1 Medieval Sourcebook: Abbot Suger: ON WHAT WAS DONE IN HIS ADMINISTRATION Historical Introduction 1Suger was born in 1081 of a very minor knightly family. He was dedicated to the abbey of St. Denis at the age of nine or ten and came to see himself as its adopted child. Appointed abbot in 1122, he held that position until his death in His office was a highly prestigious one. The abbey had been founded in the seventh century by the Frankish king Dagobert in honor of Denis, the patron saint of France, and his legendary companions Rusticus and Eleutherius. By Suger's time it had long been the royal abbey of France. Kings were educated and buried there. In Suger's time, the French monarchy was slowly but surely on the way up. The king was gradually gaining power over his unruly nobles and would eventually use that power to win a major role in European affairs. Most of that development was still in the future, but by 1137 the pendulum was already beginning to swing. As royal abbey, St. Denis was a symbol of royal power, and what was done to it redounded to the glory of both the monarch and France. Thus its renovation was a political as well as an architectural and religious event. Suger was in a position to recognize this fact. His status as abbot made him one of the most powerful men in France. He was actively engaged in French political life and virtually ran the kingdom while King Louis VI was away on crusade. A fervent patriot, Suger never hesitated to identify the best interests of king, France, Church, abbey and God. The old abbey church of St. Denis had been completed in 775. By 1137 it was dilapidated and probably would have been viewed with extreme suspicion by a modern building inspector. Thus Suger decided improvement was in order and in that year he began work on the west end of the church, building a new facade with two towers and three doors. In 1140 he moved from the west end clear to the other end of the church and started to build a new choir. It was completed in The result was a major event in the history of architecture. Gothic was born. The influence of the abbey church on French architecture was undoubtedly furthered by its role as political symbol. When the new choir was consecrated in 1144, five French archbishops and thirteen bishops took part in the ceremony, an impressive tribute to Suger and his king. It was the French archbishops and 1 This begins the commentary and translation by Dr. David Burr. Only the portions by Dr. Burr are found in the On-Line Medieval Sourcebook at this time. (Aug. 2000) All footnotes have been added by L.A. Harkey.
2 page 2 bishops who would assume initiative in the future development of Gothic architecture. For Suger, of course, the primary significance of his church was neither political nor architectural but religious, insofar as he could separate the three. His main goal was to honor God and St. Denis. The latter deserves some attention. According to legend, he entered Gaul as a missionary in A.D. 250 and was executed in Paris eight years later. It was not all that easy. The Romans unsuccessfully tried roasting him on a gridiron, throwing him to the beasts, and baking him in an oven before they hit upon the idea of beheading him. That worked, but not immediately, for the decapitated saint picked up his head and walked two miles to the future site of the abbey before giving up the ghost. However wonderful his legend may seem, medieval historians made it even better by confusing him with two other figures of the same name. "Denis" is the French version of the Latin "Dionysius," the name Suger actually used. We encounter another Dionysius in Acts 17:34, converted during Paul's brief missionary visit to Athens. Five centuries later, in the late fifth or early sixth century, an anonymous Syrian theologian fascinated by the religious symbolism of light wrote a series of treatises which were attributed to the Dionysius of Acts 17:34. Eventually all the elements were combined and, according the legend, Dionysius was converted by Paul, became bishop of Athens, wrote the treatises, and eventually missionized France where he was martyred. The identification is more important than one might at first imagine. The figure of St. Denis united the various aspects of the church in a peculiar way. As patron saint of France, his interests were tied to those of France in a twofold sense. His glorification was hers in a very direct way because he symbolized France. It was also hers more indirectly because, like other saints, Denis would not neglect to reward a favor, and thus one could expect him to intervene for king and country more enthusiastically if his church was generously endowed. Denis also united the religious and architectural aspects of the new church. It is hardly a coincidence that both the pseudo-dionysian treatises and nascent Gothic architecture are interested in light. As we shall see, Suger himself was fascinated by the religious implications of light and built accordingly. The Book of Suger Abbot of St. Denis on What Was Done During his Administration is one of two works by Suger concerning the abbey church of St. Denis. It was probably begun shortly after the consecration of the choir in 1144 and finished no earlier than the end of All of the work that has survived is reproduced here. [Prologue]
3 page 3 In the twenty-third year of our administration, on a certain day when we sat in general chapter conferring with our brethren about common and private matters, these same dear brothers and sons began to beg me vigorously and in love that I should not remain silent about the fruit of our past labors but rather with pen and ink should preserve for future memory the additions which the munificence of almighty God bestowed upon this church during the time of our leadership in the acquisition of new things, the recovery of lost ones, the multiplication of refurbished possessions, the construction of buildings, and the accumulation of gold, silver, precious gems and quality textiles. From this one thing they promised us two in return: Through this memorial we should earn the prayers of succeeding brothers for the salvation of our soul; and through this example we should arouse in them a zealous commitment to the proper maintenance of God's church. We therefore, devoutly assenting to their devout and reasonable requests, without hungering for empty glory or demanding the reward of human praise or impermanent earthly reward, lest after our passing the revenues of the church should be diminished by someone's fraud, lest the abundant additions conferred upon the church by God's munificence during the time of our administration should be quietly lost by unworthy successors, we thought it proper and useful to inform present and future readers of the increase in revenues, construction of buildings and multiplication of treasures in the church of the most blessed martyrs Denis, Rusticus and Eleutherius, a church that tenderly fostered us from mother s breast to old age. 2But we have also judged it appropriate and helpful to let present and future men understand the increase in revenues obtained first in this town, principal seat of the abbey, and in its neighborhood. I. Saint-Denis and its neighborhood An office of this town, commonly called the toll and exchange, reported 60 sous3 each week. But Oursel, a Jew of Montmorency, kept 10 sous as a mortgage payment, along with the village called Montlignon, for 24 marks of 2This begins the portion translated by L.A. Harkey using Suger. Œuvres. Tome I, a Latin/French facing page edition by Françoise Gasparri. Series: Les Classiques de L Histoire de France au Moyen Age. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1996). However, to match certain existing translations, the Lecoy [A. Lecoy de La Marche, Œuvres complètes de Suger, (Paris, 1867)] numbering of chapters has been used. 3Medieval money, as used in France consisted of the denier, sous, livre or pound, and mark. 12 deniers made one sous, 20 sous made 1 pound and a mark was usually 2/3 of a pound or a specific weight of precious metal, about 8 ounces.
