Tag Archives: Carolingians

Exciting things out of the ground!

There’s been quite a lot of heavyweight braining here over the last little while, so I think it’s OK if I slack with a links post this time. Some of the stuff that was done by archæologists in the last few months of 2009 might turn out to be pretty significant, in fact. Firstly, you can find at Martin Rundkvist’s Aardvarchaeology a report of new dendro-chronological dates for two Norwegian ship-burials. They turn out to be prime Viking-Age examples, and the oldest dendrochronologically dated ones there are. He also notes that the famous Oseberg ship can now be dated to 820 but that it was built far away from Oslo where it was modified and eventually buried, which allows one to think new, if unprovable, thoughts about the origins of the princess supposedly buried therein. So that’s fun, and, you know, furnished burial, Vikings and women, pretty much all the cool medievalist points there are except plague or trebuchets.

A brooch from the Merovingian-period cemetery at Noisy-le-Grand, Paris

A brooch from the Merovingian-period cemetery at Noisy-le-Grand, Paris

Then, in a case of ‘all of those except the Vikings’, I see from Archaeology in Europe that News for Medievalists reports on the location of two Frankish cemeteries in the Parisian area, at Noisy-le-Grand, which date from the 5th-6th centuries, when the kings were Merovingians (in some cases) and most Franks were probably pagan and burial was furnished and boxed, and the 8th-10th centuries, when the kings were Carolingians, Christianity was Generally prescribed and to be taught in schools and that, and burial was apparently austere and shrouded. This kind of direct possibility comparison is a real boon and I hope for a suitably glossy booklet to snag illustrations from (or perhaps, you know, a Flickr site as per Staffordshire Hoard).

Excavations at church of Varnhem, SW Sweden

Excavations at church of Varnhem, SW Sweden

Then, this time with ‘women, Vikings and burial which I don’t know about the furnishing of’, and that for a fairly broad use of the term Viking, a team of Swedish archaeologists have apparently found a church dated to c. 1000 in southern Sweden, which would be the oldest yet known there: so at least reports News for Medievalists on the basis of an article in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia that would cost you twenty Euros to read. From the report at News for Medievalists, though, it seems that the church was raised over an existing female burial dated to c. 975, and that other older burials are nearby. The article as they quote it suggests that this means a Christian site all along, but I wonder (and I note that if that burial and that church have both been dated from radio-carbon, the real dates could easily be in the opposite sequence, which might give us a ‘prominent noblewoman converts and founds oratory in deathbed gift’ scenario or similar).

Ruins of Qasr al-Banat, Rakka, Syria

Ruins of Qasr al-Banat, Rakka, Syria, from Wikimedia Commons

Then, something and somewhere completely different, News for Medievalists has a notice, one of many in recent months, about the ongoing digs at Qasr al-Banat in Syria. This time the find appears to be a bathhouse, in remarkably good order allowing us to distinguish, for example, that it had a separate toilet block, but for some reason I’d not taken on board the significance of the site as a whole, which is that it’s an cAbbasid palace complex in Syria. This is mainly significant because early medieval Syrian Islamic palaces are usually a thing of the previous, Umayyad, dynasty, as the cAbbasids were much more Persia-based. It’s only small, but Caliph Harun al-Rashid seems to have sorted himself out quite nicely.

Bronze Age flowers found in a grave at Forteviot, Perth, Scotland

Bronze Age flowers found in a grave at Forteviot, Perth, Scotland

Lastly, not medieval at all but quite touching: in the ongoing digging at Forteviot, site of a medieval Scots royal palace near Perth, a monumental Bronze Age grave has been opened that proved to contain, among more normal things like a coffin and a dagger, the heads of several meadowsweet blooms that have somehow lasted 4,000 or so years in the ground. Pollen has apparently been found in such sites before but was put down to honey; now we can suspect that even in the Bronze Age one might deposit flowers with the dead. (Ha! a dagger and flowers and no surviving body. Gender me that, processualists!) The report is apparently out in British Archaeology, but I got this from this BBC News story which I was alerted to by Archaeology in Europe. So there you are.

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The fisc: cheap at the price?

I hear tell there are some historians reading. Can I ask you all something? This is a question connected to something I suggested to the estimable Another Damned Medievalist I might do at a future Kalamazoo, concerning the succession of the Carolingians to the royal, or even state, lands, or fisc (whence `fiscal’ as in policy, you see), of the Visigothic kings in Catalonia. Fiscal land is a weird thing in early medieval historiography. (The question’s coming in a minute. Bear with me.) We see the kings dole it out, apparently, and we worry over people making fiscal rights private property (the Visigoths even worried about the king doing this), even though we also worry about `public’ and `private’ rights as categories, which ought to make rubbish of the argument.1 One of the reasons almost any royal family is supposed to fail is that they run out of fisc to give their followers, but we hardly ever check on how much fisc there was, or even read the work of those who have tried.2

This bothers me particularly because the word means something slightly different in my area, as I’ve mentioned before: when I see the term fiscus it usually means an allotment of fiscal land temporarily let out to an official in return for his service to the count. That’s why my lot mean by it till, ooh, 980 at least, and I can point you at a couple of castles whose fisc, that is their supporting allowance of land, is documentarily testified.3 Now this doesn’t stop the same arguments happening: Pierre Bonnassie, the late doyen of my field, reckoned that the counts of Barcelona were badly short of fiscal land after a while because of how much they gave away to buy followers. He saw the fisc as an ancient allotment, ultimately held over from the Visigoths, that the counts were squandering, and as I say this is quite an old model.4 The trouble is when you look at it that, as so often happens to use at our thousand-year distance, the word was not being used as Bonnassie expected it. One particular piece of what Bonnassie calls fiscal land (mainly I think because it has a castle in it) that the counts gave away, Bonnassie didn’t realise the priest to whom they’re selling it had given it to the count immediately beforehand, apparently so as to buy it back with a new tax-free status. He’d got it from someone else and it was named after a fourth person, so it’s not obviously ancient government land. And if that could be a fisc so could anything.5 Now the counts of Barcelona in the late tenth century were, almost certainly, rich men.6 They could avoid being short of land to give away merely by buying more of it, and in that example we see Borrell II doing just that.

So my question is, do we ever see the kings do this, buy land to replenish the fisc? I haven’t read a great many royal charters, compared to the private sort, and it’s hard to know why this sort of charter might be kept except that, if ordinary private sales are, things with kings in ought to stand a better chance, but I don’t recall coming across a king buying land. And yet surely they must have done. It would have been so much simpler than coming up with obscure and tangled power arguments about how it was theirs really, and continual dispossessions is no way to run a stable kingdom, as history tells us indeed. But I just can’t think of any cases. Anybody else got any? And may I borrow them, if so?

P. S. This has no connection to anything above but, I just discovered that there is Occitan Wikipedia and I am well struck with this idea and had to mention it.


1. If I try and properly reference this post the notes will be longer than the content and it’ll take eight days to write. If you’re actually interested, then let me point you at Santiago Castellanos, “The Political Nature of Taxation in Visigothic Spain” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2004), pp. 201-228, which is actually a welcome attempt to ask something new about how the fisc worked, and is a good place to start. People have been going to town on the old school for quite a while (see Jane Martindale, “The Kingdom of Aquitaine and the ‘Dissolution of the Carolingian Fisc'” in Francia Vol. 11 (Sigmaringen 1983), pp. 131-192) but it won’t quite die.

