Tag Archives: Barcelona

‘Cooked gold’ in tenth-century Barcelona coinage: a likely correction

One of the advantages of doing scholarship on the Internet, insofar as one can, is supposed to be that you can update and correct your work. Those who like this idea seem to believe that one would never put any of one’s projects down and move on, but be happy to update them forever, rendering them forever unreliable as citations, and in general you may guess that I don’t agree that this should be the future.1 All the same, sometimes one does find something that makes one’s work look likely to be wrong and then there seems little point in not using this outlet to make that public. The unlucky victim this time is my article, “Currency change in pre-millennial Catalonia: coinage, counts and economics” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 169 (London 2010 for 2009), pp. 217-243, and specifically the bit of it where I discuss a particular usage of the documents from around Barcelona in the late tenth century, prices given in auro cocto, ‘cooked gold’.2 Here’s what I said in the article:

“The use of bullion was becoming more common, and the increasing incidence of qualifications like ‘bono placibile’, and in the case of the foreign mancuses, ‘chocto’, literally ‘cooked’, ‘burnt’, suggest that its standard was frequently a matter of concern.

“The term ‘chocto’ is worth a brief digression. This apparent testing or melting may have been because of a variety in standards of the gold dinars that were reaching Barcelona from various mints in al-Andalus and, probably, beyond. The origin of individual dinars is only specified in later documents, when the bulk of coin in use must have been such that such testing would have been impractical. At this early stage foreign coins may have been converted on arrival into bullion of a known standard. It is hard to read the term ‘chocto’ as referring to anything other than melting; destructive assay methods would hardly have been used on so large a scale and would, in any case, have left no minted coin with which to pay the required price.62 It may therefore be that the coins were being reminted into local versions of the mancus.63 When the supply of Islamic mancuses began to dry up in 1020, a moneyer by the name of Bonhom began to mint local ones that circulated for many years.65 The paucity of finds of imported coin of an earlier period might be explained by such a practice.”

”    63 See A. Oddy, ‘Assaying in Antiquity” in Gold Bulletin 16 (1983), pp. 52-9. I am grateful to Marcus Phillips for bringing this useful paper to my attention.
”    64 On local manufacture of mancuses elewhere see L. Ilisch, “Die imitativen Solidi mancusi. ‘Arabische’ Goldmünzen der Karolingerzeit’ in R. Cunz (ed.), Fundamenta Historiae: Geschichte im Spiegel der Numismatik und ihrer Nachbarwissenschaften. Festschrift für Niklot Kluüßdorf zum 60. Geburtstag am 10. Februar 2004 (Hanover, 2004), pp. 91–106.
”    65 On the mancuses of Bonhom and Eneas, see [Anna M.] Balaguer, Història [de la moneda dels comtats catalans (Barcelona, 1999)], 53-5 and [Miquel Crusafont, Anna M. Balaguer and Philip Grierson, Medieval European Coinage, with a Catalogue of the Coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 6: the Iberian Peninsula (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 78-81]….”

This was a sticky bit when I wrote it and looking back now the problems are even more evident. Poor-standard coins should have been more concerning once there were more of them, so why would the people of Barcelona have adopted an expensive reminting process before that point but then abandoned it? I provided an answer to this but I don’t like it, and the fact that the Bonhom mancuses survive but my notional earlier ones don’t could be just coincidence—and this whole article was after all about coins we probably don’t have—but it doesn’t make the theory any more likely. Still, in the light of what I knew it seemed like a workable answer. But then, on New Year’s Eve 2014 (because I know how to have a good time) I was reading up on the scientific study of Byzantine gold coinage for the All That Glitters project, and I found Robert Halleux getting all Greek and quoting a papyrus that contains ancient instructions for the testing of gold, in French translation which I translate as follows:

“If you want to purify gold, melt it anew or heat it, and if it is pure it keeps the same colour after being put in the fire, pure like a piece of money. If it appears more white, it contains silver; if it appears ruddier and harder, it contains copper and tin; if it is black, but pliable, it contains lead.”3

Not content with that, Halleux then quotes a [Edit: thanks to Gary for the corrected source here]letterthe Natural History of Pliny the Younger as well: “aurique experimentum ignis et, ut simili colore rubeat ignescatque et ipsum”, which is an oddly-cut quote that makes me think M. Halleux’s Latin was perhaps not so smart as his Greek in 1985. His citation certainly wasn’t, as I can find no sign of this text in Pliny, but Part of it, however, appears to mean, “gold tested in flames, both so that it shines and burns with the same colour and…”.4 Whatever M. Halleux was actually quoting, This just seems much more likely to be what is going on in my documents, testing by fire in a non-destructive way rather than actually remelting. In that case, however, it seems much less likely that the coins would have been restruck, so the Bonhom mancuses probably were the first local ones made in Barcelona.

Gold mancus of Count-Marquis Ramon Berenguer I of Barcelona (1035-76)

The Bonhom mancuses are themselves vanishingly rare, however, and there seem to be no pictures of them on the web, so, here’s a slightly later Barcelona mancus struck under Count-Marquis Ramon Berenguer I of Barcelona (1035-76), from a Cayón sale of 2009

Admittedly we still have no more sign of the actual Andalusi mancuses in the area than we do my hypothetical ones, but at least we know that the Andalusi ones did exist and that the Barcelona documents were reacting to coins we have from elsewhere.5 I don’t think it does anything serious to my overall argument in my article, either, but this alternative reading of the ‘cooked gold’ in those documents is good reason to scotch what was always one of my weaker suggestions. So let it be noted, I disavow my old idea, and I now think that that ‘cooking’ was no more than a light flame-grilling to see what colour the coin turned.

1. Compare David Parry, “Burn the Boats/Books” and Jo Guldi, “Reinventing the Academic Journal”, both in Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt (edd.), Hacking the Academy: new approaches to scholarship and teaching from the digotal humanities (Ann Arbor 2013), pp. 15-18 and 19-24, both fixed texts of what were originally online presentations archived here, with Alex Sayf Cummings and Jonathan Jarrett, “Only Typing? Informal Writing, Blogging, and the Academy” in Kristen Nawrotzki & Jack Dougherty (edd.), Writing History in the Digital Age (Ann Arbor 2013), pp. 246-258.

2. J. Jarrett, “Currency change in pre-millennial Catalonia: coinage, counts and economics” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 169 (London 2010 for 2009), pp. 217-243 at pp. 234-235.

3. R. Halleux, “Méthodes d’essay et d’affinage des alliages aurifères dans l’Antiquité et au moyen âge” in Cécile Morrisson, Claude Brenot, Jean-Pierre Callu, Jean-Noël Barrandon, Jacques Poirier & Halleux, L’or monnayé I : purification et altérations de Rome à Byzance, Cahiers Ernest Babelon 2 (Paris 1985), pp. 39-77 at p. 40:
“Si vous voulez purifier l’or, fondez à nouveau ou chauffez, et s’il est pur il garde la même couleur après la mise au feu, pur comme une pièce de monnaie. S’il paraît plus blanc, il contient d’argent ; s’il paraît plus rude et plus dur, il contient du cuivre et de l’étain ; s’il est noir, mais mou, il contient du plomb.”

The text of reference here is Halleux’s own, R. Halleux (ed.), Papyrus de Leyden, papyrus de Stockholm : fragments de recettes. Texte établi et traduction (Paris 1981), within which the bit here cited is Papyrus Leyden X 43, but it ought also to be locatable in Earle Radcliffe Carey (trans.), “The Leyden papyrus X: an English translation with brief notes” in Journal of Chemical Education Vol. 3 (New York City 1926), pp. 1149-1166.

