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22.06.14 Evrard, L’abbaye de Lisle-en-Barrois

22.06.14 Evrard, L’abbaye de Lisle-en-Barrois

Much of what we know about the social and ecclesiastical history of medieval Europe comes from the documents preserved in cartularies. With advances in word processing and computer-assisted publishing in the last thirty years or so, there has been a laudable increase in editions of these vital records, a surprising number of which still remain unstudied as well as unavailable in print. Here Jean-Pol Evrard edits twelfth- and early thirteenth-century documents from the cartulary of the Cistercian house of Lisle-en-Barrois, located in Lorraine near Bar-le-Duc, and accompanies his edition with a long introduction.

The monastery of Lisle is one of many relatively obscure twelfth-century foundations, overshadowed by the larger and better-known Cistercian and Cluniac houses of northern France, but it was highly regarded in its region. It was originally founded as a house of canons regular in 1143, but the canons left in 1149 to be replaced by Cistercian monks. Somewhat later, probably in 1162 Evrard argues, the monks moved their house a dozen kilometers or so, from the diocese of Verdun into that of Toul and into the Barrois region. Most of the monasteries in the diocese of Verdun, including Lisle in its original location, were arranged in a wide circle with Verdun at the center, a circle located out near the diocesan borders. After the move, the monks kept their monastery’s name, Insula, taken because the house of canons had originally been situated on an island in a small river.

This volume’s introduction sets the history of Lisle in the context of twelfth-century religious reform, giving rise to houses both of canons regular and of Benedictine monks. Evrard traces and maps the growth of the monks’ holdings in the three adjacent dioceses of Verdun, Toul, and Châlons-sur-Marne (now Châlons-en-Champagne). The house’s original foundation and the later reestablishment were both located close to where the three met. He discusses the petty landowners of the region who constituted most of the donors to the monastery and gives a list of the abbots for Lisle’s first century. He also discusses several heated quarrels over property which the monks of Lisle had with other monasteries of the region. The introduction includes several images of Lisle’s documents, most unfortunately printed as low resolution, and a number of maps and graphs, printed small enough that a magnifying glass is useful.

The principal source for the twelfth- and thirteenth-century history of Lisle is its two-volume cartulary, the majority of whose documents have never been edited before. In addition, there is information about the house in a chronicle written at St.-Vanne of Verdun, the Gesta of the bishops of Verdun and the abbots of St.-Vanne. Evrard here publishes 112 acts from Lisle’s cartulary, supplemented with a few extracts from other sources where the monastery is mentioned.

The cartulary was created in the eighteenth century (completed in 1767), only a generation before the dissolution of the monastery in the French Revolution. At that point, more than half of the original documents dating to earlier than the 1220s had already disappeared, so the cartulary scribe had to work from later copies. Evrard postulates that there may once have been a medieval cartulary, which the later scribe could have used as a base, but if so, it is long gone. Most of the originals still extant in 1767 were then lost during the Revolution; Evrard was able to locate only two of them, plus a fragment of a third. The surviving originals do suggest that the eighteenth-century scribe was careful and accurate, although he restored the classical -ae- diphthong in place of the so-called e-cedilla or the simple -e-. (The edition of the charters here reverts to a simple -e-.) Evrard never makes clear whether the cartulary included documents only up to 1226 or whether the scribe also copied later documents but that the decision was made, for an unstated reason, to carry the edition only up to that point. Because the two-volume cartulary totals some 2,000 pages, it seems most likely that it included far more documents than are published here.

Based on marginal comments in the cartulary, it is possible to determine that the eighteenth-century monks of Lisle stored their charters--both originals and later copies--in cabinets, where different drawers held documents concerning different places. It appears that the cartulary followed this system of organization, with charters concerning a particular place all copied together, but unfortunately Evrard reorganized all the documents chronologically for his edition. It is standard French practice to do so, but it means that modern scholars will find it harder to see how the monks conceptualized their property and the records concerning it.

The individual documents are edited carefully and thoroughly, all previous editions listed (though for most there was no previous edition), all people and places identified (with département, arrondisement, and canton listed for all the places), and the dating explained and justified. Copious footnotes give context to events as well as referencing modern scholarship on people and events mentioned. Indexes of people, places, and unusual terms complete the volume, with greater detail than often found in such indexes; some of the individuals who appear in the charters are provided almost mini-biographies.

The increase in the number of published cartularies is to be applauded. Brepols has published several for ARTEM (Atelier de recherche sur les textes médiévaux). These include the edition of the documents of Morimond, Cîteaux’s fourth and least well-known daughter, like Lisle located on the Champagne-Lorraine border, published by Hubert Flammarion in 2014. The cartulary of Lisle-en-Barrois should be on the shelves of all research libraries, and will be of great interest to those studying either the spread of the Cistercian order or the medieval history of Lorraine.