Tag Archives: Roda de Ter

Seminar CLXXII: roads to nowhere?

I’ll have to beg still more forgiveness for the sudden drop-off in posting here. I sent in the final version of an article the day before yesterday, finished a late review yesterday, hope to finalise another chapter today, and that still leaves me three pieces of work to get done before the end of the month, one of which I didn’t know about two days ago… It’s a bit like that at the moment. I can already see that there’s no prospect of my getting as far as last year’s Leeds before departing for this one, which is a bit embarrassing. Since the only thing that can make this worse is not posting, however, here is another backlogged seminar report, from 24th April 2013, when I was at the Medieval Social and Economic History Seminar in Oxford to hear Professor Andrew Fleming of the University of Wales Trinity St David give a paper entitled “Exploring the History and Significance of Early Medieval Roads”.

Hollow Lane, near Canterbury, linking the old Roman road, Stone Street to Wincheap

Hollow Lane, near Canterbury, linking the old Roman road, Stone Street to Wincheap, certainly an old road – but how old? Image from Wikimedia Commons

I might, I suppose, given that I was still in Oxford, have expected that this would turn out to be solely about England, but it was still interesting, because Professor Fleming has been working on landscapes and how you get through them, and specifically on this with regards to Dartmoor in Devon, where there has been comparatively little to change routes since prehistoric times, for a long time. Rather than reprise the paper, given my lack of time, I’ll just draw out the points that particularly interested me.

  1. There was great stress on the difficulty of putting an archæological date on a road. Since what a road most fundamentally is a space, the bottom limit of which people wear away by using it, really all one has to work with beyond place-names and surveys (so, for early medieval purposes, charter boundaries and Domesday Book) is stratigraphy where the road intersects with something else. On the one hand, because roads are linear and long that does mean you get quite a lot of such intersections, but on the other you can’t necessarily expect all the road to have been built, maintained or replaced at once so even on the rare occasions where you have a date to work with, it’s not usually clear how far down the road it will travel.
  2. It is apparently a big argument of Professor Fleming’s that medieval roads did not join places, but joined regions, being long-distance routes rather than the short-distance ones eventually joining up into a system that Hoskins, invoked in the first sentence of the paper, saw in the English landscape.1 Places are then jointed to these long routes by their own little roads, leading up out of the valley or wherever to meet the main track along the high ground. I don’t know how true that is everywhere but I could certainly think of places where it is, in fact it would be true of a good distance of the A404 which must be the single road of any size I have travelled the most. So that was interesting to think with as it implies that roads need not necessarily go where people wanted to go to them on, and that guessing those destinations may therefore be harder than it appears.
  3. That said, roads, especially military or transhumance routes, tend to generate supporting settlement, especially at junctions. What started as a few huts seasonally occupied gets a bit more established, sooner or later someone puts a church up and suddenly you have a community locus where before settlement was dispersed. It still is, at that point, probably, but even so the road, though a line not a point, can give places a centre. This all made me think about things in my area like the strata francisca and the Camí Ral, which certainly weren’t intended to link the places I’ve been to on them to anything else but may explain some of why those places are where they are. (Roda de Ter is older than the Roman bridge across the Ter there, but that bridge has certainly focused subsequent settlement, not least as someone built a church at one end of it2)

One of the questions we didn’t really touch on was who maintained these routes, and I’m surprised at myself there given how much I would usually be all over any questions of agency. There were lots of other questions, though – this seminar was always good for that as I would duly find out myself – and they raised the further points that private property could be on a large enough scale to account for some of that, in as much as a lot of the Dartmoor places that had been mentioned had some connection with Tavistock Abbey, who might well have wanted to join up their properties and move sheep between them. Other questions took this question of livestock down to the micro-level, asking about how roads that might have been intended mainly to move animals interacted with field boundaries that might be even older, but given the dating problems little that was substantive came out of that. There was a question about roads imposed by élites for rapid communication and how those might differ from drove roads but Professor Fleming contended for overlap here. It all made for some interesting thoughts the next time I was being driven anywhere, anyway, and perhaps it will for you too. Now, back to the grindstone!