4. Halleux, “Méthodes d’essay”, p. 40, citing Pliny, Natural History XXXIII 59, which you can see for yourself with a slightly more comprehensible text here.

5. On the absence of actual mancuses in finds from Catalonia, see Miquel Barceló, “L’or d’al-Andalus circulant als comtats Catalans entre 967 i 1100: un or vist o no vist?” in J. M.Gurt & A. M. Balaguer (edd.), Symposium Numismatico de Barcelona I (Barcelona 1979), pp. 313-327; on the chronology of the documentary mentions see Pierre Bonnassie, “Nouveautés linguistiques et mutations économico-sociales dans la Catalogne des IXe-XIe siècles” in Michel Banniard (ed.), Langages et Peuples d’Europe : cristallisation des identités romanes et germanique. Colloque International organisé par le Centre d’Art et Civilisation Médiévale de Conques et l’Université de Toulouse-le-Mirail (Toulouse-Conques, juillet 1997), Méridiennes 5 (Toulouse 2002), pp. 47-66.

This post was written with the aid of The Bevis Frond’s White Numbers (Woronzow 2014), which has made it much more pleasant to pull together.

Liturgy, coins and buried saints in 870s Barcelona: Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona reexamined

I’m sorry as usual about the gap between posts here; my excuse this time, apart from the treadmill of lecture preparation (which is actually teaching me stuff and making me think, as subsequent blog will eventually show), is that this post actually required research, because not least I know that one of the regular readers has written around this topic and I wanted to make sure I knew what they’d said before I charged in. The background to this post is a conversation at the Ecclesiastical History Society conference in 2014, when people were encouraging me to come to next year’s meeting, whose theme was translation. Someone making the point that for the Ecclesiastical History Society that could as well include the ‘translation’ of saints’ relics from one site to another got me thinking about Saint Eulalie of Barcelona, and from there I was tempted to try and intervene in the messy but inescapable historiographical circle that seems to orbit her early medieval cult. In the end, I never did offer the paper, but I did a bit of reading around it and realised all the problems afresh, consulted some of the primary evidence and wanted to express my uncertainty about what people have written. That meant I had to read more of it and now, here we are and I’ve written what’s nearly a paper anyway. But let me explain the problem.

Crypt of Saint Eulalie in cathedral of Santes Creu i Eulàlia de Barcelona

Crypt of Santa Eulalia” by Bernard GagnonOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Saint Eulalie, to whom the cathedral of Barcelona is jointly dedicated and where her remains are held to rest in the very snazzy Gothic sarcophagus above, was supposedly martyred under the auspices of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, as are a great many martyrs whose stories are only known from much later. After suffering various and eventually lethal tortures her body was laid to rest in Santa Maria de les Arenes, which was subsequently rebuilt into the rather lovely Santa Maria del Mar, on which more in a future post. According to the narrative of Eulalie’s own translatio, her remains were hidden in 713 when the city was about to fall to the Muslims, and only recovered at some point before 878 (perhaps 877), when Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona and the visiting Archbishop Sigebod of Narbonne made a determined search which came up with nothing, and then Frodoí made a return visit and was divinely guided to the spot where her body was. She was duly moved to the bishop’s cathedral of Santa Creu, with a certain amount of difficulty eventually overcome, and now the cathedral is Santes Creu i Eulàlia.1 So far so conventional, right?

Interior of the cloister of Santes Creu & Eulàlia de Barcelona

Interior of the cloister of Santes Creu & Eulàlia de Barcelona

Now, the earliest manuscript of the translatio is fourteenth-century, and the ninth and tenth centuries are periods that just don’t generate saints’ lives from Catalonia as far as we know, so it is likely that this was written up rather later than the events, but there is some reason to believe at least the chronology of the story.2 Sigebod and Frodoí were contemporaries and a royal precept for Frodoí of 878 mentions the saint’s remains at the cathedral, the first text to do so.3 Frodoí had been bishop of Barcelona since at least 862 but Sigebod archbishop only since 873 so if that detail’s right the window is actually quite tight. The problem is Frodoí, and the translatio is tied into this problem. Now, if you can find anything to read about Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona (attested 862-890), it will probably say three things:

  1. he was a Frank appointed by Charles the Bald;
  2. that he found the body of Saint Eulalie;
  3. and that he oversaw the change of the liturgy in Barcelona from the old Hispanic rite of worship to the Gallo-Roman one favoured by the Franks.

It will, indeed, usually link all these things: he was appointed to deal with the liturgical independence, so needed to be a Frank, and this was so unpopular that we find him poking round Santa Maria de las Arenes looking for some way to increase his standing and show God’s backing for his plans.4

Diner de transició supposedly of Bishop Teodoric of Barcelona (904-922)

Diner de transició supposedly of Bishop Teodoric of Barcelona (904-922), according at least to Martí Hervera S. L. in 5 July 2011, but they have the supposed tomb the wrong way up and didn’t sell it, so what did they know?

The other thing that whatever you’re reading may also say is that Frodoí was responsible for the beginning of independent minting in Barcelona. This also winds up being connected, because the reason that the particular coin type in question is assigned to him is that it may (or may not) show the tomb of Saint Eulalie.5 There at least we have the coins, and we also have a concession to his see of the right from King Louis II (877-879), though many such concessions exist that we can’t show were ever used.6 But for the first three points, and particularly the first and third, evidence is really very hard to find, and without them the basic interpretation of the second, in its fourteenth-century post facto write-up, becomes very shaky indeed. There is one key piece of evidence that is usually dragged into this, the records of a council at Attigny in 874 at which Frodoí and his see were most of the business dealt with, but if you look at it without these preconceptions it’s not at all clear to me that it supports this case, as I’ll show below.7 Instead, all of the suppositions cling to each other for mutual support but lack a solid footing. I started into this post because I’d just re-read the Attigny record and realised this afresh, but if I want you to believe my scepticism I need to tackle points (1) and (3) first, and I might as well also set out my stall about the coinage as I go.

The Palais de Charlemagne at Attigny

Lacking a more relevant image. I searched for the palace of Attigny and it turns out firstly that something survives called that, and secondly it was built in the sixteenth century but looks weirdly like whoever built it knew the Lorsch Torhalle. Doesn’t it? I guess, with no knowledge, that this is a rebuild of a palace gatehouse from before people could remember… “Palais de Charlemagne d’Attigny” by Adri08Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

So, was he Frankish? The only evidence for this that is ever adduced is his name, which is basically unparalleled in Catalonia. “On devine dejà par son nom qu’il était originaire d’une région germanique de l’empire”, wrote Anscarí Mundó without citation in 1971, for example.8 This is a dangerous thing to say from a local context; it may not look like a local name, sure, but that doesn’t tell you where it is from. But these days, we can check this thanks to the Nomen et Gens project. As it happens, they lump the name in under Chrodoin and have no cases of it spelt with an initial F. They have 65 cases of it spelt otherwise, but almost all of them are from Wissembourg, only two not and those two are someone acting as a scribe for a royal charter at the same sort of time, end of the seventh and beginning of the eighth centuries. The Wissembourg occurrences also feature a number of scribal appearances as notarius and so on, and so there is at least a starting possibility that these are in fact all the same guy.9 Even if not, it’s obviously not a common name anywhere as far as we can tell except maybe the modern Saarland two centuries before our bishop comes to notice, and he spells and pronounces it differently. So I’m calling suspicion on that conclusion; we obviously can’t say where Frodoí was from, we can’t even say where his name was from but if we could that wouldn’t prove anything, and while he did have dealings with Charles the Bald and his son Louis the Stammerer, so might any bishop of their kingdom have during the messy civil war of the era, in which Barcelona, famously (at least for old readers here) and unlike more ‘Germanic’ areas closer to the court, stayed loyal to the kings. So while I don’t say that Frodoí wasn’t a Frankish reformer, the evidence is weak apart unless we allow the liturgical change to be part of it.

