One of the interesting bits that caught my eye while researching the post on Islam in Francia was the story of Duke Maurontus, and how he “invited” the Arabs of Narbonne to occupy his city of Avignon. That a duke of Christendom would voluntarily surrender his fortified city to the dread Saracens seemed incredible, so naturally I wanted to take a closer look.
Avignon is part of Provence, a region with long ties to the Mediterranean, and one that had an uneasy relationship with the Franks to the north. In the first few decades of the eighth century two great families dominated Provence: the first family was led by a bishop named Abbo, and they controlled the passes into Lombardy; the second family was led by Duke Maurontus, and they controlled the coast, including Avignon and the mouth of the Rhone river. Bishop Abbo allied himself with Charles Martel, which proved to be a deciding factor in the struggle for Provence, and a smart decision by Abbo.