2. I admit that even I haven’t read the obvious starting point, Wolfgang Metz’s Das karolingische Reichsgut: eine verfassungs- und verwaltungsgeschichtliche Untersuchung (Berlin 1960), but I will. My picture of work on the theme since then is that there have been a few local studies but nothing so all-encompassing: anybody feel like telling me differently? (Gosh, Regesta Imperii‘s OPAC is good for this sort of question!)

3. Gurb, so documented in Ramon Ordeig i Mata, Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa (Barcelona 1999), doc. no. 1122, and Sant Esteve de Centelles, so documented in Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Biblioteca de Reserva, Pergamins C (Sant Pere de Casserres) 2.

4. Pierre Bonnassie, La Catalogne du milieu du Xe à la fin du XIe siècle : croissance et mutations d’une société (Toulouse 1975-1976), I pp. 145-148, with a stern table of the counts’ fiscal alienations.

5. Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic, segles IX i X, ed. R. Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), 5 fascs, doc. nos 542, 551 & 552 (all these also in Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV but I don’t have those numbers handy; these ones are referenced in it). Bonnassie noted Vic 552 (Catalogne, I p. 146), in which Count Ramon Borrell sold some fiscal land at Vilatorta to a priest Sunifred under a special tax exemption for 100 solidi, but did not note Vic 551, in which Sunifred gave the same land to the count. Sunifred bought the land the first time in Vic 539, when it was called alodes Cesarii, the alod of Cesari, but it wasn’t someone called Cesari selling it, so it had probably been a clearance effort a generation or two before. If you like this example you may want to cite Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (London forthcoming) where I’m using it in what’s currently Chapter 3. Oh for page proofs…

6. I know that somewhere I have read the idea, which I think is wrong, that the counts of Barcelona sold so many of their castles because they were desperately short of cash. I just can’t find it. I can find a paper in which I don’t reference this claim which suggests that I couldn’t find it last time I looked, either. I think it must be Josep María Salrach but I don’t know where. I’ll find it, but not in the time this post is brewing. Sorry.

A conference across the sea

I am slightly torn with this entry, between doing it briefly without saying anything too controversial to what appears to be a newly-expanded readership, because many of you may be the people about whom I’d be writing, and between doing it justice. Since my attempts to keep my posts short never really work, I think I can guess which side will win…

Anyway, this post is about the Haskins Society Conference just gone, where I just went. You may not know what the Haskins Society for Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, Angevin and Viking History is, but their full title there given (and punctuated as per UK English I notice, which is odd) and the explanation on their webpages may answer your question:

The Society was organized in May 1982, mostly at the instigation of graduate students from UCSB. Permission was gained from George Haskins of the University of Pennsylvania Law School to name the society in honor of his father, Charles Homer Haskins (1870-1937), a great force in the development of medieval studies in America, whose Renaissance of the Twelfth Century reshaped our conception of high medieval civilization and whose Norman Institutions contributed fundamentally to our understanding of medieval Normandy.

So there you have it, and as you can tell from the index to their journal, the work that gets presented to them is often of a pretty high order. Quite what I was doing there, given that I don’t deal in any of their immediate spheres of interest beyond a general one in kingship and nobility, is an interesting question, and we could get Aristotelian on it, but the efficient cause was that Matt Gabriele of Modern Medieval asked me to participate in a panel he was chairing, and this was the point at which I realised this whole blog idea might have been good for something after all, and I accepted without counting the cost.

I could just about afford it. The conference fee itself is not too bad, steeper than Leeds (which is pretty steep) but without Leeds’s budget-airline-like hidden charges. The accommodation however, even at a discount rate, was far beyond what was really needed. Leeds is too big to do anything much beyond student rooms, Haskins can squeeze into hotels, but hotels in Washington DC two days after the US public had elected someone whom many seem to hope will be Superman,1 were never going to be cheap, and the cost of the accommodation far exceeded the conference fee whereas Leeds is always the other way about. The food, also, was not exactly budget, though it was easy enough to stomp off somewhere and ensure, at least, that you only paid ten dollars for a huge and nutritious meal rather than twenty for a medium-sized gourmet one (though the hotel food itself was rather poor). The coffee is generally far better in the US than in the UK, at least. Anyway, I’m not going out much till pay-day, and I’m unlikely to go to Haskins again until I can make someone else pay for it, alas; it’s just not viable from the UK for me. Also, if first impressions are to mean much, it was raining when I arrived just as it had been in England when I left, and pretty much the first store-front I saw offered me this failure of intended expression:

"I do not think it means what you think it means"

'I do not think it means what you think it means'

But was it worth doing? Well, ultimately I guess we still have to find out, but I thought it was a very positive experience. It was fascinating to put faces to many names: I used to be able to guess people’s appearances from their writing a bit, but this went wrong in 2003 or so and now everyone I meet in the field comes as a surprise. On the other hand, the first person I recognised was an IHR regular and so were many others; it was very much, in that respect, like the party at which, to your delight, two previously separate groups of friends finally mix and all get on splendidly. In general it was a sociable and friendly conference, and Alan Thacker observed to me how noticeable it was that literature types and hard-history types had all found ground on which they could talk to each other productively. So I would say go if you’re likely to be interested, but only if you have somewhere cheap to stay (next year is at Boston College, which might be cheaper) and eat.

That leads onto the next question, are you likely to be interested? Well, let me give you the program, with one-sentence remarks that should hopefully keep me from alienating any new friends and contacts.

Friday, November 7

Featured speaker: the C. Warren Hollister Memorial Lecture

Paul Hyams, “Reconciling Brain and Backbone: is medieval history still defensible?”
An interesting and anecdotal plea for us to avoid avoiding the past’s analogies with the present, but instead to use them as a way to get the news out that people going through tough times can learn from the fact that other people went through similarly tough times before.

The Legend of Charlemagne and the Negotiation of Power

  • Jonathan Jarrett (who he?), “Legends in their own Lifetime? The late Carolingians and Catalonia”. Apparently the area that would become Catalonia remained attached to the idea of the Carolingians enough to occasionally obey them even up till 986, which is all very well, and (I thought) stylishly demonstrated, but why was this guy saying it here right after the keynote, eh?
  • Wendy Marie Hoofnagle, “A New Look at the New Forest: the rôle of Charlemagne in the Exercise of Royal Power”, arguing that William the Conqueror’s laws about the royal forests of England emulated Carolingian legislation like the Capitulare de villis
  • Anthony Adams, “The Memory of Karolus Magnus and the Question of Power and Privilege in Late Medieval England”, treating Charlemagne as the rather degenerate figure he becomes in later romances where the hero usually mocks him rather than respect him

Women and Lordship

  • Lois Huneycutt, “Adeliza of Louvain, Queen of England, Countess of Arundel, and the Flemish Connection”
  • Heather Tanner, “Cyphers or Lords? The inheriting countesses of Boulogne and Ponthieu (1173-1260)”
  • RaGena DeAragon, “Two Countesses of Leicester: Petronilla de Granmesnil and Loretta da Braose”
  • A very coherent session in which several high medieval noblewomen got their 15 minutes of fame, but I was most struck by the last paper which compared two successive countesses of the same honour who could hardly have been more different, one joining her husband in rebellion and the second spending most of her adult life as a widowed anchoress.

