Guifré consangineus Borrelli comite

The Castell de Llordà, Vall d'Aran, the centre of the old term of Isona

The Castell de Llordà Vall d'Aran, the centre of the old term of Isona

I’m coming to realise that in some ways the best thing for this blog’s content, other than commentary on other people’s research which always feels a little parasitical, is the footnotes that don’t make it. You know what I mean? The word limit is tight, there’s this thing you’ve tried to dispatch in a paragraph, you’re pleased with its erudition but it doesn’t ultimately have much to do with your argument. So it gets cut every time and you never actually get it in print. (Not that the stuff that stays in ever yes let’s leave that shall we right.) But they’re perfect for blog posts. So here’s one about a man called Guifré. Or maybe Gauzfred.

Gauzfred, or maybe Guifré, and far from alone in my period and area in bearing either name, was a relation of Count Borrell II of Barcelona, Girona, Osona and Urgell (945/7-993), which is how I know about him. Exactly what relation he was, however, is not clear. He turns up in documents only four or five times, which is more than some nobles get, but still isn’t really enough. Let me break them down for you:

  1. In 973 he appears with Borrell in two fascinating charters whereby the deserted city of Isona, where Borrell had been maintaining garrisons and a small rural population to support them, was handed over to the monastery of Sant Sadurni de Tavèrnoles with instructions that they should populate the area. There’s masses more that could be said about this operation and as it is another footnote that didn’t make it I may well blog it separately. For now, however, note that our man appears here as Guifré, consanguineus Borrelli, kinsman of Borrell.1
  2. The next one is the dubious case; in a document of 981 through which land was sold just outside the city of Vic in the centre of Osona (not Isona), at a place called les Planes, a Count Guifré is named as neighbour. This is difficult because there was living at the time a Guifré who would later be Count of Cerdanya, and his brother Oliba was already entitled count by this time even though their father, Marquis Oliba Cabreta of Cerdanya, was still living. This is a family where the comital dignity was always shared between all brothers so if one of that generation were a count by 981, it’s not impossible firstly that little Guifré were and secondly that he had land in the thriving city of Vic where the family was well connected, even though it be in someone else’s actual county. Otherwise, however, we have to believe that this was Borrell’s kinsman because of how he goes on to appear.2
  3. In 987 there was a very large gathering about the frontier city of Cardona, which is probably also worth a blog post but has at least had lots written about it already. At it, Borrell attempted to refound the city for the third time in his family’s history, and gave the inhabitants substantial judicial privileges and amnesty to any fugitives who made it there. He also made Viscount Ermemir of Osona their defence commander and patron, and did various other things organising their independent operation. Guifré, or rather Gauzfred was there to see it done, and attested as Gocefredus comes et frater Borrelli, Gauzfred, count and brother of Borrell. Guifré of Cerdanya was Borrell’s second cousin once removed, and besides the name is different this once, so this is definitely not meant to be him and far more likely to be the mysterious kinsman with frontier interests.3
  4. Later that same year the same Viscount Ermemir is said to have made a present of some of his properties in that area to the new monastery of Santa Maria de Serrateix, which, confusingly, the family of Guifré of Cerdanya had recently founded and about which we will shortly hear more in The Case of the Disappearing Abbot. This document is what they call ‘dead dodgy’ as it attributes the foundation, which was within living memory by a count still in power, Oliba Cabreta no less, to his grandfather Guifré the Hairy, already halfway to legend in this area but not a plausible figure for the job in 987. It’s possible however that that’s all that’s been changed in this copy, and whether that be so or not there appears as witness Gauzfred, frater comitis Borrelli, brother of count Borrell, without a noble title of his own.4

There may be more in documents whose editions I haven’t yet got at, Solsona especially given the focus of these involvements, but I would like to think he’d have been spotted by the aristocracy-hungry antiquarians of yore. So, let’s briefly gather that: a kinsman of Borrell’s who can later be described as a brother—but then why not call him that in the first place? At first not a count—there are some titles that don’t always get mentioned when individuals are doing business but that’s not one—but later a count in good standing, and then finally, when not with Borrell but witnessing a donation to the ‘other’ family’s house, not a count again. Almost always concerned with lands on the far frontier, but the only sign of his own land is back at Osona, which hasn’t been on the frontier for a century.

