The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

Issue 13 (August 2010)  |   Issue Editor: Larry Swain

Sources of Spirituality in the Writings of Archbishop Hincmar of Reims

Dr. James Francis LePree

Department of History, The City College of New York

© 2010 by James Francis LePree. All rights reserved. This edition copyright © 2010 by The Heroic Age. All rights reserved.

Abstract:  This article will focus on the literature and letters of Archbishop Hincmar of Reims. Although past scholarship has underscored the juridical nature of Hincmar's sources, the influence of some, such as the 829 Council of Paris, has gone almost virtually undetected. Concurrently, past studies have portrayed Hincmar as a mere verbatim copyist, his writings a mere reflection of his sources, as his treatment of the Council of Paris seems to confirm. However, as Celia Chazelle has demonstrated, many of Hincmar's writings still exist in older editions such as the Patrologia Latina and the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, while the originality of Hincmar's exegetical methodology, in his treatment of scriptural, monastic, and patristic sources has not been adequately explored nor assessed in recent scholarship (Chazelle 2003, 7, 179). Nevertheless, Hincmar's original adaption of sources such as the Regula s. Benedicti (Rule of Saint Benedict) and Ambrosiaster's late fourth century Commentarius in epistulas Paulinas (Commentary on the Letters of Saint Paul) illustrates the need for more recent critical editions of Hincmar's writings and for further studies which will enable us to assess more precisely the full extent of his literary and epistolary exegesis.


§1.  Archbishop Hincmar of Reims (845–882) was perhaps one of the most influential authors in Carolingian history. He donned the humble cloth of a monk only to transcend that humble destiny in his mission to bring spiritual perfection to an errant temporal sphere. Scholars have traditionally focused on Hincmar's role as a jurist and theologian. However, in my examination of his various sources of inspiration—monastic regulae, church canons, patristic literature, and Christian Roman law—I have uncovered a juridical source, the 829 Council of Paris, that has remained virtually undetected in Hincmar's writings. This source will provide the preliminary discussion for the study.

§2.  First, I must note that juridical sources do not sufficiently explain the nature of Hincmar's political ecclesiology. In addition to his extensive reliance on the Council of Paris, other monastic, ascetic, and patristic sources played a prominent role in Hincmar's personal and political spirituality, as they did in the writings of other earlier Carolingian authors. Thus, Hincmar's attempt to promote spiritual ideals through the use of the Council of Paris as well as his unique and original exegetical adaptation of the Regula s. Benedicti and Ambrosiaster's Commentarius in epistulas Paulinas will provide the major themes for this study.

Hincmar's Early Life

§3.  Hincmar was born c. 805 and according to the testimony of Flodoard in his Historia Remensis Ecclesiae (History of the Church of Reims) was descended from a noble and prestigious lineage. Although we are not informed about the identify of his parents, aided by the research of Jean Devisse, we can determine his ethnic background, some members of his immediate family, and some of his distant relatives with some degree of certainty. According to Devisse, Hincmar's name points to a Gothic or Saxon origin. Based on the information we have on his nephew Hincmar of Laon, we can perhaps establish his place of birth in the region of Boulogne. We know that Hincmar had two sisters, one the mother of Hincmar of Laon, and the other named Hildegard, whose son or son-in-law possessed estates in Alemannia. Moreover, as Devisse has noted, the fact that two relatives occupied more or less significant comitial positions, Bertrand in the Tardenois and Bernard II at Toulouse, places Hincmar in the ranks of the traditional German aristocracy.1

§4.  Turning to Hincmar's childhood, we know, based on the evidence of Flodoard and Hincmar's own testimony, that he was entrusted to Abbot Hilduin of the monastery of Saint-Denis and spent his formative years there learning both the spiritual and secular arts. According to Flodoard's account:

