Tag Archives: Santa Maria de Ripoll

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 turn Quintilianus into 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.

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

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Gallery

I’ll just draw it for you

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Sometimes I have no better excuse for a post than, “I found a shiny thing”, and this is definitely one of those. If I have a wider point, though, it lies in the way that the ongoing digitization of historical … Continue reading

In Marca Hispanica XIII: more stones than parchment I (Santa Maria de Ripoll)

Santa Maria de Ripoll, photographed from a car in 2008

Santa Maria de Ripoll, photographed from a car in 2008, which is as close as I then got

The kind lift back from Vallfogona recounted in the previous one of these posts put me in the town of Ripoll, with the option either of running for a train right away, or waiting an hour and looking around. Even in the failing light, the latter seemed the wise option because last time I was here, I had to miss it out and I didn’t want to do so twice. Besides, Ripoll grew somewhat during industrialisation and its medieval heritage is now constrained to a fairly small area, which is easy to look around if, as I had, you arrive too late to get inside the monastery.

Old railway shed, with locomotive still therein, now cut off from the railway at Ripoll

Old railway shed, with locomotive still therein, now cut off from the railway at Ripoll

The industrial nature of the town is still fairly clear when you come in; at a distance the monastery’s tower shares the skyline with cranes, silos and chimneys. Things are still not what they once were here, though; the station used to have seven tracks through it and was now making do with two out of a notional four. The Estació Nova, a handsome nineteenth-century building, stands derelict and a new concrete bungalow does for the job of the old Estació that was presumably once insufficient. The railway apparently died back so quickly here that it wasn’t even worth recovering the shunter (switcher, if you’re speaking US English) that lurks still in that disconnected shed. There is a preserved post-war electric locomotive parked on the station verge (visible in the photo linked for Estació Nova above) as a sign of what so recently was; the town has been amassing history recently as well as in my period.1

West front of Santa Maria de Ripoll in evening sunshine

West front of Santa Maria de Ripoll in evening sunshine

If you are a medievalist, however, you’re here for the monastery of Santa Maria, which I have often mentioned here before but for which I now have my own pictures. Even this is more nineteenth-century history than you might expect, though, because as has also been mentioned here this place was burnt down in 1835, with the loss of its entire archive. What you see here is a careful and painstaking 1880s reconstruction. It’s a tremendous job, but there is therefore a reason why it appears so well-preserved.

Arcades around the central apse and most northerly apsidiole at Santa Maria de Ripoll

Arcades around the central apse and most northerly apsidiole at Santa Maria de Ripoll

Santa Maria was big, really big. I mean, you may think Sant Joan de les Abadesses or Sant Benet de Bages were big but that’s just peanuts… well, no, OK, but it is fairly substantial. One good example of the intent of the builder, who was none other than that metal bishop we’ve seen here before and will again, Oliba of Vic, also Abbot of this and several other monasteries, ex-count and an originator of the Peace of God, already, is that he had already had Sant Miquel de Cuixà’s church rebuilt with five apses rather than the usual three (one for the nave, one for each aisle). Somehow Santa Maria, which obviously needed to defend its premier status, wound up with seven.2

The apse and apsidioles, transept and two of the three towers  of Santa Maria de Ripoll

The apse and apsidioles, transept and two of the three towers of Santa Maria de Ripoll

Santa Maria is now very much embedded in the town, but it probably always was since the actual parish church, Sant Pere de Ripoll, which like Santa Maria and Sant Joan have been here a long time in some form or other, is hardly any distance away at all, and as early as we can tell this sort of thing about it (908, to the best of my knowledge) it was being staffed by the monks.3 So Benedictine though it might have been, this monastery was in direct contact with the people it ruled.

