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Charters relating to Judicial Duels, 11th - 12th Century

Duel between Engelardus and the monks of Saint-Serge of Angers, c.1100

Abbots Daibert and Otbrannus prevent a battle between their monks, 27 and 28 April, 1064

Trouble between St Martin of Tours and Holy Cross of Talmont leads to a judicial battle, 1098

Abbot Robert of Mont-Saint-Michel seeks the right to determine where duels are held.

1. Duel between Engelardus and the monks of Saint-Serge of Angers, c.1100

Notice concerning Engelardus:

The concord of brothers and the love of neighbors, as wisdom proves, is pleasing to God and men. On account of which, lest the concord which we made with Engelardus and his friends, namely Arnaldus and Bovellus, concerning mills be obscured by an intervening cloud of oblivion, let it [the concord] be made known to everyone. John of Avrilleo, whose daughter was the wife of Engelardus, held a place on the river Loire from the abbot of Saint-Serge of Angers, to which place were joined two mills; the whole parcel brought four deniers [pennies] in rent. The land, truly, on both banks was not John's, but was held directly by the monks of Saint-Serge. After John had died, it happened that the river Loire in its impetuosity consumed the solidity of the banks [ate away the banks], so that after an interval of time the place suitable for two mills now included space sufficient for five. Engelardus, moreover, claimed as the heir of the above-mentioned John to possess the entire river-landing [portus] with the five mills through hereditary right. The monks, however, were reclaiming that part of the portus which the river Loire had seized in their land.

The quarrel concerning this matter dragged out to the point that lord Geoffrey of Mayenne, bishop of Angers, came to inspect the place in question. And, when he was unable to peacefully impose an end to the contentious quarrel, he determined that a judicial battle [duellum] ought to be fought concerning this matter between Engelardus and the monks at the villa which is called Vi, doing so under his [the bishop's] judgment. In which place, after neither the bishop nor the great lords who had gathered there were able to bring concord, they [the bishop and lords] observed, against their will, the two champions taking an oath on the sacrament and deciding [the issue] with shields and staves [scutis et bacculis] for most of the day. And just as it is written that God opposes the prideful, so he weakened the champion of Engelardus, so that the enemies of the holy martyrs [saints] Sergius and Bacchus were utterly terrified; where these enemies had previously not wanted to make peace [with the monks], now they themselves were the ones who suggested it. They offered to the monks as a means of concord the entire tithe [ten percent] of the mills and the fish caught there, as well as four deniers in rent from every mill that either existed there now or would exist there in the future. Truly, prior to this the monks had possessed nothing but four deniers in rent. When the lord Abbot Bernard had accepted this offer with the counsel of the bishop, the monks, and their friends, he conceded to them [Engelardus and his friends] the entire [portion of the] river [in the following way], namely so that they could construct up to six mills there without trouble, and so that they should render [to the monastery] the tithe of the mills, the tithe of fish, and four deniers in rent for each mill. In return for this peace agreement, first Ernaldus, and then Arnaldus and Bovellus, kissing the hand of Abbot Bernard, made a gift of this matter with a certain little plowshare [cultellus]; they also promised to depute millers by means of oaths and sacraments from the side of the monks as well as from their own. Lest this [decision] seem [unduly] harsh to them, lord Abbot Bernard and the monks who were with him conceded to them and to their wives the benefit of Saint-Serge and promised that the days of their deaths would be recorded in the [monks'] martyrology for anniversary commemorations.

Witnesses: Bishop Geoffrey, Warner the archdeacon [of Angers], Albericus the chaplain, Richard of Valle, Fulk of Mathefelon, Mainardus Bovet, Geoffrey of Briollay, Abbo his brother, Warin of Bremo, Hildebert his nephew, Burchard of Greio, Mauritius of Escharbot, Aimery Avalon, Hugh of Clefs, Fulk of Muris, Anquitillus, Rainaldus, Burgevinus, Geoffrey his son, Gerald the prefect, Ratfredus, Albert Malus Michinus, Robert of Albergiis, and many others.