Hincmar, from childhood, in the monastery of Saint-Denis, under the guidance of Abbot Hilduin, was nourished on the milk of the Regula s. Benedicti and instructed in the study of letters. Later, on account of his nobility, he was led to the palace of Emperor Louis the Pious, where he worked with the Emperor and Abbot Hilduin under the authority of the bishops to restore monastic discipline in Saint-Denis where a faction of monks had slipped into the abyss of worldly pleasure for a long time. And so Hincmar, in order to accomplish in deed what he had persuaded by word, set a good example by having religious conversations with others and restrained himself through correction and subjected his body to spiritual servitude (Flodoard Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 3.1).2

§5.  Flodoard's evidence is confirmed by Hincmar's own recollection in 867 that from childhood he was educated in the rudiments of the monastery and received further education in the palace of the Emperor (Hincmar, Epistula 198; Depreux 1997, 257–8). Hincmar further relates that, since he had no desire to become a bishop or prelate, he took leave of the secular world by taking vows in that monastery where the rudiments of the vita regularis (monastic life) first inspired him as a child.3

Hincmar's Episcopal Career

§6.  However, contrary to his personal wishes, Hincmar was elected Archbishop of Reims c. 845 with the approval of Archbishop Wenilo of Sens and Bishop Echenrad of Paris, as well as the consent of Abbot Louis for the brothers of Saint-Denis and, of course, King Charles the Bald. As in his earlier life, Hincmar's career as Archbishop of Reims continued to be characterized by the impact of monastic ideals on his spirituality and his by continuing role as an active participant in monastic affairs. The most notable examples of the continuing influence of monastic ideals during his long Episcopal career (as Karl F. Morison has observed) can be found by even a cursory examination of his numerous Epistulae (Letters) (Morrison 1981, 606–7).

§7.  For instance, in an epistolary preface, dated c. 800, on the important issue of Lothar II's divorce, Hincmar, citing the Regula s. Benedicti directly and adapting it to the specific needs of his royal reader, attempts to admonish the king about the spiritual responsibility he bears for the sins of his subjects at the Last Judgment. When Hincmar speaks of kings who were put in powerful positions by God so that those over whom they exercise the cura animarum (care of souls) could gaze at them as though looking into a mirror, he is echoing a component of a well-established monastic tradition. When in the same letter Hincmar speaks of the spiritual importance of the eyes of the heart, he is relying on pious imagery and language that stretches from the Regula s. Basilii (Rule of Saint-Basil) to the patristic writings of Augustine and Gregory the Great.4 In a similar fashion, Hincmar further echoes the sentiments of the Benedictine cloister when, at the Synod of Soissons held c. 860, he stresses to the assembled bishops the importance of good works and emphasizes the degrees of humility which one must reach to achieve spiritual illumination, a theme he repeatedly underscores by the many references he makes to the monastic quality of humility.5

§8.  Turning our attention to Hincmar's participation in monastic affairs, based on the evidence of Flodoard's Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, we know that Hincmar regularly associated with prominent monastic personalities. For example, in a provincial synod held by Hincmar at Soissons in the monastery of Saint-Médard in 853, the seventh year of his episcopate, among those attending were Abbot Dodo of Saint-Savin, Abbot Lupus of Ferrières, and Abbot Bernhard of Fleury. Other monastic representatives included Odo of Corbie, Heiric of Saint-Lomer, and Bava of Orbais. What is more, Flodoard reports that many deacons were stationed among the clergy according to rank, in groups surrounding King Charles to deliberate over "certain pressing affairs of the church of God" (Flodoard Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 3.11).6

§9.  We also find that Hincmar's advocacy of monastic property rights is well documented. Between 845 and 850 it was at his suggestion that Charles the Bald restored to the monks at Saint-Remi two small mansi in the territory of Perthois and the villa of Baildron, as well as two small mansi in Waldron with all dependents and legal rights (Flodoard Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 3.10). Furthermore, between 845 and 850, King Charles the Bald, presumably at Hincmar's request, confirmed that he would rebuild for the monastery of Saint-Germer what the invasions of the Northmen had destroyed and restore religious life to its pristine condition. Yet Flodoard tells us that the same king later attempted to take back from Hincmar what he had previously granted (Flodoard Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 3.18).7 In addition to the restoration of monastic territory and building activity that he initiated, Hincmar also protected and defended monastic property outside the Diocese of Reims. Between 865 and 870, Hincmar petitioned King Louis the German for the defense and protection of Saint-Remi's possessions in Thuringia, and, again between 874 and 876, the Archbishop petitioned for the protection of possessions in the Ardennes and elsewhere (Flodoard Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 3.20; Schrörs 1884, 537).

