What would a late-Carolingian bishop read? The will of Riculf of Elna

One of the awkward things about working on Catalonia is that not many people immediately know where it is, and it’s hard to explain, not least because it wasn’t a unit in the period that I’m interested in but a bunch of loosely-associated counties, some of which later became parts of other things. Such union as there was was sort of expressed in who came to Church councils in Barcelona, and there there was a kind of core of always-included bishops and a scattering of more peripheral ones (including the ephemeral per-county ones that occasionally got created). But one of those core areas was definitely the bishopric of Elna, which is now in France (Elne) in its county of Roussillon (Cat. Rosselló) but was usually ruled from Empúries which is now in Spain. It must be included, but it isn’t where Catalunya now is. I’m too used to reading about the place as Elna not to spell it ‘en català’ (as I will below), but that’s not what they speak there now. And so on.

I don’t think that its being on the north side of the Pyrenees makes Roussillon distinctly more Frankish and less Gothic, since it was still in Gothic Septimania and so on, but there are some differences there that I can’t yet put my finger on, as I have always worked further out on the frontier and it may just in any case that documentary survival back here is poorer. Elna’s cartulary was lost in the early part of the twentieth century, though there is a sort-of-edition of it, and other major ecclesiastical centres of the area, most obviously the fantastic half-ruin of Sant Pere de Rodes, have suffered even worse.1 So rather than the fairly thick picture we get in certain areas of the frontier, about which I have written, what one gets from Roussillon tends to be snapshots.2 But they’re often exceptionally interesting snapshots, and this is one such.

Southern belltower of Santa Eulàlia d'Elna

Southern belltower of Santa Eulàlia d'Elna, from Wikimedia Commons

If we ever wrote the book I’ve suggested before now about Interesting Bishops of the Tenth Century, I don’t think Riculf I of Elna (885-915) would make it in. This might be not least because half of his episcopate belonged to the ninth century, but it’s also because we don’t know a great deal about him. For the most part his documentary trace shows him pursuing his cathedral’s rights in its property, getting defences of that property from the kings.3 (It is concessions of rights over Hispani to the bishops of Elna that principally show that the Frankish kings gave up on trying to protect such ‘king’s freemen’ after, say, 865.4) This is not really a fair picture of him, we might suspect; the lack of early narrative material from Catalonia largely dooms almost all its historical figures to this kind of picture as landowners only, because land records are the only ones we have. He does seem to have been strenuous in that line, but at the very end of his life there is a clear hint that he could have been seen in other lights too, and this is a bequest from his will to his cathedral.5

Ornament from the cloister of Elna cathedral

The treasures of the cathedral of Elna that I can easily find images of are all architectural and too late to relate to Riculf at all, but some of them so gorgeous as not to be missed, like this bit of ornament from the cathedral cloister

We don’t have all of this, even in its current state, but it was a big old bequest, and by no means all of it is land, although a lot is and it includes mills suggesting that he had no problem with monopolising control of his city’s food supply. Quite a lot of it, also, is what we can happily call treasure, including a lot of ecclesiastical vestments some of which, I noted with joy when I first read this text, actually had bells on, and a lot of precious metalwork (chalices and patens but also other stuff). But, most interestingly I think, and here my McKitterickian training is going to show big-time, it also includes a 28-volume library. This is not a small individual collection by any standards, and represented a substantial investment in parchment and, presumably given the rest of his stuff, ornament. Of course we can’t automatically assume he read everything he owned—this blogger is emphatically no stranger to the aspirational book purchase—but he did at least choose to own them, and some of them are really unusual and interesting choices. Mostly when books turn up in wills here they were liturgical works, either books of the Bible (most common of all) or service books or ordines, and very occasionally some Patristics. Riculf was a different kind of reader. His bequest (which may not have been everything he owned) contained very little liturgical stuff (and the cathedral presumably had its operational requirement of that already) but did number the following:

  • several collections of exegesis and Patristic material, in which the author most represented appears to be Gregory the Great
  • a copy of Augustine’s Contra Hæreses
  • two other texts by Augustine on Genesis
  • a “Rabanum“, presumably a collection of Hraban Maur‘s stuff, though if a single text I wonder about the De institutione clericorum or the Martyrology (probably more likely) given the other stuff below
  • a “Smaragdum“, and again one wonders what (and indeed which Smaragdus)
  • two books of canons, unspecified
  • two books of prayers (or orationes anyway)
  • a ‘best martyrology’ (better than Hraban’s? There are copies of Ado’s Martyrology at Vic and Girona that appear to have been imported with Carolingian rule in the area, it’s possible that Elna had one too, but if so it probably wouldn’t have been Riculf’s property)
  • several books of the Bible including a Song of Solomon
  • two lawbooks, one ‘Roman’ and one ‘Gothic’, the latter presumably being the Forum Iudicum but who knows about the other?
  • and then, most interestingly of all, a series of apparently loose-bound stuff, quaderni, that look like working manuals:

  • two quires on consecrating churches
  • two quires on visiting the sick
  • one on ecclesiastical ordinations
  • and one ‘Medicinal’

There are loads of interesting things about this I could point out, but let me just say one or two of them before making my take-away point, and you can say the rest yourselves if you like. Firstly, Riculf was at least a bit current with the scholarship of his day: Hraban was his teacher’s generation (whoever that teacher might have been! And wouldn’t I like to know?) and not that long dead, and Smaragdus (as long as it was the Carolingian-era one) at least within a long living memory. There are older scholars here but he was not afraid to get new work (though Hraban’s careful avoidance of obvious novelty might have been the safest choice of new work possible). Secondly, he seems to have had views about these texts that imply quality judgements: a ‘best’ martyrology, note. Best for what? Presumably selection of saints, if only we knew which saints he was interested in, but it’s not blind respect for the written word. And thirdly there are the working texts, that show two things. Firstly, that he was seemingly genuinely concerned about the pastoral work of his job, including not just visiting the sick like a good Christian but also, perhaps, trying to treat them (the Medicinal), and also getting more churches up and running and training priests to minister in them. This is what we don’t get from the land-grants: ‘Yes, I will determinedly reduce your independence if you have cleared woodland in space that I consider belongs to the cathedral until you have to admit you owe me renders, tithes and first-fruits, BUT, if you break your leg growing them, I will ALSO turn up and try and splint it for you in your jerry-built hut while your concerned wife stands by, and if there are a lot of people here I will eventually build you a church to go to for Mass, too’. Secondly, it is clear that when he needed to do something one of Riculf’s responses was to get written instructions on how, and in a form that he might carry with him on circuit, too.

Manuscript illumination of Gregory the Great giving a copy of one of his works to Bishop Leander of Seville

Manuscript illumination of Gregory the Great giving a copy of one of his works to Bishop Leander of Seville; I don't know the manuscript and it's the Moralia in Iob not the Cura Pastoralis, but hey, picture!

All of which takes me to the big point, which is: this man was a Carolingian Renaissance prelate. He not only had lots of books, and some by noted scholars of the Carolingian courts, but a lot of the books he had were instructions and authorities: canons, laws, even the martryology (or martyrologies) and of course the quires. When in doubt, he consulted texts, and he apparently had good sources of them even though one at least had been written only a generation or two before and in Germany. He was, therefore, connected in a range of ways to the wider intellectual world, and that connection partly drove a sense of responsibility in his office (want to bet one of the Gregory texts was the Cura pastoralis?) which he bolstered with yet more words. Now, other bishops of Riculf’s era and area had more conventional libraries, though even those have their practical aspects.6 He may have been the last of his kind for a while, and the generation of a century on were getting their books from all kinds of places including, we might note, Córdoba.7 All the same, texts like this, and the priests’ examinations that Carine van Rhijn has found in the Netherlands, and other such ephemera of a working, if patchy, organisation, make me want some kind of equivalent to the famous XKCD t-shirt about Science. It wouldn’t be quite as defiant, but some slogan like, “The Carolingian Renaissance! It worked! here and there” is definitely what I have in mind.


1. The cartulary edition, such as it is, is Raymond de Lacvivier (ed.), “Inventaire sommaire des documents copiés dans le « cartulaire de l’église d’Elne » par Fossa” in Ruscino: Revue d’histoire et d’archéologie du Roussillon et des autres pays catalans Vol. 3 (Perpignan 1913), repr. separatim (Prades 1914). Most of the documents are now in the Catalunya Carolíngia of course but not all, because that’s not finished yet, and otherwise such full texts as there are are scattered over about five or six older editions that I don’t have space or will to detail here; ask if you need more.

