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An archbishop of Reims ; born in 806; died at Epernay on 21 December, 882. Descended from a distinguished family of the West Franks, he received an excellent education at the Abbey of St-Denis, under the direction of the Abbot Hilduin. When the latter came to the court of the Emperor Louis the Pious in 822 as court chaplain, Hincmar accompanied him thither, and by actual experience became acquainted with the political as well as the ecclesiastical administration of the empire, in all its ramifications. He also followed Hilduin into banishment at Corvey, and returned with him later to St-Denis. Hincmar used his influence with the emperor on behalf of the banished abbot, and not without success: for he stood in high favour with Louis the Pious, having always been a faithful adherent of his, and his loyal champion through all his vicissitudes. After his return from Corvey, Hincmar resided for a time in St-Denis, where he pursued his studies with great zeal and success, and afterwards at the imperial court, where he was active in political as well as spiritual affairs. In the year 840 King Charles the Bald called Hincmar into his service permanently; and from that time he was the monarch's skilful and efficient counsellor in all matters. A few years later (845) he was raised to the Archiepiscopal See of Reims at the Synod of Beauvais. Ebbo, the occupant of this important see, was deposed at a Synod of Diedenhofen (Thioville) in 835; it is true that he had returned to Reims on the death of Louis the Pious in 840, and had again undertaken the administration of the diocese, performing many ecclesiastical functions; but in May, 841, he was again expelled, and afterwards (844), at the instance of Pope Sergius II, was admitted to lay communion only. Accordingly, on 18 April, 845, Hincmar was chosen as his successor and was consecrated at Reims on 3 May. The Emperor Lothair I, being hostile to Hincmar, induced Pope Sergius II to order a new investigation into the case of Ebbo ; however the new archbishop came out of the inquiry triumphantly, and Pope Leo IV conferred the pallium on him.

Henceforward for nearly forty years Hincmar remained at the very centre of government, both ecclesiastical and political, in the West-Frankish Empire; he was a decisive factor in all the more important transactions, and the numerous disputes spoken of in the church history of the Franks in the second half of the ninth century for the most part centre around the person of the Metropolitan of Reims. Although Hincmar was generally recognized as archbishop, owing to his investiture with the pallium by Leo IV, his opponents, especially the Emperor Lothair and his courtiers, still made use of the affair of Ebbo in order to ruin Hincmar. Hincmar looked upon the restoration of Ebbo in 840 as null and void, and on that account even forbade the clergy, who had been ordained by Ebbo at that period, to exercise any spiritual functions. These clerics, however, brought their case before the Synod of Soissons, in 853. Here again the much-vexed question of Ebbo's deposition and Hincmar's consecration was investigated; and the synod declared that the ordinations by Ebbo after his alleged restoration were null; nevertheless, at the request of King Charles, the priests in question were again admitted to communion. Hincmar wished to receive the pope's confirmation of this decision; but Leo IV refused this favour; and it was not until 855 that his successor, Benedict III , confirmed the decree. Nicholas I renewed it in 863, adding the clause: "provided that Hincmar was in no wise disobedient to the mandates of the Apostolic See ".

Shortly afterwards, the pope received from various quarters reports of injustice which had been done to the above-mentioned clerics ; and Charles the Bald interested himself on behalf of one of them, named Wulfad. At this time Pope Nicholas I wrote to Hincmar and to the other archbishops of France, calling upon them to arrange for a new synod, in order to examine the case once more. Soon afterwards, King Charles conferred the vacant Archiepiscopal See of Bourges upon Wulfad. The new synod was opened at Soissons, 16 August, 866. It was very mild in its treatment of the deposed clerics of Reims, and acting on its advice the pope restored Wulfad and his companions, enjoining them, however, to show deference and obedience to Hincmar. In his letter of 6 December, 866, the pope had spoken his mind pretty forcibly to Hincmar about his whole conduct; the latter replied in a humble letter (867) and informed the pope that he had immediately restored the clerics in question. Another matter in which Hincmar took a leading part was the controversy about the teachings of Gottschalk (see GOTTSCHALK OF ORBAIS ) concerning predestination. After being condemned at Mainz in 848, Gottschalk was sent to Hincmar, who kept him in custody, under his own eyes at Reims. In 849 a synod took place at Quierzy, at which Gottschalk was once more condemned. Hincmar wrote a treatise on the question of predestination, and at the new Synod of Quierzy, in 853, he laid before the bishops his celebrated four chapters on the doctrine of predestination, which, however, were attacked by Prudentius of Troyes as well as by Remigius of Lyons. The Synod of Valence in 855 also published canons in opposition to Hincmar's views; whereupon the latter wrote his first book, "De Prædestinatione" (857-8), which, however, has not come down to us.

