Tag Archives: Ervigi Marc

Seminar CCXLV: me judging judges in Sheffield

We are living in interesting times, and the last few weeks have been extremely busy for a whole bunch of reasons no-one wanted. I came back off strike, had one day in the office and then had to move all my teaching online, then reinvent it again for different patterns of online delivery as instructions changed, and I was also behind with quite a lot of other things but still on action short of strike, and in general it’s been a complex time and I couldn’t make blogging a priority. So far me and mine are still well, or at least, only ill with things other than the novel coronavirus, and I hope that you can all say as much or better, but please look after yourselves anyway. I did wonder whether it was really important to blog about old stuff already backdated at the moment, but if it’s ever important, I suppose that that hasn’t changed much, and it’s Sunday and I’m not legally allowed to work, so why not, eh?1

So we go back, then, to December 2016, when as you may recall I saw a paper that I’d promised to give becoming less and less possible to write under my workload, grimly ignored that workload for a weekend and wrote anyway, the result being called, “Judging the Judges in the Frankish March of Spain before the Year 1000” and presented at the Medieval and Renaissance Seminar in the University of Sheffield on the 7th of the 12th. I’d been meaning to do something about judges in Borrell II’s Barcelona for many years, it was now part of the work for the book I still thought I was writing, and although I had no time to do the kind of reading in the recent historiography that I’d have liked, really long-term readers may remember that Dr Theo Riches once kindly described me as being different from other historians because I can count, and so I sat down with the Catalunya Carolíngia and my notes and I counted judges until the numbers started telling me things. I will, some day, do something with this work, but at the moment it’s one of a number of things I’ve been told by my management not to pursue, so there seems not much more to do with it than to bank a couple of its conclusions here and hope some day for different instructions.

Signature of the judge Dacó, highlighted on Vic, Arxiu Capitular, calaix 6, núm. 882

Signature of the judge Dacó, highlighted on Vic, Arxiu Capitular, calaix 6, núm. 882, my photo

So what the paper did was firstly to introduce late-Carolingian Catalonia to the audience, and then to introduce within it the concept that the historiography has developed of a super-learned clerical judicial cadre working around tenth- and eleventh-century Barcelona making impartial judgements on the basis of written law, a picture that once caused Roger Collins, no less, to ask, “whether anything better could be found anywhere else in Europe in the earlier Middle Ages?”2 We’re talking people like the man I have often named here as Ervigi Marc the Wonder Judge, who wound up as a bishop without portfolio because of his great importance.3 So far my sole contribution to this scholarship has been a footnote pointing out that these people don’t really appear before the 970s, and wondering, of course, if they might be Count-Marquis Borrell II‘s fault. Jeffrey Bowman‘s work has done something to add variegation to that picture by suggesting that there were other judges not quite so impressively trained, more like the Carolingian (or Lombard) idea of people who know the law whom you get to come and hear disputes rather than professionals, and Josep María Salrach‘s recent book does a lot to show that even the ‘professional’ judges were sometimes fallible or corruptible, as indeed we’ve seen here too.4 There’s also now a good bit of prosopographical work on these super-judges to work out who they were, and I’m not as aware of that as I’d like to be, but by repeating some of that work with the indices of the Catalunya Carolíngia I did work out at least two things that I, at least, hadn’t previously noticed or read, and so I’ll tell you about them.5

Graph of judicial actions over time in Catalan charters pre-1000

Graph of judicial actions over time in Catalan charters pre-1000

So here’s a graph, because we know that works, and also because as Wendy Davies says in her own study of judges a bit west from here, “Firstly numbers.”6 The yellow background trace is the overall number of documents preserved over time, from about 880 up to 1000; it’s missing a lot, because I didn’t then have the Catalunya Carolíngia volumes covering Barcelona, and if I ever return to this adding them will be the first thing to do, but I hope it gives the overall trends, which is to say that we have a better chance of observing anything as time goes on because there’re more documents in which one might find it.7 The purple foreground signal is the number of dispute cases, which as you can see is neither very much of the evidence nor that continuous, at least until it gets late enough. Then the blue signal between the two is the total number of judges active in the documents for that year, counting each individual judge as many times as there are occasions when he appears.

