Tag Archives: Bishop Oliba

Kalamazoo 2015, Part 1

People in conversation at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, West Michigan University, Kalamazoo

Other people in conversation at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, West Michigan University, Kalamazoo (official photo)

Well, we’ve had another lapse in posting, for which I apologise, but there was good reason, I promise you, not least the International Medieval Congress just gone, which was a success but really very busy. I will write about that at some point, I promise, but my ridiculous backlog is only made more so by the passing of another IMC, not least because the next thing I have to write about is an ICMS, the International Congress on Medieval Studies at West Michigan University, which I didn’t make it to this year but did last year, that being where the trip to the US lately described wound up, and that’s how far behind I am. Given that, while I don’t want to say nothing about it I do want to say less than usual, so: I am going firstly to let all the stuff about dreadful accommodation, food and coffee go as standard; secondly I will add that the actual town of Kalamazoo does however have some places worth exploring for food and drink if you are not, as I used to be, determined to scrounge all the free alcohol going on campus; and thirdly, I will try and keep my reportage on the papers I saw down to one sentence of summary or commentary each, a writing challenge I should probably set myself much more often. So, here we go with day 1, 14th May 2015!

45. The State and its Loyal Constituencies in Late Antiquity

  • Michael Kulikowski, “Saying No to Government: Disintegrating and Reinstating States”
  • One sentence for this is actually all I have, because I arrived late to the session and missed almost the whole paper. That sentence therefore is: “A ‘collective sovereignty’ model of northern barbarian kingship gets picked up by those further south over the 5th and 6th centuries”; make of it what you will, but I wish I’d seen more.

  • Stefan Esders, “Regnum, Civitas, and Pagus: Rearranging Spatial Structures in Merovingian Gaul”
  • Arguing that although in Merovingian Gaul many of the functions of the Roman state fell away or were loaded onto new counts or old bishops, the territorial structures through which they continued to be organised necessitated a continuing level of fiscal sophistication that we could safely call a state. As Julie Hofmann pointed out, the missing part of this picture was Church organisation and its imprint on bishops’ fiscal responsibilities, but that was a part of the study still to come.

  • Guy Halsall, “Political Communities? A Comparison of the Roman and Merovingian Polities”
  • Guy, who it was that I had particularly come to see, argued instead that Merovingian Gaul was not a state, in as much as there was no single identity of which people could claim membership, but several, Frankish military, Catholic Christian, Arian Christian, Gallo-Roman aristocrat or peasant, all partially replacing the now-discredited Roman civil and patrician identity that, until Justinian I’s campaigns excluded them from it, the ruling élites in this area were still emulating. Michael Kulikowski pointed out that that identity had never been available to most of the Roman population either, but Guy argued that patronage would have joined them up to its holders.

Gold tremissis of the Merovingian King Chlothar II (584-628) in the British Museum, London

Arguably a part of a state apparatus, a gold tremissis of the Merovingian King Chlothar II (584-628) in the British Museum, London. By PHGCOM – Own work by uploader, photographed at the British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5969234

80. Leadership Profiles in the Tenth- and Eleventh-Century Church

  • Edmund McCaffray, “Leading by Example: customaries and abbatial conservatio at Cluny in the eleventh century”
  • Argued that we should see John of Salerno’s biography of the famous Abbot Odo of Cluny less as a straight biography than as a set of descriptions of the abbey’s custom justified by Odo’s good example, something that became irrelevant as actual custumaries became common and the Life was rewritten.

  • Jonathan Jarrett, “In the Teeth of Reform: reprofiling the Catalan Episcopate around the year 1000”
  • Argued that the commonly-propagated picture Catalan Church of the millennial era as a worldly monopoly of the comital family is based on misreadings of Catalan secondary work, rather than actual evidence, but that a binary appraisal of them in terms of being reformed or not in any case misses out what most of what made them suitable for their jobs. Rereading this paper makes me think I should get on and do something more with it, it’s maybe quite good.

  • Pieter Byttebier, “Intitulatio or Æmulatio? Developing New Forms of Episcopal leadership in Eleventh-Century Lotharingian Contexts”
  • A series of examples of new, and often foreign, bishops, boosting the reputation and even cults of their predecessors in order to better anchor themselves in the local traditions of their offices, and arguably imitating what could be known of their lives—Heer Byttebier argued it, but some of those supposed imitations were post mortem so I had trouble taking his case at full strength. Someone in questions asked about the æmulatio part of his title and he admitted that he had no examples as yet, so probably more could be done here.