1. Referring to W. G. Hoskins, The Making of the English Landscape (Cambridge 1955, 2nd edn. 1973).

2. See Immaculada Ollich i Castanyer, Maria Ocaña i Subirana, Maties Ramisa i Verdaguer & Montserrat de Rocafiguera i Espona, A banda i banda del Ter: Història de Roda (Vic 1995).

On the economics of tenth-century mills

Every now and then I write a post for this blog that is probably really a paper. Occasionally this is deliberate, because I’m having trouble working something out and I try and explain it to an imagined audience. All of those posts are still in the queue, which is now so long that the paper may be finished before they are… but this one, like one or two others, I started writing merely to get something off my chest that I hoped might be interesting and then by the end it’s nearly three thousand words and has enough footnotes for a centipede. Were it not that a lot of these posts start as me trying to show someone wrong about something, it’d be a great way to carry out scholarship. But maybe that doesn’t stop it being a viable paper, and it’s been some time since I wrote about my actual research area, so, hey: let’s ask a Marxist question about mills in early medieval Catalonia! That question is, of course: who controls the means of production? There is an accepted answer about this and I’m not sure it’s quite right. Interest piqued? The rest is behind the cut below. If not, here is that really cool mill location I wrote about before once more, why not look at that instead?

Building set into a riverine waterfall at Marfà, Castellcir

Building set into a riverine waterfall at Marfà, Castellcir

Continue reading

In Marca Hispanica XIV: l’Esquerda, city of helpful archæologists

L'Esquerda, Roda de Ter, Osona, Catalonia

L'Esquerda, Roda de Ter, Osona, Catalonia, from above

You’ve heard quite a lot about the site of l’Esquerda here by now, and more if you braved the numbers at the Kalamazoo paper indeed. I haven’t finished, however, as I was there a couple of months back as part of this trip whose telling I am still unwinding, and firstly it is one of the best-displayed archæological sites I’ve ever seen, secondly it is highly photogenic and thirdly and most importantly it has given me a heartening story, which I will now share. But first! The obligatory scenery photo!

The end of the l'Esquerda peninsula, with the River Ter visible on both sides

The end of the l'Esquerda peninsula, with the River Ter visible on both sides

I won’t try and explain once more why this place is important, I’ve done it before.1 So, just the travelogue here. The first thing is to explain that I hadn’t even planned to go to Roda de Ter, where it is, next. I had been meaning to go to Sant Pere de Casserres, but couldn’t face planning it at the end of the previous day’s labours and so woke up next day to find, on inspection, that there was no public transport there at all. I could have got halfway out on the bus back to Folgueroles from market, but it wasn’t market day in Vic and even had it been I’d still have had to walk the rest and would have arrived late and then had to walk all the way back too. Really, the only way out was a hiking route, which despite the previous day’s experience I would have been prepared to chance if I’d had time to do it; but by the time I’d made sure of this, I would have arrived just as the museum shut and had to come back in the dark. No. So instead I took the next day’s plan instead, which was to Roda de Ter and l’Esquerda, and because Roda is quite big and new-industrial, I could just hop on a bus to it and be there and back in half a day. So I did.

Outskirts of Roda de Ter, and trucks, viewed from la Muntanyeta

Outskirts of Roda de Ter, and trucks, viewed from la Muntanyeta

Excavations at la Muntanyeta, Roda de Ter, 1973

Excavations at la Muntanyeta, 1973, which I must have walked straight over

The view on the left, which I got by hauling up onto a hill to see if I could work out what direction I needed to go in, didn’t impress me much with the town. It seemed a lot as if the most important thing in it might be the trucks. This just goes to show what lies hidden though. You will observe that I have been able to find an older photo of exactly the same vantage, and this is because although all I could see up on this hill was a reservoir and a pylon, when they put that reservoir in in 1973, they found a set of stone-lined tombs that probably dated back to the seventh or eighth centuries. I must have been standing practically on them; I got quite a shock when I downloaded the article from which that picture comes a few days later apropos of something else I’d read by complete coincidence.2 So, as has been remarked elsewhere lately too, people do go on living where the archæology is. But anyway. I saw nothing useful from here, as I then thought, but when I got into the town I found the archæological site well signposted, and furthermore that the route to it led me over this:

Roman and Romanesque bridge over the River Ter at Roda de Ter

Roman and Romanesque bridge over the River Ter at Roda de Ter

The River Ter, viewed from the Pont Romà, Roda de Ter

The River Ter, viewed from the Pont Romà, Roda de Ter

The lower course of this bridge is Roman; the upper is Romanesque, but how would you tell? They just wanted a bridge that worked, and they wanted this because this road is on one of the main routes north through the Pyrenees, the strata francisca.3 There may have been several routes called this, but the one through Roda is predictably mentioned in a lot of its charters; this may be the only place left where I could be sure I was actually standing on that route, and I walked up into the town with a certain kind of connected smugness going on, crossing the river…

The Riu de Ter in spate, viewed from l'Esquerda

The Riu de Ter in spate, viewed from l'Esquerda the same afternoon

… which was extremely high this spring…

… and eventually arrived. This was one of several moments of recognition this trip gave me where I realised I was looking at something for real that I knew only from pictures in books, and you too have seen the wreck of a church just visible there on the blog. But up close it is more impressive even if it is only half there:

Ruins of Sant Pere de Roda, l'Esquerda

Ruins of Sant Pere de Roda, l'Esquerda

More below the cut… Continue reading

Rebel without a pension: the mystery of Aizó

On the way to a really great meeting in Oxford a few days ago, about which I’ll write separately, I took with me Jordi Camps’s Cataluña en la época carolingia and re-read a couple of articles in it by Immaculada Ollich that I’d skimmed for book purposes a while before but not, apparently, fully absorbed. Both of them heavily featured this one figure who seemed good material for a blog post, a man who threw back Carolingian rule in part of Spain for nearly sixty years, or so it is said, and about whom we know almost nothing. So I thought I’d do an exposé in the style of Carla Nayland or Judith Weingarten, complete with headings. But over the several days of on-and-off construction it’s turned into a four-thousand word monster (I am having real trouble typing that instead of `monastery’ these days you know) which closely resembles genuine scholarship and I thought perhaps it belonged behind a cut. I’d be delighted if you can find the time to read it but if not, don’t worry, there’ll be time later for other things. Continue reading

Blogroll policy, and some more archaeological experiments

I appear, over the nearly-two years this blog has been running, to have developed a blogroll policy. Given that, it seemed like a good idea to explain it, especially as I’ve just pruned it and I suppose the prunees might be wondering why. Basically it comes to the two things this blog is, at its core, intended to be, which is (a) academic and (b) advertising. Then there is also the idea that what I link to reflects my judgement in some way, so that in combination, I want the blogroll to show that I know that there are other medievalist bloggers out there trying to communicate their field to the general public. What this all means is that I want what I link to to be current, academically-inclined and more-or-less medieval. In practical terms, I seem to have wound up defining these criteria as “updated within the last quarter”, “having academic content on the front page” and “medieval, well, all right, ancient is also cool and archaeology is relevant almost without period”. Now I think that everyone I have linked to here satisfies those criteria, even if in a few cases I have linked to their categories so as to filter out non-relevant material. On the other hand, I’ve just removed The Punch Die, not because its focus is ancient and numismatic but simply because it hasn’t been updated in a quarter, and one highly erudite medieval blog currently featured on the blogroll was for a while removed because its entire front page was then squeeing about dogs, and I didn’t think that anyone following that link would think I was trying to tell them anything very useful about the medieval blogosphere. And I by and large don’t link to Livejournals, because they function rather differently as social networking and even where their content is largely medieval it’s often drowned by life, love and the pursuit of drunkehappiness. (I don’t link to the Medieval Studies community LJ for a different reason, which is that it’s locked to LJ users only; open it up to OpenID so I can comment some of the places I’ve been mentioned, and I’ll reconsider. Huh.)

