Category Archives: General medieval

Seminar CLXI: how to dig up Anglo-Saxon farming

I wrote this offline while WordPress continued not to have visibly done anything that made me prepared to log in, so I feel slightly less bad about the consistent fourteen-month-backlog with my seminar reports than I might do. Slightly. But with that expressed, let’s immediately turn to it in the person of fellow blogger Mark McKerracher, who on 4th February 2013 addressed the Oxford Medieval Archaeology seminar with the title “Mid-Saxon Agriculture Reconsidered”. I got to this one slightly late but I think I got most of it, and very interesting what I got was, also.

Historic field systems visible in the landscape on Burderop Down, Wiltshire

Historic field systems visible in the landscape on Burderop Down, Wiltshire, image used under Crown Copyright

I suppose it is worth first making the case that we really do need to know about farming in the Middle ages: it was the source of almost all wealth and the main activity of the vast majority of the population. If we don’t understand it, we don’t understand what is really the first thing about what the people we study did and cared about and how any of the other stuff they did was possible. Nonetheless, there is much here that we don’t understand, and for England this has actually got worse in the last few generations as archæology has improved, because old models, in which after a near-total reversion to pastoralism in the wake of the Roman withdrawal and the Anglo-Saxon invasions, the heavy plough arrived from the Continent in the ninth century and water-mills shortly after and in general set things up for an Agricultural Revolution that would explain England’s subsequent economic punch, have collapsed as we have found, for example, seventh-century heavy ploughs, eighth-century tidal mills, massive levels of seventh- and eighth-century monetisation compared to the later periods of supposed ‘take-off’ and so forth, and failed to find very much sign of fifth-century agricultural land going out of use in any case.1 Almost all the studies trying to deal with this have been economically-focussed, however, and very often on trade and proto-industry, whereas the base of the economy must have been and remained agricultural.2 So it is arguably in farming that change is most important, but also where it is hardest to actually find.

The Lyminge seventh-century plough coulter in situ

The Lyminge seventh-century plough coulter in situ

This, and the relatively early stages of Mr McKerracher’s doctoral work, meant that what we got here was largely a discussion of ways in which this lack of knowledge might be addressed, but that in itself was illuminating. Technology change, for example, would be a thing you’d hope to be able to see archæologically, but so far we just don’t have enough tools to do a chronology with, not least because the vast bulk of them were probably wood or bone; what then do ones that aren’t tell you about what was normal? Buildings are easier, at least mills are; barns, however, which should be good signs of the kind of productivity that necessitated storage, are basically shaped like houses, so unless they happen to have enough grain in their remains that you can reliably distinguish storage from, say, cookery, there’s still a problem. Grain-drying ovens, which do seem to be a Middle Saxon (i. e. late-seventh to ninth centuries) redevelopment, are still hard to date in use, especially in terms of how long they might go on being used, which obviously matters. Since they can be anything from huts to big stone-built affairs (the two of these known, interestingly, being on the probable border between Mercia and East Anglia which left me thinking that they could have roles in military provisioning3) form does not lead us to function as we might wish. There also arises a problem here that crops up still more with the general phenomenon of wool production which some are now seeing as important much earlier than used to be thought, which is: since any large-scale production of any kind in this period must still have effectively been cottage industry, how can you tell it archæologically from ordinary domestic manufacture? What’s an industrial number of loom-weights? Bear in mind that we can’t date loom-weights with any precision in your answer…

Analysis of cereal remains from the Anglo-Saxon site at Lyminge by Mark McKerracher

Analysis of cereal remains from Lyminge by Mr McKerracher himself and shamelessly hotlinked from his blog

Mr McKerracher’s thoughts as to how to deal with this revolved principally around bones and grains. Neither have been well-studied in all but the most recent digs of Anglo-Saxon settlements, but it still looks like the way forward (or even back, where the remains have actually been preserved). An area that was running sheep primarily for wool would slaughter them only late, whereas one where the wool was a nice side benefit of lamb chops would prefer younger meat: that would be reflected in bone preservation.4 Even if quantities of grain preserved (for which to have happened it usually needs to have been in a fire and charred) are hard to do much with, actually identifying grains can show you shifts in favoured crops from wheat to barley or more importantly to things that are probably fodder crops like rye and oats, suggesting a concentration on horses rather than people, or new growing on land where wheat wasn’t happy, suggesting growing demand, and so on. For these possibilities Mr McKerracher had some sites and information that suggested positive results could be expected, and which allowed him to suggest that his work would show a Middle Saxon farming culture in which we can show that the crops that were being grown were changing, that specialised wool production in the Cotswolds was perhaps the main economic concentration of the period (which might do much to help ground the way that the period becomes a contest for dominance between Wessex and Mercia rather than the kingdoms with an eastern seaboard) and that all of this was only to be found on a few big sites, suggesting that it was innovation from above rather than a general shift beneath the élites. It all needed more testing, he emphasised, but nonetheless this could be some very big things grown from tiny seeds here. I look forward to finally catching up with the blog to find out how things are coming up…

1. It seems unfair to target older books for what their authors couldn’t have known; there’s a reasonable round-up of the literature on the take-off of the tenth century (which is to say, more or less a take-off in the preservation of our sources on economic matters) in Christopher Dyer, “Les problèmes de la croissance agricole du haut moyen âge en Angleterre” in La croissance agricole du haut moyen âge : chronologie, modalités, géographie. Dixième Journées Internationales d’Histoire, 9, 10, 11, Septembre 1988, Flaran Vol. 10 (Auch 1990), pp. 117-130. I’m sure there must be one in English as well, but remember I don’t actually work on this stuff, that’s the one I’ve read. The most aggressive statement of a case for a revolutionary change is indubitably Richard Hodges, The Anglo-Saxon Achievement: archaeology and the beginnings of English society (London 1989).

2. Especially Hodges, Anglo-Saxon Achievement, or his “Society, Power and the First English Revolution” in Il Secolo di Ferro: mito e realtà del secolo X, Settimane di Studio del Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo Vol. 38 (Spoleto 1991), pp. 125-157, repr. in Hodges, Goodbye to the Vikings? Re-Reading Early Medieval Archaeology (London 2006), pp. 163-175.

3. Here I’m obviously influenced by Morn D. T. Capper, “Contested Loyalties: Regional and National Identities in the Midland Kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, c.700 – c.900″ (unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Sheffield, 2008).

4. Two good early examples of how this kind of work can underpin historical conclusions are Leslie Alcock, Dinas Powys: an Iron Age, Dark Age and Early Medieval Settlement in Glamorgan (Cardiff 1963), reprised and updated in his Economy, Society and Warfare among the Britons and Saxons (Cardiff 1987), pp. 5-150 where the animal bones are discussed pp. 67-82, and Jennifer Bourdillon, “Countryside and town: the animal resources of Saxon Southampton” in Della Hooke (ed.), Anglo-Saxon Settlements (Oxford 1988), pp. 177-195.

Because if that’s Gothic this must be Roman

Posted with apologies for the delay in both posting and in dealing with comments, for once not because of my life but because of WordPress being uncharacteristically useless in dealing with the Heartbleed bug I hope you heard about, let’s attack that easiest of targets, to wit, historiographical views on ethnicity. Here is a straw man: let us once more consider the Visigothic Law. Redacted principally in the reign of King Chindasuinth of what we know as the Visigothic kingdom of Spain on the basis both of ‘ancient’ law and subsequent royal edicts, in the form we have it it had been updated by several subsequent rulers and was intended to be widely owned and consulted, as indeed the numerous copies we have of it suggest it was.1 Surely this is the ultimate expression of a Visigothic identity, matured by years of rule and a full conversion to Catholicism? So if that’s Gothic, what went before must be Roman, no?

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Lat. 4404, a Narbonne copy of the <em>Breviary of Alaric</em> made between 804 and 814, fo. 1v and 2r I think

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS Lat. 4404, a Narbonne copy of the Breviary of Alaric made between 804 and 814, fo. 1v and 2r I think

Well, no, obviously not, you may immediately say: firstly the premise is rubbish, but also the artwork is hardly Classical, is it, there is interlace, geometric ornament and the oval-eyed staring faces characteristic of pre-Romanesque portraiture of the earliest kind, or indeed of the earlier copies of the illustrated Commentary of Beatus on the Apocalypse.2 Also, it is, you know, the Breviary of Alaric, that being King Alaric II of the Visigoths, named after their most successful leader, the guy who actually sacked Rome… This is if anything more Gothic, you may say. But what is this text? It is a codification of Roman law. On the left-hand page of the spread you may even be able to read the name of the Emperor Theodosius, under whose orders the Codex Theodosianus, of which the Breviary is as the name suggests an abbreviation, was compiled, about fifty years after its issue. That’s him in the picture, not Alaric. That’s how Gothic this is.

