Tag Archives: Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer

What makes a priest write a charter?

Looking at the next week, I can already see that there will be no time for reading or writing or anything but marking, teaching and form-filling. Let me just first write some more about what I was working on over the summer, then, and then I’ll admit I’m too busy to blog for a short while. You’ve heard how I had something of an achievement blank patch and then got a hold of myself and read a lot of charters and came away with a new project (to add to all the old ones). This post is going to take one example of the kind of question that I found myself asking, robbed freely from my crazy notes files described in this earlier post. The questions that it raises, for me, are not maybe that new, but answering them would be, especially for this area, and I may have a way in.1 For now, however, the set-up.

The volumes of Calaixs 6 & 9 of the Arxiu Episcopal de Vic

Most of the tenth-century charters of the Arxiu Capitular de Vic, on a table in front of me in 2007.

There was a priest called Joan who appears in documents now at the cathedral of Vic dating from 951 to 962, and perhaps later though I doubt it. He always appears there as scribe. He does not appear with the cathedral chapter when they transacted, and I haven’t found him with any degree of certainty I’m willing to trust in any other archive’s documents from the county concerned.2 There were plenty of other scribes active in the cathedral at this time, and even more in the wider area, and so the first question that arises from this for me is what it was about these transactions that meant that Joan was called on to write them. What I really want to know, of course, is for whom he wrote, but I’m prepared to take any kind of association that will help explain how he got chosen.

Firstly I should admit that I haven’t actually seen all the originals of these documents and so I can’t be sure that all the Joans featured are in fact the same guy, but I have some hope, for reasons I’ll discuss in a minute.3 Secondly, I have to put aside the obvious association that these documents do have, which is that they’re all in the Arxiu Capitular de Vic; firstly, as I say above, there’s the problem that Joan seems not to have appeared with the chapter of Vic, but secondly and more seriously, not all of these transactions passed land to the cathedral, so there is some other motive for the association and also, presumably, some other step before they came to the archive, dictated perhaps by that as-yet-uncaught common factor.

Ruins of Sant Martí de Sentfores

Ruins of Sant Martí de Sentfores, one of the places in the county of Osona where Bishop Guisad bought land in a charter that Joan wrote

Now a common factor does leap out at one quite quickly, and that is Bishop Guisad II of Urgell. For complex genealogical reasons Guisad turns up in the Vic archive quite a lot, and still more so in that of the abbey of Sant Benet de Bages which a cousin of his had founded (that being the complex genealogical reason, the complexity lying in proving it, which I won’t do here).4 His bishopric may have been up in the Pyrenees but his heart, or at least his property, was in the lowlands too. Three of the transactions Joan wrote were actually purchases by Guisad, and indeed if one goes and pokes at the Urgell cathedral documents there is a priest Joan who turns up there at least once during Guisad’s pontificate.5 But he doesn’t turn up with the chapter either, he’s not associated with Guisad in that document and though it only exists in a later copy, I bet that if we had it and I’d looked at that as well we’d find that the handwriting doesn’t match; I think that is likely to be a different guy, because after all it’s only three times he appears with Guisad; there are five and maybe six more to explain. So, OK, now we get serious and make a table. Just for completeness I’ll put the Urgell one in too. Dates are UK-style, months in the middle.

Date Charter Place concerned Actors Witnesses Notes
951.i.20 CC4 668 Sentfores (Moià) Guibert Sunifred to Bishop Guisad Adulf, Ingilbert, Savaric Church of Santa Eulàlia appears on boundary
951.ii.28 CC4 670 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Belasquina and son Bradilà to Bishop Guisad Sendred, Ennegó, Ermeniscle pr[esbiter]., Ennegó pr.
951.v.12 CC4 674 Sant Julià de Sassorba Lleopard, Belascuda, Bonefaci & Medira to Samuel Sthetulf, Savaric, Bellelo Samuel is a big-deal local notable6
951.v.24 CC4 675 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Ramio to Bishop Guisad Ennegó, Asner, Ermeniscle pr.
959.iv.2 Urgell 132 Ennegó to Urgell cathedral Mesla, Seu d’Urgell Bellelo, Nemvolendo, Joan pr. A priest Ramio wrote
960.i.20 CC4 837 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Miró to Vic cathedral Donat, Sesgut, Franco
960.ii.15 CC4 840 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Agobard and wife Sàlvia to Langovard Igilà, Pere, Ennego lev[ita].
960.iv.3 CC4 849 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Bella, Galí, Tensemon, Sunifred & Borrell with Bishop Ató of Vic Teudefred, Sunyer, Dacó Not that Borrell, though weirdly he is a neighbour
960.v.31 CC4 863 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Vidal with Bishop Ató Asner, Eico, Ennegó lev.
962.ii.9 CC4 897 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Ennegó and wife Adalvira with Bishop Ató Guisad, Oriol, Guifré Presumably not that Guisad
962.iii.23 CC4 899 Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer Godmar and wife Faquilo with Bishop Ató Guifré, Sunifred, [...]
954×867 CC4 1499 [...] Esteve with [...] [...], [...], Guitizà No scribal signature survives here, but its editors were happy that the scribal hand is the same