Historical Narrative and the Problem of Authorship

  • Thomas Bredehoft, “Wulfstan the Homilist and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”, arguing that more annals than have previously been reckoned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle can be attributed to the pen of Archbishop Wulfstan of York, with knock-on implications for the history of the ‘D’ manuscript
  • Nicholas Paul, “Les livres, les gestes e les estoires: the authorship, function and proliferation of dynastic historical narratives in the twelfth century”, looking at the sudden and brief flurry of genealogical historiography among the nobility of the West in that period, special mention for being the second person that day to talk about the Catalan dynasty myth

Saturday November 12th

Men and Masculinities at the Courts of the Anglo-Norman Kings

  • Kirsten Fenton, “Men and Masculinities in William of Malmesbury’s Presentation of the Anglo-Norman Kings”
  • Simon Yarrow, “Men and Masculinities in the Writings of Orderic Vitalis”
  • William Aird, “‘The Wild Bull and the Old Sheep’: images of masculinity and conflict at the courts of William Rufus”
  • Again, a session so coherent that any of the speakers could probably have written both the others’ papers, but all leaning towards the idea of a conservative church literature decrying men of the latest fashion they found to be long-haired and sexually ambiguous so as to get the girls. For some reason this possibility confused some of the audience, who therefore we know do not work on goths…

Personal Names and Cultural Identity

  • Francesca Tinti, “Names, Miracles and Witnesses in early Anglo-Latin hagiographies” pointing out that Bede drops a lot of his sources from the Anonymous Life of Cuthbert when writing his own and substitutes his own chain of authorities, and discussing that’s effects
  • Regan Eby, “Personal Names and Identity in Eleventh-Century Brittany”, showing that families did not divide between French and Breton identities in the border zones of Brittany but in fact used both name-stocks for their children equally
  • Chris Lewis, “Cultural Identity and the Changing Personal Names of the English in the Twelfth Century”, arguing that English names persist a long time but that some Norman names become so common as to effectively be identifiers of English origins by this time

Featured Speaker

Mark Gardiner, “Can we quantify the area of assarted land in twelfth-century England?”, complicating the idea of land clearance by reminding us that uncleared land is often still under quite heavy use for grazing and forest pasture, which eventually clears land itself, as well as other solid observations.

Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Works of Bede

  • Alan Thacker, “Bede and his Martyrology, arguing that the venerable author was doing something different, a kind of collection of little-known saints, than what the prevailing trend of such writing wanted
  • Sally Shockro, “Bede and the Rewriting of Sanctity”, analysing the use of Biblical material between the Anonymous and Bede’s Lives of St Cuthbert and feeling Bede’s to be much cleverer
  • Lin Ferrand, “Atmospheric Phenomena in Bede’s De nature rerum“, checking Bede’s record of weather to show that he was not above modifying Isidore of Seville’s text when what went for Seville really didn’t at Jarrow, but that he didn’t always bother

New Perspectives on the Bayeux Tapestry

  • Elizabeth Pastan, “Questioning the role of Odo of Bayeux”, seeking to remove Bishop Odo from a position of compositional control to that of general patron, unbending many circular arguments
  • Stephen White, “Harold’s Oath on the Bayeaux Tapestry”, discussing the context of Harold’s oath in those other oaths between lords that we don’t call feudalism, and again deflating some rather distended assumptions about Odo’s and Bayeux’s involvement

Workshop

Deborah Everhart led a workshop entitled, “A Workshop on Learner-Centred Medieval Studies Course Design”. This was useful to me in generating ideas for teaching but didn’t necessarily contain much that was new to those already in the classroom. Here it seems worth diverting to notice that there was in general a lot of talk about teaching, and a lot of comparison of strategies, situations and solutions. You wouldn’t get this at a UK conference, or at least I haven’t noticed it: in the UK teaching is seen as a danger to one’s RAE score first and foremost alas, and this is a fault of the RAE really, as quite a lot of us like teaching I think. The actual session was not as much use to me as it might have been, I guess, as my teaching training covered a lot of the same ideas, but if you see my notes:

haskinnotes

… you can see that I was at least thinking as a result of it, even if not actually paying it much attention. And yes, they did give us notepaper, which would be one expense to cut, and yes, my longhand really is that bad. Anyway. To someone with more teaching experience I understand that the workshop was even less worthwhile, but Ms Everhart has a pitch to make of course and there was genuine good intent here as well.

Sunday November 8

The Thought and Practice of Religious Life

  • Bruce Venarde, “Robert of Arbrissel and the Mainstream”, in which the man who probably knows this mysterious preacher better than any living tried to explain that although his tactics were unorthodox, his general reformist and theological strategy was genuinely quite the opposite
  • Erin Jordan, “Monks, Nuns and Anniversary Masses: the importance of gender for thirteenth-century Cistercian abbeys in Northern France”, which showed to the speaker’s apparent surprise as much as our own that despite supposedly being less spiritually ‘effective’ because of the inordinability of women (something which was questioned in part in comments for the period before the twelfth century), Cistercian nunneries in her area and period attracted as many requests for commemorative masses as did their male equivalents
  • Maureen Walsh, “‘All Will Be Well’: universal salvation in the theology of Julian of Norwich”, an account of the resolution of confusion between Julian’s own Church-taught view that we’re all damned to Hell and the Word she received that we would all be ‘well’ and how she stayed inside orthodoxy while saying that the Church had it wrong

Now, at this point, I stepped out to try and get to the museum at Dumbarton Oaks rather than have spent my entire time in Washington at a conference venue. It looks like a lovely place to visit, and because it contains the other portion of Philip Grierson’s coin collection, I feel I have some small connection with it. Unfortunately, although I had a quick look at the Museum website to work out where it was, I didn’t read closely enough, and it was shut when I got there.

The <em>outside</em> of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum

The outside of the Dumbarton Oaks Museum


So I did some shopping, had a wander and came back for the concluding round table discussion, which to my delight involved someone talking about Randolph Starn’s idea of history as genealogy, meaning I was able to get my oar in as keen readers might expect. I was quite keen on making it clear to people that I could think in a discussion, and I may have let this get in the way of actually contributing much. I hope not though.

And then by the great kindness and automobile of Another Damned Medievalist, it was to the airport, and home eventually, as on the way there a few seats in various directions from the plane’s entire complement of squalling infants, but, such is life. It was enough like a very bad night’s sleep that I managed to balance out the jetlag quite quickly, but I am still trying to go to bed at three a. m. even now. Oh hang on, that’s normal. When do you think I write these things, after all? Evidently not when I’m awake… Still, that’s a report for you, and if I’ve mentioned you, hullo, it was interesting to meet you… I have come home with a renewed sense of confidence in my own work and ability, which I’m managing to retain despite life assailing it with criticisms and dying rock drummers, and that is worth quite a lot of money.


1. I should maybe make myself clear on this. I think the election of Mr Obama is a grand thing for the reputation of the USA, but from an outside perspective, this enlightened and probably very noble man is still going to push my government into buying a hugely expensive and completely unnecessary upgrade to our nuclear deterrent, now, isn’t he? So I’m not quite as invested in him as my readership may largely be, yet.

There is this problem with royal charters, even Louis the German’s (quasi-review)

Some time ago, a then-colleague of mine who works on Germany got a copy of Wilfried Hartmann’s new book, Ludwig der Deutsche (Darmstadt 2002) for review. And then she got another one, so she passed that one on to me. And finally, I’ve read it, and since it was a review copy it seems only fair that it gets a review, right?