2. When I say ‘I have written’, I mean of course the book, which I don’t seem to have plugged for several posts now so it must be about time. The most detailed picture of frontier society I give in it is probably the section of Gurb, J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (London 2010), pp. 100-128.

3. The documents I know of in which he appears, not quite the same list as that of Joan Vilaseca’s linked above, are, in publication order: Pierre de Marca, Marca Hispanica sive Limes Hispanicus, hoc est geographica & historica descriptio cataloniæ, ruscinonis, & circumiacentium populorum, ed. Étienne Baluze (Paris 1688; Barcelona 1972; 1989), ap. LVIII; Claude Devic & J. Vaissete, Histoire Générale de Languedoc avec les Notes et les Pièces Justificatives. Édition accompagnée de dissertations et actes nouvelles, contenant le recueil des inscriptions de la province antiques et du moyen âge, des planches, des cartes géographiques et des âvues des monuments, rev. E. Mabille, E. Barry, E. Roschach & Auguste Molinier & ed. M. E. Dulaurier, Vol. V (Toulouse 1875; Osnabrück 1973), Preuves : chartes et diplômes 28, 32, 40 & 42 & Preuves : Catalogues et Inventaires Elna XXI, XXII, XXVI, XXIX, XXX, XXXIV, XXXV & XXXIX; Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis a Catalunya, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica II & III (Barcelona 1926-1952), Elna III & IV & Particulars XXI; J. Morera Sabater, “Un conato de secesión eclesiástica en la marca hispánica en el siglo IX” in Anales del Instituto de Estudios Gerundenses Vol. 15 (Girona 1962), pp. 293-315, ap. I; Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Els documents, dels segles IX i X, conservats a l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 2 (Montserrat 1979), pp. 78-143, doc. no. 35; and Eduard Junyent i Subira (ed.), El Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic, segles IX i X, ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), doc. no. 62. Almost all of these will by now be printed in Pierre Ponsich (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia VI: Els comtats de Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir i Fenollet, ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXX (Barcelona 2006), but I just haven’t yet had time to inventory that’s contents, and now it’s Easter and the libraries are shut so you’ll have to make do.

4. See J. Jarrett, “Settling the Kings’ Lands: aprisio in Catalonia in perspective” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 18 (Oxford 2010), pp. 320-342 esp. pp. 328-330, there citing esp. Aymat Catafau, “Les Hispani et l’aprision en Roussillon et Vallespir” in Frontières 2 (Perpignan 1992), pp. 7-20, which talks especially about Riculf’s area and actions.

5. Devic & Vaissete, Histoire générale de Languedoc V, Preuves : chartes et diplomômes no. 42. Again, it’s presumably in Ponsich, but currently I can’t get at that, for which reason you are also going to have to make do with my notes and not the actual text. I imagine that by the time someone wants to check with me about that I’ll be able to verify again.

6. I’ve written about this here before, as linked there, but if you wanted a real scholarly take, there is Antoni Pladevall i Font, “Entorn de l’estada de Gerbert a Catalunya (967-970): l’existència de biblioteques privades perdudes” in Immaculada Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrès Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la Fi del 1r Mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de Novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 651-661, with French résumé pp. 661-662, Provençal résumé p. 662 & English abstract p. 663.

7. As long as you’ve managed to get the book anyway, you could then see on this J. Cassinet, “Gerbert et l’introduction de la numération décimale arabo-indienne en Occident chrétien: le liber abaci” in Ollich, Actes del Congrès Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac, pp. 725-726, or else Miquel del Sants Gros i Pujol, “Els textos d’ensenyament en l’escola catedràlia de Vic al segle XI” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els Orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), II pp. 19-26.

About these ads

21 responses to “What would a late-Carolingian bishop read? The will of Riculf of Elna

  1. Interesting as always. Was there much of an epistolary exchange going on around then? Riculf obviously was tied in to the wider world and that’s likely true for most bishops of the time but I haven’t heard about much letter writing going on right then – not among people who would be equated as equals.

