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§ 175. Hincmar of Rheims.


I. Hincmarus, Rhemensis archiepiscopus: Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. CXXV.-CXXVI., col. 648. First collected edition by Sirmond. Paris, 1645.

II. Prolegomena in Migne, CXXV. Wolfgang Friedrich Gess: Merkwürdigkeiten aus dem Leben und Schriften Hincmars, Göttingen, 1806. Prichard: The life and times of Hincmar, Littlemore, 1849. Carl von Noorden: Hinkmar, Erzbischof von Rheims, Bonn, 1863. Loupot: Hincmar, évêque de Reins, sa vie, ses oeuvres, son influence, Reims, 1869. Auguste: Vidieu: Hincmar de Reims, Paris, 1875. Heinrich Schrörs: Hincmar, Erzbischof von Reims, Freiburg im Br., 1884 (588 pages).

III. Cf. also Flodoard: Historia ecclesia, Remensis, in Migne, CXXXV., col. 25–328 (Book III., col. 137–262, relates to Hincmar); French trans. by Lejeune, Reims, 1854, 2 vols. G. Marlot: Histoire de Reims, Reims, 1843–45, 3 vols. F. Monnier: Luttes politiques et religieuses sous les Carlovingiens, Paris, 1852. Max Sdralek: Hinkmar von Rheims kanonistisches Gutachten über die Ehescheidung des Königs Lothar II. Freiburg im Br., 1881. Du Pin, VII. 10–54. Ceillier, XII. 654–689, Hist. Lit. de la France, V., 544–594 (reprinted in Migne, CXXV. col. 11–44). Bähr, 507–523. Ebert, II. 247–257. Hefele: Conciliengeschichte, 2d ed. IV. passim.


Hincmar, archbishop of Rheims, was born of noble and distinguished ancestry, probably in the province of that name,13811381    Schrörs, l.c. p. 9. in the year 806. His name is also spelled Ingumar, Ingmer and Igmar. He was educated in the Benedictine monastery of St. Denis, near Paris, under abbot Hilduin. When the latter was appointed (822) chancellor to Louis the Pious he took young Hincmar to court with him. There his talents soon brought him into prominence, while his asceticism obtained for him the especial favor of Louis the Pious. This interest he used to advance the cause of reform in the monastery of St. Denis, which had become lax in its discipline, and when the Synod of Paris in 829 appointed a commission to bring this about he heartily co-operated with it, and entered the monastery as a monk. In 830, Hilduin was banished to New Corbie, in Saxony, for participation in the conspiracy of Lothair against Louis the Pious. Hincmar had no part in or sympathy with the conspiracy, yet out of love for Hilduin he shared his exile. Through his influence with Louis, Hilduin was pardoned and re-instated in his abbey after only a year’s absence. Hincmar for the next nine or ten years lived partly at the abbey and partly at court. He applied himself diligently to study, and laid up those stores of patristic learning of which he afterwards made such an effective use. In 840 Charles the Bald succeeded Louis, and soon after took him into his permanent service, and then began that eventful public life which was destined to render him one of the most famous of churchmen. After his ordination as priest in 844, Charles the Bald gave him the oversight of the abbeys of St. Mary’s, at Compiegne, and of St. Germer’s, at Flaix. He also gave him an estate,13821382    August 12, 844. See Schrörs, l.c. p. 26. which he made over to the hospice of St. Denis, on his elevation to the archiepiscopate. In December, 844, Hincmar took a prominent part in the council at Verneuil, and in April of the following year at the council of Beauvais he was elected by the clergy and people of Rheims to be their archbishop. This choice being ratified by Charles the Bald, and the permission of his abbot being received, he was consecrated by Rothad, bishop of Soissons, archbishop of Rheims and metropolitan, May 3, 845.