4 page 4 silver and, so it is said, for other considerable sums. We, however, recovered the village worth 20 pounds or more, and those 10 sous at great expense: namely, 3,000 sous paid to Mathieu de Montmorency who had wanted to occupy it in the name of this Jew and we had given to the wife of that Jew 10 pounds and 10 muids4 of wheat. We improved the village office by 10 more sous without increased extortion. It is evident that the 10 sous from the Jew and the 10 sous recently added, made an additional 20 sous each week of the year, which makes 52 pounds and 20 provided by the village [of Montlignon]. The taxes of that village, valued at 12 pounds at the octave of Saint-Denis [9-16 October], are now worth 20 or more, an increase of 8 pounds, and another 8 pounds provided by another house which we have established in the shambles by the purchase of another given to the usage of the butchers, 8 pounds which have been assigned to the support of the sick brothers; this made 90 pounds. From the tolls, they made 20 pounds, when they had taken in more than 40. We, however, have often taken in 70 from them, or even more, we have been able to collect it more easily each year as we declare anathema on theft and thieves. From the Lendit5 that lord Louis, the father, had given to Saint-Denis, we took in 300 sous in full peace and tranquility, 35 from the tax on the tools of the bread-makers in the Panetière that we had allocated to the pittance6 for the brothers on the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul [June 29]; 10 sous from my nephew Gérard, 5 for his house and 5 sous for the toll for madder [red dye]. The areas of the house of Guillaume de Cornillon that I had bought for 80 pounds bring us a rent of 15 sous for three houses, the two others were still vacant. In the vacant yard of the brothers, new inhabitants pay 70 sous in annual rent. Outside of the town, in an area which had never had inhabitants but was used by the bailiffs in return for maintenance at their own expense, as well as another contiguous area, newly regulated, thanks to the installations of 80 inhabitants or more, [there was] an increase of 20 pounds per year. Besides, near this same place, namely at Saint-Lucien, because our church had an urgent need, we had planted and cultivated at great cost a vineyard of about 80 arpents7, so they say, to which we have assigned for the great profit of the church these 4A muid is a unit of dry measure equivalent to an English hogshead, about 63 gallons. 5The Lendit was a particular market fair held in the village of Saint-Denis from the second Wednesday of June until the eve of the Feast of St. John the Baptist (June 24). 6In a monastic environment, a pittance is a small supplement to their usual food allowance, given to them in remembrance of the donor or to honor a particular holy being, ostensibly so that they will have extra stamina for the extra prayers. 7Archaic measure of land, about one acre.
5 page 5 same 20 pounds so that it will be well used: arrangements well considered, because too often in many places, and even at Lagny, because of the lack of wine, the cross, the chalices and the vestments are pawned. The income from the mills of this town raised to such a point that their production, normally in the past, of 5 mines8 of wheat each day for the refectory of the brothers, has been brought today to 8, furnished regularly each day. This increase, calculated precisely for each week, comes to 39 and one-half muids. Respecting the increase in money which results, it is figured at 146 pounds and 10 sous. We purchased for 1000 sous a house situated near the gate of Paris towards Saint- Merry because, participating often in the affairs of the realm, we have considered that this would be a more suitable lodging for us and our horses, also for our successors. The gate of Paris, from a usual income in the past of 12 pounds, we now receive 50: here the increase is 38 pounds. II. Le Tremblay The count of Dammartin oppressed this village with numerous demands for service, namely extracting feudal dues, wheat in the amount of 5 muids which had been given to him to keep the peace; he got in the habit of levying these feudal dues at will, taking like a battering-ram and exercising the right to housing many times per year at the expense of the peasants. For all these reasons we concluded with the count an accord reserving to ourselves the whole village, in peace, without imposition or custom, for 10 pounds paid annually [to him] from our funds on the octave of Saint-Denis and for his homage [to us]. We have, moreover, willingly restored this village and have had built, at its entrance, a courtyard with a new grange; in this will be contained the common field and the produce from four charrues9 and in another, situated in the village, the tithes from the land, in the one as in the other, the straw is reserved for our use. When in the past we only managed at great trouble, indeed hardly ever, to obtain from this village 90 muids of grain, we have succeeded in the remarkable achievement of receiving from our mayor 190 [muids] without counting the seed or feed for the oxen or cattle, the cattle themselves and all the equipment for the fields; in exchange for which the peasants possess the revenue from the oven. As for us, we keep our taxes, tribute, death-duties, fines, and the tolls as we wish: here the revenue in grains is augmented by 90 muids. We have built a wall around the old courtyard and have erected in this place a fortified house 8A mine is an old French measure of grain, the modern equivalent is unknown to this translator. 9A charrue is a plow or, as in this case, a measure of land, based upon how much can be plowed by one plow in a season.