The tower of Sant Pere de Ripoll, with Santa Maria beyond

The tower of Sant Pere de Ripoll, with Santa Maria beyond

The loss of records is still immensely frustrating though. Santa Maria was a sufficiently large landholder that it had property in every county of Catalonia, it may have been the largest landholder in the region (albeit probably second to the counts of Barcelona). I mean, it says something that they had four cartularies, even if one of them substantially duplicated another.4 The counts managed to get Sant Joan, similarly privileged but not as wealthy, shut down; Santa Maria they could only take over from the inside.5 And we have almost nothing to go on in reconstructing that importance. We don’t have nothing: one of the place’s archivists, a chap called Roc d’Olzinelles, wrote a manuscript inventory of the most important donations by nobles and others with extended abstracts of the texts, and that survives.6 Also, Santa Maria, like many religious establishments in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, divided its revenues up into shares that were assigned to individuals at one point, and one of these, the Pabordia de Palau, later came under the control of the Bishop of Vic somehow, which meant that in the eighteenth century Vic got abstracts made of all the documents relating to property serving that Pabordia, which also survive. So we have, if you like, the icing and decoration and one slice out of Santa Maria’s overall patrimonial cake, but we can’t tell how much of the cake the slice is and since both sets of abstracts omit witnesses, neighbours and in extreme cases the names of the donors, and very rarely record sales which other archives suggest should have been the majority of documents preserved, these are portions from which all the fruit, nuts and silver balls have been removed already to make it easier to digest.7 Pah. Certainly, I can’t do my sort of stuff with this sample in any useful way, which leaves me continually struggling to estimate what the dark matter of Santa Maria’s influence in any given area I study might have been, especially at smaller but better-preserved Sant Joan, which had once been run by Santa Maria’s abbot and where people might easily play the two monasteries off against each other, but I can only very rarely see that happening.8

The two western towers of Santa Maria de Ripoll in slanting evening sunlight

The two western towers of Santa Maria de Ripoll in slanting evening sunlight. Weirdly, it's the smaller and less Romanesque one that is original; the original of the other one came down in an earthquake in 1428, and had never been replaced when the nineteeth-century rebuild here was done, so they used models from elsewhere. (Linked to details; the picture is mine though.)

That impossibility of putting the place to work for me is one of the reasons why I’ve never made the effort to get here for the place itself; instead I have tended to be here because it’s the railhead for exploration of the Ripollès more widely. Nonetheless, it is very much worth seeing: as a learned correspondent said of it in an exchange at the time, “comme c’est beau!”.

The western portal at Santa Maria de Ripoll

The western portal at Santa Maria de Ripoll, from Wikimedia Commons, whose photographer had better light than did I; this is your actual authentic Romanesque.


1. And, obviously, at all points in between; it’s just that it’s substantially the eleventh and twentieth centuries they’ve chosen to memorialise in the parts of the town where I went.

2. There’s a number of dedicated studies of Santa Maria, largely from an architectural point of view, but I’m here working off Antoni Pladevall i Font, Joan-Albert Adell i Gisbert and Xavier Barral i Altet, “Santa Maria de Ripoll” in Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya Romànica X: el Ripollès, ed. Jordi Vigué (Barcelona 1987), pp. 206-334. On the metal bishop geezer, see n. 5 below.

3. Sant Pere turns up in a donation of that year from the lost Ripoll archive that we have in regestum, a donation made by one Francolino, who was the person who by failing to provide proof that backed up their claim lost Guimarà and Bonita their case against Abbess Emma in 918 that I mentioned in the Vallfogona post, in fact; this was a small world. The document is printed in Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i de Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), doc. no. 156, which explains: “Abbates enim et Monachi servientes domum S. Petri presentes et futuri ita obtineant sicut ceteris alodibus S. Petro pertinentibus”, ‘for the abbots and monks, present and future, serving the house of Saint Peter may obtain it just like the other alods belonging to Sant Pere’. Sant Pere doesn’t have an abbot or monks of its own, so they must be coming from the monastery next door. For more on Francolino, see n. 8 below; for more on Sant Pere, see Antoni Pladevall i Font, Joan-Albert Adell i Gisbert, R, Bastardes i Parera and J. Bracons i Clapés, “Sant Pere de Ripoll” in Pladevall, Catalunya Romànica X, pp. 335-343.