Cathedral of SS Just & Pastor, Narbonne

Cathedral of SS Just & Pastor, Narbonne; the other kind of Gothic (from Wikimedia Commons)

Now, we can complicate matters further, because this is also Carolingian. That is, this actual manuscript, now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, was made and illustrated in the Frankish city of Narbonne in the early ninth century.3 Admittedly, Narbonne had only fallen to the Franks in 759, when the local ‘Goths’ (as the Chronicle of Moissac does indeed call them) decided that between the Muslims inside the city and the Frankish army outside they’d rather take their chances with Charlemagne’s dad Pippin the Short, and threw the Muslims out and made terms. One of the terms was that they got to keep their own law.4 Which one, do you suppose, this one? or the ‘Visigothic’ one? Either way, this is at least two generations after the conquest and yet it was still being copied, a Gothic compilation of Roman law copied under Frankish rule in a city they’d freed from the Muslims depicting the Roman emperor who hadn’t issued it in a style some would happily call Mozarabic. Assign an ethnicity to that.

A Catalan copy of the Visigothic Law, Abadia de Montserrat MS 1109, from Wikimedia Commons

An actual Catalan copy of the Visigothic Law, Abadia de Montserrat MS 1109 once again, from Wikimedia Commons

In fact, the idea that use of the Visigothic Law, as we call it, represents a deep investment in the Visigothic past should be queried more often than it is. The text is only given that ethnic title by us, its name in the actual texts being the Forum Iudicum, more or less Judges’ Conventions. It also substantially errases any difference between Goths and Romans that earlier codes had maintained: the old difference only leaks through in one or two clauses where it is ruled against. The first issue of this lawcode was arguably the point at which its own users stopped seeing the point in marking customs and behaviours out as Gothic. It’s not a monument of that identity; it’s its tombstone. That is, admittedly, not how it is used even in my period, where the text is often called the Law of the Goths, but that is nonetheless not what its authors had intended.6 And for somebody in Carolingian ex-Muslim ex-Gothic Narbonne it was, in any case, not the law that was most worth copying; they wanted the one it had replaced. We’ve seen before that Gothic identity seems to have been something a very few people in Narbonne still made something of in this period; now as then I think that the evidence forces me to conclude that they only cared because mostly, other people did not. It would make a lot of things simpler if we sided with the majority here…

1. The canonical cite here is Aquilino Iglesia Ferreirós, “La creación del derecho en Cataluña” in Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español Vol. 47 (Madrid 1977), pp. 99-423, now revised in his La creación del Derecho: una historia del Derecho espa&ntidle;ol (Barcelona 1988), 3 vols, 2nd edn. (Barcelona 1989-1991), 3 vols.

2. The fullest study of these manuscripts is John W. Williams, The Illustrated Beatus (New York 1994-1998 & Turnhout 2000), 5 vols, but shorter introductions to the text and what it was doing can be found in Williams, “Purpose and Imagery in the Apocalypse Commentary of Beatus of Liébana” in Richard K. Emmerson & Bernard McGinn (edd.), The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages (Ithaca 1992), pp. 217-233 or Kenneth B. Steinhauser, “Narrative and Illumination in the Beatus Apocalypse” in Catholic Historical Review Vol. 81 (1995), pp. 185-210. References to it as Mozarabic are trivial to find, though almost any use of this word is misleading: see Richard Hitchcock, Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain (Aldershot 2008).

3. It is Paris, BN MS Lat. 4404, and the attribution is from Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la época carolingia: arte y cultura antés del Románico (siglos IX y X) (Barcelona 1999), no. 129 (p. 382).

4. The best account of this is still Josep María Salrach i Marés, El Procés de Formació Nacional de Catalunya (segles VIII-IX), Llibres a l’Abast 136 & 137 (Barcelona 1978), 2 vols, I pp. 5-7, but I should also mention the new and useful summary in Cullen Chandler, “Carolingian Catalonia: the Spanish March and the Franks, c. 750-c. 1050″ in History Compass Vol. 11 (Oxford 2013), pp. 739-750. The Chronicle of Moissac is printed in Georg Heinrich Pertz (ed.), Monumenta Germaniae Historica… Scriptorum tomus I, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores in folio) I (Hannover 1826), pp. 280-314.

5. E. g. Karl Zeumer (ed.), Leges Visigothorum, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Leges Nationum Germanicum) I (Hannover 1902, repr. 2005), transl. S. P. Scott as The Visigothic Code (Boston 1922), online here, III.1.2 ruling that mixed marriages are legal; slightly more respect for remaining differences in X.1.8, 9 & 16 & X.2.1 & 5 probably have to do wth the fact that here rights in land that could have been inherited are concerned. II.2.2 is adamant that everyone, even the king, is subject to the same law and II.1.8 refuses to recognise any other Roman law than what is compiled into the Forum.

6. Jeffrey Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: Property, Proof, and Dispute in Catalonia around the Year 1000 (Ithaca 2004), pp. 33-55.

Seminar CLX: John Blair’s Ford Lectures, III

Poster for John Blair's Ford Lectures, 2013

Poster for John Blair’s Ford Lectures, 2013

Returning to a thread after our short diversion to Lotharingia, the next paper I went to in my massive backlog of such reports was the third of John Blair’s Ford Lecture series, “Building the Anglo-Saxon Landscape”, this one entitled: “Why was Burton Built on Trent? Landscape Organisation and Economy in the Mercian Age?” and occurring on 1st February 2013. Here John was propounding a really quite simple theory that has big implications. Starting by setting out the assumption that other kingdoms would have imitated the practices that had made Mercia successful during the period when it more or less dominated Anglo-Saxon England, he reminded us of his last week’s proposition that at this time the functions of central places were decentralised across wider zones and then asked, more or less, what then is to be read from the place-name ‘Burton’, burh-tun, more or less ‘fortress settlement’? What do these places in fact have to do with fortresses and what would that mean?

Bailey Bridge, crossing the River Trent at Walton, near Burton-on-Trent, viewed from the air

Bailey Bridge, crossing the River Trent at Walton, near Burton-on-Trent, viewed from the air. Note the cropmark near the pylon! Probably modern, but if not, could it be the ‘Wall’? No, OK. For more such conjectures, read on!

The scale of John’s project made him uniquely able to try and answer this; as he put it, by now he had “gone for pretty much every Burton there is”. And there are a lot! And John’s contention was that they mostly, perhaps almost all given the incomplete state of our knowledge, stand upland from and within sight of an Anglo-Saxon burh, and should be seen as supporting settlements, watch-places or similar. The best example, because actually documented, is Bourton-on-the-Water (unrelatedly, the town I have been to with the highest concentration of teashops—there is a part of the High Street where you can stand and see seven, knowing that two more lie just round a corner—and a really quite good motor museum, but I digress), which King Offa gave to his thegn Dudda in 779, and which is is explicitly said to be “portio ruriculi illius attinens urbi qui nominatur Sulmones burg”, ‘the rural portion belonging to the town named Salmonsbury’, but John had many others, as well as regional variations (Boltons, in Northumbria, relating to Bothals, Kingstons in Wessex, Newtons relating to Roman sites that could be described as “ealde geworce”, ‘old earthworks’).1 The biggest of all, subject of his title, is actually only one of five on the Trent, but relates most probably to Tutbury, an old Iron Age fort facing the Peak District and close to the Mercian royal centre of Repton and Breedon. Littleborough, anciently a Roman site (and in Anglo-Saxon times known as Tiowulfesceaster, ‘Theowulf’s [Roman] fort’) boasts two Burtons and two Strettons (Straet-tun, ‘settlement of the [Roman] road’), spread out on either side of it, and Burcot in Oxfordshire seems to link Badbury and Lechlade, being equidistant between them.

View of hilltops from Burcot, Oxfordshire

View from Burcot towards I-know-not-what hilltop, but maybe one of the right ones. Now we are dealing in sites that are below the burhs, not above them, but then this is a -cot, not a -tun

By this stage, while the number of examples was hard to dismiss, the idea of a system was getting harder to hold on to. John had found many many different ways to relate Burtons to burhs, but I began to wonder whether the choice of which one they related to was always clear, especially since some of the burhs in question were so much older than others, Roman or even Iron Age sites to which names of equally unclear date were being related. One, Black Burton near Bampton, has at least been dug, and produced exactly what John wopuld have wished, Middle Saxon buildings and Ipswich Ware pottery pinning its activity reasonably to the late eighth and early ninth centuries and I expect he will have more, but as ever the work of Mary Chester-Kadwell leaves me bothered about making these links by pure geographic association.2 What if there were just enough burhs in the landscape that when you put a new settlement down there was one nearby it could be defined by? Correlation does not equal causation, and so on. But particular concentrations of Burton-names are still suggestive: John saw a line of them in the Peak District more or less delimiting it, a different pattern of burhweord multiple estates down the Welsh border and a row along the edge of the semi-independent enclave of Hastings with which Offa had trouble.3 (One such site, Bishopstone, relating to the burh at Lewes, has also been dug and showed an eighth-century hall with an associated church over-writing an old minster that Offa seems to have repossessed.) Even if not all of this matches up as neatly as John was arguing it does, quite a lot of it could still be some kind of deliberate organisation.

