Customs and Lordship in Greater-Anjou

SESSION VI: Lordship

“Customs and Lordship in Greater-Anjou”

Tracey L. Billado


Charters from greater Anjou provide observations on customs in France. Customs include: economic, judicial and political rights. Exactions collected in kind, rights of justice (judge cases and collect fines), taxes, tolls and fees (markets fees, transport of goods fees, festivals dues, field rents, exactions on sale etc). Other rights: the right to keep barges on rivers, the right to collect wood in forests, and cartage.

Numerous charters describe customs and point to the symbolic and material position of lordship. Charters that discussed the rights of hospitality, such as one where the steward owed hospitality the abbot; it outlined the type of food to be served and the services rendered. He was also obliged to provide hospitality to the monastery’s servants while they worked on the land. This right of hospitality was an important part of the economy and reinforced political and social ties.

Monasteries that provided hospitality – although costly to the house – gave the monastery the opportunity to receive gifts from some visitors. In return,
the monks had the opportunity to impart moral and social mores on the visitors. The charters listed gifts and customs bequeathed in wills to the monasteries.

Lordship disputes: problems erupted during times of transition, like a change of lord. Monks would complain of “evil custom” especially during the time of a change in lordship. This was a good time for negotiation. Monastic lords in the eleventh century sought and gained customs. Customs had to be collected – how was this done? Monks had to take actions they lamented, the same that were taken against them. They threatened violence against those who had to pay, sent thugs to destroy property, intimidated people and sent lay people to do the collecting for them.

~Sandra Alvarez

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