4. The old archive is discussed pithily by Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, I pp. 36-39.

5. This they did by putting Oliba, son of a Marquis of Cerdanya and brother of the count whose son became bishop on the back of Sant Joan’s endowment after it was shut down, in as a monk who soon became abbot. It was really a very handy monastic conversion, although I don’t mean to suggest it wasn’t sincere; Oliba was quite the churchman over his life, and probably well suited to the vocation. For the details behind my cynical take on the episode, see J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (London 2010), pp. 70-71 and references there; for a nicer account that leaves Oliba creditable motives, see
Cover of Ramon d'Abadal i de Vinyals's L'Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època, 3rd edn.

Cover of Ramon d'Abadal i de Vinyals's L'Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època, 3rd edn.

Ramon d’Abadal de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època 3rd edn. (Barcelona 1962), repr. as “L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època” in Abadal, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i documents XIII & XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974, 1989), II pp. 141-277, at pp. 83-111 of the original, which I cite because I bought it the next day from Costa Llibreter in Vic, a lovely bookshop stacked with things they can only just find just aa proper bookshop should be—it doesn’t come over the same way on the Internet but they are there—and here is my copy! That all said, a quick English-language introduction to the man and his career can be found in Adam J. Kosto, “Oliba, Peacemaker”, 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. 135-149, but you may actually find Abadal’s book easier to get hold of…

6. Roc d’Olzinelles, “Índex de les donacions de comtes i reis i de les butlles pontifícies existents a l’arxiu de Ripoll”, Biblioteca de Catalunya, MS 430. Not on loan when I wrote this, you’ll be glad to know!

7. Quite a lot of this material is in Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, and presumably lots more is in other volumes of the Catalunya Carolíngia, but it’s still quite hard to know how much we do have that was copied by various people for various purposes and is now scattered from Madrid to Paris. A reasonable dissertation project for someone close to the area might be to try and assemble a kind of Diplomatari de Ripoll and see if we can work out what survives, how much there might originally have been and what areas we’ve obviously not got. I did inquire about getting a grant to do this from the Generalitat at one point but it never got further than informal enquiries because those never got answered. Oh well.

8. One instance being Francolino, seen in n. 3 above, who had land in many places around Sant Joan apparently but whom we only see give to Sant Pere de Ripoll, and another being a chap called Anno, who at one point is working as saio, a kind of Visigothic constable, in Vallfogona, but is seen before that representing the Abbot of Santa Maria in court. On these guys see Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, pp. 62-64 & 42-43 respectively. For the phase before Abbess Emma’s majority when Santa Maria’s abbot, Dagui, ran Sant Joan, see R. d’Abadal i de Vinyals, “La fundació del Monestir de Ripoll” in Miscel·lània Anselm M. Albareda Vol. I, Analecta Montserratensia Vol. 9 (Montserrat 1962), pp. 187-197, repr. in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans Vol. I, pp. 485-494, though be aware that this is one of many cases where they fitted the reprint into its swollen double volume by leaving out the useful documentary appendix.

Some of that critical diplomatic

Doing the kind of history I do means reading a lot of charters. For my thesis I went through some, er, three thousand five hundred maybe? This was not your real archive work such as real historians like Notorious Ph. D. or Robert Darnton do, though some of that came later; this was sitting with a printed edition and indexes, my gods, how hopeless it all would have been without indices, and making the lengthy and interlace-adorned notes I wrote of last time. But still: it was a lot of documents to read, and it has been the backbone of all my subsequent work. As a result of those documents I’ve known places to look for other things and had pet examples to make most of my points with. But reading one of those editions, intensively, when I was doing my thesis and, admittedly, working part-time, took me three to six weeks each and the subsequent processing another week or so initially and continues, off and on, to this day as something new needs chasing or turns up. I don’t have that kind of intensive time any more. Instead, I have been doing the poor second-best of working intermittently through the Catalunya Carolíngia bit by bit. It keeps turning things up, so here’s one of the things.