This is not, please understand, a quality judgement! All of these exceptions have stuff in I like to read and think is well-written. I was glad when Highly Eccentric hived off her academic thought to The Naked Philologist, but precisely because I was already reading and enjoying Atol is Þin Unseon and was forever in a quandary about whether to link it. I’d love to link to several blogs that spark up about once a year, I’ll mention Westmynstre Blues and Recent Finds in particular, but it makes it look as if I’m not paying attention to my own site. And even the squeeing about dogs was well-written, though I freely admit that dogs are not a great interest of mine. So please, if you find yourself excluded, don’t think of it as snobbery, but mission focus. Or, of course, should your case be appropriate, bloody well update :-)

Now for those of you not following my blogroll, and why the heck should you after all, you may just be missing out. In particular David Beard is doing sterling work keeping us abreast of what I’d call Recent Finds had that name not gone, with his posts to Archaeology in Europe, and it’s about one of those I want to write for the rest of this post.

L\'Esquerda, Roda de Ter, Osona, Catalonia

L'Esquerda, Roda de Ter, Osona, Catalonia

You may just have heard of Dr Peter Reynolds, who died in 2001 but had until then been in charge of the thirty-year research project at Butser Ancient Farm, which is a site founded to farm and build as the Pre-Roman Celts and Romans did, with authentic crops and methods, by way of finding out how that worked, how much the original farmers knew about what they were doing, and of course try and rediscover some of what they knew that we don’t.1 What you may not know is that he was also part of a project doing similar reconstructive work for the medieval period in Catalonia, which is of course how I know about it though even then only by the sketchiest of chances.2 And I was reminded of this by a recent post by David Beard, you see, and thus find out (because his link leads to the whole paper, which is in English) that this work has carried on since 2001, in one of the most interesting sites in Catalonia, l’Esquerda.3

L’Esquerda’s principally notable for being a Carolingian refortification of a Celtic oppidum that time basically forgot as the frontier moved outwards. Most of the existing building is twelfth-century but a burial sequence goes back to the Carolingian era, and there seems to be a reference in Astronomer’s Life of Louis the Pious to orders that would have seen it rebuilt.4 That’s by the by, however, as what they’ve been doing that’s described here is, Reynolds-style, constructing a replica of a granary that was found on the site some time ago. This has told them a lot about the storage capacity and techniques of the building, but the real meat of the project, and the bit that got Reynolds involved, was an attempt to recreate the agronomic range of the medieval site using the seed remains in the granary as a guide. This is essentially what the paper that David has linked to is about, and it’s all good stuff and tells us lots about what grew and what didn’t, and in particular suggests that the miserable cereal yields we are often told to think of medieval agriculture as producing are in fact so miserable as to be difficult to replicate without deliberately screwing it up, which medieval folk presumably weren’t doing, so we should probably call those sources into question (as has indeed been done).5

Chenopodium album, or Fat Hen

But I’m more pleased about the work it reminded me of, which was in a way more interesting although based on a very old-fashioned idea of the relationships between lord and peasant in medieval times. It is pretty clear from various sources that where in Catalonia wheat could be grown, it was. It was Reynolds’s contention that the lords would have taken most of this as tax, and certainly that wheaten bread or porridge couldn’t have been the peasant diet very much of the year. The same also applied to the second, spring, harvest of barley or millet, much of which would have gone for fodder. What did the peasants eat once all this was gone? And Reynolds’s article that I remembered was about this ‘third harvest’, the unlikely crops we no longer think about except at really fancy bakeries like spelt or the above-pictured vegetable and grain-source, Fat Hen or white goosefoot, which as well as having edible cabbage-like leaves also has seeds out of which a passable bread flour can be ground.6 He pointed out that this stuff and other food sources like it grow wild, in the places between cultivation, and that though we might not consider it as food, a starving peasant who knew his plants, as most of them would have done surely, certainly would. The upshot is that the state of the medieval peasant, even in hard times, may not have been as hard as we sometimes think, his diet more varied and seasonal, and less of his ill-being down to lordly exaction than it might be because there were some things lords didn’t exact. The ideology of the paper was a little questionable, to say the least, but the food science was fascinating. So yes: I recommend knowing what peasants ate and here is some good evidence. I don’t know if they have a medieval bakery at the l’Esquerda visitor centre (needs Flash, this one, but a good site) selling you Fat Hen bread but if they did (and I hope to go some time in the coming year) I would totally buy and eat some in Dr Reynolds’s honour.