§10.  In addition to Hincmar's efforts to defend and restore monastic life and property, Stratmann notes that the archbishop expended great energy in embellishing the monastery of Saint-Remi, intervening in its monastic affairs and promoting the cult of the illustrious founder, Saint Remigius. According to Stratmann, it was during Hincmar's episcopate that the rebuilding of the Saint-Remi dome and annex took place (Stratmann 1991, 53–55; Flodoard Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 2.17). It can be said that he worked so diligently to cultivate devotion to Saint Remigius partly from his own personal devotion to his patron saint and partly to increase his own prestige by attracting Frankish support for King Charles as successor to his nephew Lothar. He aspired to build a bridge between heaven and earth by linking the living bishop to the posthumous saint. In Stratmann's account, the cloister church of Saint-Remi—which up to the tenth century was the burial palace of archbishops and kings—was graced with a new crypt by Archbishop Hincmar. On October 1, 852, after creating a splendid reliquary and shrine for Saint Remigius, he transferred the remains of the holy man there (Stratmann 1991, 55; Flodoard Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 3.9; Schrörs 1884, 446–54). Finally, Flodoard tells us that between 865 and 870, Hincmar informed Louis the German that he was sending him the relics of the saints of Reims as well as a copy of the Vita s. Remigii (Life of Saint Remigius) that Louis had requested. In 882, with the assault of Northmen on Reims, Hincmar, taking the body of Saint Remigius, headed towards forested areas across the Marne to the villa Éperney. Flodoard recounts how, after guarding the body for some time, Hincmar died later in that same year (Flodoard Historia Remensis Ecclesiae, 3.30; Grat, Vielliard and Clémencet 1964, 362).

Hincmar's Ad episcopos regni (To the Bishops of the Kingdom) and the Concilium Pariensis (Council of Paris of 829)

§11.  As discussed previously, Hincmar's theological views derived from numerous and diverse sources. Scholars widely believe one sequence of sources, the juridical, played a fundamental role in the formation of his spiritual thought. For instance, Letha Böhringer, in the most recent edition of Hincmar's De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutbergae reginae (The Divorce of King Lothar and Queen Theutberga), observes that Hincmar relied extensively on such juridical sources as Roman law, canons of church councils, and papal decretals (Böhringer 1992).

§12.  Interestingly, however, some juridical sources such as the 829 Council of Paris—to which, in certain of his writings, Hincmar was greatly indebted—have remained virtually undetected, unquoted, and unexplored. Only Devisse, in his important study of Hincmar, has detected a close relationship between the Council of Paris and Hincmar's Ad episcopos regni. More precisely, Devisse has argued that Hincmar's discussion of the proper functioning of the royal ministerium in chapter 12 of the Ad episcopos regni derives almost verbatim from canon 56 of the Council of Paris (Devisse 1975–6, 2:1004). A comparison of the close similarities in both texts will demonstrate this relationship more clearly:

Hincmar, Ad episcopos regni, 13 Concilium Pariensiense A. 829, c. 56
Oportet enim, ut qui judex est judicum pauperes ad se ingredi permittat, et diligenter inquirat; ne forte illi, qui ab eo constituti sunt, et vicem eius agere debent in populo injuste aut negligenter pauperes pati oppressiones permittant. Et ideo oportet, ut ipse, qui iudex est iudicum, causam pauperum ad se ingredi faciat et diligenter inquirat; ne forte illi qui ab eo constituti sunt et vicem eius agere debent in populo, iniuste aut neglegenter pauperes oppessiones pati permittant.

