Friday, March 17, 2017

Just a Little Landscape History - Charlemagne's (742-814) Royal Estate at Asnapia

Asnapium - An Inventory of One of Charlemagne's Royal Estates, c 800

Charlemagne (Charles I, Carolus Magnus, Charles the Great) (742-814) was King of the Franks from 768 until his death.  He expanded small Frankish kingdoms into an Empire that covered much of Western & Central Europe. He conquered Italy & was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800, as a rival of the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople. Charles I, was the 1st Holy Roman Emperor, & the 1st emperor in western Europe, since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire 3 centuries earlier. 
 Charlemagne holding an orb and a sword. The British Library

Under his influence, society, art, gardening, religion, & farming underwent a political & cultural Renaissance. Charlemagne provided funds that allowed monks to copy the works of Greek & Roman authors. Couriers traveled throughout Europe to collect ancient manuscripts. Although Charlemagne was only barely able to read, he set up schools throughout his empire, & he invited scholars from throughout Europe to establish a palace school in Aachen, the German city where he moved his capital. His cultural renaissance provided the basic tools—schools, curricula, textbooks, libraries, and teaching techniques—upon which later cultural revivals would be based. 
King Charlemagne Coronación de Carlomagno, miniatura de las Grandes Crónicas de Francia, siglo XIV

Charlemagne (742-812) experimented with plants in his own garden & oversaw plantings on his royal estates. He issued imperial edicts, or capitularies, to guide civil, military, & ecclesiastical affairs. The Capitulare des Villis specified a list of plants to be grown on royal estates, as well as farming guidelines. This document dates to the end of the 8C & survives in a manuscript of near contemporary date. It provides a unique insight into the social & economic worlds of the landed & the peasants. Charlemagne (742-812) experimented with plants in his own garden & oversaw plantings on his royal estates. The inventory of his royal estate at Asnapia provides detailed information about farmsteads in 9C France.
Charlemagne and Pope Adrian

Asnapium: An Inventory of One of Charlemagne's Estates, c. 800

Asnapio, home to more than 100 people, centered on a "great house" or mansion, surrounded by smaller dwellings. Royal estates were intentionally designed to be self-sustaining, & typically included a number of smaller manors or & farmsteads near the mansion. Such a royal estate typically would include workshops, barns, granaries, dairies, breweries, ovens, fields, gardens, vineyards, & orchards. 

We found at the imperial estate of Asnapio a royal house well-built of stone, three rooms. Balconies surround the whole house [similar to the house at right]. 11 apartments for women; below, one cellar; 2 porticos. 17 other houses within the court are made of wood, with all rooms & other additions well constructed. 1 stable, 1 kitchen, 1 mill, 1 granary, 3 barns.

The courtyard is strongly defended by a hedge with a stone gateway, & above is a balcony from which distributions (to the poor) can be made. Similarly another courtyard, enclosed by a hedge, is carefully laid out, & planted with various kinds of trees.

"Attached to the royal villa, in the center of which stood the palace or manse, were numerous dependent & humbler dwellings, occupied by mechanics, artisans & tradesmen, or rather manufacturers & craftsmen, in great numbers. The dairy, the bakery, the butchery, the brewery, the flour-mill were there...The villa was a city in embryo, & in due course it grew into one, for as it supplied in many respects the wants of the surrounding country, so it attracted population & became a center of commerce." Jacob I. Mombert, Charles the Great (New York, 1888), pp. 401-402.

The smaller manors of Grisio & Repperimus, part of Asnapio, also were inventoried. In the villa of Grisio we found domain buildings, where there are 3 barns & a yard surrounded by a hedge. There is there 1 garden with trees, 10 geese, 8 ducks, 30 chickens. In another villa. We found domain buildings & a yard surrounded by a hedge & within 3 barns, 1 arpent of vines, 1 garden with trees, 15 geese, 20 chickens. At Repperiminus...we found in that lodging a royal house with stone exterior & well-built wooden interior, 2 rooms, 2 solaria. Of other wooden cottages within the courtyard, 8 had attached overhanging rooms, & one well-built stable...a kitchen & bakery in one holding, & 3 granaries without grain. The courtyard is surrounded by a hedge well defended above by thorns, with a wooden gate. A little court is likewise encircled by a hedge. In a 3rd villa, domain buildings. It has 2 barns, 1 granary, 1 garden, 1 yard well enclosed by a hedge. 

Farm produce: old spelt (wheat) from last year, 90 baskets which can be made into 450 weight of flour; 100 measures of barley. From the present year, 110 baskets of spelt, planted 60 baskets from the same, the rest we found; 100 measures of wheat, 60 sown, the rest we found; 98 measures of rye all sown; 1800 measures of barley, 1100 sown, the rest we found; 430 measures of oats, 1 measure of beans, 12 measures of peas. At the 5 mills, 800 measures, small measures. At the 4 breweries, 650 measures, small measures, 240 given to the prebendaries, the rest we found. At the 2 bridges, 60 measures of salt & 2 shillings. At the 4 gardens, 11 shillings. Honey, 3 measures; about 1 measure of butter; lard, from last year 10 sides, new sides 200 with fragments & fats, cheese from the present year 43 weights.

The garden herbs which we found were lily, putchuck, mint, parsley, rue, celery, lovage, sage, savory, juniper, leeks, garlic, tansy, wild mint, coriander, scallions, onions, cabbage, kohl-rabi, & betony. 

Trees: pears, apples, medlars, peaches, hazelnuts, walnuts, mulberries, & quinces.

The inventory lists these plants found in 2 of the gardens of Asnapio
Agrimony - Acrimonia
Beets - Betas
Betony - Vittonican
Cabbage - Caules
Calendula - Solsequia
Catnip - Neptam
Celery - Apium
Chervil - Cerfolium
Chives - Brittolos
Clary Sage - Sclareiam
Coriander - Coliandrum
Costmary - Costum
Garlic - Alia
Kohlrabi - Ravacaules
Leeks - Porrum
Lily - Lilium
Lovage - Libesticum
Mallow - Malvas
Marshmallow - Mismalvas
Onions - Cepas
Parsley - Petresilum
Rue - Rutam
Sage - Salviam
Savory - Satureiam
Scallions - Scalonias
Tansy - Tanazitam
Wild Mint - Mentastrum
Wormwood - Abrotanum


The complete inventory (in Latin) of Asnapio in the Monumenta Germanie Historica (Legum), Vol 1:178-179

Frederic Austin Ogg, ed., A Source Book of Mediaeval History: Documents Illustrative of European Life & Institutions from the German Invasions to the Renaissance, (New York, 1907, reprinted by Cooper Square Publishers (New York), 1972), pp. 127-129.

About Charlemagne & animals

In this posting, we look at the buildings, gardens & plants at Asnapio. Farm animals on the estate were extensive as well. Asnapio provided mounts for Charlemagne's cavalry, the inventory listed more than 60 horses. Other livestock included  51 head of larger cattle, 5 3-year-olds, 7 2-year-olds, 7 yearlings; 10 2-year-old colts, 8 yearlings, 3 stallions; 16 cows; 2 asses; 50 cows with calves, 20 young bullocks, 38 yearling calves, 3 bulls, 260 hogs, 100 pigs, 5 boars, 150 sheep with lambs, 200 yearling lambs, 120 rams, 30 goats with kids, 30 yearling kids, 2 male goats, 30 geese, 80 chickens, 22 peacocks.
Using the Horses - Victory of Charlemagne over the Avars - Albrecht Altdorfer, 1518. Some of Charlemagne's horses engaged in battle. The mounts in this encounter may have been raised at Asnapium.