Working for San Salvatore I: making a polyptych

I seem to have taken the chance of the latter part of the Birmingham job to indulge in reading large amounts of primary material. First there was the cartulary of St-Pierre de Beaulieu, about which you’ve by now heard quite enough, for the paper about documents that predate their archives that I may some day finish, and then as I first wrote this, in May 2014, there had just been the polyptych of Santa Giulia di Brescia, which I was reading for the submission version of the paper about Carolingian crop-yields which I gave at Kalamazoo in 2011.1 The point I wanted to make with the former of these kind of disintegrated as I got into the material; it’s not clear that all the material that the monks of Beaulieu were assembling was actually theirs and far less of it is non-ecclesiastical than I had thought. There’s an interesting story to be told there (I should say, another one, as Jane Martindale already told one) but it’s not the one I wanted.2

Thesouth portal of St-Pierre de Beaulieu

One last picture of Beaulieu before we leave it for a few months… By Sjwells53 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

The Santa Giulia di Brescia polyptych has been far kinder, in as much as it serves my purpose perfectly: those scholars who have posited low crop yields using its figures have done so by what I can only call unthinking assumption that the figures are what they needed, and this is easily disproven.3 In fact, not only can one not show that the monastery’s estates were yielding less than was sown, as has been argued (nonsensically), in one or two cases it is clear that the yields must have been much higher, so it all works very well for me. But there is so much else one could do with this document, and in the paper I can’t, I have no space and it would be irrelevant and to do anything separate with it I would have to work through a mass of Italian historiography, Italian being a language with which I struggle, and probably then find out all this stuff was well-established anyway. But this is where a blog helps: I have to tell someone, so I shall tell you.

A corner of the cloister and the solar of Santa Giulia di Brescia

Santa Giulia has not made it through the ages quite as unchanged as Beaulieu

Let’s start at the beginning by explaining the word polyptych, perhaps not in the average person’s everyday vocabulary. This is a word scholars of the early Middle Ages use for one of the various large-scale estate surveys carried out by fiscal or ecclesiastical agents: these seem to start in the Carolingian Empire, though the techniques presumably weren’t new then, and they carry on being made well into the Middle Ages: Domesday Book could be argued to be the ultimate one and there’s a twelfth-century one from Catalonia I need to read some day, and so on.4 At the later end this category blurs into inventory, survey, census and so on, and it’s something of a term of art. It’s also not the word the texts use, which is almost always breve, though brief these texts are not. Anyway, Santa Giulia’s is quite late, probably dating to 906, and it’s out of area, being from North Italy, which would once have counted as Carolingian heartland but by this time not so much.

Polyptych of the Paris monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, Bibliothèque National de France, MS Latin 12832

This is not from the Brescia manuscript, which is not online as far as I can see, but from the 9th-century polyptych of the Paris monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, Bibliothèque National de France, MS Latin 12832, online at Gallica; this is fo. 8v.

We don’t have all of this text. The original manuscript survives, and it must be a fascinating thing though it’s quite hard to check since the shelfmark given by the best scholarly edition, which dates to 1979, seems now to have been reorganised out of existence and the Archivio di Stato di Milano, although they have been digitising their stuff since 2000, don’t actually, you know, have any of it online yet. The edition is good, however, and furthermore that has been competently digitised, so you can play along here. But the original would be more fun: as it survives it is apparently twelve big pieces of parchment sewn together top-to-bottom into a roll. One of these pieces is a later short bit acting as a replacement for the end of its predecessor, whose final lines apparently became almost-illegible, but otherwise we have the work of three scribes, two of whom write large chunks and could have been working independently, but the third of whom drops in for a few lines here and there not just within entries but within words of the second scribe’s work, so that they must have firstly been working together and secondly working with source texts. That was always likely, but it at least eliminates the possibility that the information was being written up ‘live’; you can’t really change scribes in the middle of a word if someone is standing there dictating it to you, you’d think.

The cloister of Santa Giulia di Brescia

Back to Santa Giulia’s rather post-medieval cloister

The information that they were receiving and recording was done to a pretty tight template. Interestingly, it’s less tight in some areas than others. The text opens in the middle of an entry, and most of the first few have become illegible, but once they’re not they’re in the Brescia area: after a while the scope moves out to properties nearer Bergamo, Modena, Cremona and Piacenza, and Modena especially is not in style. This seems partly to be because the second scribe thought some details were just too tedious, but in other cases it seems to be because the information hadn’t come in as expected: there are gaps left on the manuscript as if more were expected. Sometimes these gaps are very large, twenty-odd centimetres of unused parchment, suggesting that perhaps entire settlements hadn’t yet reported in when they started writing up and in fact never did, while at the end, after they’d got down to the properties that aren’t even land but just some people in Ivrea who sent them honey once a year, or similar,5 what seem to be extra estates from Brescia and Bergamo were added which had apparently been missed out earlier and whose returns therefore presumably came in late.