View of hills at Burton Dassett, Warwickshire

An obvious-looking candidate, the hills at Burton Dassett, Warwickshire, now topped by a modern ‘Topograph’ but who knows what lies beneath, inside those rampart-like ridges? Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

In some ways this ought not to be a surprise: we do after all accept that the Mercian kings could enforce, to a reasonable degree, obligations of military construction on their subjects, and even if John were not right about centres being decentralised in this period, a fortress network still needs links and watchposts, something which I very much observe in the similar roll-out of a network in Catalonia.4 Something like this system should have existed, and it may be that John has in fact demonstrated it. There is a space for factual realism here that lies somewhere between my wish for a clearer pattern and a readiness to accommodate all possible variations; after all, the landscape itself is very various, and incorporating legacy elements like Roman and Iron Age fortresses would obviously make sense, both in terms of investment cost and the likely defensibility of their locations. Nonetheless, I suspect I will not be the only one who will want the publication of this theory before them before they can shrug off their modern discomfort over accepting a system so authentically ready to be unsystematic, at which point such a publication may indeed do us a power of good in terms of helping us think in Anglo-Saxon terms, not our own…

1. The 779 grant is printed in W. de Gray Birch (ed.), Cartularium Saxonicum (London 1885-1899), 3 vols, no. 230, and indexed in the Electronic Sawyer here as Sawyer 114. Anything else in this post which is not linked or footnoted to a source is coming out of my notes, and will therefore presumably be found in John’s publication of these lectures.

2. M. Chester-Kadwell, Early Anglo-Saxon Communities in the Landscape of Norfolk: Cemeteries and Metal-Detector Finds in Context, British Archaeological Reports (British Series) 481 (Oxford 2009).

3. The defeat of the Hæstingas by Offa in 771 is recorded only in Simeon of Durham’s Historia Regum, trans. Joseph Stevenson in his The Historical Works of Simeon of Durham, Church Historians of England III.2 (London 1855), online here.

4. It remains a pleasure to invoke Nicholas Brooks, “The development of military obligations in eighth- and ninth-century England” in Peter Clemoes & Kathleen Hughes (edd.), England Before the Conquest: studies in primary sources presented to Dorothy Whitelock (Cambridge 1971), pp. 69-84, repr. in David A. E. Pelteret (ed.), Anglo-Saxon History: basic readings, Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 2108 (New York City 2000), pp. 83-105 and in Brooks, Communities and Warfare 700-1400 (London 2000), pp. 32-47, but we should also add Stephen Bassett, “Divide and Rule? The Military Infrastructure of Eighth- and Ninth-Century Mercia” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 15 (Oxford 2007), pp. 53-85, DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0254.2007.00198.x.

The handwriting of an emperor – maybe

Cover of Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la época carolingia

Cover of Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la época carolingia

When I started this blog in December 2006, one of the things I set up straight away was the record of what I’m currently reading in the sidebar. If anyone looked at it, which I’m not sure they do, that could be an embarrassment, as some things tend to take a very long time to move off it, depending on how urgent they are for whatever I’m working on (another category that doesn’t change often enough). Hopefully no work will ever linger there as long as did an exhibition catalogue I’ve mentioned here before, Cataluña en la época carolingia: arte y cultura antes de Románico (siglos IX y X), ed. by Jordi Camps (Barcelona 1999). This is a tremendous book in terms of both size and content: there are forty-nine articles, almost all of which were never directly relevant to whatever paper had to come next. So I read it in very occasional dribs and drabs, and it’s generated several blog posts over the years, but yes, it is years: I’m pretty sure it was on that sidebar when I first created it and I finally reached the actual exhibition catalogue in August 2012, at which point I stubbed several posts to write up when I had time, of which this is the first.

Barcelona, Arxiu Capitular de la Catedral de Barcelona, pergamino 3-3-1

Barcelona, Arxiu Capitular de la Catedral de Barcelona, pergamino 3-3-1

Predictably, the object that provoked me to words was a charter, or at least a letter.1 It was sent to the citizens of Barcelona at some point between 876 and 877 by their monarch, King Charles the Bald of the Western Franks in his last guise as Holy Roman Emperor, and it tells a story and makes a point. The story is simple enough, although it really only starts in the last line: the first few are basically an exchange of pleasantries in which Charles is glad to hear that Barcelona remains in good faith with him and assures its inhabitants that they can also rely on him. Additional colour is added to the proceedings by the fact that their chosen ambassador was a Jew called Judas, a reminder that Barcelona had a Jewish community, that the bishop was in some sense their lord for want of anyone else, and that they were trusted at this time (despite bearing the name of the man the charters of the era repeatedly name “traditor Domini”, ‘betrayer of the Lord’) in a way that they would not be later on, in say the mid-eleventh century.2 That perspective was not available to King Charles, however, and the letter makes this choice of ambassador seem perfectly normal. And then there’s the last line in a different hand in which Charles also sends the men of Barcelona and Bishop Frodoí ten pounds of silver to pay for repairs to his church, which was presumably the actual reason Judas, whom Charles describes as ‘our faithful man’ as if he knew him, had been sent north: Frodói was out of money…

The Roman walls and medieval towers of Barcelona

Since nothing of Bishop Frodoí’s church now survives, here are the Roman walls and medieval towers of Barcelona, the lower parts of which at least he would have known

As to the bigger point, I’ve always seen this document since I first met it in print very early on in my Ph. D. research as an important window on how Barcelona by this time related to the kings. Charles’s writ arguably did not run very far into Catalonia: his coinage reforms of 864 were not carried out there, for example, and it’s not clear that he chose the area’s bishops.3 Nor is there any sign that he was receiving revenue from the area, and although there is no evidence that he was not, at the very least he can’t have been getting money from the coinage or from embassies, because the former would have meant the coinage reforms getting carried out and the latter would have made Judas’s trip north redundant: if you had to pay to get the king’s gift, probably cheaper not to go! You might therefore wonder why Charles greets the men of Barcelona in such glowing terms in the letter, as his personal followers (peculiares), which he does, and the answer would be because at this general time much of Charles’s kingdom was in rebellion against him. Whatever the financial dead loss Barcelona may have represented, the value of having someone from far away, from outside the area where most of his magnates would ever have gone, and especially someone outlandish and non-Frankish such as a poignantly-named hebreus, come and acclaim him as their king, presumably in court where everyone could see, was probably well worth as much silver as Judas could carry away with him in terms of public endorsement for the beleaguered emperor. Silver, after all, was not something Charles was short of; support, rather more so…4

Enlargement of last two lines of Barcelona, Arxiu Capitular de la Catedral, Pergamins 3-3-1

Close-up of the additional last lines, the lower being almost invisible

But this is not the end of the interest of this letter, because the first scholar to really draw attention to it, French savant Joseph Calmette, noticed that the last two lines of the document are in a different handwriting, and appear to be a last-minute addition for which there’s only just room on the scrappy parchment. Calmette therefore thought that we have here Charles the Bald’s actual autograph.5 This did not meet with the approval of Philippe Lauer, however, who pointed out, as well as the previous publications of the document that Calmette had ignored, that the script of the addition is suspiciously like the local documents of tenth-century Barcelona, which might explain what otherwise suggests that Charles attached a note to a bishop on the bottom of a different letter, as if he had no spare parchment; it should rather be seen, Lauer argued, as a bodge by a tenth-century scribe at Santa Eulàlia looking to make up for the loss of a precept of Charles the Bald’s that Barcelona had somehow lost in the meantime.6 (We know of that document from one of Charles’s son Louis the Stammerer that mentions it, so it did exist, and certainly lots of documents did get lost in the 985 sack.7)

Interior of the cloister of Sants Creu & Eulàlia de Barcelona

Courtyard of the current cathedral of Santa Eulàlia de Barcelona, taken more or less from the door of the archive where the letter in question is now kept

Calmette immediately published a riposte, however, pointing out that the addition wouldn’t actually have allowed the later cathedral actually to claim anything and that the script of the addition is hard to date but that it seemed more late-tenth century than the c. 900 Lauer thought correct for the fabrication, proving the futility of the comparison, and that, “l’authenticité du post-scriptum demeure donc certaine à mes yeux”.8 There the matter seems to have rested; Ramon d’Abadal in de Vinyals’s edition of the letter reserved further judgement, Tessier’s edition of Charles the Bald’s documents sided with Lauer, the more recent one of the Barcelona cathedral documents has nothing but bibliography to contribute and other opinions are not argued.9 I’m not quite sure how Calmette thought the script being late helped his case, but on the other hand I also don’t see how Lauer thought the letter could help Barcelona make up for a lost precept of which, in any case, they had a later replacement. Obviously, without a second autograph of Charles the Bald, we’re never going to be able to say for sure, but in any case, as I say, for me that’s not the real point. It’s an intriguing possibility, but there are bigger things going on with this little document.

1. J. Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la época carolingia: arte y cultura antes del romànico (siglos IX y X) (Barcelona 1999), no. 27. For a text the easiest option is now Joseph Calmette, “Une lettre close originale de Charles le Chauve” in Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire de l’École française de Rome Vol. 22 (Rome 1902), pp. 135-139, online here, at p. 136; for other editions see n. 9 below.

2. On Jews in Barcelona see David Romano, “Els jueus de Barcelona i Girona fins a la mort de Ramon Borrell (1018)” 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 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991 & 1992), II pp. 123-130.

