Tag Archives: Francesc Rodríguez Bernal

“No. There is… another.”

[Written offline on the way to an editorial meeting in Birmingham, 19/12/11]

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

Sorry again for delay: for various reasons it has been what I believe is known as “exploding head month” in these (and other) parts. Though by and large as described the Wednesday of Leeds was a grand success, there was some complication arising from the first session, as I mentioned. It will also resolve a few hanging hints if I say that this related to my work on the monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres, and its preceding church, which one way and another took up most of my research time in the first part of the year. One of the papers at the Wednesday session mentioned the place, and so I was able to talk to the speaker about my work on it. As this is now shaping up (and as it was then indeed) I’m quite pleased with it: in its small way it calls into question categories that are often over-schematic for the early Middle Ages, like `monastery’, `forgery’, `memorial’, `history’, `original’ and so on, and shows how secular power can use spiritual affiliations to get cooperation from a local population. Furthermore, it’s the most interdisciplinary thing I’ve ever done as serious research: it uses burial archaeology and epigraphy as well as diplomatic, and also blends the influence of my two most influential teachers in as much as it has me talking about how people of that era could control and use the past, and how power sought roots in localities, and so on.1 In its small way it’s a measure of how I’ve progressed as a scholar and I look forward to getting the thing out there.

Altar slab from the pre-monastic church of Sant Pere de Casserres

But, as you know, this has not been an easy task, not least because I’ve never actually had this as a primary project, and so it’s got done in rapid bursts which have not always been complete. Thus I started by just looking at the original charters in 2009, mainly because I wanted to use some unpublished material at last, and that gave me the basic diplomatic data, but then I found out that there were a shedload more from the place only preserved as abstracts.2 So I found out where they were and started planning to go there to read them too, and thankfully I hadn’t actually got to the point of booking tickets when I found out they’d been freshly published with a bunch more and indeed the whole lot put online for free.3 And then I hadn’t been able to get at the stone with the inscriptions on, so I made a trip out there to see it again and they still wouldn’t let me look at it except as a normal visitor, and I wanted to visit the site and it was only by the rarest of good luck that I was actually able to, though that at least was no-one’s fault but mine. And all of this you’ve seen here.4 So when I got to July I’d already had to add in two extra caches of charters, which maybe I ought to have known about. But, it turns out, “there is another”.

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) núm 20

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) núm 20 (which I did see already)

More complicatedly, it’s apparently a private archive. The person who told me this is editing it, so it’s not completely locked away apparently, but nonetheless awkward. And, really, I probably only need an inventory listing; I think it extremely likely that there are no documents in this archive that affect my argument, but since part of that argument hinges on a couple of documents not existing (I should know better than to argue from silence, I know) it is kind of crucial that I know that that’s true. Otherwise the journal I want to give it to will inevitably send it to the guy in question for review and he’ll shoot it down.5 Now I have been in e-mail contact with him, but shall we simply say I did not learn anything more this way than what he told me at Leeds, which did not include for example such details as the name of the archive or its geographical location. I guess he doesn’t want anyone potentially publishing any of it before he can, though I wonder if its custodians know he feels that way.

Interior of the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo, home of the Archivo Ducal de la Casa de Medinaceli

Interior of the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo, home of the Archivo Ducal de la Casa de Medinaceli

Well, you know, I’m a researcher and I know this field a little bit. I gave up hoping for a useful e-mail and set to the question, and found out what the archive is and where it is, which was not very hard to do once I got going. It is the Archivo Ducal de Cardona, which is a non-public part of the much larger and usually more accessible Archivo Ducal de la Casa de Medinaceli, until recently in Seville but now in Toledo.6 And okay, Seville would have been a nice trip but I’m pretty sure I can manage with an excuse to visit Toledo and spend a day with some documents, if they’ll let me and if I even need to. Indeed if there’s genuinely nothing to interest me then it may take less than a day. (So I’d better allow two and have a back-up tourism plan.) There are far worse fates than having to take a long weekend in Spain in springtime. But it does annoy me that I may well be spending, what, three or four hundred pounds to find out I didn’t need to go, simply because someone won’t answer a polite question. Hopefully the Archivo themselves will be nicer about it.

1. Those influences here being most obviously Rosamond McKitterick and Matthew Innes, “The Writing of History” in McKitterick (ed.), Carolingian Culture: emulation and innovation (Cambridge 1994), pp. 193-217; Innes, State and Society in the Early Middle Ages: the middle Rhine valley 400-1000, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th Series 47 (Cambridge 2000); McKitterick, History and Memory in the Carolingian World (Cambridge 2004).