1. Peter J. Reynolds, Iron Age Farm: the Butser Experiment (London 1979) (non vidi).

2. I found idem & Christine E. Shaw, “The third harvest of the first millennium A. D. in the Plana de Vic” in Immaculada Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrés Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la Fi del 1r Mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de Novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 339-351 with Catalan résumé p. 339, French résumé pp. 351-352, & Provencal résumé & English abstract p. 352. This volume is not easy to find: in fact, if you do, I’ll buy it from you! I’ve been to Vic to look (among other things). But it wasn’t Reynolds’s paper I’d inter-library-loaned it from Madrid for…

3. Carmen Cubero i Corpas, Imma Ollich i Castanyer, Montserrat de Rocafiguera i Espona & Maria Ocaña i Subirana, “From the granary to the field; archaeobotany and experimental archaeology at l’Esquerda (Catalonia, Spain)” in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany Vol. 17 (New York 2008), pp. 85-92, online at http://www.springerlink.com/content/j418g4qt35038806/fulltext.html, last modified 19 June 2008 as of 15 July 2008.

4. There’s a wealth of Catalan work about l’Esquerda, mostly from the team of Imma Ollich who has been leading the excavations there for a good many years now. I think the most thorough thing is Immaculada Ollich i Castanyer & Montserrat Rocafiguera i Espona, L’Esquerda: 2500 anys d’història, 25 anys de recerca (Roda de Ter 2001), which i’m still trying to get hold of, but there’s loads more, and Prof. Ollich is available in English on the subject too, in the translation of her “Roda: l’Esquerda. La ciudad carolingia” in Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la Época Carolingia, pp. 84-88 as “Roda: l’Esquerda. The Carolingian Town”, ibid. pp. 461-463. Now, honestly, I’ll not often say this, but you should buy that volume. It’s an exhibition catalogue, and so it’s full of gorgeous illustrations: all the articles, which cover a good swathe of Carolingian Europe and England even if it focuses on Catalonia, are translated into English from the original Spanish and feature genuine notables (Pierre Riché is the first to spring to mind but that gives you the idea). Plus which, my copy, which I got from Oxbow Books where it is still on sale, albeit at rather more than I paid for it, came in shrink-wrap with a ticket for the exhibition in, which I rather liked even if I don’t have the time machine that would let me make use of it. It’s genuinely worth having for any early medievalist. Anyway. If, instead, you would prefer current English-language scholarship on l’Esquerda, may I ask you to wait a short while and then avail yourself of J. Jarrett, “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi: organisation of society in the pre-Catalan ‘terra de ningú'” in A. Deyermond & M. Ryan (eds), Early Medieval Spain: a symposium, Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar 63 (London forthcoming), or indeed J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming), both of which have something to say about the area, among lots more.

The refortification reference is Astronomer, Vita Hludowici Imperatoris, ed. E. Tremp in idem (ed.), Thegan: Gesta Hludowici Imperatoris. Die Taten Kaiser Ludwigs. Astronomus: Vita Hludowici Imperatoris. Das Leben Kaiser Ludwigs, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores rerum Germanicum in usum scholarum separatim editi) LXIV (Hannover 1995), online at http://www.dmgh.de/dmghband.html?bsbbandname=00000712, last modified 8 November 2004 as of 10 November 2007, pp. 278-558 with introduction pp. 53-153, cap. 8: “… ciuitatem Ausonam, castrum Cardonam, Castaserram, et reliqua oppida olim deserta, munivit…. Now, it’s an oppidum desertum once again… Apart from the archaeologists and tourists!

5. Often hard to know what to cite on this: I would work from Norman Pounds, An Economic History of Medieval Europe, 2nd edn. (London 1994) which is solid but thorough and gives you some references that weren’t in the first edition. Much more readable is Georges Duby, The Early Growth of the European Economy: warriors and peasants from the seventh to the twelfth century, transl. Howard Clarke (London 1974), but very of its time and quite possibly where Reynolds got his ideological stances mentioned below. Pp. 25-27 of Duby’s book give the minimum figures and their sources, but as Pounds and many others have observed, it seems very unlikely that medieval agriculture could have fed so many on so little surplus. Reynolds’s most focused work on this was “Medieval cereal yields in Catalonia and England. An empirical challenge” in Acta Medievalia Vol. 18 (Barcelona 1998), pp. 495–509.