Cover of Hartmann's Ludwig der Deutsche

Cover of Hartmann's Ludwig der Deutsche

If English-language readers are aware of Charlemagne’s grandson Louis the German, who became king of Bavaria in 817 under the division of the Holy Roman Empire by Emperor Louis the Pious, his father, and eventually died in 876 as the senior surviving Carolingian king ruling most of what is now Germany, Switzerland, Austria and a decent chunk of what used to be Yugoslavia, it’s probably through Eric Goldberg’s recent book, Struggle for Empire: kingship and conflict under Louis the German, 817-876 (Ithaca 2006), which received, shall we say, mixed reviews. If you can manage German, then, you may find this a useful little resort.

Hartmann’s treatment of Louis sets out to answer a basic question, how much did Louis contribute to the making of Germany? But thankfully, he doesn’t let this teleology cloud his biography of this most interesting king. He details the events of Louis’s life at the first part of one of the book’s two massive core chapters, explains his family relations, then goes for themes, the constituent parts of Louis’s manifold kingdom and his politics in them, the relations with outside polities (especially the Moravians), and then in the other core chapter, methods of rule, officials, law, relations with the nobility, the Church, mission endeavours, and a short but trenchant section on culture and learning, which is often neglected in work on East Francia, what makes the sudden Ottonian burst of it look like a Renaissance that perhaps we don’t need. There was no court school, but Hraban Maur trained an awful lot of intellectuals and his monastery at Fulda developed a substantial output both in Latin and German, and it was only one of many centres. The closing section, on the economy, is baldest of all, mainly through lack of evidence, but also because it’s not Hartmann’s favourite topic (which appears, from his bibliography, to be synods and conciliar records). A lot of this, it could be argued, doesn’t go very deep, and indeed it is often rather like a list of cites and no more, showing that Louis, for example, issued such-and-such a number of charters to Alemannia between 829 and 844 despite not ruling there whereas actually fewer to Bavaria where he did, and so on. But these are actually very useful collections of data for someone who might want to take this study further: whatever your topic may be, as long as it’s not the economy, you can probably start from here, and until someone has, I think it’s defensible to say that Hartmann has said all that is safe to say. As far as safe judgement goes, he had the dissertation from which Goldberg’s book came, and frequently cites it, but doesn’t always agree, so there’s an element of safe-making there which may be interesting, especially as Goldberg presumably had this to hand when revising his thesis for publication…

Anyway, I like it. The German is very clear and even the lists are at least nicely-phrased. He makes a case that Louis started with considerable ambitions on the western kingdoms of his brothers, but finished his reign conceptually more confined to his finished domains, which were after 870 basically the same kingdom, less the Pannonian portions, that Henry the Fowler took over in 919. He didn’t try and become Holy Roman Emperor in 875 in competition with Charles the Bald, he stayed in ‘Germany’ and sent his son, and by then St Gall were already calling him imperator anyway it seems, which is interesting. When Louis died, Charles was unable to talk the various kingdoms’ nobility into letting him take over; instead Louis’s sons succeeded, Charles the Fat eventually swept the lot and of course in 884 took over even the West; but then, in 887, it was the Saxons, Bavarians, Alemans and East Franks together that rose against him. Hartmann argues persuasively that forty-odd years of being made to act collectively brought these disparate groups into a common frame of reference, that worked together, which is as much a Germany as one can get this early, and blames Louis for this. And it is a case, but the case is far from being all the book.

Detail of a charter of Louis the German of 841 showing his signature and seal, from Wikimedia Commons

Detail of a charter of Louis the German of 841 showing his signature and seal, from Wikimedia Commons

Just one quibble. Hartmann uses royal charters very heavily in this book, for itinerary information and for evidence of whom Louis had connections with and whom he favoured. The former, with Carolingian acta at least, is fair enough, because they do give a location where they were issued, and since they don’t usually have witnesses we don’t have to worry (though perhaps we should) as to whether the date refers to the meeting at which the donation was agreed, the meeting where it was witnessed, or the actual making of the charter that records it, and which of those bits if any might actually have involved the king in person… The favour bit, though, is a problem, and one that I’ve written about before. Hartmann argues (pp. 89-90) that because of the above-mentioned predominance of Aleman charter recipients when Louis was only King of Bavaria, 829-843 in effective terms, he must have been working hard to get a foothold in this kingdom that was technically at the time assigned to Charles the Bald. And this may be true, but it’s not certain, because of course you only, as king, issue a royal charter when someone comes and asks you for one, you don’t just gift someone out of the blue with estates with no negotiation or fore-warning. So what this shows is almost more interesting, that a lot of churches in Alemannia thought that they’d get better shrift and security from Louis even when they’d just been given a king of their own in the form of Charles. And that may indeed be because Louis was agitating very hard in the area, but that isn’t something we can just assume. This hardly ruins a good book, but I do wish that Carolingianists in particular would wake up to this extra step in the logic of these documents. Mark Mersiowsky published a piece on this in, er, 2000, but it was pretty evident to people like me and my Catalan virtual instructors that such was the case because of one of the things I was talking about at Haskins, royal charters issued to areas where the king no longer has direct authority and which therefore can’t be genuine evidence of his gifting policy.1 Who gets charters, wants charters, and that’s where the enquiry needs to focus.


1. Mark Mersiowsky, “Towards a Reappraisal of Carolingian Sovereign Charters” in Karl Heidecker (ed.), Charters and the Use of the Written Word in Medieval Society, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy 5 (Turnhout 2000), pp. 15-25; J. Jarrett, “Legends in their own Lifetime: the late Carolingians and Catalonia”, paper presented in session ‘The Legend of Charlemagne and the Negotiation of Power’, Haskins Society Conference, Georgetown University, Washington DC, 7th November 2008.

Confronting the/my past: how do you learn about the Carolingians?

There is I guess, no secret in the fact that I did two of my degrees at Cambridge, even if this is sometimes a cause of slight guilt. While I was there I was lucky to be taught by some very clever people whom I owe a great deal, and chief among those has to be Professor Rosamond McKitterick (though because I am ancient, she was only Dr McKitterick then…). Apart from a great deal of encouragement, administrative support and advice, and innumerable references, some of the things I owe her have only become apparent since then. Most of these are the things she made me (us) study, things that I would then, as a brash undergraduate, have as happily done without, and been a much poorer historian as a result. Such things were, for example, what palæography and manuscript studies can contribute to one’s grasp of historical change, not just intellectual history but, you know people moving from place to place, or just book production meaning you have access to a lot of sheep; or, generally, how what the clerics are arguing about can be part of the wider society they take part in and thus reveal some of the concerns of the man in the street; and I’ve since written here already about how what can, if you’re listening to Professor McKitterick for the first time, seem like a bewildering list of manuscripts resolves, once you know her approaches and can keep up with the citations, into genuine insight into issues of the days that she and I study, which perhaps no-one else could uncover for you.

An illumination of St John writing his Gospel from the Lorsch Gospels, taken from Wikimedia Commons

An illumination of St John writing his Gospel from the Lorsch Gospels, taken from Wikimedia Commons

So the main things I took from Professor McKitterick’s teaching were not to dismiss sorts of evidence as uninteresting just because I wanted to work on secular power and not monasteries, for example (not that I knew that yet, and you know, see how that worked out…), and that the élite and the general population were in closer contact and affected each other more than one might usually think. I also learned an awful lot about Carolingian intellectuals, and how to find that interesting (I still have a soft spot for Eriguena); I got my first taste of charters in the form of Tessier’s Recueil of Charles the Bald, and somewhere in there got a very important lesson about backing up your work, thankfully with something non-essential whose absence she forgave. I also got encouraged to study Catalonia after I wondered about it, and that has, if not worked out well, at least certainly worked out long-term. So yes.