So we certainly don’t have a full inventory of Santa Giulia di Brescia’s property here (not least because it would still have been San Salvatore di Brescia in 906 I think) and the most obvious thing that’s missing is the monastery itself, which was at least mentioned somewhere in the text, as the scribes refer back to it as ‘the aforesaid monastery’, but in what we have is not mentioned at all.6 This suggests that what is now the first parchment probably wasn’t originally, and of course that means we don’t know how much is lost, especially as the twelfth parchment also breaks off in medias res. That unknown quantity is also the basis for the date of 906, which is not given in the text that we now have but which is recorded on the dorse of the roll, and which may therefore have once been in the missing part of the text. People have debated the palæography a lot and argued that this is anything from the original to a late-eleventh-century copy. Some of the land involved was only granted to the monastery by King Carloman in 879 so it’s younger than that, but the consensus seems to be that it could be 906, so it may as well be.7

Precept of King Carloman for Saint-Sauveur d'Atuyer, 883

Again, not the right manuscript, but the look is right and so is the dedication, this Carloman confirming the rights of Saint-Sauveur d’Atuyer in 883, from the inestimable Diplomata Karolinorum

Now, there are a whole range of things that interest me about this text, some of which will be their own posts, but let’s stick here with how they made it. As I say, the information is recorded to a template. Each estate is broken down by assets with the assets listed in the same order. Some estates didn’t have, for example, a spelt crop, but when there was a spelt crop it’s always tucked between the rye crop and the barley crop—not the only example, this—so there must somewhere have been a guide that said what order things should be listed in. There’s two ways that could happen, obviously: either the information came in more or less unsorted and the scribes arranged it according to a list in the office or else the template was actually used in the collection of the information. I think it must have been the latter, because there is as I say variation in the order around Modena. The scribes could obviously have fixed that if they were already reorganising data to a model. That they did not suggests that the model was used at record point, not at redaction point.

In other words, the monastery would have sent people out with a form to be filled in. For some reason this makes me terribly gleeful. It’s not that I have any great love for bureaucrats. It may be that I do love making lists of stuff, and it therefore reaches me inside to have good evidence of tenth-century people also making lists of stuff that were meant always to be in the same order and so on. But mainly I love it because this means it is possible to reverse-engineer the form they used, or at least something that would produce the same results. So by way of both showing you the kind of data we have and quite how bad my obsessive compulsion can get, you will find my version of that form, with one estate’s data entered into it, below the cut. For those of you slightly less keen on fine-grained (aha ha grain, sorry) agricultural demography, a seminar report will be along shortly…

So as I say this is a piece of reverse engineering. I don’t mean that the monks or their agents must have had a text that more or less matched this but in Latin: I have gone for a deliberately modern process flow and feel so that you the reader can see that what they were doing is like what we often do, but nonetheless I bet that their form was nothing like as wordy or as easy to use. All I am claiming therefore is that if you had this form, and were touring the estates of San Salvatore di Brescia in early spring 905 (a guess I’ll justify in another post), you’d get more or less the results that are in the polyptych. I have filled in the results from one of their actual estates so that you can see how the returns would have to have worked, too. It goes like this:

Santia Giulia di Brescia from the air
San Salvatore: your friend in Heaven!
Responsible slave-owner award, Pavia 901 & 904
“Man planteth, man watereth, but God giveth the increase.”


Please complete a copy of this form for every estate visited. N. B. where items listed are demesne items this must be stated! If an answer is `0′, leave blank.

a. Please tick one of the following options.
The property is in a:
Curtis  /   ; Vicus     ; City     .
b. Please give the name of the location:

Yes/No (please delete as applicable)
(If `yes, go to no. 3, if `no’ go to no. 7.)

If you answered `Yes’ to no. 2, please enumerate the property’s:
a. churches or chapels
b. altars (specify distribution between buildings)
(Now go to no. 4.)