2. I found this out from Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i de Manresa, Memòries de la Secció Històrica-Arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), but it was Teresa Soldevila, Sant Pere de Casserres: història i llegenda (Vic 1998) that made me realise how much there was and how much use might be got out of that material. It is essentially where Soldevila’s book came from.

3. In Irene Llop Jordana (ed.), Diplomatari de Sant Pere de Casserres, Diplomataris 44 (Barcelona 2009).

4. The slab is best written up in A. Pladevall i Font, J.-A. Adell i Gisbert, X. Barral i Altet, E. Bracons i Clapes, M. Gustà i Martorell, M. Hoja Cejudo, M. Gracià Salvà i Picó, A. Roig i Delofeu, E. Carbonell i Esteller, J. Vigué i Viñas & R. Rosell i Gibert, “Sant Pere de Casserres” in Vigué (ed.), Catalunya Romànica II: Osona I, ed. Vigué (Barcelona 1984), pp. 354-391 at p. 384, but see alternatively Santiago Alavedra, Les ares d’altar de Sant Pere de Terrassa-Ègara (Terrassa 1979), II pp. 71-74.

5. Because peer review is about keeping people off your patch amirite?

6. Found out by consulting Francesc Rodríguez Bernal, Els vescomtes de Cardona a través dels seus testaments (Lleida 2010); Antonio Sánchez González, Documentación de la Casa de Medinaceli: el Archivo General de los Duques de Segorbe y Cardona (Madrid 1990) and then their website here.

Leeds 2011 report 3: Catalans, coins, churches and computers

[Edit: hideously mixed-up footnotes now all match up and exist and so on.]

Looking back at it, it does seem rather as if the 2011 International Medieval Congress was fairly intense for your humble blogger. Having been called to the warpath the previous day and then entirely surrounded by people with Livejournals, the third day of the conference, Wednesday 13th July, also provoked me in various directions. I’ll try not to relive too much of the drama, not least because I intend a separate post for one of the episodes, but this is roughly how the day went.

1014. Concepts and Levels of Wealth and Poverty in Medieval Catalonia

It is unusual for Catalan scholars to turn up in England, where Spain is usually represented only by Castilians, and I had read work by two of the speakers in this session and also its organiser, so I was determined to show my face. In fact the group had already discovered my book and thus my existence, so it was all quite well-timed and it seemed like a jolly happy meeting. There were also of course some papers and those went like this:

  • Pere Benito Monclús, “Famines and Poverty in XIIth-XIIIth-century Catalonia”, looking closely at who spent their wealth on feeding the poor in time of famine when the usual Church safety net was stretched too far, concluding that it was the public power last of all.
  • Francesc Rodríguez Bernal, “Rich Nobility and Poor Nobility in Medieval Catalonia, 10th-12th Centuries”, stressing how little we have actually found out about quite a chunk of the medieval Catalan nobility, and how varied it is; this was not really news to me as such, but it was actually really nice to hear someone talking about my research area as if it mattered all the same.
  • Sandrine Victor, “Salaries and Standards of Living in Catalonia according to the example of Girona at the 15th century”, was doing careful quantitative studies of the demographic distribution of wealth, and had a lot to say about labourers and their accommodation (almost always rented, unlike their masters’ owned houses) in the late medieval city.

The last of these papers was perhaps the only one that was presenting new work as such, work in progress even, whereas Senyors Benito and Rodríguez had both elected to give papers that were kind of introductions to their topic for specialists from other fields. There were quite a lot of these papers at Leeds this year, it seemed to me, and though I would rather see more developed or developing work, I understood why they did; they wouldn’t have known there would be anyone who knew the area there and I’m hardly a whole audience anyway. It was impressive how many languages the questions were in, though: English, French, Castilian and Catalan (one question in German, too, that had to be translated), and the conversation afterwards was, well, extremely informative. But we’ll get to that next post.

1121. Making the World Go Round: coinage, currency, credit, recycling, and finance in medieval Europe, II

I got into this session late somehow, probably because of hunting really bad coffee with Catalans and then realising I needed to be across the campus next, but what I caught was interesting.