Then, because I want to do the liturgy last, the coinage. This is pinned to Frodoí by the so-called tomb of Saint Eulalie—but if that’s what that symbol really is it would also work for any bishop of Barcelona after him (like Teodoric above). King Charles the Bald (840-877) had reformed the coinage of the West in 864 and this seems not to have been carried out in Catalonia, suggesting to some that they were already doing their own thing, but that still doesn’t mean that they had to start their own at the reform date; perhaps they just weren’t minting at Barcelona in 864 and when they resumed, perhaps in the 890s, Charles’s specifications were a dead letter.10 So the reasons to suppose they’re Frodoí’s are basically his association with Saint Eulalie, which his successors would have shared, and that assuming that that is what that coin shows, and that otherwise Barcelona would have had no coin in production, which is just horror vacui. Furthermore, if these coins are Frodoí’s, it messes somewhat with point 1, because they show him ignoring royal instructions rather than carrying them out despite opposition, and this from a man who would visit the Carolingian court at least twice more thereafter. So I do think, on balance, that they are more likely to be later.11

Crypt of Santa Eulàlia de Barcelona

A different shot of the crypt, this one chosen because you can just see the supposed original tomb in it, because it is stashed at the back of the crypt, here just visible between the pillars of the Gothic one in which the saint now resides. the crypt is kept locked and this is as good a camera angle as one can get on it, I know having tried. It’s really frustrating. This photo is by vinpet942 on Panoramio and used under their Creative Commons license.

So the translatio and the liturgical change are the crucial diad that anchors the rest of this, and you’ve seen what the evidence for the translatio is: a fourteenth-century copy of a text maybe little earlier (since it regards the cult as well established) which has some details in it that look right but could have come from the 878 charter. It’s not implausible but it’s not a lot and it certainly doesn’t mention liturgical reform. So what’s the evidence for that? Well, all too often it is just that Frodoí was a Frankish royal appointment and therefore must have danced to the conformist tunes of the Carolingian cultural project, but as we’ve seen the evidence for that is non-existent, if those coins are his he seems to have been willing to ignore royal legislation when it suited him and anyway we no longer believe so fervently in uniformity as a goal of the Carolingian project anyway.12 One other thing that has been linked is an apparent rebuild of part of the old cathedral of Barcelona at around this time, but although that could be significant it is also circular: the evidence for dating the works to Frodoí’s rule is that we ‘know’ he was instrumental in changing the liturgy, so we can’t really then use the cathedral works as proof that he did so!13 Is there nothing better? And to this, those who know this area will probably already be saying: of course there is, there’s the synod of Attigny in 874! And indeed there is, so let’s have a look at it. It survives as a capitulary, so it’s already conveniently in sections which can be summarised.14

  1. Bishop Frodoí reports that a Cordoban priest called Tirs has set up shop in a church, within the Barcelona city walls but without episcopal authorisation, and managed to appropriate two parts of the city’s tithe from the congregation he’s attracted; here are a whole bunch of canon law citations and cites from the laws of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious about how this is wrong (which actually comprise two-thirds of the document); since it’s a long way and dangerous to bring these people from the March (even though Frodoí had made it, but moving on), King Charles delegates dealing with this to his marquis in the area.
  2. Frodoí also demands that he should get back the ministry of the castle of Terrassa, which ‘by the insolence of the priest’ (presumably still Tirs) has been acquired by ‘the faction of Baió’; there are several council rulings about why that’s wrong too.
  3. Lastly, Frodoí also reports that a Goth called Madeix has taken over the church of Sant Esteve in Barcelona and turned it over to the ‘conversation of rustics’ and another Goth called Requesèn has grabbed the field of Santa Eulàlia, and both of them claim they have these things by royal precepts; the king thus being implicated, he sends missi to investigate this and they are to send a report to the court; if it turns out that these Goths do in fact hold by royal grant, then those grants are to be sealed and sent back to the king too, and examined according to the law so that he can see how they lied to get them and cancel it.

And that’s it. Now, do you see anything about liturgy in there? I mean, it is clear that Frodoí has problems; large parts of his congregation would rather go and listen to some fly-by-night from the south, who seems to be able to reorganise ecclesiastical property at whim, while Frodoí’s church’s property is being nibbled at by people who seem at least to have royal connections, but, even if I put the full text in here you’d see nothing about liturgy.

Now, it may be that liturgy is implied: it has been correctly observed that a priest from Córdoba at this time would be trained in the Hispanic rite still, and maybe this is why he had such an attraction to Frodoí’s flock, but if so in this lengthy complaint about all the things he was doing wrong, it never comes up; instead, his independent operation in the face of the diocesan bishop’s authority is the be-all and end-all of the ruling, some of which is actually supported from Visigothic councils! The other hidden factor that may be here is that Terrassa had once had a bishopric of its own, at Egara, swallowed into Barcelona by the Frankish reorganisation. This gives some context as to how a priest could set up there, presumably in the late antique complex of Sant Pere, Santa Maria and Sant Miquel de Terrassa below, and defy a bishop; but Tirs was working inside Barcelona, where it seems decently obvious Frodoí had almost no power, so while it’s likely that that’s in there somewhere, it’s not clear how.

What we can safely say from this document, then, is that in 874, very few people in Barcelona were willing to listen to their bishop, and were entertaining alternatives; it may be that that is because he was forcing upon them an unpopular but apparently somewhat delayed change of liturgy, but if so that isn’t what he asks for help with; it may because he was a foreigner, and ‘Goths’ do seem to be part of the problem, but Tirs was presumably hardly less so and you know what I think Goths are here anyway.15

Panoramic view of the three churches of Egara at Terrassa.

Panoramic view of the three churches of Egara at Terrassa. “Egara. Conjunt episcopal” by Oliver-BonjochOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

So, really, you have already to believe that liturgy was an issue for Frodoí’s episcopate before you can see it here. So what is the basis for believing that there was a Carolingian attack on the Hispanic liturgy? Good question, to which the answer is basically that that liturgy goes away. There is no legislation against it as such, and in fact really no texts that mention it other than booklists. Now, from those, you can do something: the late Anscarí Mundó long ago argued, from the manuscripts he knew so well but cited so rarely, that the window of change is 785xc. 1000. He thought it was probably early in that window, by reason of it being unlikely that any imported personnel would know or use the Hispanic liturgy, so that with the steady replacement of local priests by immigrant ones or ones trained by the cathedrals of immigrant bishops, the Hispanic liturgy would be less and less used, and he listed the immigrant bishops and observed a near-total dropout of evidence for the copying of texts of the Hispanic liturgy over the ninth century.16

This all makes sense to me, and it is also roughly how I think charter formulae were changed, but where I differ from Mundó is in how much compulsion I think was involved and how total this replacement was. Booklists of course tend to be in the wills of people who had lots of stuff, and it’s at the lower levels that I think we see more interesting things. For example, do you remember my writing about Bishop Nantigis of Urgell and the non-heretical priest Adeudat, who in 901 had an ordo toletanum, a Toledan priest’s service-book, to give to his church at Guils de Cantó? It’s among a bunch of other service books which would probably have been Latin rite, but nonetheless he passed it on and Bishop Nantigis didn’t stop him doing so.17 This far out, having a priest who was able to carry out the ministry at all was probably more important than exactly which service they used. Probably in most cathedrals or old mother churches there would have been a copy, probably increasingly battered and hard to replace, for the rare occasions when the priests from there officiated at such places. And that’s in the early tenth century, pace Mundó.

