12 February 2011

Willibrord pseudo-history

Demasking the Dutch 'Willibrord myth' is relevant because it shows how and why the history of 8th century Frisia in West Flandres/ North France was relocated to 12th century Westfriesland/ Kennemerland/ Holland/ Utrecht.

Understanding this is vital for anyone who wants to explore and interpret the (reception of the) Oera Linda-book and/or old-Frisian (pseudo-) historiography.

Here is my improvised translation (with notes between {...}) of the most relevant parts of:


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1. Willibrord's mission

The Benedictine Willibrord preached the Fresen from 690 till his death in 739. Before him others preached the Fresen. Under king Dagobert, early seventh century, there was already a church in Trajectum according to St. Victor. In Fresia, Richardus ca. 600 founded the Centula abbey, and half a century later there is the abbey of St. Bertijn in St.-Omaars. Also Eloy, bishop of Noyon and Doornik (French Tournai), in the center of the Frankish empire, preached the Fresen, like Amandus, Wilfried of York, Wigbert, Suitbert and Wulfram. These data evidently belong to French-Flanders and are ignored in {Dutch} traditionalist historiography.

Alcuinis, the first biographer of Willibrord and writer for Charles the Great, describes how Willibrord arrived in the mouths of the Renus (Scheldt) and went to Trajectum (Tournehem). Theofried of Echternach, his later biographer, litteraly says that it was in the harbor of Gravalinge (Grevelingen, French Gravelines), near Trajectum in Fresia. The two don't contradict, as classical writers said that the Renus flowed into the sea where Brittannia could be seen.

Willibrord himself in 728 writes in his calendar that he arrived in Francia from overseas in 690. After he became bishop of the Fresen (Flemmish) in 695, he builds a little church for St. Martinus in Traiectum (Tournehem). After twenty years Willibrord has to move for Radbod, king of the Fresen; after that he can return to the area of his mission. According to the Cartularium of Radboud, the last bishop of Trajectum, the monastery that was built near the walls of Traiectum (Tournehem) and that was ruled by archbishop Willibrord, in 722 receives all benefits of the Traiectum (Tournehem) domain and the lands of Greveningo (Grevelingen) from Karel Martel.

Willibrord dies in 739 in the monastery of Aefternacum (Eperlecques) that he had built himself. (...)

His biographies reveal that Willibrord operated in a relatively small area. According to later interpretations he worked along the coast of Denmark, deep in Germany, in the Netherlands, Belgium and the north of France.

The territorial lists of the diocese Trajectum contains hundreds of toponyms from the area of Tournehem and Eperlecques; in that of the Aefternacum abbey there's hundreds of the same area. It cannot be argued why they would include a few individual toponyms from Kennemerland, Holland or Brabant, as was always done in {Dutch} traditionalist historiography.

At excavations in Utrecht, besides Roman remains, nothing noteworthy was found from before the tenth century, and one can hardly claim that Echternach was built near the walls of Utrecht.

If Willibrord had both his abbey and his diocese in French-Flanders, how did his story move to Echternach, Kennemerland and Utrecht?"

2. Eperlecques and Echternach

The abbey of Willibrord in Aefternacum falls in decline around 775. Its goods become possession of the king who installs commandries ("lekenabten") to take care of them. Adelbert is named as successor and perhaps last benedict-abbot, possibly he was a commandry too. In 857 the abbey is taken by the Normans and the abbots flee to St.-Bertijnsabbey of St.-Omaars. The last commandry, Siegfried of Luxemburg, moves the abbey from Eperlecques to Luxemburg where in 973 a new benedicts-community is formed that becomes known as Echternach; count Siegfried lets go of the rights. This Siegfried was the father of Lutgard of Luxemburg, who in 980 married count Arnurf of Gent and became the mother of Dirk III.

The moving of the monastery is described in three official documents. {that I have not translated}

The monks of Echternach, when they have financial problems in the twelfth century, collect existing documentation of the monastery Aefternacum of which they claim to be the continuation. In search of the past goods of the monastery, they first go to the right area south of Duinkerke. There they could not claim anything, because the goods and rights had long been forfeited. Theofried of Echternach (abbot from 1093 till 1110) noted several past goods in his Vita S. Willibrordi. After him provost Theoderic of Echternach in the late twelfth century collects 175 documents for the Liber Aureus (written between 1190 and 1222).

3. 1156: Echternach claims churches of Holland and gives up again

Two whole centuries after the foundation of Echternach and four centuries after Willibrord, the monks go search for possessions and rights of Aefternacum elsewhere and are led by the assumption that 'Fresen' may have meant 'Friezen' and 'Trajectum' possibly the diocese of Utrecht. They don't go look in Friesland (...) or Utrecht (where they would not have had a chance if they would have asked the bishop, whom they also needed as an ally), but in Holland {Westfriesland and Kennemerland} that had recently become dry land {re-claimed?!}.