  • Gareth Williams, “Was the Last Anglo-Saxon King of England a Queen? A Possible Posthumous Coinage in the Name of Harold II”
  • What was going on here, as far as I could divine after my late entry, was that there seems to have been a very short-lived issue of coins in the name of King Harold II from the royal nunnery of Wilton, almost all known from one hoard that also contains 1067-68 coins of William the Conqueror. Gareth suggested that the responsible party might be Queen Edith, Edward the Confessor’s widow, Harold’s brother, who owned the nunnery, and who didn’t submit to William straight away; that seems to make sense of what we’d otherwise have to assume was counterfeiting so that was pretty cool.1

  • Tom J. T. Williams, “Coins in Context: minting in the borough of Wallingford”
  • This was an interesting combination with the archaeological attention that Neil Christie had given Wallingford the previous day, though possibly only really interesting to numismatists; it did however include the fact that we can use Domesday Book to plot where one of Wallingford’s moneyers, Swærtlinc, actually lived in 1086, and he’d struck for Harold II as well so some English at least did come through, even if at a low level.2 One of the questions raised (by Morn Capper) was whether moneyers were too important to remove or too humble, and we still don’t know, but Mr Williams is I believe aiming to try and answer this for the later period as Rory Naismith tried to answer it for the earlier one, so we shall see I guess!3

  • Henry Fairbairn, “The Value and Metrology of Salt in the late 11th Century”
  • As you know I think the salt trade’s important—I must have read something once4—but I don’t really know how important so this was worth hearing. The units involved in salt-measuring are a bit obscure but by working up from tolls, we came out with figures of approximately 150 g of salt per penny in a world where a pig is 8 pence and a sheep 2 and a half. That makes salt less of a bulk product and more of a luxury than one might have thought and it must have been hard to get very much of it if you were a peasant. So that’s not nothing.

1202. ‘Reading’ the Romanesque Façade

I had wanted to go to this session partly just to see beautiful things and get my Team Romanesque badge metaphorically stamped, but also because Micky Abel whom I met a long time back was supposed to be presenting. In fact, though, she was unable to be there and then I got distracted by books, and so I missed much of the first paper. I have hardly any notes, but it was gorgeous to look at, because it was about the Conques tympanum and we know how that goes, right?

Typanum of the church of Sainte-Foy de Conques

Typanum of the church of Sainte-Foy de Conques, from Wikimedia Commons

  • Kirk Ambrose, “Attunement to the Damned at Conques”, thus argued that the passivity of the victims on the Hell side of the tympanum was actually supposed to frighten the viewer, and
  • Amanda Dotseth, “Framing Humility at San Quirce de Burgos”, took us through a complex system of sculptural ornament that seems to have been dismantled and put back in a different order at some point in its history, but which also may have encoded the monks of the relevant church into the artwork
San Quirce de Burgos, including its intriguing portal

San Quirce de Burgos, including its intriguing portal

1301. Digital Anglo-Saxons: charters, people, and script

This was essentially a session advertising the work of the Department of Digital Humanities of King’s College London, still the Centre for Computing in the Humanities when the conference program was printed. The DDH is one of KCL’s expansion zones, and there’s a lot to advertise, so it was something of a shame that Paul Spence, one of the speakers, had been unable to show, not least because that was the charters one. Instead, however, his paper was kind of combined with one of the others. Thus, we got:

  • John Bradley, “Anglo-Saxon People: PASE II – doing prosopography in the digital age”
  • This put the expanded version of the Prosopography of Anglo-Saxon England, which now (as you may recall) contains all the people in Domesday Book too, into a wider context and emphasised how they had gone for a structure dictated by information, not by sources or persons, which he called a `factoid’ model. This seems like a really useful way to think about treating this kind of data, actually, and I was impressed with the flexibility it seems to have permitted them. Of course, I’d never then actually attempted to make serious use of PASE and having done so for this post now I’m slightly less sure how much use it is to me…5

  • Peter Stokes, “Computing for Anglo-Saxon Palaeography, Manuscript Studies and Diplomatic”
  • Dr Stokes’s paper was about ASCluster, the umbrella project that tries to manage all the data that the DDH handle in their various Anglo-Saxonist endeavours together. Since they don’t all focus on the same sorts of data, trying to create a way of making them all connect is actually really tricky. You would think that pulling a personal name out of their charters database and also PASE and getting all the information together should be simple enough but the databases weren’t designed together and they aren’t searched in the same way, and so on. I could feel his pain; I remember these kinds of dilemma all too well. By the sound of it they have some challenges still to defeat, though the ability and lateral thinking on the team demonstrated by these two presentations would encourage one to think that they will in fact defeat them.