6 page 6 adjoining the church. Thanks to these fortifications our successors will be able, if they please, to defend themselves and their goods against all enemies. III. The recovery of the abbey of Argenteuil When I was young and studious, I looked through the old charters of our possessions in the archives and as I studied the lists of privileges, because of dishonest activities by numerous swindlers, often the document of the foundation of the monastery of Argenteuil by Hermenric and Numma his wife fell into my hands: it is written there that from the time of king Pepin the abbey belonged to Saint-Denis; but as the result of a deplorable custom it was alienated in the time of Charlemagne, his son. That emperor had, in effect, obtained it from the abbot and the brothers in order to establish, as abbess of the nuns, one of his daughters, who had refused an earthly marriage on the condition that upon her death the abbey would return to our church. But, because of the troubles in the realm owing to the quarrels of the sons of his son, namely Louis the Pious, until which time it [the women s monastery] had survived, this contract was not able to be enforced. But our predecessors, who had quite often studied the question, had not made much progress; that is why, in council with our brothers, we have sent to Rome our messengers with the ancient charters of foundation and donation, and the privileges confirmed by Pope Honoris, of happy memory, asking him to inquire into our rights and recover it canonically. A man of good council and a guardian of justice, he restored to us this place with its dependencies, so much for good law as because of the scandal that was offered by the nuns by their improper lives, in order that the religious state could be reformed there. Moreover, king Louis, son of Philip, our very dear lord and friend, confirmed this restitution and, by the authority of royal majesty, assured the church, by his order, all the royal rights that he possessed there. Anyone who wishes to better understand the manner of this restitution can find it in greater detail in the charters of the king and the papal privileges. Those who examine these affairs with competence are able to measure the importance of the increase brought by this abbey and its dependencies, which are Trappes, Élancourt, Chavenay, Bourdonné, Chérisy, the territory of Montmélian, of Bondy, of Montereau near Melun and other properties. The ancient taxes of Argenteuil, which did not belong to the abbey, grew 20 pounds; because formerly it only brought in 20 pounds and now it brings us 40. As for cereals, [it brought in] formerly 6 muids, today 15. IV. The Vexin
7 page 7 The celebrated county of Vexin, situated between the Oise and the Epte, is, according to the privileges of the church, a personal fief of the abbey of Saint- Denis. When the king France Louis, son of Philip, went in haste to oppose the invasion of the Holy Roman Emperor into the realm of France, he recognized in fact before the whole chapter of Saint-Denis that he held [the Vexin] of them and if he had not been king, he would have made homage, with the title of standard bearer. We applied ourselves, with the aide of God, to improve this domain thanks to the following acquisitions: we had obtained from the same king Louis the church of Cergy and freedom of the court. At the dedication of the church we had received besides from his son Louis the administration of the roads in this village and all the revenues except from wine and grains, with royal generosity, for the good of his soul, the protection of his person and of the realm. He offered also very piously to the holy martyrs his goods at Cormeilles and Osny and all that he possessed at Trappes, except for the right to lodging. As for us, for all these acquisitions and for many others, we had made proof before all of continual attention and tireless supervision, curbing the greed of the mayors and the bailiffs, repelling the deplorable goings-on of the dishonest avoués.10 Because we had, at the start, spent a lot because of the expense of military aide, we have also promoted, with the aid of God, the cultivation of land and of vineyards to the point where, in the times of our predecessors, our brothers had been contented to realize five sous each day for the kitchen, they receive, unfailingly, thanks to this over-abundant increase, five more each day and fourteen entirely for the fifth day of the week and on Saturday, for their pittance.11 Moreover the surplus from this increase usually surpassed by far 100 muids of grain. We had decided to allocate it, after Easter, for our needs, to the churches, the poor or to all other uses, because, during the last months of the year, often the rise in the price of wheat caused hardship for less prosperous communities.12 The increase in money came to 114 pounds, 12 sous per year. V. Cormeilles-en-Paris 10A medieval avoué was a laymen who acted as a representative and/or advocate for a ecclesiastic institution, most often, though not always, a monastery where the monastics had little to do with the outside world, and therefore needed someone to tend to their business for them. 11Thursdays to honor St. Denis, and Saturdays to honor the Virgin Mary. 12The medieval year usually ended in the spring, at various dates or feasts according to the custom of the region. In the Île-de-Paris, which included Saint- Denis, the year began at Easter. This meant that the end of the year was in latewinter/early-spring, the period when winter supplies may have run out and before new crops could be expected to be ready.