No sooner had he been established in his see and had secured from Charles the restitution of all property that belonged to it, than trouble broke out. His diocese had fallen into more or less disorder in consequence of the ten years which had elapsed between Ebo’s deposition and his election. Hincmar’s first trouble came from Ebo, who contested Hincmar’s election, on the ground that he was still archbishop. But the council of Paris in 846 affirmed Hincmar’s election, and, in 847, Leo IV. sent him the pallium. The first difficulty being overcome, a second presented itself. For a few months in 840 Ebo had occupied his old see by force, and during this time bid ordained several priests. Hincmar degraded them and the council of Soissons in 853 approved his act. But naturally his course was opposed. The leader of the malcontents was Wulfad, one of the deposed priests. The matter was not disposed of until 868, when Pope Hadrian decided practically in favor of the deposed priests, for while exonerating Hincmar of all blame, at the same time he confirmed the election of Wulfad (866) as archbishop of Bourges.

Another trouble came from Rothad, bishop of Soissons, who had consecrated him, and who was one of his suffragans. Rothad had deposed a priest, for unchastity and the deposition was confirmed by an episcopal council. Hincmar took the ground that Rothad, being only a suffragan bishop, had no right of deposition, and also no right to call a council. He also brought formal charges of disobedience against him and demanded the reinstatement of the deposed priest. Rothad persistently refusing compliance was then himself deposed (861). Both parties appealed to the pope, who at last (January 21, 865) decided in Rothad’s favor and re-instated him.13831383    Hefele, IV. 292.

In 863 Hincmar refused to give his assent as metropolitan to the elevation of Hilduin, brother of Günther of Cologne, to the bishopric of Cambrai. Hilduin had been nominated to this position by Lothair, but Hincmar said that he was unfit, and the pope approved of his action.

His longest and hardest fight was with his nephew and namesake, Hincmar, bishop of Laon. The latter was certainly very insubordinate and disobedient both to his metropolitan and his king. In consequence Hincmar of Rheims deposed him (871) and the king took him prisoner and blinded him. Pope Hadrian II. (d. 872) defended him but accomplished nothing. Pope John VIII. also pleaded his cause, and in 878 gave him permission to recite mass. He died in 882.

These controversies, and those upon Predestination and the Eucharist, and his persecution of Gottschalk, elsewhere treated at length,13841384    See pp. 528 sqq; 552. have tended to obscure Hincmar’s just reputation as a statesman. Yet he was unquestionably the leader in the West Frankish kingdom, and by, his wisdom and energy preserved the state during a sadly disordered time. His relations with Louis the Pious, Charles the Bald and Carloman were friendly. He crowned several queens of the Carolingian family, and in 869 Charles the Bald. He also solemnized their marriages. In 859 he headed the German delegation to Louis, and in 860 conducted the peace deliberations at Coblenz. He took the side of Charles the Bald in his fight with Rome, and in 871 wrote for him a very violent letter to Pope Hadrian II.13851385    See Hefele, IV. 507. The letter is in Migne, CXXIV. col. 881-896. It may be said that in state politics he was more successful than in church politics. He preserved his king from disgrace, and secured his independence, but he was unable to secure for himself the papal sanction at all times, and the much coveted honor of the primacy of France which John VIII., in 876, gave to Ansegis, archbishop of Sens.

One of the most important facts about these Hincmarian controversies is that in them for the first time the famous pseudo-Isidorian decretals13861386    See pp. 268 sqq. are quoted; and that by all parties. Whether Hincmar knew of their fraudulent character may well be questioned, for that he had little if any critical ability is proved by his belief in two literary forgeries, an apocryphal tale of the birth of the Virgin, and a homily upon her assumption,13871387    See p. 750. attributed to Jerome. The fraud was exposed by Ratramnus. His use of the decretals was arbitrary. He quoted them when they would help him, as against the pope in contending for the liberty of the Frankish Church. He ignored them when they opposed his ideas, as in his struggle with his nephew, because in their original design they asserted the independence of bishops from their metropolitans.

Hincmar was not only a valiant fighter, but also a faithful shepherd. He performed with efficiency all the usual duties of a bishop, such as holding councils, hearing complaints, settling difficulties, laying plans and carrying out improvements. He paid particular attention to education and the promotion of learning generally. He was himself a scholar and urged his clergy to do all in their power to build up the schools. He also gave many books to the libraries of the cathedral at Rheims and the monastery of St. Remi, and had many copied especially for them. His own writings enriched these collections. His attention to architecture was manifested in the stately cathedral of Rheims, begun by Ebo, but which he completed, and in the enlargement of the monastery of St. Remi.