Part of a leaf from a Hispanic-rite breviary from fourteenth-century Toledo, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 10110, fo 2r

Part of a leaf from a Hispanic-rite breviary from fourteenth-century Toledo, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, MS 10110, fo 2r, borrowed from Ainoa Castro Correa, “Codex of the month (IX): Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, ms 10110″. Littera Visigothica (October 2015), http://litteravisigothica.com/codex-of-the-month-ix-madrid-biblioteca-nacional-ms-10110 with thanks

So, if in fact there wasn’t an effective Carolingian campaign to stamp out the Hispanic liturgy, but a slow and opportunistic replacement of it instead, where does this leave Bishop Frodoí? Not obviously Frankish; not visibly any kind of reformer; extremely unpopular for a time at least in his episcopal city and with only grudging support from local secular authority; backed to the hilt, nonetheless, by the king whose orders some numismatists would have us believe he ignored; and held later, but not in contemporary evidence, to be the finder of Saint Eulalie’s relics. And that might well still be true, or at least I don’t think there’s any obvious reason to disbelieve it and plenty of signs that needed whatever support he could get; but I think any attempt to bring liturgical reform into the reasons he was disliked is just basically unfounded! And that means that everything that is founded on that belief is also in trouble…

1. The stock reference for all this is Ángel Fabrega Grau, Santa Eulalia de Barcelona: revisión de una problema histórico (Roma 1958), online here, which prints the source text pp. 151-155; the revised date of 877 is suggested in Joan Vilaseca Corbera, “Sant Vicenç i Santa Eulàlia, la cristianització del culte a Apol·lo i la política internacional carolíngia de la segona meitat del segle IX” in idem, Recerques sobre l’Alta Edat Mitjana Catalana (II) (Terrassa 2013), pp. 1-95 at pp. 64-65, and he certainly shows that it can’t easily have been 878. I should also mention that I owe my copy of this work to the generosity of the author; thankyou Joan, it has made me think!

2. Fabrega used Archivo de la Catedral de Barcelona, MSS 104, 105 & 108 which are early-fourteenth to early fifteenth-century in his estimation.

3. That precept printed as Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis a Catalunya, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica 2 & 3 (Barcelona 1926-1952), 2 vols, Barcelona: Esglésie Catedral de Santa Creu II.

4. I think this must come from Fabrega, but I first met it in Miquel Crusafont i Sabater, “La moneda barcelonina del segle X. Altres novetats comtals” in Acta Numismàtica Vol. 38 (Barcelona 2008), pp. 91-121 at pp. 94-95, without citation, which is how I’ve usually met it since, as e. g. in J.-F. Cabestany, “El culte de Santa Eulàlia a la Catedral de Barcelona (S. IX-X)” in Lambard: estudis d’art medieval Vol. 9 (Barcelona 1996-1997), pp. 159-165, online here, last modified 8th February 2007 as of 20th June 2009, where the only relevant citation is to Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Els primers comtes catalans, Biografies catalanes: sèrie històrica 1 (Barcelona 1958, repr. 1980), which doesn’t in fact support the claims.

5. Crusafont, “Moneda barcelonina”, p. 96, again without citation; Miquel Crusafont, Anna M. Balaguer and Philip Grierson, Medieval European Coinage, with a Catalogue of the Coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 6: the Iberian Peninsula (Cambrdge 2013), p. 73, however says the first publication of the idea is Miquel Crusafont i Sabater, Numismàtica de la Corona Catalano-Aragonesa medieval (785-1516) (Madrid 1982), p. 31; cf. Joaquim Botet y Sisó, Les monedes catalanes (Barcelona 1908-1911), 3 vols, I p. 189, Xavier Sanahuja i Anguera, “La moneda de Barcelona al segle X segons les troballes Epsanya-1 i Espanya-2 (925)” in Acta Numismàtica Vol. 36 (Barcelona 2006), pp. 79-113 at p. 94 and Jonathan Jarrett, “Currency change in pre-millennial Catalonia: coinage, counts and economics” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 169 (London: Royal Numismatic Society 2010 for 2009), pp. 217-243 at p. 220, all of which argue that a modification of the Carolingian ‘temple’ reverse type seems more likely.

6. For the concession see n. 3 above; for unused minting concessions in the area see Jarrett, “Currency change”, pp. 224-225.

7. The Attigny record is printed in Abadal, Catalunya Carolíngia 2, ap. VII, among other places.

8. A. M. Mundó, “Les changements liturgiques en Septimanie et en Catalogne pendant la période préromane” in Cahiers de Saint-Michel de Cuxa Vol. 2 (Codalet 1971), pp. 29-42 at p. 38.

9. It doesn’t seem to be possible to link to a search in Nomen et Gens, but it’s easy enough to run; I searched for ‘Frod%’ without quotes. The Wissembourg Chrodoin occurs or Chrodoins occur in Karl Glöckner and Ludwig Anton Doll (edd.), Traditiones Wizenburgenses: die Urkunden des Klosters Weissenburg (661-864) (Darmstadt 1979), doc. nos 36, 45, 46, 169, 186, 194-196, 202, 213, 218, 224-227, 232, 239, 244, 247, 256, 257, 261 & 265 and Theo Kölzer (ed.), Die Urkunden der Merowinger, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Diplomata regum Francorum e stirpe Merovingica) I (Hannover 2001), 2 vols, doc. no. 1. What d’you reckon, Alan?

10. Compare Miquel Crusafont, “Nou tipus carolingi de Barcelona de Carles el Calb: el diner de Barcelona fins a R. Berenguer I” in II Simposi numismatic de Barcelona (Barcelona 1980), pp. 47-55 to Simon Coupland, “The early coinage of Charles the Bald” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 151 (London 1991), pp. 121-158, reprinted in Coupland, Carolingian coinage and the Vikings: studies on power and trade in the 9th century, Variorum Collected Studies 847 (Aldershot 2007), IX, at p. 126; it’s not very often Simon Coupland’s missed a coin, but on this occasion…

11. In this respect I now differ from Jarrett, “Currency Change”, pp. 219-220.

12. See Stuart Airlie, “The Cunning of Institutions” in Jennifer R. Davis & Michael McCormick (edd.), The Long Morning of Medieval Europe: new directions in early medieval studies (Aldershot 2008), pp. 267-271.

13. Cabestany, “El culte de Santa Eulàlia”, tries the logic I argue against here.

14. See n. 7 above.

15. I follow Jesus Lalinde Abadia, “Godos, hispanos y hostolenses en la órbita del rey de los Francos” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium internacional sobre els orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), 2 vols, also published as Memorias de le Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991-1992), II pp. 35-74, online here.

16. Mundó, “Changements liturgiques”.

17. Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Les actes de consagracions d’esglesies del bisbat d’Urgell (segles IX-XII)” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 1 (Montserrat 1978), pp. 11-182, doc. no. 14.

Quick! To the palace!