St Clement of Metz  leading the dragon Graouilly to the River Seille

One feat probably beyond imitation, St Clement of Metz leading the dragon Graouilly to the River Seille, a legend of the tenth century. Domaine public, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17574925

99. Women and Power to 1100 (A Roundtable)

Quite how I, with only one paper on anything like gender to my name and that unpublished, got in on this may never be entirely clear but it was fun and I don’t think I disgraced myself. I think Julie Hofmann won the day early on with her remark that we’ve been being surprised by women with power in the Middle Ages since 1908, but her deepest point may have been that when you’re dealing with power, their gender is not as important in defining what power someone has as their placement in society and their efficacy at using that. There was a general preference for the word ‘agency’ over ‘power’, which got challenged in discussion by Teresa Earenfight for I think good reason—Lois Honeycutt offered ‘autonomy’, a right to decide, as being closer to what we were getting at. Martha Rampton spoke about magic, one sphere in which women were perhaps dominant, up until around 1000 at least, and I focused on the apparent plenitude of examples from my material of women doing stuff without reference to men, usually with property but still untrammelled, and suggested that even that could more usefully be seen as a way they operated within larger family contexts than trying to separate them out into a female sphere that never existed by itself, any more than a male or indeed, as Jonathan Lyon pointed out, royal or imperial, sphere did. Lastly in the formal section, Phyllis Jestice pointed out that work on women and power has either focused on individual strong women or the whole aristocratic class and asked if there was a middle level where variation and over-generalisation might coalesce into useful conclusions. In discussion I managed to steer that through my favourite point that we need to distinguish between things that are usual but infrequent and things that are actually unusual, and Julie reminded us that the limits on female power were less institutions than straightforward misogyny, so looking at rules about what women could do only gives us the tip of the iceberg. This was all fun to be part of and I felt a lot like a real scholar afterwards, but I can’t help feeling looking back that although progress does seem to have happened these are all quite old problems. The new work that many of us were agitating for seems to be hard to do.

Countess Matilda of Canossa, enthroned with attendants, manuscript portrait from the Vita Mathildis by Donizone

Not everybody can be Matilda of Canossa…

So that was the end of the first day, and then there was a certain amount of free wine and catching up with people. I can’t, by now, remember who those were, or what we did for food, but I don’t think we can have gone far because there was a blogger’s meet-up later in the evening. I felt somewhat as if I shouldn’t show my face at that given how little blog I’d written in the previous few months, nay, years, but others were in the same case and in any case these are to some extent my people, so, if any of you are reading, Another Damned Medievalist, Notorious Ph. D., the Medieval History Geek and Vellum (and others? Sorry if I’ve forgotten you), it was good to catch up and I learnt a lot in that conversation too. It overran well into the evening sessions: does anyone ever go to those? I’m not sure I ever have. Anyway, with that all concluded, it was off to my awful bed and ready for the next day, on which I will try and report shortly!

In Marca Hispanica XVII: hidden temples and empty palaces

For most of the April trip to Catalonia, as you’ve probably taken in, I was in Vic (at the very reasonable Hotel d’Estació del Nord) and Vic is a historic city.1 I’ve put pictures of Vic up here before, of course, but there are definitely parts of the city I hadn’t ever got to, even if some really do have to be visited every time.

Statue of Bishop Oliba and separatist graffito in the Plaça de la Catedral, Vic

Two different social ethics in one square (look behind the metal man with the "Pau i Treva" legend, at his right)

Indeed, I haven’t finished here yet because although I did get into the cathedral this time (where I’m afraid they forbid photography) I didn’t get into the crypt, as so often the oldest bit, because when I was looking around there was actually a service going on in it. So that still has to be done. But the metal bishop never gets old, and given that the building off behind his right shoulder is the Museu Episcopal de Vic, where as said last one of these posts much of the country’s medieval heritage is now in safe care, I’m going to be back here again. That said, this is not the only place in the city with medieval interest. I mean, the whole city is fairly recognisably of a type…

Street in Vic

… and if you don’t believe me, zip back to this post about Siena and see if you can spot the ten differences, sort of thing. But, although the town’s medieval heritage is rich and considerable, it is also largely later than I care about. So these are impressive, for example:

Walls of Peter III, Vic

Walls of King Peter III (1336-1387), Vic, picture mine

Església de la Pietat, Vic

Piety Church, Vic, built circa 1641; picture mine

But I don’t really know much about them. There are plenty of things here I do know about Continue reading

A retraction: last angry nun neither so angry nor as last as advertised

I suppose it’s a good day when you go to two libraries and come home with not just most of the work for one’s next paper done, but also with ideas for three different blog posts. However, I could wish the first one didn’t have to be “I was wrong”. Thank goodness, however, that I caught it in time to alter that bit of the book. What am I on about? Back on 13 October 2008 I posted a post called “The last angry nun in Sant Joan de Ripoll“. (If anyone reading knows what song I riffed the title out of, you have unusual but good taste sir or madam.) It talks about one particular nun at Sant Joan de Ripoll, Elo, whose signature we had and who from her subsequent appearances could be shown to have been scarcely a teenager when she signed that document, in 948, and to go on to be a probably nonagenarian exile from the nunnery after it was shut down in 1017, who would have remembered almost all its history and would doubtless have had strong and bitter views about the shut-down.1 It’s a great story, but it’s wrong, as a pingback there from this post now sadly declares. I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right this time, mind, but after this why would I believe me?