There’s a lot one can take from this, but I choose two things: firstly, even when you have thousands of documents to work with, subsets of them can be so tiny that small numbers look more significant than maybe they are. The big spike in 842 is one case that generated lots of documents which were preserved; the 870s/880s peak is a lot of documents and meetings, but almost all coming from the hearings arranged by the monastic community of Sant Andreu d’Eixalada after their place was flooded and they had to reconstitute their holdings, so in some ways a single event.8 Even the spike in the 910s, while it is several events, is one person, Abbess Emma of Sant Joan de Ripoll, suing a succession of people for rights over lands, and when she stopped the sample drops right off again, and only really picks up with the activity of our learned college of judges in the 970s.9 But there is another change over time visible here, all the same, which is that in the early documents there are lots of people called judges (iudices) per ceremony, eight or ten at once quite often, which is why those blue spikes are so high in the 840s, whereas by the 970s one to three is more usual, and one not unusual.

Ruins of Sant Pere d'Eixalada, Catalonia

Not Sant Andreu d’Eixalada, because obviously that was destroyed, but one of the churches the displaced monks claimed, Sant Pere d’Eixalada, or what is now left of it. Photo by Jack maTreball propi, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The other change I’ll point out now, which is only just evident from the graph, is that in the ninth century, you only get people called judges recorded in actual court hearings. There’s a formula that introduces them in the case records, ‘judges who were ordered to judge’, and then a list of people follows.10 But the people who are named there very often don’t use the word iudex or anything like it in their signatures, and they don’t show up with the title outside court. In this respect, the title ‘judge’ is like the title ‘worthy man’ (bonus homo) that also appears in these contexts, and I think it has something do with standing in the court, and so is contextual, not fixed; on this occasion, these people served as judges, with those people recognised as worthy men who could approve a judgement.11 Presumably the judges knew a bit of what the law was understood to be, but they might be a lot more like Frankish scabini than Ervigi Marc, people whose knowledge could be called on for judging but whose usual rôle was not that of judge.12 This changes in 943, when a guy called Sunyer the Judge is seen as a neighbour of some property out at Manresa, but it’s really not till the 970s that we start to see people who sign as judges even when they’re not actually judging, usually because they were being called upon to act as witnesses but sometimes in their own property dealings.13 These people must have had some independent standing as judges even when they were not actually doing it, and people other than them knew they were judges all the time. And, predictably, our special learned judges are in this group, although that group is a lot bigger than just the really flash ones who show up a lot quoting law, as if I ever write this up I will show.

That’s enough for a blog post, except only that I’ll say that I was obviously wrong about Borrell II being responsible for this new class of judge; all the ones I could track seem to have started in Besalú, in fact, and be associated at least for a short while with Count-Bishop Miró Bonfill and his family, though Borrell seems to have managed to poach some of them pretty quickly… I think other people must already have realised that, but I’m not so sure that the other trends above have been spotted before. It shows what even a Saturday spent frantically dumping data into a spreadsheet can produce by way of historical insight, and also that you don’t need a born-digital corpus to do that kind of work. It went well, too, and Sheffield were excellent hosts and I was glad that I had managed to remain a researcher and not pull out despite the difficulties. Still, it’s not ideal, is it? I hope for better.


1. Because it’s not in my contract that I have to, it has to be there if my employers want me to and I’m working to contract.

2. Roger Collins, “‘Sicut lex Gothorum continet’: Law and Charters in Ninth- and Tenth-Century León and Catalonia” in English Historical Review Vol. 100 (Oxford 1985), pp. 489–512 at p. 512.

3. On Ervigi see now Josep Maria Font i Rius, “L’Escola jurídica de Barcelona” in Jesús Alturo, Joan Bellès, Font, Yolanda García & Anscarí M. Mundó (edd.), Liber iudicum popularis, ordenat pel jutge Bonsom de Barcelona, Textos jurídics catalans: Lleis i costums I/1 (Barcelona 2003), pp. 67-100 at pp. 82-87, though I would now be sceptical about the idea of the ‘Barcelona school’ in which he is set.

4. My sally is in Jonathan Jarrett, “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi: Organisation of Society in the pre-Catalan ‘Terra de Ningú'” in †Alan Deyermond & Martin J. Ryan (edd.), Early Medieval Spain: A Symposium (London: Queen Mary University of London, 2010), pp. 89–128 at p. 105 n. 6. The other works just mentioned are Jeffrey Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: Property, Proof, and Dispute in Catalonia around the Year 1000 (Ithaca NY 2004) and Josep María Salrach, Justícia i poder a Catalunya abans de l’any mil (Vic 2013).