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After the great Synod of Savonières near Toul (859), which was also attended by Hincmar, he wrote his second diffuse and prolix work on predestination. His four theses, which he also advocated before the Synod of Toucy in 860, are as follows:

  • (1) God wills the salvation of all men;
  • (2) The will remains free after the fall of man, but must be liberated and sanctified by God's grace ;
  • (3) Divine Predestination foreordains that, out of the massa perditionis , a few shall be brought to eternal life, out of mercy;
  • (4) Christ died for us all.

After the Synod of Toucy, the predestination conflict between Hincmar and the other bishops quieted down. Still another controversy arose out of this dispute; Hincmar disapproved of the phrase Trina Deitas , which occurred in a hymn in the office of several martyrs, and forbade these words to be sung in his diocese. Gottschalk attacked him on this account and accused him of Sabellianism. Hincmar answered with his essay, "De una et non trina deitate". Gottschalk did not seek reconciliation with the Church ; but it is not clear whether the charge of cruelty which was brought against Hincmar by Pope Nicholas I, referred to his treatment of Gottschalk or not.

On account of the rude assertion of his metropolitan rights, Hincmar got into a quarrel with two of his suffragans, as well as with Pope Nicholas I . The Archbishop of Reims had many reasons for being dissatisfied with his suffragan Rothadius of Soissons ; and the latter in return made charges against Hincmar. Rothadius had deposed a priest for grave reasons; whereon Hincmar had reinstated the priest and had his successor excommunicated and imprisoned. The matter came up for discussion at the Synod of Pistres, in the Diocese of Rouen, in 862, and Rothadius was deposed. He appealed to the pope, and at the same time asked his advocates at the synod to defend him. From this Hincmar concluded that the deposed bishop had abandoned his appeal to Rome and the synod (which was continued at Soissons ) deposed him again. Thereupon, Nicholas I took energetic action against Hincmar, because he had slighted the appeal to the Holy See, and also because the deposition of a bishop as a causa major was a matter which must be brought before the pope himself. When Rothadius at length reached Rome, after having had every imaginable difficulty placed in his way, he was restored to his episcopal office by the pope in 865. Similarly Hincmar quarrelled with his nephew, Hincmar the Younger, Bishop of Laon. The Pseudo-Isidorian decretals play a large part in the letters and essays, which were written in France in connexion with these disputes.

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In politics, Hincmar was a strong supporter of Charles the Bald. His zeal for the defence of the rights of the Church and the furtherance of her influence led him persistently to work for a close alliance between the episcopate and the royal power in order thereby to secure the support of the king against the nobles. In the quarrels between Charles the Bald and Lothair, he used all his influence on behalf of the former. When Louis the German made his victorious march into the West Frankish kingdom in 858, Hincmar boldly opposed Louis, organized and directed the opposition of the bishops and clergy against him, and took a prominent part in the peace negotiations at Coblenz in 860. In this crisis Hincmar saved Charles's crown. When King Lothair II repudiated his wife Theutberga and married Waldrade, Hincmar attacked him in an admirable polemical letter "De divortio Lotharii". After the death of this king in 869 Hincmar took a prominent part in making Charles the Bald the successor of Lothair, and he himself crowned Charles king in Metz, in spite of the objections of Pope Adrian II in favour of Emperor Louis II. Hincmar on this occasion violently opposed the wishes of the pope. Afterwards differences arose between Hincmar and Charles, because the former disapproved of Charles's journey to Rome, and the crowning of Charles the Bald as emperor.

After his coronation in 875 the emperor summoned a great synod at Ponthion, which met in June, 876, and at which the papal Brief was read, appointing Ansegis, Archbishop of Sens, Vicar Apostolic of Gaul and Germany. Hincmar, the recognized chief metropolitan of the West Frankish kingdom, and nearly all the Frankish bishops made an energetic protest against this, and refused to recognize the vicar, so that the latter could not exercise the rights which had been conferred upon him. In defence of his rights as metropolitan, Hincmar wrote his treatise "De jure metropolitanorum". After the death of Charles the Bald, 877, Hincmar still exercised his far-reaching influence under the succeeding Carlovingian monarchs of the West Franks. He sought to prevent the decay of the kingdom. At the Synods of Troyes (878) and Fismes (881) he took a prominent part, and endeavoured to strengthen the political and religious life of the empire by several writings. Owing to an invasion of the Northmen in 882, he was obliged to retire to Epernay, where he died. Though ambitious and stern he was an energetic, learned, and able prelate. His writings (to those already mentioned must be added his "Annales" of the years 861-82) are to be found in Migne, P. L., CXXV-CXXVI.

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