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) which stretches into the south of Belgian Limburg. The county of Duras itself eventually merged with the County 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 powerful neighboring Abbey of St Truiden.
The first certain counts of Duras were under-advocates (subadvocati) of the Abbey, who were responsible for exercising the secular aspects of lordship on their worldly estate. 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, and their successors the Dukes of Brabant. This is a major topic of the medieval Gesta or chronicle of the Abbey.
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, as if the two counties were originally part of one single family inheritance.
Apart from these lands, the family also inherited lordship over Jodoigne, now in the Walloon Brabant part of the Hesbaye region, 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.
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. Otto's son Giselbert was the first certain count of Duras, and was also subadvocatus of St Truiden. His son was another Count Otto.
Otto was succeeded by his sister or daughter...
The county was then left to the Prince-Bishops of Liège, who sold it to the counts of Loon.
In the time of Otto, in the 11th century, county names and forms were still developing into the more stable entities of the ancien regime. Only the 14th century Gesta continuator calls Otto a Count of Duras, and Baerten doubted that he was thought of this way in his own time.
However, Otto was assigned as the first certain subadvocatus of St Truiden, under the first superior advocatus, the Duke of Limburg, assigned by the Abbey's overlords, the Bishops of 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 this time, nor of anyone inheriting the older version of the advocatus office. Baerten believed that an hereditary tradition going back before Otto should however be assumed. On this basis he reasoned, as had others such as Mantelius before him, that Otto must have married the heiress of a previous advocatus of St Truiden. Alternatively, the earlier advocates of St Truiden may for example have originally been assigned one-by-one by their clerical superiors in Metz.
Jean Baerten speculated that the name and the form of the county was developed from an older and less well-understood county based in Avernas, now in French-speaking Liège province, the existence of which is mentioned in two 10th century documents.
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, whose name is not name, had at least three children:
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.
The proposal that Oda was a member of the family of Herlendis is an attempt to explain the fact that Countess Juliana saw Herlendis as a predecessor.
In more recent adaptations of this hypothesis, most importantly by Jean Baerten, 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.
As mentioned above 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.
On the other hand, the connection of Herlendis to Jodoigne means that Countess Alpaidis was also probably her predecessor and ancestor. We also mentioned above that Herlendis or her husband probably had a relationship with the House of Ardenne.