This is all coming back to me fresh because I’m reading what is now my own copy, inherited by strange paths from her herself I believe, of her The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians, 751-987 (London 1983). I’m not sure I ever read all of it before, which I’d consider shameful had the other two pupils of hers to whom I’ve mentioned this not confessed similarly. In their case it’s easy to explain why: it goes to 987, and none of us but me ever bothered with much after 900, whereas I went and worked on a periphery where the evidence only really starts in 880. This is the general state of the field though. The sources are much better for earlier, because Charlemagne and Louis the Pious’s kingdoms, and Charles the Bald’s also, generate lots and lots of writing and preserve more. Also, they have the big fantastic achievements (creating Europe and then creating France and Germany, behold the teleology) whereas the later kings either just hold on or, worse, fail to. Thus, there are a huge welter of books on Charlemagne; Louis the Pious has inspired a lot of scholarship even if, until a very few years ago, there was no single biography of him newer than 1839; and Charles the Bald has become the special darling of a whole bunch of scholars who’ve realised how important his reign was in setting up the events of several centuries following.1 This book goes further on, and I should have read it all then. Well, now I have, and it has been both educational and inspiring (it inspired the recent post about Cluny, for a start). On a lesser plane, however, it has reminded me of some of the things I found difficult at the time and in the teaching of the Carolingians more widely.

Cover of Rosamond McKitterick's The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians

Cover of Rosamond McKitterick's The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians (N. B. image reversed, Lothar really sits half-left)

These all fall more or less into a category that one could call ‘assumed knowledge’. For example, Professor McKitterick herself naturally makes no real use of source translations, and she would often assume that one knew where the best edition was or how to find out, or would let us know that there was a translation but not necessarily know what it was called. That often made it quite difficult to produce it from the Seeley Library‘s rather taciturn catalogue (still incompletely digitised at that point). Now I see this assumption that we would understand the normal conventions of reference to these works as flattering, but when I think back to the confusion that references to the Life of Wala caused me, because its Latin title is Epitaphium Arsenii and the translation, which is in a volume called Charlemagne’s Cousins. doesn’t mention the work’s Latin name or Wala in its main title, I still grit my teeth very slightly.2 Of course, a lot of Professor McKitterick’s pupils go on to do research work and are of the general calibre and dedication who can survive with so little signposting, but in my own teaching I’ve always been consequently careful to give references that people can put into their own library catalogues when they’ve never heard of the book or subject before.

The other challenge was a tacit assumption that we already knew the basics. At Masters level that was either true or I wasn’t going to admit it, but at undergraduate level I think that one needs a narrative, which is not something that Cambridge medieval history generally at that time was very interested in. I still wrestle with the contradiction involved here, that we were expected, if necessary, to go to things like Louis Halphen’s or Heinrich Fichtenau’s old books, both available in translation but not going very far, or even for the basics of chronology Abel’s Jahrbücher, yet not to take any of it in too deeply as much had been revised since they were written. Our authorities were not authoritative, and the voices of authority that we heard were not interested in doing anything as mundane as telling stories. Thus, when Roger Collins wrote his Early Medieval Europe 300-1000, it got stinging reviews from some of my Cambridge teachers for being old-fashioned `battles-and-dates’ history but I thought it was a (slightly stuffy) lifeline, and I know some of my students have felt similarly about it, because they have to get this stuff from somewhere. So the book’s popularity has kept Roger in cravats or similar ever since, because it is needed. While I was under Professor McKitterick’s tuition her volume of the New Cambridge Medieval History made it to press, which was a considerable help, but something like Roger’s narrative will always have its rôle because it puts it all together in one sequence whereas by its nature the multiple-author NCMH is episodic and thematic.3

Cover of second edition of Roger Collins's Early Medieval Europe 300-1000

Cover of second edition of Roger Collins's Early Medieval Europe 300-1000

The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians encapsulates both what was marvellous about Professor McKitterick’s teaching, and these difficulties. It is not really a narrative, a history of the Carolingian era’s politics is not its main mission. Instead, it now reads to me more as a series of essays, arranged chronologically, on what Professor McKitterick herself then thought most important about that age. Sometimes that was in fact its political developments: the chapters on the last Carolingians and on the confused tangle of successions, especially in Italy, after the death of Charles the Fat, are perhaps the clearest accounts of those events I’ve yet read in English, and not just because I think they may be the only ones. (It must be said however that her few paragraphs about Catalonia cannot be safely cited, because they are riddled with errors, something I find extremely surprising; whatever the Annales Regni Francorum may claim, the Carolingian armies never took Tortosa, held Huesca only briefly and quickly gave up Tarragona.) On the other hand, the three chapters on culture and learning, where I think most such books would have had only one, all of which are among the longest in the book’s twelve, indicate a clear sense of the author’s own interests, and focus almost to exclusion on manuscripts, though there is also a brief and illuminating section on painting. Since this time, of course, Professor McKitterick has edited what remains pretty much the definitive work on such matters in English, so this is not what one still needs this book for, but it’s still illustrative.4

Also, there is assumed knowledge. For example, there are two references in the early political sections to the coup against Charlemagne by his son Pippin the Hunchback. He is in the index, but who he was and when the coup was are never stated. The extent of the information that is provided makes it clear that Professor McKitterick was aiming at relative novices to the field, but in cases like this, she missed, perhaps because of cuts that were made late in drafting or careless editor’s input. At least the complicated early end of the Carolingian period is well-covered now by other works. On the later end, as I say, there’s almost nothing else and happily this book remains excellent and illuminating on that period. It should be noted however that by then it’s deliberately covering only the Western Frankish kingdom, because Professor McKitterick saved work and words by deferring to Timothy Reuter’s then-forthcoming work, which became Germany in the Early Middle Ages, 800-1056 (Harlow 1991). Reuter’s book is very good, of course, but it wasn’t to emerge for eight years after this one, not that that was within Professor McKitterick’s power to anticipate or change. It means, however, that occasionally kings from the Other Side like Arnulf or Otto I loom into the narrative unexplained and the reader is very unsure where they sprang from.

The History Faculty and Seeley Library at Cambridge by night

The History Faculty and Seeley Library at Cambridge by night

All in all, though, it seems that the book has been needed to do something other than what its author intended. For want of anything else in English that covers the full period, it’s become a textbook for Carolingian history, and presumably it was commissioned as such, but although assigned to undergraduates, really this is a graduate book. It makes new sense of old debates and, as the blurb on the back says, it also serves very well for bringing debates that had effectively been conducted in other languages into English. What it doesn’t do is tell you the whole story, but then, the whole story has yet to be written. I’m not even sure it can be. But I still think someone needs to try, because it’s harder than it should be to learn without it.