If you answered `Yes’ to no. 2, please enumerate any of the following in the property, in the order gold, silver, pewter, bronze, other materials:
a. reliquaries
b. crosses
c. rings
d. chalices and patens
e. offertories
f. crowns8
g. thuribles
(Now go to no. 5.)

If you answered `Yes’ to no. 2, please enumerate any of the following in the property:
a. silk altar-cloths
b. wool altar-cloths
c. linen altar-cloths
d. other coverings (specify material)
e. liturgical clothing: planets, albs, dalmatics, stoles, maniples, corporals
f. other cloth items
(Now go to no. 6.)

If you answered `Yes’ to no. 2, please enumerate below all books in the property:

(Now go to no. 7.)

Please enumerate any of the following structures on the property
a. houses 1
b. solars
c. `caminatas’9 2
d. lean-tos
(Now go to no. 8.)

a. How many modia of grain are needed to sow the property’s arable?10 70
b. How many amphorae of wine can the property’s vines produce? 8
c. How many cartloads of hay can the property’s meadow produce? 8
d. How many pounds of oil can be got from the property’s olive-trees? (If there is a press in the property, please state its render in pounds of olives.)
e. How many pigs can be fattened in the property’s woodland?
f. If the answers to (d) and (e) are both `0′ but there are woods on the property please enumerate them as `unfruitful’ here:
(Now go to no. 9.)

How many prebendarii are there in the property? If possible specify no. of men, women, children: 5 men, 3 women, 7 children

(Now go to no. 10.)

When the inventory was taken, how much was there in store of the following:
(in modia)
a. corn? 10
b. rye? 20
c. spelt?
d. barley and oats? 20 (all barley)
e. legumes? 3
f. millet? 8
g. buckwheat? 10
h. panic?
i. other grains or vegetables (please specify)?
Please give a total of the above in modia:

j. wine (in amphorae and urns/conches)? 8
(Now go to no. 11.)

Please give the numbers of any of the following on the property:
a. stallions
b. colts
c. mares
d. fillies
e. oxen 6
f. cows
g. calves
h. asses 3
i. billy-goats
j. pigs 23
k. sheep 22
l. goats 10
m. geese
n. ducks
o. chickens 20
p. bees (no. of hives)
(Now go to no. 12.)

Please list any of the following in store at the property: honey (in minae), wool (in pounds), flax (in bundles), cheese (in whole cheeses or pounds weight), oil (in pounds weight).

(Now go to no. 13.)

How much is rendered from any of the following in the property? For b) to f), please enumerate.
a. pasturage (total render from use of all pastures)?
b. mills (please specify render in modia of grain)?
c. landing-places (please specify render in money of account)?
d. boats (please specify render in modia of salt and/or grain)?
e. fisheries (please specify render in fish)?
f. chestnut-groves (please specify render in pounds of chestnuts)?
g. mountains (please give total renders as per no. 14 below)?
(Now go to no. 14.)

In the following section, please break down the allotments and renders according to the following classes of person: i) tenants, ii) slaves, iii) indentures, iv) commended freemen, v) freedmen, vi) shepherds, vii) hillmen, viii) other freemen. If there are vacant lots please list these last. Please complete *one return for each of these groups*, as applicable, specifying the number of allotments and/or the number of persons and their *total* renders of the following:
Allotments:  2   On which resident:  2 freemen  
a. grain (in proportion of modia rendered or total in modia and sesters)  15
b. wine (in proportion rendered or total in amphorae and urns/conches)  3 amphorae 1 urn
c. hay (in cartloads)
d. chestnuts (in modia and sesters)
e. olives or oil (in pounds)
f. cheese (in whole cheeses or pounds by weight as applicable)
g. tea (in pounds)11
h. other produce (specify)
i. fish
j. silver (in money of account)
k. iron (in no. of finished tools (specify types) or pounds of pig-iron)
l. pigs
m. sheep  1
n. lambs
o. goats
p. chickens  3
q. eggs (NB if no quantity specified calculate 5 per chicken)  15
r. timber (in pounds)
s. rushlights
t. wool (in pounds)
u. flax (in bundles)
v. work: total days due per year or per week, unless obligations vary within group in which case give details)  30 works a year
w. other duties, e. g. messenger duty, carving, weaving
When all lots have been accounted for please give a total render according to the above categories:
15 modia grain, 3 amphorae and 1 urn wine, 1 sheep, 3 chickens, 15 eggs, 30 works a year
(Now go to no. 15)

If any of this property is separated as a benefice, please give the following information:
a. name and office of holder (present or most recent)
b. renders by allotment as per no. 14 above

I’ve picked a small estate here as the example partly just so that this doesn’t go for any longer, but it gives you the idea. Nowhere has all of the things on the form, but one or two estates come close. This post is already quite long enough, though, so I’ll talk about that variation in the next one.

