Unconsidered trials

Well, the problem appears to be partly fixed in as much as I can write under IE, though not Firefox. I may well need to update. Anyway, this means firstly that I really need to get one of my newer machines going, but secondly that I can at least write this post. This is just a little Catalan vignette while I deal with other things about which I want to post, which involve downloading pictures, reading PDFs or building webpages, whereas all this involves is some reading I did the other day.

I went to the library the other day because I had just gone through a chapter where I’d said that I’d looked for Count Miró of Cerdanya (Abbess Emma‘s brother, against whom she holds the Vall de Sant Joan hearing, since you ask) in all the available editions, and of course there was one where I hadn’t. So I went checking, and did in fact come up with two occurrences I hadn’t observed, though not really significant ones. The thing that linked them was that they were both hearings carried out at the wish of the Bishop of Girona, and the second one hasn’t been published before. Now of course the fun thing about dispute hearings in this era and area is how they frequently contain reported speech, so that you get slightly formal-sounding arguments laid out in front of you.2 This one, however, though it does do this, cries out for deformalising immediately. If one had been allowed to script it for comic effect, it would clearly have gone like this…

The saió The court of Girona, 5th March in the year of our Lord 950, judge Adericus presiding! Gentlemen, be seated!
Adericus Now then, now then, what’s the cause, hey?
Bishop Godmar II The advocates of Holy Mary of the See of Girona will show that the defendant Gauzfred wrongfully abstracted lands in Villalonga from the selfsame Church of the Mother of God, your honour.
Adericus Right then! Anything to say in defence, Gauzfred?
Gauzfred Yes yer ‘onner, I’ve got a charter for it. [Brandishes charter.]
Adericus Oho! And who issued this charter then?
Gauzfred The Lord Count Miró the Young, yer ‘onner, and ‘is son the lord Count Sunifred, when ‘e succeeded, yer ‘onner, ‘e called it in and checked it in case of fraud, and ‘e signed it as well, yer ‘onner.
Adericus Well your Grace, over to you then, anything to beat that?
Godmar Well, that is quite impressive, certainly. A charter not just from the current count of Cerdanya, but his father too? The only way to beat that’d be if you had a royal charter, wouldn’t it?
Gauzfred, sotto voce I don’t like the sound of this…
Godmar, continuing I don’t suppose you have a royal charter as well, do you? Because that would really be the clincher.
Gauzfred: Er, no, just this one signed by, you know, two generations of the rulers of our land…
Godmar: Oh dear. Pity. Because… [produces sheaf of parchments] we actually have got royal documents covering these lands. Observe, they’re in this one of King Carloman, this one of King Odo, this one of King Charles who was father of King Louis whom we’ve got now, and, oh, actually, here’s one from Louis himself that we got just a few years ago. So that’s all the way back to the year of Our Lord’s Incarnation 881, before Miró was even born, and four different divinely-anointed rulers. Will that do, do you think, Adericus?
Adericus: Aye! Case found for the Mother of God, sorry Gauzfred but Count Miró stitched you up. Sixty days to turn over the lands or we’ll have yer guts for garters. Next!

Okay, enough hilarity (or not), but that’s roughly the sequence of events. The interesting things here are many-fold. Firstly, I find it fascinating that Sunifred called in his father’s charters, or at least this one, “to be shown to him so that he could ensure no fraud had taken place”. Is this just someone trying to mirror what Louis the Pious is supposed to have done with Charlemagne’s charters?3 Or was Sunifred really bothered that his father had probably, in between fathering extra kids on the wife of one of his castellans (which he did do), given away lands to which he plainly had no right? And if so, why didn’t this one get picked up?

Signature of Charles the Simple from a diploma to the Catalan nunnery of Sant Joan de Ripoll, 898

Secondly, Girona do love their royal charters: in the other hearing I mention above, they produced precepts of Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald to back their claim. And they have a long sequence, too, we have surviving texts to Girona from Louis the Pious (834, referencing a lost one of Charlemagne), Charles the Bald (844), Louis the Stammerer (878), Carloman II (881), Charles the Fat (886), Odo (891) and Charles the Simple (three of these, 899, 900 & 922).4 Every time the king changes, Girona get an update, and I’ve elsewhere argued that the updates change in a way that indicates real concessions by the counts on the king’s orders. But they’re talking here about having one of Louis the Foreigner. They don’t actually say “that King Louis who’s on the throne now”, but Charles who was father of Louis must be either Charlemagne, Charles the Bald or Charles the Simple, but if it’s the former two then the list is out of natural order, and it starts with Carloman for the very good reason that the charters before him don’t cover Villalonga so it really has to be Louis the Foreigner. Only we have no trace of that document, or any clue that it ever existed. Except this, previously neglected because of only existing in a seventeenth-century copy. But it seems possible enough, just unusual.

Finally, of course it tells you something fairly important that a person with a charter endorsed by one respected count and one still ruling can still lose to royal documents issued by a family that haven’t been near the relevant territories in person for more than a century. This would never work in Toulouse. But here, the counts still obey the king here and there, and in fact in four years’ time Sunifred’s brother Guifré will become the last Catalan count ever to go north to meet the king in person. Why does he go? Because he and his brothers want royal approval to the take-over of the lands of a viscount called Unifred who rebelled against them. But we first see this viscount in 913 (he witnesses Miró’s will along with Emma in 925) and last see him, probably, in 946.5 So he’s almost certainly died in rebellion before they can attempt this, and then they need royal approval. Why? What on earth can the king add to their own clout? I don’t yet have the answer to this, but I will suggest a few things before long, see if I don’t.


1. Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, S. Riera i Viader, Manuel Rovira i Solà (edd.) , Catalunya Carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXI (Barcelona 2005), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, 2 vols, where the two hearing are docs 171 & 288 respectively, 288 being the one I explore in detail here.

