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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 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.

The territories of the early Flemish counts were referred to collectively as "Flanders" in contemporary documentation only from the early 1000s.

The pagus Curtracensis lay to the south between the rivers Escaut and Lys, included the monastery of Blandin, and covered the doyenns of Courtrai, Helchin and Oudenaarde.

The pagus Tornacensis was east of the pagus Curtracensis and the river Escaut/Schelde, south of the river Espierre and north of the rivers Elnon and Pvle.

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.

This process of evolution was presumably facilitated by their relative remoteness from the headquarters of the French archbishopric of Reims, whose ecclesiastical jurisdiction including the county of Flanders.

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