3. See Miquel Crusafont, “Nou tipus carolingi de Barcelona de Carles el Calb. El diner de Barcelona fins a R. Berenguer I” in II Simposi numismàtic de Barcelona (Barcelona 1980), pp. 47-55.

4. For the political context see Janet L. Nelson, Charles the Bald, The Medieval World 2 (London 1992), pp. 221-264, although she makes no mention of this document, perhaps because it cannot be clearly assigned to a date in her narrative. Note however that on pp. 320-321 Barcelona is not shown within Charles’s kingdom. On Charles’s ability to raise cash, see Philip Grierson, “The Gratia Dei Rex coinage of Charles the Bald” in Margaret Gibson & Nelson (edd.), Charles the Bald: court and kingdom, 2nd edn. (Aldershot 1990), pp. 52-64.

5. Calmette, “Lettre close originale”.

6. P. Lauer, “Lettre close de Charles le Chauve pour les Barcelonais” in Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes Vol. 63 (Paris 1902), pp. 696-699.

7. The later precept is printed as 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), 2 vols, Barcelona: Eglésia Catedral de Santa Creu II, and also in †Félix Grat, Jacques de Font-Reaulx, †Georges Tessier & Robert-Henri Bautier (edd.), Recueil des actes de Louis II le Bègue, Louis III et Carloman II, rois de France (877-884) (Paris 1978) (non vidi).

8. J. Calmette, “Sur la lettre close de Charles le Chauve aux barcelonais” in Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes Vol. 64 (Paris 1903), pp. 329-334.

9. Abadal, Catalunya Carolíngia II, ap. VIII; †A. Giry, †Maurice Prou & G. Tessier (ed.), Recueil des Actes du Charles II le Chauve, roi de France (Paris 1943-1955), 3 vols, doc. no. 414; Àngel Fabregà i Grau (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Barcelona: documents dels anys 844-1260. Volum I: documents dels anys 844-1000, Sèries IV: Fonts Documentals 1 (Barcelona 1995), pp. 187-189; J. L. Nelson, “Literacy in Carolingian Government” in Rosamond McKitterick (ed.), The Uses of Literacy in Early Mediæval Europe (Cambridge 1990), pp. 258-296, repr. in Nelson, The Frankish World 750-900 (London 1996), pp. 1-36 at p. 203 of the original.

Seminar CLIX: lords in the middle

One of the many notable things about being in the thick of the Oxford academic environment for that while that I was was the very large number of very good doctoral students hanging about, often from outside the UK, all gnawingly nervous about their prospects on the job market and very often being supervised by Chris Wickham; had we not already established that Chris has some modern-day equivalent of ravens informing him of the world’s doings I would wonder how he kept track of them all. I cannot remember now if Nicholas Schroeder was one of Chris’s, but he was certainly one of the brighter sparks doing the Oxford seminar circuit while I was there.1 I saw him present twice, and the first of these occasions was on 28th January 2013, when he spoke to the Medieval History Seminar with the title, “The Forgotten Lords: the feudal revolution and monastic lordship in Lotharingia, c. 900 to c. 1250″.

Map of tenth-century Lotharingia

Map from M. Schroeder’s handout for the paper, pencil customisations in the original; apologies for photo quality, I’m away from home as I write this

Invoking the feudal revolution at all of course means stepping into a dense historiographical forest over the social changes of the tenth and eleventh centuries in Europe, in which as M. Schroeder observed, the debate has died without being solved. In his home country of Belgium, however, the local version was very much carried into orthodoxy by the work of Léopold Genicot, who saw the great estates of the earlier period being broken into new territorial lordships by means of lords subjecting peasants to what had previously been public jurisdiction, and solidarities developing within the communities subject to those lords.2 To this were then added various new voices, Florian Mazel arguing for a new style of ecclesiastical lordship developing in the period of papal reform in which rule via advocates and lay abbots ceases to be acceptable and a more old-fashioned and direct form of lordship had to be adopted instead, Paul Fouracre arguing that even in the eleventh century ties of lordship were more personal than territorial, the familia being the most important group to which anyone belonged, and Charles West most recently arguing that what was going on was the ultimate success of the Carolingian effort to create a locally-responsible lordship based on relationships that was, however, intended to be different from ownership but in fact never really became so before the state that required this ceased to be. Charles also argues that this worked out very differently on the two sides of the Meuse, Champagne becoming a big territory and Upper Lotharingia never ceasing to be a land of monastic lordships within a greater lord’s less intensive territory.3

The current state of the old abbey of Stavelot-Malmédy

The current state of the old abbey of Stavelot-Malmédy, whence most of the information in the paper here discussed, from Wikimedia Commons

Having laid all this out for us in good critical fashion, M. Schroeder then began the task of setting it against his work on the monastery, documents and territory of Stavelot-Malmédy.4 This hit immediately against two complications: the first was trying to get perspective on a society that is larger than just the Church when the Church’s documents are almost your only source, and the other was that the Church, as Mazel’s paradigm just discussed implies, had different pressures on the way it managed its property from those operating on laymen. I am not convinced that the ideologies are that different, in fact, but in the eleventh century especially the Church was under pressure from within itself and without to adhere more closely than before or later to the ideology its members urged upon society more widely. Nonetheless, M. Schroeder pointed out that one can find all manner of models of lordship in the Stavelot evidence, more than any of the templates outlined above accommodate: there’s already territorial lordship in the tenth century (he said), with both jurisdiction and personal ties (in labour and service obligations); attendance at courts of the monastery’s familia could be demanded from people both inside and outside its territoria, people could live inside the territoria who were ‘strangers’ because they were not members of the familia, and Stavelot’s one attempt to create a castle lordship seems to have failed and got reorganised into villages. What M. Schroeder did not see, however, was the monastery’s subordinates and advocates becoming threats to its own authority, and neither did he see much collapse of the various forms of lordship into each other until the late twelfth and early thirteenth century.

The château-fort de Logne as it now stands

The castle lordship may not have worked out but the castle itself is still quite impressive! The château-fort de Logne as it now stands

In questions two things came out: one, raised by Mark Whittow, was what archæology might add to this, which of course really hits against the problem that that archæology is arrayed across several countries and turns out to be M. Schroeder’s post-doctoral project, and the other, raised by me, was that some way to distinguish between the different rows and columns of what he called a matrix of lordship might be to consider who had set them up. I think that might work for Catalonia to an extent, in as much as counts and monasteries do seem to aim for different things there, but I don’t think I got the question out right as what M. Schroeder answered with was that the important thing might be when lordship and village organisation combined. That may well be true but I still want to know if what I had meant to ask would have been useful… Anyway, that aside, this was a very careful sifting of evidence through a variety of frameworks that left me with some hope that there are in fact ways to advance the tired old feudal transformation debate to the point where we might actually reach new ways to express and explain the developmental similarities it currently struggles to unite.

1. Although there are other publications by now, the one of M. Schroeder’s that got mentioned in the introduction was Jean-Pierre Devroey & Nicholas Schroeder, “Beyond royal estates and monasteries: landownership in the early medieval Ardennes” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 20 (Oxford 2012), pp. 39-69, DOI:10.1111/j.1468-0254.2011.00334.x.

2. At the time I noted down a reference to ‘Genicot 1968′ but the venerable professor turns out to have been quite busy that year and I don’t know which publication was meant: the most obviously relevant seems to be his “Nobles, sainteurs et alleutiers dans le Namurois du XIe siècle” in Album J. Balon (Namur 1968), pp. 117-123, but that seems pretty short to be a classic and irreplaceable formulation!

3. Referring to F. Mazelle, Féodalités 888-1180 (Paris 2010); P. Fouracre, “Marmoutier and its Serfs in the Eleventh Century” in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 6th Series Vol. 15 (Cambridge 2005), pp. 29-50 and idem, “Marmoutier: familia versus family. The Relations between Monastery and Serfs in Eleventh-Century North-West France” in Andrew Reynolds, Wendy Davies & Guy Halsall (edd.), People and Space in the Middle Ages, Studies in the Early Middle Ages 15 (Turnhout 2006), pp. 255-274; Charles West, Reframing the Feudal Revolution: Political and Social Transformation between Marne and Moselle, c. 800-c. 1100 (Cambridge 2013).

4. The charters of the abbey are edited in Joseph Halkin & Charles Gustave Roland (edd.), Recueil des chartes de l’abbaye de Stavelot-Malmédy (Bruxelles 1909-1930), 2 vols, which is apart from anything else one of the most handsome books I think I ever handled in the course of medieval studies.

Prince Quintilian of Montgrony: a correction

With certain enviable exceptions, every historian has sometimes to admit that they got something wrong, and this will not be the first time I do so here, but up till now I’ve only once had to do this about something I got into print. Sadly, this has now arisen, as in August 2012 I came across something that meant I had to let go of one particular bête noir of my work on the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, that being the information supposedly preserved there about the area of Mogrony (now Sant Pere de Montgrony).