Sometimes I have big learned-looking points I want to make on this blog, and then at other times I just want to jump and down and tell you about something fascinating I’ve found. This is one of those latter times, a document I encountered in the Catalunya Carolíngia most of whose details I never seem to have noticed before, even though it’s very unusual. It also supports the point I’ve felt towards before about the different ways of running the county of Barcelona that Count-Marquis Ramon Borrell thereof (992-1018) was already developing as he picked up bits of its rule during the lifetime of his father Borrell II (945-993), but mainly it’s one of those cases where the regular form of the documents is stretched to fit something quite unusual and one is left wondering what on earth they were trying to accomplish and how odd it was or wasn’t.

The Santuari del Mare de Déu d'Espona de Saderra

Espona de Saderra, probably not involved in today’s documentary excitement but as close as I can get copyright-free

We are in the year 996 here and the protagonist is one Gombau. He had come to a deal with a priest called Donadéu and was selling him some stuff.1 The transaction related to an estate in the Vall de Saderra, but the first complication is the nature of what they were actually transacting over, which is best set out in their own terms:

“By this scripture of my sale I sell to you in your and your heirs’ alod, that was your grandfather’s Asner’s and your father’s Galí’s, my selfsame census such as I have there that my lord Ramon, Count and Marquis, sold me, such census as you and your heirs were accustomed to answer for thence and it came to me by my purchase from my above-written lord…”

Census, in the terms of this period, is really any kind of rent or levy taken by a lord from the owner of a property over which he or she is lord, but here I think we are dealing with something that we could respectably call tax, a revenue belonging to the public official personified by the count, and it was for sale. Now, this is not quite new, you may be thinking if you really follow along here: didn’t we, after all, have a few complicated arrangements with two-way sales that effectively bestowed the tax revenue on the landholder? And yes, we did, but there are two differences here: firstly, here they were just straight out selling the revenue (for a ‘best charger’) and secondly the count had previously disposed of it, in a document we don’t have, to someone other than the landholders, which is how come Gombau had it to sell it on to them. The last time I looked at this I observed that, circa 990 at least, the counts of Barcelona could not or would not simply sell tax revenue, but had to come up with elaborate ways round it; a mere six years later we see that there was no longer such a problem with it, which means that it was probably very new.

So all of that is interesting to me, and teeters dangerously close to what we could carelessly call ‘feudalism’.2 But digging deeper we discover that actually it is even more like feudalism, because having sorted out the price Gombau made further specifications and they look very much like someone borrowing ideas:

On this account I thus hand into your power the aforesaid census for your own so that from this same day in future neither you nor any of your successors shall answer any more for any census thence to any count, nor to any vicar, nor to any man, unless your heirs so much to you. And let this above-written alod thus be free without any impediment and without any disturbance, but so much on account of the great attentiveness which I shall make to you and of the benevolence and honour and governance of the above-written alod I shall thus have patrocinium over you, I and one son of mine without any ill intent.

This is a very funny definition of ‘freedom’ that’s developing here, isn’t it? The priest Donadéu was already holding an alod, but while this has been understood as land free of lordship the difference between it not being free of lordship and a private person taking the tax revenue might be hard to spot.3 It was enough to be worth a good warhorse, apparently, but the ongoing cost was that Gombau, giving up that direct and quantifiable form of dominance, picked up a much vaguer but more subjecting one, the old Roman idea of patrocinium, a word I’ve seen in no other Catalan charter. Later documents like this, in so far as there are any like this, would just use the word dominatio, but we can see that they were here feeling out something for which they didn’t have words, because the bits that I’ve put into bold here are all coming from outside the sale formulae: the first bit is riffing off Carolingian royal immunities, by which public officials were excluded from a given territory, and the final clause is coming out of the vernacular, or at least would in later documents such as those we’ve seen here before be reflected in the vernacular, “sin engany” for what is here in Latin, “sine malo ingenio”.4 They didn’t have the formulae ready for what they were doing here, which is essentially a very early homage arrangement.

A homage ceremony illustrated in the Catalan Liber Feudorum Maior

Time therefore for the obligatory picture of an act of homage from the Liber Feudorum Maior, which for all that it was a twelfth-century compilation does contain documents from this far back. From Wikimedia Commons.

So what was going on here is at some level a delegation or even a privatisation of public authority, but at another level this is immensely personal. The last time I looked at these concessions, when they were still fiddly, I suggested that the claim to census might itself be fairly new, irregularly enforced and brought out mainly, as I then put it, as kind of “a protection racket, in which the counts picked somebody whose tax liability they were willing to enforce in order to bind them closer into the structure of personal obligations created by these kinds of deals.” By the 1050s, as we’ve seen, those kind of personal obligations were most of how power was being constructed in these areas, in a hierarchy much like the supposed feudal pyramid except far less tidy.5 Here, in 996, we see it already happening, but within the old structures of power that gave the scribe the words he used, words whose use suggests this was new.

What made this worth wording carefully, however, was presumably a lurking sense that in some way this was public revenue. I say this not just because of the repeated invocation of the count, but because of the detail that was actually the first one I noticed when I read this document during my Ph. D. (and clearly subsequently forgot), which is the signature clause by the scribe: he explains himself as he, “who wrote this sale in the See of Vic, and it was confirmed in Barcelona, in the selfsame palace of Count Ramon, in the street, by the order of the above-written Gombau”.

The erstwhile comital palace of Barcelona

The erstwhile comital palace of Barcelona, fourteenth-century as it stands but with one or two tenth- and eleventh-century bits in it… It’s in that courtyard, even though it wasn’t then there, that I imagine this scenario happening. “Plaça del Rei 2074102277” by Carquinyol from Badalona, Catalunya, upload by HerrickBarcelona – Plaça del Rei. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

When I first saw this I was mainly interested in the palace, because it was then the earliest mention of it of which I knew (though as you have seen here there is one text that makes it clear that Borrell also had a palace, presumably the same one). But it’s weirder than just that, isn’t it? Gombau didn’t get this deal confirmed in the palace, but outside it, in the street, “in platea”. Neither did the count witness it, though a judge did and he only one of seven clerics who make up the witness list, including Gombau’s brother. Again, there is for me the sense here that there wasn’t a procedure for this, that this was not a common or perhaps entirely legitimate operation, and it needed a kind of public sanction that brought it to the centre of comital government, rather than the solemnity of Vic cathedral, but then didn’t actually involve that governor but a raft of clerics instead.

There are plenty of questions that arise: did all these sales of tax revenue involve the kind of recognition of patronage that Gombau here got made explicit, but which a count might not need to have because of already having it? Is the reason this arrangement was so undefined and fudged from bits precisely that everyone was clear that this was in some sense acting like the count, and therefore conscious that public power had a particular sphere still that private persons shouldn’t really have? Or is it instead more important that the count himself had disposed of these rights to Gombau in the first place (and that Borrell, evidently, had not)? Without being able to work out more of what was actually happening here (and why Vic cathedral wound up with the charter) I can’t answer these questions, but I ask them feverishly anyway, believe me I do.

