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Agilolfing-Era Charters from Freising (8th Century)


The charters here are a subset of those translated in Agilolfing-Era Charters from Freising (8th Century)

Translated by Jonathan Couser

Courser Introduction:

The Cathedral of St. Mary and (from 768) St. Corbinian at Freising in Bavaria preserved one of the fullest collections of charters from the fringes of the Carolingian world.  About 125 documents survive from the fifty-year period when the Agilolfing dynasty of dukes ruled, prior to Charlemagne’s takeover of the Bavarian duchy in 788, and hundreds more from after that date.  A few samples from the earlier part of this collection are translated here.  

To use charters effectively as historical sources, it is often important to read them in the context of the collection of which they form a part.  Charters are legal documents; as a result, their form and content are generally dictated by formulaic patterns, either copied from a model-book or “formulary” with the relevant details filled in the blanks, or simply composed by the scribe’s familiarity with appropriate styles.  Thus, for instance, if one were to read a single charter individually one might be impressed by the piety of the donor, meditating on the fate of his soul in the afterlife; but when the identical explanation of donors’ motivations appear in dozens of charters, one can see that this is simply part of the stereotyped format.  

Most charters have a set of standard components: The “protocol,” or introduction, may invoke the name of God, identify the donor, and offer a greeting.  The “corpus” or body of the document may include: an “arenga,” or “harangue,” in which the donor gives the reasoning for the gift he is about to make: a “narratio,” which describes the events leading up to the decision to make the gift: a “dispositio,” the legal declaration that the donor actually makes the gift and a description of the gift itself.  The dispositio often includes stereotyped lists of possible forms of property, which are not necessarily a description of the actual property but simply intended to indicate that all the real estate at the site is included: and a sanctio, which forbids anyone, particularly the donor’s heirs, from trying to revoke the gift, with threats of spiritual and temporal punishments.  Finally, in order to make the donation legally binding, the “eschatocol” or conclusion will give names of witnesses, a clause naming the date and place where the donation was made (often not the same as the location of the real estate given), and a notarization by the scribe.  

Dating the charters sometimes poses a challenge.  The documents here are not preserved in their original parchments, but as copies entered into a “Donation Book” early in the ninth century; sometimes the dating clauses were left out by the copyist.  Even when recorded, they are not always clear.  Anno Domini dating was not in general use in the eighth century in legal documents, though chroniclers had begun to use it.  Instead, scribes relied on a combination of systems.  The year is therefore usually expressed in regnal years, most often of the Bavarian duke but sometimes of the Frankish king.  One needs to remember, of course, that these reigns did not begin on January 1, so, for instance, the fourth year of King Pippin’s reign might mean 756 or 757 depending on the month.  The month and day was usually given by the old Roman system, which did not count days of the month from one to thirty or thirty-one, but counted backwards from either the Kalends (the first of the month) or the Ides (the middle days of the month).  Thus, the second of the Kalends of December is November 30.  In addition, some charters refer to the indiction cycle, a twelve-year sequence used for tax assessment in the Roman Empire, long obsolete by the eighth century but still used by scribes as a way to cross-reference the ruler’s year.  

Charters can be used to approach a number of important historical questions.  Politically, they often show the ruler in interaction with important church institutions and individuals in his realm, permitting or encouraging donations or making them himself.  They also give some indication of social groupings; a few charters, by naming unfree persons who are included in the donation, allow fleeting glimpses of peasant life, while the witness lists, especially when compared with one another, can enable scholars to reconstruct kinship groups.  Of course, there is also the economic dimension.  Often the only image we get of aristocratic landholding patterns comes from seeing the patterns of donations to churches.  

The charters also give us our best sense of what kinds of wealth were available for aristocrats to dispose of.  Finally, while the expressions of piety in the charters are generally stereotyped, even the stereotypes can tell us something.  They show what society thought a donor’s motivations ought to have been (whether or not the donor in an individual case was really feeling what his charter claimed).  Sometimes we also see variations in the stereotyped formula, suggesting that the donor’s personal expression is coming through.  

Translated by Jonathan Couser from Theodor Bitterauf, ed., Die Traditionen des Hochstifts Freising (Munich, 1905), vol. I.  

