On the difficulties of recognising local priests

All images: © Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel; 35 Weiss.. Above: fol. 113v.

There were many priests in Europe in the long 10th century. Not all of them had the same job: some served as chaplains at the royal court or in the house of a magnate, some lived at a cathedral chapter or as canons in a collegial church. Still others were monks who had attained the gradus of priest. And many were responsible for pastoral care at a local church in the countryside. When someone is referred to as a presbyter in a source, then, we often cannot be sure what kind of priest he was.

The "loanlist" on fols. 113v-114r (more detailed images below)

An interesting illustration of this problem is preserved today in the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel under the shelfmark “35 Weissenburg”, a codex originally written around the middle of the 9th century in the monastery of Wissembourg. 113 leaves contain the commentary on Matthew by Hilary of Poitiers (c. 310-c. 367). At the end of the very last quire, however, three pages originally were left blank. Later, a list was entered on folios 113v and 114r.

This list is referred to in modern research as the “loan list” of the monastery of Wissembourg. This classification has a lot going for it: The list includes loans of books and liturgical vestments made to two institutions – the monasteries of Andlau and Klingenmünster – along with many men and some women. Some entries of names and lent objects were later erased. We may assume that these loans were returned at some point and therefore removed from the list.

The “Wissembourg loan list” has been known to scholars for a long time, and had already been printed several times in the early modern period. In 1862, Johann Kelle published the results of attempts made to make the words that had been erased legible again with the help of chemicals. Since then, historians have debated what the list actually refers to: Are these priests of the monastery itself and their books (as Otto Lerche argued in 1910)? Or is this list about local priests who were connected to the monastery in some way (as Mateusz Fafinski has recently suggested)? I think that both are correct!

Dating the entries

The list was certainly not made in one go. The many erasures, the entries written over erasures, and the slight differences in ink colour and script speak against this. We may assume that over several decades, entries were added and erased on both pages. A hard terminus post quem is the mention of the monastery of Andlau in the very first line of the list, which was founded by Empress Richardis (c. 840-896) in the early 880s.

'...ad monasterium andelaha', fol. 113v

The different hands (A, B and C) visible on fol. 114r

The terminus ante quem, on the other hand, is somewhat more difficult to determine. Palaeographically, three hands can be separated:

1. The vast majority of the entries on both pages probably belong to one and the same hand (A).

2. On fol. 114r, however, two entries have been made by another scribe (B) who wrote somewhat larger and coarser letters. This hand wrote an entry on the second line over a passage which had been previously erased (Anno habet decreta pontificum romanorum). The same hand seems also to have written the last line on this page, in which two loans to two women are noted, both of whom were named Liutgard.

3. A third hand (C), which is also found only on fol. 114r, wrote more fluently and smaller letters. This scribe did not add to the list at its lower end, but entered his notes to the right of the existing text, at one point over a previously erased passage. The first of these entries reads: anno episcopus librum .I. It is in the same line in which the second hand had previously noted the loan of papal decrees, also to an Anno.

Otto Lerche showed that this Anno must have been Anno, bishop of Worms. He was first a monk in St. Maximin in Trier, then became abbot of the monastery of Saint Maurice in Magdeburg in 937 and finally became bishop of Worms in 950. He died on 24 December 978. The four entries of this third “layer” on fol. 114r therefore probably date to between 950 and 978. If the two entries concerning Anno refer to one individual, who borrowed a book once before being ordained bishop and once after his ordination, then the earlier loan (of the collection of papal decrees) could be dated to before 950.

The last entry on fol. 114r, which was made by the second hand, fits quite well with this. It records that a domna Liutgart had lent a psalter. The title domna places her as a member of the social elite. We might think of Liutgard, the daughter of king Otto I, who was married to Duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine in 947 and died in 953. Conrad belonged to the family of the Salians, who had their centre of property and power in the Worms and Speyergau, i.e. in the very same region where bishop Anno of Worms was active, and where the monastery of Wissembourg was located.

On 26 February 950, King Otto I issued a document at Speyer for Wissembourg (D O I. 121). Written at the request of Otto’s daughter Liutgard and his brother Brun, Otto returned censuales [dependent people who paid an annual symbolic fee of money or wax] previously alienated from Wissembourg to the monastery. Speyer was less than two days’ journey from Wissembourg; we can speculate that this was when Liutgard “borrowed” a psalter from the monastery (if the book was ever returned, it was not recorded in our list.)

To sum up: Whoever wrote the earliest layer of entries on fol. 113v and fol. 114r worked between the end of the 9th century and the years around the middle of the 10th century. The additions of the second hand (connected to Liutgard) date from around the middle of the 10th century. The third author, with the most recent hand (concerning bishop Anno of Worms), operated in the third quarter of the 10th century.

One list or two lists?

So far, historians have thought the entries all belong to a single list. However, there are good reasons to assume that we are dealing with two slightly different lists – an “internal” one on fol. 113v; and one for “extramural loans” on fol. 114r.

To establish that these are actually two lists, we first have to look at the layout. Folio 113v was never completely filled with entries; there are only entries on the upper part of the page. Why should someone have continued the same list on the opposite page (fol. 114r), when the first page had not yet been filled?