1. The document survives in the original and is printed in Eduard Junyent i Subirà; (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic (segles IX-X), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), 5 fascs, doc. no. 594, where I first met it without apparently reading it properly, and in Ordeig (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica 53 (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. no. 1712, where I apparently still had to read it three times before noticcing all of the things mentioned here. Given that and the weight I place on words here it seems worth giving a text myself:
“In Dei nomine. Ego Gondebaldus vinditor sum tibi Donadeo presbitero, emptore. Per hanc scriptura vindicionis mee vindo tibi in ipsum tuum alode et de eredes, qui fuit de Asenario avio tuo et de Galindone patre tuo, ipsum meum censum qualem ibidem abeo que mihi vendidit senior meus Raimundus comes et marchio, talem censum qual tu et eres tui exinde solvere solebas et advenit mihi per mea empcione de suprascripto seniori meo, et est hec omnia in comitatu Ossona, in kastrum Torilione, in valle Sedero vel in eius termines. Qui afrontat hec omnia: de orientis in ipsa Guardia, et de meridie in ipso pugo ultra flumine Tecer que dicunt Cergoso, et de occiduo in ipso grado de Seder, et de circii in ipsa gugularia de Boscatello. Quantum in istas afrontaciones includunt sic vindo tibi suprascriptum censum ab integrum, qualem senior meus suprascriptus comes ibi abuit et mihi vendidit, totum vindo tibi ab integre propter tuum kavallum obtimum, quod tu mihi donasti in precio et mihi placuit et manibus meis recepii, et est manifestum. Propetera sic trado in tua potestate suprascriptum censum ad tuum proprium ut de isto die in antea neque tu neque ullus de succesoribus tuis iam amplius exinde nullum censum persolvatis ad nullum comitem, neque ad ullum vicarium, neque ad ullum ominem, nisi tantum eredes tuis ad te. Et sic fiat liber suprascriptus alodes sine ullo inpedimento et sine ulla inquietudine, set tantum propter magnam diligenciam quod ego faciam ad te et bonitatem et onorem et gubernacionem de suprascripto alode sic abeam super te patrocinium ego et unus filius meus sine malo ingenio. Quod si ego Gondebaldus qui recepit de te Donadeo presbitero suprascripto precio aut filius meus qui de te aut successores tuos de suprascripto censo aliquid inquietaverit, non hoc vale vindicare set componat tibi omnem suprascriptum alode in duplo cum sua melioracione, et in antea ista scriptura vindicione firma permaneat modo vel omnique tempore.
“Facta ista scriptura vindicione XVIII kalendas februarii, anno VIII regnante Ugo rege.
“Sig+num Gondebaldo, qui ista vindicione fecit et firmavi et firmare rogavi. Dacho sacer et iudex sub SSS. S+ Sentelle presbiter. S+ Holiba levita SSS. S+ Agigane sacer. Erigane sacer de Terraca. Sentelle presbiter de Barchonina. Oliba levita, frater Gondebaldo.
“Francus sacer, qui ista vindicione scripsit in sede Vico et fuit firma in Barchinona, in ipso palacio de Raimundo comite, in platea, per iussione de suprascripto Gondebaldo, et sub SSS. die et anno quod supra.”

The bold bits are autograph signatures.

2. At this point I cite Susan Renyolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994), and duly note that what we have here includes neither a fief nor a vassal and that probably I should find a better word, if only anyone would recognise by it what I meant any more readily.

3. See Gaspar Feliu, “La pagesia catalana abans de la feudalització” in Anuario de Estudios Medievales Vol. 26 (Barcelona 1994), pp. 19-41, for a powerful argument that alodial property was never free in the way that historians of the period have often imagined.

4. On these documents see of course Adam J. Kosto, Making Agreements in Medieval Catalonia: power, order and the written word, 1000-1200, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th Series 51 (Cambridge 2001).

5. Ibid. but also Pierre Bonnassie, “Les conventions féodales dans la Catalogne du XIe siècle” in Annales du Midi Vol. 80 (Toulouse 1968), pp. 529-550, repr. in Structures sociales de l’Aquitaine, du Languedoc et de l’Espagne au premier âge f&eacuute;odal : Colloque International de Toulouse, Mars 1968 (Paris 1969), pp. 187-219, transl. Jean Birrell as “Feudal Conventions in Eleventh-Century Catalonia” in Bonnassie, From Slavery to Feudalism in South-Western Europe, transl. J. Birrell (Cambridge 1991), pp. 170-194, for the case before, and Michel Zimmermann, “Aux origines de Catalogne féodale : les serments non datés du règne de Ramon Berenguer Ier” in Jaume Portella i Comas (ed.), La Formació i expansió del feudalisme català : actes del col·loqui organitzat pel Col·legi Universitari de Girona (8-11 de gener de 1985). Homenatge a Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, Estudi General 5-6 (Girona 1986), pp. 109-151, with English summary p. 557, French online here, for important nuance.


In Marca Hispanica XXVII: a bigger castle than usual

This gallery contains 7 photos.

On my third day in Barcelona in December 2013, I had started with big plans to sit in the Biblioteca de Catalunya all day and read stuff by Albert Benet i Clarà I can’t get in the UK, but was … Continue reading

In Marca Hispanica XXV: la meva primera adreça publica en català

I wrote a few posts ago of having been able actually to talk to fellow scholar of the tenth-century Catalan coinage Xavier Sanahuja, and that is because over 4th-6th December 2013 I was very briefly in Barcelona, and my backlog has now got up to that point so I should tell you about it. The occasion was a very numismatic one, a launch party for two works. The first of these was the then-latest volume of the periodical Acta Numismàtica that I was just showing you pictures from, but the second was a rather weightier work, Medieval European Coinage 6, with a catalogue of the coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 6: the Iberian Peninsula, by Miquel Crusafont, Anna Balaguer & Philip Grierson, at which point you may see where I came in.1 The occasion was put on (and the accommodation for myself and the other UK participant, Dr Elina Screen, general editor of the series, generously paid for) by the Societat Catalana d’Estudis Numismàtics, who publish the Acta, and it was a really nice occasion, but somewhat challenging because it involved me giving a speech. I thought that it would look pretty weak if I, the scholar of Catalonia, speaking in the Institut d’Estudis Catalans, already, didn’t do so in Catalan, but my Catalan isn’t very good.

Miquel Crusafont i Sabater, Anna M. Balaguer & Philip Grierson, Medieval European Coinage, with a Catalogue of the Coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 6: the Iberian Peninsula (Cambridge 2013)

Cover of Miquel Crusafont i Sabater, Anna M. Balaguer & Philip Grierson, Medieval European Coinage, with a Catalogue of the Coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 6: the Iberian Peninsula (Cambridge 2013)

There is a story I tell about my learning Catalan. I’ve never actually been taught either Catalan or Castilian (i el meu castellano és molt pitjor, cosa que no creu cap català!) When I first came up with an idea to work on this area, I was a Master’s student, and I took my idea to Professor Rosamond McKitterick, who was more or less in charge of me at that point. She told me to take it to Dr Peter Linehan and ask him if it was viable, and he said, if I recall, “Yes, I suppose so, if you can read Catalan. Can you?” And I replied, “I don’t know, but I’ll go and find out.” I went and looked through the first two things on the reading list he’d given me, one of them being Abadal’s Primers comtes catalans as I recall, and the other some earlier work of Abadal’s, and I found that what with several years of both Latin and French I could manage, with a dictionary to hand somewhere. When I came to write up the relevant essay, in fact, I realised that the second Abadal piece had actually been in Castilian, but by then it was too late!2

Joan gili's Catalan Grammar, 2nd edn.

As you can see, my guide to good Catalan was extremely second-hand… This is the second edition, it’s now in its nineteenth!