8 page 8 At Cormeilles, in the region of Paris, the increase in the taxes is 8 pounds; in the past we had 12 pounds from there, today 20. We received ten or twelve muids of grains, now eighteen. At Sannois a 4 pounds increase from new taxes, and 100 sous from old ones. At Franconville, 40 sous from new gains, and 40 from the old, besides the fief. The tithes from our fief, that come from Payen de Gisors, we have given to the churchwardens for the love of God, except for the tithes from our enclosure that we kept. VI. Montigny-les-Cormeilles At Montigny, 50 sous from new sources, and 70 from old ones. VII. Cergy At Cergy, 40 sous in taxes on wood and the homage of the knight Thibaud de Puiseux and 40 donkey loads. VIII. Louveciennes At Louveciennes, we have had the custom, like our predecessors, of leasing our taxes on grains and wine for 15 pounds per year; after some litigation concerning the ancient estates, thanks to which, after having allowed the peasants cultivating the vines to confiscate the revenues from the viticulture, we have acquired around 100 muids of wine without counting the annual monetary tax and the tax on grain. IX. Vernouillet Concerning Vernouillet, which had been mortgaged for 40 years, we realized 10 pounds from it after redeeming it, at a time when previously we could not make more than 60 sous from it. The income we possessed in this place we had allocated wholly to the sick brothers. X. Vaucresson At Vaucresson, we had founded a village and built a church and a house and put the uncultivated land under the plow. Those who took the trouble to construct this village know better what the income from it should be, since already one finds about 60 inhabitants there and many others are willing to come if provided for there. This place was, in effect, like a cave of thieves, spread over more than two miles of wilderness, entirely unproductive for our
9 page 9 church, convenient for thieves and their accomplices because of the proximity of the woods. That is why we decided that certain of our brothers will serve God there so that where once lived dragons, a garden will flourish with reeds and rushes [Isai., 30:7]. The possessions of Saint-Denis which include Le Mesnil-Saint-Denis, Dampierre and other villages situated in the valley of the castle called Chevreuse, were a long time subject to three feudal dues, namely, to the lord of the castle of Chevreuse, to the lord of the castle of Néauphle and to Simon de Viltain, whose greed had almost complete ruined them; not without great cost were we able to liberate the villages from these kinds of oppressions, only ceding to the lords that which belongs by right to their avourie. Moreover, we have recovered the right to hunt in the forest of Iveline, within the boundaries of the land that they had for a longtime usurped from Saint-Denis. And so that posterity will remember this, we went there one entire week in company with our proven friends and our men, namely Amaury de Montfort, count of Évreux, Simon de Néauphle, Évrard de Villepreaux and many others. Living in tents, each day of that week we had taken to Saint-Denis a large number of deer, not for vain satisfaction but in order to establish the rights of the church; and we had them distributed to our sick brothers, and to the inhabitants of the hostel and also to the knights of the valley so that the deed was not forgotten. We gave to the lord of Chevreuse, as to our vassal, besides the ancient fief, namely the avouerie of our land and half of the forest, 100 sous per year from ourselves so that he would not reimpose his feudal dues or other oppressions. This 100 sous we are able to collect on this same land, at will, without contest. Thus, in fear that the fruit of our labor would be reduced to nothing by forgetfulness, we have taken care to commit also to writing the increases that with the aide of God we were able to achieve in Beauce. First the estate of Saint-Denis called Guillerval, near Saclas, given to Saint- Denis by king Dagobert in his charter, had long since, and maybe has always been, in such a state of disorder that in all the village there was not a house where even the abbot could rest his head, nor grange, nor demesne lands. They paid 25 small measures a year, which did not exceed 4 of our muids, for the taxes of the cultivated lands, with modest taxes for their houses. Determined to raise it in value for the love of our lords the holy martyrs, we therefore bought for the church some land, about three charrues, situated in this domain, which for forty years or more had been the object of a relentless battle between Jean of Étampes, son of Payen, a noble and energetic man, and another man, a knight of Pithiviers. We paid both of them an enormous sum and, so that neither of the two has what the other claimed, we reserved this land and imposed a limit to their fighting, thanks to relatives and friends, namely Baudoin of Corbeil and many others and confirmed this by charter. Thus on this new land, in the center
10 page 10 of the village, in an agreeable location, near lively springs and rapid streams, we, at great cost, had the usual courtyard encircled with walls and built a strong and defensible house in the courtyard, with granges and all necessary things. And in order to remedy the dryness of the plateaus of Beauce, we had it almost encircled by a pond, full of many kinds of fish. We had designated two charrues of this same land, one from old land, the other from newly cleared land; and from bringing in so little income, we increased to the point that it brought in almost 50 muids of grain annually and more. For, while giving back to the peasants the minimal rents they paid there, we had reserved for ourselves the champart13 of all the land, except for the charrue of the fief of the mayor. In exchange, he undertook to quiet the murmurs of the peasants and any opposition to the change in customs. XI. Monnerville Next, and near this last one finds another village of Saint-Denis, called Monnerville, which had become the most miserable of all, reduced to beggary by the oppression of the castle of Méréville, comparable to the pillage of the Sarrasins; the lord of that castle abused his right of lodging in this village, [taking it] as many times as he wanted and with all those that he pleased to bring; he swallowed up all the goods of the peasants, seized the customary right of the tax on wheat at harvest time, took his allowance of wood two or three times a year using the village wagons; collected in advance, under the pretext of custom, all sorts of insupportable taxes on pigs, lambs, geese, chickens. As this village, suffering a long time under such oppression, was almost abandoned, we decided to resist with audacity and relieve the holy heritage, through steadfastness, of such harassment. When we began proceedings against him, he justified these customs by the hereditary right that came to him from his father, from his grandfather and from his great-grandfather; but with the aide of God, the counsel of our men and of our friends, the business was brought to the conclusion that Hugues, lord of the castle, with the consent of his wife and his sons, and with the agreement of the lord king Louis from whom he claimed to hold it, abandoned completely and for all time all of these customs to Saint- Denis, his crimes were recognized, abandoned, and forgiven, and taking oath with his own hand renounced it, as one can read fully in the charter of the lord king Louis. As for us, in order to keep his homage for our church, we conceded to him 2 muids of grain, by the measure of Étampes, one of wheat, the other of 13The champart is a form of share-cropping. Arable land is provided to the farmers in return for a portion of the crop or, sometimes, a money payment representing that share.