§13.  As is evident, Hincmar follows his source very closely, only occasionally exhibiting minor grammatical deviations. Both texts, for example, underscore in concise terms the king's function as curator animarum (Constable 1982, 348–89). This element of the royal ministerium is clearly accentuated for the ruler, as both texts stress the importance of advocating the cause of the poor:

It is fitting that he who is judge of judges should permit the poor to approach him and diligently inquire into their cause. Lest by chance those who have been placed in power by him and ought to work for the people on his behalf allow the poor to suffer through injustice or neglect.

§14.  However, the relationship between the Council of Paris and Hincmar's Ad episcopos regni appears to be more extensive than Devisse's remarks suggest. A point not addressed by scholars is Hincmar's further indebtedness to the Council of Paris, as per his warnings of the dire spiritual consequences awaiting negligent rulers who do not establish rectores to rule the people of God with justice and equity. The following comparative analysis will illustrate this:

Concilium Pariensiense A. 829, c. 57 Hincmar, Ad episcopos regni, 14
His quae praemissa sunt declaratur, quod hi, qui post regem populum Dei regere debent, id est duces et comites, necesse est ut tales ad constituendum provideantur, qui sine periculo eius, a constituuntur, constitui possint, scientes se ad hoc positos esse, ut plebem Christi sibi natura aequalem recognoscant eamque clementer salvent ei iuste regant, non ut dominentur et affligant neque ut populum dei suum aestiment aut ad suam gloriam sibi illum subiciant, quod non pertinet ad iustitiam, sed potius ad tyrannidem et iniquam potestatem. Exigit necessitas ut, quia ipse procul dubio rex aequissimo iudici de commisso sibi ministerio rationem redditurus est, ut etiam singuli qui sub eo constituti sunt ministri diligentissime ab eo inquiratur, ne ipse pro eis iudicium incurrat divinum.8 Qui autem post regem populum regere debent, id est duces et comites, necesse est ut tales instituantur, qui sine periculo ejus qui eos constituit, quos sub se habent cum justitia et aequitate gubernare intelligunt, atque cum bona voluntate quod intellunt adimplere procurent, scientes se ad hoc positos esse, ut plebem salvent et regant, non ut dominentur et affligant; neque ut populum Dei suum aestiment, aut ad suam gloriam sibi illum subjici, quod pertinent ad tyrannidem et iniquam etiam potestatem. Valde enim exigit necessitas quia rex aequissimo judici de commisso sibi ministerio rationem redditurus est, ut etiam singuli qui sub eo inquirantur, et tales constituantur, ne ipse pro eis judicium incurrat divinum.

§15.  As we can clearly see, although Hincmar periodically interjects his own literary style, his close dependence on canon 57 of the Council of Paris in unmistakable. Drawing nearly verbatim from his source, Hincmar instructs his ruler in the proper exercise of the royal cura animarum:

Who, moreover, ought to rule the people after the king—that is, dukes and counts—it is necessary that such be appointed that do not constitute a danger to him who established them. They should understand that they must rule those entrusted to them with justice and equity, and understand they should take care to perform this with good will. They should know that they have been placed in power for those reasons: to protect and rule over the people, not to dominate and afflict them or to consider the people of God their own; nor should they think the people are placed under them for their own glory, which pertains to tyranny and unjust power.

§16.  Hincmar ends by echoing the words of Benedict on the abbatial cura animarum, filtered through the Council of Paris, as he warns King Carlomann of the dire spiritual consequences for monarchs who fail to correct wicked and oppressive judges:

Consequently, necessity demands that since the king must render an account to the most just judge for the ministerium entrusted to him, he must scrutinize the actions of all his ministers established under him most diligently, lest he himself incur the wrath of the divine judgment for their actions (Hanslik 1977, 30–1; Werminghoff 1908, 656).9