    But maybe I’m not listening correctly, or in the right places. One of these days I’d like to find a book which provides an overview of letter-writing in the Middle Ages.

    • Wouldn’t we love to know, again, is the answer. It’s obviously not that the age was a complete stranger to correspondance, we just have hardly any of it. I’ve mentioned one of the very few letters I know from this area of around this period before, but that is preserved mainly because it contained a copy of a papal Bull. The formulary of Ripoll, which I think can be dated to 977 pretty much, contains a whole rook of letter forms to start you off in addressing a whole range of dignitaries and looks a lot, in that respect, like the sort of thing that we see Einhard doing in his correspondence; but we don’t have any instances of them in actual use. Bishop Miró Bonfill of Girona, wrote a letter to the monks of Santa Maria de Ripoll commiserating with them over the death of their abbot, probably his teacher and the formulary compiler (perhaps with Miró’s help). Gerbert of Rheims, who was trained in Catalonia, was no stranger to a letter, and indeed probably drafted the (locally) famous one in which King Hugh Capet invited Count Borrell to submit to him in obedience in return for an army of assistance that would never be sent. (It is very important to Catalan nationalist history that there was no reply to this invitation, even though Richer of Rheims says Hugh had one.) So, all in all, I doubt it’s quite the republic of letters that Ralph Mathisen et al. have had such fun with in late antique Gaul, but it’s obviously not that there are no letters going around; it’s just that their survival appears to be absolutely terrible, which tells us something, I think, about the literary culture of the time and what they thought it was worth keeping. Charters, lawcodes, yes; letters, not so much…

      • A few aproximative statistics could help to characterize the surviving catalonian documents , not by type , but by the social role of appearing individuals:

        On the interval 898-914 in south Gothia:
        Num docs: 370
        Documented people : 2900-3400
        presbiter=360
        writer of parchment=152 (mostly presbiters)
        episcopus=67
        femina=60
        levita=42
        abate=57
        monacho=47
        comite=33
        vicecomite=16
        arxiprest=13
        arquepiscopus=10
        comitissa=9
        rege=10
        pope=8
        sotsdiaca=7
        abatissa=2
        duc=2
        vicecomitissa=1

        untitled=2200-2700

        It’s only an aproximate snapshot on a loosely defined region, but I think it’s already interesting to help to evaluate what we have, and speculate what we miss , and the reasons why.

      • Thanks. Of course survival doesn’t have to be completely about what folks of that time thought. We’ll likely never know but you wonder how much of it was due to, say, 12th century folks looking at documents and saying, “Well, these Einhard-Theodulf letters look good and we like what they say so let’s save them but this later stuff is garbage – we’ll just get rid of those.”

  2. Cullen Chandler

    Very cool.

    I was able to look at Catalunya Carolingia VI for a bit. There wasn’t much time for a detailed study of the documents, so I hope I can get my hands on a copy of the volume for work this summer. I still want to look at as much ninth-century stuff as I can. Maybe I’ll have to give Riculf a closer examination than I had planned!

    • I know I’ve said this before but I’ve accepted, philosophically, that I’m just going to have to buy those volumes, 4, 5, 6 and ideally 3 as well, plus the rest in due course. But since 4 & 5 together is 180 Euros… I thought it might wait till June. It does seem like Riculf’s library would fit some of your interests though. I’ll try and find time to get the actual text of that section.

      • Cullen Chandler

        Indeed. I thought I might try to buy them all myself, once upon a time. But nowadays, I don’t know what more I want to do with them. I’m truly more interested with the period before the empire completely withers, say maybe up to the reign of Charles III (‘the Fat’), so the scads and scads of tenth-century documents are, for all their inestimable value, not for me.

        I still want to be able to say what can be said for the period up to c. 900, so I’ll need those volumes when I can see them. I just put in a request for vol. VI. But the pre-900 stuff is just so thin in comparison to the post-900. Harumph.