The career of this extraordinary man was troubled to its very end. In 881 he came in conflict with Louis the Third by absolutely refusing to consecrate one of the king’s favorites, Odoacer, bishop of Beauvais. Hincmar maintained that he was entirely unfit for the office, and as the Pope agreed with him Odoacer was excommunicated. In the early part of the following year the dreaded Normans made their appearance in the neighborhood of Rheims. Hincmar bethought himself of the precious relics of St. Remi and removed them for safety’s sake to Epernay when he himself fled thither. There he died, Dec. 21, 882. He was buried two days after at Rheims.

Looking back upon Hincmar through the vista of ten centuries, he stands forth as the determined, irrepressible, tireless opponent of both royal and papal tyranny over the Church. He asserted the liberty of the Gallican Church at a time when the State on the one hand endeavored to absorb her revenues and utilize her clergy in its struggles and wars, and the Pope on the other hand strove to make his authority in ecclesiastical matters supreme. That Hincmar was arrogant, relentless, self-seeking, is true. But withal he was a pure man, a stern moralist, and the very depth and vigor of his belief in his own opinions rendered him the more intolerant of the opinions of opponents, as of those of the unfortunate Gottschalk. The cause he defended was a just and noble one, and his failure to stem the tide setting toward anarchy in Church and State was fraught with far-reaching consequences.


His Writings.


His writings reveal his essentially practical character. They are very numerous, but usually very short. In contents they are designed for the most part to answer a temporary purpose. This makes them all the more interesting to the historian, but in the same degree of less permanent importance. The patristic learning they exhibit is considerable, and the ability great; but the circumstances of his life as prelate precluded him from study and quiet thought, so he was content to rely upon the labors of others and reproduce and adapt their arguments and information to his own design. Only the more important can be here mentioned. Some twenty-three writings are known to be lost.13881388    See Hist. Lit. de la France, l.c. The philosophical treatise De diversa et multiplici animae ratione (Migne, CXXV. col. 929-952) is probably falsely attributed to him. Cf. Ebert, l.c. p. 250.

I. Writings in the Gottschalk Controversy.13891389    See pp. 528 sqq.

1. The first was in 855, Divine Predestination and the Freedom of the Will. It was in three books. All has perished, except the prefatory epistle to Charles the Bald.13901390    Migne, CXXV. col. 49-56.

2. At the request of this king he wrote a second treatise upon the same subject.13911391    De Praedestinatione, ibid. col. 55-474.

3. In 857 he refuted the charge made against him by Gottschalk and Ratramnus that in altering a line of a hymn from “Te, trina Deitas,” to “Te, sancta Deitas,” he showed a Sabellian leaning.13921392    Collectio de una et non trina Deitate, ibid. col. 473-618.

II. Writings in the Hincmar of Laon Controversy.13931393    Opuscula et epistolae in causa Hincmari Laudunensis, Migne, CXXVI. col. 279-648. They consist of letters from each disputant to the other, formal charges against Hincmar of Laon, the sentence of his deposition, the synodical letter to Pope Hadrian II. and the letter of Hincmar of Laon to the same.

III. Writings relative to political and social affairs.

1. The divorce of king Lothair and queen Theutberga.13941394    De divortio Lotharii regis et Tetbergae reginae, Migne, CXXV. col. 619-772. This treatise dates from 863 and is the reply to thirty questions upon the general subject asked Hincmar by different bishops. It reveals his firm belief in witches, sorcery and trial by ordeal, and abounds in interesting and valuable allusions to contemporary life and manners.13951395    See especially Inter. vi., xvii., xviii., ibid. col. 659-673, 726-730.

2. Addresses and prayers at the coronation of Charles the Bald, his son Louis II. the Stammerer, his daughter Judith, and his wife Hermintrude.13961396    Coronationes regiae ibid. col. 803-818.

