfortunate necessity? Hincmar and Lothar I
Elina was arguing that Hincmar’s improved relationship with Lothar I (after a rocky start) was less due to Lothar being impressed by Hincmar at their first meeting at Meersen in 847 (as Jean Devisse had argued) and more to Lothar’s desire for political reconciliation with his brothers after the Saracen attack on St Peter’s in 846. It says something for Hincmar’s ideas of what a good relationship with a king should be that soon afterwards he was threatening to excommunicate Lothar for his support of Falcric.

Clémentine Bernard-Valette: We are between the hammer and the anvil’. Hincmar and the bishops in the crisis of 875
Clémentine’s paper was a very interesting take on Hincmar’s text from 875 De fide Carolo regi servanda, written when Louis the German had invaded Charles the Bald’s kingdom in 875 (Charles was in Italy at the time, attempting to become emperor). She saw this as a text trying to work out what “fidelity” meant and how one could and should respond to the conquest of a kingdom: with resistance or collaboration?

Margaret McCarthy: Hincmar’s influence during Louis the Stammerer’s reign?
Margaret has notoriously been researching Louis the Stammerer’s reign for longer than it lasted. Here, beyond the political history of the years 877-878, she was raising the important question of how we can know whether someone has political influence? We can possibly track Hincmar’s appearances at court and we can read some of the texts he write to Louis, but how can we be sure that he actually made a difference to Louis’ actions?

Sylvie Joye, Family order and kingship according to Hincmar
Sylvie’s book on raptus has now appeared – here we got a small sliver from it, discussing how Hincmar in De raptu linked together kingship and marriage as social structures: kings had to prevent raptus because of the social disorder it caused, a disorder with cosmic consequences.

Rachel Stone, Hincmar and the nun: Carolingian gender order at the Synod of Douzy 874
In which I justified talking about topless nuns by invoking the patriarchy and a synodal judgement written by Hincmar.

Christine Kleinjung, To fight with words – Hincmar of Laon in the Annals of St. Bertin
Christine’s paper neatly demonstrated a slightly different angle on Hincmar’s well-known tendency to rewrite history. In the Annales Bertiniani Hincmar’s nephew Hincmar of Laon doesn’t start off as a villain (even though Hincmar ends up denouncing him), suggesting that there were limits to Hincmar’s revisionism. However what we can also see from the two Hincmar’s letters is that an awful lot of the conflict doesn’t get into the annals, suggesting that one of Hincmar’s political tactics may have been the use of silence and omission.

Charles West, ‘Extremely good advice’: Hincmar’s view of the parish and its priest
Charles’ paper neatly moved from an incident in which a congregation were wrongfully deprived of their priest to show not only that parishes existed in the diocese of Rheims, but that they mattered to Hincmar. Charles then very effectively connected this up to debates on later periods. Hincmar cared about the parish as a microcosm of the whole church; this is a contrast to Gregory VII who wasn’t interested in the church at that kind of level of detail.

(It was also during this session that probably the best question was raised: Stuart Airlie asking whether amid all the things that Hincmar was concerned about, there were any things he didn’t want to discuss. One of the responses we made was that in fact he said very little about monasticism, despite having been a monk himself).

Philip Wynn, Hincmar’s adaptation of the Capitula diversarum sententiarum for his De regis persona
Philip was arguing that the ninth century manuscript Paris BnF lat. nouv. acq. 1632, a source for Hincmar’s De regis persona which Hans Hubert Anton ascribed to Jonas of Orléans, had in fact been compiled by Hincmar himself. Philip didn’t have the time to go into the full details of his argument in the paper, but if he’s right (and his argument fitted neatly with some of the previous papers on Hincmar’s way of working) then what we have is Hincmar’s first ever work, compiled before he became archbishop in 845.

Andreas Öffner, ‘Bos lassus fortius figit pedem’: Hincmar’s Late Attempts at Counselling (c. 877-881)
Andreas showed that a number of texts written in Hincmar’s last years in different genres include the giving of counsel as a theme (as well as De Ordine Palatii, he also cited Novi regis instructio ad rectam regni administrationem addressed to Louis the Stammerer, the Visio Bernoldi and a letter of Hincmar discussing the vacancy in the see of Beauvais. He also pointed out that their collective vision of the ideal counsellor (a religious man, old and wise, one not seeking for honours) corresponded suspiciously closely to a job description for which Hincmar was the ideal candidate.

Philippe Depreux, ‘A Man for All Seasons’ in Carolingian Times?: Hincmar and the Law
Philippe rounded off the Hincmar sessions with a quick look at Hincmar’s use of capitularies, showing how his use of them varied between different types of work. Some texts, such as De ecclesiis et capellis use only materials that are several centuries old. In others however, a series of capitularies from the time of Charlemagne onwards are used to place current royal behaviour ina long tradition.

I’d like to thank all the speakers and the audience for these five sessions; we had some really thought-provoking and intriguing discussions, which will feed into the proposed book.

And after all that (combined with a Wednesday evening spent listening to discussions of the People of Medieval Scotland database, which was followed by a party and the disco), I had one final session to attend on Thursday, going off to hear the last of the Text and Identities sessions. This has Dimitri Tarat arguing that Adam of Bremen’s Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum conceals the use of force by missionary efforts, following in a Carolingian missionary tradition that favoured Theodulf’s methods rather than Alcuin’s. (Dimitri’s arguments relied heavily on Yitzak Hen’s paper “Charlemagne’s Jihad”, which I among others have found unconvincing). We also had Ingrid Rembold arguing for the Poeta Saxo as being based at Paderborn rather than Corvey and writing his poem in order to gain Arnulf’s favour at a point at which Corvey’s success with Arnulf was threatening Paderborn’s revenues. And the paper I found most interesting, which was Edward Roberts talking about Flodoard of Reims, suggesting that Flodoard was less of a “neutral” historian than has sometimes been suggested. Instead, Edward argued that Flodoard was hedging his bets when discussing the archbishop of Rheims Hugh of Vermandois. Flodoard had been stripped of his benefices for not supporting the election of Hugh in 925 (when Hugh was aged five!), and although Hugh was twice removed from the see of Rheims (he controlled it 925-931 and 940-946), Flodoard couldn’t be sure whether he might return again, and so carefully avoided either referring to him as the legitimate bishop or criticising him.

And so, with the next IMC a mere six months away, my review of the last one finishes. It was an unusual experience having so much to organise this time, but I’m already looking forward to 2013, when we will have a new location and I will be talking on a subject new to me: I’ll be discussing social network analysis of charters (or at least the problems we might find in doing so). I hope to see some of you then!


2 thoughts on “IMC 2012 report 3: Hincmar and the rest

  1. Leeds 2012 Report 3Part of me would like to see what I can only really call the abuse for the previous one of these posts as a challenge, and try and make it even duller, but part of me would also have to admit that it could have probably been more exciting, and the rest…


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