In Vita S. Willibrordi of  the twelfth century, Theofridus van Echternach writes that the rulers of Holland, Dirk (III or IV), Floris (I) and his son Dirk (V), who had 'stolen' 25 churches from the holy bishop, had died at young age (gods revenge!). The churches were not specified and in later documents only 24 names are mentioned.

Theofried of Echternach after 1100 sends three monks to Holland to find goods and rights that might be claimed. Apparently nothing is found that can be linked to older documentation, so random existing churches are named. The lists that were made then can be found in the Sacramentum of Echternach that is located in the National Library of Paris, and that consists of several differing name lists, proves that all earlier dated documents with names of churches have to be later forgeries, because Echternach did not have access to names earlier.

In 1156 the abbey of Echternach uses a forged document dated 1063 to claim 24 churches from the count of Holland and the abbey of Egmond, that 450 years earlier would have belonged to Willibrord, a possession that the abbey all this time apparently would have neglected. Named are:

Flardinge (Vlaardingen),
Kiericwerve (Oegstgeest?),
Velsereburc (Velserbroek),
Heliglo (Heiloo),
Pethem (Petten),
Harago (Hargen),
Sche (Overschie),
Rinesburc (Rijnsburg),
Warmonde (Warmond),
Letthemuton (Leimuiden),
Rinsaterwalt (Rijnsaterwoud),
Asclerewalt (Esselijkerwoude),
Agathenkiricha (near Beverwijk),
Hemetenkyricha (Heemskerk),
Ascmannedelf (Assendelft),
Sprirnerawalt (Spieringhorn under Sloten or Spaarnwoude),
Sloten (Sloten),
Ekmune (Egmond),
Alcmere (Alkmaar),
Skimere (Schermer),
Misenen (Mijzen near Avenhorn),
Woggungen (Wognum),
Aldendohorp (Oudorp) and
Vronen (or Vroonen near St.-Pancras, lost).

It proves the existence of those villages in 1156, but certainly not that they existed already in the eighth century. Echternach's claim was fivefold false, because nothing indicates that these churches had ever belonged to Willibrord:

a. neither in the documents of his diocese Traiectum, nor in those of his abbey of Aefternacum these churches were named before.
b. nor do they show up in the Vitae of Willibrord that was written by Alcuinus and Theofried of Echternach.
c. the villages that are named there can not be related to Kennemerland {or Holland or Westfriesland};
d. also in the local sources they are never mentioned as being Willibrord's churches;
e. there is no papal document from before 1063 confirming these possessions and to the document from Eugenius III from 1148 these names were added later.

Churches belong to dioceses and hardly ever to monasteries that can own lands and rights. That's one of the reasons why Echternach involved the bishop of Utrecht, who also tried to claim Holland.

According to a document dated 28 December 1063, bishop Willem of Utrecht agrees with the abbot of Echternach, that the abbey has a 50% ownership to the churches of Holland, donated by Karel Martel (three-and-a-half century earlier) and others, that were 'stolen' by Dirk (III) of Holland, Dirk (IV) and Floris (I). The list is almost identical to that of 1156:

They were the capital churches:
Flardinge, Kierecwerve, Velsereburc, Heliglo, Pethem,
with subchurches or chapels:
Harago, Sche, Rinesburc, Warmunde, Letthemuthon, Rinsaterswalt, Asclekerewalt, Agathenkiricha, Hemetonkyricha, Ascmannedelf, Spirnerawalt, Sloten, Ekmunde, Alcmere, Skimere, Misnen, Woggungen, Aldendohorp and Vronlo.

The document is a forgery put together after 1100, because Echternach did not have access to the names before, probably it is from 1156. It looks like Echternach in 1156 went to Utrecht with claims, and that the bishop of Utrecht, at that time Godfried van Rhenen (1156-1178), was asked to assist. If the churches would have been Willibrord's, they would have belonged to the diocese of Trajectum, and if Trajectum was Utrecht, Utrecht would not have needed Echternach. But Utrecht did not have any proof that she had ever owned the churches and therefore Echternach's claims were a support to her own political agenda. That's why Utrecht and Echternach decided to divide the trophee that still had to be won. Thus Utrecht in 1156 was made to believe that it had been the Trajectum of Willibrord, although Utrecht did not own one single document from which this, or any earlier possession in Holland could be deduced.

Relevant is also that Utrecht claimed that it was 'given' Holland in 1063 by German-Roman King Hendrik IV, but to have 'given' it to Godfried III the Hunchback. He therefore had 'rights' in Holland both through Utrecht as Echternach, both based on fraudulous claims by Echternach.