3. The personal character of the king and the royal administration.13971397    De regis persona et regio ministerio, ibid. col. 833-856. It is dedicated to Charles the Bald, and is avowedly a compilation. The Scriptures and the Fathers, chiefly Ambrose, Augustin, and Gregory the Great are its sources. Its twenty-three chapters are distributed by Hincmar himself13981398    See preface, col. 833, 834. under three heads:

(a) the royal person and office in general [chaps. 1–15]; (b) the discretion to be shown in the administration of justice [chaps. 16–28]; (c) the duty of a king in the unsparing punishment of rebels against God, the Church and the State, even though they be near relatives [chaps. 29–33]. It was composed in a time of frequent rebellion, and therefore the king had need to exercise severity as well as gentleness in dealing with his subjects.13991399    Ebert (II. 251) accordingly finds the explanation of the treatise in its third division. Hincmar delivers himself with great plainness and gives wise counsels.

4. The vices to be shunned and the virtues to be exercised.14001400    De cavendiis vitiis et virtutibus exercendio, ibid. col. 857-930. Another treatise designed for the guidance of Charles the Bald, compiled chiefly from Gregory the Great’s Homilies and Morals. Its occasion was Charles’s request of Hincmar to send him Gregory the Great’s letter to king Reccared, when the latter came over to Catholicism. Hincmar’s treatise is a sort of appendix. It begins with a reference to the letter’s allusion to the works of mercy, and then out of Gregory’s writings Hincmar proceeds to treat of these works and their opposite vices. In chaps. 9 and 10 Hincmar discusses the eucharist and shows his acceptance of the view of Paschasius Radbertus.

5, 6. Treatises upon rape, a common offense in those lawless days.14011401    De coercendis militum rapinis, and De coërcendo et exstirpando raptu viduarum puellarum ac sanctimonialium, ibid. col. 953-956, 1017-1036.

7. To the noblemen of the Kingdom for the instruction of King Carloman14021402    Ad proceres regni, ibid. col. 993-1008. It was Hincmar’s response to the highly complimentary request of the Frankish nobles, that he draw up some instructions for the young King Carloman, on his accession in 882. It was therefore one of the last pieces the old statesman prepared.

IV. Writings upon ecclesiastical affairs. 1. The Capitularies of 852, 874, 877, 881.14031403    Capitula, ibid. col. 773-804, 1069-1086. 2. A defense of the liberties of the church, addressed to Charles.14041404    Pro ecclesiae libertatum defensione ibid. col. 1035-1070. It is in three parts, called respectively Quaterniones, Rotula and Admonitio; the first sets forth the necessity of the independence of the Church of the State, and quotes the ancient Christian Roman imperial laws on the subject. The second is on the trial of charges against the clergy as laid down in synodical decrees and papal decisions. The third is an exhortation to the king to respect ecclesiastical rights.

3. The crimination of priests, a valuable treatise upon the way in which their trials should be conducted, as shown by synodical decrees and quotations from Gregory the Great and others.14051405    De presbyteris criminosis, ibid. col. 1093-1110.

4. The case of the presbyter Teutfrid, who had stolen Queen Imma’s tunic, a golden girdle set with gems, an ivory box, and other things.14061406    De causa Teutfridi presbyteri, ibid. col. 1111-1116. The treatise deals with the ecclesiastico-legal aspects of the case, and shows how the criminal should be treated. Gregory the Great is freely quoted.

V. Miscellaneous. 1. Exposition of Psalm civ. 17.14071407    De verbis Psalmi: Herodii domus dux est eorum, ibid. col. 957-962. In the Vulgate the second clause of the verse reads, “the nest of the stork is their chief.” The treatise was written in answer to Louis the German’s question as to the meaning of these words. He begins with a criticism of the text, in which he quotes the Septuagint rendering, the exposition of Jerome, Augustin, Prosper and Cassiodorus. The meaning he advocates is that the nest of the stork surpasses that of the little birds of which it is the chief or leader. The treatise is particularly interesting for its manner of dealing with one of the so-called Scripture difficulties,