A better scan of the 948 document signed by Elo, among others

A scan, better than I last had, of the 948 document signd by Elo, among others, Arxiu de la Corona d'Aragó, Cancilleria, pergamins Sunifred 39, full-size linked beneath (large!)

You see, the day before I wrote this I went back through the relevant charters trying to count the nuns of Sant Joan of whom we know for a new paper about them specifically. I found three documents in this search that I’d seen before, but before I took this interest, and then I seem to have assumed that my files were complete enough to make assertions like those in the post in question. Now, I could explain at length—by now I’m sure you believe me about that—but I’ll be short about it this once; there were at least two women called Elo at that nunnery. One was placed there by her parents in 926, and she was of important ancestry: her mother, who was called Guinedilda and made the donation, was one of those semi-independent religious women called deo votae, and her late husband, Elo’s father, Teudemon, had held the land that was now being given to the abbey direct from the king.2 (That in itself is fascinating: Elo was presumably quite young at this point, and obviously not of legal age, so at most 13? so her father can only have died in 913, which suggests that he got his land from Odo or Charles the Simple, which is after the Frankish kings supposedly stopped having much influence here.) So they had connections.

Then there’s the document above. There’s more than one signature there for Elo, but that’s the case with several of the nuns; the neat black signatures are all but one signatures of nuns by the scribe (though apparently in a different ink to the rest of the charter? this is a complicated document) and in some cases the nuns appear to have signed as well, the scribe perhaps not expecting women to be able to write and they happy to prove him wrong. So I hadn’t thought about it much; but actually there are two scribal signatures in the name of Elo so there must have been two there then, of whom one could write and one couldn’t. One was probably the royal vassal’s daughter, but the other one, well, she might be our girl, or she might be someone else of the same name. There are two signatures by women called Elo in an exchange of 964 as well, and the same is true there.3 But in 1002 a man called Asner gave some land at Torrent in the Vall de Ripoll to a nun called Elo at Sant Joan who was his daughter, and her focus in that same area means that we know that she is the one who goes on till 1032.4 And that 1032 appearance makes it clear that my claim about her being the last nun is also rubbish.

That takes a bit of explaining (and then a sanctemonialis ex machina ending). The 1032 document is Elo’s last appearance, but not just hers. It’s the publication of a will and Elo was one of the executors.5 The deceased, however, was another deo sacrata, which is the title Elo also used after her expulsion in 1017, and she was called Guinedilda. This woman also appears in the 964 exchange so if there were only two Elos she and Guinedilda had known each other a long long time, fifty-five years at least and Guinedilda was at least 69. Though, even if Elo de Torrent was a new girl in 1002, it had still been at least thirty years since then, let’s not forget.

The thing here is, Guinedilda bequeathed most of her belongings, which were reasonably numerous, to Sant Joan, which by now was a canonry tied to a new and ephemeral bishopric at Besalú, occupied by the son of the count who got the abbey closed down, though it was already by then being called Sant Joan de les Abadesses. Yes, it stinks doesn’t it? But apparently Bishop Oliba of Vic, whom we’ve met before, made sure that all the nuns were provided with a living from the nunnery’s lands at the expulsion, and probably therefore those lands had to come back to the house when they died. It just took these two a long time to do that.

So, to reprise the earlier post’s assertions. If there were two, rather than three, nuns called Elo, and Elo de Torrent is one of those named in 948, she must still have been pretty gosh-darned old at final appearance: legal age was 14, so she must have been at least 14 in 948, therefore 83 or older at the expulsion and at least 98 when she had to see her old cloistermate to the grave! But it might be that Guinedilda, about whose uncommon name I’m more confident, was seen to the grave not by so venerable a fellow nun-in-exile but by a younger amanuensis who might only have been, er, first appearance and therefore at least legal age 1002? Last appearance 1032 so, 44 or older then.

However, neither of these venerable ladies can have been the last nun of the abbey. Why not? Because the ousted abbess, Ingilberga, reported to the somewhat incredulous Pope Benedict VII as a meretrix veneri but installed in the episcopal palace at Vic and remembered there as a venerable and pious woman, was only remembered as such after 1055. Till then she was still alive, being venerable and pious in real time. And she was oblated in 987 and took the abbacy before 995, so she must have been at least 14 then and therefore at least 74 at her death. Guinedilda was older. But Ingilberga was the last, outliving all those who’d deposed her, including the half-brother who’d installed her remorsefully in his palace. She was the last angry nun. And she probably had the best right to be, as well.6

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses


1.The document is, as well as at the shelf-mark in the picture caption, edited in Federico Udina Martorell (ed.), El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los Siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18/Publicaciones de le Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), doc. 128, and also edited and translated into Catalan in Antoni Pladevall i Font, Nuria Peirís i Pujolar, Joan-Albert Adell i Gisbert, Xavier Barral i Altet, R. Bastardes i Parera & R. M. Martín i Ros, “Sant Joan de les Abadesses”, in Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya romànica X: el Ripollès (Barcelona 1987), pp. 354-410, whence this facsimile.