With this done, we have some kind of an answer: the obvious common thread is the term of Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer, one of the odd areas of this county which were centred not on a castle although several fortifications and a comital estate were nearby, but on a church.8 Of the documents here that don’t involve land there, we might guess that the last one did if we only had the place-name, and Sassorba is only a few miles more or less due north, though in country like this that’s still a tough climb and they probably went round the valley ends to get there (if indeed the transaction wasn’t done at Santa Eulàlia for some reason we’re not going to be able to recover). The Urgell one is interesting: one would assume it’s a different guy, as I did above, except that the transactor and one of the witnesses, as well as a priest Joan of course, can all be paralleled in the Riuprimer documents. Could this be a guy who knew Joan and had some land two counties away (an inheritance? the copy doesn’t say) that he didn’t want to keep and was therefore giving to God for his soul’s sake, and he brought along his local priest as a witness? Given that Joan presumably knew some of the Urgell chapter from the sales to Guisad, and that the Urgell crowd probably frequently had people in the Riuprimer area to pick up renders and so on, this doesn’t seem too improbable. So OK, then, this Joan was presumably a priest at Riuprimer and when the locals wanted a charter written, they come to him. It’s not to do with whom he knew, but where he was. Case closed?

View of Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer

View of Santa Eulàlia de Riuprimer

Well, it’s worth checking two more things. Firstly, was he the only priest there? This guy Ermeniscle cropped up twice there… In fact, however, those are his only two certain appearances. (He doesn’t show up at Urgell.) There’s too many possibilities there to make one worth choosing so let’s leave it; we can at least say that Joan seems to have been the obvious writer even when both were there. Nextly, are these all the Santa Eulàlia sales for this period? And that gets funnier, because no, they’re not; in fact they’re not even all the Riuprimer deals with the relevant bishops from the period, there’s a sale to Guisad here from June 959 in which a deacon Ermemir did the scribing and an exchange with Ató from 960 in which a priest called Fruià did.9 The people involved here turn up in the witness groups we’ve already seen, so it’s strange that for these ones somehow Joan was unavailable, given that at other times he was deemed worthy even when the recipients were these, well, worthies. Some explanation probably exists that we’ll never recover. There’s also a sale to Guisad where we don’t have a scribal name and a gift to Santa Maria de Ripoll where we do (unusually) and it was Narulf sacer, and the actors were unknowns-to-us living on the edge of the zone at la Guàrdia.10 I’m slightly happier saying that either they just didn’t know Joan very well or else they went to the monastery to make their gift and he didn’t come with them.

