below are a few quotes from Unjust Seizure: Conflict, Interest, and Authority in an Early Medieval Society regarding some historic evidence for blood feuds and honor killings in early medieval bavaria, the historic evidence being in the form of ecclesiastical charters (recording property donations to the church) and tales from a saint’s life. the time period is the mid-700s.

first of all, the “bavarians” of the day were a mix of peoples — mostly germanics (including alamanni, lombards, thuringians, and goths) but also some romans (or romanized locals) and slavs. the local rulers were a bunch of franks (iow, also germanics) who had taken over the place on behalf of the merovingians (no, not this guythese guys) — and introduced the manor system (uh oh!).

the conversion of the natives of bavaria (i.e. not their frankish rulers) to christianity was completed by st. boniface (boo!) sometime in the early 700s, so these people probably had had no barriers to marrying their cousins right up until the time period under discussion below (unless some of the local romans/romanized locals had been christians?). the agilolfings, too — the frankish rulers of bavaria — probably hadn’t been christians for much longer either, most of the franks converting in the 500-600s. so the population of bavaria in the 700s was probably not very outbred at that point (these things take time).

however, the church already had its cousin marriage bans in place by this time, so there probably would’ve been pressure from the priests and bishops and monks in the 700s to stop any close matings that were going on. there is some documentary evidence that shows that marriages in the 700s on ecclesiastical manors in bavaria occurred between such manors [pgs. 217-48], so that might suggest that the church at this time was, indeed, discouraging close marriages. i couldn’t find an online copy of the lex baiuvariorum (in english), which was written in the mid-700s, so i don’t know if there were any secular laws against cousin marriage in bavaria at this time.

the interesting points in the following are that: 1) feuds between clans, and even between branches of clans, were happening in eighth century bavaria just like you might’ve found in scotland in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (thanks, mel!) or in parts of the philippines … like … just the other day — iow, early medieval bavarians were clannish peoples; and 2) family honor was extremely important to the point where honor killings happened just like — or almost like — in the arab world/middle east today.

ok. here are those excerpts [pgs. 30-39 - links added by me]:

“To begin with, we have the charters from the cathedral church at Freising. Five of the approximately one hundred twenty Freising charters surviving from this period [pre-carolingian] mention conflict…. The five Freising records tell a variety of stories. Nevertheless, they have one important feature in common: all mention conflicts tangentially, that is, as incidents that did not involve the church directly but rather prompted someone to make or confirm a property gift to the church….

“Instead of showing the church as a party to conflict, the Freising charters from this period reveal members of landholding kindreds in conflict with one another. Some of this conflict was violent. We learn of it because two men who were attacked and seriously wounded, as well as a third man whose son was killed, gave property to the church to benefit their souls and to support members of their families. The charters recording these gifts do not say what the violence was all about. The stories they tell, however, suggest that the attacks resulted from feuds between kindreds, and possibly even within an extended kin group. This impression is strengthened by Bishop Arbeo of Freising’s ‘Life of Saint Emmeram’. Arbeo’s biography of Regensburg’s patron saint is built around a story of outraged honor and violent revenge. The story indicates that Bavarian aristocrats in this period regarded violence as a legitimate response to insult or injury….

“The conflicts appear in the charters because the parties ended them by giving the disputed property to the church or by rearranging or restating disputed property rights that involved the church….

“Violence

“At the beginning of the Freising charter collection, between his table of contents and his prologue, the priest Cozroh place a copy of a charter that he titled in red ink, ‘The Gift of Haholt and His Son Arn’. The charter was produced at the monastery of Saint Zeno at Isen, some thirty-two kilometers southeast of Freising, on May 25, 758. It most likely earned its prominent position in the collection, and certainly the attention of modern scholars, because it records among other things the dedication of Arn, the future archbishop of Salzburg and confidant of Charlemagne, to an ecclesiastical career.

“This record tells of a property gift that Arn’s father, Haholt, made to the cathedral church at Freising. At some time in the past, we read, an unnamed person attacked Haholt and seriously wounded him, to the point that he feared for his life. On what he thought was his deathbed, Haholt gathered his relatives together and asked them how best to provide for his soul and for his son’s future. Haholt’s kinsmen advised him to summon Bishop Joseph of Freising. The bishop hurried to Haholt’s bedside. On Joseph’s advice, Haholt ordered a church built on property he owned near Isen, which the bishop consecrated. Then, with the consent and participation of his wife, son, and relatives, Haholt gave the church and the property to Freising. He did so under the condition that his son Arn have the use of the property, that is, hold it from Freising as a benefice, for the rest of his life. After a space of time, however, Haholt recovered from his wound. In gratitude for God’s mercy and for their souls’ salvation, Haholt and his wife personally confirmed the gift. In addition, they formally devoted Arn to a clerical life at the Freising cathedral church.

“This record tells us that an unknown person attacked Haholt. The attack, however, is not the charter’s main concern, and we learn nothing about Haholt’s assailant or the reason for his assault. We learn only that the attack prompted Haholt and his wife to give property to Freising for the benefit of their souls and to support their son in his new career.

We can nevertheless hazard a guess about why Haholt was wounded. Two other charters suggest that he was involved in a feud. In the year 763, a kindred headed by a man named Reginperht and his brother Irminfrid turned a church they had built at Scharnitz, in modern-day Tyrol, into a monastery. Members of the kindred endowed the new foundation with generous gifts of property. One man, named Cros, had a special reason for his gift. ‘Compelled by the admonition of God and struck down by Count Keparoh with an incurable wound,’ Cros gave all his property to the monastery and entered it himself as a monk.