2. The lost documents were inventoried in the Llibre de Canalars, a record of the abbey’s charters by the chatty Abbot Miquel Isalguer (1457-84), which Udina edited in Archivo Condal, pp. 448-499 for the period of his book. This is no. 149 there, and also Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, S. Riera i Viader, Manuel Rovira i Solà (edd.), Catalunya Carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXI (Barcelona 2005), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, 2 vols, doc. no. 201.

3. Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. nos 148 & 163; she’s also in Sobrequés et al., Catalunya carolíngia V, doc. no. 360, which is another part of the same exchange.

4. He appears giving Elo land in Gaspar Feliu & Josep María Salrach (eds), Els Pergamins de l’Arxiu Comtal de Barcelona de Ramon Borrell a Ramon Berenguer I, Diplomataris 19-21 (Barcelona 1998), doc no. 62.

5. Feliu & Salrach, Pergamins, doc. no. 226.

6. If for some reason you wished to follow up the sad history of Ingilberga, the basics are dealt with in R. d’Abadal i de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època, (Barcelona 1948; 2nd edn. 1948; 3rd edn. 1962), 3rd edn. repr. as “L’Abat Oliba i la seva època” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. J. Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i documents XIII-XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), 2 vols, II pp. 141-277, at pp. 190-200 of the reprint, which is of course about the remorseful half-brother but deals with his family as well, and more personally in Esteve Albert i Corp, Les Abadesses de Sant Joan, Episodis de l’història 69 (Barcelona 1969, 2nd edn. 1999), pp. 43-51, but you would probably also benefit from knowing that the documents of the expulsion are now edited in E. Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari i Escrits Literaris de l’Abat i Bisbe Oliba, ed. A. M. Mundó, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica XLIV (Barcelona 1992), Diplomatari nos. 10 & 49.

The last angry nun in Sant Joan de Ripoll

From thriller titles to Western echoes, although I don’t think Sant Joan de les Abadesses is really the west of anywhere. Nonetheless, it’s back there we go once more, because I have been revising the book again (now in second draft) and come across this snippet that makes for a story such as I like to tell you all.

Cloister of the abbey of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Cloister of the abbey of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Stop a minute in this cloister and I’ll tell you about someone who used to live here, back in the day, when the abbesses still ruled and a dominant Castile was still a glint in Fernán González’s eye. But first I need to set you up with some background. You probably remember Abbess Emma? Well, her end is obscure; no-one knows where she’s buried, and we don’t know exactly when she died. The last mention of her dates from 942, then there aren’t many documents for a bit and then in 949 there was a big meeting at Sant Joan whose matter makes it clear that she’d been dead for a while.1 The meeting was attended by various great and good of the area, including the deacon Miró Bonfill, one of Emma’s nephews, Bishop Guadamir of Vic, Archdeacon Ató of Vic who would be the next bishop, Viscount Guadall of Osona and Bishop Godmar II of Girona, but it was headed by two more of Emma’s nephews, Count-Marquis Borrell II of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, fairly new to the job and probably about 19 years old, and by his elder cousin Count Sunifred of Cerdanya. Neither of these two exactly ruled Sant Joan, because the area had since 899 been technically under royal immunity (King Charles the Simple‘s signature on the document that says so is the blog header up there), but Sant Joan’s properties were mainly split between Osona and Cerdanya, so it was these counts that problems at Sant Joan mostly affected.2

And problems there were, because as the scribe reports, after Emma’s death Borrell’s since-deceased father Sunyer had, ‘out of cupidity’, imposed an abbess of his own choosing, ‘an unsuitable woman, as later became clear’. These dark words are all we know about Emma’s immediate successor, a catspaw for the greedy count who had also acquired a more or less controlling interest in the valley immediately overlooking the monastery from the south, which was now held by Borrell.3 She was also dead now, however, or otherwise removed, and the meeting was to decide on a successor. Sunyer’s malpractice had apparently caused him great remorse in his final years as a monk at Notre Dame de la Grasse, but the counts weren’t letting go of the wealthy convent for all that, and the successor was the recently-widowed dowager countess of Urgell, Adelaide, Borrell’s and Sunifred’s aunt-in-law. She doesn’t seem to have taken the job seriously, goes on appearing as countess and by 956 had been replaced by one Ranló, though as Adelaide had married the counts’ uncle Sunifred II of Urgell in 907, she may well have been dead by the time we first see Ranló (though Ranló, too, was at least 63 by this time and probably older; long-lived religious women is a bit of a theme round here).4