The Parador de Cardona, 14th-century castle in a 9th-century precinct and now a hotel!

The Parador de Cardona, 14th-century castle in a 9th-century precinct and now a hotel!

The evaluation of these traces is difficult because these documents of course have authors. Some of their content is dictated by the formulae that legally valid, or maybe socially adequate, documents, ought to follow, but less than you might think. For example, there is no formula for the Cardona franchise, because there just isn’t another occasion like it: it has a short narrative, a privilege unrivalled by anything else in the area’s history and so many special provisions that it bends out of any standard shape. It was clearly also a major occasion and the scribe may have been inclined to record it in high register, giving people dignity and standing they didn’t normally own to (though he didn’t call Borrell dux, which sometimes happens on such occasions).5 And lastly it survives only as a copy, so whatever agendas it was drafted with have probaby also gone through more or less conscious corrections by the copyist. That’s the sort of problem I mean. The scribe who (originally) wrote the Serrateix donation presumably worked for the abbey, which was a family house for the family of Besalú-Cerdanya, not Guifré consanguineus‘s, so would they have recognised any half-title he might get in circumstances like the Cardona one? If they did, did the eventual copyist who added in the Guifré the Hairy reference recognise it, and might he have taken out this other Count Guifré’s title anyway, and even maybe chosen the name Gauzfred instead, to stop him confusing things and making it look even more anachronistic? And then what did his neighbours in Osona call him and is that the only really normal record?

Then, who might he in fact be? Borrell had two known brothers, Ermengol Count of Osona who first appears in 942 and seems to have been dead in 945 when Borrell first appears as count donating for his late brother’s soul, and Miró, who after the retirement of their father Sunyer in 947 succeeds alongside Borrell to the counties of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, but who seems from his will and Borrell’s almost non-appearance there till then to have been really concentrated on Barcelona alone.6 Both these are mentioned in other family wills and so on, but Gauzfred is not. He is not to be prayed for in either of Miró’s or Borrell’s bequests, or mentioned in Sunyer’s or his second wife Riquilda’s donations either. But Sunyer had a previous wife, Eimilda, whom we hardly see except in her marriage pact, which isn’t dated as it survives but from the presence of an older Viscount Ermemir of Osona we can date to before 917.7 There are no children recorded from that marriage and we don’t see very much trace of her, but Szabolcs de Vajay has argued that a woman called Guinilda who turns up in the nobility of southern France ought to be identified as a daughter of this marriage, and if there was one…8 And it is clear at least that Gauzfred’s family relationship to Borrell is troublesome to describe, as well as being strongly implied by the record that Sunyer’s second wife got her sons into the succession and managed to more or less wipe out the record of poor Eimilda and her children if there were any.

The monastery of Santa Maria de Serrateix as it now stands

The monastery of Santa Maria de Serrateix as it now stands

So since I first discovered this guy in the records, my feeling has been that he was a son of Sunyer, either by Eimilda or by some other relationship not recorded, who was shunted out of any claim he might have had to the succession by Sunyer’s second marriage and the grooming of those children for the various counties in Sunyer’s hands. However, like those mysterious priests of a while back there were apparently some things for which dealing with this awkward relative were necessary, and with brother Miró safely dead and the need to organise the far frontier whither Gauzfred seems to have been banished, at least professionally, Borrell seems to me to have found him a róle as a coordinator and overseer of the various agencies, monasteries, bishops and viscounts, he had running settlement projects in these rather wild areas.

So I like to think of Gauzfred as a greying warlord, quite possibly based in Isona, a man who had never got to be count, to whom Borrell made an offer of status that he couldn’t refuse in exchange for cooperation in those northern frontier zones and who at last took a place in the state for a short while. But he must have been old when he did so. Count Ermengol was apparently old enough to fight in 942, so at least 14 and probably older. That means that Sunyer was married to Riquilda by 927 latest and I would rather say at most 925. If Gauzfred was born to Eimilda the previous year, 924, he would have been 49 by the time his rehabilitation appears to us, and then 64 by the time of his last appearance; and given that Sunyer and Eimilda were married by 917 at least he could clearly have been a lot older. All the same it heartens me, to see in these documents not just the fascinating machinations of frontier government, and the righteous-aggressive process of bringing it into touch with a dominant centre, but also the 40-year-old magnate Borrell reaching out the hand of friendship to his ten-year-or-more-senior family black sheep, and it apparently being accepted after so long quite literally in the wilderness. I hope that Gauzfred was able to die happy with his lot.

1. Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Diplomatari del monestir de Tavèrnoles (segles IX-XIII)” in Urgellia Vol. 12 (Montserrat 1995), pp. 7-414, doc. nos 23 & 24, the former also edited from a different copy as Federico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 17, Publicaciones de la Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), doc. no. 174.

2. Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic (segles IX i X), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), 5 fascs, doc. no. 491. On little Count Oliba of Ripoll and his even littler brother Guifré, and indeed their martial then monastic father, see Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època (Barcelona 1948; 2nd edn. 1948; 3rd edn. 1962), 3rd edn. repr. as “L’Abat Oliba i la seva època” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i Documents 13-14 (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), II pp. 141-277.

3. Now edited by Antoni Galera i Pedrosa (ed.), Diplomatari de la vila de Cardona, anys 966-1276: Arxiu Parroquial de Sant Miquel i Sant Vicenç de Cardona, Arxiu Abacial de Cardona, Arxiu Històric de Cardona, Arxius Patrimonials de les masies Garriga de Bergus, Pala de Coma i Pinell, Diplomataris 15 (Barcelona 1998), doc. no. 7, but the older edition of Jaime Villanueva, Viage Literario a las Iglesias de España tomo VIII: viage á las iglesias de Vique y Solsona (Valencia 1821), ap. XXX, is still useful because of the commentary. More up to date work on this document and its contents from Victor Farias, “Guerra, llibertat i igualitarisme a la frontera” in B. Riquer i de Permanyer (ed.), Historia Política, Societat i Cultura dels Països Catalans volum 2: la formació de la societat feudal, segles VI-XII, ed. Josep María Salrach i Marès (Barcelona 1998, repr. 2001), pp. 112-113.

4. Villanueva, Viage Literario VIII, doc. XXVII. This must also be edited in Jordi Bolòs i Masclans (ed.), Diplomatari del monestir de Santa Maria de Serrateix (segles X-XV), Diplomataris 42 (Barcelona 2006), but I haven’t found time to get at that yet; it would be interesting to see what Prof. Bolòs thinks of our man Gauzfred. These two volumes are also where all the other evidence for early Serrateix and its foundation come from so I must check it before writing up the Disappearing Abbot.

5. I have argued that there is no authentic charter calling Borrell dux except a huge and grandiloquent donation to Sant Cugat del Vallès and the consecration of Sant Benet de Bages, the former written up by the equally verbose scribe and judge Bonhom, edited by J. Rius (ed.), Cartulario de «Sant Cugat» del Vallés vol. I (Barcelona 1945), doc. no. 217, and the latter not by Bonhom but equally over-the-top, ed. Albert Benet i Clarà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Ciutat de Manresa (segles IX-XI), Diplomataris 6 (Barcelona 1994), doc. no. 92; see Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 64-66. On Bonhom, who is a fabulous generator of source material, see Jeffrey A. Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: Property, Proof, and Dispute in Catalonia around the Year 1000, Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past (Ithaca 2004), pp. 84-92.

6. On the evidence for the family, see Prosper de Bofarull y Mascaró, Los Condes de Barcelona Vindicados, y Cronología y Genealogía de los Reyes de España considerados como Soberianos Independientes de su Marca (Barcelona 1836, repr. 1990), vol. I online at, last modified 10 Jul. 2008 as of 15 Jan. 2009, I pp. 64-81. I argue for the grooming of a son for each county in J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming).

7. Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 9.

8. I can’t find the de Vajay reference now, for some reason, but I think I must have got it from Martin Aurell, “Jalons pour une enquête sur les stratégies matrimoniales des comtes catalans (IXe-XIe s.)” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium internacional sobre els orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), also published as Memorias de le Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols. 33 & 34 (Barcelona 1991 & 1992), I pp. 281-364.

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One response to “Guifré consangineus Borrelli comite

  1. Pingback: From the sources VII: to demilitarise and populate « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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