11 page 11 oats, in our court by the hands of a monk or by our bailiff. Thanks to which, relieved of this torture, this domain which previously was worth hardly 10 or 15 pounds to us, habitually brought us each year, via our agents, 100 muids of grain, by the measure of Étampes, which often was worth 100 pounds depending on the price of grain. In the same way we undertook to re-establish the property called Rouvray, crushed by the tyranny exercised there by the army of the castle of Puiset. When one day, after the destruction of the castle, Hugues, lord of Puiset, proposed to us that we cultivate, he and I, the fallow land left deserted by the reduction of the fortress and then divide the crops, we refused this proposition in spite of the opinion of some who commended it as advantageous. And this that we did not wish to do with him, we undertook to realize on our own, to the advantage of the abbey. We did not wish to admit as an associate in the restoration of this land one who, in the role of destroyer, very cruelly tried us, as had his ancestors. By the same customs that we have enumerated for Monnerville, namely the feudal dues on grains, pigs, eggs, lambs, geese, chickens, and timber, he had extorted these from this land, following the habits of his ancestors, and in doing this he rendered it barren, as totally useless for us as for him. We, therefore, considering the unhappiness of this land and the harm to our church, built on this sterile land a walled court and raised a tower above the gate in order to repulse robbers. We appropriated 3 charrues there [for this]. We had re-established the village called Villaines, we re-organized the disordered land, restoring it to the point where, from a usual income of hardly 20 pounds in the past, it now gave us 100 pounds per year, and more often 120. As for us, crediting justly the holy martyrs for such benefits, we assigned with a sealed charter 80 pounds of the fruit of our labor for the construction of their church until the work was finished. We equally relieved this land of a bad custom of the vicomte of Étampes, called palagium. 14 XII. Toury Toury, this famous domain of Saint-Denis, first among many others and a particular and special seat of Saint-Denis, which offered to pilgrims and to merchants, indeed to all travelers, streets full of provisions, to tired men rest and tranquility, was so oppressed by the insupportable skirmishes of the lords of the castle of Puiset that when I was sent there, still young, in the time of our predecessor, the abbot Adam, of happy memory, as the administrator of this land with the office of provost, it languished, already almost abandoned by the peasants, entirely given up to the greed of the men of Puiset, given as prey to 14Palagium is a charge for mooring a ship at the docks.
12 page 12 the Ethiopians. (Psalms 73:14) Even the house belonging to Saint-Denis was not able sometimes to prevent the lord himself from ravishing it, by the hands of his accomplices, and carrying off in sacrilege all that they found there, from disturbing the neighboring villages by frequent demands for lodging, from compelling the peasants to transport by forced labor the feudal dues on grain to the castle, first for himself, then for his seneschal, then for his provost. Those who resided there could hardly live under the weight of such criminal oppression. Residing in this place for almost two years, I was overwhelmed by these evils and by others, by a sorrowful compassion for human suffering and by the harm to our church. Not only ourselves, but also all the churches possessing land in this region were equally oppressed. This is why we agreed amongst ourselves and decided through careful deliberation on all to be done in order to shake off the insupportable yoke and tyranny of this pernicious castle. As a result, thanks to our efforts, the venerable bishop of Chartres, Yves, the chapter of Notre Dame, the abbey of Saint-Père, the church of Saint-Jean-en- Vallée, the bishop of Orléans, the church of Saint-Aignan, the abbot of Saint- Benoit, the archbishop of Sens, each for his part and we for ours, we took ourselves to the presence of the glorious king Louis and exposed to him in tears the devastation of the churches, the deplorable situation of the poor and orphans, the loss by the churches of the alms assigned by his predecessors and by himself. As he was a man of very noble spirit, full of piety, illustrious defender of churches, he promised to aid us and confirmed by oath that he would not allow the churches or the goods of the churches to be destroyed by this rogue in any way henceforth. One can find described more fully in the history of this king, at the cost of what efforts, what expense, with what authority this remarkable work was accomplished. Thus, once the castle of Puiset was destroyed almost to its foundations in punishment for its sins, the land of the saints, ours as much as the others, recovered their liberty first, what was laid waste in war, flourished in peace, sterile from neglect, it became fertile with cultivation. As upon the death of our predecessor, abbot Adam of happy memory, I was elevated to the seat of this holy administration, although humble and not present, I did not forget the earlier energy and labor since I had for a long time administered this property, I prepared myself to improve it with all the more ardor. In the courtyard, that I had strengthened with palisades and fences, I had constructed a castle well fortified with walls and erected over the principal gate a defensive tower. I established there well-appointed houses for defense. I preserved the liberty of the whole village intact and even that of the whole region. Thus, one day when I was hastening towards Orleans with a armed troop to join the king, and I was apprised that the lord of Puiset had returned to his evil practices, I had cause for holding him captive in disgrace and sending him, chained and dishonored, to
13 page 13 Saint-Denis. As the goods of the churches should grow and prosper during peace and by the good government of prelates, we have granted to the peasants who lived there the fields of our domain, retaining the tithes; we put in writing the list of these rents in order that they not be forgotten. In order to give an estimate of the increase that this property owes to our labor, we took in 80 pounds per year from the district which was not even worth 20 before. Moreover, the daily practice of our customs, immensely improved, is able to account for the increase in goods very easily. Indeed, the ancient avourie of this land belonged since ancient times to La Ferté-Baudouin who for a long time cruelly oppressed it and there was not any way to bring about a remedy; but it happened that this avouerie fell in inheritance to a young woman, the daughter of the daughter of Adam of Pithiviers. At this news, with the counsel of our friends, we searched for a husband to our liking, at great expense. In order to put and end to the troubles in this land and to prevent it from being exposed to the habitual brutalities of the men of this region, we arranged to give this young woman along with the avouerie to a young man of our house. We gave 100 pounds in the deniers of Saint-Denis to the spouse as well as to the mother and father of the young woman, with the approbation of the lord king Louis to whom the avouerie belonged