All errors are my own and corrections welcome - JBC.

Bishops Ermbert (730?-748) and Joseph (748-764)

TF 1: Moatbert grants his paternal estate to Zolling with its accessories (Freising, 9/12/744).  


Our lord and redeemer of all Jesus Christ calls out with a clear voice, saying, “Store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither rust nor moth destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  

So I, Moatbert, together with my spouse, named Totana, to follow this example insofar as I am able, have given whatever my father Petto left me as an inheritance in the place called Zolling and whatever appears to belong to me there by law, to the house of St. Mary ever Virgin in Freising where the bishop Ermbert is seen to preside; I give and transfer in all to the named house, into the hand of bishop Ermbert in the presence of the whole household (familia) of St. Mary, that is houses, enclosures, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, springs and running streams, unfree persons, beasts, cattle, and all the tools, by means of this firm donation, and after my death and my wife’s may this estate be an estate of the saints’ in perpetuity from me and my [descendants], so that if any of my heirs or any opposing persons whosoever should wish to oppose or break this donation, let him incur first the wrath of God and of all the saints and angels, let him be excommunicated [agmina extraneus permaneat] and may he be condemned to unbreakable shackles and may he not be able to excuse himself and let him be culpable to earthly justice for 50 gold shillings and let him return quadruple restitution and may this donation still remain firm and stable by this attached stipulation.  

Done in the citadel [castra] of Freising in the month of September on the 12th day, in the eighth year of the most glorious duke Odilo.

+sign of Moatbert, who asked that this donation be made and his wife Totana also, along with those consenting and confirming.  

+sign of the priest Quartinus +sign of the priest Felix +sign of the judge Anulo +sign of the judge Regino +sign of Cuno +sign of Sindo sign of Maurinus +sign of Hroado +sign of Hroadunc +sign of Wurmhart +sign of Reginolf +sign of Reginpald +sign of Cundpald sign of Cympho +sign of Chimmi +sign of Birtilo sign of Ato 

I, Benignus, an unworthy priest, wrote and subscribed [this document], with duke Odilo’s confirmation.  


TF4: Notice of Bishop Joseph’s founding of Isen and donations to the same.  (748-760).  


Be it known to all faithful and true men, that the lord Bishop Joseph gathered together with many faithful and true men and granted property which would pertain to the house of St. Zeno, which was built below the river called the Isen.  Some [of this property] the lord Bishop Joseph acquired with money, other [property] was given and donated by faithful men and turned over to the house of God that we spoke of before, and they gave a share of the territory to St. Zeno, that they might happily gain a heavenly homeland to possess and set their souls free from danger.  

First, Duke Odilo gave eight inhabited mansi (1) and Joseph himself acquired and provided six inhabited mansi.  Ramwolf gave seven mansi.  Alpolt gave five mansi.  Eccho gave five mansi.  Altumar the priest gave three mansi.  Sundarheri gave four mansi.  Pirhtilo gave two mansi.  Heimperht gave one mansus.  Warmunt gave one mansus.  Eiho gave one mansus.  Hittilo gave one mansus.  Hulzilo gave two mansi.  Reginheri gave three mansi.  Timo gave three mansi and whatever he had on that day.  Pernhart gave a colonia.  Wolfheri gave a colonia. 

  1.   A mansus was a measure of farmland, theoretically enough to support one peasant family, in Frankish law.  A colonia was a farmstead in Roman law, also theoretically occupied by one tenant family; it is not clear why the document distinguishes between grants of coloniae and those of mansi; perhaps local custom used the terms for properties of different size.  


TF 6: Chuniperht gives ten mansi with unfree persons at Pang to the church at Isen.  (Isen, August 8, 752).