5. The prosopographical work I mean is in Font, “L’Escola jurídica”, and Anscarí M. Mundó, “El jutge Bonsom” in Alturo, Bellès, Font, Garcí & Mundó, Liber iudicum popularis, pp. 101-118.

6. Wendy Davies, “Judges and Judging: truth and justice in northern Iberia on the eve of the millennium” in Journal of Medieval History Vol. 36 (Amsterdam 2010), pp. 193–203 at p. 199.

7. The Barcelona volumes are now out, and I have them, which is a separate and bloggable story by itself, but their citation is Ignasi J. Baiges i Jardí and Pere Puig i Ustrell (edd.), Catalunya carolíngia Volum VII: el comtat de Barcelona, Memòries de la Secció Històrica-Arqueològica 110 (Barcelona 2019), 3 vols.

8. I think there is still no better study of this event than Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, “Com neix i creix un gran monestir pirinenc abans de l’any mil: Eixalada-Cuixà” in Analecta Montserratensia Vol. 8 (Montserrat 1954), pp. 125–337, repr. without the documentary appendix in Abadal, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i documents 13-14 (Barcelona 1969), 2 vols, I, pp. 377–484. Everyone I’ve found who’s written about Cuixà since has just pointed back to it, and not without justification.

9. On this see, of course, Jonathan Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2003), pp. 229–258.

10. For example, Santiago Sobrequés i Vidal, Sebastià Riera i Viader & Manuel Rovirà i Sola (edd), Catalunya carolíngia V: els comtats de Girona, Besalú, Empúries i Peralada, rev. by Ramon Ordeig i Mata, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica 61 (Barcelona 2009), 2 vols, I, doc. no. 19: “iudices qui iussi sunt causas audire vel dirimere“, ‘judges who were ordered to hear and determine cases’.

11. On the ‘worthy men’ in this context, a quick reference is Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 35-36 & n. 55.

12. On Carolingian practice I think we can still rely on Janet L. Nelson, “Dispute Settlement in Carolingian West Francia” in Wendy Davies & Paul Fouracre (edd.), The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge 1986), pp. 45-63, reprinted in Janet L. Nelson, The Frankish World, 750-900 (London 1996), pp. 51-74. On the Lombard one, I admit that I’m thinking back as far as D. A. Bullough, “Europae Pater: Charlemagne and his achievement in the light of recent scholarship” in English Historical Review Vol. 85 (Oxford 1970), pp. 59–105 at pp. 91-96, but I suppose an update, perhaps in the form of Marios Costambeys, “Disputes and Courts in Lombard and Carolingian Central Italy” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 15 (Oxford 2007), pp. 265–289, would be wise to get.

13. The judge Sunyer turns up actually judging in Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya carolíngia volum IV: Els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica 53 (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, I, doc. no. 443, but then again just as a neighbour ibid. doc. no. 532.

From the Sources XII: successful crime and vicarious enforcement

Just when you thought it was safe to assume this blog would all be science, numismatics and seminar reports for the foreseeable future, let me surprise you all with something from that corner of tenth-century Europe on which I actually work, or on this occasion actually just about eleventh-century Europe, to wit the year 1003, from which while researching the book I mentioned a while ago (and which, I have to confess, has advanced not at all since then what with endless teaching prep) I found an interesting trial, in the manner of the best scholarship on the area just now. It looks like this!

Barcelona, Biblioteca de Catalunya, pergamins 2079, recto

Barcelona, Biblioteca de Catalunya, pergamins 2079, recto

Now, you can probably see that this is a charter which has suffered somewhat, from damp where it’s been folded, from moth or mouse in several places and from the outright loss of its left-hand lower corner, and therefore the scribal signature, but quite enough remains to identify it as an act of the man I have previously called Ervigi Marc the Wonder Judge, and thanks to the good efforts of Pere Puig i Ustrell I don’t have to try and work out what it says, because I spent part of yesterday in the IHR transcribing his edition of it.1 That is why this has taken a few days to appear, but also means that I can now also offer you this translation:

“Let it fall upon the ears of all the faithful that I, in the name of God Bishop Marc, also judge, came into the county of Manresa in the Vall de Nèspola and heard the petition by which the judge Borrell summoned Olibà, who was the surety of Delà, so that he might present himself in his court and settle everything according to the laws, and he did not want to and in no way did he come there. And afterwards he went into the mountains and in no way either inclined or acquiesced to my orders. And this is the case for which he sought the aforesaid surety in the presence of Baró, Godmar, Sunyer, Baió, Adroer, another Godmar, Gondeví, Adalbert, Guadamir, Salomó, the priest Miró, Tered, Marco and a great many other, namely that Delà proclaimed that the alod of Sant Llorenç was his own free property, that of which Sant Llorenç had had 30 years’ possession in their own right through a charter that the late Count Borrell made to the aforesaid house of Sant Llorenç. And the same Delà has himself worked it for 30 years for the house of Sant Llorenç and given taschas and labour services and special offerings, just as the other men of the selfsame alod hold, give and perform. And the officers of Sant Llorenç distrained him for his excess just like the others of his sort. And afterwards he got away and broke from the power of Sant Llorenç and he set another lord up there and made to attack Borrell the aforesaid officer of Sant Llorenç and managed to kill his mule. On this account was the aforesaid surety laid open.
“Wherefore I in the name of God Marc do consign and hand over the aforesaid alod into the power and lordship of Sant Llorenç and I order the aforesaid surety to compound with another such alod of his own, and all the movable property which be possible to find are to be handed over into the power of the aforesaid Borrell on account of his mule which he should have compounded to him fourfold, for that which the selfsame… and on account of what the late Count Borrell laid down in that same document, who should wish to interfere let compound twofold.
“Therefore I the abovewritten Marc, as I knew this authority to have been heard by him… that the aforesaid Delà gave taschas, and that he made another lord which he was not permitted to do, therefore I have consigned and I do consign, have handed over and do hand over the aforesaid alod into the power and authority of Sant Llorenç, as has been said. And all the movable property into the power of the aforesaid Borrell.
“The recognition and consignment or handover and removal from lordship done on the 2nd Ides of October, […] reign of King Robert.
“Sig+ned Olibà, who made this extraction and consignment and confirmed and asked for it to be confirmed. Sig+ned Baró. Sig+ned Baió. Sig+ned Adroer. […] Sig+ned Guadamir. These same men were witnesses and present in a solemn capacity. Ma+rk of Gondeví. Ma+rk of Adalbert. Ma+rk of Salomó. Ma+rk of Marco. Ma+rk of, again, another Godmar.
“[…]gi, by the grace of God Bishop, also known as Marco, also judge.
“[…] priest and he wrote with scratched-out letters in the third line where it says ‘supra’, SSS, the above-set day and year.”

There’s lots of little cool things about this for the charter geek with which I probably shouldn’t bore you. I will, though, obviously. Had you noticed that the solemn witnesses all sign in the nominative, which I’ve rendered ‘signed X’, whereas the witnesses of the current ceremony sign in the genitive, so, ‘mark of X’? I’ve never seen that so clearly separated before and at first I thought that it was probably something to do with the fact that the second set of signatures are in darker ink. On inspection, though, you can see that actually the ink is darker all the way down the old fold, and the hand looks the same to me so I think that’s just coincidence in the form of moisture damage. Then I note the kind of half-quote of Borrell’s charter by Ervigi Marc, which he had clearly seen, and that needn’t surprise us since not only was at least one of its witnesses present, it also still exists and therefore so can we (below).2 Lastly, also, I feel it’s worth mentioning that although Ervigi was, apparently, a bishop, he wasn’t actually bishop of anywhere: we know who all the bishops of the Catalan sees were at this time. The Church or the count of Barcelona (at this time Ramon Borrell, who did in one charter call himself ‘inspector of bishops’) seem to have decided that Ervigi was just that great and promoted him to bishop without portfolio.3

Barcelona, Biblioteca de Catalunya, pergamins 3766

Borrell’s original grant of the property, Barcelona, Biblioteca de Catalunya, pergamins 3766

More obviously, though, this being just over the line of the year 1000 has escaped Josep María Salrach’s recent excellent book but suddenly exposes to us a judicial mechanism well known from elsewhere in Spain, if not very common, but possibly not previously attested in Catalonia, the surety.4 In case it’s not clear how this worked I’ll break down the narrative of the case in the way I usually do; it’s not actually quite obvious until one does and several important bits are skipped over in the actual text.