Anyway, I managed, and realised that Rosamond had been right that no-one else in the UK was using this brilliant mass of evidence, and here I still am, except when I’m doing something else. This does not equate to a speaking knowledge of a language, however! In fact, I made a bit more of an attempt to learn by means of picking up a copy of Joan Gili’s Catalan Grammar when it passed through the hands of the booksellers who then employed me, and that and a Routledge dictionary have held me together. Every trip out to Catalonia I make my grasp of the spoken language gets a bit better, too, but it’s still not good, and the fact that I learnt it from a grammar written in the 1940s means that people marvel at my last-century mannerisms while I don’t get half the colloquialisms, especially the periphrastic past tense using anar, which is really common but which Gili obviously didn’t like and mentions only in a footnote.3

Sala d'adreça in the Institut d'Estudis Catalans

It looks less of a challenge in this state than it did when it was full of learned Catalan scholars

So on this occasion I cheated. I didn’t mean to! I wrote a speech, in actual Catalan as far as I could, and passed it to Xavier to correct, and got back what was basically a rewrite, saying what I’d wanted to say but in almost none of my chosen words, and it was so close to the time by then that I just delivered that. I delivered it among the great and the good, though, as Joan Vilaseca has recorded: the occasion was led off by Professor Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, no less, and Xavier, Elina and the surviving authors also both spoke, as well as the President of the Institut and the head of the Consulat Britànic a Barcelona. But I did OK, I think, and I had to speak Catalan for real afterwards as almost everyone I’ve corresponded with in Barcelona was there, most notably Professor Gaspar Feliu i Montfort, to whom I owe a great deal of help, and of course Joan Vilaseca, loyal fellow of this blog and major contributor to the effort of making resources for studying Catalonia available online via Cathalaunia.org. I hadn’t expected to meet Joan—as he says in his report, he had heard about the occasion only that day—and it was great to meet him and put a face to the comments; thankyou, Joan, for coming out for it! And then there was an excellent dinner and late-night gin-and-tonic with numismatists in a cellar bar, making the whole endeavour seem much more underground and gritty than one usually expects, which is where we were discussing hoard provenance of transitional diners, because we know how to have a good time… But a good time it was, and it also gave me about twenty kilos of books to take back to Cambridge or Oxford and a day and a half in Catalonia to do something with, about the latter of which I’ll tell you post after next!

1. Full cite, because I’m still proud of it, Miquel Crusafont, Anna M. Balaguer & Philip Grierson, Medieval European Coinage 6, with a catalogue of the coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 6: the Iberian Peninsula (Cambridge 2013). This won’t be Philip’s last work, either, not bad for a man who died aged 96 eight years ago!

2. Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Els primers comtes catalans, Biogràfies catalsn; serie històrica 1 (Barcelona 1958, repr. 1980), still not a bad place to start, in fact, and probably idem, “El dominio carolingio en la Marca penínsular hispánica. Siglos IX y X” in Cuadernos de Historia. Anexos de la Revista «Hispania» Vol. 2 (Madrid 1968), pp. 38-49, transl. as “El domini carolíngi a la Marca Hispanica (segles IX i X)” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó which is why it’s worth mentioning in this post you see, Estudis i Documents 13 & 14 (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), 2 vols, I, pp. 139-152.

3. Joan Gili, Introductory Catalan Grammar, with a brief outline of the language and literature, a selection from Catalan writers, and a vocabulary (Oxford 1943, 2nd edn. 1952, many more since), periphrastic future dismissed at p. 50 of the 2nd edn. n. 1, “very often in use”. That’s exactly the problem!

Coins of Borrell II?

Reverse of Barcelona diner of Count-Marquis Ramon Borrell of Barcelona, Girona and Osona (992-1018), now in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, GNC 113672

Reverse of Barcelona diner of Count-Marquis Ramon Borrell of Barcelona, Girona and Osona (992-1018), now in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, GNC 113672

In 2010 I published an article about the coinage of later tenth-century Catalonia that concluded, among other things, that we may not have any.1 You would think this is a thing it was possible to sure about, perhaps, but almost no medieval coins carry a date, so one dates the things by their issuing ruler. Where that’s not clear, neither is the date, and this is far from the only thing about early medieval Catalan coinage that’s not clear…

Transitional diner, probably of Barcelona, struck between 878 and 1018, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, their CM.345-2001

OK, this is an unusually rough example, but illustrative, I think… Transitional diner, probably of Barcelona, struck between 878 and 1018, now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, their CM.345-2001, actual size 14 mm across

The things of which we can be more or less certain are these.

  1. When the Carolingian kings took over government in the area that is now Catalonia, they had coin struck at their normal standards at four mints, Barcelona, Girona, Castelló d’Empúries and a place identified as RODDA that could be either Roda de Ter or Roses, jury’s out; Roses has won general acceptance but seems a priori an odd choice given it’s no real distance from Castelló d’Empúries.2
  2. In 864 King Charles the Bald of the Western Franks, ruler of the Spanish March as it by then stood, held a council at Pîtres in France which laid down provisions for a coinage reform that seem not to have been followed in Catalonia; no coinage at the new standard is known from Catalan mints and pieces are known which seem to be degenerations of the earlier one.
  3. Count-Marquis Ramon Borrell of Barcelona, Girona and Osona (992-1018) struck a new issue of diners (the Catalan derivation of the Latin denarius that gives us French ‘denier’ and Castilian ‘dinero’, among others) in his own name, which we can therefore date to his reign.
  4. There are also several types of what are known as diners de transició, transitional diners, which must belong somewhere between points 2 and 43.

The transitional diners are characterised by legends that are basically illegible, often being no more than sequences of triangles or circles. They vary a lot in weight and size but are always less than regular Carolingian standards. They all have a small cross in a border on the centre of their obverse, with a junk legend around, but their reverse types vary. There are three known:

  1. a type that is just the obverse repeated with slightly different junk legends (cross type);
  2. a type bearing three circles arranged in a triangle within the central border;
  3. and the type above, with a strange device a bit like a schematised beehive. This is usually held to represent the tomb of Santa Eulàlia in Barcelona, which is handy because it gives us a sort of terminus post quem: Catalonia’s first real local saint’s cult began when her body was relocated by Bishop Frodoí of Barcelona, who ruled 862-890 and who moved her from the floor of Santa Maria del Mar to the cathedral that now bears her name, so if that’s what it is on the coin the coinage must postdate that.3 I am inclined to think it’s a bodge of the Carolingian Temple type myself, but I obviously just like to make things difficult…
Reverse of a Temple-type denier of Louis the Pious, Fitzwilliam Museum PG.112

Reverse of a Temple-type denier of Louis the Pious, Fitzwilliam Museum PG.112

The first substantial work on these coinages was done at the very beginning of the twentieth centuries and concluded little more than the above, but in 1999 Anna Balaguer published her thesis on Catalan medieval coinage, which argued among other things that these coinages were probably all from Barcelona, since the three circles device recurs on Ramon Borrell’s coinage (which is said to be from Barcelona) and the obverse types seem to be kindred.4 After that it became possible to rethink things a bit, not least because in 2005 a whole bunch extra of these transitional coins came onto the market, with a few more following in 2009 in such a way as to make it seem likely that someone had found a hoard and didn’t want to tell people.5 Xavier Sanahuja published an article in 2006 in which he attempted a new description of the transitional coinages using that data and argued that these were the remnants of a single hoard discovered in 1886 but not then fully catalogued. Someone had, he reckoned, been sitting on the rest and now it was coming to the surface, because they’d died or something.6 In 2008 Miquel Crusafont i Sabater took the state of knowledge thus far and produced a synthesis which argued the following things:

  1. the ‘Tomb’ type makes no sense till the tomb was found, but is obviously non-Carolingian, whereas Bishop Frodoí was a Frank and an appointee of Charles the Bald so would surely have struck coin in Charles’s name; the immediately succeeding bishop of Barcelona, Teuderic, therefore makes more sense (890-912?) for the Tomb type’s issuer.
  2. since the three-circles type is carried on in Ramon Borrell’s coinage, it is presumably the last of the three;
  3. the cross type therefore probably belongs between the two, since it can’t really be before or after;
  4. that means that we have three types for three comital reigns, Guifré II Borrell (898-911), Sunyer his brother (911-947) and Borrell II Sunyer’s son (945-993), so it’s easy enough to assign them one each, Tomb type to Guifré Borrell, cross type to Sunyer and circles type to Borrell.7