While meditating in the name of God and thinking about my soul and the future life, that I might deserve to receive indulgence with the good Lord in abundance, I, the sinner Chuniberht [sic] give and transfer my property, which my father Adalperht left me as an inheritance, to the church of St. Zeno which is located below the river called Isen; I give and transfer, to this place of the saints where I already mentioned, everything whatsoever we have in the place which is called Pang [Paingas] with all things acquired there, whatever belongs under our ownership [potestate], that is 10 mansi with [their] households: first Pollo and his wife Mahthilt with their household, Eparhelm and his wife, likewise Oadalheid, Frocnolf with  his wife Liupkis with his wife, Lantuni and his wife, Agilolf and his wife, Wacheri and his wife, Hartinc and his wife, Horsculf and his wife, Otheri and his wife, again Liuphaid with two children and all these [lands] with the tenants [coloni] and their wives and sons and households and with them all the tools and other things which we have been able to find: these things likewise we confirm as before in the presence of Bishop Joseph and the other priests and all the people who stand nearby.  And with his own hand he (Bishop Joseph) placed [this charter] on the altar of St. Zeno and gave all the aforesaid property by virtue of this firm charter of donation, and if I myself or any of my heirs or any opposing persons whatsoever should wish to come against this donation or break it, first let them incur the wrath of God and be excommunicated from all the places of the saints and be seen to be outside and furthermore let them compensate five pounds of gold and ten pounds of silver by distraint of the fisc and let them not be excused, but let the present charter remain firm and stable by the attached stipulation.  

Done in the church of St. Zeno in the fifth year of the reign of Duke Tassilo on the 6th of the ides of August.

And here are the witnesses: +sign of Chuniperht who had this charter made.  +sign of Victor the deacon.  Sign of Sigiperht.  +sign of Hulzilo +sign of Virecudi the cleric  +sign of Sladio the judge +sign of Erlohc  +sign of Irminhart +sign of Balduni the priest.  +sign of Deotric +sign of Timuni +sign of Haholt sign of Hailrat

I, the unworthy priest Alprih, wrote this charter with my own hand as asked and requested.  


TF11: Haholt gives his property with a church at Ausser(inner)bittlbach and consecrates his son Arn to the Freising church (Isen, 5/25/758)


In the name of Christ.  I, Haholt declare to everyone living in the province of Bavaria, how, for the sake of the sins I have committed it happened to me that, wounded by a certain man and despairing of my life, I agreed with the advice given by my relations, that I should call Bishop Joseph for the consolation of my soul (i.e. the last rites) and to receive my son named Arn to his counsel.  And this venerable bishop came to my sick bed as he was asked and took counsel with us, that I should build a church on my patrimony at Bittlbach.  And I Haholt, having heard this advice, rejoicing for his mercy, did just as he said, and when the church was built I invited the same bishop Joseph to dedicate that church and he performed the dedication as I asked.  When it was dedicated, with the advocacy of my wife and my son Arn together with all my relations, with their advice and consent and the imposition of their hands I gave whatever I have of my patrimony in the aforesaid place firmly into the hands of Bishop Joseph, that by this grant bring made it may belong firmly to the house of St. Mary at Freising from the present day, except that my son Arn may hold it until the end of his life in benefice from the house of St. Mary to enhance my action (causam), to improve it, and not to diminish it in anything.  I have agreed to this and confirmed it with witnesses.  Afterwards divine benevolence gave [me] a space of life and strength of body and soul, I wanted to come to Freising and to confirm this grant, but by the grace of divine favor Bishop Joseph agreed to come to the river Isen, to the cell and oratory of St. Zeno.  And I, Haholt, returning with my wife and our son Arn, coming to the bishop in the presence of many gathered people, I and my wife together offered our dear son Arn, with outstretched, uplifted hands, to the altar of St. Mary in the house built to St. Zeno, that he might remain with all our patrimony in this offering to the house of St. Mary at Freising, whatever we have at this present time with whatever we may gather or be able to acquire to belong to us, unfree persons, enclosures (curtiferis), buildings, beasts of burden, fields, meadows, cultivated and uncultivated, pastures, woods, fruit trees, flour mills, wells and running waters, we give all in all perpetually to Freising to the house of St. Mary the virgin for the redemption of our souls.  

This was done at Isen in the house of St. Zeno in the year of the Lord’s incarnation 758 in the 11th indiction in the 11th year of the reign of Duke Tassilo in the month of May on the 8th of the Kalends of June.  

These are the witnesses pulled by the ears: Heilrat.  Eio.  Ratolt.  Oato.  Podalunc.  Eodunc.  Vurmheri.  Helmperht.  Cawo.  Eonolt.  Wolfheri.  Willahelm.  Cotehelm.  Timo.  