1. Rosamond herself has just completed a book about Charlemagne, Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity (Cambridge 2008), and that will I imagine give references to the large body of other work; here I refer especially however to Louis Halphen, Charlemagne et l’Empire Carolingienne (Paris 1949), transl. Giselle de Nie as Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire (Amsterdam 1977); Heinrich Fichtenau, Das karolingische Imperium: soziale und geistige Problematik eines Grossreiches (Zürich 1949), transl. Peter Munz as The Carolingian Empire, Studies in Medieval History 9 (Oxford 1957); & Sigurd Abel (ed.), Jahrbücher des fränkischen Reiches unter Karl dem Grossen, ed. Bernhard von Simson (Leipzig 1865-83), 2 vols & Bernhard von Simson (ed.), Jahrbücher des fränkischen Reiches unter Ludwig dem Frommen (Leipzig 1874-1876), 2 vols. Notice how the series goes no further forward, although it did go further back
On Louis the Pious scholarship now rests heavily on Peter Godman & Roger Collins (edd.), Charlemagne’s Heir: new perspectives on the reign of Louis the Pious, 814-840 (Oxford 1990), but recent Leeds papers have been a ferment of new thinking. The new biography referred to is Egon Boshof, Ludwig der Fromme (Darmstadt 1996), but I haven’t read this so can’t say if it advances things.
On Charles the Bald there is most obviously Jinty Nelson’s biographical study, Janet L. Nelson, Charles the Bald, The Medieval World (London 1992); that emerged from a similarly field-resetting conference, Margaret Gibson & Janet L. Nelson (edd.), Charles the Bald: court and kingdom. Papers based on a colloquium held in London in April 1979, BAR (International Series) 101 (Oxford 1981), 2nd edn. Charles the Bald: court and kingdom, Variorum Collected Studies (Aldershot 1990) with slightly different contents and all papers updated.

2. The text is edited as Ernst Dümmler (ed.), “Radberts Epitaphium Arsenii” in Abhandlungen der königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, philosophisch-historische Klasse 2 (Berlin 1900), pp. 1-98 (though Migne’s older text is online here); the translation is in Allen Cabaniss (transl.), Charlemagne’s Cousins: contemporary lives of Adalhard and Wala (Syracuse 1967).

3. Roger Collins, Early Medieval Europe 300-1000, 2nd edn. (London 1999); Rosamond McKitterick (ed.), The New Cambridge Medieval History vol. II: 700-c. 900 (Cambridge 1995).

4. Rosamond McKitterick (ed.), Carolingian Culture: emulation and innovation (Cambridge 1994).

Bishops and metropolitans in Catalonia (also, the Carolingian conquest thereof)

You, the keen reader, by now know that I argue that Catalonia in the ninth and tenth centuries can justly be called Carolingian. It occurs to me to wonder how much you could possibly know of how that comes about. It’s essential background for being perplexed about what I’m currently perplexed about, and not for the first time. Let me set it up.

The Roman theatre at Tarragona in its ruins

The Roman theatre at Tarragona in its ruins, from Wikitravel, copyright renounced

Spain, as I guess is not news to you, was conquered by the armies of Islam in 711, or at least, the conquest began with the defeat of the Visigothic king Roderick that year by the Berber leader Tariq, whose rock (jabal) Gibraltar (Jabal al-Tariq) is. The North-East took longer to fall: already in rebellion against Roderick, it set up its own king, Achila and he resisted till 714, when he is supposed, I don’t know on what evidence, to have reached terms with the Muslims, leaving his son Witiza II to hold on till 718 beyond the Pyrenees. Both these kings are known to us only from their coinage, so don’t say numismatists never tell you anything. But anyway. Tarragona, the erstwhile capital of the region, held out when it was attacked and was therefore bloodily sacked in 712, other cities thereafter reaching terms; Tarragona remained a ruin for the next four centuries, proving that the others were long-term correct to surrender.

A bronze triens of King Achila of the Visigoths

A bronze triens of King Achila of the Visigoths

But Catalonia was not Muslim for long. Muslim attacks through Aquitaine, as well as the Frankish desire to bring Aquitaine properly under rule and renew the regnum Francorum once held by the Merovingians, provoked Frankish aggression into the old Visigothic province of Septimania (the bit at the southern tip of l’Héxagone) and this in turn led the frontier princes of the Muslim state, whose allegiance to the centre was ever questionable, to look interestedly at Charlemagne when contemplating rebellion. In 778, famously, Charlemagne was induced to bring an army south into Spain by the promises of the walis of Saragossa and Barcelona to hand their cities over to him if he came to aid their latest secession. He did, but they didn’t, and on the way back across the Pyrenees Charlemagne’s army was hit by the Basques in an ambush, in revenge for his sacking of their capital Pamplona on the way in, and the seneschal Roland died with the vanguard trying to fend them off. In later years someone wrote a song about this that you may have heard mentioned.

Anyway, it is argued that this must have left some people in Catalonia in a difficult position vis-à-vis the Muslim rulers, at least if they’d joined Charlemagne’s army or, I don’t know, put out “Franci veniunt, Agareni ite domum” posters or something. Certainly there seems now to have started a significant wave of emigration from the area into ‘safe’ Septimania, and in 785 the cities of Urgell and Girona, we know not under what control, handed themselves over to Charlemagne. So at least say the Royal Frankish Annals, and as the campaigns go on they are joined by the works of Thegan, the Astronomer and Ermold the Black.1 This and the immigrants drew the Carolingians back into the area, and Louis the Pious, at this time King of Aquitaine, and his right-hand man Duke Guilhem of Toulouse, campaigned more or less annually thereafter to secure it, refortifying large swathes of frontier on old Iberian sites or empty Visigothic cities, and in 801 managing to take Barcelona. They held Tarragona briefly, but found it worthless, and couldn’t get either Tortosa or Huesca beyond it despite numerous attempts, so the old province of the Tarraconensis remained partly-Muslim. What is now old Catalonia, Catalunya Vella, is more or less what the Franks took. This is also why Catalan is a different language from Castilian Spanish, much more like French, Provençal or indeed Latin.

Ramon d'Abadal i de Vinyals, photo from the Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana

Ramon d'Abadal i de Vinyals, photo from the Gran Enciclopèdia Catalana

The importance of this for what I’m writing about is that Tarragona, empty and Muslim-held, had been the area’s metropolitan see. Without it, the Catalan bishoprics (two of which were suppressed anyway and their territories divided) were placed under Frankish Narbonne. Now, thanks to the patient work of a man called Don Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals for many years, Catalonia is not thought to have had much of a national identity this early.2 The area was split between many counts, until the tenth century was repeatedly sunk into civil war between them, did not (and does not) have a single language and was sprinkled with immigrants from both sides of the border. Don Ramon had to work against a justly patriotic school which wanted to assert Catalan identity in the swamping Spanishness (Catalunya no es Espanya!) of the kind of unifying historiography seen, for example, in the statues in my post on Madrid, and he had to do it largely during a period when Franco was trying to put all that back again, but he did more or less succeed, and these days it is usually felt to be the 985 sack of Barcelona that shocked Catalonia into realising that it was on its own and furthermore therefore of its own.3 But when you read about the Church, specifically, this work seems to be forgotten in the wake of three stories that won’t die about attempts to renew the metropolitanate of Tarragona and break away from the Frankish Church.