Close-up of Arxiu Capitular de Vic, calaix 9, episc. I, núm 50

Remember why this Vic charter is tricky? Click through if not

So, at the end of this we have a picture in which when people here had a transaction to make they enlisted their local priest to write it for them. That doesn’t sound terribly surprising in those terms, I know, but it is still slightly strange given two things about these transactions. They are, substantially, with churchmen. That in itself is not surprising, we should expect that simply because of whose archives get preserved as has often been said here, but the churchmen were high-ranking people. They did not travel without other churchmen in support, we might expect, and yet it’s the local guy who writes the documents, even when it’s a donation to the relatively-nearby cathedral. Our usual picture of early medieval diplomatic is one in which the recipients of the gifts usually write the charter, especially when they’re ecclesiastics and when we might expect the donation to have been made actually at the cathedral, and perhaps by placing a document on the altar there.11 But it looks here as if either Joan wrote that document (in which case one assumes he did so beforehand, and in that case how much input into it did the recipients even get?) or else, perhaps even weirder, the transaction was actually done in Santa Eulàlia whoever the recipient was. That’s weird because we’re so often encouraged to see this kind of transaction as a negotiation of a relationship with a saint and his familia; not going to his house to do it seems stand-offish, especially if you’re actually staying in the house of a different saint to do it.12 And of course, not all these are pious donations, even if they all wound up in cathedral archives. Presumably, at some point, and at different times, the property was passed on and wound up with the cathedral anyway, all relevant charters coming with. I presume this, because the alternative would be that anything Joan wrote was being archived at Santa Eulàlia and that at some point the whole church archive got swooped up into the cathedral one. I’ve posited something like that at Sant Andreu de Gurb, very nearby, but that’s not least because it, unlike Santa Eulàlia, appears to have been staffed by clergy working out of the cathedral (which was even nearer).13 I don’t quite like it here: the recipients must have had copies! why do we have Joan’s and not theirs, even when the recipient was usually a bishop or cathedral? But there doesn’t seem to be any way to count up these documents that doesn’t give both Joan and the documents he wrote a considerable importance to the people who wanted them made. It’s that importance I’m now after…


1. For example, I was just re-reading Rosamond McKitterick’s The Carolingians and the Written Word (Cambridge 1989), and chapter 3 turns out to be one of those things I should have been citing more in almost everything I’ve written but had internalised too deeply to recognise the debt. Other work asking similar questions would be Wendy Davies, “Priests and rural communities in East Brittany in the ninth century” in Études celtiques Vol. 20 (Paris 1983), pp. 177-197, repr. in Davies, Brittany in the Early Middle Ages, Variorum Collected Studies 924 (Aldershot 2009), V, or Carine van Rhijn, “Priests and the Carolingian reforms: the bottle-necks of local correctio” in Richard Corradini, Rob Meens, Christina Pössel & Philip Shaw (edd.), Texts and Identities in the Early Middle Ages, Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 13 (Wien 2006), pp. 219-237. Wendy has similar work forthcoming on the priests in her newer study area of Asturias-León, which is also influential on me.

2. The references are given below in sigillar form, but all but one come from Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica 53 (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, and the numbers in the table below are those in this edition, though the documents are also printed in Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic (segles IX i X), ed. Ordeig (Vic 1980-1996), nos 265, 267, 269, 270, 318, 320, 325, 329, 342, 344 & 527.

3. It is some comfort to me that Junyent or Ordeig (or both! the way that edition was produced leaves no clarity over whose words were put onto any given page) say in Junyent, Diplomatari, p. 448, that the writer of docs 325, 329, 342 & 344 was the same person.

4. If you need it, it is done in Manuel Rovira i Solà, “Noves dades sobre els vescomtes d’Osona-Cardona” in Ausa Vol. 9 no. 98 (Vic 1981), pp. 249-260.

5. Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Els documents, dels segles IX i X, conservats a l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 2 (Montserrat 1979), pp. 78-143, doc. no. 132.

6. Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 108-109.

7. The left-hand side of this charter is destroyed and all that’s left of the dating clause is that the king was Lothar III, who ruled during these years.

8. Something which is fairly easy to check thanks to the excellent Jordi Bolòs & Victor Hurtado, Atles del comtat d’Osona (798-993), Atles dels comtats de la Catalunya carolíngia (Barcelona 2001), where pp. 28-29, Q9-11 are the most relevant. It’s reference works like this and decent printed editions that make it possible to do a summary like this in the sort of time that’s reasonable to dedicate to a blog post, and of course thus enable far larger projects, I’d make so many mistakes without this volume because of not being able to be in the actual places very much.

9. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. nos 826 & 848 (= Junyent, Diplomatari, nos 314 & 324).

10. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. nos. 771 & 1813.

11. See e. g. Reinhard Härtel, Notarielle und kirchliche Urkunden im frühen und hohen Mittelalter, Historische Hilfswissenschaften (Wien & München 2011), pp. 212-213.

12. Classically, Barbara H. Rosenwein, To Be the Neighbor of Saint Peter: the social meaning of Cluny’s property, 909-1049 (Ithaca 1989); more local resonances in Wendy Davies, Acts of Giving: individual, community and church in tenth-century Christian Spain (Oxford 2007), esp. pp. 113-134.

13. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, pp. 122-123.