in fief, on the condition that for this money and for more, namely 30 pounds that the king received, they and their successors would make homage to us and our successors, for the service and the justice when we demand it of them, and if they default on this, we can withhold all the fief of the avouerie, fully as if we held it ourselves, with their consent and with that of their relatives and with the approval of the lord king Louis, until they give us satisfaction. Respecting the fiefs that we bought with our own funds, in order to provide two months guard each year in that castle of Toury, we will take care to enumerate [them] later. XIII. Poinville Similarly, we bought the village of Poinville that Geoffroy le Roux held from his relative Bérard d Essenville, so that this same Bérard held it in fief as our man. XIV. Fains-en-Dunois and Vergonville Also, another possession called Fains, with Vergonville and other dependant villages, we bought very expensively, for nearly 150 marks of silver from Galeran de Breteuil, his wife Judith and her son Évrard, the brave man who died in the crusade for Jerusalem bought or restored, because, it seems this
14 page 14 holding was attached to Saint-Denis in ancient times as a gift from Hubert de Saint-Gaury; we assigned it to the alms-house of Saint-Denis, hoping that from the mercy of God that these alms given to the poor would obtain for us from omnipotent God in his mercy the grace of a divine reward, because it is said that as water extinguishes fire so alms extinguish sin [Sirach, 3:33]. And so that it serves more surely and for all time to the needs of the poor, we have had it confirmed in writing by king Louis and entered in the public archives. XV. Beaune-la-Rolande Certainly, one of the finest possessions of Saint-Denis is Beaune-la-Rolande in the region of Gatines, four leagues in extent, very rich in grain and wine, and astonishingly able to produce all sorts of fruits, which would abound with riches, on the condition of not being troubled by the bailiffs of the lord king or by our own. However, left uncultivated through the desertion of the inhabitants because of the negligence of the administrators, it had fallen into such poverty that having responsibility for providing shoes for this church it was entirely incapable of assuming this expense. Thus, finding itself in the hands of the abbot because of an unpaid debt, he rented it in totality to the bailiffs of this land for 30 pounds a year. Having found it, at the beginning of our abbacy, destroyed and almost abandoned, we exposed this great injury suffered by the church to our dear lord the king of France, Louis, whose nobility we strive to serve as much from zeal as from loyalty. He freed, moreover, this land from intolerable and almost ruinous customs, namely three claims to lodging each year, one collected from the peasants, sufficient for him and for his administrators, two from the revenues belonging to Saint-Denis, a affliction which almost entirely consumes the land. But, as he was exceptionally generous, distressed by so much harm to the church and the misery of the poor, grateful for our love and our service, he freed in perpetuity the right to this contribution to the church and ourselves. As for that which was collected from the peasants, it was fixed at 8 pounds per year in writing by the king s majesty. Happy with this generosity, we took back for ourselves the lands usurped and alienated as much by the mayor as by others; we had the vineyard situated at Saint-Loup put to the plow after twenty years and replanted with vines; we restored the other vines near Beaune which had been almost destroyed, others we bought from one of our vassals for 20 pounds, money of Orleans; we repopulated the villages almost entirely deserted from the plundering. XVI. The tithe of Barville Among others we had recovered for the work of the church, as best we
15 page 15 could, even if we had made some loss, a tithe at Barville, that certain knights had held for a hundred years, they said, for a tax of 2 sous and which provided us with 20 or 30 muids of wheat each year. As the pitiful buildings of the domain there were fallen into complete ruin, first above all we instigated the construction of the pleasant and fortified buildings which are found there now. I had decided to install myself in this house in order to precisely determine our rights, when providentially I was absent, it collapsed so miserably that it completely destroyed the very bed in which I would have slept if I had been there, as well as breaking the floor-boards of the first floor and the bins in the cellar and the barrels of wine; after such ruin all swore that divine providence had spared me. We had established there a wonderful grange and two pools which should for a long time, if they are well maintained, furnish fish in abundance to those who come there. Of how much this land had been improved with the aide of God and from such misery was it relieved, one has the certain proof here since, from an annual revenue of 30 pounds, we now often collect more than 200. XVII. The town of Essonnes, which is now combined with Corbeil The town of Saint-Denis on the river of Essonnes, had been given to the holy martyrs by the previous generosity of the kings, as it is said in their old charters; but the cruelty of a certain tyrant transferred it to the castle of Corbeil, succeeding by that in depriving the holy martyrs of their earthly heritage, as well as [depriving] himself of his heavenly heritage. XVIII. The monastery built at the place called Les Champs After many years, about two centuries or more, when the mother-church of Essonnes, which is in the parish of Corbeil, survived alone as a monument in this place, the bishops of Paris, jealous as well of the old liberties of Saint-Denis, took it and in order to assure this usurpation, they gave it to the abbey of Cluny and to members of that congregation, namely to Saint-Martin-des-Champs and the church of Gournay. But the tyrants of the castle of Corbeil, hardened in their wickedness, so miserably oppressed all to the point of leaving nothing but a barren land, and, with sacrilegious audacity, they used for their own profit the goods as if they were theirs legally. There remained, however, a chapel, in honor, they said, of the blessed Mary, the smallest I have ever seen, half ruined and situated in a place called Champs, and in which is an old altar, upon which, because it was abandoned, grows grass upon which the sheep and goats often graze. In this place, according to numerous witnesses, often on Saturdays, as if to indicate the