The record of the meeting of 949 over the succession to Sant Joan

The record of the meeting of 949 over the succession to Sant Joan

But it’s not Adelaide I want to tell you about. Here is a scan of a photograph of the record of this meeting, and under it there should be linked a full-size version which blows up rather better. From the full-size version, if not from this small one, you can probably see that there are a lot of autograph signatures, Borrell’s dead centre in splendid capitals probably being by the scribe Guillad, and Sunifred conspic. by his a. but Gentiles, who had been Emma’s chief notary, appearing in the full-size glory of his own hand, above left of Borrell’s, for the last time ever. Never mind him, though, he’d had his share of the limelight; the really interesting thing is that four of the nuns also sign, apparently in their own hands. Guillad either didn’t know they could write, or thought they needed help, as he put their names in himself, but their own signatures appear also, above and to the right of Gentiles’s rather up-and-down rustic capitals hemmo d~o dicata (you see, Emma was a popular name in this area by now…), immediately above her RIHELDES D~O DIcata, Riquilda, to her right Chindiberga, right over to the left again on the next line Carissima, ‘dearest’, and back up again, just to the right of the younger Emma, ELO †. I mention Elo last because she’s the subject of the post (at last, you say!). The nuns Bellúcia and Aldècia are also made to sign by Guillad, but they apparently didn’t or couldn’t write so I shan’t locate their signatures for you (can’t actually see Bellúcia’s, I admit). On to Elo.

We know a little bit about Elo because she goes on appearing after the others. The writing nuns also turn up as witnesses to a couple of big exchanges with Count Sunifred and the deacon Miró, and also their brother Count Oliba Cabreta, in 962 that effectively set up the new comital monastery of Sant Pere de Camprodon on land that Abbess Fredeburga gave in exchange for land that had once been Sant Joan’s, but got taken over after Emma’s death.5 As I’ve observed before, it’s tough to be up against The Man in late-Carolingian Catalonia. Anyway, the same four signed one of the three documents from that deal too, but thereafter we don’t see Carissima, Riquilda, Chindiberga or the younger Emma any more, whereas Elo turns up again. This is mainly because her father, whose name is Asner, seems to have had no other heirs, so kept granting her extra land. As she got older, in her turn she granted this to Sant Joan, which is how come we have the documents.6

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

The nave and apse of the abbey church of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

But times had changed at Sant Joan during Elo’s lifetime, as I’ve mentioned before. You can see from the mess that Sunyer left behind and how his successors dealt with it that the counts were keen on clipping Sant Joan’s wings. In 1017 this came to a head when Abbess Ingilberga and her nuns were appealed before Pope Benedict VII by a load of Catalan dignitaries, who said that the convent was populated by ‘parricides and whores of Venus’ and obtained its dissolution. Elo did do quite well out of her father, but she doesn’t appear to have needed to kill him for this to happen, and Ingilberga certainly didn’t kill her father, who was Oliba Cabreta, because he had died a monk in Monte Cassino in 990. What their personal morals were like I couldn’t say, except that Elo didn’t acknowledge any heirs in her charters. So we might suspect a stitch-up, and even if we didn’t the fact that the abbey immediately became part of a new bishopric of Besalú into which the leading count’s son was installed as bishop kind of clinches the deal. So poor Elo was out on her ear, reputation besmirched and sanctity imperilled, although Bishop Oliba of Osona, perhaps somewhat bothered by having sworn before the pope that his half-sister was a father-murdering whore, did at least establish that the nuns all got an allotment of land to support themselves on before the remainder went to the new bishopric. The ousted abbess got to live in the episcopal palace, even, it’s not exactly righteous hatred is it?7

Anyway, I bet Elo was OK. She amassed quite a lot of land from her father, and she last appears in 1028. So let’s just do the arithmetic there: first appearance in 949, last in 1028, that’s an eighty-year career more or less! She can’t have been very old when she first appeared; no wonder her script is so child-like, she was in fact a child… And since she presumably wasn’t age zero in 949, she’s quite likely to have been ninety or more by the time she died: not a bad run! Which tells us first that Sant Joan were schooling their nuns from an early age, and secondly that that meeting was a bone of contention, because at this rate they got pretty much everyone with an interest in the nunnery, from the oldest (old Gentiles the notary) to the youngest (Elo and Carissima and so on) to make their marks and endorse it. I wonder how bitterly Elo might have remembered that in 1017 when she was turfed out of the cloister where she’d spent the previous, what, sixty-eight years from child to venerabilis femina, and ‘devoted to God’ throughout. I don’t suppose she was cheerful about it.

On the other hand, she must have had a huge fund of stories to tell anyone who listened. The place was being called Sant Joan de les Abadesses, ‘St John’s of the Abbesses’, by then (before then it was just, you know, Sant Joan de Ripoll) and she’d known those abbesses, at least the last four, probably five, might even just have remembered the first and greatest of them all, Emma the elder. None of the other nuns can have lived on so long after the dissolution, she really must have been the very last nun of Sant Joan. She could have answered the question “did Count Arnau really ravish the abbess, Auntie Elo?” with the correct reply, “No, little Quixilo, because Count Arnau was not real,” *whap* and so on,8 because she was there at the time (the Comte Arnau legend is later, but so very annoying that I’d like Elo to have quelled it anyway). She must also have been a figure of renown, of course, a relatively wealthy and extremely old woman with a long career of religious service behind her and the guilty respect of most of the local churchmen. Whether that made her complain any the less or feel better about things, I doubt, but unlike some people she had some basis for thinking that things had been better in her youth, no? So there you go, ladies and gentlemen: Elo, the last angry nun of Sant Joan de Ripoll.


