Well of souls

Sometime in the 9th century, in the remains of the Roman town called Intaranum, in region of Burdundium, the bodies of more than twenty men, women, and children were tossed into a well, a well that had once fed the local Roman baths. It is the largest mass grave from Carolingian times ever discovered on the Continent. It must have been a horrific scene.

From July through December of 2013 the Institut national de recherches archeologiques preventives (Inrap) conducted excavations in the modern day village of Entrains-sur-Nohain. Inrap conducts rescue (or preventive) digs in advance of planned development. They excavated about a quarter of an acre (close to 11,000 square feet) and found part of a Roman road, hot and cold baths, some stone houses, an ironworking workshop, and a couple of wells to supply the baths.1.I gleaned all of the details about the dig and results from a press release issued by Inrap. There are a lot of references to the discovery across the interwebs, but all of them simply parrot the press release. Like me.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. I gleaned all of the details about the dig and results from a press release issued by Inrap. There are a lot of references to the discovery across the interwebs, but all of them simply parrot the press release. Like me.

Uncertain birth of a king

Charlemagne’s death, funeral, tomb and will are described in great detail by Einhard. A couple of posts ago I talked about the bones in Charlemagne’s tomb, and how almost thirty years of study had finally come to the conclusion that the bones belonged, in fact, to the great man himself. The death of an emperor was an event of great import. Obviously the birth of the first son of a king, the grandson of a king-maker, was documented in as much detail, right?

Wrong. Even the date of Charlemagne’s birth was an unanswerable question in his own lifetime. “I believe it would be improper [for me] to write about Charles’s birth and infancy, or even his childhood, since nothing [about those periods of his life] was ever written down and there is no one still alive who claims to have knowledge of these things.”1.Einhard, Life of Charlemagne, ch.4, in Dutton, Charlemagne’s Courier, p.4.

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Einhard, Life of Charlemagne, ch.4, in Dutton, Charlemagne’s Courier, p.4.

Summary of the Carolingian arts

Art, and the talk about art, reflect the culture that produces it. This was as true for the Carolingians as it is for us today.

This particular post won’t be going into all the arguments about the relative merits of the Hiberno-Anglo school of manuscript production compared to the Carolingian court school. That is for a later day. This post will be a simple summary of the types of art produced in the 8th century, and a few words about them.

First of all, as with all things early medieval, there is not a lot to work with. Most anything made of wood or cloth has not survived, which means we are missing out on those items which are cheapest and most easy to produce. Anything easy to produce would probably have reflected views not always sanctioned by the abbots, counts, and kings of the day. Thus the art we have reflects an elite or official view of the world, but it is what we have.

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