  1. We begin, of course, with Count Borrell, who in 973 as we know from the previous charter gave an estate in the Vall de Nèspola to the monastery of Sant Llorenç del Munt, in Terrassa, as part of a general bolstering of monastic commitments to putting the frontier to work with which we’ve seen him busy before. The monastery then put in charge of it this man Delà, who rendered labour services and an annual levy of produce to them that signified their lordship over him as well as constituting monastery revenue.
  2. Subsequently and presumably much more recently as of 1003, the monastery decided that Delà and a number of their other farm managers were being ‘excessive’ in some way and removed him, indeed, arrested him, presumably with intent to hold him responsible for whatever losses he’d caused them. It must have been at this point that Delà was made to name a surety for his actions, Olibà, a man who would have to make good if Delà failed to. The idea of this is that social obligation of the kind that the surety can exercise is strong enough that rather than offend his supporter in court the guilty party will pay up. As we can see here, this doesn’t always work.
  3. Because, indeed, Delà escaped the monastery’s custody! Neither did he stop there: recognising that his previous bridges were now burnt, he handed the estate and his loyalty over to another lord, which as Ervigi says “he was not permitted to do”, though you’ll note that the lord is never named here and so was presumably someone too well-placed for the monastery to embarrass and also apparently sufficient to keep Delà out of the grip of justice, unfortunately for Olibà…
  4. Sant Llorenç now got one of their enforcers, the judge Borrell, who was a patron of theirs, out onto the case and he must have got close to Delà because Delà apparently attacked him, and managed to kill his mule, which you know, suggests quite a serious assault as well as telling us that Borrell was not quite horse-riding levels of gentry.
  5. So at that point the somewhat ineffective wheels of justice really began to spin, and Borrell called in the surety Olibà to do what he was supposed to do, which Borrell seems to have decided included paying for the mule fourfold. Olibà, however, not liking the look of things and presumably actually having no more suasion over Delà than anyone else, legged it to the mountains and defied both Borrell’s summons and that which Ervigi, called in from Barcelona with extra authority (not least because as bishop, presumably he could excommunicate) then sent next.
  6. Somehow, however, Olibà got caught, because here after all he is being made to sign this document which no-one could classify, though I say that but it’s obviously the scribal hand still. Anyway, that is the point at which all this angry procedure is rolled out against him, Ervigi repeatedly states (as if Olibà could do anything about it!) that the estate should go back to Sant Llorenç and Olibà was actually made to fulfil a charter’s sanction, paying double the amount that someone had tried to steal from the monastery, and also all the movable property in that estate to make up for the missed payments on the mule. And there the matter rested, which is to say not so much that we don’t know if Olibà actually paid up but that I didn’t think to look onwards in the charter edition while I was still in the IHR, sorry, I’m a bad researcher.

There’s lots to think about here, though. In the first place, while he may indeed have been excessive, one can see why Delà and then Olibà tried to run for it or get powerful help; what chance did they have in the court, if it was going to be run by Sant Llorenç’s tame judge? Delà, in particular, was obviously what we once called a desperate man, and was at the point of trial presumably still with his new lord safe from justice. That may then explain why Sant Llorenç actually insisted on the penalty clause in their charter being enacted; they weren’t going to get control of their estate back, so could only grab at Olibà’s instead. One does wonder how much choice Olibà had about being Delà’s surety… As I have many times before observed, it’s tough to be up against The Man in first-millennial Catalonia.

Old monastic buildings of Sant Llorenç del Munt

And in this instance The Man’s House looks like this, though probably didn’t yet in 1003, lots of this being twelfth-century. It’s still pretty imposing though, and must have been then too. I’m not sure whether it would comfort Delà and Olibà to know that it is now “the highest restaurant in the Vallès“. «Sant Llorenç del Munt 2» per MikiponsTreball propi. Disponible sota la llicència CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The trouble with only having one of these cases is that one doesn’t know if it’s something new. You’ll notice that this is not a system of reparation that the charter penalty implies: it should have been the infringer who paid up according to that, with the original and the same again. Neither, as far as I remember, is there any provision for sureties in the Visigothic Law, which duly never gets cited by this famously learned judge. And the fact of the violent self-defence, the adoption of non-legal means of enforcement, the apparent irreducibility of the fugitive criminal and the implication of an untouchable lord keeping him safe could all easily be used as evidence for a so-called ‘feudal anarchy’, were it not about thirty years early for that here by most accepted schemes.5 But we are, remember, on the frontier here, and close to the mountains to boot, and as I have said in many a call for papers and research proposal, that gives people choices they don’t have elsewhere, places to run where The Man actually can’t yet follow you and alternative lords who are considerably more alternative than just the count’s cousins in Berguedà (or wherever the mountains that failed to hide Olibà were).

