Saint-Riquier, formerly called Centula - the city of a hundred towers - is a town in northern France, located in Picardy 35 km west of Amiens and 160 km north of Paris. His royal abbey recently hosted the exhibition entitled: "Europe before Europe - the Carolingians".
The Abbey of Saint-Riquier in the High Middle Ages
The abbey was founded in 625, during the reign of Dagobert I (602, † 639) by Richarius (- Riquier -), son of the governor of the city of Centula, converted to Christianity by the Welsh monks Caidoc and Fricor. He himself evangelized the north of France before becoming a hermit in the forest of Crécy. He died around 645.
The abbey became Benedictine in the middle of the 7th century after having followed the rule of Saint-Colomban de Luxeuil.
It was however under the reign of Charlemagne (748, † 814) that the abbey experienced the peak of its influence, notably under the lay abbatiates of Angilbert, then of Nithard.
Angilbert (750, † 814) is a Frankish aristocrat, Count of Ponthieu, who entered Charlemagne's entourage as a disciple of Alcuin. Faithful servant of the emperor, he fulfills three missions of ambassador to Pope Leo III and is also responsible for the education of Charlemagne's son, Pepin, King of Italy. A great scholar, he participated in the work of the Palatine Academy where he was nicknamed Homer. He received the abbey of Saint-Riquier as a reward for his services in 790. Angilbert then undertook to rebuild the abbey in order to make it a model for the time. This is organized around a courtyard surrounded by three churches: the double abbey church of Saint-Sauveur and Saint-Riquier, the Saint-Benoît church and the Sainte-Marie church. Three hundred monks divided into three groups and 99 student monks form the schola. A high quality cultural life is organized around liturgical life, from which an important scriptorium emerges. The library has 350 books according to the inventory carried out in 831. Among them, Les Evangiles de Saint-Riquier, a manuscript written entirely in gold letters on purple parchment, offered by Charlemagne to Angilbert.
Witness to Carolingian history
When Angilbert died, it was his son Nithard who became Count of Ponthieu and ascended to the dignity of lay abbot of Saint-Riquier. Indeed, Angilbert met within the Palatine Academy, the daughter of Charlemagne, Berthe, of whom he became the lover, then the husband. She gives him two children, Harnit and Nithard. The latter is at the same time a man of war, of government and of culture. Faithful to Louis the Pious (778, † 840), then to Charles le Chauve (823, † 877), he was the instigator of the Oaths of Strasbourg (February 14, 842), of which he probably wrote the texts himself. in addition in his work in 4 volumes, “History of the Sons of Louis the Pious”. He also took part in the battle of Fontenoy-en Puisaye in 841 and carried out several diplomatic missions on behalf of Charles le Chauve. He died in combat, in 845, in a battle against the Vikings. He was buried in Saint-Riquier alongside his father.
The two burials were found under the portal of the abbey church in 1989. As regards Nithard, the causes of death are visible on the bones discovered: the skull bears the traces of a fatal blow. Returned to the city of Saint-Riquier on March 9, 2012, Nithard's remains are presented during the current exhibition, before he is buried again.
The abbey was devastated by the Vikings in 881. The buildings were restored in the 11th century.
- Pierre Riché, The Carolingians, A family that made Europe, Pluriel 2011.
- Jean Favier, Dictionary of Medieval France, Fayard.
- Europe before Europe, The Carolingians, Exhibition catalog, June 2014.