1.Last mention in Frederico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los Siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 18/Publicaciones de le Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), doc. no. 120; this meeting is no. 128, and the picture below comes from the facsimile in that volume.

2. The immunity is Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 11, and edited in a few other places too.

3. See Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 126-131 & 143-146; the episode will also be covered in the publication of this as Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming).

4. One subsequent appearance in Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 130 still calls her Countess, not Abbess. On Ranló see Jaume Marqués Casanovas, “Domna Ranlón, ilustre dama gerundense de mil años atrás” in Anales del Instituto de Estudios Gerundenses Vol. 15 (Girona 1962), pp. 317-329.

5. Ibid. docs nos 162 & 163, plus also Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, S. Riera i Viader, Manuel Rovira i Solà (edd.), Catalunya Carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXI (Barcelona 2005), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, 2 vols, doc. no. 360.

6. Her appearances are: Udina, Archivo Condal doc. nos. 128 & 163, Gaspar Feliu & Josep María Salrach (eds), Els Pergamins de l’Arxiu Comtal de Barcelona de Ramon Borrell a Ramon Berenguer I, Diplomataris 19-21 (Barcelona 1998), doc nos. 62, 117 & 187 & Miquel Sants Gros i Pujol, “L’arxiu del monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses: notícies històriques i regesta dels documents dels anys 995-1115” in Eufèmia Fort i Cogul (ed.), II Col·loqui d’Història del Monaquisme Català, Sant Joan de les Abadesses 1970 Vol. II, Scriptorium Populeti 9 (Poblet 1974), pp. 87-128, with English summary pp. 423-424, doc. no 29.

7. The documents here are Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari i Escrits Literaris de l’Abat i Bisbe Oliba, ed. Anscari M. Mundó, Memòries… XLIV (Barcelona 1992), Diplomatari nos 10 & 49; for commentary see Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època (Barcelona 1948; 2nd edn. 1948; 3rd edn. 1962), 3rd edn. repr. as “L’Abat Oliba i la seva època” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. J. Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i Documents XIII-XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), II pp. 141-277, or in English Adam J. Kosto, “Oliba, Peacemaker” in I. Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrés Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la fi del 1r mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 135-149 or indeed Jarrett, “Pathways”, pp. 152-153.

8. I don’t hit children, least of all my relatives, just so you know. And Elo was probably too frail or too holy or both to do so either. It’s just artistic licence OK? As long as we’re clear. Good.

In Marca Hispanica V: Vic (charters, cathedrals, metal bishops and stone slabs)

Vic is the capital of the old Carolingian county of Osona, and a place with a long history. There’s a standing Roman temple, to which we sadly didn’t get, but that belongs to the city of the site of pre-Roman Ausa, from which we get the county name of Ausona. That area stands away from the modern city which is built on the plain closer to the river, and seems to have been put there by none other than Count Guifré the Hairy some time shortly before 880.1 The historic centre is close by, however, because the cathedral was deliberately sited to take advantage of and reclaim the Roman site. And there, with none of the Carolingian fabric left but a fascinating set of strata of rebuilding visible in its walls, it remains:

The Catedral de Vic, seen by night from the Plaça de la Catedral

The oldest standing part of the cathedral now is the bell-tower, which dates to a rebuild in 1038 by Bishop Oliba, great-grandson of Guifré the Hairy and a complex figure who had been Count of the Ripollès before abandoning the world to become a monk at Santa Maria de Ripoll, that comarc’s main focus. Since he thus wound up as abbot there and at several other places, at the same point as his half-sister took over neighbouring Sant Joan de les Abadesses, whom he subsequently appealed as a “whore of Venus” before Pope Benedict VII, I’ve been known to wonder about how sincere and unpolitical that conversion was. But as his uncle Miró, who was one of the most educated men in Catalonia in his time, had seen no problem with being both Count of Besalú and Bishop of Girona, and Oliba turned out to be a liturgical and social innovator, I suppose he may just have been pushed into all the politics.2 Anyway, he is remembered at Vic, though not in a form that one would perhaps expect. Here he is:

Statue of Bishop Oliba of Vic in the Plaça de la Catedral

Metal! But in a nice way: the words on his chest, “Pau i Treva”, translate as ‘Peace and Truce’ and refer to his efforts to build a popular movement to limit knightly violence in his lands. That’s worth remembering him for, perhaps more so than for shopping his bastard sister for parricide and loose morals.3 So I was quite glad to see it, but again, it’s that sense I kept getting that round here the medieval history is an important explanation of political identity. I did try and get a picture of the metal bishop with the tower that he saw built as background, so as to make that connection visually again, but the strong light behind him basically made it unusable, and for a reason I don’t now recall it wasn’t possible to repeat it when I came back next day. We spent part of the evening in Vic, anyway, which is when these shots were taken, and my conclusion is that it’s a really nice city, but its liveliness is a little artificial. And it has a tremendous number of shoe-shops. I mean, a frightening and possibly apocalyptical number of shoe-shops. There is a lot of pig-farming round here, it permeated the rural atmosphere for miles around, and this may be part of an explanation, but it did seem as if Vic, like Cambridge again, was trying to drag in shoppers as an substitute for having any real purpose. (The silly thing with Cambridge being of course that it does have a purpose, and that the public transport and roads are so impassably minuscule that the number of shoppers they want could never reach the town. But moving back to the subject.)