16 page 16 sanctity of the place, candles are seen burning there. Inspired by this manifestation, the sick of the neighborhood and later even many foreigners hastened there in the hope of regaining their health and they were cured. As providentially many people came there from near and far, our venerable brothers, men of happy memory, prior Hervé and Eudes de Tourcy, were sent there in order to serve our Lord and his blessed Mother and busied themselves with adapting and developing this small church for the divine service. Very soon, in a short time, so great a number of miracles were produced there to the admiration of all that it was venerated by all, proclaimed by all, and many endowed it. A multitude of the sick, those who were troubled by foul spirits, the blind, the crippled and the paralyzed had flocked there. Innumerable miracles through the intervention of the blessed Mother of God made this place celebrated; we will go on in these pages to present two of these which we know directly or by rumor. XIX. The miracle of the mute There was a noble woman, a widow of many years, the mother of the venerable abbot of Corbie, Robert, a monk of our abbey, who had the habit of frequently visiting the holy places for the good of her soul; one day, she went there with a girl already twelve years old, who had never spoken. One Saturday evening she spent the night in this little church with this mute girl, praying to God for her and her own. When the monks began the Te Deum laudamus there appeared, they say, to the young girl carried away in ecstasy, a queen of glory, beautiful like the moon, brilliant like the sun, dressed in a royal robe, crowned with gold and precious stones, who walked before her, going from the left corner of the altar to the right. As she called her by name (she was called Lancen), the young girl with a clear voice and assured tongue responded Lady; this was heard by the woman and many others. And since then she knows how and is able to speak as if she had spoken her whole life. The witnesses of this astonishing miracle praised it highly and repeated the news in many neighboring regions and we who had known the mute for five years and have known her to speak for five more since, we rightly ought to praise and love this holy place. XX. The woman with dropsy A second miracle seems to us worthy of telling, as we have promised. A woman with dropsy, swollen like a pregnant woman, cried loudly with sadness as if insane, because of the intolerable watery humors, was carried by the hands of friends to holy Mary at the place aforesaid. As, for many days, she took
17 page 17 refuge before the holy altar, she drove away many of the visitors by the stench emitted by her rotting flesh. There was no hope of a cure and already the swelling and the sores appearing on her face almost left her deformed; many people, healthy and sick, complained, demanding that she be expelled from the little church. But our brothers, venerable men, preferred to show pity in supporting her disagreeable presence, rather than sending her away without pity. But one Sunday night, because it is at this time above all that the hand of God intervenes, the woman with dropsy fell asleep, which she did not usually do, when suddenly the glorious sovereign Virgin Mary invisibly drained the humors from the body of the woman, who became slim and healthy. One saw, and the witnesses, such as our brothers and many others saw it, such a quantity of humors and mucus pouring out upon the floor that it was necessary to remove it immediately with cups, buckets and pots. The witnesses were so dumbfounded by this magnificent thing that they gave thanks with all the more fervor to omnipotent God and his Mother. They sang the Te Deum laudamus in tears and they beseeched God to continue, as he had begun, to glorify his mother in this place. This is why, ordered by the divine will, for the love of the Mother of God, to honor and exalt this place, remarkable by these signs and by others, miraculous and prodigious, we undertook constructions in this field. In order that a community of brothers could serve God there, we established twelve brothers with their prior and built a cloister, a refectory, a dormitory and other usual buildings. We had given the church, as is usual, ornaments, sacerdotal vestments, tapestries and copes. We had transported from the mother church in this place two books, the ancient daily office and the gradual of the emperor Charles [Charlemagne]. We had put together a suitable Bible of three volumes. No less worried about the provisions for the brothers, we allocated [to them] two charrues of the land which we owned near this place. We had a vineyard sufficient for a great abbey planted and had acquired by diverse means a great number of vines at a good price for them; after this we constructed for this same place, without excessive cost, in all propriety, four presses, each with the capacity of nearly 80 muids of wine, furnishing this in such abundance that they received amply from 250 to 300 muids of wine. On our own nearby domains we had sufficient meadows enclosed, and we had suitable gardens prepared to receive the planting of legumes. Saint-Denis, however, possessed another [piece of land], neglected already for a long time and abandoned, without the least cultivation, which produced, thanks to some foreign farmers from neighboring villages, a muid or less of
18 page 18 cereals and two or three setiers15 of nuts; we allotted to them there three charrues for the new courtyard and a new grange. We had put there sheep and cows with the necessary food thanks to the abundance of pasture and efficient use of the land. We engaged them for our own goods on another possession of Saint-Denis situated near Brunoy from which they often took in 10 muids of cereals, almost 10 of wine and fodder for the animals. We had given them this that we had recovered from a mill lost almost 60 years ago, on the condition that they pay, on the day after the feast of Saint Denis, 20 sous to the refectory of the monastery. They received besides, from this same village, between the taxes and the feudal dues, 100 sous. At Corbeil, in their neighborhood, they collected 17 pounds in taxes alone, without counting the other revenues from sales, fairs, and other customs as well as the mill, the oven, eight muids of oats with some chickens and the whole prebend16 of Saint-Spire. XXI. Mareuil-les-Meaux In the region of Meaux, the village called Mareuil suffered serious damages from the right of voirie17 possessed by Ansoud de Cornillon almost up to the houses themselves. Neither the peasants nor the others dared to leave the village without risk, without being robbed by the bailiffs of Ansoud exercising the right of voirie on numerous pretexts, without being arrested, [they] were conducted to his court and fined for the cattle that had gone out from the village. This is why we had given to Ansoud 1000 sous for the peace of the village, so that he would leave to us the right of voirie when he left for the expedition to Jerusalem, and in order that this right remains henceforth with Saint-Denis we have had it confirmed by the hand of the bishop of Meaux, Manassès, and his church, as well as by the seal of count Thibaud with the consent of his wife and his son. For he, so he confessed, held it unjustly. Desiring as well to make known to our successors the terms of a certain exchange, for the case may be one day where, with the aide of God, it could be better exploited, we have taken the care to put it in writing. At the time when the noble realm of France became a monarchy, the church of Saint-Denis abounded, thanks to the generosity of the kings, in great and many possessions everywhere the royal power reached, in all the tetrarchy of the realm, namely in 15A setier is an obsolete unit of measure equalling liters of grain (dry) or 8 pints of liquid. 16A prebend is money allocated to support a cleric, a salary in effect. 17 Voirie or overseer was a form of authority or governance over a district. The person holding this office was usually under someone else s authority, very similar to a bailiff.