        • I feel at least some of your pain, there. The absence of earlier documents, which the formulaic consistency of the later documents show must have existed, is really hard to explain and I wish it wasn’t so, because one might be able to say a lot more about the machinery of Carolingian rule in Catalonia if it weren’t. I know, sorry, preaching to the choir here. The best explanation I can think of so far is that the obvious institutions of record were the royal monasteries, and most of those would probably have had their endowments chewed away by the local nobility during the period of transition from royal to local rule…

  3. Cullen Chandler

    Changing the subject a bit…

    I’m back looking again at M. Zimmermann;s “Conscience gothique er affirmation nationale en Catalogne”, with which I trust you are familiar. And because I have nobody close by with whom to discuss said article, I wonder if I might trouble you for your thoughts on it.

    So, do you have any thoughts on it? Anybody else who reads the blog have any thoughts?

    • I’m going to disappoint you here, I’ve not read that one, though it’s been middling high on the list for a long time. I know that there are two schools of thought, roughly Udina’s old one that Catalonia preserves an almost unaltered Visigothic aspect to its society and organisation into the Carolingian period and the, to me more interesting, take of Lalinde Abadia that ‘Goth’ might be a word of very limited meaning by the ninth century. You can find the two takes opposed, along with a Castilian claim to be the real Goths supplied by Leó Suarez Fernández, in the double volume that Udina edited, Symposium internacional sobre els orígens de Catalunya, which is jam-packed with other useful stuff too including a really good socio-economic `state of question’ paper by Gaspar Feliu. I guess that the Forum Iudicum must be allowed to play into this, and my tentative about the Catalan fisc of K’zoo last year might be another way to tackle the question, but all this is only guessing what might be in the Zimmermann paper. However, if you like I can bump it up the list and make it a priority—after Kalamazoo!—and then we can talk it over by e-mail. Given the level of ire I can develop over parts of M. le Prof. Zimmermman’s works it might be better to keep it off the public web…

  4. Pingback: Contagions Round-up 8 « Contagions

  5. Cullen Chandler

    Well, I got Cat. Car. VI a few weeks ago but haven’t been able to get at it until today… I can’t find Riculf I’s will at all. He’s in a series of transaction documents, mostly but not exclusively as a purchaser of lands that others are selling to him/his church/Santa Eulalia (of Elna).

    This leads me ask, because you are much more in tuned to the digital world than I: Has anybody digitized the HGL for the web? Has anyone thought to do so or is anyone in the process of doing so? I obviously don’t own a copy, and getting my hands on it in my small college environment is not exactly easy.

    • How odd! Not even a cross-reference? I’ll have to have a look myself.

      I hadn’t checked this until you suggested it, however, but the HGL does appear to be in the Internet Archive and thus also in Google Books, but only in the earlier editions. Frustratingly, the later edition is also in Google Books but only in snippet view if any view at all! The thing was entirely reprinted in a cheaper smaller edition by a house in Osnabrück in 1973, and that may be hampering efforts somewhat.

    • The HGL volume can be found at archive.org , D. 42 cols. 135-137

      Unfortunately, the Riculf’s document list on the cathalaunia website is still incomplete (only the 898-914 span has been entered).

    • Having now had a look, the document in question is CC6 189, though it appears that the HGL edition has not helped things by calling it a will: it does indeed seem to be a donation causa mortuis but mentions itself another document that seems to have been Riculf’s actual will, which we don’t have. Odd, that. Also, the HGL edition is apparently only part of the text, which I obviously didn’t realise. I might have to go back over this post! As to the CC6 text, I have a transcription in case you (or indeed Joan) can’t get at CC6 reliably; just let me know. Also, Cullen, can you mail me with a postal address for that offprint?

      • Cullen Chandler

        Doc. 189! I haven’t made it that far yet. Working incredibly slowly these days. “These days”–ha! More like every day. Part of the problem is that I’m only now sacrificing other facets of life for the book, and not all that successfully. The other part is that the various pieces of the book that don’t depend on charters keep distracting me. I’m sure someone learned in charters will have a field day with how I’ve mishandled them.

        Anyway, tomorrow for CC6 and Riculf… even if it turns into only one footnote for one sentence.

        PS: mail forthcoming.

        • Cullen Chandler

          email with postal address, that is.

        • I absolutely know what you mean about speed of working. I’m still going through CC4 properly, slowly. I have to take the first half of CC5 at speed meanwhile for Leeds. This seems less than realistic but presumably somehow I’ll make it happen…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s