1. Maximin Deloche (ed.), Cartulaire de l’Abbaye de Beaulieu (en Limousin) (Paris 1869); Gianfranco Pasquali (ed.), “S. Giulia di Brescia” in Andrea Castagnetti, Michele Luzzati, Pasquali & Giorgio Vasina, Inventari altomedievali di terre, coloni e redditi, Fonti per la Storia d’Italia 104 (Roma 1979), pp. 41-94; J. Jarrett, “Documents that Shouldn’t Survive: Preservation from before the Archive in Catalonia and Elsewhere”, paper presented in session ‘Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Diplomatic, II: Was It Filed or Was It Lost?’, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 7th July 2008; idem, “2:1 against: cereal yields in Carolingian Europe and the Brevium Exempla“, paper presented in session ‘The Court and the Courts in the Carolingian World’, 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies, University of West Michigan, Kalamazoo, 15 May 2011.

2. J. Martindale, “The Nun Immena and the Foundation of the Abbey of Beaulieu: a woman’s prospects in the Carolingian Church” in Diana Wood & W. J. Sheils (edd.), Women in the Church: papers read at the 1989 summer meeting and the 1990 winter meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, Studies in Church History Vol. 27 (Oxford 1990), pp. 27-42.

3. Georges Duby, Guerriers et paysans, VII-XIIe siècle : premier essor de l’économie européenne (Paris 1973), transl. Howard B. Clarke as The early growth of the European economy: warriors and peasants from the seventh to the twelfth century (London 1974), p. 28 of the translation:

“The Lombard monastery of St Guilia of Bréscia [sic], which consumed some 6,600 measures of grain annually, would have 9,000 sown to cover its needs, which means that the return normally available to the lord was being estimated at 1·7 to 1…”

Compare Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz & Richard Gerberding, Medieval Worlds: an introduction to European history, 300-1492 (Boston 2004), p. 162:

“By modern standards, Carolingian crop yields were abysmally low. Today a farmer can expect to reap between twenty-five to thirty berries of grain for every seed planted; a Carolingian farmer could expect from about two to four.”

They cite Duby’s book in their bibliography.

4. Wolfgang Metz, Das karolingische Reichsgut: eine verfassungs- und verwaltungsgeschichtliche Untersuchung (Berlin 1960), pp. 11-90 reviews the genre and argues for it as part of a royal programme, which I’m not sure we would credit any more. Most of the documents are now in more recent editions than he cites: J.-P. Devroey, Économie rurale et société dans l’Europe franque (VIe-IXe siècles). Tome I : fondements matériels, échanges et lien social (Paris 2003), gives some guidance to these. John Perceval, “The precursors of Domesday: Roman and Carolingian land registers” in Peter Sawyer (ed.), Domesday Book: a reassessment (London 1985), pp. 5-27 and Ralph H. C. Davies, “Domesday Book: continental parallels” in James Holt (ed.), Domesday Studies. Papers read at the Novocentenary Conference of the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of British Geographers, Winchester, 1986 (Woodbridge 1987), pp. 15-39, make the link to Domesday. The twelfth-century Catalan example is discussed in Anscari M. Mundó, “Domains and Rights of Sant Pere de Vilamajor (Catalonia): a Polyptych of c. 950 and c. 1060″ in Speculum Vol. 49 (Cambridge 1974), pp. 238-257, as well as more recent Catalan writing.

5. The honey-rendering freemen of Ivrea are in Pasquali, “S. Giulia di Brescia”, p. 93, but may not be as interesting as those at Como ibid. who rendered in silk, silk that was sold for a set price at Pavia, the monastery then presumably getting the revenue. Quite a lot of San Salvatore’s produce operations seem to have relied on ready and cheap access to shipping on the Po.

6. It is mentioned in the entry for Marcaria, ibid. p. 74.

7. ibid. pp. 49-50.

