Let me tell you a tale… of intrigue, incense and assassination!

I have no fresh content for you today, I’m afraid, I’m still busy normalising Cluny’s charters’ names and writing bits of book, though not right now obviously because of being at work (and on lunch). But seeing an unexpected commentator on the previous post has put me in mind of popes—you know who you are—and so I draw on my stock of fabulous medieval tales from charters for you.

The three Bulls of John XIII to Vic of 970

The charter in question is now displayed, just to the right of that image (dammit), and you may be able to tell from that that it is not yer usual parchment, but a Bull, awarded to the Bishop of Osona in Catalonia by Pope Gregory V in 998. This would ordinarily have been simple enough, except for the bishop and his entourage actually making the journey halfway across the Mediterranean for it. But on this occasion Gregory had a bit of a problem: two bishops of Osona turned up. Gregory’s reaction is depicted below:

Gregory V rolling his eyes (not contemporary, or even related)

For some time, you see, in fact ever since the last time but one a Bishop of Osona had come out to Rome for approval, the succession to that see had been disputed. Ató, who may have been made an archbishop, even (he wasn’t—but I haven’t managed to get that published yet), in 970, was murdered almost as soon as he arrived home, and after a long and troubled rule so was his successor Fruià, at the behest of one Guadall, a member of the Viscounts of Osona’s family, who then took the episcopal throne for himself. He had the backing of Count Ermengol I of Urgell (whose business it was precisely none of) but not of the Count of Osona, and also of Barcelona and Girona, Ermengol’s brother Ramon Borrell. (You see, this is what happens when a father isn’t around to keep an eye on his kids…) Ramon Borrell favoured one Arnulf, also a member of that same family, but previously Abbot of Sant Feliu de Girona and generally in Ramon Borrell’s following. So, cousin versus cousin backed by brother versus brother: with unusual maturity, they all sailed to Rome in 998 and made it Gregory’s job to decide. Arnulf called Guadall a murderer; Guadall denied it and called Arnulf a usurper. One count on each side. No immediately obvious solution…

How we know Gregory V was a wise man: he didn’t even try to find out who was right and who was wrong by going into the tangled and messy history of the case. Instead, he organised a near-solid day of prayer in the Lateran palace (the popes not yet being in the Vatican), at the end of which, with everyone giddy with incense and overwhelming ceremony, he then declared the whole embassy excommunicate till they could decide who was bishop. Thus cut off from food and their beds (because if there’s one place where you can expect a papal excommunication to be enforced, it’s the pope’s palace, right?) it wasn’t long before the gathering all pointed the fingers of accusation at Guadall, who was duly degraded, his robes being ceremonially torn off him by papal attendants, leaving Arnulf bishop in a way that no-one was going to be able to deny later.

I have always been quite impressed with Gregory V for this.

The Bull from which I fairly freely derive this, though the essentials are there, is edited in E. Junyent (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic, segles IX-X, ed. R. Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), no 624, and Harald Zimmermann (ed.), Papsturkunden 896-1046, Veröffentlichungen der Historischen Kommission 3-5, Denkschriften (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse) 174, 177 & 198 (Wien 1984-1989), no. 357; an older edition with facsimiles is P. Kehr, Die ältesten Papsturkunden Spaniens, erläutert und reproduziert, Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jahrgang 1926, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Nr. 2 (Berlin 1926), doc. VII. The Bull was taken to Rome for restoration in 1927, which made it a good deal more legible, as can be told from the resultant facsimile edition, Pontificum Romanorum Diplomata Papyracea quae Supersunt in Tabulariis Hispaniae Italiae Germaniae phototypice expressa iussu Pii PP. XI (Roma 1929), where this one is no. X. On Ató, until I manage to get my paper out, you would have to see Ramon Martí, “Delà, Cesari i Ató, primers arquebisbes dels comptes-prínceps de Barcelona (951-953/981)” in Analecta Sacra Tarraconensia Vol. 67 (Tarragona 1994), pp. 369-386, and on the murderous Guadall and family, Manuel Rovira i Solà, “Noves dades sobre els primers vescomtes d’Osona-Cardona” in Ausa Vol. 9 (Vic 1981), pp. 249-260, online here, last modified 20the November 2001 as of 30th December 2007, at pp. 151-3 & 155.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s