An Inventory at an Estate of Charles the Great


Note: This estate inventory is an example of one of the results of the central supervision, under Charles, of the royal demesne [the lord's own land, farmed by the tenants], the sort of supervision suggested by Charles's famous capitulary "de villis", which asks the sort of questions that this inventory answers.

WE FOUND in the domain estate of Asnapium (Genep, in the modern-day Netherlands) a royal house built of stone in the best manner, 3 rooms; the whole house surrounded with balconies, with 11 apartments for women; beneath 1 cellar; 2 porticoes; 17 other houses built of wood within the court-yard with as many rooms and other appurtenances, well built; 1 stable, 1 kitchen, 1 mill, 1 granary, 3 barns.

The yard surrounded carefully with a hedge and stone gateway and above a balcony from which to make distributions [to the poor].

An inner yard, likewise enclosed within a hedge, arranged in a suitable manner planted with various kinds of trees.

Vestments: coverings for 1 bed, 1 table cloth, 1 towel.

Utensils: 2 brass kettles, 2 drinking cups, 2 brass cauldrons, 1 iron one, 1 frying-pan, 1 gramalmin, 1 pair of andirons, 1 lamp, 2 hatchets, 1 chisel, 2 augers, 1 axe, 1 knife, 1 large plane, 1 plane, 2 scythes, 2 sickles, 2 spades tipped with iron. Enough wooden utensils for use.

Farm produce: old spelt* 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 and 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 and fats, cheese from the present year 43 weights.

Of cattle: 51 head of larger cattle, 5 three-year-olds, 7 two-year-olds, 7 yearlings; 10 two-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.

Also concerning the dependencies which pertain to the above mansion. In the villa of Grisio we found domain buildings, where there are 3 barns and 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 and a yard surrounded by a hedge and within 3 barns, 1 arpent of vines, 1 garden with trees, 15 geese, 20 chickens.

In a third villa, domain buildings. It has 2 barns, 1 granary, 1 garden, 1 yard well enclosed by a hedge.

We found all the dry and liquid measures just as in the palace. We did not find any goldsmiths, silversmiths, blacksmiths, huntsmen or persons engaged in other services.

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.

spelt: A kind of grain (Triticum spelta) still widely cultivated for food in Germany and Switzerland; sometimes known as German wheat. Back to text
weight: The unit of weight was the Roman pound, at 408 grams. Charlemagne replaced the old Gallic pound, which was closer to the modern American pound, of 453 grams. Back to text
measures: The unit of measure was the muid. Charlemagne had a standard measure (modius publicus) constructed and in a number of his capitularies enjoined that it be taken as a model by all his subjects. It contained probably about 50 dry liters. A smaller measure was the setier, containing about three and a fifth liters. Back to text
prebendaries: Clerics attached to the church on or near the estate. Back to text
shillings: A shilling was a unit of money, equaling 12 pennies of 1.7 grams of silver each (32 wheat grains of .053 grams). Back to text
domain buildings: "Attached to the royal villa, in the center of which stood the palace or manse, were numerous dependent and humbler dwellings, occupied by mechanics, artisans and tradesmen, or rather manufacturers and craftsmen, in great numbers. The dairy, the bakery, the butchery, the brewery, the flour-mill were there . . . The villa was a city in embryo, and in due course it grew into one, for as it supplied in many respects the wants of the surrounding country, so it attracted population and became a center of commerce."-- Jacob I. Mombert, Charles the Great (New York, 1888), pp. 401-402. Back to text
arpent: An ancient Gallic land measure, equivalent to about half a Roman jugerum (the jugerum was about a quarter of a hectare, or two-thirds of an acre). Back to text
putchuck: The same as "pachak." The fragrant roots of this plant are still exported from India to be used for burning as incense. Back to text
lovage: Called libesticum in the text, this herb (Levisticum officinale) of the carrot family resembles celery and is used as a spice and a remedy. Back to text
kohl-rabi: A cultivated kind of cabbage (Brassica oleracea gongylodes). The edible part is a large turnip-like swelling of the stem above the surface of the ground. Back to text
betony: A mint plant, genus Stachys, used both as a medicine and as a dye. Back to text
medlars: A small tree (Mespilius germanica) of the rose family whose fruit resembles crab apples. Back to text

Images:


Aspects of Farming  Aristotle's Politics

The months April through September depicting Peasants  (Ninth century)
A Mouldboard Plow(Luttrell Psalter, 1340)

Work in Winter

Work during February

Work during July

Work during August

Work during September

Work during September

Work during December