8. Coronas. All the chapels have at least one and often several. I’m thinking a kind of hanging candle-ring you could swing like an incense-burner, but would that be gold? I don’t think they can actually be crowns for wear, anyway…

9. This word has given me trouble. Niermeyer and Du Cange both think it is the root of the modern English ‘chimney’ and reckon it refers to a room with a fireplace. They are pretty determined that this room is part of another structure, and there are examples from Rome where it must be that. Sometimes, though, there are more of these than there are houses, and once they refer to ‘casas cum caminatas‘ as if the two were otherwise separable. Any thoughts would be welcome…

10. It’s hard to tell as it’s usually abbreviated, but the scribes here seem to have thought modius was a neuter noun, modium. I’ve followed their usage.

11. Seriously, I have no idea, and neither do Du Cange or Niermeyer. There is now a modern Latin word thea; which actually means ‘tea’ but that is something this just cannot be so early.

15 responses to “Working for San Salvatore I: making a polyptych

  1. In Italian, “camino” means “road”, doesn’t it? (In French, one has “chemin” for “road” and “chemin de fer” for railroad.) So, might “caminata” be “driveways”?

    What word does the document use that you are translating as “tea”? The word “tea” comes from Hokkien, the native language of many of my Chinese friends, but not all teas are camellia leaves and who knows whether the word is original to China or introduced from far afield. The Persians have been using rose infusions since year dot, and I’m quite confident that the medieval European monks (and ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Hittites, Babylonians, etc) were familiar with liquid herbal medicines.

    • I’m not translating it, the Latin is tea!

      As for the driveways, well, as far as my dictionaries cover it, Italian camino still means ‘fireplace’, ‘hearth’ (cf. French cheminée and of course English ‘chimney’), although there is also cammino, ‘path’, which is what you’re quite correctly picking up and of which, I suppose, the most famous example is the Camino de Santiago. I think that in this era I would expect the default term for road in Italian documents still to be via or strata, as it is in my Catalan stuff. Camino seems to be something smaller. Thus there’s also the problem (for either sense) that caminata is obviously a diminutive, ‘little camino‘, which makes a path seem hardly worth mentioning if it’s smaller even than usual; why does an estate surveyor care, what’s the revenue implication?

      Blimey. Saying that I suddenly wonder if the point is that these places have ovens…

  2. Yes (cat caminada) from , (cat caminar) = (eng) ‘to walk’ from/to (cat camí)= (eng) ‘way’, ‘route’.

  3. Allan McKinley

    On the tea, we do know what this was not, by the list of other products. Furthermore, it was not a principle bulk product such as grain or wine as it is measured in pounds not media or wagonloads. So logically we have to look for a reasonably normal by product of Italian estates which is not listed elsewhere.

    From a northern perspective the two products I can suggest which are obviously not on the list are honey and butter. Anyone know if these were normally rendered by Italian estates?

    • Honey is in the text, albeit not on the form; they got it rendered from some guys in Pavia in considerable bulk. Butter, however, is not there, you’re right, and nor is milk, come to that. I wouldn’t expect these to be rendered, though, because before refrigeration they wouldn’t ship too well except at winter (when there might be other problems moving stuff around in the lower Alps…). I suppose you could pack stuff in snow, but this begins to sound like a modern solution to a problem I rather expect the monastery solved by running its own dairy herd. I’m quite surprised they thought they could usefully transport eggs! Also, there’s only two or three estates rendering this tea, so it’s not a big menu item. I wonder if it’s some kind of herb. None of the ones I think of as obvious for Northern Italy have Latin forms anywhere near close, however.

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  6. To my reading ‘casas cum caminatas‘ only implies them to be separable in the sense of there being also casas that lack a caminata. Assuming there to be more than one room per house, it would be no problem to have more caminatas than houses.
    Therefore chimney, or German kamin, looks perfectly plausible.
    Admittedly not exactly the most up to date authority on this, but check Grimm’s dictionary on ‘kemenate’
    “1) mhd. kemenâte, mnd. kemenâde, ahd. cheminâta, aus mlat. caminata (scil. camera), eig. zimmer mit einem caminus, daher auch it. caminata saal, frz. aber cheminée rauchfang (engl. chimney).”

    • That works as it stands, but I find it difficult to encompass caminatas by themselves as things worth itemising if all they are is a chimney. I think some sort of dwelling or building must be implied, in which case the implication seems to be that a casa would not usually have a hearth, or at least one that qualified as some kind of construction. Again I wind up thinking of stoves or ovens… in which case I suppose the best translation wiuld be ‘bakehouse’ or something like that. But that is very definitely my own abstraction from the text rather than something it actually says!

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