[the charter, as well as the dispute, continues]

Source: Cartulaire de l'abbaye de Saint-Serge, 2 vols., ed. Yves Chauvin, Memoire dactylographie soutenu devant la Faculte des Lettres de Caen (1969), vol. 1, no. 244, pp. 285- 288.


2. Abbots Daibert and Otbrannus prevent a battle between their monks, 27 and 28 April, 1064

Concerning the concord made between the monks of Saint Aubin and the monks of Saint Serge concerning the weir of the mill of Varennes

Let it be known to all faithful of the holy church of God, and especially to our successors, that a serious altercation arose between the monks of Saint-Serge [of Angers] and the monks of Saint-Aubin [of Angers] over the land to be used for the weir at the mill of Varennes. The monks of Saint Serge affirmed that ancient custom required that the weir be constructed from the [plot of] land placed in front of the mill. The monks of Saint Aubin, however, did not want to concede that the land placed around the mill was to be used for building a weir. The dispute concerning this matter grew so great that the members of the household of each monastery were preparing to contend with staves and shields against each other concerning this matter. Such a turn of events disheartened abbot Daibert of Saint Serge beyond measure, especially since it might cause monks to want to fight against other monks. He [Abbot Daibert], employing the greatest supplication, sent word to Abbot Otbrannus of Saint Aubin [to warn him] lest such an unheard of evil as this occur and lest monks, who ought to show the example of concord and peace to others, become the cause of perdition. He [Otbrannus], complying with Daibert's healthy suggestions, did not delay in coming meet Daibert. Otbrannus decided, for the sake of the bond of peace and love that ought to be observed [between them], to give four arpents of land for the building of the weir; the four arpents were worth sixteen pennies, which were collected in Angers on the feast of Saint-Aubin. Otbrannus gave two of the four arpents to Saint-Serge, one to Aimery, the brother of Andefredus, and the fourth to Goslin Tardivus (for which the abbot accepted five shillings from Goslin). For the stone necessary to build the weir at the mill, he [Daibert] accepted from the abbot [Otbrannus] or his friends twenty shillings according to the following agreement, so that if they [the monks of Saint Serge] desire it, they [the monks of Saint-Aubin] shall approve as much work as will be all around the weir, and that they [the monks of Saint-Aubin] shall pay a rent each year of four pennies along with the aforesaid [land]. Beyond those twenty pennies, six pennies are to be paid to the abbot of Saint Serge or his friends as the anciently instituted rent for the mooring dues of the weir and the half-arpent of land belonging to the mill - one quarter of land above [the mill] and the other below; this is to be paid at the vicus of Leionis on the feast of Saint Martin of Vertavensis.

This agreement was made in the cloister of Saint Maurice [the cathedral-chapter of Angers] on April 27; on the next day it was re-affirmed and authorized in the chapter-house of Saint Aubin, with all the monks, and others who had gathered there for that reason, listening. This was done in the year of the lord 1064.

The names of the witnesses are described below: lord Daibert, abbot of Saint Serge; Otbrannus abbot of Saint Aubin; Durandus, monk of Saint Aubin and scribe; Ivo; Walter; Ernald; Rainald the Grammarian; Ansierus the dean; Warin the canon; Berno the vicar; Warin the cellarer of the count; Gerald Calvellus; Fulcherius son of Rainald; Robert his brother; Sigebrannus, vassal of the bishop; Andefredus; Ansaldus; Ralph; Odenellus; Dagobertus the merchant; John of Bonne Valle; Richard Mesle Bien; Achard vassal of the bishop; Primald the forester; Rivallon Guenchia; Giraldus; Adam.

Source: Cartulaire de l'abbaye de Saint-Serge, 2 vols., ed. Yves Chauvin, Memoire dactylographie soutenu devant la Faculte des Lettres de Caen (1969), vol. 1, no. 216, pp. 263-265.


