The Long Eighth Century

By Inge Lyse Hansen; Chris Wickham | Go to book overview

THE ROLE OF THE MONASTERIES IN THE SYSTEMS
OF PRODUCTION AND EXCHANGE OF THE
FRANKISH WORLD BETWEEN THE SEVENTH AND
THE BEGINNING OF THE NINTH CENTURIES
Stéphane Lebecq*

The eighth century casts a relatively pale reflection in the monastic history of the Frankish kingdoms: it was in the seventh century that, largely under the impulse of Columbanus and his disciples, monastic foundations and the transformation of old churches into monasteries proliferated, and in the ninth century that, under the authority of Benedict of Aniane, Benedictine reform and standardisation were imposed. Much the same can be said of the documentation and its contribution to the economic history of the monastic movement. It is the seventh century that has left us the greatest number of charters of foundation or of the donation of landed property, and it is in the ninth century that such normative or normalised documents as Adalard's Statuta or the so-called Plan of St Gall were drawn up. In the latter century too the first great polyptychs were redacted, reflecting a concern for a more rational administration of temporal goods in accordance with the enterprise of reform.

Fortunately a few written sources—cartularies, Gesta abbatum or wellinformed monastic chronicles—partly make up for the documentary hiatus, particularly for northern Gaul: this is the case for the archive of St Denis, especially rich in original documents from the eighth century, but also for those of St-Germain-des-Prés, of Fontenelle, of Corbie and of some others.1 It is thanks to these that we can sketch an

____________________
1
I cite here the collections of sources and fundamental studies of the documents which are used in the pages that follow: Chartae Latinae Antiquiores, vols. 13–19, eds. H. Atsma and J. Vezin (Dietikon/Zurich, 1981–1987); Das Polyptychon von SaintGermain-des-Prés. Studienausgabe, ed. D. Hägermann, with K. Elmshäuser and A. Hedwig (Cologne/Weimar/Vienna, 1993); L. Levillain, Examen critique des chartes mérovingiennes et carolingiennes de l'abbaye de Corbie (Paris, 1902); Hariulf (1060–1143). Chronique de l'abbaye de Saint-Riquier (Ve siècle-1104), ed. F. Lot (Paris, 1894); F. Lot, Etudes critiques sur l'abbaye de Saint-Wandrille (Paris, 1913).
*
I would like to thank Marios Costambeys for translating this paper.

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