Aerial view of Santa Maria de Montserrat

Aerial view of Santa Maria de Montserrat

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a monastery whose records have suffered more than most from ill luck. Its own documents were burnt by a French army in 1811. Before then, it had disputed quite a lot of its property with Santa Maria de Ripoll, which meant that lots of copies existed there too, which ought to have been some kind of insurance except that Ripoll’s archive was burnt in 1835 as described here some time ago. Thus, several of Montserrat’s documents have been destroyed twice… Whenever its possessions come up, therefore, we tend to be stuck with whatever copies or registers were made by someone somewhere else before those dates. And therefore, we know about the consecration of Sant Salvador de Ripoll, an extra church in the monastery’s precincts that the counts endowed, only because they endowed it with a village that was subsequently claimed by Montserrat. This, you see, meant that in 1772 a research assistant called Benet Ribas was able to make a note of the Montserrat copy of this document for Jeronimo Pasqual, who was collecting important documents for his never-published Sacrae Cathaloniae antiquitatis monumenta. which is now preserved in manuscript in the Biblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona, where Ramon Ordeig i Mata found it and edited it for the CC.1 With me so far?

Interior of the Biblioteca de Catalunya, Barcelona

Interior of the Biblioteca de Catalunya, Barcelona (from Spanish Wikipedia)

Now, this is a good document for my purposes, though I wish I’d found it when I was teaching, as I wanted an example of fancy textiles being imported from al-Andalus and Byzantium and couldn’t find one as good. You see, among the things that Count-Marquis Sunyer of Barcelona, Girona and Osona gave the new church were:

… a table worked in silver and ornamented with gold, a silver chalice with a paten similarly of silver, a text of the Gospels covered in silver ornamented with gold… books, namely 1 Missal, 1 Eusebius, 1 Psalter, moreover ecclesiastical vestments, an alb embroidered with gold, two amicts embroidered with gold, 1 stole with maniple embroidered with gold and with schillis [I don’t know what those are] and another stole with maniple embroidered with gold, a succinta embroidered with gold [some sort of sash?], a yellow planet dyed with codrina [don’t know], an orange cape dyed with rodono [don’t know], a subdiaconal of Greek linen, a dalmatic and another dalmatic made from cendal, an alod indeed…

And there, maddeningly for me, Ribas broke off, not including any of the landed property. It’s still cool though—do you notice how the silver-covered Gospels appears to count as treasure and not a book, and not without reason? Why was Sunyer being so generous, though? Well, that is also recorded, between the lines if you will; he gave firstly:

for the remedy of my late parents Guifré and Guinedilda, and at the same time for my late brother Guifré and my late sister Riquilda…

but also, and perhaps more immediately:

for the conservation of our present son, Ermengol by name, and for the increase of his health…

and it was for that that the books and vestments were given. Someone would have had to give such things anyway, but they probably wouldn’t have been as good had Sunyer’s eldest son not been sick. Poor Ermengol must have got slightly better, and we see him operating as count long before his father’s death, but by 942 he was dead even so and Sunyer retired to a monastery shortly after his remaining sons had come of age.2 Sunyer was, arguably, a tough and scheming warlord bully but he seems to have been a family man for all that, and when his family were ailing he tried to call in favours from God like any respectable medieval magnate.3

Sant Martí de Vinyoles

Sant Martí de Vinyoles, the church given to Ripoll by Sunyer in 925 (OR WAS IT)