6. Reynolds & Shaw, “The Third Harvest”, an unpaginated text of which is online here, last modified 20 February 2008 as of 15 July 2008.

In Marca Hispanica IX: actual charter scholarship

This is the last one of the Catalonia trip edits, so from here on it’ll be back to the more mundane writing and stolen graphics… So I thought I’d give you some hardcore diplomatic work as well as a pretty picture, by way of demonstrating that I wasn’t just being a tourist.

The last three days of my trip were spent commuting into Barcelona, rather than touring, you see. There was actually a bit of city-walking as I made an attempt to track down Professor Feliu in person, and that took me past the gardens of the Palau Reial and past a good deal of modern and impressive office architecture, but I didn’t have time to look at anything very much. I will say this, in case you ever find yourself trying to find a street address in Barcelona: the blocks may contain seven or eight different shops, offices or even houses each; or they may contain a single giant hotel. They are still numbered at a notional two numbers per block, and various crazinesses with “-bis” and so on are sometimes used to separate addresses but basically it’s impossible to count doorways to see how far you have to walk, or to tell when you’ve found your address unless it wears a name. Yes, I did have to walk some way. But once I’d got back into town (Professor Feliu in the end came and found me in town, for which I must thank him—we had a good chat, although it had to be in French) I got myself to the Biblioteca de Reserva in the old University building. I have to say, even with a Cambridge background, this building is quite impressive. It wasn’t so much the age of the buildings, or even its splendour though a big hallway with status of Isidore of Seville, King Alfonso X the Wise and other Spanish or Classical intellectual luminaries staring down from either side, will stick in my mind. It mainly struck me because it was so cool and quiet and lush, and full of plants and trees. For example, when I stepped out of the library to take a break, this was the scene that greeted me:

Western courtyard of the Universitat de Barcelona old building, from the first floor gallery

You see, I can cope with this as a study environment. So, what was I actually doing? Well, I mentioned above that I had some plans to work on the charters of Sant Pere de Casserres, and they are in the Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona. The staff there were very helpful, though more cautious than those at Vic; I had to surrender my passport and could only see a few at once. There turned out to be just enough from before my self-imposed date threshold to establish that it was a good point to choose as after that the diplomatic changed sharply, and although at the time of writing I haven’t had time to do any detailed analysis of the contents, I already know that there’s enough material here for two papers and one of them will serve for Leeds 2009. (If only I had my 2008 paper so well advanced…) So that was pretty encouraging.

Now, let me show you how a charter scholar does his work :-) Firstly, have a charter:

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

This is Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins C (Sant Pere de Casseres) núm 20, and there is a full-size higher-resolution version under the image here if you want to study it closely. So the first thing to do is scribble some description, but as you can see it I’ll spare you. Note however that this one’s especially good for the range of scripts; all these people seem to have signed for real and they none of them show the same hand, which is interesting, because so much of the writing we have is in formal scripts, it’s fascinating to me that that isn’t what people use when they sign their names. Are they going up a register so as to stand out? Or are they reverting to their ‘usual’ hand? I don’t know.

Next question is, what does it actually say? And if you want to do this properly, you have to transcribe it. So, off the file created on the laptop I’d borrowed specially for this purpose, I give you the diplomatic transcription:

In dei om~ptis N~ne SciaNT [NT in ligature] o~nis d~m credentes quia mot? e~ placit: in sede uico Int~ cenobio Sci~ petri / kastru~ serres & Vutardo tarauellense de alaude q~d conda~ Reimu~d? drog? relinq~d ad p~fata / cenobii. Dicens p~phat? Vutard? q~d facere non potuit quia karta pr~ inde fecit ad socru~ suu~ olibane de cha/praria, In hac uero audiencia fuit brenar~d? uicescomes qui cum Reinardo abb~e sua~ exibuit leg / testimonia ante Wifredo iudice quia quando [change of pen here] ipsa karta fuit facta q~d Vuitard? ostendebat Reimu~d? prephat? / auctor demenserat & alienat? a sensa?, & ideo ego Vufred? iudex p~ condicionib? editis recepit ipsos testes & confirmo ipso / alaude in potestate sci~ petri & potestati de reimu~d? ut ab hodierno die in antea eu~ habeaNT [NT in ligature] que~ ad modu~ / at ordinauit p~phat? Reimu~d?. Condiciones uero que p~tin~ & ad Negocii reseruate ut conditeruNT [NT in ligature] in ipsa cenobio. Et si quis hoc disru~pere [..] libra~ auri p~soluat & hec consignacio firma p~maneat, Est aut~ ia~dictus / alaudes in ipso angulo ant~nunio , & suNT [NT in ligature] domos & t~ras & uineas & molinos cu~ t~minas & p~tinenciis & exios ut / ios. Kartam uero qui ostensa[.] i~ placito fuit in~ne olibane caprariense euacuata fuit & p~ma~sit / p~missu~ e~ cu~ testib? qui in condicionib? resonaNT [NT in ligature]. Facta deficione .iii. id~ marcii, anno, XXXIIIJ / rei~ Radb~to rege. *Guifredus l~ta q~ & iudex q~ cu~ guitardo recep~ / testes & sub SS
SSS P&r? l~, Rogat? scripsit, & sub scripsit X die & anno q~d supra

A few conventions there may need explaining. It’s supposed to be what’s on the document, exactly, unless it’s in brackets. Square brackets are my comments, angle brackets hypothetical readings. Slashes, tildes and asterisks are my exceptions to the exactness—the first are line breaks and the second are a representation of the marks of abbreviation, all of them alike, which is sloppy I know but forgive me a limited typeface. The asterisks indicate a signature not written by the main scribe. The question marks are one abbreviation mark I have preserved as is, that is, they’re not actually interrogation points but a mark meaning -us has been omitted. So there’s your transcription, and you may be able to trace this on the document (and if you think I’ve got it wrong I’m happy to be corrected). Now what does it actually mean? With the advantage of having read quite a lot of Catalan charters, I can fill in the gaps, but this is still a story in itself. If I just skip to translating, it goes:

In the name of omnipotent God. Let all believers in God know that there was held a hearing in the See of Vic between the monastery of Saint Peter of Casserres & Guitard of Taradell over the alod that the late Ramon Drog left to the aforementioned monastery, Guitard saying that he could not do that since he made a charter of it to his cousin Oliba of Chapraria. In this audience, indeed, was Viscount Bermon, who along with Abbot Reinard displayed his testimony before Guifré the judge that when this charter that Guitard was showing was made, the author, the aforementioned Ramon, had become demented and was out of his mind. And therefore I Guifré the judge, through sworn oaths, received the witnesses themselves and I confirm the selfsame alod in the power of Saint Peter and the power of Ramon so that from this day into the future they may have it just as the aforementioned Ramon ordered. In fact, reserve you the oaths that pertain to the business so that they can be archived in the monastery. And if anyone [should come] to disrupt this, let him pay a pound of gold and let this verdict remain firm. The alod itself is moreover in l’Angle in Antuniano, and there are houses and lands and vines and mills with their bounds and appurtenances and exits and entrances. Meanwhile the charter that was shown in the hearing in the name of Oliba of Capraria was disavowed, and the promise of that remains with the witnesses who are recorded in the oaths. Definition made the 3rd Ides of March, in the 34th year of the rule of King Robert. Guifré, deacon and also judge, who with Guitard received the witnesses and signed below.

Hecfred by the grace of God Abbot signed. Sunyer, monk, signed. Guillem X.

Signed and subscribed Pere the deacon wrote and subscribed X the day and year as recorded above.

All right, I haven’t finished thinking about this document yet, but let me call out some points for you.