There is no question that the lordship of Narbonne over the bishops across the mountains from it weighed more heavily than royal rule did, but I’ve still never bought this secession idea. Furthermore, Don Ramon only bought it for one of the three, but nonetheless the trio is repeated again and again in stock histories by contributors who should know better.4 I actually have a paper under work about this, have had for years, and I hope still to get it out some day so I won’t go into too much detail, but, some idea. The three episodes are these. In 886, when Bishop Ingobert of Urgell fell ill, the chapter seem to have uncanonically appointed a replacement called Esclúa. Ingobert got better but Esclúa didn’t retire; instead he collaborated in the appointment of a new bishop of Girona, Ermemir, despite Archbishop Theodard of Narbonne having chosen one Servedéu, and in the appointment of Bishop Adulf to an entirely new see at Pallars. A Narbonne source also says that Esclúa claimed he could do this because he’d named himself Archbishop of Tarragona and several other bishops had gone along with it. Because, however, he had the backing only of the less powerful of the March’s two main counts, Archbishop Theodard was able to enlist the support of the other. He and the count, none other than Guifré the Hairy, went and got King Odo, whom Guifré had not recognised until now, to withdraw his support and empower them to reimpose order. Esclúa and Ermemir, says the Narbonne source, were degraded in council in 890. Well, this has been disproved for thirty years. The Narbonne source, indeed, and the fake papal Bull it includes, have been declaimed as forged since 1933, and Esclúa went on appearing as bishop until his death in 924, even though Ingobert was apparently restored; there also seems to have been some power-sharing at Girona, though Ermemir disappeared much quicker. So that’s rubbish and the episode looks like local factionalising, not secession.5

The monastery church of Santa Cecília de Montserrat

The monastery church of Santa Cecília de Montserrat

Between about 941 and 966, the counts of Barcelona were again briefly in charge of Tarragona. (I’ve been told by a reviewer that no historian takes this claim of the Arabic sources seriously, but well, actually many do, it comes from Ibn Hayyan who originally worked from administrative records at Córdoba, and it seems a very unlikely thing for any subsequent editor to insert, because it was soon reversed and does no-one any particular credit.6) Around the beginning of that time, anyway, we are told by a very strange letter in the name of Abbot Cesari of Montserrat that he went to Santiago de Compostela and there got himself ordained by the bishops there as Archbishop of Tarragona. (No-one who has written about this has realised the old see was actually Christian again at the time, as far as I can tell. What the time was is tricky: Cesari, if it genuinely was he, gives a date that should be 940 A. D., but the list of officiating bishops he mentions fits only to 956, if then, and that’s roughly when the title starts appearing in the copies of the Montserrat documents too.) The letter says that when he returned home, none of the Catalan bishops would obey him, so he retired back to the monastery, where we do indeed have records of charters that called him Archbishop. This one’s hard to refute, but what is clear is that wherever he got his title, no-one took it seriously, perhaps because of treaties forcing the return of his see to the Muslims in the 960s.7

The three papal papyri of Pope John XIII to Vic

The three papal papyri of Pope John XIII to Vic

In 970, Count Borrell II of Barcelona took his pet Bishop of Osona, a guy called Ató, and their star pupil Gerbert of Rheims, later to become Pope Sylvester II and even later to be infamously remembered as an Arab-trained magician, to Rome to beseech Pope John XIII. They came home with five papal Bulls (three on papyrus, two on parchment, apparently…) saying firstly that Ató was now Archbishop, Tarragona’s rights being shifted to the see, and secondly that he should take over the administration of the see of Girona where, the pope was horrified to hear, a neophyte had been elected, which was totally illegal. Actually, Ató was murdered inside the year, we never see him act as Archbishop and though his see recorded him as such, Girona when it noted his death called him only Bishop; his successor Fruià went to Rome but only as bishop even though the Bulls said the dignity would be renewed in his successors, and generally, whatever happened here didn’t work out and wasn’t agreed at the time even in Borrell’s own territory (he also ruled Girona). So even if they really did ask the pope, which I have doubted, it didn’t work for long.8

An early modern depiction of Pope John XIII, apparently thinking better of something

So we have three `archbishops’. None of them were universally accepted even in their own patron’s territories, one of them almost certainly never really claimed the dignity, and the Archbishop of Narbonne retains his rôle in the area throughout. It’s really not a nationalist breakaway movement by a whole Church. And all this has been known for many many years, so why do these venerable and otherwise sharp scholars persist in ignoring it? How important can this one myth be when they’ve been willing to discard so many others? Why do I keep reading these stories over and over again like Gospel? I understand nationalism, I do, even if I don’t feel it myself, but this is such a weird manifestation of it…


1. Friedrich Kurze (ed.), Annales regni Francorum inde ab a. 741 usque ad a. 829, qui dicuntur Annales Laurissenses maiores et Einhardi, Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores Rerum Germanicum) VI (Hannover 1895; repr. 1950), transl. B. Scholz & B. Rogers in eidem, Carolingian Chronicles: Royal Frankish Annals and Nithard’s Histories (Michigan 1972), pp. 35-125, with commentary pp. 2-21; Ernst Tremp (ed.), Thegan, Die Taten Kaser Ludwigs (Gesta Hludowici Imperatoris). Astronomus, Das Leben Kaiser Ludwigs (Vita Hludowici Imperatoris), MGH SRG LXIV (Hannover 1995); Edmond Faral (ed./transl.), Ermold le Noir: poème sur Louis le Pieux et Épîtres au Roi Pépin (Paris 1932).

2. Most obviously Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Els Primers Comtes Catalans, Biografies Catalanes: sèrie històrica 1 (Barcelona 1958; repr. 1980).

3. On the effect of the 985, sack on the area, see Michel Zimmermann, “La prise de Barcelone par al-Mansūr et la naissance de l’historiographie catalane” in Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l’Ouest Vol. 87 (Rennes 1987), pp. 121-218; cf. Paul Freedman, “The Symbolic Implications of the Events of 985-988” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els Orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), I pp. 117-129.

4. To wit, in Antoni Pladevall, “La organización de la iglesia en Cataluña” in Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la Época Carolingia: arte y cultura antes del románico (siglos IX y X) (Barcelona 1999), pp. 53-58, transl. as “Church Organization in Carolingian Catalonia” ibid., pp. 444-448; and in Manuel Riu i Riu, “La Organizació eclesiástica” in J. M. Jover Zamora (ed.), Historia de España Menéndez Pidal, tomo VII: la España cristiana de los siglos VIII al XI, volumen II. Los Nucleos Pirenaicos (718-1035): Navarra, Aragón, Cataluña, ed. M. Riu i Riu (Madrid 1999).

5. Robert-Henri Bautier, “La prétendue dissidence de l’épiscopat catalan et le faux concile de « Portus » de 887-890″ in Bulletin philologique et historique (jusqu’à 1610) du Comité des Travaux Historiques et Scientifiques 1961 (Paris 1963), pp. 477-498, citing Étienne Griffe, Histoire religieuse des anciens pays de l’Aude. Tome I: des origines chrétiennes à la fin de l’époque carolingienne (Paris 1933), pp. 252-263; cf. J. Morera Sabater, “Un conato de secesión eclesiástica en la Marca Hispánica en el siglo IX” in Anales del Instituto de Estudios Gerundenses Vol. 15 (Girona 1962), pp. 293-315.

6. For example, Philippe Sénac, “Note sur les relations diplomatiques entre les comtes de Barcelone et le califat de Cordoue au Xe siècle” in idem, Histoire et Archéologie des Terres Catalanes au Moyen Âge (Perpignan 1995), pp. 87-101; Albert Benet i Clarà, “Castells, guàrdies i torres de defensa” in Udina, Symposium Internacional, I pp. 393-407, at pp. 386-388 ; and Dolores Bramon (ed.), De Quan Erem o No Musulmans: textos del 713 al 1000. Continuació de l’Obra de J. M. Millàs i Vallicrosa (Vic 2000), pp. 284-286, where the source references.

7. J. M. Martí Bonet, “Las pretensiones metropolitanas de Cesáreo, abad de Santa Cecilia de Montserrat” in Anthologica Annua (Rome 1974), pp. 157-182; cf. R. Martí, “Delà, Cesari i Ató, primers arquebisbes dels comptes-prínceps de Barcelona (951-953/981)” in Analecta Sacra Tarraconensia Vol. 67 (Tarragona 1994), pp. 369-386 and indeed J. M. Martí Bonet, “Entre dues obediènces: Roma i Compostela”, ibid. pp. 387-397.

