Wala (c. 755 – 31 August 836) was a son of Bernard, son of Charles Martel, and one of the principal advisers of his cousin Charlemagne, of Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious, and of Louis's son Lothair I. He succeeded his brother Adalard as abbot of Corbie and its new daughter foundation, Corvey, in 826 or 827.
Originally a count (comes) attached to the palace under Charlemagne (811), Wala was forced to enter the monastery of Corbie in 814 as part of a purging of palace rivals and hangers-on by Louis the Pious. In 816 he and Adalard were given the responsibility of organising the government of the convent of Herford, recently passed into Louis's hands at the Council of Aachen. In the 820s Wala became a strong opponent of royal/imperial control of church benefices. He was back at court in 822 as a concillor (councillor). According to Paschasius Radbertus, Wala alleged on one occasion that the "army of clerics" (i.e. chaplains) resident at the Palace of Aachen (and perhaps itinerant with the emperor) served only for personal gain and did not form a legitimate ecclesiastical institution. In 831 Wala left Corbie; in 834 he was abbot of Bobbio.
Wala was born as a son of a Saxon woman and Count Bernard who was a brother of Pepin the Third and a natural son of Charles Martel. Wala was the first cousin of Charlemagne and a half brother of Adalard the Younger, who served as abbot of Corbie until 826. Wala also had a full brother named Bernarius, and two sisters Gundrada and Theodrada, abbess of Notre-Dame de Soissons. In Wala’s early years, he had been brought up in the school of the royal Palace with his brother Adalard the Younger. At Court, both Wala and his brother Adalard were known as being honest, honorable and zealous. As a youth, Wala incurred the temporary disapproval of his cousin Charles. In 792, it has been supposed that he was in some way involved with the conspiracy of Charles son’, Pepin the hunchback. As a result, he was banned from court and forced to live under the close watch of some of the loyal magnates. During this time, it is presumed that he married daughter of William, count of Toulouse, Rothlindis, and Wala became a brother in-law of Bernard of Barcelona. He was widowed before he became a monk in 814. In his early years, Wala regained royal favor. During Charlemagne’s rule, he rose to become the Emperor’s second-in-command. Charlemagne appears to have appointed his cousin Wala to oversee administration on Saxony, just as he had elevated his brother in law Gerold in Bavaria. During his rule Charlemagne appears to have relied confidently on his capable cousins, including Adalard, Bernarius and Wala.
Under Louis the Pious
Upon the death of Charlemagne, his son Louis the Pious was proclaimed as the new emperor. Wala came to the new king and submitted homage as a part of tradition for the Franks. However, in 814, in effort to wipe out potential political disability, Louis obliged Wala to become a monk at Corbie. Nearly all Charlemagne's old advisors were removed from the royal sphere of influence. However, in 821, Louis recalled Adalard from his exile to the abbey of Corbie and sent an invitation to Wala to once again attend the Frankish Court. Furthermore, in 822, realizing the rage caused by his maltreatment of his father’s old advisors, he expressed a public penance for his dismissal at Attigny on the Aisne among his people. At this point, it appears that the old counselors of Charlemagne, including Adalard and Wala reconciled with the emperor. Thus, in 822, Wala followed his brother Adalard the Younger to the court who sought to meet with his father’s old advisors. Upon the death of King Bernard in Northern Italy, in the autumn of 822, then forty-nine years old, Wala was called by the Emperor Louis the Pious to assist his son, Lothair I in governing Italy and to serve as intermediary between papacy in Italy.
Wala was a strong advocate of the unity of Frankish empire and thus on several occasions he aided Lothair I, eldest son of Louis Pious in the rebellion against his father. In May, 830, a short-lived rebellion involving those of both clerical and lay orders as well as three elder sons of Louis succeeded in forcing Empress Judith into monastic confinement at St. Radegunda in Poitiers and also in sending her brothers to monasteries. They also succeeded in putting pressure on Louis Pious to abdicate. The revolution was short-lived and as a result, Wala suffered an exile first into a high mountainous region near Lake Geneva, and second to Noirmoutier where his brother Adalard had once been exiled. In 833, Wala, being recalled from the exile, once again helped the three elder sons of Louis, Lothair, Louis the German and Pippin to rise against their father, his empress Judith and her son Charles. In an uprising caused by Louis’s decision to remove the holding of Aquitaine from under Pippin to Charles, Lothair kidnapped his father Louis the Pious. When Louis the Pious returned to power, Wala, who had supported unity of the kingdom under Lothair fled to Italy with him along with other supporters. In 836, Wala was forgiven his opposition and was allowed to return to Italy for the persuading of Lothair to come see the Emperor. In 836, Wala died in Italy.
According to Vita Walae, the Epitaphium Arsenii written by Paschasius Radbertus, Wala fully embraced the life as a monk. According to Radbertus, Wala was content with the ordinary clothes and shoes of the region, and he considered it unnecessary that a monk should dress more smartly than the conprovintiales amongst whom he lived. He also strived to be loved rather than feared. After the Emperor’s return to favor in 820’s, Wala assisted his brother Adalard in the establishment of New Corvey. Wala played an important role in the establishment of daughter monastery in Saxony by his brother abbot Adalard. Wala successfully convinced Theodradus to give out his ancestral inheritance for the sake of New Corvey. Moreover, Wala’s military abilities from the earlier days of his life prevented Saxon bandits from invading the lands to be taken up by new monastery. After his service in Italy, Wala returned to Francia in 825. With Emperor Louis’s approval, Adalard, Wala undertook a journey to Saxony and formally organized the daughter community. Moreover, during his stay in Italy to guide the emperor’s son, Lothair, Wala also acquired a copy of the Roman antiphonary for his abbey of Corbie. He also took special interest in the Danish mission of Ansgar, a monk of both Corbie and New Corvey. He succeeded his brother Adalard upon his death to become the abbot of Corbie in 826.
Ideas on Reforms
Wala was restored to Court by Louis the Pious in 821, where he voiced his opinions on church and state reforms. Wala tried to establish procedures to control the exploitation of wealth by the Carolingian state officials. In a letter addressed to him and Archchaplain Hilduin in 826, Bishop Agobard observed that Wala was always at court as one of the very godly advisers of Louis the Pious.
Many sources strongly suggest that Wala was opposed to the idea of partition of the empire amongst Louis’s four sons and favored the unity of the empire. Although Wala attributed weakening of the empire due to movement towards secularization depriving church of its rights meanwhile bishops have occupied themselves to the state affairs, he believed that it was the right of the church to intervene in matters such as partition of the kingdom. In 829, Paschasisus Radbert wrote in his Life of Wala, Wala at forefront talking “of the greed and avarice of the chaplains of the royal Court; of layman placed in rule over monasteries, “… a “filthy disease within the Church” of the corrupted clerics in the church. Wala believed that some of these clerics and chaplains had no religious authority and served for no reason other than for the sake of their profit.