The priest Heres wrote up this charter of donation by the order of Bishop Joseph and the request of Haholt and his son Arn, the donors.  

  1.  While not the first charter chronologically, this is the first document to appear in the ninth-century manuscript of the collection.  Arn, who is given to the church of Freising here, rose to become Archbishop of Salzburg.  He had died shortly before the compilation was made, so this charter’s prominence memorializes Freising’s greatest “alumnus” as well as recording the property grant.  

Bishop Arbeo (764-783)


TF 13. a) Adalunc donates his and his son Hununc’s property with an oratory at Abens. (May 31, 759, Abens) b) The priest Hununc renews this gift.  (before 767).  


a) In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I, Adalunc, in the name of God meditating and thinking of eternal beatitude and of the future life for the healing of my soul and those of my ancestors have constructed an oratory in a place which is called Abens and I have summed the Lord Bishop Joseph to consecrate that oratory and I have granted the whole portion of my substance and also the portions of my son, named Hununc; we have granted to that altar whole and complete the fields, meadows, woods, and running waters, paths, and whatever pertained to that place of our allod or pertained to our rights.  And thus performed by my and my son’s hands together we have granted to the aforesaid altar of the episcopal house of St. Mary in the place called Freising, in the hands of Bishop Joseph, by the attached stipulation and we have confirmed it with witnesses.  

Done in the said place on the consular day which was made before the Kalends of June (May 31), in the twelfth year of the reign of the lord and most illustrious Duke Tassilo.  

These are the names of the witnesses: Arbeo the archpriest.  Victor the Deacon.  Liutprant the deacon.  Waltrih the deacon.  Orilan the deacon.  

b) Therefore I Hununc, called priest in the name of God, in a severe sickness have given the grant of the same church anew, with all the pertinences at this place of our allod and any acquisition gained by us whole and entire with the consent of the most high duke Tassilo to the said house of St. Mary of Freising; I have set that charter with my own hand upon the said altar and confirmed the grant of my father and I have asked it to be recorded by my own hand together with witnesses.  

And these are the names of the witnesses: Popo, witness.  Reginolf, Adalker witnesses.  Liutprant the priest.  Pern the priest.  Reginpald. Angilperht.  Adalperht.  Helmperht.  

I, the unworthy Horskeo, called a deacon, wrote this.  


TF 19.  Reginperht endows the church he has founded at Scharnitz with property at Polling, Flauerling, Imst and elsewhere.  Scharnitz, 6/29/763.


In the name of God.  As I, Reginperht, was thinking and meditating on my soul and the future life, that I might deserve to receive reward in quantity with the good Lord, I prepared with the approval of my brother Irminfrid and our mother Ackilinda and our relatives Otilo and Croso in the wilderness (solitudine) of Scharnitz where I constructed a church in honor of the blessed Peter, prince of the Apostles, and I have transferred my own patrimony and substance in hope of a monastery there by my own hand and the hand of the venerable Bishop Joseph with the consent of the most illustrious Duke Tassilo and his satraps and the undefined property of those neighbors who consent, first of all my share of the district of Vallenensis in the villages named Polling and Flauerling and my share in the town of Imst, likewise outside the hills in the village of Schlehdorf by name, and in Hofheim and in the village which is called Sindelsdorf, likewise also in Schoengeising (Kisingas) all our land as I have added for the increase of its just fruits in the village of Pasing and by saying in Graefelfing (Grefoluinga) and our share in the district of Rottachgau (Rotahgauue) in the village which is called Kurttambach (Curtana) next to the river Pfriem (Fruen), so called  by the custom of the village, for I have not now prepared the wilderness district which we called the Wallgau (Wallhogoi) with the adjacent lake and fishery and between the course of the Isar at the same place which appears to attach to it, all the aforesaid villages and the land in them whatever may happen to be in our share in their land both free persons and tenants and unfree persons, cottages, enclosures, beasts of burden, flocks (pecodis – might also mean sheep pens), Alpine pastures, springs and their courses, mills, meadows, pastures, all plowlands with their appurtenances of copper and steel and ceramic and wood or whatever we have seen to be ours by right, I have granted and transferred to be under the lordship or the blessed Peter prince of the Apostles, left in the said place for the common possession of the brothers who are seen to commemorate (the mass) there, and that from the same place in the adjoining diocese, that is Freising at St. Mary to the bishop who is seen to be there, it is seen that a census goes out, that is two putties for the sake of stability in the established rule of the fathers, that the lordship of the bishop should not lack for the ordination of an abbot with the consent of the brothers dwelling there.  