19 page 19 Italy, in Lorraine, in France and in Aquitaine. However, this, that unity kept intact, the division between the sons began to corrupt and diminish. This is why Saint-Denis abandoned Arlange, Ebersing, Salonnes and many other possessions, and lost also domains situated in the region of Metz, namely the castle of Guemines, Blidestroff and Chochelingen. In order to recover them we had very often solicited the judgement of the Pope, as well in reason of the injustice of those who seized these possessions as for the damage to themselves because they died in a very bad state, without confession. As redemption, the place called La Celle was given to Saint-Denis, freely, with its dependencies enumerated in the charters of the emperor Louis and we have placed there certain of our brothers in order to serve God, in the hope of an increase and of ultimate recuperation. XXII. Chaumont-en-Vexin We have worked also to obtain the church of Saint-Pierre situated near the castle of Chaumont, as well as the prebends themselves at the death of the canons, for the abbey, thanks to the liberality of the archbishop of Rouen, Hugues, and of the lord king of France Louis. We have established with honor twelve brothers with a thirteenth, the prior, in order to exalt this church and promote the divine religion, and we arranged thanks to God that this church was consecrated and that the cemetery situated in front was blessed by that venerable archbishop. This new church, attached as a noble member to the head, the church of Saint-Denis, will be also useful and propitious to our successors who make their way to the Vexin in Normandy as to those who remain in the region for the conservation of other possessions. Also are we so much more determined, in all justice, to enrich such of our acquired goods and to care for them like a new plant. We have confirmed to our brothers who serve God in this place, because they lack vines, the annual gift of 20 muids of wine from the tithes given to us by the king Louis at Cergy and half of the tithes that we have acquired at Ableiges. XXIII. Berneval In the holding called Berneval, on the coast of the Norman sea, I had also received from my predecessor my first appointment as provost. From the time of the very valiant king Henry, when I had been still quite young, I had freed it at great trouble and with the help of numerous lawsuits from the oppression of
20 page 20 royal officers called graffios.18 At the beginning of our government we had apportioned to the domains of the abbey the parish churches that the priest Roger and his brother Geoffroy had claimed by hereditary title and we have assigned them forever, with their revenues, to the treasury in order to renovate and augment the decoration of the church. And because there was available no revenue, or almost, for this usage, we have added to it another village recently constructed in the same region, called Carrières; this last pays four marks and the churches seven pounds, unless one can make it better. The other customary revenues of the aforesaid domain of Berneval, from taxes or other, we have made them grow to almost fifteen pounds, which we believe is an increase. From the time of our predecessor of happy memory we have contributed to uproot the custom called locally aquaria19 from the hand of our provost who had kept it and we have allotted it, for the celebration of the anniversary of the very pious king Dagobert, to the pittance of the brothers. Besides, the villages of Morgny, Lilly, et Fleury which generally returned only seven or ten pounds, we have succeeded by this in collecting from them at least 25; the same for Chateau-sur-Epte. 20XXIV. Concerning the Decoration of the Church Having thus assigned these increases in the revenue, we turned back to the memorable construction of buildings, so that through this activity thanks might be given to almighty God by us and our successors, and enthusiasm for its continuation and, if necessary, for its completion should be fired by good example. For neither poverty nor opposition by any power is to be feared if one securely makes use of one's own resources through love for the holy martyrs. Therefore, by divine inspiration, the first work we did on the church was as follows. Because the walls were old and threatened to weaken in some places, having summoned the best painters we could find from various places, we devoutly had the walls repaired and worthily painted with gold and costly colors. I carried this task out all the more gladly because, even when I was a student, I had wanted to do so if ever I had the opportunity. XXV. Concerning the First Addition to the Church Even while this was being carried out at great expense, however, because 18The graffio is an officer like a sheriff who possesses the authority to administer justice and sometimes acts as a lower-level noble. 19Aquaria was the local term for fishing rights. 20Resumption of translation by Dr. David Burr.
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