All that said, this charter made me very suspicious. ‘Cause why, the witness list is full of clerics from the chapter of Vic who had basically retired. The Vic connection is because the bishop is there consecrating the church, but nonetheless some of these priests had stopped appearing some years before. And so I was already suspicious when I got to the next charter that Ribas had summarised, and that turns out to be the bishop giving the tithes that came along with the territories Sunyer had granted, on the same day, presumably at the same occasion and with almost the same people witnessing.4 Except that whereas in the first one a certain deacon Radulf was specified, here Radulf is identified as the bishop of Urgell of that name, Sunyer’s brother.5 The oldest of the Vic clerics is also missing.6 (It does at least add the name of the alods Sunyer gave, which may of course be why Ribas didn’t copy them out in full the first time.)

Cloister of Santa Maria de Ripoll

Cloister of Santa Maria de Ripoll

Now, it seems one of these documents must be wrong or lying. I don’t think we ever see Radulf as a deacon when he wasn’t also a monk of Ripoll, but that had stopped in 904 and by 925, the date of the former document, he was indeed bishop. So if that’s the right dignity, it’s another deacon Radulf—there is such a man at Vic7—and the second document is falsely inflating him to bishop. But if the second document is right, and Bishop Radulf was there as he might easily have been, family occasion as it was, then it begins to look rather as if the former document has had its witness list (and therefore perhaps much of its other detail) sucked in from an earlier document. But the only reason for that that I can imagine is that Santa Maria de Ripoll later found themselves short of proof that they really truly owned Vinyoles and had to make it. Since both documents claim that gift, that would mean they both had to be faked up at least slightly. At which rate can I really use them against each other? and how much weight can I place on the deduction about the sick son? Could it be that both are correct and it was Ribas’s mistake assuming it was the bishop present? and and and… Sometimes having actual originals to work with would help a lot, actually.


1. R. Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i de Manresa, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), doc. no. 283.

2. Ermengol is really only treated in old work, principally P. de Bofarull y Mascaró, Los Condes de Barcelona Vindicados, y Cronología y Genealogía de los Reyes de España considerados como Soberianos Independientes de su Marca (Barcelona 1836; repr. 1990), I pp. 114-116. I think this suggestion of ill-health tends against Albert Benet’s suggestion that Ermengol died in battle against Magyars at Baltarga in 942 (A. Benet i Clarà, “La batalla de Balltarga. Epilèg a la incursió d’hungaresos a Catalunya” in Quaderns d’Estudis Medievals Vol. 4 (Barcelona 1982), pp. 639-40, though there is a lot else that could be quarrelled about there before you get down to circumstantial detail like this: see J. Jarrett, “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi: Organisation of Society in the pre-Catalan ‘Terra de Ningú'” in †Alan Deyermond & Martin Ryan (edd.), Early Medieval Spain: a symposium, Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar 63 (London forthcoming), pp. 83-109 at pp. 99-102.

3. I will very soon have page numbers to cite for the part of J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming) where I talk about Sunyer! For now, however, ‘the beginning of Chapter 3′ is all I can give you.

4. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. 284.

5. Radulf, almost alone of this family, has a proper documentary study dedicated to him, that being Manuel Rovira, “Un Bisbe d’Urgell del segle X: Radulf” in Urgellia Vol. 3 (Montserrat 1980), pp. 167–184.

6. The priest Athanagild was an interesting fellow. He writes a lot of Vic’s earliest documents, sometimes used very unusual Roman terminology (Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. no. 10), adds Greek notes to another consecration he wrote in 898 (ibid., doc. 37), last wrote (a surviving document) for the chapter twenty years before (ibid. doc. 48), last signed a (surviving) document otherwise fourteen years before (ibid., doc. no. 101) and the same year as this act was making donations causa mortis (ibid. doc. no. 285). It’s obviously possible that he was hauled out for one more for the count, but it’s hard to see why he should be dragged up to Ripoll when he was clearly on his last legs. So I remain dubious.