You can tell perhaps that I had mixed feelings about the efforts here. This is not just that I doubt that the money they’re likely to sink into this integration of their projects is going to see a return in terms of use; it’s already possible to search these things separately and compare the results oneself, after all. That isn’t actually their problem: they made a case for doing it, got the support and are setting about it, fine. Lack of use is a problem that a lot of this sort of project is suffering and we will hear more about this in future reports. No, my cynicism came from a much simpler source, which is that I had never at this point nor at many points subsequently managed to get their exciting-looking database of the Anglo-Saxon charters, ASChart, the one that I do have a use for, to work. Once I knew of it, I quickly found that the site would never load, from wherever I tried it, home, office, JANET or commercial internet, never. And I tried it many times, in the months after this session, every time I happened to have reason to check on this post whence I’d linked it in fact; nada. They must have known it didn’t work, because it can’t have been serving any pages, and yet it kept being advertised as a completed project, while actually the only recourse was Sean Miller’s scratch pro bono equivalent. This kind of thing annoys me. The result of an unsuccessful attempt to replicate an already-existing resource should not be that your team gets showered with more money and converted into a full department, especially in a time and at an institution where huge cuts had only a little while before been projected across the whole of the humanities. I don’t want them all fired, of course, quod absit but I would like the system to reward and therefore encourage fulfilment of the things that the money was awarded for. But no-one in power checks up and so there’s no consequence, bar slight embarrassment, if those things don’t work, and the system doesn’t actually incentivise them to improve the situation.

Screen capture of ASChart project homepage

Screen capture of ASChart project homepage

I was all set up for this rant when I got round to writing this post, therefore, and so it comes as something of an anti-climax to have to say, er, now that I check, it seems to be fixed. But it does, so I do. If the DDH team are reading, therefore, I’d better say thankyou for putting the effort, the bigger server or whatever in that has made this resource finally available, not least because as far as I can see there was little that required you to do so. So, it’s up, and even if the charters after 900, i. e. most of them, are not yet there and the links through to PASE crash in a sea of Tomcat errors, nonetheless it is better—in fact the Tomcat errors have gone away even while I’ve had this post in draft and those links now work!—and I suppose therefore that we may hope for better still. There are now diplomatic indices, linked from marked-up XML texts, which bodes extremely well for the future when the whole corpus is loaded and is something that I would love, especially just now, to have for the Catalan material (albeit that there is something like six times as much of that and no-one has databased any of it except Joan Vilaseca). This also means that when they get the post-900 material up, the whole thing will actually deliver something that Sean’s site doesn’t already do, though his free-text search is still unique and could be used for some of the same things. Well, anyway, we have two online Anglo-Saxon charter databases now, and yes, I have said before that I wish funding bodies would JFGI when they get an application for such a project, in case it already exists, but these two both have their points and I am running out of reasons to be cross with the DDH so perhaps I’ll try and stop?

ASCharters site screen capture

ASCharters site screen capture

Anyway. That was the last session of the day, and then there was dinner and then finally the dance, which was absolutely tremendous fun even if I did miss `Blue Monday’ but about which little can usefully be said here that hasn’t been said already. So with that I’ll wrap this up and move on to the more Catalano-centric post promised at the beginning there.

1. We know an unusual amount about Edith, which is coordinated and analysed in Pauline Stafford’s Queen Emma and Queen Edith: queenship and women’s power in eleventh-century England (Cambridge 1997).

2. I’m not quite sure I’ve got this right, because try as I might I can’t get him out of PASE—ironically given the above!—but he comes out of a search of the Fitzwilliam’s Corpus of Early Medieval Coin Finds no problem, and PASE have that data (I know, I gave it them) so he ought to show up. In fact only three people from Wallingford come out of PASE Domesday at all. I must not be using it right. That can’t be broken as well, surely?6 And even EMC doesn’t show any coins for him from Harold’s reign. I can only guess that the British Museum collections must have some unpublished examples; this could certainly be true.

3. Now available in the shiny new R. Naismith, Money and power in Anglo-Saxon England: the southern English kingdoms, 757-865, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th series 80 (Cambridge 2011).

4. In fact, what I must have read is John Maddicott’s “Trade, Industry and the Wealth of King Alfred” in Past and Present No. 123 (Oxford 1989), pp. 3-51 (to which cf. the following debate, Ross Balzaretti, “Trade, industry and the wealth of King Alfred”, ibid. No. 135 (Oxford 1992), pp. 142-150, Janet Nelson, “Trade, industry and the wealth of King Alfred”, ibid. pp. 151-163 and John Maddicott, “Trade, industry and the wealth of King Alfred: a reply”, ibid. pp. 164-188), since that’s what I have notes on, but what I probably should have read is Maddicott’s “London and Droitwich, c. 650-750: trade, industry and the rise of Mercia” in Anglo-Saxon England Vol. 34 (Cambridge 2005), pp. 7-58.

5. See n. 2 above.

6. Afterthought: PASE’s About page says it excludes `incomers’, and this is a Norse name.7 Can that be what’s happened here, that the Danish-named moneyer isn’t being included as English? Because, er, that seems analytically questionable to me…

7. Also, if the DDH team are reading, the About PASE link from the Domesday search interface page goes to the Reference page, not the About page as it does from other screens.