Sant Pere de Montgrony

Sant Pere de Montgrony, centre of the point of contention in its slightly more modern form of both building and spelling, from Wikimedia Commons

In 2003, when I sent in the text for what would become my first paper, it contained a goodly chunk about Mogrony, because I was contending that everything Sant Joan’s documents said about this place was essentially made up.1 This included the surviving versions of the nunnery’s endowment in 887, which claim the place for the nunnery in a way that they clearly not only could not later enforce but a full century later did not even mention when going to court about it.2 I went for this as follows:

“The castle of Mogrony has often been said to have been a centre of a princely lordship in the eighth century whose line donated or sold the place to Count Guifré. This suggestion rests on almost no actual evidence, and much of what underpins it existed, if at all, in the Sant Joan archive.56 In 899, the year after the death of Count Guifré the supposed donor, in which Charles the Simple was invited to place his protection over all of Sant Joan’s property, it seems that the castle was not among that property, as all that was mentioned at Mogrony was ‘the cell of Mogrony with its limits and bounds’.57 Furthermore, when in 906 the assembled bishops of the province of Narbonne offered Emma similar guarantees, they too only mentioned ‘the cell which is called Mogrony with the parish subjected to it’.58 Thus, though Sant Joan was clearly a force in the area, there is no early evidence that it then held the castle.”

That, I think, all holds up, but the devil is as so often in the footnotes, and in particular n. 56:

56 The suggestion originated with Francisco Codera y Zaidín (in his ‘Límites Probables de la Dominación Árabe en la Cordillera Pirenaica’, Boletín de la Real Academia de Historia 48 (Barcelona, 1906), pp. 289–311, repr. in idem, Estudios Críticos de Historia Árabe Española (Segunda Serie), Colección de Estudios Arabes 8 (Madrid, 1917), pp. 235–76, at pp. 307–9 in the original). It was based on observations of a lost manuscript by Jaime Villanueva (Viage Literario a las Iglesias de España tomo X: viage a Urgel (Valencia, 1821), p. 19), some very hypothetical onomastics and a report of another now lost Sant Joan manuscript, otherwise unknown even to Masdeu before the 1939 sack, and unseen by Codera. Nonetheless, the suggestion has been picked up and expanded by Abilio Barbero (in ‘La Integración Social de los “Hispani” del Pirineo Oriental al Reino Carolingio’, in P. Gallais and Y.-J. Riou (eds), Mélanges Offerts à René Crozet, Professeur à l’Université de Poitiers, Directeur du Centre d’Études Supérieures de Civilisation Médiévale, à l’Occasion de son Soixante-Dixième Anniversaire, par ses Amis, ses Collègues, ses Élèves et les Membres du C. É. S. C. M., vol. 1 (Poitiers, 1966), pp. 67–75, at p. 72, the article reprinted in A. Prieto (ed.), Conflictos y Estructuras Sociales en la Hispania Antiqua (Madrid, 1977), re-edited A García Bellido et al. as Conflictos y Estructuras Sociales en la España Antiqua (Madrid, 1986), pp. 151–65), Esteve Albert (Les Abadesses [de Sant Joan, Episodis d'Història 69, (Barcelona 1965)], pp. 10–17), A. Vadillo Pinilla (‘El Dominio de San Juan de las Abadesas: algunas consecuencias de su formación’, in M.A. Ladero Quesada (ed.), En la España Medieval IV: estudios dedicados al Professor D. Angel Ferrari Núñez Tomo II (Madrid, 1984), pp. 1019–45) and Albert Benet i Clarà (‘Castell de Mogrony’, in idem, A. Pladevall i Font and J. Vigué i Viñas, ‘Castells i Viles del Ripollès anteriors al 1300′, in Pladevall [(ed.)], Catalunya Romànica X[: el Ripollès (Barcelona 1987)], pp. 26–32, at p. 28). Given the weakness of the original suggestion (uncited after Barbero’s article), I do not think their respective conclusions about Mogrony and its rulers can easily stand.
57 ‘Id est in praedicto pago ausonensi cella Mucronio cum finibus et adiacenciis suis . . .’: see n. 25 above.
58 HGL V 32: ‘. . . cellam quoque [sic] dicitur Mucuronio cum subjuncta sibi parrochia…’.”

Despite my total lack of understanding of non-English capitalisation of titles at that point, I exult even now in the pedantry and bibliographical research that resulted in that footnote – no-one, but no-one, ever seems to cite Codera in such a way that the actual title on the spine of the book is mentioned, and the two reprints of Barbero’s piece confuse the record massively too, but the problem is with Codera and with Villaneuva. Y’see, what Codera said is that there was a document at Sant Joan that mentions a princeps Quintilianus hanging out at Mogrony in the year 736, and others have built on this a model of vestigial lords hanging on in their local areas long after the Muslim conquest. Nowadays, what you could not do in 2003, you can find Codera online and see this.3 I translate:

“Father Villanueva was the first who encountered and published a short notice of this person: in a codex of the monastery of Ripoll, in eighth-century script, he found the following chronological text: ‘From the Incarnation moreover of the Lord Jesus Christ to the present first year of Prince Quintilian, which is Era [774], are 736 years.’ While we had no more notices referring to Quintiliano than that which Father Villanueva published, it was necessary to doubt this person’s existence, suspecting a problem with the date; but with new data encountered, such as the notice of the death of Quintiliano in the year 778, at which date, according to a martyrology of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, he was ‘senioris de Mocrono‘, it seems that we must admit the existence of this person as ‘lord’, ‘king’ or ‘chief’ of a more or less extensive territory in the mountains of Montgrony, all the more since in a document of the year 804 figures another Quintiliano, lord of Montgrony, who could easily be the descendant or successor of Prince Quintilian (I).”

Here again, though, the footnote is crucial:

“(I) We owe these notices and bibliographical data referring to Quintiliano to our good friend Don Joaquín Miret y Sans, distinguished investigator of the history of Catalonia.”

This is, you will notice, as well as being a fine example of regula magistri, not really a citation, and although the sack of Sant Joan de les Abadesses in the Civil War might go some way to explaining why, of course, none of these Sant Joan materials mentioning Quintilà survive, many of their other charters survived and nothing there from 804 can have come from them in the first place. Miret never published this stuff, anyway, to the best of my knowledge, so there’s no way of knowing what he saw, but it’s always seemed significant to me that the history of Sant Joan by the pre-war archivist, Josep Masdeu, who died in the defence of his documents indeed, did not mention this stuff.4 That, even now, leaves me feeling that it’s much safer, when everything else we have from Sant Joan about Montgrony is faked or disputed, to mistrust anything from there about the place when it can’t be examined. The problem is with what Villanueva saw, which now looks likely to be authentic.

Apse and apsidioles of the west end of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Sant Joan de les Abadesses, should-be location of the evidence missing from this post’s argumentation

Let us note first off that Villanueva and Miret don’t have to have been talking about the same thing. Villanueva had a dating clause or some kind of chronological summary that one might attach to a chronicle or similar; it doesn’t survive either but then that is much less surprising than at Sant Joan because the Ripoll archive was entirely burnt in 1835. What Miret had found seems definitely to have been notices of some lord of Montgrony, quite possibly in faked donations to Sant Joan that must therefore have postdated 987 when no such documents were available to them. Miret’s cites don’t call the guy ‘princeps’, though, and Villanueva’s does not associate him with Montgrony. We can’t now explain what Miret saw, but none other than Michel Zimmermann reports a very simple solution for what Villanueva had, proposed by Rudolf Beer in his attempt to reconstruct as much as possible of Ripoll’s lost library:5

“In the middle of a table of ancient eras and of the lives of the patriarchs, one finds [says Zimmermann as if the MS still exists, though I cannot see from what he says that it does] a curious note: Ab incarnatione autem Dni Jhu Xpi usque in presentem primum Quintiliani principis annum, qui est era LXX quarta sunt anni DCCXXXVI. Villaneuva restores DCC before the year of the Era and concluded from it that the page was written in 736: he was constrained to deduce from it that, twenty years after the Muslim invasion, there ruled a prince whose name recalled that of the ancient kings of Toledo, probably installed with refugees in the Pyrenean valleys where the Saracens had not yet ventured. R. Beer prefers to correct DCCXXXVI to DCXXXVI and return Quintilianus to the Toledan royalty.”

This seems to me to be very likely to be right. Ripoll certainly had some pretty old books, this being exactly the context of Zimmermann’s discussion, and that one of them could have been a theological and chronographical volume dating to 636 is far from impossible, though its loss is a bit of a blow if so.6 In that case, the Prince Quintilà was no mere prince as the English use would have it; he was the king, no less. What he was not, however, was anything to do with Montgrony, and that place’s supposed lord’s ephemeral trace in unlocatable manuscripts may some day force me to write another retraction. Still: I should have looked at Beer before I wrote, maybe even at Zimmermann if there were then any copies in the country, and maybe even thought of this elegant solution myself, rather than assuming all these people were just wrong. I’ve said elsewhere that Villanueva wins as many disputes with modern scholars as he loses when someone decides he was wrong, even now; I’m not sure that handing him this one doesn’t mean he wins them all7

1. J. Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2005), pp. 229-258, here at pp. 235-241. I also reprised this view in my Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (New Series) (Woodbridge 2010), p. 47 n. 107 and “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi: Organisation of Society in the pre-Catalan ‘Terra de Ningú’” in †A. Deyermond & M. Ryan (edd.), Early Medieval Spain: a symposium, Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar 63 (London 2010), pp. 97-127 at pp. 109-110, perhaps the one I now regret the most: “… Quintilà has become an accepted feature of an excitable kind of historical writing (Vadillo 1984; Benet, Pladevall & Vigué 1987: 28), but there is really no good reason to suppose he ever existed.” (p. 110).

2. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològico LIII (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. 4, 8 & II, the last being the fake version including the castle of Mogrony; cf. ibid. doc. no. 1526 where the area is contested with the nunnery bringing no documents in evidence.

3. F. Codera y Zaidín, “Límites probables de la dominación árabe en la cordillera pirenaica” in Boletín de la Real Academia de Historia Vol. 48 (Barcelona 1906), pp. 289–311, repr. in idem, Estudios críticos de historia árabe española (segunda serie), Colección de Estudios Arabes 8 (Madrid 1917), pp. 235–76 at p. 308 & n. of the original:
“El P. Villanueva fué el primero que encontró y publicó una corta noticia de este personaje: en un códice del Monasterio de Ripoll, de letra del siglo VIII, encontró el texto cronológico siguiente: «Ab incarnatione autem Dñi Jhu Xri usque in presentem primum Quintiliani principis annum, qui est Era LXX quarta (falta la nota DCC) sunt anni DCC.XXX.VI.» Mientras no hubo más noticias referentes á Quintiliano que la publicada por el P. Villanueva, cabía poner en duda la existencia de este personaje, sospechando que pudiera haber equivocación en la fecha; pero encontrados nuevos datos, cual es la noticia de la muerte de Quintiliano en el año 778, en la cual fecha, según un martirologio de San Juan de las Abadesas, era senioris de Mocrono, parece que hay que admitir la existencia de este personaje como señor ó rey ó jefe de un territorio más ó menos extenso en los montes de Montgrony, tanto más, cuanto en documento del año 804 figura otro Quintiliano, señor de Montgrony, que bien pudo ser hijo ó nieto y sucesor del Príncipe Quintiliano (I).

 (I) Debemos estas noticias y nota de la bibliografía referente ´ Quintiliano á nuestro buen amigo D. Joaquín Miret y Sans, distinguido investigador de la historia medioeval de Cataluña.”

4. Josep Masdeu, Sant Joan de les Abadesses: resum historic (Vic 1926); the Sant Joan documents not published in Federico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos XVIII (Madrid 1951) are now published as Joan Ferrer i Godoy (ed.), Diplomatari del monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses (995-1273), Diplomataris 43 (Barcelona 2009). The earliest survivor is from 885 and that’s one of the dodgy ones, Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. no. 4 (= Udina doc. no. 3).

5. M. Zimmermann, Écrire et lire en Catalogne (IXe-XIIIe siècles, Bibliothèque de la Casa de Velázquez 23 (Madrid 2003), 2 vols, II pp. 632-633 n. 32: “Au milieu d’une table des ères antiques et des vies des patriarches, on trouve une curieuse note : Ab incarnatione autem Dni Jhu Xpi usque in presentem primum Quintiliani principis annum, qui est era LXX quarta sunt anni DCCXXXVI. Villanueva rajoute DCC devant l’année de l’ère et en conclut que la page fut écrite en 736 ; il est contraint d’en déduire que, vingt ans après l’invasion musulmane, régnait un prince dont le nom rapelle celui des anciens rois de Tolède, probablement installé avec des réfugiés pyrénéennes où les Sarrasins ne s’étaient pas encore aventuré. R. Beer préfère corriger DCCXXXVI en DCXXXVI et rendre Quintilianus à la royauté tolédane.” The reference is to Rudolf Beer, Die Handschriften des Klosters Santa Maria de Ripoll, Sitzungsberichte der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (philosophisch-historische Klasse) 152, 153, 155 & 158 (München 1907-1908), transl. P. Barnils as Los manuscrits del Monastir de Santa María de Ripoll (Barcelona 1910), cited by Zimmermann from the Spanish with no page reference.

6. Zimmermann, Écrire et lire, II pp. 620-674 on the survival of Visigothic culture in Catalonia: he opts for a very limited spectrum of such material essentially focussed on Isidore and the Spanish versions of the works of Gregory the Great leavened with a little canonical material.

7. Jarrett, “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi“, pp. 118-119.

Seminar CLVIII: John Blair’s Ford Lectures, II

Poster for John Blair's Ford Lectures, 2013

Poster for John Blair’s Ford Lectures, 2013

The second of John Blair’s Ford Lectures was in some ways the first substantive one, the actual first having cleared the interpretative ground more than actually laid down new structures. In this one on the 25th January 2013, however, structures were right up front, the structures in question being those where the élite did their thing. The lecture’s title was “Building the Anglo-Saxon Landscape, 2: landscapes of power and wealth”.

Reconstruction drawing of the Anglo-Saxon site at Cheddar

Reconstruction drawing of the Anglo-Saxon site at Cheddar, a controversial one to interpret…1

As my notes tell it there were three essential contentions to this lecture, buttressed with a lot of data and examples and a good few maps. The first of these contentions was that in the Anglo-Saxon world secular power did not have centres, but zones of interest or focus, in which they would have and use many sites at different times for different things. These would include places for meeting, places for hunting, places for worship and so on. (Here I thought the maps were not as convincing as they could have been: John had focused right down to areas of interest, naturally enough, but this meant that one didn’t have the surrounding landscape to compare to and couldn’t see that these zones were any busier than anywhere else in the larger area. Probably a lesson for us all…)

Drinking horns from the Anglo-Saxon burial mound at Taplow on display at the British Museum

Drinking horns from the Anglo-Saxon burial mound at Taplow on display at the British Museum, from Wikimedia Commons

None of this really needed long-term structures: wooden building was quite adequate for these purposes and would probably have periodically been abandoned to set up somewhere new, which need not have precluded living very splendidly in more portable terms of food, drink and treasure of course. (John briefly drew attention to a division between zones where gold is found, principally the west and uplands as opposed to the silver-using east and coasts; he suggested that this was to do with payment for focused resources as opposed to more general agricultural wealth. He also seems to have suggested that the royal site at Rendlesham has now been dug, too, which shows how fresh his information was as the Archaeology Data Service knows nothing of it and it only hit the news twelve days ago as I now write!)

Excavation of the so-called great hall at Lyminge, Kent

The so-called great hall at Lyminge, Kent, a good enough example to use twice!

The second contention was however that the Church changed this. Where royal and secular élite settlement was light and mobile, ecclesiastical settlement was fixed-location, intensive and highly-structured, often in stone. But it was often in the same places: the number of royal vills handed over to become churches is very large, the most recent and obvious one being Lyminge in Kent where the royal hall has been so dramatically found but others known archæologically being Repton (where the halls underlie the church) or Sutton Courtenay, and others known documentarily including St Paul’s London of course and Reculver. The latter opens up another possibility, since it lies in an old Roman camp: of the kings’ numerous places (N. B. this is not a typo for `palaces’), of which they could apparently easily spare one or two for the Church, these ex-Roman sites were perhaps especially suitable for the slight return of Rome represented by Christianity; one could also name Burgh, Dover and Dorchester and that just from my notes.2

The eighth-century tidal mill at Ebbsfleet, under excavation

The eighth-century tidal mill at Ebbsfleet, under excavation

But the keyword there, and the core of the third contention, is ‘intensive’. Monasteries or minsters used the land in new and resource-expensive ways, like tidal mills, grid-planning, enclosure and so on.3 The results of this, we can guess but also see from the rich finds of such areas, were good, and perhaps too good; John argued, as he has done before, that the ability of minsters to grow resources left the secular élite trying to get back into control of them, and by the 730s indeed doing so. Æthelbald of Mercia controversially subjecting the Church to the ‘three burdens’ of fortress-work, bridge-work and military service as protested against at the synod of Gumley in 749 may have been the pinnacle of this, but may also have been the result of a bargain in which he gave away the right to make arbitrary levies on the basis of hospitality.4 And at this pinnacle things were left, until the next week’s lecture.

1. See J. Blair, “Palaces or minsters? Northampton and Cheddar reconsidered”, Anglo-Saxon England Vol. 25 (Cambridge 1996), pp. 97-121, doi:10.1017/S0263675100001964.

2. For this process, of course, one could see J. Blair, The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society (Oxford 2005), pp. 8-78.

3. These terms’ synonymity has been a cause of much debate: the locus classicus is a tangle in Early Medieval Europe, Eric Cambridge & David Rollason, “Debate. The Pastoral Organization of the Anglo-Saxon Church: a Review of the ‘Minster Hypothesis’” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 4 (Oxford 1995), pp. 87–104, and J. Blair, “Debate: Ecclesiastical Organization and Pastoral Care in Anglo-Saxon England”, ibid. pp. 193–212, but see also Sarah Foot, “What Was an Anglo-Saxon Monastery?” in Judith Loades (ed.), Monastic Studies: the continuity of tradition (Bangor 1990), pp. 48-57. John gives more recent references in Church in Anglo-Saxon Society, pp. 2-5.

