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The Court Book of Mende and the Secular Lordship of the Bishop

The Court Book of Mende and the Secular Lordship of the Bishop: Recollecting the Past in Thirteenth-Century Gévaudan

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 176
  • Book Info
    The Court Book of Mende and the Secular Lordship of the Bishop
    Book Description:

    Mende is a diocese in south-central France where, in the 1260s, scribes of Bishop Odilon de Mercoeur created an extensive court book or register of litigated cases. Their intention was to develop an archive for the use of the chancery as well as to preserve thecausaeof the episcopal court. These records would later be used by Guillaume Durand the Younger to construct a version of the past which verified episcopal secular lordship and sovereignty in response to mounting intrusion by the king of France.

    For all of its importance to the history of religion in France, the court book of Mende has received little attention by historians and medieval scholars. In this study, Jan K. Bulman examines the interrelationships between the written records of the ecclesiastical court, the preservation of historical memory, and the defense of episcopal seigneurial rights. Bulman shows how the bishops of Mende followed a singular strategy to defend against loss of autonomy, one that was unique in its reliance on archival records, ancient charters, and narrative hagiography. Richly presented and comprehensively researched, this will be an indispensable work for scholars of religion and the history of medieval France.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8775-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. List of the Bishops of Mende
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. The Gévaudan in the Middle Ages
    (pp. xiv-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    This study examines the interrelationships among the written records of an ecclesiastical court, the preservation of historical memory, and the defence of episcopal seigneurial rights in southern France from the thirteenth to the early fourteenth centuries. My focus will be on the southcentral French diocese of Mende, which in the Middle Ages was located in the archdiocese of Bourges and was congruent with the medieval county of the Gévaudan.¹ In the 1260s, particular circumstances in Mende led to the creation of court books or registers of litigated cases that preserved thecausaeof the episcopal court. These court books were,...

  8. 1 The Gévaudan to about 1200: Laying the Foundations of Remembrance
    (pp. 14-27)

    Neither entirely of the north or the south, the Gévaudan has not fit easily into modern historical studies of France.¹ The primary sources for history before about 1000 are thin, but what emerges from the record is that the diocese traces its roots to the earliest days of the church in Gaul and that early origins of regional identity were formed around the story of the martyrdom of its patron saint, St Privat. Bishop of Mende Aldebert III buttressed his exercise of episcopal secular lordship by association with the cult of St Privat, although challenges to these efforts came from...

  9. 2 The Course of Secular Lordship
    (pp. 28-42)

    In this chapter, we shall see that the course of episcopal secular lordship was affected by three important events: the Albigensian wars, the growing presence of the seneschal of Beaucaire, and the appeal to the Parlement of Paris to end royal interference in the Gévaudan. The three bishops who succeeded Aldebert tried to build on his successes with uneven results, and the strength of episcopal secular lordship wavered during the episcopates of Guillaume de Peyre (1187–1222), Étienne de Brioude (1222–47), and Odilon de Mercoeur (1247–74). As the Albigensian wars were waged, Guillaume de Peyre consolidated the gains...

  10. 3 The Court Book and the Bishop’s Court
    (pp. 43-69)

    In 1268, one year before Odilon brought his suit, scribes of the chancery of the officiality of the bishop recorded the first entry in a register of cases litigated in the bishop’s court.¹ The court book documents about 276 cases; although the preponderance date from 1268 to 1270, a few entries originated in 1271.² From the court of the neighbouring diocese of Le Puy, two court books survive, covering cases with a range of dates from 1270–4 and 1274–84.³ Apart from their similar range of dates, the registers from the two dioceses have obvious correspondences. Both books address...

  11. 4 The Mémoire relatif au paréage and Historical Memory
    (pp. 70-90)

    As we have seen, the first entries in the court book correspond closely with the initiation of a suit before the Parlement in which Odilon de Mercoeur sought to end harassment by royal officials within his diocese. Odilon claimed that his exercise of secular jurisdiction in the episcopal court proved his claim and it is very likely that he regarded the court book as documentary evidence, although there is no indication that he formally introduced the court book as evidence. Odilon’s legal strategy came to fruitition some thirty-five years later, when thenbishop Guillaume Durand the Younger, nephew of the famous...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 91-96)

    This study has dealt with the ecclesiastical court book of Mende, perhaps the earliest extant example of a continuous record of litigated cases before an episcopal court. Through this extraordinary document, we have glimpsed the operation of an ecclesiastical court about one hundred years earlier than nearly any other ecclesiastical court in Europe. Consistent with the diffusion of legal culture and learning that was reflected in diplomatic evidence throughout southern France, the men working in the court were professional, trained jurists who were styledmagister,judex, andofficialis.Although there was considerable variance among cases, the court followed Roman-canonical procedure;...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 97-154)
  14. Glossary
    (pp. 155-158)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 159-172)
  16. Index
    (pp. 173-179)