3. Trouble between St Martin of Tours and Holy Cross of Talmont leads to a judicial battle, 1098

Notice relating how the monks of Fontaines [a priory of St Martin of Tours] recovered their marsh at Angles through the proof of a judicial battle held against the monks of Talmont

Lest devouring age succeed in destroying or abolishing the memory of the most important things, the pious and clement authority of our ancestors decided that whatever might be necessary for posterity to know ought to be written down under the seal of letters. Surely those things which are surrendered to the divine cult and which are distributed by God-fearing men and by those descending into the tomb for the sake of their own souls and the souls of their kin, saving the administrators of churches, if they are not announced by the notice of written documents, will be forgotten through idleness and shall be overwhelmed over time by oblivion. But because a written list of many reasons intended to banish quarrels is wont to be seen as truth by those ignorant [of the truth], these things which by reason of utility should not be cut off from the notice of our successors should be transmitted by us through written charters. [a rough translation of the first paragraph]

This therefore is the explanation of the controversy which the monks of Saint Martin of Tours, who lived at Fontaines serving God and His beloved Saint John the Baptist, had waged with the monks of the Holy Cross of Talmont, with the canons of Angles, and with all others who had attempted to seize with violent hands the entire marsh of Angles, which was bounded by the canal of the river Chaionis and the canal of Saint Mary. The efforts of these enemies to seize the marsh, whether by [citing] the unjust gift of Pippin son of Chalo or by [engaging] in simple fraud, were proved false by the prior donation of the marsh to St Martin by William the Youth of Talmont.

The above-mentioned Pippin, since he was nephew and heir of the late William the Youth, did not, in truth, maintain William's alms as a distinct unit, as would have been just; [instead], violently seizing the aforesaid marsh, he retained the greater part of it as his private reserve and stubbornly distributed the remainder [of the marsh] to the canons of Angles and to whomever he pleased.

When, truly, Ainulfus, who was then the prior of Fontaines, and the other brothers [ie., monks] who were with him, strenuously complained to the said Pippin and others concerning this violent invasion, he in the end, was moved by their complaint. Thus he gave the tithe of his enclosure, which came from the very marsh which he, as was already related, had seized, equally to Saint Martin and Saint John the Baptist; [but] he conceded and offered the same enclosure to the monks in the following way, such that if he should want to alienate it from himself, he would give it to no one save Saint Martin and his monks, who held right to it.

Yet after only a few days had passed, Pippin, on his deathbed, relinquished the aforesaid enclosure to [the monastery of] the Holy Cross of Talmont; the monks of Holy Cross affirmed the truth of this gift.

The monks of Fontaines, however, after they had heard of this [new] gift, disputed it as unjust. Yet because their complaint about the gift was going nowhere, the monks approached Count William of Poitou, lamenting and promising [him] money so that he might make right to them concerning the monks of Talmont, who, relying on the gift of Pippin, were fraudulently keeping hold of the marsh at Angles.

He [the count] forthwith commanded the abbot of Holy Cross of Talmont to appear before him to answer [literally "to make right"] concerning this matter. And when the claims of both parties had been narrated before the count, Odo de Roches, at the request both of the count and of everyone else, judged that the monks of Saint Martin, according to the charter of prior donation which had been read out there, namely the donation made by the late William, ought to demonstrate through the approbation of judicial combat [duellum] that the marsh, concerning which such a great contention had arisen, had been given to Saint Martin and Saint John in the same [initial charter of] donation.

And then they came to Moutiers-les-Maufaits at the count's command to decide the issue between them through a judicial combat. Finally the armed champions were both led to the church, where they both pronounced themselves ready to take the oath.

But the champion of Saint Martin, who agreed to go first in swearing the oath with his hand being held, swore to the aforesaid Odo the following oath so that all could hear: "When William the Youth of Talmont, about whom I am capable of speaking, gave the land of Fontaines and the land of Angles to Saint Martin and Saint John in his charter and gift, he included the marsh in that gift." Then, truly, the other champion claimed that he had perjured himself with this oath.