7. Seen in ibid., docs 78, 103, 238, 267 & 443, probably among others; these run both sides of 925 chronologically.

Lost archives and time-travel strategies

The apse of the current (Romanesque) church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Adam Kosto began a paper in Speculum a while ago with an apology for how much historians of medieval Catalonia go on about the masses of material we have. Given that it is already a topos, it seems a bit churlish to write a post about how much we’ve lost, but nonetheless this does occasionally hit home. Sant Joan de les Abadesses, my first and dearest archive, with which I am almost certainly not finished, has four big books which were written by the penultimate abbot, Oleguer Isalguer (1529-1581) inventorying the abbey’s archive, and for the ninth and tenth centuries the inventory makes it clear that we now have only about half of what he had, some two hundred documents lost since then, usually entire bags covering whole areas. However, he was inventorying the archive, at Girona rather than at Sant Joan, because he then reckoned that they’d lost about three hundred documents in the last fifty years and something had to be done. So we don’t even know what those ones were or where they might have wound up (or, more interestingly, why they were being stolen).

Monastery of Sant Benet de Bages, from Wikipedia Spain

Monastery of Sant Benet de Bages, from Wikipedia Spain

There survive even more charters from the period from Sant Benet de Bages, further west and south, but, unlike Sant Joan, Sant Benet didn’t get to keep its archive on site after it was dissolved in 1835 (Sant Joan became a parish church, so there was some continuity). Instead most of it was hived off to the house of one of the last monks, from there a chunk was grabbed for the Arxiu de la Corona de Aragó by Prosper de Bofarull in 1837 but were then never catalogued (as of 1999 this work was ongoing, but by that time 66 had already been lost completely, and just over a hundred survived only in typescript copies because they’d been removed for ‘safe keeping’ during the Civil War to someone’s private collection). Some more went to the Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, but three lots have also been located in various private collections since the Great War when the first of them was given to the Institut d’Estudis Catalans for safe keeping. And that stolen lot is presumably out there somewhere too and quite possibly still more. So the possibility lurks of that sample being much increased even now.

Santa Maria de Ripoll, Catalunya

Santa Maria de Ripoll as it now stands, restored

But the classic and terrible case is this one, Santa Maria de Ripoll, which was once the richest monastery in Catalonia, a scientific centre of European renown, and the comital mausoleum, and which was burnt in 1835 by anti-clerical groups from Barcelona. All its archive went with it, six cartularies and loads of originals, and what we know of its documents we know from a few selective inventories of the most ‘important’ bits by prior archivists and documents quoted by Bofarull and other authors from before his time. Some of it was hugely important for genealogy and prosography of the counts, which is what has mainly been grieved for, but there were also large hearings with audiences in the hundreds, demographic data and just all the usual stuff you can do with a big monastery’s records if you so choose, all of which went up in smoke as future study possibilities on 9th August 1835. In this case, there’s no reason to suppose any stashes taken to safety and now privately held. It’s just gone.

All of which had me thinking. At first I thought how great it would be to have a time machine to go back and warn some of the monks to get at least the cartularies out of the way. But it would make such a huge difference to the field in the last few centuries if they had, to the extent that Ripoll might now be as significant as Cluny as a medieval databank, that a particular instance of the time-traveller’s difficulty arises: by the time you returned, your work would be completely outdated and your knowledge all wrong (or we can wrestle with the paradox that in that improved world you would have known this stuff all along—and then do you still have to go and get it saved? and what happens if you never think of the idea, not knowing how it was saved? and so on). So, unless you just stole it and produced it with some made-up provenance in the present day, which might have its own problems unless no-one else in the world knew about time travel, you’d have to get it kept safely in such a way as to ensure that only you could then find it when your time came, as it were. That, given human ingenuity, would take some doing, not least because you’d kind of have to bump off those on the inside who got the texts out for you, it being the only way to be sure the location wouldn’t be vouchsafed between the then and the now! It all gets extremely unpleasant, and yet, if one could somehow avert the fire through time travel or save the documents like that, presumably one would, even though, paradoxically, it would ruin one’s career… Anyone have enough sci-fi geek in them to suggest a better plan?


