In Marca Hispanica XIX: a dead count’s church in the Barri Gòtic

I have two more posts in draft from the April trip to Catalonia after this one, but I’m waiting on materials from other people before I can write them, so after this I shall go back to interspersing my own thoughts with seminar and conference reports, which is after all what many of you come here for. For now, however, I’ll share with you the other fruits of a trip into Barcelona on the last day of the trip. The first time I went to Barcelona, I saw a lot of things but they did not include Sant Pau del Camp, a rather special Romanesque church tucked away right behind the Rambla del Raval. They should have done, as it comes closest of all of Barcelona’s remains other than one doorway in the Palau Comtal to touching my period. The reason, here again, is a funerary stone, but first let’s introduce the place.

Sant Pau del Camp, Barcelona, in scaffolding shroud, from the nearby walkway

Sant Pau del Camp, in scaffolding shroud, from the nearby walkway

You will observe that I didn’t catch it at its best, but happily the entrance redeems the trip there, fittingly enough.

Timpanum and surround of portal at Sant Pau del Camp, Barcelona

Timpanum and surround of portal

When looking more closely at that lintel, too, I at least became suspicious that it doesn’t belong with the building it’s now in; that script is not really late Romanesque, surely, and so on. Also, what is that dedication doing on a church called Sant Pau? (Saint Paul, for the non Catalanolexic among you.) And, indeed, it turns out that some of the ornament here around the portal is basically what’s left of the first church here, which was presumably SS Pere i Pau, Peter being elbowed out in the rebuild after the sack of Barcelona in 985. This may have taken some time, because what’s now standing around the portal is eleventh- or twelfth-century, or so thinks Antoni Pladevall which, on this as on so many other things, will do for me.1

Timpanum at Sant Pau del Camp

Timpanum in close-up

There is also, however, another sign that this site has been in use longer than the building now on it, because just inside the building, in what is apparently a fourteenth-century chapter-house, we find this:

Funerary inscription of Count-Marquis Guifré II Borrell of Barcelona (898-911)

Funerary inscription of Count-Marquis Guifré II Borrell of Barcelona (898-911), linked through to a treated version if you want to try reading it

And this is the funerary stone of Guifré the Hairy’s eldest son, Guifré Borrell, who succeeded him as Count of Barcelona, Girona and Osona. He has become a bit of a footnote to history, because although he was the first of this family to take the title Marquis, the last Count of Barcelona to go north in person to recognise a Carolingian king and possibly the first to strike coin, he also had no sons, only daughter, and so was succeeded by his younger brother Sunyer who made himself (a) a lot more famous and (b) ancestor of the comital line for the next few hundred years.2 Guifré Borrell was nonetheless not a useless ruler, and he appears to be have been a bit more focused on his leading city, hence his choice to be buried here, a choice which few of the rest of his family emulated.3

Light and darkness inside Sant Pau del Camp

Lights and darkness inside

Now the standing church is a lot newer than the stone, and the actual location of Guifré Borrell’s grave is not known, but stepping into the nave from the joyful sounds of skateboarders and allotment digging just outside causes one almost immediately to forget such things. It is so quiet and tranquil. I took numerous photoes of the inside, but the light was poor and very few of them came out as well as the ones already online at Sacred Destinations or indeed Wikimedia Commons. I will however share just a couple from the cloister, because this church was apparently a very small self-contained monastery and it is beautifully preserved. Look at these and marvel, not at my photography which was as ever very much of the spot it, line up and click variety, but at the carving and its freshness even today. It is such a little place and all this is packed into a few tens of square meters. I was there for a while just gawping.

Lobed arcades in the cloister of Sant Pau del Camp

Capitals showing harpies – or angels? – in the cloister of Sant Paul del Camp

This was the only church in the whole trip that I visited where someone charged me (or at least, respectfully and firmly suggested that a donation was necessary) to go in, and I have absolutely no quarrel with how this money will be spent.4 Go and have a look, it is marvellous. (And I’d like to dedicate this post to Shane Bobrycki, if he’s reading, who told me to go here and without whose urging I might not have.)

1. For once I have not run straight to the Catalunya Romànica for references in this post, because I am currently kept from the library by welcome commitments, but on the course of the trip, in the same foray into Costa Llibreter in Vic that I already mentioned I was also unable to resist a nice copy of Antoni Pladevall’s & Francesc Català Roca’s El Monestirs Catalans, 4th edn. (Barcelona 1978), which, if I tell you that Català was the photographer, you will understand is substantially an art book (and it is substantial, and the photoes well worth the credit). Nonetheless, Pladevall contributes his usual high standard of learning, they cover Sant Pau pp. 204-207 and I don’t actually know that there’s any more substantial treatment of the place, so that’s what I’m running off here. That said, the early dating for the portal ornament I found on Sacred Destinations, though as I say I think it’s clear from the script and dedication that the timpanum does not belong to the rest of the structure.