Hincmar and the Regula s. Benedicti

§17.  As previously noted, Hincmar drew extensively upon juridical sources. Yet the belief held by certain scholars that the more juridical basis of Hincmar's writings contrasts sharply with the pious ethos of the writings of the earlier Carolingians, such as Jonas and Smaragdus, is open to serious question. As we have clearly seen, not only did Hincmar derive passages of monastic origin such as the Regula s. Benedicti indirectly through juridical sources like the Council of Paris, but also on many cases directly by acknowledging the Regula s. Benedicti as a juridical source in its own right. Moreover, Hincmar drew numerous passages from the Regula s. Benedicti as soteriological guides for his pastoral theology, often adapting and manipulating his source with a sophisticated degree of originality. First, however, let us turn our attention to Hincmar's use of the Regula s. Benedicti as a juridical source.

§18.  One example where Hincmar seems to acknowledge the juridical nature of the Regula s. Benedicti occurs in a letter dated 852 to Archbishop Amalo of Lyons. There Hincmar notes that the monk Gottschalk, for his heretical views on predestination and for lack of humility displayed at the Council of Quierzy, was condemned to be punished both by the rigors of ecclesiastical law and by the precepts of the Regula s. Benedicti. About the condemnation of Gottschalk's false doctrine, Hincmar expresses the following:

And because of his most impudent insolence, it was judged proper by the abbots and other monks that he should be flogged in accordance with the Regula s. Benedicti. And because, contrary to canon law, he unceasingly endeavored to disturb civil law and ecclesiastical business, and refused to acknowledge this or to show proper humility in any way, he was condemned by the bishops according to ecclesiastical law (Hincmar, Epistula 48).10

In a similar fashion, Hincmar underscores the juridical nature of the Regula s. Benedicti when he notes the close similarities between chapter 2 of the Regula s. Benedicti and canon 38 of the Council of Agde held in 506:

The Council of Agde, in the thirty-eighth canon, decreed saying: A monk who has not emended his abusive use of words should be corrected with lashes. The holy rule, promulgated through the mouth of the blessed Benedict, is imbued with the same Holy Spirit as the sacred canons in the venerated councils. In the second chapter of the Rule, Benedict orders that the undisciplined be restrained by lashes and other bodily chastisement at the very onset of the sin itself. As it is written: A foolish man is not corrected with words; strike your son with a staff and you will liberate his soul from death (Hincmar De una et non trina deitate, 505).11

In addition to his use of the Regula s. Benedicti as a juridical source, Hincmar also characteristically incorporated into his own theological writings passages from the Regula s. Benedicti suitably altered and recast in a context more closely in tune to the sensitivities of his own audiences and the major theological quandaries of his day. To apply Carol Scheppard's words from her work on the Eclogae tractatorum in psalterium to the study of Hincmar: "It is as if the compiler collected sentences from patristic authorities like pictures from a magazine and arranged them in a collage that reflects more his own thoughts than those of his sources" (Scheppard 2003, 65). A conspicuous example occurs in Hincmar's De divortio Lotharii regis et Theutbergae reginae where he significantly alters Benedict's discussion of the abbatial cura animarum in chapter 3 of the Regula s. Benedicti to pointedly remind King Lothar of the account he must render to God for all his earthly judgments. A comparative analysis of the texts follows:

Regula s. Benedicti, 3 Hincmar, De divortio, Preface
Ipse tamen abba cum timore dei et observatione regulae omia faciat sciens se procul duvio de omnibus iudiciis suis aequissimo iudici deo. Et quantum sub cura fratrum se habere scierit numerum, agnoscat pro certo, quia in die iudicii ipsarum omnium animarum est redditurus domino rationem sine dubio addita et suae animae. Et sanctus spiritus per beatos viros Benedictum et Cyprianum confirmat, quia unusquisque rex de omnibus iudiciis suis aequissimo iudici deo rationem reddet in die iudicii . . . quia unusquisque rex de omnibus iudiciis suis aequissimo iudici deo rationem reddet in die iudicii et pro tantis rationem reddet, quantos sub cura sua habuerit, sine dubio addita et animae suae.

