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The four monasteries claimed immunity from secular control, but the counts of Flanders engineered their own appointment as lay abbots, acquired this control for themselves, and thereby consolidated their own position of power within the county.
The territories of the early Flemish counts were referred to collectively as "Flanders" in contemporary documentation only from the early 1000s.
To improve their defence against the kings of Germany, the counts expanded their territory eastwards, into the area between the rivers Schelde and Dender, which included the important abbey of Bavo. In response, Emperor Otto II dug a canal, known as the "Ottogracht", from Gent to the western Schelde This area to the east of the orignal territory of the county of Flanders evolved into the "march" of Flanders, under imperial jurisdiction, although the precise process of this evolution is far from clear.
Nicholas states that Emperor Otto II established marches on the right bank of the river Schelde, from Valenciennes in the south to Antwerp in the north, to counter the perceived threat from France during the early part of the reign of Arnoul II Count of Flanders Arnoul I Count of Flanders was referred to as "marchisus" from the early 940s, some forty years before the establishment of the marches of Valenciennes and Eenham: "Arnulfusregismarchysus" restored property to Saint-Pierre de Gand by charter dated 8 Jul 942.
It is also interesting to observe that none of the names of these supposed early counts is found among the descendants of Count Baudouin, although this does not provide conclusive proof of the unreliability of the ancestry.
It is possible that the imperial "march" of Flanders itself developed after the mid-11th century, maybe as a consolidation of territory which was formally part of the other three imperial marches which are referred to above.
Whatever the precise process by which the march of Flanders evolved, by the late 11th century the counts of Flanders were firmly established in that territory and therefore owed allegiance to the French king for the western part of their county and to the German emperor for the eastern part.
No independent Flemish archbishopric was ever created, the county remaining within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the archbishopric of Reims.
The area of the original county of Flanders lay within the bishoprics of Arras, Cambrai (an archbishopric from the 16th century, when it was subdivided into the bishoprics of Antwerp and Mechelen), Throuanne (later divided into the bishoprics of Boulogne, Ypres and St Omer) and Tournai (from which Bruges and Gent were established as separate bishoprics in the 16th century)The bipartisan nature of Flanders can be traced to an even earlier period, especially in relation to the language division which persists in present-day Belgium and which is traceable to dual Gallic/Germanic settlement of the area from the 5th century.
These abbacies of St Bertin (near St Omer), St Vaast (in Arras), and St Peter and St Bavo in Gent were founded during the period of gradual christianisation of Flanders and evolved into powerful local communities with extensive landholdings.