Where the teachers lived

Here is an odd little case. Let me quote some document at you:

In the name of Christ and the individual Trinity. I the senior Galí, and my wife Bella, together with our collective neighbourhood [‘cum cuncta nostra vicinitate’] who dwell at the castle of Erdao, that is: Albino Bradilans with all his kindred [parentela], and Oriol with all his kindred, and Albino magister with all his kindred, and Rather magister with all his kindred, and Oliba with all his kindred, and Maiol and Salamó with their kindreds, and Daco with his kindred, and Galindo and Asner with their kindreds, and Ermeniscle and Miró with their kindreds, and Albino and Centoll with their kindreds, and Centoll the priest with all his kindred. We the above-written with all our neighbourhood, as much greater as lesser, as much noble as ignoble, all together equally, by one will, to you Abbot Galí, and to your brother Ató, we do make a charter or affirmation [firmitatem] of our churches or of everything that pertains to the selfsame churches, in lands, in vines, in houses, in buildings, in orchards, in gardens, in trees, in rivers, in mountains, in meadows, in pastures, cultivated and uncultivated, in mountain as much as valley, as much that by which it is today augmented as that we shall now be able to further add to the name of the selfsame churches…. The selfsame half do we transfer into your dominion, so that you may do what you wish or judge good with it. And the other half we give to you, so that you may build it and guard it, and from the uncleared waste make to bring it fruitful into cultivation or into the monastic service. Therefore on account of this do we make this donation, so that we the above-named or our gathered lineages [generaciones], as much living as dead, may find consolation or mitigation in this world, and in the future may possess life eternal; both we and our ancestors [parentes], who have passed on from this world who began and dedicated these churches….1

There’s so much going on here I hardly know what to point at: all the terms for kinship, the almost unparallelled evocation of all the family of each head of household (as I assume them to be) and the general all-hands inclusiveness; the priest who is apparently such a household head; a community chief called a senior, which I think here genuinely could be translated as `chief’; and the community development efforts that have apparently proved too hard and are now being outsourced to the monastery (the monastery in question being Santa Maria d’Obarra). Also, the singsong repetitive style, which is not unusual but quite pronounced. But the thing that struck me first of all from the report of Barbero and Vigil (yes, I’m afraid it’s another post based on that book) was not, as they might have wished, the all-inclusive nature of the witnessing (though, fair enough, and though I have seen the like, where I saw it those people did not retain their independence of action in this way), but the third and fourth named participants, “Albinus” and “Raterus” magistri.2

View of the route up to San Saturnino de Erdao as it now stands, perhaps the church that Obarra had built...

View of the route up to San Saturnino de Erdao as it now stands, perhaps the church that Obarra had built...

Okay you two, own up. You’re not locals are you? Albinus reminds me of Alcuin of York, Charlemagne’s tutor, who used it as a nickname for himself, what might be significant for a schoolmaster; but on the other hand there are two others of that name here so maybe it just has an odd local popularity. Rather, however, is a different story. The only famous Rather I can think of is the tenth-century Bishop of Verona and he was a Frank. Seems unlikely that he is being referred to here but I am suspicious, all the same, of these schoolmasters’ origins. Now if they were immigrant Franks, in Aragón (or, if you’re looking at the right point, Catalonia; Erdao is in Ribagorza, which has passed from the other to the one over time), they’re behind the times. This is 1018, and the Franks haven’t been in charge here since 872. But this is maybe, just, the reform movement in action and new people are arriving and trying to change the world through education? If so they’ve settled in quickly: note that both already have parentelae, kingroups… So I am confused, but suspect that formula may have outweighed reality in their cases.

I am however considerably more exercised by a more important question: where’s the school? This document hails from the monastery of San Martín de Obarra, but I don’t know of any evidence that these guys were based there. They don’t turn up again in this charter corpus. A few other magistri do, and one of them is very helpfully qualified as ‘Bradilano magistro de Rota‘.3 Now in this context, Rota must be Roda de Isavena, the capital of Ribagorza, where there had recently been refounded a bishopric. So it doesn’t seem to be going too far to call Bradila a teacher of the cathedral school, which is the kind of thing we don’t often see: but what is he doing witnessing a sale of land at Recons to Santa Maria d’Obarra?

Santa Maria d'Obarra, Ribagorza, seen from the apsed end; image from the Catalan Wikipedia

Santa Maria d'Obarra, Ribagorza, seen from the apsed end; image from the Catalan Wikipedia

Well, one answer might be that these transactions were done at the cathedral. That would have some parallels elsewhere, but it doesn’t explain why he then only turns up once; you would expect that to be something that happened more than once if it happened at all.4 It seems much more likely to me that ceremonies of gift to Obarra were usually performed at Obarra, but if they were connected there, again, we ought to see these people frequently in this corpus, and none recur. Another answer therefore that allows us to include Albinus and Rather with their lack of obvious cathedral connections is that these masters actually lived near the lands concerned, with their families. But that has its own implications. No small Aragonese village has two schoolmasters in 1018; it doesn’t even have a school. One of them would be acceptable, maybe; every such person has to live somewhere, but one would expect them to be placed somewhere by the patronage of their employer. With two of them together I’d say that was a near certainty. What such community would accept two professionals working for someone else into their midst if they could avoid having to spare the surplus?

So I think their presence here entails that the land that they had belonged to some host institution. And I suspect that that means that Obarra was already here, perhaps indeed by the sort of pacts of pseudo-adoption that Barbero and Vigil go on to describe.5 So I think that by seeing this, as they did, as the handing over of rights to an outside power by a community that had until now otherwise retained a communal organisation, Barbero and Vigil missed something. Their picture of this self-governing community was too rosy; the monastery’s men were there and they were put there as part of a longer relationship to the house, which is presumably why it was Obarra to which the villagers gave their churches. At which rate, I wouldn’t be too happy concluding that the community chose its own senior, which rather removes the point our two scholars wanted this document to make…

1. Angel J. Martín Duque (ed.), Colección diplomática de Obarra (Zaragoza 1965), doc. no. 29, cited in Abilio Barbero & Marcelo Vigil, La Formación de feudalismo en la Península Ibérica 2nd edn. (Barcelona 1979), pp. 361-362.

2. Ibid. My case would be the Vall de Sant Joan de Ripoll, where the huge hearing includes almost as many women as men as if householder couples had been listed. Barbero and Vigil had their ideas about this hearing too, which will be covered in a future post, but for now, this will be Chapter 2 part 1 in the now very-nearly indexed Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (London forthcoming) by this Jonathan Jarrett guy, who I hear tell handed over the final text to the business editor only today and is now expecting actual publication early next year…

3. Martín, Colección doc. no. 16, other single-shot masters in docs no. 2 & 25. One is tempted to suggest they were on short-term placements, except that there being two here complicates that, especially if some were at the cathedral and others weren’t.

4. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, Chapter 2 part 2 and Chapter 3 part 3 has a few examples of transactions that, as can be deduced from their witnesses, were carried out at the cathedral of Sant Pere de Vic in Osona.

5. Barbero & Vigil, Formación, pp. 380-394.

3 responses to “Where the teachers lived

  1. Pingback: Quid plura? | "...und lass uns ruhig schlafen..."

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  3. Pingback: Leeds IMC Report for 2015, part 4 and final | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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