This has the advantage of simplicity, but involves more or less dismissing Sanahuja’s more cynical argument that since there was nothing in the 1886 hoard that need be dated after 925, all three of the Catalan types should probably therefore be considered to have been in circulation by then, in which case, because no similar hoard has come up from later, we just don’t have any Catalan coin from between 925 and 992×1018. That’s roughly how things stood when I got my 2010 article out, pitching a case I’d been making for a while that the coinage reform, from the diners de transició to the Carolingian-standard diners such as issued by Ramon Borrell, must have taken place under Borrell II, and probably in 981 or 982. That implies there ought to be a reformed coinage of Borrell’s, and we certainly don’t have any of that. I thought that this probably gave the edge to Sanahuja, and thus argued that we probably have no coin of Borrell’s at all.8 This presented a certain slight difficulty in as much as Miquel doesn’t agree with me—in fact, I’m not sure that anyone does—and I was at that point copy-editing him on the subject, but we have agreed to disagree and there it stands.9 Or so it did.

Five circles-type diners de transició, life-size (14 mm) in the centre and enlarged outside, reverse left and obverse right

Five circles-type diners de transició, life-size (14 mm) in the centre and enlarged outside, reverse left and obverse right, from M. Crusafont i Sabater, “Troballes monetàries XXVIII” in Acta Numismàtica Vol. 43 (Barcelona 2013), pp. 249-260 at p. 253

The reason I am now telling you all this, however, is these things above, part of a collection of 12 diners de transició that Miquel has just published, which he had been allowed to photograph and study as they came through the market in Barcelona in the residue of the estate of a collector who had bought them in 2005 from a travelling bric-a-brac salesman.10 There are three Tomb-type diners and one of its halves, an òbol, two cross-type diners and one cross-type òbol (previously unknown) and these five circles-type diners. Miquel argues, cautiously, that this is not the same proportion of types as occurs in Xavier’s virtual hoard of 2006 and so is probably not yet more of the 1886 find making its way onto the market (though I have spoken to Xavier about this and he thinks it totally is, because like any of us he likes his own theory best and this hardly disproves it). But Miquel also has a go at the legends, and that’s very interesting. You’ll see from the above that the reverse legends are hardly more than triangles and wedges, but that the obverse ones seem also to include circles. Xavier also noticed this in 2006 and then argued that the obvious referent was King Eudes of the Western Franks (888-899), ODDO, become OOOO as lettered on the coins, which fits with his suggested early date for the coins. Miquel, however, with a scheme that demands these coins be nearly a century later than late, now ingeniously argues that the referent might be either of Emperor Otto I (936-973) or Otto II (973-997) of the Germans, the former of whom Borrell met in Rome in 970.

A manuscript drawing of Otto I, sadly only from about 1200, receiving the surrender of King Berengar II of Italy

A manuscript drawing of Otto I, sadly only from about 1200, receiving the surrender of King Berengar II of Italy. “Otto I Manuscriptum Mediolanense c 1200” by Artwork: Creators of the Chronicle of Bishop Otto of Freising; Photo: AndreasPraefckeOwn work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

This would be pretty heavy, as they say. Though various scholars have argued for an increasing awareness of the new Holy Roman Empire in tenth-century Catalonia, it’s only ever rested on that 970 meeting in Rome and another Catalan count running into Otto II at a council there in 979, which is not really any more than coincidence.11 [Edit: see comments where Joan Vilaseca causes me to rediscover a third meeting, of Borrell’s sons with Otto III (997-1002), from which a charter may have resulted.]  Certainly neither Otto ever seems to have corresponded with the Catalan counts or in any way considered this area part of their kingdom. On the other hand, Borrell spent a lot of his rule looking for new, powerful but distant patrons to compensate for his decreasing wish for contact with the Frankish kings. I think, all the same, that this would be an unparalleled departure for his politics and since his charters on the subject invoke a king called Charles as the origin of his family’s power, it’s that name I’d expect to see on his coins until at least 985 (by which time, if I’m right, the coins would not have looked like these anyway).12 I think that means I don’t buy it, that these legends must refer to Eudes if they refer to anyone (which I’m not sure that they do), that if so Xavier’s early date is still more likely, that in that case he is probably also right that almost everything we have in this line is coming from that one hoard and that we therefore still don’t have coins of Borrell II. But if I’m wrong, I could be staring at a picture of them right now and have some rethinking to do!

1. J. Jarrett, “Currency change in pre-millennial Catalonia: coinage, counts and economics” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 169 (London: Royal Numismatic Society 2010 for 2009), pp. 217-243.

2. See now Miquel Crusafont, Anna M. Balaguer & Philip Grierson, Medieval European Coinage, with a catalogue of the coins in the Fitzwilliam Museum, 6: the Iberian Peninsula (Cambridge 2013), pp. 68-71.

3. The suggestion was first made by Miquel Crusafont in Numismática de la corona catalano-aragonesa medieval, 785-1516 (Barcelona 1982), p. 31; on the inventio see Joan Cabestany i Fort, “El culte de Santa Eulàlia a la Catedral de Barcelona (s. IX-X)” in Lambard: estudis d’art medieval Vol. 9 (Barcelona 1996), pp. 159-165.

4. Anna M. Balaguer, Història de la moneda dels comtats catalans (Barcelona 1999), pp. 64-67.

5. For the 2005 find see n. 6 below; the 2009 appearances were in Aureo y Calicó Auction 219 (2nd July 2009), Barcelona, lots 138 & 139 and Auction 220, 16th September 2009, Barcelona, lot 398.

6. X. Sanahuja, “La moneda de Barcelona al segle X segins les troballes Espanya-1 i Espanya-2 (925)” in Acta Numismàtica Vol. 36 (Barcelona 2006), pp. 79-113.

7. M. Crusafont i Sabater, “La moneda barcelonina del segle X. Altres novetats comtals”, ibid. vol. 38 (2008), pp. 91-121.

8. See n. 1 above.

9. Crusafont, Balaguer & Grierson, Medieval European Coinage 6, pp. 74-78.

10. M. Crusafont i Sabater, “Troballes monetàries XXVIII” in Acta Numismàtica Vol. 43 (Barcelona 2013), pp. 249-260.

11. The 970 meeting is discussed, along with its evidence, in J. Jarrett, “Archbishop Ató of Osona: false metropolitans on the Marca Hispanica” in Archiv für Diplomatik Vol. 56 (München 2010), pp. 1-41; the 979 one is attested in Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, Sebastià Riera i Viader & Manual Rovira i Solà (edd.), Catalunya Carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica LXI (Barcelona 2003), doc. no. 455.

12. See J. Jarrett, “Caliph, King or Grandfather: strategies of legitimisation on the Spanish March in the reign of Lothar III” in The Mediaeval Journal Vol. 1.2 (Turnhout: Brepols 2012), pp. 1-21, DOI: 10.1484/J.TMJ.1.102535.


In Marca Hispanica XXIII: a walk across Barcelona

This gallery contains 13 photos.

The camera never lies, as well we know, and in this particular instance it seems to know better than me as despite my account of two posts ago it seems rather as if I went from the Biblioteca de Catalunya … Continue reading