The Le Mans Forgeries: A Chapter from the History of Church Property in the Ninth Century

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The episcopal biographies, saints' lives, charters, and poems knowncollectively as the Le Mans forgeries are an intricate puzzle that has occupied critics of medieval sources ever since the seventeenth century without yielding a generally acceptable solution. The persistent mystery has lain in the fact that, though the contents are obviously tendentious, the date of composition has seemed to be virtually contemporary with the events described.By solving the mystery of the date of composition, Walter Goffart unmasks the full extent of the forger's deception and goes on to present the forgeries in their true guise--as the effort of a cathedral cleric, in the reign of Charles the Bald (840-877), to rewrite the law of church property in such a way as to vindicate for the bishopric of Le Mans the ownership of all church lands in the diocese.On the basis of extensive manuscript study, Goffart delves deeply intoall textual problems raised by the forgeries and related writings. He disentangles the order of composition and authoritatively pronounces on the authenticity of the eighty-four Le Mans charters. Most of all, he insists that the forgeries are an essay on church property and its law and indicates their importance for the study of Carolingian and ecclesiastical institutions.