In an undated document, that has to be from between 1071 and 1076, Duke Godfried of Nether-Lotharingen declares that abbot Reginhart of Echternach has handed over half of the churches of Holland (from the monastery's possession) to bishop Willem of Utrecht, the other half, that Robrecht (the Fresoon) had 'stolen', to him (Godfried) for a compensation of 60 pound per year. In 1076 duke Godfried is murdered and bishop Willem dies.

Here Echternach passed on rights that it had not even succesfully acquired yet. This was in the advantage of Utrecht, being Holland's opponent, as Godfried was a stronger military allie than the abbot of Echternach. The fact that Robert the Fresoon (Robrecht I), who was count of Flanders from 1071 till 1093, was accused here, and not the counts of Holland, is because he was married to Geertrui van Saksen, widow of Floris I, and stepfather and custodian of Dirk V. Notice that in 1063 Echternach did not pass on rights to Utrecht; the bishop of Utrecht merely agreed that Echternach already owned half. Also notice that the document says that Robrecht only 'stole' half of the rights of Utrecht. This document is a forgery too.

Around 1101 abbot Theofried of Echternach addresses emperor Hendrik (IV) with the request that the churches of Holland, that were 'stolen' by a tyrant, are given back to Willibrord, since the emperor's father has commanded this in the presence of pope Leo in Mainz (in 1047). Important to note that in this document the churches could not be specified, since Echternach did not have access to the names yet. In 1101 the bishop of Utrecht Burchard mentions Floris II as his vassal, which means that he had to accept him as count, while at the same time not acknowledging his authority.

Echternach had not made claims in Holland in 1063. But even if the churches had been donated to and passed on in 1063 by Echternach, they could no longer be reclaimed by that monastery in 1156, which once more proves the forgery.

4. Willibrord is relocated to Holland

In the collection of documents about properties from the last bishop of Traiectum (the so-called Cartularium of Radboud), that most likely had travelled in the twelfth century from the St.-Bertijnsabbey in St.-Omaars through the St.Pietersabby in Gent and finally to Egmond, none of the churches is named and nobody had ever associated Willibrord to Kennemerland {or Holland or Westfriesland} or Utrecht. The original Codex with the list of goods from the St. Maartenchurch of Tournehem can be found in the British Museum in London. Utrecht received a copy from Egmond later.

Thibaldus, chaplain of the count of Holland, and abbot Walter from the abbey of Egmond, travel to Echternach in 1156 to reject the claims. As compensation for withdrawing the claims they offer a few acres of land on Schouwen-Duiveland that was just being reclaimed. Echternach accepts this deal. In 1157 count Dirk VI of Holland dies, his son Floris III takes over.

(...) If Echternach would really have had rightful claims to the benefits of 25 churches, and if they could have proven this to Dirk VI with an authentic papal document, it would never have been satisfied with just a few acres of land. Their chances were lost anyway when Utrecht replaced bishop Godfried van Rhenen (who was on their side) with Boudewijn (1178-1196), a son of Dirk VI of Holland and a brother of Floris III. Echternach withdraws from Holland and from now on aims its false claims at Brabant, with slightly more success.

But it's not over yet, as in 1211 a document is made in Echternach, in which count Willem I of Holland confirms the donation to the abbey of goods on Schouwen, made by earlier counts. Thus, Echternach accepts that it concerned donations, rather than a deal to compensate for the fraudulous claim of 24 churches, to which it does not refer with a single word. With this Echternach confesses that those earlier claims were false.

By rejecting Echternach's earlier claims, count Dirk VI of Holland and abbot Walter of Egmond not only avoided having to pay cash, but also made any possible future Hollandic claim, based on this old history, impossible. At the other hand, by making a deal to end the hassle, they fed the idea that something at least about the claim might have been justified. Only later, when the claims have become passed history, they start liking the {Willibrord} myth and ever more names from the Aefternacum files, ones that even the Echternach monks would not have dared to use, are being relocated to Holland.

The Egmond Annals were written between 1100 and 1250. Although at the same time the monks made copies of the Cartularium of Radboud, they did not use a single fragment of it in their Annals, which proves that the monks had not conceived the idea yet to relate Trajectum to Holland or Utrecht.

In Hollandic documents Willibrord only shows up in the thirteenth century, and only marginally, in the Egmond Annals and in the Holland Rhimechronicals by Melis Stoke. Not before 1301 the first relics of Willibrord in Utrecht are mentioned, imported from Echternach, and only after that the church starts celebrating him.

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This is how on Wikipedia the 12th century lie is still believed and passed on:

"Saint Willibrord (c. 658 – November 7, 739) was a Northumbrian missionary, known as the "Apostle to the Frisians" in the modern Netherlands. He became the first Bishop of Utrecht and died at Echternach, Luxembourg."

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