Sometimes the patriarchal equilibrium was soluble in money

The monastery of Santa Maria de Poblet, Catalonia

The monastery of Santa Maria de Poblet, Catalonia, from Spanish Wikipedia

Another wry example from the work of José Orlandis, which it may be simplest just to translate as it’s already quite brief. It comes from a lengthy article—I would guess his thesis—about most aspects of how laypersons in Christian medieval Spain related to monasteries as shown by the pacts of familiaritas they made with them, where he observed that this almost always assured the pacting layperson of burial within the monastic grounds, unless, sometimes, that pacting layperson were a woman:

The normal case was, by and large, that sex did not influence these effects at all and that female familiars of male communities would find a place of burial in their houses. But exceptions present themselves. On the 1st December 1187 there were received as familiars of the [Cistercian] monastery of Poblet Bonet Cerdan and his wife Adelaide;1 the document displays the ordinary characteristics, except in the matters relative to the burial of the woman. On this point there was established an exception, which, however, was apparently presented as usual practice among the Cistercians: the woman would participate, like the husband, in all the spiritual benefits, in life, and of the accustomed supports, at her death; but only the husband would be able to be buried in Poblet, quia prohibetur in ordine nostro mulieres ad sepulturam non recipere 165. This seems strange, in view of this, that twelve years later, in 1199, and in an analogous case, the abbot of the same monastery of Poblet conceded burial, without alluding either to difficulties or impediments, to A. de Prades and his wife: te et uxorem tuam ad sepulturam iuxta formam ordinis recepimus 166. The contradiction is patent and it may be that it is best explained by a change of criterion or, indeed, because the spouses to whom the second document refers would have merited a better reception because of being great benefactors of the house, as is indicated by the importance – a thousand sueldos – of the donation that they made.2


165.    Poblet, p. 42, doc. no. 76…3
166.    Poblet, p. 94, doc. no. 161, of 30 November 1199…3

If ever there were a case of one Rule for the rich, one Rule for the rest, this would seem to be it…


1. There are in fact some medieval Catalan women recorded who weren’t called Adelaide, but I realise that this isn’t often obvious from this blog’s pages.

2. J. Orlandis Rovira, “Traditio corporis et animae: la familiaritas en las iglesias y monasterios españoles en la alta edad media” in Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español Vol. 24 (Madrid 1954), pp. 95-280, repr. in J. Orlandis, Estudios sobre instituciones monásticas medievales (Pamplona 1971), pp. 216-378, at pp. 293-294 of the reprint.

3. The edition that Orlandis was referring to was Joan Pons i Marqués (ed.), Cartulari de Poblet: edició del manuscrit de Tarragona (Barcelona 1938), though you wouldn’t be able to find it from his citation without the aid of previous knowledge or the Internet (of which I had both); Orlandis reprinted full texts from there but I haven’t, partly because you can almost certainly get Orlandis if you need these, and mostly because I don’t want to type them out just now. Note that Agustí Altisent i Altisent’s new edition of the Poblet documents never got this far so Orlandis’s text is the most recent publication.

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10 responses to “Sometimes the patriarchal equilibrium was soluble in money

  1. highlyeccentric

    There are in fact some medieval Catalan women recorded who weren’t called Adelaide, but I realise that this isn’t often obvious from this blog’s pages

    *giggles* i demand more educational or entertaining stories about medieval catalan women NOT named Adelaide!

  2. highlyeccentric

    Deeply inconvenient! I blame, uh, that greek bloke with the stick, Eratosthenes.

  3. Pingback: A woman, a priest and an inheritance « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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