§19.  Here we see remarkable stylistic parallels as well as close similarities in thematic approach. Most conspicuous is the analogy between Hincmar's remarks on the royal cura animarum and Benedict's on the abbatial cura animarum. Moreover, Hincmar's passages seem to form a composite picture drawing elements from both chapters 2 and 3 of the Regula s. Benedicti. For example, Hincmar's observation that each king must render an account to God, the most just judge, for all his judgments on the Day of Judgment, is closely drawn from chapter 3 of the Regula s. Benedicti, where Benedict teaches that the abbot should do everything with the fear of God and in observation of the Rule, knowing without doubt that he must render an account to God, the most just judge, for all his judgments. Further, each text uses the identical phrases aequissimi iudici and de omnibus iudiciis when referring to God and the role of judges. Finally, when Hincmar adds that each king, in addition to his own soul, must render an account to God on the Day of Judgment for all those under his care, a comparison of both texts shows his pen tracing Benedict's quantum sub cura sua fratrum se habere scierit numerum et sine dubio addita et suae animae almost verbatim from chapter 2 of the Regula s. Benedicti. According to Benedict, "And as great a number of brothers he has known to be under his care, let him know for certain that on the Day of Judgment he must render an account to God for all those souls, in addition to his own."12

§20.  Hincmar also demonstrates a unique exegetical skill when adapting the language of the Regula s. Benedicti in a didactic fashion for the sake of instruction on some of the major theological controversies of his own day. A noteworthy example occurs in Hincmar's treatise against Gottschalk's heretical views on both the Trinity and predestination, the De una et non trina deitate (Concerning One Deity and Not Three). The following textual comparisons illustrate this:

Regula s. Benedicti, 4 Hincmar, De una et non trina deitate, 1
Veritatem ex corde et ore proferre velut antidotum salubre debet corde et ore proferre.13

Here we see that Hincmar, rather than quoting directly from the Regula s. Benedicti and identifying his source, has made Benedict's language his own in combating both the Trinitarian and predestinarian heresies of the monk Gottschalk. Hincmar alters Benedict's veritatem ex corde et ore proferre to antidotum salubre debet corde et ore proferre as, inflamed by apostolic zeal, he admonishes the faithful to apply with heart and mouth the salubrious remedy of Christ's example against Gottschalk's evil suggestions (Tavard 1996; Chazelle 2003, 75–8, 179).

Hincmar and Ambrosiaster's Commentarius in Epistulas Paulinas

§21.  Another source for Hincmar's writings on spiritual matters is Ambrosiaster's late fourth-century commentaries on the Pauline letters. In this study, I have chosen to focus on Ambrosiaster's commentaries on Paul's letter to the Ephesians. This is primarily due to a specific passage in Hincmar's letter dated c. 860 and addressed to Archbishops Rudulf of Bourges and Frotar of Bordeaux. In this letter, Hincmar treats in some detail the sin of fornication where he notes that "if a man fornicates against his wife, he sins against himself, since the two are of one flesh" (Hincmar, Epistula 196). The editor of Hincmar's Epistulae, Ernst Perels, attributed this passage to the hand of Hincmar himself, and subsequent scholars have never questioned that attribution. However, a close comparative examination of the passage in question indicates that its origin can be found in Ambrosiaster's commentaries. A comparison of the two texts follows:

Hincmar, Epistula 136 Ambrosiaster, Comment. In Ephes. 5.25–28
Naturali ratione mulier portio corporis viri est ac per hoc vir in muliere se ipsum diligit; quo modo si fornicetur in se ipsum peccat, quia duo in carne una sunt. Non ergo substantiam dividunt, ut per personas numerous fiat naturae, sed sunt inunitate naturae. Naturali ratione mulier portio corporis viri est per hoc vir in muliere se ipsum diligit, quomodo si fornicetur, in se ipsum peccat, quia duo in carne una sunt. Non ergo personae substantiam dividunt, ut per personas numerous fiat naturae; sed sunt in unitate naturae.