Likewise also Akilind our mother in the said villages, granted her share of the land at the same place.  In the same way Irminfrid has granted his own share and if his sons are born to him, let them receive his share as much as belongs to them.  Moreover let my share remain firm and stable, and if there are no sons, may all my patrimony be confirmed to the said place after my death and this is by the consent of the most illustrious Duke Tassilo.  In addition Otilo with similar intent with the consent of the aforesaid duke if he should beget no sons or daughters, grants his patrimony in its entirety, but if sons should be born, let them receive their share and that share which should come to me, the said Otilo, remain a firm and stable grant to the said place of Scharnitz.  But Cros, pierced by the admonition of God and incurably wounded by Count Keparoh, stricken in the place called Ober/unterbachern (Pahhara), himself with all his substance, with the consent of the our highest prince Tassilo, he grants to the same said place and receives the sign of the crown (i.e. the tonsure) from Archpriest Arbeo.  

If anyone should attempt to come against this (charter), whether our relatives or strangers, let him be judged before God and the Apostle Peter by this statement.  

Done in the wilderness of Scharnitz sub die consule (3) which is the third of the Kalends of July in the sixteenth year of the reign of the most illustrious Duke Tassilo in the presence of Bishop Joseph, who encouraged the matter and Archpriest Arbeo, whom we have zealously commended to be given the church with the donation to govern it. (4)   

These are the witnesses:  First, Bishop Joseph and Archpriest Arbeo.  Riholf, priest.  Albinus, priest.  Hato, priest.  Erchanfrid.  Irminfrid the donor.  Otilo the donor.  Kermunt.  Landpald.  David.  Adalperht.  Situli.  Liutolt.  Leidrat.  Chuniperht.  Reginpald.  Cuntpald and others without number.  

I, Arbeo, confirmed this donation as asked and commanded by Bishop Joseph and subscribed the witnesses.  

  1.  “Sub die consule” appears in many Freising charters.  It is actually meaningless, apparently taken from a formulary which intended “die” as the spot to write in the day and “consule” to give the current Roman consuls (and thus identify the year of writing), a formula which was obsolete after the mid-sixth century and no longer understood.  

  2.  Arbeo was apparently put in charge of the new monastery, but oddly the document does not call him abbot.  It is possible that Bishop Joseph was considered the real abbot and Arbeo was more like a prior, representing Joseph’s authority.  Joseph died the following year and Arbeo became the new Bishop of Freising, so the arrangement rapidly became irrelevant.  We later find a Hatto as Abbot of Scharnitz, who in turn succeeded Arbeo as bishop; possibly the monastery became a place to “groom” likely episcopal successors, training them in administrative and pastoral responsibilities.  

  3.  This comment is probably not part of the original document, but added by the ninth-century copyist, who tired of copying out an extensive but long-irrelevant witness list.  The foundation event was probably a very large assembly of the region’s notables.  


TF29:  Wurmhart gives a third of his property to the Marienkirche at Rott am Inn (1/15/769)


Quitclaim or donation to the holy places.  While the Lord Jesus Christ [said] to count the heavenly prize according to the scripture: “The world perishes and the things that are in the world, but that which is asked in the churches or for the poor never perishes, but is held in eternal memory for righteousness, therefore I, Wurmhart, in the name of God, thinking for the health of my soul and toward the eternal retribution to come came to the decision for my spirit, give from the present day, and wish it to be given in perpetuity, to that church at Rott (Rota) built in honor of St. Mary where the priest Dominicus is seen to preside as priest at the present time, that is the third part of all my property in that village of whatever belongs to me by law, all that it may have in that day, whether mansi or unfree tenants, fields, lands cultivated or uncultivated, pastures and all woodland meadows, waters and running streams as we have said above.  