8. Martí, “Delà, Cesari i Ató”; I presented my views as “Archbishop Ató of Vic: ecclesiastical separatism in Carolingian Catalonia”, paper presented at EMERGE 2003 Conference, University of St Andrews, 13th September 2003, but my argument has got a lot more complicated since then.

Unconsidered trials

Well, the problem appears to be partly fixed in as much as I can write under IE, though not Firefox. I may well need to update. Anyway, this means firstly that I really need to get one of my newer machines going, but secondly that I can at least write this post. This is just a little Catalan vignette while I deal with other things about which I want to post, which involve downloading pictures, reading PDFs or building webpages, whereas all this involves is some reading I did the other day.

I went to the library the other day because I had just gone through a chapter where I’d said that I’d looked for Count Miró of Cerdanya (Abbess Emma‘s brother, against whom she holds the Vall de Sant Joan hearing, since you ask) in all the available editions, and of course there was one where I hadn’t. So I went checking, and did in fact come up with two occurrences I hadn’t observed, though not really significant ones. The thing that linked them was that they were both hearings carried out at the wish of the Bishop of Girona, and the second one hasn’t been published before. Now of course the fun thing about dispute hearings in this era and area is how they frequently contain reported speech, so that you get slightly formal-sounding arguments laid out in front of you.2 This one, however, though it does do this, cries out for deformalising immediately. If one had been allowed to script it for comic effect, it would clearly have gone like this…

The saió The court of Girona, 5th March in the year of our Lord 950, judge Adericus presiding! Gentlemen, be seated!
Adericus Now then, now then, what’s the cause, hey?
Bishop Godmar II The advocates of Holy Mary of the See of Girona will show that the defendant Gauzfred wrongfully abstracted lands in Villalonga from the selfsame Church of the Mother of God, your honour.
Adericus Right then! Anything to say in defence, Gauzfred?
Gauzfred Yes yer ‘onner, I’ve got a charter for it. [Brandishes charter.]
Adericus Oho! And who issued this charter then?
Gauzfred The Lord Count Miró the Young, yer ‘onner, and ‘is son the lord Count Sunifred, when ‘e succeeded, yer ‘onner, ‘e called it in and checked it in case of fraud, and ‘e signed it as well, yer ‘onner.
Adericus Well your Grace, over to you then, anything to beat that?
Godmar Well, that is quite impressive, certainly. A charter not just from the current count of Cerdanya, but his father too? The only way to beat that’d be if you had a royal charter, wouldn’t it?
Gauzfred, sotto voce I don’t like the sound of this…
Godmar, continuing I don’t suppose you have a royal charter as well, do you? Because that would really be the clincher.
Gauzfred: Er, no, just this one signed by, you know, two generations of the rulers of our land…
Godmar: Oh dear. Pity. Because… [produces sheaf of parchments] we actually have got royal documents covering these lands. Observe, they’re in this one of King Carloman, this one of King Odo, this one of King Charles who was father of King Louis whom we’ve got now, and, oh, actually, here’s one from Louis himself that we got just a few years ago. So that’s all the way back to the year of Our Lord’s Incarnation 881, before Miró was even born, and four different divinely-anointed rulers. Will that do, do you think, Adericus?
Adericus: Aye! Case found for the Mother of God, sorry Gauzfred but Count Miró stitched you up. Sixty days to turn over the lands or we’ll have yer guts for garters. Next!

Okay, enough hilarity (or not), but that’s roughly the sequence of events. The interesting things here are many-fold. Firstly, I find it fascinating that Sunifred called in his father’s charters, or at least this one, “to be shown to him so that he could ensure no fraud had taken place”. Is this just someone trying to mirror what Louis the Pious is supposed to have done with Charlemagne’s charters?3 Or was Sunifred really bothered that his father had probably, in between fathering extra kids on the wife of one of his castellans (which he did do), given away lands to which he plainly had no right? And if so, why didn’t this one get picked up?

Signature of Charles the Simple from a diploma to the Catalan nunnery of Sant Joan de Ripoll, 898

Secondly, Girona do love their royal charters: in the other hearing I mention above, they produced precepts of Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald to back their claim. And they have a long sequence, too, we have surviving texts to Girona from Louis the Pious (834, referencing a lost one of Charlemagne), Charles the Bald (844), Louis the Stammerer (878), Carloman II (881), Charles the Fat (886), Odo (891) and Charles the Simple (three of these, 899, 900 & 922).4 Every time the king changes, Girona get an update, and I’ve elsewhere argued that the updates change in a way that indicates real concessions by the counts on the king’s orders. But they’re talking here about having one of Louis the Foreigner. They don’t actually say “that King Louis who’s on the throne now”, but Charles who was father of Louis must be either Charlemagne, Charles the Bald or Charles the Simple, but if it’s the former two then the list is out of natural order, and it starts with Carloman for the very good reason that the charters before him don’t cover Villalonga so it really has to be Louis the Foreigner. Only we have no trace of that document, or any clue that it ever existed. Except this, previously neglected because of only existing in a seventeenth-century copy. But it seems possible enough, just unusual.

Finally, of course it tells you something fairly important that a person with a charter endorsed by one respected count and one still ruling can still lose to royal documents issued by a family that haven’t been near the relevant territories in person for more than a century. This would never work in Toulouse. But here, the counts still obey the king here and there, and in fact in four years’ time Sunifred’s brother Guifré will become the last Catalan count ever to go north to meet the king in person. Why does he go? Because he and his brothers want royal approval to the take-over of the lands of a viscount called Unifred who rebelled against them. But we first see this viscount in 913 (he witnesses Miró’s will along with Emma in 925) and last see him, probably, in 946.5 So he’s almost certainly died in rebellion before they can attempt this, and then they need royal approval. Why? What on earth can the king add to their own clout? I don’t yet have the answer to this, but I will suggest a few things before long, see if I don’t.


1. 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, where the two hearing are docs 171 & 288 respectively, 288 being the one I explore in detail here.

2. My favourite one of these is one I discussed elsewhere where, with the count in question safely dead, a guy records how when that count demanded some of his lands in compensation for a lost castle in Andorra, he responded, “I am not giving away the alod of my parents before my death at the earliest!” Yeah, Sendred, I bet you gave him a real earful of defiance there in those chains…

3. Recorded in Thegan’s Gesta Hludowici imperatoris, ed. E. Tremp in idem (ed.), Thegan, Die Taten Kaiser Ludwigs (Gesta Hludowici imperatoris). Astronomus, Das Leben Kaiser Ludwigs (Vita Hludowici imperatoris), Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Scriptores rerum germanicum in usum scholarum separatim editi) LXIV (Hannover 1995), online here, last modified 8 November 2004 as of 30 May 2008, pp. 167-277 with commentary pp. 1-52, cap. X. Note however that at least one Catalan charter-holder, Teudefred the Hispanus got his father Jean’s original from Charlemagne back when he went to have it renewed as well as the new one from Louis that Thegan suggests should have been replaced: the charter is Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis per a Catalunya, Memòries… II & III (Barcelona 1926-52), 2 vols, Particulars I & III, and on Jean and his family you can most conveniently see Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994), pp. 106-110.

4. Abadal, Catalunya Carolíngia II, Girona I-IX & Particulars XXX.

5. Manuel Rovira i Solà, “Noves dades sobre els vescomtes d’Osona-Cardona” in Ausa Vol. 9 no. 98 (Vic 1981), pp. 249-260, online here, at pp. 255-256.