2. The vision of Bernold.14081408    De visione Bernoldi presbyteri, ibid. col. 1115-1120. This interesting little story dates from 877, the year of Charles the Bald’s death. Bernold lived in Rheims, and was known to Hincmar. He had a vision after he had been four days at the point of death, which he related to his confessor, and the confessor to Hincmar, who for obvious reasons published it. Bernold regained his health, and was therefore a living witness to the accuracy of his story. In his vision he went to “a certain place,” i.e. purgatory, in which he found forty-one bishops, ragged and dirty, exposed alternately to extreme cold and scorching heat. Among them was Ebo, Hincmar’s predecessor, who immediately implored Bernold to go to their parishioners and clergy and tell them to offer alms, prayers and the sacred oblation for them. This he did, and on his return found the bishops radiant in countenance, as if just bathed and shaved, dressed in alb, stole and sandals, but without chasubles. Leaving them, Bernold went in his vision to a dark place, where he saw Charles the Bald sitting in a heap of putrefaction, gnawed by worms and worn to a mere skeleton. Charles called him by name and implored him to help him. Bernold asked how he could. Then Charles told him that he was suffering because he had not obeyed Hincmar’s counsels, but if Bernold would secure Hincmar’s help he would be delivered. This Bernold did, and on his return he found the king clad in royal robes, sound in flesh and amid beautiful surroundings. Bernold went further and encountered two other characters—Jesse, an archbishop, and a Count Othar, whom he helped by going to the earth and securing the prayers, alms and oblations of their friends. He finally came across a man who told him that in fourteen years he would leave the body and go back to the place he was then in for good, but that if he was careful to give alms and to do other good works he would have a beautiful mansion. A rustic of stern countenance expressed his lack of faith in Bernold’s ability to do this, but was silenced by the first man. Whereupon Bernold asked for the Eucharist, and when it was given to him he drank almost half a goblet of wine, and said, “I could eat some food, if I had it.” He was fed, revived and recovered. Hincmar, in relating this vision, calls attention to its similarity to those told in the Dialogues of Gregory the Great, the Ecclesiastical History of Bede, in the writings of St. Boniface, and to that of Wettin, which Walahfrid Strabo related.14091409    See , 169, p. 732. He ends by exhorting his readers to be more fervent in their prayers, and especially to pray for king Charles and the other dead.

3. The life of St. Remigius,14101410    Vita Sanctii Remigii, Migne. CXXV. col. 1129-1188. the patron saint of Rheims. This is an expansion of Fortunatus’ brief biography by means of extracts from the Gesta Francorum, Gregory of Tours, and legendary and traditional sources, and particularly by means of moralizing and allegorizing. The length of the book is out of all proportion to its value or interest. To the life he adds an Encomium of St. Remigius.14111411    Encomium ejusdem S. Remigii, ibid. col. 1187-1198. The object of these two books is not to produce history or criticism, but an edifying work and to exalt the church of Rheims by exalting its patron. Perhaps also he would hint that the gift which Chlodwig made to Remigius might be acceptably imitated.14121412    Ebert. l.c. p. 256.

4. Hincmar appears as a genuine historian in the third part of the Bertinian Annals,14131413    Annalium Bertinianorum pars tertia, Migne, CXXV. col. 1203-1302. Reprint f Pertz, “Monum. Germ. Hist. Script.” I. 455-515. so called because first published from a MS. found in the convent of St. Bertin. These Annals of the West Frankish Kingdom begin with the year 741 and go down to 882. Hincmar wrote them from 861 to 882. He evidently felt the responsibility of the work he conducted, for he put every fact down in a singularly impartial manner, especially when it is remembered that he was himself an important part of contemporary history.14141414    Ebert, l.c. 367, 868.

5. Letters.14151415    Epistolae, Migne, CXXVI. col. 9-280. These are fifty-five in number, and are upon weighty matters; indeed they are official documents, and not familiar correspondence.

6. Poems..14161416    Carmina, Migne, CXXV. col. 1201-1202. There are a few verses elsewhere in Migne, and a poem on the Virgin Mary in Mai, “Class. auctori e Vaticanis codicibus, ” 452 sqq. They are very few and devoid of poetical merit14171417    Ebert, l.c. 257.



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