“Here, as in the Haholt charter, an act of violence prompted its victim to make a property gift. This time we have a name for the attacker: Count Keparoh. The name Keparoh also appears in another charter, this time on the receiving end of a violent attack. In this record, from the year 774, a man named Onulf makes the statement that his favorite son, Keparoh, had been insidiously murdered. Onulf responded to his son’s death by giving the property his own father had left him, as well as that left his wife by her father, Keparoh, to the Freising cathedral church. The property was to support his wife and surviving son for their lifetimes.

Onulf’s gift charter and the Scharnitz foundation charter together provide evidence for a feud stretching over generations. In 763, Count Keparoh struck down Cros. Eleven years later, in 774, a Keparoh fell victim to an assault. This younger Keparoh had a grandfather who was also named Keparoh. It is entirely possible that the person who attacked the younger Keparoh was a partisan of Cros and that the younger Keparoh’s grandfather was related to the count who attacked Cros or was even the count himself. In each case, the attacks prompted property gifts to a kindred monastery or to the cathedral church at Freising.

It turns out that Cros and the Kepharohs were most likely related to each other.

so this feud lasting for generations was likely a feud between sub-clans.

“To give a brief example of what the evidence behind such a statement looks like: Cros was the kinsman of the principal Scharnitz founders Reginperht and his brother Irminfrid. Reginperht and Irminfrid had another brother named David, who witnessed the foundation at Scharnitz. David also appears with Irminfrid making another property gift sometime between 758 and 763. In this latter gift, the name Keparoh stands third among the witnesses, immediately following David and Irminfrid. Given his prominent position on the witness list, it is extremely likely that this Keparoh was related to David and Irminfrid and therefore also to Reginperht and Cros. Keparoh’s apparent kindred relationship to the Scharnitz founders, therefore, suggests that the feud was a violent conflict within an extended kin group.

“The Cros-Keparoh feud helps explain the Haholt charter. Since the Cros and Keparoh stories are very similar to Haholt’s, it makes sense to conclude that Haholt too was wounded in the course of a dispute with another aristocrat. Seens as a group, then, the three charters indicate that Bavarian landowners processed disputes at least in part through violent feud. They do not, however, give any details about the feuds or the disputes that prompted them. To add depth to our picture of feud in Agilolfing Bavaria, we must briefly leave the charters and turn to the life of a saint.

“As noted previously, we have at our disposal two saints’ lives written by Bishop Arbeo of Freising, who succeeded Bishop Joseph in 764. One of them, the ‘Life of Saint Emmeram’, has violent conflict as its centerpiece. Arbeo wrote his biography of Emmeram, the patron saint of the cathedral church and monastery at Regensburg, sometime around the year 772. He evidently had little direct information about Emmeram to go on; he paints his subject for the most part in broad strokes that rely heavily on older hagiographic models. According to Arbeo, Emmeram was a wealthy Gallo-Frankish nobleman who was born in the Aquitanian city of Poitiers sometime in the seventh century. By virtue of his sanctity and his generosity to rich and poor alike, he quickly rose to become bishop of that city….

“After missionizing in Bavaria for three years, Emmeram asked permission to go on a pilgrimage to Rome. Before he could leave, however, Ota, daughter of Duke Theodo, enters the story. Driven by lust and the urging of the devil, Ota had allowed herself to be seduced by the son of one of the duke’s judges. When the young woman could no longer hide the resulting pregnancy, the despairing couple threw themselves at Bishop Emmeram’s feet, admitted their sin, and implored him for aid. Moved by pity, the bishop ordered the pair to do penance for the salvation of their souls. He also instructed them under oath of secrecy to place the fault publicly for Ota’s pregnancy on him so that they might more easily escape earthly death. The bishop took the blame because he knew that when the sin became known, ‘he would certainly be unable to obtain forgiveness for the pair from the girl’s father.’ Emmeram then set out for Rome in the company of a group of clerics….

“Meanwhile, Duke Theodo had discovered his daughter’s condition. Enraged, he would have drawn his sword to kill the baby in the womb had not his men restrained him. No such restraint hindered Ota’s brother Lantperht from avenging his sister’s dishonor. Filled with wild fury, he assembled his own following and set off after Emmeram’s party. On reaching Helfendorf, Lantperht had the bishop brought before him and showered him with angry accusations. The bishop calmly denied the charge of seduction and asked that he, along with whatever companion Lantperht might choose, be allowed to proceed to Rome to seek a judgment from the pope according to church law. Lantperht refused; instead, he had the bishop stripped and tied to a ladder. Lantperht’s men then began to cut off Emmeram’s extremities and limbs piece by piece while the bishop praised God and prayed for their salvation. They finished by ripping off Emmeram’s genitals and tearing out his tongue; leaving the mutilated torso to die, Lantperht and his men departed….”

here’s emmeram having a foot, and who knows what else, chopped off:

Emmeram

As suggested before, Arbeo had to construct a martyrdom story that made sense to his audience out of bits and pieces of tradition, topoi, the cultural language of his society, and his own imagination. He responded by translating the Christ story into one of martyrdom by the ethic of feud. Lantperht viewed the bishop’s alleged seduction of his sister as an assault on his family’s honor. He responded with an act of revenge that he and at least a majority of his followers clearly perceived as justified: he exploded with rage, assembled a war band, and hunted down his sister’s ravisher. Lantperht then had the bishop mutilated and tortured to death. The grisly process ended with a symbolic gesture directly related to the alleged crime, namely, Emmeram’s castration.

This narrative suggests what may have lain in the silences left by the Freising feud charters: an insult, rage, and a violent, symbolic response….

(note: comments do not require an email. the merovingian.)

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