  1. Firstly, though I’ve translated fairly loosely in a couple of places there, this is very strongly styled. The drop into not just direct speech, but a direct imperative (“reseruate”, ‘reserve you’), is really unusual. Whoever wrote the text that this is derived from (see 4 below…) was apparently working from dictation more or less, and Guifré apparently wanted to wash his hands of it post haste: he ties up various loose ends as he thinks and gives instructions as if it were a memo, not a solemn court judgement.
  2. His dismissal of the case and the details of it might be explained because, for example, it was well known to all parties that Ramon Drog had indeed gone a bit doolally in his last months and quite possibly sold his lands several times over, and the question was going to be whether Guitard of Taradell could put this over on the judge. Guifré, working out that he’s been had, gives Guitard short shrift and basically banks everything with the monastery, including the warning that the witnesses will remember him admitting the charter to Oliba was useless. It’s a fairly weak claim anyway, that the land can’t be the monastery’s because it’s someone else’s when that someone else isn’t the plaintiff, but the defence isn’t so hot either is it, “oh well he was mad, your honour, mad he was, oh yes, well known it is how mad he was honest”. But the people saying this are the local viscount and the abbot of the monastery so there’s little hope for Guitard really. Once the monastery had convinced Bermon to show up, and his mother had founded the place so they have a connection, Guifré was really just filling in the blanks. It’s tough to be up against The Man in early eleventh-century Catalonia.
  3. Nonetheless, a few things here don’t add up. We don’t have the oaths of the witnesses; normally they would indeed be on a separate document, but it’s not here even though it was supposed to be kept in the monastery. Nor do we have any record of the gift to the monastery; Ramon made a charter to someone else, but the monastery have to rely on witnesses and heavy local enforcement, as well as claiming their donor later went mad. Where are these documents they should have, both before and after the hearing? You have to wonder whether it’s all entirely kosher, or if in fact this might be a Scheinprozess, a fake hearing intended to produce a document that proves property when other proof is lacking. And if they don’t have the oaths either, maybe it’s an entire fake, a document that records a hearing that never really happened.
  4. Because, you see, the document isn’t an original. But it has the signatures on it, I hear you say, how can it not be original? Well, yes, signatures. And look, one of them’s the abbot. Not the abbot named in the text, but a subsequent one. Unless one of the four (which is very few, and two of them at least are members of the monastery) witnesses was an abbot from elsewhere, this was written up and signed later on, and Pere seems to write other documents for Casserres which are basically copies of older charters to which they apparently refer. I haven’t worked this out yet, but there are incontrovertible examples.

So quite a lot going on there. Next, try this!

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) 3

No okay, only kidding. But you can imagine how my heart sank when I saw it. In fact, though, it’s fascinating, at least to me. There are five separate transactions written up here, and one, the third, has autograph signatures, albeit only two and them both clerics. The trouble is, it postdates the first one on the parchment, but this huge parchment was clearly set up to take that big transaction, not the tiny one, which seems to have been fitted round and so must have been written up from something else after the date of both of them. That in turn means that they either used new witnesses, or the two clerics were both still around to sign again. So much for autograph signatures as a proof of originality!

And meanwhile, what are they actually doing? The first transaction is so huge because it has 40 donors and vendors (they’re all called both) and deals with 23 pieces of land. It must have been a huge occasion! Except that, having given all the boundaries ,when the scribe gets to the bit where he should record the prices paid for these lands, he gives up and writes instead, “p[ro]p[te]r p[re]cio sic inclos[um] in ipsas scripturas resonat”, ‘because of the price that is recorded in the selfsame charters thus included’. In other words, he’s making a big narrative out of lots of charters, this isn’t one huge occasion, it’s a story combining 23 separate transactions for the sake of a permanent record. One might have guessed this from the crossings-out that imply fairly clearly that the scribe has lost his place or the plan of how to deal with a source text in front of him, but then he goes and admits it for us. This is supposed to be a very material foundation legend built as a kind of pancarta and then they add four more transactions that had happened already as well onto it like they were making a huge one-sheet cartulary (which is basically what a pancarta is, in case you were wondering; the web seems to have no useful definition). No wonder they abbreviate so heavily! But what I haven’t figured out is who it is doing this. There was a church at Casserres before the monastery, and this document doesn’t mention monastery or monks in any of its parts. All these transactions are dated to before the monastery was established, but we’ve already seen that that doesn’t mean much. And there’s four separate scribes with clearly different hands and another two clerics in the signatures. What parish church has five working priests and extra staff? There’s another just across the way at Sant Pere de Roda with a similar number, and they even own land around this church, so what on earth’s going on? They can’t both be mother churches so close to each other!

I haven’t worked it out yet, but because I now have this stuff under my belt, I reckon I probably will. Just, maybe not right now…

And all right, I’ve finished now, I’m back in the UK even virtually now, back to the books and the blogs. I hope I haven’t driven you all off…