Deo militans: career options in thirteenth-century Vic

I have told quite a few people to work on the records at Vic since I got shown round the archive there on my visit of a few years ago, because they have rooms and rooms of well-preserved documents in the Arxiu Capitular that no-one seems to be using—marriage registers from fourteenth century to present day, for example—and a very friendly, if limited, staff. But I just met a good example that seemed worth repeating the point for, and even though it be way out my period that just puts it within that of others. (It seems, after all, that you might not be alone.)

Sal·la Verdaguer, Arxiu Capitular i Biblioteca Episcopal de Vic

Sal·la Verdaguer, Arxiu Capitular i Biblioteca Episcopal de Vic

In 1184, or so I read in an article about the giving of children to become members of monasteries by José Orlandis, one Guillem was placed with the canonry of the cathedral of Vic by his parents, Pere Gros and Adelaide.1 These kind parents, despite abandoning their child to clerics for their own spiritual welfare (“pro redemptione animarum nostrarum“—you can tell it’s late because the gender agrees), wanted to leave his options at least slightly open. You see, it was agreed with the bishop, also Pere, that these three, including the child, would hold the estate that the parents had given half of along with the child to support him, along with half of a vine-trellis somewhere else that the bishop gave as a sweetener, under the proviso that the child would join the canonry and when the last of them died all this property would become wholly the cathedral’s. Until then, the bishop was actually paying out to get this stuff. Unless, when young Guillem came of legal age (which would be 14 in this area, here phrased as ‘the age of discretion’ which I love) he had a change of heart:

And if the same Guillem shall have abandoned clerical orders and taken up the military habit let him hold the aforesaid gift after the death of the father and his mother for the whole of his life and after his own death let it revert to the oft-said canonry without any impediment.

This is not, as Orlandis makes clear, usual: firstly, the state of the canon law of the time was pretty much that the child got no say in the matter because once you’re God’s you can’t be less than God’s.2 But, secondly, even in what a count of some years before had been quoted as calling “this military age”, the callings of priest and soldier were not so equivalent for most that one could hold God’s lands for being the latter instead of the former.3 But for two men called Pere in the waning of the twelfth century, it seems to have been close enough. And the document that tells you about it is there, not even wholly published, along with who knows what else. More people should look.

1. J. Orlandis Rovira, “Notas sobre la ‘oblatio puerorum’ en los siglos XI y XII” in Anuario de Historia del Derecho Español Vol. 31 (Madrid 1961), pp. 163-174, repr. in Orlandis, Estudios sobre instituciones monásticas medievales (Pamplona 1971), pp. 203-215, at pp. 213-214 of the reprint. The document, cited ibid. p. 214 n. 21, is there given as “Archivo Capitular de Vich, cajón F, paquete de pergaminos núm 2, carta partida de ABC de Kals, de abril de 1184″, which would now need translating into Catalan. Orlandis gave a partial text as follows:

ego Petrus Gros et uxor mea Adaledis offerimus domino Deo et Sancto Petro Ausonensis sedis filium nostrum Guillelmum ut deo annuente in eadem ecclesia omnipotenti Deo valeat servire et cum ad annos discretionis pervenerit ad sacros ordines accedere non recuset et cum ipso Guillelmo filio nostro pro redemptione animarum nostrarum damus et in presenti tradimus canonice eiusdem ecclesie Sancti Petri alodium de Senata… medietatem scilicet totius ipsius alodii… Quapropter ego Petrus, Dei gratia ausonensis episcopus et universalis canonicurum [sic] conventus recipimus eundem Guillelmum in fratrem et canonicum nostre ecclesie et damus tibi iamdicto Petro Gros et uxori tue et medietatem illius trilie que est in parrochia sancte Eugenie apud rocham in loco vocitato Montezels… Tali conditione quod vos tres teneatis supradictum donum in omni vita vestra per beneficium ausonensis ecclesiae… totum ad ad obitum illius qui ultimus ex vobis tribus obierit totum predictum donum revertatur in ius et proprietatem canonice… Et si idem Guillelmus clericatum dimiserit et militarem habitum sumpserit teneat predictum donum post hobitum patris et matris sue in toda vita sua et ad illius hobitum revertatur sepedicte canonice sine impedimento aliquo.

2. Orlandis, “Notas”, pp. 205-206 of the reprint or for more detail, idem, “La oblación de niños a los monasterios de la España visigótica” in Yermo: Cuadernos de historia y de espiritualidade monásticas Vol. 1 (El Paular 1963), pp. 34-47, repr. in idem, Estudios sobre instituciones monásticas, pp. 51-68.

3. The count is Borrell II, and the charter is edited in 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. 127: “… hujus militie seculi…“.

4 responses to “Deo militans: career options in thirteenth-century Vic

  1. highlyeccentric

    Oh, neat! I wonder what young Guillem ended up doing…

  2. Julia Barrow

    Handing over boys to become clerics wasn’t as final as giving children as oblates to become monks or nuns. Guillem would have been tonsured on entry into the canonry, but that was reversible if necessary. Presumably the idea was that he would put off taking minor orders until he was old enough to have a clearer idea of what he wanted. There were however occasional instances where clergy who had advanced quite far in grades of ordination were allowed special licence to return to the world to get married in order to prevent dynasties from dying out. And in the case of secular canonesses leaving the community to get married was possible, except for the head of the community, who had to stay put.

  3. Seeing as I’m answering in one thread, let’s get everyone answered… The canonry of Vic was perhaps unusually worldly at this stage of its history—Paul Freedman’s book is about exactly this. However, in the case of Guillem we don’t have to guess, or at least, it would probably be possible to find out. Given that he was holding Church property, one way or the other he’s almost certain to recur in Vic’s documents in his later life and those documents are probably still there. Nothing that late from there has been systematically published, so one would have to go there and look. But I think one could probably actually find out what happened to young Guillem, unless he just died unexpectedly. It’s the kind of project this archive is made for, indeed.

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