An awful lot of what I have written about centres on Vic, if only because an awful lot of charter transactions I’ve used as evidence probably took place in that square where Oliba now glowers. The cool thing about that is that the evidence of this is also still there, in the Arxiu i Biblioteca Episcopal de Vic, and that was where I headed the next morning. It took us a little to find it in the skein of buildings around the cathedral—and the episcopal cats were uninformative:

Cats behind the Palau Episcopal de Vic, in the sun

—but soon I found the door and knocked and was welcomed. Now, most Hispanists I’ve talked to have had some real horror stories about access to archives, of the “we only open one day a week for two hours in the afternoon. What day? Well, when do you go home? Wednesday? Thursday, then. And only if you speak Galician throughout so I can mock you. And you can’t actually touch anything and whatever it is you want to see most is locked and can’t be used” kind. So although I was rather hoping things would be better than that, as the places I wanted to go had, for example, websites, I wouldn’t have minded a war-story or two. In this I was completely disappointed. They had missed the e-mail in which I’d told them of my visit, but this was in no way a problem and didn’t prevent me being allowed, having just walked in off the street and showing no identification beyond English confusion and some shelfmarks, to have practically all their tenth-century charters out at once to look at:

The volumes of Calaixs 6 & 9 of the Arxiu Episcopal de Vic

In this I principally owe thanks to Rafael Ginebra who was doing the fetching, and who had also previously done the indices for the biggest and most important charter edition I use, and has therefore saved me an incalculable amount of work.4 I also owe thanks however to the archivist, Miquel Sants i Gros, who was politely hauled out to show me the tenth-century papal papyri they also have here—in fact Vic has almost all of the surviving tenth-century papal papyri in the world—and about which I wrote something ages ago that may even some day make it to print. One of the things that a reviewer had to say about that paper was that it wasn’t at all clear I’d seen the things for real. And I hadn’t, indeed, but I’d worked from (and compared) two separate facsimile editions, one from before their restoration in 1928 and one after, the latter being far far easier to read, obviously, but also, I was concerned, perhaps too restorative.5 So working from the unaltered facsimiles actually seemed like better practice to me anyway. And seriously, what is the point of producing facsimile or even critical editions if work using them is automatically panned, eh? Calm down Jarrett, calm down. Right, yes. Anyway, so what I was doing in this archive was mainly heading off that sort of criticism…

The three alleged papal bulls of 971 from John XIII to Catalonia

… and also solving some of the questions that editions won’t let you answer, like, is that the same scribe Agelà who writes this other one? (It wasn’t, in any of the three cases, and a really good edition ought to tell you that clearly anyway, but there is a certain level of data you have to omit or never ever publish, of course; the relevant edition here took long enough anyway.6)

This left me flicking carefully through those volumes above, which have rows of three or four parchments stitched into a binding to make a kind of flap-book leaf, and then another set, and so on, till no more will fit. Individually, they look like this one:

Arxiu Capitular de Vic, Calaix 6, núm. 2090

Let me give you an example of the sort of question I was trying to answer. In the edition of the Vic charters, the editor warns you of his no. 246, which is a bequest, that a legacy to Bishop Radulf is added in a different ink. As I’m continually trying to problematise the idea of charter production, people messing with charters is meat and drink to me, so I wanted to see the original, and actually it’s more interesting than you would suppose:

Close-up of Arxiu Capitular de Vic, calaix 9, episc. I, núm 50

Now the bit we’re interested in is five lines down, the gap, and the clause in the middle there which, you can take my word for it, reads (with gaps between words and the abbreviation expanded): “& ad seniori meo rodulfo ep[iscop]o ipso meo freno parato”, ‘and to my lord Bishop Radulf my selfsame embroidered bridle”. This is interesting because it’s not, as I had thought, an afterthought or even a fraud; for a start, although you can hopefully see that it is in a different ink, it’s by the same scribe, the handwriting is the same. More to the point, the bulk of that line was apparently left blank when the charter was first drawn up, as if they were expecting more to come. And where they added the first extra bit that we now see, it’s all squeezed up tight, as if there was going to be another extra clause put in after that. So three phases of redaction minimum, except that the third one never happens. Not, in any case, an on-the-spot production but something planned, worked out, agreed on and then somehow unfinished. This is the sort of problematisation I mean.