4. Blair, Church in Anglo-Saxon Society, pp. 121-134.

Another Prince of Cooks!

This post reaches a long way back, and not just because I stubbed it to write up in July 2012. Some of you may remember when I posted my so-far-last From the Sources post in August 2011 that the relevant charter contained, as well as all kinds of interesting details about managing frontier settlement, a signature by a figure identified as a ‘prince of cooks’, “princeps coquorum”, whose name was apparently Guallus.1 Another editor, working with a copy of the document that spells the name “Guadallus princeps cocorum”, presumably defective, prefers to read “princeps cotorum”, which he sees as a version of “princeps gotorum”, ‘prince of the Goths’, but I think it is safe to say that our conclusion was that this is special pleading.2 Although it dealt with territory, as it put it, “in the extreme far limits of the marches”, the transaction is said to have been done in Barcelona, and two counts and two bishops were there, presumably therefore at the palace, so a head cook somehow getting in on the witness list didn’t seem an impossible thing to happen just the once.3 Except now I know it happened twice.

Centro solar de Odeillo Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via 7270790

Centro solar de So, at any rate, says the site I borrowed this picture from, which is that of a slightly different means of contact with the heavens than the church that was here in my period, the Solar Research Centre of Odeillo… This is the location of the property concerned in today’s key charter, apparently.4

In July 2012 as part of the final work for my “Comparing the Earliest Documentary Culture in Catalonia”, I went very quickly through the earliest documents in the edition of the charters of the monastery of Sant Sadurní de Tavèrnoles, which as it happens is where the charter mentioned above is from.5 And, what do you know, in a donation there in the year 815 by Count Fredol of Toulouse of a church he’d built in honour of SS Cristòfor & Hilari de Segremorta, among the again quite grand witnesses there with the count at Llívia, is a “Rainallus princeps coquorum”.6

One big problem with piecing together connections here is that both of these documents are known to use only from a cartulary of the thirteenth century. Not only does this mean that we don’t have the originals, but it also means that the copyist of one document had probably also seen the other. If the title was in one and a similar title was in the other (though what?) it could have got amended, or indeed (a point in limited favour of Udina’s ‘prince of the Goths’) if the scribe had trouble with Visigothic script he may have amended to this in both cases from something else, and a c-t confusion is very possible in that case. But there’s also problems with contamination from other sources. One that surprised me when I started web-searching just now is that such a person is supposed, in the Book of Jeremiah yet already, to have destroyed Jerusalem in the service of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and Gregory the Great spent quite a while explaining how this was about fleshly desire overwhelming the holy and so on, a pity given that the current view seems to be that the texts of the Bible that have “princeps militiae” here are probably the better ones and that a mistranslation through the Greek seems to be behind the variation.7 Now an Urgell scribe of either 815 or 973 could easily have read either Jeremiah or Gregory’s Moralia, and in fact the latter is probably more likely given the evidence we have from library catalogues, but it’s still not really a positive association, is it?8 Not the kind of person you would want endorsing your pious donation. So I’m not inclined to buy this however obvious it looks in terms of source.

Picture of interior designer and cookery book writer Valentina Cirasola wearing a hat marked "dux coquorum", roughly "head cook", borrowed from her website

Dukes aren’t what they used to be… and whoever is selling these hats is not doing so online. Where else do they think they’ll find really geeky cooks?

You may remember last time, though, that I did know of one other case of this phrase where a head cook was actually meant. Now actually there are loads, once you start digging, although they are almost all Roman or eleventh-century, but there is one in particular, to a chap called Gunzo who was given this title by the poet Ermold the Black while he was singing the praises of King Louis the Pious of Aquitaine (781-814), by then Holy Roman Emperor (814-840) but here appearing much more as the conqueror of Barcelona (801) and hero of other Catalan-side endeavours.9 I couldn’t see how that made sense as a possible source for a charter of 973, but it’s much less of a leap to wonder about an association to one of 815…

So, what would be needed to make this work? To start with, we have to make a fairly basic assumption: Louis did have a cook called Gunzo and this title was used of him. If we can accept that, the following things become possible:

  1. Count Fredol of Toulouse and Bishop Possedoni of Urgell, both involved in the 815 charter and both people who had attended Louis’s court—the grant is made for the benefit of Louis’s soul and he is spoken of in terms brimming with expressed devotion—would probably have known of and perhaps even been fed by Gunzo;
  2. Fredol, in setting up his own court in Cerdanya (because the charter describes him as ‘in session at my city of Llívia’, “sedente me in civitate mea Livia”), might have wished to imitate this regal affectation and thus entitled his own chief cook, Rainall;10
  3. Rainall got to witness this donation, which was maybe even done over dinner with Bishop Possedoni one evening;
  4. a hundred and fifty-eight years later, Count-Marquis Borrell II of Barcelona, Girona, Osona and Urgell made a big grant to the same monastery, and he did so again at a meeting (or perhaps dinner) with two of his bishops (including Guisad II, Possedoni’s many-times-successor at Urgell, as it happens) and a cook, Guadall, was also present and got to witness;
  5. a scribe at Sant Sadurní de Tavèrnoles, needing to write up quite the largest grant they’d had from a count for a while, then went back through the other big grants they had and found the 815 charter, and, thinking this a grand thing to repeat, stuck this title on Guadall, who otherwise might have been recorded by name only,
  6. and thus we have our charter.

One tiny problem with this is how the second scribe would know Guadall was a cook, of course, and that gets easier to solve if the dinner or meeting was actually at Urgell, not Barcelona, so that the scribe might more easily have actually been present, and for what it’s worth the extremely unusual specification of location is only in the dodgy copy of the 973 charter, not Tavèrnoles’s own.11 But since the Bishop of Urgell was involved, I don’t really see any problem with that knowledge passing from Barcelona to Tavèrnoles along with whatever notes sourced the charter if the grant was in fact done in the lowlands. The very fact that the charter was at Tavèrnoles shows information went from palace to monastery, after all. As with so many of these thorny and not very significant problems, although there are lots of hypothetical steps in this solution I’m not sure any other is more elegant. And this one, if it could be accepted, would colour in a little bit of the otherwise very blank picture about how business was actually done between the powerful and influential in this period. If that was, in fact, sometimes over a meal, with servants in attendance but also trusted enough sometimes to help with things, I’m not unhappy about that at all.

1. Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Diplomatari del monestir de Tavèrnoles (segles IX-XIII)” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 12 (Montserrat 1995), pp. 7-414, doc. no. 23.

2. Federico Udina i Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18 (Madrid 1951), no. 174*.

3. Ibid.: “… in extremis ultimas finium marchas….” & “Facta huius donacionis in Barchinona civitate”.

4. I have this snippet of information from a desperate websearch to try and find the modern version of the place-name used in the charter cited at n. 6 below, which brought me against José María Gilera, “Junto a un monasterio del siglo IX se edifica un centro de investigación solar” in La Vanguardía Española, 7th August 1966, p. 30, which also records, on the basis of a paper by Miguel Oliva Prat that must be in the volume II Curso Internacional de Cultura romànica, del 10 al 30 de julio 1966, Puigcerdà: Memoria (Barcelona 1966), which I can’t get here, that the initial layout planning revealed some Romanesque stonework, a few metres of wall and some opus spicatum, that were considered too ephemeral to preserve, and so presumably got dug up and chucked away along with anything else that might have been there. Argh!

5. See n. 1 above. My work referred to here is J. Jarrett, “Comparing the Earliest Documentary Culture in Carolingian Catalonia” in Jarrett & A. Scott McKinley (edd.), Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Charters, International Medieval Research 19 (Turnhout 2013), pp. 89-126, DOI:10.1484/M.IMR-EB.1.101679.

6. Baraut, “Tavèrnoles”, doc. no. 4, though since I don’t have access to that in Birmingham I’m here using Jaime Villanueva, Viage Literario a las Iglesias de España, tomo X: Viage a Urgel (Valencia 1821), ap. V.

7. So apparently Massimo Manca, “Nabuzardan princeps coquorum: Una lezione vulgata oltre la Vulgata” in Quaderni del Dipartimento di Filologia Linguistica e Tradizione Classica (Torino) Vol. 13 (Torino 1999), pp. 491-498, though I’m not sure I’ve understood what little Google will give me of that correctly.

8. I am, admittedly, getting this through a web version of the Patrologia Latina text of the Sententiae of Taion of Saragossa (where IV.23) rather than Gregory’s actual work, but since that’s almost certainly the version anyone in Catalonia would have read, maybe that’s OK! On the access to this text in the area see Michel Zimmermann, Écrire et lire en Catalogne (IXe-XIIe siècle), Bibliothèque de la Casa de Velázquez 23 (Madrid 2003), 2 vols, II pp. 739-747. Annoying for what I argue here, by 1040 at least Tavèrnoles did have a copy of this (ibid. pp. 746, 747) but I still don’t think it’s the source here because why on earth would you do that?