§22.  Although it might seem that Hincmar's passage on fornication appears to be a mere derivation of his source, a closer examination of Hincmar's controversial theological concerns, particularly on the Trinity, suggests that his use of Ambrosiaster may have been influenced by his own Trinitarian predilections. Hincmar wrote the letter at the height of his Trinitarian conflict with the monk Gottschalk, and Ambrosiaster's words—non ergo personae substantiam dividunt, ut per personas numerous fiat naturae, sed sunt in unitate naturae—are close to his own in his De una et non trina deitate. This suggests that his heated Trinitarian debate with Gottschalk was instrumental in his choice in his choice of his source material.

§23.  Evidently, this study is not unique in drawing attention to the impact of Ambrosiaster's commentaries on Hincmar's spirituality. Scholars such as Perels and Böhringer have adequately compiled such evidence. Rather, a corollary goal of this study is to point out that the similarities between Hincmar's and Ambrosiaster's message need to be further examined and the derivative nature or originality of Hincmar's exegetical method more clearly distinguished from those of his sources.


§24.  In formulating his political ecclesiology, Hincmar cannot have failed to grasp the extreme importance of applying the spiritual medicine of his sources to the realistic wounds of Carolingian society. This study, mindful of current scholarship on the subject, has attempted to stress the fundamental importance of Hincmar's original exegetical modeling of his sources, and their application to his vision of a perfectly ordered, spiritually oriented Christian society. As a Benedictine monk at Saint-Denis, Hincmar learned the importance of living in a structured and ordered community under a Rule which Benedict referred to as "the law under which you wish to serve" and "the law of the Rule." More importantly, he learned the lesson of living harmoniously in a religious community completely devoted to spiritual perfection and personal salvation. As Abbot of Saint-Remi, he perfected the art of applying the lectio divina to achive communal unification, and by the exercise of humilitas and correctio, he led his "Soldiers of Christ" onto the road to spiritual perfection.

§25.  Many centuries separate Hincmar's ninth-century Carolingian world from our own. Yet perhaps it was a world that in many ways was not so different from our own. Hincmar, like all of us, was desperately searching for perfection in an imperfect and chaotic Europe. Deviating from the Augustinian view that government exists as a divine instrument of correction for a degenerate and sinful human race, Hincmar, like his Carolingian peers, idealized society as a unified ecclesia, the actual Body of Christ, whose goal was the achievement of spiritual perfection in the temporal sphere. The belief that this could be achieved by weaving the social fabric together with the inspiration of the monastic Rule, through the application of inspired Christian Roman law, church canons, and patristic literature, was the messianic imperative of Archbishop Hincmar and the other great exegetes of his time.


1.   The date of Hincmar's birth is highly conjectural and is not mentioned in any sources. Modern sources simply place it in either 805 or 806, without any valid explanation for doing so. Max Manitius states that Hincmar was born during the reign of Charles the Great, perhaps in the year 806 (1974, 1:339). Thomas Gross and Rudolph Schieffer (1980, 9) also place Hincmar's birth in 806 in the northwestern Frankish Kingdom. See also Devisse (1975–6, 2:1096).  [Back]

2.   Is siquidem Hincmarus a pueritia in monasterio sancti Dyonisii sub Hilduino abbate monasteriali religione nutritus et studiis litterarum imbutus indeque sui tam generic quam sensus nobilitate in palatium Ludovici imperatoris deductus et familiarem ipsius notitiam adeptus fuerat ibique, prout potuit, cum imperatore et prefato abbate sub episcoporum auctoritate laboravit, ut ordo monasticus in predicto monasterio quorundam voluptuosa factione diu delapsus restauraretur, et ut opera quoque adimpleret, quod sermone suadebat, etiam ipse religiose conversationi cum aliis se subdidit castigans corpus suum et spirituali subiciens servituti.  [Back]