Before I emerged from the archive, Dr Sants had very kindly given me a tour round the whole thing. It’s huge. It occupies most of the old episcopal palace, and the stuff they have in there made me feel goshdarned ungrateful to be an early medievalist, because there’s so much brilliant stuff sitting there, perfectly preserved in dry cold, not being used. What could you do, for example, with a series of parish registers that runs from the Spanish Civil War back to circa 1280? With marriage registers for a town running from the fourteenth century to the present day? And quite a lot of gorgeous manuscripts too. In only wanting to use some 700 of their earliest tatty fragments, I did feel as if I was missing a trick somehow. I do recommend a trip to look if you’re in search of a project, though you will need to speak at least French and preferably Spanish, or best of all Catalan. If you must speak Spanish, at least affect a foreign accent so that they know you know no better.

The other thing that we did once I’d emerged into the light was visit the Museu Episcopal de Vic, which is on the same square in a very modern building. It sounds a little parochial, and I suppose it is but this is my parrochia, and it is actually the main museum of the surrounding area; when a local church is dug, for example, the bits wind up here. That said, they also have a small but interesting collection of Ancient and late Antique Egyptian stuff, why I don’t know, and a really good numismatic display, including the only two coins that really might come from tenth-century Catalonia. They also have, and this is what I was really after, a stone slab from the early church that preceded the monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres, which is (I have now seen and can say) covered in inscribed names in eleventh-century hands and spellings, and raises all kinds of questions I’ll solve some day about acceptance and integration of the monastery (which was founded in 1006). They also have a seemingly endless collection of wooden statues of Madonna and child but the other stuff, and the Museu bookshop, which sold me several vital things I could never have got in the UK, more than made up for this slight obsession, which didn’t really float my boat, gorgeous though some of it was. What they didn’t have, as you may by now have guessed, was permission for people to take photographs, but their website is good even if the English-language sections don’t go very deep, and I do recommend having a poke round it (requires Flash).

So that was Vic, and we left it having bought stuff to eat a peasant-style lunch with and went in search of a castle, which I’ll tell you about later.


1. The standard work on the city, if their website there isn’t enough for you, is Ramon Ordeig i Mata, Els orígens històrics de Vic (segles VIII-X) (Vic 1981), but some account is to be had in English from Paul H. Freedman, The Diocese of Vic: tradition and regeneration in medieval Catalonia (New Brunswick 1983), online at http://libro.uca.edu/vic/vic.htm, last modified 17 August 2000 as of 22 March 2008.

2. Oliba has been unusual in attracting quite a lot of attention from English-language scholars. The classic work on him is still in Catalan, Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època (Barcelona 1948; 2nd edn. 1948; 3rd edn. 1962), 3rd edn. repr. as “L’Abat Oliba i la seva època” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. J. Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i Documents XIII-XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), II pp. 141-277. However, to this one can now add Adam J. Kosto, “Oliba, Peacemaker” in I. Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrés Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la fi del 1r mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 135-149, and, more obtainably, Paul H. Freedman, “A Charter of Oliba before his Entry into Religious Life” in Robert F. Berkhofer III, Alan Cooper & Adam J. Kosto (edd.), The Experience of Power in Medieval Europe, 950-1350: essays in honor of Thomas N. Bisson (Aldershot 2005), pp. 121-128. If you should want to study the metal man here, every scrap of writing that he produced or that mentions him (except that one presented by Freedman in the previous reference) is edited in Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari i Escrits Literaris de l’Abat i Bisbe Oliba, ed. Anscari M. Mundó, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica XLIV (Barcelona 1992), and in there the papal condemnation of Abbess Ingilberga and her nuns is Diplomatari no. 49. Note that Oliba’s nephew Guillem immediately got the nunnery’s spare lands to become Bishop of Besalú with (ibid., no. 10); obviously nothing set-up about that at all! Meanwhile, on the Count-Bishop Miró, see Josep María Salrach, “El Bisbe-Comte Miró Bonfill i la seva obra de fundació i dotació de monestirs” in Eufèmia Fort i Cogul (ed.), II Col·loqui d’Història del Monaquisme Català, Sant Joan de les Abadesses 1970 vol. II, Scriptorium Populeti 9 (Poblet 1974), pp. 57-81, with English summary pp. 422-423.

3. See Kosto, “Oliba”, and more generally on the Peace of God, Thomas Head & Richard Landes (edd.), The Peace of God: social violence and religious responses in France around the year 1000 (Ithaca 1992).

4. Rafael Ginebra & Ramon Ordeig, “Índex alfabètic de noms” in Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats de Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueòlogica LIII (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, Pt. 3, pp. 1355-1563.

5. The two editions are P. Kehr, Die ältesten Papsturkunden Spaniens, erläutert und reproduziert, Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jahrgang 1926, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse, Nr. 2 (Berlin 1926), and Pontificum Romanorum Diplomata Papyracea quae Supersunt in Tabulariis Hispaniae Italiae Germaniae phototypice expressa iussu Pii PP. XI (Roma 1929). The paper is called “Archbishop Ató of Osona: false metropolitans on the Marca Hispanica” and I hope to have it resubmitted some time in the latter part of this year.

6. That edition being E. Junyent i Subirà (ed.), El Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic, segles IX i X, ed. R. Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), 5 fascs, in which these two charters are nos 247 & 246 respectively.