Moreover, on fol. 113v, only men are listed (in his blog, Mateusz Fafinski has overlooked a stroke in the shaft of the last letter of the name on the first line, which he read as “Sigihel”; one should therefore read this entry as the male name “Sigihelm”). In addition, none of these male names is accompanied by a degree of ordination or a title of office.

The "internal" loan list, fol. 113v

The "extramural" loan list, fol. 114r

The list on fol. 114r is clearly different. Four women are listed, two identified by their spouses and two named: vidua Gerolti, uxor Reginboldi, domna Liutgart, altera (another) Liutgart. In addition, on this side most men are listed with detailed information about their office or degree of ordination: Anno episcopus, Gebehart abbas, Ratheri presbiter, Nanzo presbyter, Drudo presbyter, Hildini presbiter, Liudolf presbiter, Adalbero presbiter, Wizo presbiter, Benzo presbiter, Emicho presbiter. Only a certain Steven and “another Drudo” are recorded without any further information.

Otto Lerche noted parallels between our list(s) and the personal names in one of the two surviving Wissembourg necrologies. These parallels, however, almost exclusively concern the list on fol. 113v. Here we find matches for the names Lantfrid, Vuolbrant, Ferding, Rihbert, Reginbert (two persons of this

name are listed in the loan list), Otokar (there are also two bearers of this name), Thiotbald, Geilo and Erkanbert, and possibly also for Immo, if the name that was almost completely erased but that could have begun with the letter Y, was once an “Ymmo”. On fol. 114r, on the other hand, only one match is found in the necrology for the name of the priest Benzo. But of course persons of this name could have lived outside of Wissembourg, so this single parallel does not prove anything.

And finally, there are differences between the objects mentioned on the two pages: On fol. 114r, only books are loaned, on fol. 113v we find liturgical vestments as well as books. The monastery at Andlau, for example, got a cingulum, a certain Geilo a chasuble and a cingulum, Liudrih two chasubles, a stole and a down mantle (if Lerche's reading of two erased words as sagum plumosum is correct).

Monastic priests and local priests

If the assumption is correct that we are dealing with two different lists kept in parallel, then this means that we can distinguish at least two groups of priests: On fol. 113v we see monks from the monastery of Wissembourg, at least some of whom may have been ordained priests. This interpretation is supported not only by the names that reoccur in the necrology, and appear here as presbyter et monachus. The books borrowed also speak to this: Of course, every monk could use a psalter for the monastic officium, regardless of whether he had been ordained priest or not. The situation was different, however, with liturgical books such as the gradual or the missal: they contained the liturgy for the Mass, which could only be sung by priests. Moreover, the casula, the cingulum and the stola were part of the liturgical vestments for priests. We may therefore conclude that at least some of the monks inscribed on fol. 113v were priests: This is true of Sigihelm, who had borrowed a liturgical girdle, but also of Lantfrid, Liudrih and Ercanbert, who had each received a missal; Liudrih had also borrowed two chasubles. If Geilo is identical with his namesake recorded in the 12th-century necrology, then he was in fact an abbot of the Wissembourg community. In any case, the Geilo listed in the “loan list” was also a priest, as he received a missal, a gradual, a chasuble, a stole and a cingulum.

In the list on 113v, however, it was obviously not necessary to write down the degree of ordination of borrowers. They all were monks of the community of Wissembourg; they knew each other. Only the distinction between two bearers of the same name was needed within the community: thus a scribe added iunior (“the younger”) above the line to the second bearer of the name Otokar.

If we assume that the borrowers on fol. 114r did not belong to the monastic community of Wissembourg, then we are dealing here with priests who lived “in the world” (and this may explain why we find their degree of ordination listed). A total of nine priests are mentioned. Because of the erasures, it is no longer possible to establish in all cases what kind of books they received. Again, however, we find liturgical books: the psalter, the missal, an antiphonary, the so-called liber comitis (a book with pericopes for the service). Benzo borrowed a copy of a sermon (unfortunately, the exact description of this codex can no longer be deciphered). The priest Emicho received “a book of Hrabanus, together with a martyrology” (librum .I. rabani cum martyrologio). In view of the many texts written by Hrabanus Maurus, we can only speculate what exactly Emicho borrowed, but it was certainly not a liturgical book.

Were all these priests listed on fol. 114r local priests? Did Ratberi, Nanzo, Drudo, Hildini, Liudolf, Adalbero, Wizo, Benzo and Emicho each shoulder the pastoral care of a parish? Unfortunately, we still cannot say this for sure. Some of them could have served as chaplains for magnates (such as Duke Conrad of Lorraine or his wife Liutgard). Others could also have performed their spiritual service in a cathedral chapter or another monastery. But it is quite plausible that at least some of these priests listed here were pastors at a local church who maintained connections with Wissembourg: We know for sure that some local priests were trained in monasteries and maintained close relations with those monasteries afterwards. So it is quite probable that such clergymen, after they had completed their training and received priestly ordination, borrowed liturgical (and other) books from the monastery in which they had grown up, and to which they were personally connected.

SP, May 2022