On account of this donation we have asked it to be done, that a part of the same written above [be] for our successors, that they may do as they wish from that day, that is to hold it, govern it, transfer it and leave it to their successors or whatever he may choose to be done, let him have free and secure authority in all things.  

Therefore I and my wife, if a son should be born to us and lead his life, rejoicing in God it pleases us, that he should have authority over two parts and my mother of my patrimony, that is a mansus, a man, and a woman and unfree persons with all their resources, but should such a child not come to life or if he should pass away, after his departure let his inheritance revert to the church in honor of St. Mary.  

If anyone of my heirs or any opposed person should attempt to come against this donation or wish to break it, first let him incur the wrath of God almighty and be separated from the threshold of St. Mary and the communion of the saints and let him not achieve what he sought, but let this present donation remain secure for all time by the attached stipulation, sub die consule which is the 18th of the Kalends of February, in the 21st year of the reign of the lord Duke Tassilo.  

Sign of the hands:  witnesses Atti and Adalcoz and Odalmunt.  

I Isanhart the priest, servant of the servants of God, in the name of God.  

I Dominicus the priest wrote and subscribed this letter.  Amen.  


TF30: Kepahilt transfers a church at Germersburg with her attached property.  Germersburg, 1/20/769.  


In the name of Christ.  In the eternal reign of our lord Jesus Christ, I Kepahilt have collected the property of my own which I acquired from my husband Cundpato when he was living or which came to me as a legitimate dowry or which belonged to my paternal inheritance into one [estate], a place called Germersberg (Germania vel ad Monte), in which I have built a church in honor of the blessed and ever virgin Mary with [her?] associates (6) which Bishop Heres dedicated on the 13th of the Kalends of February (January 20).  In this gift I have given two tenants, Cozpald and Prunicus, and after my death all that I possess, that is I have granted eight tenants with buildings and enclosures with houses and with all the appurtenances, with pastures and meadows, which country land and woods as well as forest with running water, to the said oratory with the consent of my son Alpriih and this church with the same said fullness (of property) to the church of the blessed mother of Christ Mary at the episcopal household located in the citadel of Freising, which I have received for usufruct in benefice from the hand of the said bishop all the days of my life, and after my death I have made it secure there in perpetuity.  

After this grant was made I confirmed it by placing my hand together with my son’s over the altar, [speaking] in the same words as above.   

These were the witnesses to it:  Ursus the priest and our nephew Cundpato.  But let us return to the order above, that if anyone of my heirs which I do not think could be, or anyone should wish to contradict or attempt to change [this], let him share in the sentence by that holy virgin of God and all the saints whose names are celebrated in that citadel and let this grant remain firm nonetheless.  

Done in the said place ad Monte in the 22nd year of the reign of lord Duke Tassilo sub die consule which was the 13th of the Kalends of February.  

And these were the witnesses:  Bishop Heres.  Ratolt, Ursus, Heimilo, priests.  Arn.  Chunihoch.  Adalperht.  Teto.  Hramperht.  Hroadperht and others without number who were also present there.  

I Heripald wrote up this letter as ordered from the mouth of Bishop Heres and confirmed the witnesses.  

  1.  “cum sociis” (with associates) is inserted here, with uncertain referents:  It could mean either the saints associated with Mary (presumably in the calendar used by the church), since it is most closely associated with Mary’s name, but might refer to Kepahilt having associates in the church’s sponsorship or, less likely, Bishop Arbeo dedicating the church with the cooperation of other bishops.  

Bishop Atto (783-811)


TF 246 (sometime between 806 and 811): BISHOP ATTO AND HROADACHAR AT ECHING

Notice of the exchange which the Lord Bishop Atto and Hroadachar made between themselves, which is that Hroadachar gave territory to the bishop in the place called Upper Eching and Bishop Atto gave him one hauberk in exchange for it.  And these are the witnesses: Chuniperht, witness.  Reginperht, witness.  Chundheri, witness.  Kaganhart, witness.  Memmo, witness. 


Theodor Bitterauf, ed., Die Traditionen des Hochstifts Freising (Munich, 1905), vol. I. .  ©Translation by Jonathan Couser ( Published here 5 March 2023.

The charters here are a subset of those translated in Agilolfing-Era Charters from Freising (8th Century)

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