Most of this is based on Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), I pp. 33-45. The Adam Kosto article is “Laymen, Clerics and Documentary Practices in the Early Middle Ages: the example of Catalonia” in Speculum Vol. 80 (Cambridge MA 2005), pp. 44-74; Bofarull’s work is Prosper de Bofarull y Mascaró, Los Condes de Barcelona Vindicados, y Cronología y Genealogía de los Reyes de España considerados como Soberianos Independientes de su Marca (Barcelona 1836, repr. 1990), vol. I online at http://www.archive.org/details/loscondesdebarce01bofauoft, last modified 10 July 2008 as of 15 January 2009.

In Marca Hispanica VIII: pilgrimage to see Emma

A long long time ago, as I know I’ve mentioned before, I wrote a paper about a woman called Emma, who was Guifré the Hairy‘s daughter, and whom he gave to the nunnery he founded at Sant Joan de Ripoll, as it then was. I wrote about how she built the place up by aggressive purchase and legal confrontation but eventually died without leaving it properly organised and how it went to the dogs thereafter. And, bless them, Early Medieval Europe decided they liked it and it was my first paper in print. So once finally out in Catalonia, it was obviously important to get up there, even if only to say `thankyou’ to Emma somehow for giving me the means to make my first break.

The town of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, as it now is, which stands just along the Ter valley from what is now bustling industrial Ripoll, is far tinier and very very focussed on its tourism industry. As well as Emma, who is remembered here, they make great play with the legend of Comte Arnau, a legendary evil ruler who is supposed to have abducted the abbess and caused the nunnery to collapse as a result. As I mentioned before, Comte Arnau was not real, and the real story of the nunnery’s dissolution is actually even more messy, but I can’t blame them for running with it, any more than I do Nottingham for making the most of Robin Hood. It did mean that a lot of their stuff also has nuns on it, but worryingly racy nuns, with visible ankles as they run through cloisters and so on.

So yup: this is the cloister through which they would have run:

Cloister of the abbey of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

The actual abbey, and its attached museum which is rather nice, are extremely small. The nuns and priests must have lived elsewhere in the town, or else, when this thirteenth-century building was done for the Augustinian canons who were by then the occupants, the whole thing was just a smaller concern. This is almost entirely belied by the church to which the cloister is attached, which is a fine example of a particular Catalan architectural theme, squeezing maximum geometrical splendour onto a fairly small ground footprint:

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

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Here, I believe, the building is late eleventh-century. Still not the church Emma would have known, but probably its immediate replacement. Inside it’s a vast-seeming space that’s actually quite closely bounded, but the massive pillars in the nave, of which there are only two, make it seem as if there is actually much more that simply can’t be seen all at once, and the transept and apsidioles hide small devotional foci that, indeed, you can’t see from the main space, like this one to Guifré:

Memorial to Count Guifré the Hairy in the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

And this church wasn’t even where the people of the town worshipped. It may have been, when first built, but the canons and monks who variously replaced the nuns thought better of their seclusion and instead sent the plebs to a new church, of Sant Joan and Sant Pol (John and Paul—Ringo and George were presumably commemorated at Santa Maria), through this very door here:

Portal of the church of Sant Pol, in Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Unfortunately, due to an earthquake in 1429, going through that door now doesn’t get you very much…

Missing nave and present tower of the church of Sant Pol in Sant Joan de les Abadesses

And after that, the monastery being long gone by then anyway, they let people back into the abbey church. But back over there, or wherever she is actually buried, Emma had rested sound through the whole thing and you can still sort of meet her there:

The memorial stone for Abbess Emma in the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Salute, domina. Gratiam tibi debeo.