County of Duras

The County of Duras was a medieval county with its seat at the castle of Duras, which is a part of modern St Truiden in the province of Belgian Limburg. It was one of several counties in the Hesbaye region (Haspengouw in Dutch). The county of Duras itself eventually merged with the Counts of Loon, and other family titles were inherited by the Counts of Montaigu in the Ardennes. Its history is also entangled with that of the neighboring Abbey of St Truiden.

The first certain counts of Duras started as subadvocati of the Abbey. This office became controversial, and there was conflict not only between the subadvocatus and the Abbey's own brethren and tenants, but also with the higher advocatus, the Duke of Limburg.


As pointed out by De Borman, and later Ulens, while there is no definitive or clear list of the lands held by the counts of Loon or Duras until after they merged, there was a part of the county of Loon which was named as the Duras part. This was surprisingly however not specifically near the castle of Duras, but intermingled within the lands of the Counts of Loon.

Apart from these lands, the family also inherited lordship over Jodoigne, which was eventually annexed by Brabant/Louvain. This had belonged to a widow Erlinde in the 11th century, who became a nun in St Truiden (see below). The family referred to this lordship in some charters as if it were a county.

Main line

Otto was succeeded by his sister or daughter, Countess Juliane, and her husband...

The county was then left to Liège, who sold it to the counts of Loon.

First certain mention

As explained by Baerten, although there are medieval records mentioning earlier counts of Duras, he believed the name and the form of the county was still developed from an older and less well-understood county which is discussed below.[1]

The ancestor of the main line of the Counts of Duras was Count Otto of Loon, a brother of Count Emmo of Loon, the ancestor of the counts of Loon. In other words, both brothers are referred to at the same time as Counts "of Loon" referring to the place associated with them, not the name of a county. County names and forms were still developing into the more stable entities of the ancien regime. Only the Gesta continuator calls Otto a Count of Duras, and Baerten doubted that he was thought of this way. However, he was assigned as the first certain sub-advocatus of St Truiden, under the first superior advocatus, the Duke of Limburg, assigned by the Abbey's overlords in Metz. The new constitutions of these positions were described in charters produced in this period.

There is no medieval evidence of a similar double advocatus system before then, nor of anyone inheriting the offices, though Baerten believed this can be assumed. On this basis he reasoned, as have others such as Mantelius before him, that Otto must have married the heiress of a previous advocatus of St Truiden.

Otto's son Giselbert was the first certain count of Duras, and was also subadvocatus of St Truiden. His son was another Count Otto.

Eleventh century predecessors?

The 14th century 3rd continuation of the Gesta of St Truiden named some counts of Duras in the eleventh century. A widow named Herlendis (d. after 2 November 1023) was described as Countess of Duras in a record of a benefaction she made about 1021. A similar confirming record made by her son Count Godfried appears in the cartularium of St Truiden. Her name appears as an ancestor, or at least predecessor, in various donations made by the family of the counts of Duras in the twelfth century, including one confirmed by Henry II of Leez, Prince-Bishop of Liège, in 1164. However, these documents refer to Erlendis not as a countess of Duras, but as a countess of Jodoigne.

As another coincidence, one of the members of this family was also, like the counts of Duras, an advocatus of the Abbey.

Herlendis and her husband had at least three children:

  • Adalbero (d. before 1021), died before his mother. He is named as the eldest son in the Gesta. When he died he held the clerical office of primicerius in Metz.
  • Godfried (d. after 1023), a count.
  • Giselbert (d. after 1023). The under-advocatus of Saint Trudo's Abbey.

It was proposed in the 18th century by the Hasselt antiquarian Jan Mantel (Mantelius) that the county was eventually inherited by a granddaughter or daughter of Herlendis, who married a member of the family of the Counts of Loon.

  • Oda (d. before 1101), married Otto de Looz, who became Count of Duras, son of Giselbert, Count of Looz. The Gesta of St Truiden also describes her as the mother of Gilbert/Giselbert the first definite count of Duras. No medieval document names her parents or ancestors.

In more recent adaptations of this hypothesis, most importantly by Jean Baerten, it is questioned whether this earlier family were really known as counts of Duras, though they are seen as predecessors. According to this proposal, which remains the most common proposal, Oda inherited the county which became Duras, and her husband Otto became Count of Duras by marriage. Her family also is supposed to have inherited the subadvocacy of the abbey.

Tenth century predecessors?

Baerten also proposed that the county had evolved from a still earlier county which was named after its seat at Avernas, south of St Truiden. This county was mentioned in two surviving records. See Counts of Hesbaye.


  1. ^ “Origines” Part 1, 469: “C'est depuis le début du siècle que le titre de comes de Duras apparaît dans les documents.”


  • Baerten, Jean, ‘Les origines des comtes de Looz et la formation territoriale du comté’, in: Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire 43 (2 parts; 1965) 459-491, 1217-1242. On persee: part 1, part 2.
  • Baerten, Jean, Het Graafschap Loon (11de - 14de eeuw), (Assen 1969). pdf
  • Boeren (1938) De oorsprong van Limburg en Gelre en enkele naburige heerschappijen pdf available
  • De Borman, Camille, Le livre des fiefs du comté de Looz sous Jean d'Arckel google.
  • Gorissen, P., ‘Omtrent de wording van het graafschap Loon’, in: Jaarboek van de Vereniging van Oudheidkundige en geschiedkundige kringen van België: 32e zitting Congres van Antwerpen 27-31 juli 1947 (1950-1951).
  • Mantelius, Joannes, Historiae Lossensis libri decem, (Liège 1717). google
  • Ulens, R., "Les origines et les limites primitives du comté de Duras" Bulletin de la Société Scientifique & littéraire du Limbourg 50 (1936) pp. 49–71.
  • Vaes, Jan, De Graven van Loon. Loons, Luiks, Limburgs (Leuven 2016)
  • Wolters, Mathias J., Notice Historique sur l’Ancien Comté de Duras en Hesbaie, Gyselinck, 1855 (available on Google Books)
  • Zeller, Thibaut, "La maison de Duras en Hesbaye : les pilliers de pouvoir d’une parentèle comtale (XIe -XIIe siècles)", l'Annuaire d'histoire liégeoise, 37, (2007-2008), pp. 33–57.

Primary sources

  • Gestorum Abbatem Trudonensium Continuatio Tertia: Koepker (ed.) MGH SS Vol.10 382; =de Borman (ed.) Vol.2 [1]; =Lavigne (trans.) 228-229 (pdf).

See also

Medieval Lands Project, Comtes de Duras

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