2. My favourite one of these is one I discussed elsewhere where, with the count in question safely dead, a guy records how when that count demanded some of his lands in compensation for a lost castle in Andorra, he responded, “I am not giving away the alod of my parents before my death at the earliest!” Yeah, Sendred, I bet you gave him a real earful of defiance there in those chains…

3. Recorded in Thegan’s Gesta Hludowici imperatoris, ed. E. Tremp in idem (ed.), Thegan, Die Taten Kaiser Ludwigs (Gesta Hludowici imperatoris). Astronomus, Das Leben Kaiser Ludwigs (Vita Hludowici imperatoris), Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores rerum germanicum in usum scholarum separatim editi) LXIV (Hannover 1995), online here, last modified 8 November 2004 as of 30 May 2008, pp. 167-277 with commentary pp. 1-52, cap. X. Note however that at least one Catalan charter-holder, Teudefred the Hispanus got his father Jean’s original from Charlemagne back when he went to have it renewed as well as the new one from Louis that Thegan suggests should have been replaced: the charter is Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis per a Catalunya, Memòries… II & III (Barcelona 1926-52), 2 vols, Particulars I & III, and on Jean and his family you can most conveniently see Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994), pp. 106-110.

4. Abadal, Catalunya Carolíngia II, Girona I-IX & Particulars XXX.

5. Manuel Rovira i Solà, “Noves dades sobre els vescomtes d’Osona-Cardona” in Ausa Vol. 9 no. 98 (Vic 1981), pp. 249-260, online here, at pp. 255-256.

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9 responses to “Unconsidered trials

  1. On Sunifrid calling in his father’s charters, isn’t this a useful (if time-consuming) way of putting the fear of God (and him) into the charter-holders? Because if the new count doesn’t like you, then your authentic charter from the previous count might mysteriously turn out not to be authentic after all or to have some other problem with it. If it’s this kind of legalistic power play it might be an imitation of Louis the Pious, or it might be just the sort of thing that rulers will think of independently (I’m thinking of Edward I’s quo warrento proceedings, which may be legally different, but have the same kind of ‘audit’ feel).

    By the way, what court is this all happening in? Is there still a ‘public’ comital court or is it a new form, and who is the judge Adericus?

  2. Last first! Adericus seems only to occur once before this, when he is a deacon present at a Girona hearing some years before. What exactly his connection to the cathedral depends on where the judges come from in Catalonia, but he clearly has one, so Godmar may well have packed the court.

    Next, what court? Ha, yes, well, wouldn’t we love to be able to tell… Adericus is the highest official present, if we don’t count Godmar because of being the defendant, but Godmar is of course there too. To some people that would automatically make it an episcopal court, to some a ‘public’ one (because there is a judge). The attendance doesn’t really make it clear to me, though if I did more prosopography on Girona I might get somewhere.

    As for Sunifred, the Latin only says that he called in this particular charter for examination, and I’ve not seen any other evidence that he did a general recall. But then, without Thegan, we wouldn’t know that Louis the Pious did either… I still don’t think there’s as much in that as has been supposed.

    However, I think there is in both these events, the recall and the trial, a sense that Gauzfred is a difficult customer who maybe has to be threatened or coerced by relatively unfair means. Josep María Salrach has suggested of Sunifred and his brothers that they had great trouble from royal vassals who saw their status disappearing: I can’t but wonder if Gauzfred is an over-mighty vassal of the counts whose wings are now being clipped while Sunifred has promised Godmar he’ll look the other way. No actual evidence for this, and it’s the incidental details that are worth so much; but it’s very odd that he doesn’t pull more on the connection to the counts.

    Of course, it’s possible that he does, in a second hearing, and we just don’t have the document, or that he just doesn’t comply. That might then explain why this one wasn’t copied up until so much later (it’s not, for example, in Girona’s 13th-century cartulary), because before that people knew full well they had never actually managed to get Villalonga and now there was no chance of it. But thanks to Catalan archive practice this apparently doesn’t mean anyone throws away the original, till some antiquarian finds it and goes, “O, interessím!” All praise to that man…

  3. Lovely vignette.
    Girona’s fetishization of the Carolingians continued for centuries; in the late Middle Ages, the cathedral apparently celebrated a feast of St. Charlemagne, until the pope got wind of this and told them to stop.

  4. Well, that’s a bit unfair of the Pope: Frederick Barbarossa got Charlemagne canonised in 1165! Admittedly by the anti-pope, but, hey… But yes, it’s true, Girona holds very dear to its medieval heritage. There’s a Hotel Carlemany you can stay in, and that cartulary I mentioned in the previous comment is called the Cartoral de Carlemany even though there’s only one document from his time in it, out of about 500… And they have streets named after medieval historians. I tell you, people, we are without honour in our homelands compared to what we could be doing abroad…

  5. And they have streets named after medieval historians. I tell you, people, we are without honour in our homelands compared to what we could be doing abroad…

    What are you complaining about…there are lots of Nelson Streets. Oh, you mean they’re not being called after the first female president of the Royal Historical Society?

    Incidentally, a bit of googling shows there is (or was) a Jarrett Street in Hull.

  6. Thanks to peculiarities of my ancestry, I can definitively state that no-one I have not met named Jarrett is any relation of mine, so Hull can keep it. Next time I’m in Girona, though, I shall photograph the roadsign of the Carrer Miquel Coll i Alentorn for you all. (Mind you, he might be a special case.)

  7. Pingback: Even the Bishop of Girona doesn’t always win « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  8. Pingback: Improbable arguments in ninth-century Girona « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  9. Pingback: Settling the sins of your father: when counts lost in court | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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