if you haven’t been following along (or even if you have), you may not know that one of the little mysteries here on the blog has been why did the franks abandon cousin marriage in the 800s? in the 700s, they’d still been marrying cousins, but [from here]:

“By the ninth century, a marriage in the third *generatio* [i.e. second cousins – h.chick] had become scandalous…. [T]here was no lack of ‘honest and God-fearing people’ willing to report on their neighbours, being quite able to identify illegitimate marriages when it suited them. Apparently the public scandal of incest could shake whole communities — which suggests that abhorrence of this crime was not merely a matter of the clergy and some pious aristocrats.”

well, i think i’ve discovered what happened — the establishment and promotion of parishes and parish churches in every town and village, thanks to pepin the short and charlemagne. from The Development of the Parochial System: From Charlamagne (768-814) to Urban II (1088-1099) [pgs. 3-4]:

“A modern French historian has pointed out that every ecclesiastical institution in the end seems to lead back to Charlemagne. This is particularly true of the parish church in the modern sense of the phrase. The reign of Charlemagne (768-814) saw the beginnings of a movement for the establishment of a church and priest in every village. Such a church…very soon became the church to which the inhabitants of the village looked for all the day to day administrations of the Christian religion. It was their parish church. The movement continued for the next three hundred years. By the reign of Uban II (1088-1099), the pope who first began to apply the reforming principles of Gregory VII (1073-1085) to parish churches, each diocese north of the Alps was well on the way to being organised on the basis of the parochial system in the generally accepted sense of the term, that is a system of pastoral care exercised through numerous small urban and rural units, each with its church, its endowment and its priest. In the northern half of Italy however the country areas of dioceses continued down to comparatively modern times to be organised round the country churches of the older type (such a church being called a *plebs* or *pieve*), each with a number of dependent chapels. The division into smaller units came later in the cities than in the country. Only in the eleventh century did city area begin to be broken into parises, one of the first being Worms, which in 1016 was divided up into four parishes by the great bishop and canonist, Burchard of Worms. Up till then cities were still organised as one unit as in Roman and Merovingian times; the pastoral work being carried on from the cathedral, assisted by other churches, usually collegiate, none of them responsible for a particular area in the city. With the movement for the establishment of the parochial system in the years between Charlemagne and Urban II, first on the continent, then in England, this paper is concerned….

At the time of the Council of Mainz (847) it has been caculated that in what now very roughly corresponds to the Federal Republic of Western Germany there were some three thousand five hundred churches.

This spectacular increase in the number of country churches witnessed to the christianisation of barbarian society. But it was encouraged by those sections of Charlemagne’s legislation, which emphasised the importance of every Christian having frequent opportunities for worship and for instruction in Christian conduct. A church and priest in every village was a necessity if the emperor’s ideal was to be realised….

“The building of churches was assisted by a new form of property which the church acquired in the eighth century, namely tithe. The idea of tithe was not new. Previous to the eighth century the faithful had frequently been exhorted to give a tenth of their income to the Church. But it was a voluntary gift and could be made to any church they chose. In a circular letter to the bishops in 765, Pepin the Short, the father of Charlemagne, made the payment of tithe obligatory throughout his dominions…. Every person had to pay a tenth of the produce of his land or of his profits in trade or commerce, at first it would seem to the bishop of the diocese. But very soon the payment was transferred to the church where the person heard mass and his children were baptised.”

with “frequent opportunities for worship and for instruction in Christian conduct,” the franks (carolingians) of the 800s could’ve been — were probably — very well-informed on the church’s policies on incest. enforcement by the church authorities may also have increased, although a church wedding was still not mandatory at this point in time (not until the 1200s, in fact).

btw, i can’t actually take any credit for discovering this info. it was more that i stumbled upon it. =P here i need to thank the derb for indirectly helping me out — he’s always recommending The Great Courses audio lecture series, and, following his recommendations, the d.h. and i have been listening to some of them. it was in the Early Middle Ages series that i learned about the establishment of parishes by pepin. so, thanks john! (^_^) (they ARE really good series, btw!)

previously: mating patterns of the medieval franks

(note: comments do not require an email. pepin le bref.)

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