In the year 843, Charles the Bald (823, 877), last son of King Louis the Pious (778, † 840), gathered a general plea of all the dignitaries of his new kingdom, West Francia. The meeting takes place at Germigny-des-Prés, a town listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the kingdom of Charles the Bald
This kingdom fell to him following the partition ratified during the Treaty of Verdun (843) and which divided the lands of the Frankish Empire between his two brothers and himself:
• Louis dit le Germanic receives the eastern part of the Empire, Eastern Francia: Bavaria, the provinces of Alemania and Franconia as well as Saxony;
• Charles receives the land located west of the Escaut-Meuse-Saône-Rhône line, namely West Francia, Aquitaine, Septimanie;
• Lothaire receives a kingdom enclosed between the two parts of his brothers, Francie Médiane, which goes from Friesland to Provence including Lotharingia and Italy. He also has the title of Emperor and his kingdom encompasses the two capitals of the Empire, the political capital Aix and the religious capital Rome.
Unlike his two brothers, Charles was given land over which he had never ruled before. This plea, which brings together bishops, abbots and counts of his kingdom, aims to establish his authority, which was quickly contested by the Aquitains and Bretons, and also to confirm the privileges granted by his predecessors. Thus, the only existing source on this plaid is a diploma awarded at this meeting to the abbey of Moutiers-Saint-Lomer, renewing the privileges granted to the monks by Louis the Pious. The meeting is held in the residence of Germigny-des-Prés of Bishop Théodulf: this residence is located at the junction of the four major regions whose government is devolved to Charles: Neustrie, Francia, Burgundy and Aquitaine .
Bishop Theodulf: the model of the Carolingian poet, scholar and theologian
Théodulf d´Orléans was born around 755 in Spain. Of Visigothic origin, his family settled around 780 in Septimania. The young man may have devoted himself to the Aniane Abbey studying Greek and Latin and becomes a teacher in Italy. Intellectual, poet and theologian, his fame reached the ears of Charlemagne who welcomed him to his court. He is a member alongside Alcuin, Eginhard and Paul Deacon at the Palatine Academy.
The Palatine Academy is a circle of scholars surrounded by Charlemagne from 782 and in which the King of the Franks takes the pseudonym of "King David". This group has long been led by the poet and theologian Alcuin, who initiated its foundation. Missus Dominicus of Charlemagne, Théodulf was appointed bishop of Orléans in 797 and he was also abbot of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, of Saint-Aignan in Orléans, of Micy in Saint-Mesmin and of Saint-Liphard in Meung-sur -Loire.
The master’s envoys, missi dominici, are responsible for inspecting the count’s management. They are at least two, a bishop or an abbot and a count, possibly assisted by a few members. Appointed by the king, they inspect a set of counties whose list is provided at the time of their appointment and receive during their round, specific instructions recorded in capitularies of instructions to the missi. They make sure that the king's orders are respected, that the capitulars are carried out. In addition, they preside over the county court in place of the count, four times a year, in January, April, July and October. If necessary, they approve the appointment of new members of the tribunal. In 804 he became the theological adviser to the emperor, following Alcuin.
Admitted to the circle of letters of Charlemagne, he participated in the reform of education and created several schools in the Orleans region that he organized in three levels: free parish schools, episcopal schools at secondary level and reserved monastic schools. to the executives of the Empire. Within the Abbey of Saint-Benoît, he created two monastic schools, one outside for the secular clergy, the other inside for the regular clergy. The scriptorium of this abbey and the scriptorium of Saint-Aignan produced under his direction several remarkable works including Bibles, six of them having come down to us.
A poet, he also composes hymns, one of which, "Gloria Laus", is still sung in Orléans and Germigny-des-Prés, during the Palm Sunday procession.
He is also a theologian and politician working on behalf of Charlemagne. As such, he writes several texts including:
• a manifesto called Libri Carolini, a text written in the name of Charlemagne and in which he criticizes the practice of worshiping images, following the conclusions of the Council of Nicaea II which again authorizes the use of images.
• Chapter members dealing in particular with ecclesiastical discipline stipulating that priests must devote themselves to reading and prayer, that they must respect celibacy and have real religious and intellectual training.
• treatises on theology, one on the Holy Spirit and the other on Baptism. ("De Spiritu sancto" "De ordine baptismi")
In January 814, Charlemagne died and his son Louis le Pieux succeeded him. Theodulf welcomed the new emperor to Orleans in February, but three years later he fell out of favor and was imprisoned on suspicion of having supported Bernard of Italy in his revolt.
Bernard of Italy (797, † 818) is an illegitimate son of Pépin, third son of Charlemagne. He is King of the Lombards and has ruled Italy since 812. But Queen Ermengarde then urges her husband Louis the Pious to withdraw his titles. Bernard revolted, bringing with him several high dignitaries of the empire. Defeated, he is first sentenced to death, then the sentence is commuted to blindness. Bernard died three days later as a result of his ordeal.
The high dignitaries who supported Bernard are dismissed. Theodulf is one of them, although he denies any involvement in the revolt. Imprisoned, he died in 821 at the Abbey of Saint-Aubin in Angers, where he was relegated.
The residence of Germigny-des-Prés
This residence is a Carolingian villa, a beautifully decorated "country house" consisting of a church, residential buildings and outbuildings. The dedication located in the church makes it possible to date the construction as prior to the year 806. It is located on the grounds of the abbey of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire. Built when Charlemagne himself had the buildings of the Aachen Palace, including the Palatine Chapel, constructed himself, this residence was renowned for its magnificence at the time. Following his dismissal, all of Theodulf's property was confiscated. The area was burnt down in 856, probably by the Vikings who pillaged the neighboring monasteries.
Nowadays, only the oratory, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, remains of this area. This building is formed by a square ten meters square in the center of which four piles form the base of a lantern tower. The four squares adjacent to this central square are surmounted by barrel vaults and extended by apses, the whole forming the arms of a Greek cross.
Figure 4: Oratory of Germigny (Photos P. Gouin)
The richness of this building lies in particular in the mosaic on a gold background which adorns the cul-de-four of the eastern apse and which dates from the 9th century. It is the only one of this type existing in France. It is made up of cobalt blue, sky blue, bottle green, gray green, cream yellow, gold, silver and black glass tesserae.
This mosaicist is also interesting in terms of the subject it represents. Indeed instead of depicting, as in the Byzantine tradition, the Virgin enthroned with Christ on her knees, it shows the ark of the covenant surrounded by two archangels dressed in ancient costumes between which appears the hand of God. It is thus part of the iconoclastic quarrel which tears West and East at that time and shows Theodulf's position on this subject: it is not good to represent the deities with a human figure in churches, because the faithful can then worship them and fall into idolatry.
The frieze of the base of the mosaic is blue and bears an inscription in silver letters "See here and behold the holy oracle and his cherubim: here shines the ark of the divine testament. In front of this spectacle, strive to touch the Master of thunder with prayers; and do not fail, I beg you, to associate Théodulfe with your wishes ”.
• Jacques-Henri Bauchy, "The first French States General at Germigny-des-Prés, in September 843", Bulletin of the Archaeological and Historical Society of Orléanais, t. V, no 40, 1970, p. 361-364
• Louis Baunard, Théodulfe, Bishop of Orleans and Abbot of Fleury-sur-Loire. Orleans, C. Douniol, 1860.
• J. F. Bradu, Lights of the year 1000 in Orléanais. Around the millennium of Abbon de Fleury: A new reading of the mosaic of Germigny-des-Prés, Brépols (exhibition catalog of the Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Orléans), 2004, p. 126-128