9. Ermold the Black, In honorem Hludowici, ed. Ernst Dümmler in idem (ed.), Poetae latini ævi carolini II, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Poetae) IV, p. 71; there is now a translation of this poem in Thomas F. X. Noble (trans.), Charlemagne and Louis the Pious: Lives by Einhard, Notker, Ermoldus, Thegan, and the Astronomer (Philadelphia 2009).

10. The Counts of Toulouse do seem to have treated at least some of their transpyrenean domains as quasi-independent princedoms, but Fredol is beyond that area here. On that, though, see Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Dels Vigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicoó, Estudis i Documents XIII & XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), 2 vols. I pp. 241-260.

11. See nn. 2 & 3 above.

Seminar CLVII: finding friends in tenth-century England

Even my implicit schedule is getting off-kilter here, sorry. This week has been busy with job applications and seminars, on which latter subject on 23rd January 2013 I was at the Earlier Middle Ages Seminar of the Institute of Historical Research to hear Els Schröder, then of the University of York, present a paper entitled, “Searching for Friendship in Anglo-Saxon Sources: multilingual insights into tenth-century elite culture”, and I thought you’d maybe like to hear about it.

The pact of homage between Count Guillem Ramon of Cerdanya and Bishop Folc of Urgell in the <em>Liber Feudorum Maior</em> of the Counts of Barcelona

An illustration, not of Anglo-Saxons but of the problem: were these two men… "friends"? The pact of homage between Count Guillem Ramon of Cerdanya and Bishop Folc of Urgell in the Liber Feudorum Maior of the Counts of Barcelona

Dr Schröder completed her thesis in 2012, and was here doing that trickiest of things, trying to compress a 90,000 word thesis into a 9,000 word paper and still be comprehensible and interesting, which she certainly managed.1 There was still something of a chapter-by-chapter structure visible, so that we got methodology and literature first. That revealed that, unusually for the early Middle Ages, the sources here are unusually secular. For some reason we have no tenth-century letter collections, for example, so the usual focus on lettered ecclesiastics isn’t available. The relatively few charters also don’t use such language or work in such terms. There thus isn’t enough material to approach without models, and one needs several: the sources call ties of dependency as well as interdependency friendship, and such language is especially strong at court where the stakes are much higher and the social distances greater than we would find in wider society.2 Dr Schröder therefore called for more discourses to be brought into play.

One source of material is the Anglo-Saxon royal lawcodes, but here friendship turns up mainly as something the kings can make perform official functions: a `friend’ will stand surety for someone, will do the king’s bidding if they wish to retain his `friendship’, it’s quite formal and of course may not have actually worked. Such relationships where we can see them in operation are explicable in terms of negotiation as much as attachment, and may have been quite evanescent. (I myself think that such relationships, if detectable over time, must indicate a kind of attachment too, even if only an ability to get along for the parties’ mutual good, but I admit that even that model fails to register short-lived and unsuccessful friendships, which might be very useful to be able to cultivate for just long enough… Here, well out of my usual period, Richard the Lionheart’s persistent ability to bounce back from disaster by relying on even his enemies’ goodwill often strikes me like this.3)

Cover of Linda Tollerton's Wills and Will-Making in Anglo-Saxon England

The only decent image I can quickly find of an Anglo-Saxon will is on this, the cover of a work by another York doctoral alumnus and published by the same people as my book … so I guess I’ll link!

Wills look slightly better for the enquiry, as 15 out of 67 use this kind of language. Here again we see these relationships under strain, especially as what is being envisaged here is kind of the last call upon them, be that dependents appealing upwards or lords and husbands trying to call on loyalties in life to protect their wife and children after their death. The problem still exists that informal relationships are here being turned into obligations, just as in the laws.

Thus one winds up forced onto the writings of people like Ælfric and literature like Beowulf, as usual dragged to whatever century one needs for the argument—the field will probably collapse if we ever do agree a date for that poem… But here we get words like ‘leof’ (love) much more, even if Ælfric does tend to gloss it in Latin as ‘venerabilis’, venerable, or ‘honorabilis’, honourable, rather than, you know, ‘amatus’. Again, to an extent, we see these terms because people place obligations on them, to support the person expressing the tie either in preaching or in battle; the language is evoked to formalise a relationship into expectations of action. This also clouds the occurrences in hagiography: St Dunstan wound up looking after the treasury of King Eadred because he was the king’s ‘specialis amicus’, which thus winds up looking more like an office than a relationship, and is of course the same sort of arrangement as we see in the wills: you will do this, because you are my friend… Even advice and counsel can be viewed through this frame and once one sees the frame it’s hard to unsee it.

I presume that there must have been people in Anglo-Saxon England who got on with each other as friends in our sense of the term, but what this paper seemed to show is that our sources are largely using such terminology as cladding for something else when they write about it. Bernard Gowers made the excellent point that we only have such writing because the parties in a relationship are not, or are not going to be, in regular touch; we wouldn’t have anything from people who saw each other ever day and hung out together precisely because they could communicate face-to-face. Alice Taylor re-emphasised that these sources don’t see friendship as a relationship of equals, as we tend to do, and wondered what other terms could be searched for that might correspond more closely to our frameworks, but Dr Schröder thought that both level and hierarchical relationships could be found, and it seemed to me that we were seeing the terms in use when someone wanted to use the relationship, thus converting it into a power relation in which someone can deny a demand only at the cost of continuing the relationship. There are also issues about family, who don’t get treated separately by the language of friendship, and of gifts creating or cementing such relationships…4 the enquiry is not over. It was, all the same quite clear that there had been a thesis’s worth of work in getting this far, and it will be worth hearing about Dr Schröder’s next steps!

1. Her thesis was “Friendship and Favour in Late Anglo-Saxon Élite Culture: a study of documentary and narrative Sources, c. 900-1016″, unpublished Ph. D. thesis (University of York, 2012), online here.

2. The two works whose models my notes suggest were drawn on, and ultimately found wanting, were Gerd Althoff, Amicitiae und Pacta: Bündnis, Einigung, Politik und Gebetsgedenken im beginnenden 10. Jahrhundert, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Schriften) XXXVII (Hannover 1992), transl. as Family, Friends and Followers: Political and Social Bonds in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge 2004), and Stephen C. Jaeger, Ennobling love: in search of a lost sensibility (Philadelphia 1999).

3. My pet episode of this is when Richard lifted Saladin’s siege of Joppa in 1194. He charged ashore in full armour, bust into the city and commandeered the three horses left there, but when the Earl of Leicester was dismounted in a press of fighting, Richard weighed in and put the guy on one of his spare horses, at which point Saladin’s brother Saphadin sends a man into the battle with two more mounts for Richard, saying to the king that he looks as if he’s running short! The two accounts of this differ on whether Saladin himself had sent the horses or not, and the matter is complicated by the fact that Richard had knighted Saphadin’s son earlier in the campaign. It could also be intended as a barb or a display of the disparity of resources, of course, but if so it’s still a joke between people who shared a frame of reference. Not in any way the same cultural circumstances of course, but Richard did go on to lift the siege, so those cultural circumstances got him out of his mess and he’d helped to create them… Source texts in Helen J. Nicholson (transl.), Chronicle of the Third Crusade: a translation of the Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, Crusade Texts in Translation 3 (Aldershot 1997), VI.14-24, the knighting of Saphadin (Sayf al-Din)’s son at V.12; variant testimony noted p. 364 n. 67.

4. ‘Friends by blood’, as Marc Bloch put it. This subject is one of those many where it doesn’t seem like a few pages of Bloch’s Feudal Society (transl L. A Manyon (London 1961), 2 vols, I pp. 123-125 for ‘amis charnels’ and 231-238 for dependency expressed as friendship) ought to be able to say everything there is to be said on a subject and yet it’s really really hard to surpass them…

Building states on the Iberian frontier, II: clearing the land

Catalan peasants at work, from the Biblia de Ripoll

Catalan peasants at work, from the Biblia de Ripoll

Continuing as promised, or threatened, the rethink of my picture of frontier development in Catalonia spurred by the recent chapter by Julio Escalona and Francisco Reyes on the same themes in tenth-century Castile… let’s talk about peasants.1 At some level, after all, the expansion of settlement, social structures and government into an unorganised zone requires the basic work of somebody taking tools to the soil, felling unhelpful trees, clearing scrub, putting it to the plough or planting helpful trees and generally turning the land to use. This is implicit in any story of territorial expansion that isn’t simple annexation of territory where someone else has already done that. The question is thus not whether this is happening, but rather who is controlling it. Now, I have worked on this for Catalonia, partly because it’s just inherent in an expanding frontier situation as I say but also because of an early article by Cullen Chandler that I disagreed with and which gave me a fair bit of work to figure out what my alternative picture was (and even longer to publish it).2 This does mean that I could simply direct you to that work but because it’s part of the argument that I’m developing here in reaction to the Escalona & Reyes chapter, it needs to be out where it can be seen. I will reuse some text, though, and the first bit I will reuse is that from my book which attempts to describe how other historians have answered this question of control. Given that what follows is quite a lot of quotation, and that the whole post is plural thousands of words, a cut seems moot here… Continue reading