School of Historical Studies

Carolingian Polyptyques

St-Germain-des-Prés: Neuillay

The polyptyque of the Parisian monastery of St-Germain-des-Prés is the oldest and by far one of the most detailed of the ninth-century polyptyques, describing the holdings of the abbey near Paris. It was compiled in 810 at the instruction of Abbot Irminon, from whom it takes its other name 'the polytyque of the Abbot Irminon'. Of the original text only around half survives, the rest was destroyed in a fire in the eighteenth century. The text describes twenty-five villas belonging to the abbey, which extend geographically from near Château Thierry in the east to Nogent le Rotrou, which is around 120 km to the west of Paris.

It is a very valuable source of information, because the polyptyque lists not only the tenants by name and status, but also gives familial relationships. It often describes the names and status of the children of the tenants, especially where the parents status was not equal. This means that the sex ratio and average size of family can be determined from the polyptyque, and this, combined with the fact that it may be possible to calculate the areas of the manors and fiscs, allows an average population density to be calculated.

Manuscript: Paris, BnF Lat. 12832.

Edition: B. Guérard, ed. Polyptyque de l'abbé Irminon 2 vols. (Paris 1844). A. Longnon, ed. Polyptyque de l'Abbaye de Saint-Germain-des-Prés rédigé au temps de l'abbé Irminon, 2 vols, (Paris 1895).

Translation: Dutton P. Carolingian Civilization: A Reader (Peterborough ON 1993), pp. 183-185.

Map: a map of the holdings of St-Germain-des-Prés


UPDATED:January 2008
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