When everyone hurried to reach the area where champions habitually were led to decide such matters through judicial combat, the canons of Angles came to Prior Ainulfus and the other monks of Fontaines, asking that they [the monks of Fontaines] include them in the trial by combat against the monks of Holy Cross. He [Ainulfus] freely agreed to their request, and not only accepted them jointly in this proof by combat but also accepted all others who were known to hold anything in that marsh.

And when the champions came together to do combat, the injustice [done by the monks of Holy Cross] did not remain in doubt for very long, but was quickly revealed by the Lord. In fact the champion of the monks of Holy Cross and their allies was shamefully defeated and laid low without delay, and he thus acquired nothing else for the monks of Holy Cross save the highest shame and the greatest harm. Weighed down with shame and sadness on account of this defeat, they [the monks of Holy Cross], weeping and overcome with sadness, departed along with those others who had wanted to seize the marsh belonging to Saint Martin. The monks of Fontaines and their champion, on the other hand, offering immense thanks to the most just judges, God and their patron saint, Saint Martin, returned quickly and joyfully to their house in order to take possession of their rights.

So that the truth of these things which are recorded above might be believed, not one but a large number of proper witnesses were introduced to strengthen the testimony of the truth.

Sign of Odo de Roches; Sign of Bernard his brother; Sign of Gilbert de Veluire; Sign of Peter de Bullo; Sign of William son of Herbert; Sign of Hugh his son; Sign of Engelbald Buzanus; sign of Peter Maschinoth; sign of William his brother; sign of Peter son of Robert; sign of Bernard Bardeth; sign of Ralph de Forte; sign of William de Forte; sign of Gobinus de Olone; sign of Ascelin Porcerius; sign of William son of Hugh; sign of Leovinus Maschinus; sign of Rannulf son of Engoffridus; sign of Alexander his brother; sign of Rannulf Robelinus; sign of Pagan Caboth; sign of Goslin son of Achardus; sign of Gerald son of Hugh; sign of Pagan his brother; sign of William Salcinus; signo f Peter de Peroso; sign of Rainald Buchardus; sign of Ainulf the prior [of Fontaines]; sign of Robert the monk; sign of William the monk; sign of Walter the monk; sign of Alfred the monk; sign of Gerald the Bearded; sign of Martin the famulus [member of the household, probably of the monks' household]; sign of John the famulus; sign of Bernard son of Noel of Angles; sign of Oldrea Thionis.

Source: Paul Marchegay, "Duel judiciaire entre des communautes religieuses, 1098," Bibliotheque de l'Ecole des Chartes, 1 (1839-1840): 552-564. Marchegay provides the Latin text and a commentary.


4. Abbot Robert of Mont-Saint-Michel seeks the right to determine where duels are held.

In the 1155th year from the incarnation of the lord, namely the second year of the reign of Henry king of the English, in the same year in which Abbot Robert [of Torigny] was called to the rule of the monastery of Saint-Michael [ie., in the year he became abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel]

In the same year when Abbot Robert wanted to hold a [judicial] duel [duellum] concerning the honor [estate] of Saint Paternus at Mont-Saint-Michel, William of Saint-John prohibited any judicial battle [bellum] concerning the honor of Saint-John to be held in any place outside the same honor. The same abbot, at the [royal] assize at Domfront, presented this ruling to Arnulf, bishop of Lisieux, and Robert de Neubourg, who were the royal justices; with the consideration of the royal court it was judged that all the barons of Normandy who held [their fiefs] directly from the lord of Normandy, just as the abbot of Mont-Saint-Michel did, were able, if they wanted, to hold all their judicial battles, even those stemming from their most remote fiefs, at their primary residence. [Done] with Robert de Neubourg, Hasculf de Sollegn..., and Gilbert de Campell... as witnesses.

Source: Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. lat. 5430A, p. 15.


© All texts translated by Richard Barton, 1998

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