2. Sunyer has the somewhat surprising qualification of an Arabic by-name: Ibn Hayyān, writing in the eleventh century with the aid of documents from Córdoba, knew him as al-Mundhir, `the Magnificent’, and Ibn Khaldūn, three centuries later, reckoned him King of Barcelona and Tarragona. He also had a range of military successes, but the references are again almost all in Arabic sources; they’re collected by Dolors Bramon in her De quan érem o no musulmans: textos del 713 al 1000. Continuació de l’obra de J. M. Millàs i Vallicrosa (Vic 2000), pp. 306-312, but as far as I know despite his importance there’s no actual study of Sunyer beyond the now-ageing Prosper Bofarull y Mascaró, Los condes de Barcelona vindicados, y cronología y genealogía de los reyes de España considerados como soberanos independientes de su marca (Barcelona 1836, repr. 1990), I pp. 64-138, which to be fair is still pretty useful. For Guifré II there is some attempt to update Bofarull (who covered him ibid., I pp. 47-63) in Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, “Un gran comte de Barcelona preterit: Guifré-Borrell (897-911)” in Cuadernos de Arqueología e Historia de la Ciudad de Barcelona Vol. 5 (Barcelona 1964), pp. 83-180, repr. in Miscellanea Barcinonensia Vol. 3 (Barcelona 1964), pp. 49-90 & in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i Documents XIII & XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), I, pp. 323-362.

3. Guifré the Hairy himself was buried in his foundation of Santa Maria de Ripoll, as were his sons Miró II the Young and Bishop Radulf of Urgell, his grandson Miró III Bonfill and a fair few more after that. Sunyer was buried at Notre Dame de la Grasse, where he ended up as a monk; no-one knows where Guifré’s other children were buried, I think. If there was a family mausoleum it was Ripoll but there was no effort to get some of the family there, to say the least. Borrell II, for example, was buried where he died at Castellciutat in Urgell.

4. There is, technically, a charge to see the older parts of the cathedral of Sant Pere de Vic, but, when I looked round briefly there was no-one there to take it so I just tipped Euros into a donation box instead.

21 responses to “In Marca Hispanica XIX: a dead count’s church in the Barri Gòtic

  1. Lovely! The monastic community there may have been small, but seems to have been somewhat influential among Catalonia’s Benedictine communities, to judge from some of the references I’ve encountered (albeit much later, in the 13th & 14th centuries).

  2. I am a modernist lurker. I need to go through your footnotes. And a few book catalogues. And talk to people I know IRL. However, I’d love a post on books in general. For a library which has NO books on or from the Iberian Peninsula published this century, and no specialized bibliographer / librarian, but which may now get megafunding: what should we not miss buying?

    • Phew, there’s a question. By way of questions to answer it, do you mean for the Middle Ages, or more widely? And are you restricted to English-language works or can some Iberian languages be included?

  3. I mean, for the Middle Ages, on the Iberian Peninsula, broadly interpreted (i.e. things that may touch on other parts of the Mediterranean world are good, too). In any language at all, but mostly: English, Castilian, Catalan, and Portuguese. Unless they are older books, written in older languages. We have no medieval Iberianist on staff here and I am reaching out to everyone I can think of, i.e. people I used to know in graduate school and who are now famous, and people I don’t know in person. We have not acquired anything published in or on Spain this century, so if it has a publication date from 2000 forward we definitely do not own it (and earlier holdings are weak, as well). We are interested in everything essential, and also in facsimile editions of old manuscripts and codices, new scholarly or new standard editions of books we may have acquired back when Menéndez Pidal was alive. To support work of students in BA and MA in Spanish and in History of Spain; also students doing PhDs in French and English which have to do with Spain; also the medievalist we hope to be able to hire one day if we at least have some books he or she can use.
    We’ve got a development blog now, and the bibliography page is here: .., you’ll see it’s very miscellaneous right now, which is OK, we will shape it up as we go. :-)

  4. Here’s a way to frame it: what 10+ books published in the 21st century should an honors undergraduate M.A. student focusing on medieval Spain know of and be able to see? Assuming they read English, Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan?

  5. I mean, honors undergraduate *or* M.A….

  6. P.S.! There’s a minor vita line in this for you! I can name you in the grant as someone we’re asking for help with our medieval bibliography, and that will strengthen it, and you can put it on your annual report, citing name of grant and so on! (And if funded, the number, that always looks so scientific and nice.)

    • I’m sorry to have stalled on this, but I have your mail and will answer it there. Thankyou for the blog link, that’s both stimulating and useful for noting what has already been suggested.

  7. Gracias! See updated blog, I’m listing you on it and in grant narrative, it will add cred!!! :-)

    • Even as you commented, I was typing and you should now have e-mail. I have just now realised I forgot to mention Jerrilyn Dodds’s Architecture and Ideology in Early Medieval Spain (Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press 1993), which is one of those books that does a lot more than its title suggests and would be a good addition to the list I already sent.

      Does anyone else want that list, by the way? If so I’ll make it into a post at some point…

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  11. Cullen Chandler

    Some building, isn’t it! I’m trying to find my photo of the funerary inscription from last winter.. or, no, winter before last (Jan-Feb 2011). Might try to use said photo for wider dissemination some time soon.

    • The church deserves better than I could get, what with the scaffolding! As for the inscription, well, that’s just a difficult thing to photograph but if one had a better camera than me or even just a tripod, it would certainly be possible to beat what I could do.

  12. As for the inscription, well, that’s just a difficult thing to photograph

    Amen, frontal illumination is the worst possible for inscriptions, that’s why there’s only a lateral shot in the wikimedia image set, the frontal ones were simply unusable without a lot of processing.

  13. Robert R. Calder

    I should have some photos of this building without its external shroud.
    Delighted to see yours. There was no access the only time I was able to look — but the outside was visible, and the context slightly alarming, notably the open area nearby which lots of men, not one woman, seemed to be walking around

    • Well, when I was there though all the immediately present citizens were indeed male, quite a number of them were also school-age and practising skateboard tricks. I wasn’t quite sure what Count Guifré might have made of it but it seemed OK, if obviously economically distressed, to me.

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