3.   Hincmar, Epistula 198, Converses autem ad regularem vitam et habitum fratribus in monasterio sancti Dionysii, ubi nutritus fueram, in illud saeculum fugiens sine spe vel appetite episcopates aut alicuius praelationis diutius degui et exinde adsumptus familiaribus obsequiis praefati imperatoris ac episcoporum conventibus pro sola oboedientia mihi iniuncta inserviens post aliquot annos monasterii quietam repetii. See also Manitius (1974, 1:339). Schieffer (1990, 355) placed Hincmar at the court of the Emperor in 822, suggesting that he went into a voluntary exile with Abbot Hilduin in Corvey in 830 and was soon back again at Saint-Denis as a monk. Devisse (1975–6, 2:1091) states that Hilduin was in exile at Paderborn, then Corvey, and dates his return with Hincmar to Saint-Denis to about 822. It was about that time that Hincmar took monastic vows. For a discussion of the exile in contemporary sources, see the Astronomer Vita Hludowici imperatoris, 45.  [Back]

4.   Compare Hincmar, Epistula 134 with Regula s Benedicti, 2. Hincmar's metaphorical use of a mirror to measure spiritual perfection can be found, for example, in Athanasius' Vita s. Antonii, 7, Cassian's Institutes Cénobitiques, 11.17 and 5.34.  [Back]

5.   Hincmar, Epistula 184. For the notion of good works as a monastic ideal, see Noble (1976, 245–6), Cassian, Institutes Cénobitiques, 4.38 and Regula s. Benedicti, 7.  [Back]

6.   For a detailed analysis of the synodal members, see Stratmann (1991, 28–30). For a fuller discussion of the Synod of Soissons, see Sot (1993, 511–14) and Devisse (1975–6, 1:43–4). On this subject, see Schrörs (1884, 126–34). According to Schrörs, what Flodoard referred to as "pressing affairs of the church of God," seems to have included, among other things, deliberations on the validity of Ebbo's deposition from, and Hincmar's election to, the see of Reims.  [Back]

7.   See also Schrörs (1884, 520), Hincmar, Epistula 29 and Poirier-Coutansais (1974).  [Back]

8.   See also Jonas of Orléans Le métier de roi, 5.  [Back]

9.   Compare Regula s. Benedicti, 3: Ipse tamen abba cum timore dei et observatione regulae omnia faciat sciens se procul duvio de omnibus iudiciis suis aequissimo iudici deo rationem redditurum, with Concilium Parisiense, A. 829, c. 57: Valde enim exigit necessitas, ut, quia ipse procul dubio rex aequissimo iudici de commisso sibi ministerio rationem redditurus est . . .  [Back]

10.   Et propter inpudentissimam insolentiam suam per regulam sancti Benedicti a monachorum abbatibus vel ceteris monachis dignis flagello adiudicatus et, quia contra canonicam institutionem civilia et ecclesiastica negotia perturbare studuit indefessus et se noluit recognoscere vel aliquot modo humiliare profusus, ab episcopis est secundum ecclesiastica iura damnatus.  [Back]

11.   Agathense concilium capite trigesimo octavo decrevit, dicens: Monachos, quos verborum increpatio non emendaverit, etiam verberibus statuimus coerceri. Quod et sancta regula eodem Spiritu sancto quo et sacri canones in venerandis conciliis per os beati Benedicti promulgates, secundo capitulo jubet indisciplinatos scilicet et inquietos durius arguer, et improbos, et duros ac superbos vel inobedientes verberum vel corporis castigatione in ipso initio peccati coercere.  [Back]

12.   Letha Böhringer has noted Hincmar's dependence on chapter 2 of the Regula s. Benedicti for his discussion of the royal cura animarum. However, she has neither discussed his debt to chapter 3 of the Regula s. Benedicti, nor his original exegetical treatment of the Regula s. Benedicti. See Böhringer's comments in Hincmar, De divortio, preface.  [Back]

13.   For the full context of Hincmar's velut antidotum salubre debet corde et ore proferre, see Hincmar, De una et non trina deitate, 1.  [Back]

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