View of the Serra de l'Obac, Barcelona, from Wikimedia Commons

The Serra de l’Obac, which lies between Terrassa and la Nèspola, is an obvious candidate where it is, you know, possible to imagine there being some good hiding-places… By Fugi-bis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

OK, that’s obviously my favourite point but there are others, which make the monastery look even muddier. Note first of all the chronology. Borrell seems to have given Sant Llorenç this alod in 973. Here we are in 1003, therefore, thirty years later, which timespan grants the monastery unassailable legal right which is why they make sure to say that, right? Well, but hang on. Had this situation all blown up, every step there from (2) to (5) happened in the four months since the monastery crossed that line? Or had Delà rather seen that line coming and reckoned his chances of claiming thirty years’ possession were as good as his bosses’, if he made his move now? Worse, did the monastery fear that and boot him and his ‘consimiles’ out before they could claim they’d been in post that long like universities booting out their temporary staff at the four-year limit whereafter they are entitled to permanent contracts? Well, we can’t know, but one thing we can is that someone’s rights had been trodden on, because Borrell’s original grant had included life reservation to two of his followers, a priest Constabile and one Ervigi (presumably no relation?) and his children. So in 973 Sant Llorenç didn’t even own the estate, just the promise of it! Unless they just flat ignored those terms or Constabile and Ervigi and his kids almost immediately died, it’s a very special definition of thirty years that Sant Llorenç were claiming in 1003, therefore, and one that has no good implications either for their management strategies or for the truth of what they were claiming. So Delà and Olibà may have had better reason even than just the tame judge to know there was no point coming to court. The monastery wrote its own charters and it could ignore them too, with the right backers. But as Delà showed, out here that was a game that two could play.


1. P. Puig i Ustrell (ed.), El monestir de Sant Llorenç del Munt sobre Terrassa: Diplomatari dels segles X i XI, Diplomataris 8-10 (Barcelona 1995), 3 vols, doc. no. 110:

Pateant aures fideles qualiter ego in Dei nomine Marcus episcopus qui et iudex accessi in comitatu Minorisa in ualle Nespula et audiui peticionem qua Borrellus iudex apetituit Olibane, qui fuit fideiussorem de Dela, ut in placito suo se presentasset et iuxta leges omnia difinisset, et noluit et extraxit se de ipso placito et non ibi ullo modo accessi. [sic] Et postquam accessit montus et iussionibus meis nullo modo obtempeauit nec adquieuit. Et hec est causa unde apetiuit fidemiussorem supradictum in presencia Baroni, Gondemari, Suniari, Baioni, Adroari, alio Gondemari, Gondeuini, Adalberti, Guadamiri, Salomoni, Mironi sacerdoti, Teredi, Marchoni et alii quamplures, scilicet quale Dela proclamauit alaudem Sancto Laurenti suum esse proprium et franchum, quem Sanctus Laurencius xxxta annos abebat possessum iure proprio per cartam quem condam comes Borrellus fecit ad predicta domum Sancti Laurenti. Et idem ipse Dela per hos supradictos xxxta annos seruiuit illum ad predicta domum Sancti Laurenti et donauit taschas et oblias et eceptiones, sicut ceteri omines de ipsum alaudem tenent, donant et seruiunt. Et distrincxerunt eum ministri Sancti Laurenti pro suo excessu sicut alii sui consimiles. Et postea ille exuasit et disrumpit de potestate Sancti Laurenti et fecit ibi alium senioraticum et fecit assalire ministrum Sancti Laurenti supradictum Borrellum et fecit ei tollere suum mulum. Propter ea fuit apertus istum fideiussorem.
Idcirco ego in De nomine Marcus consigno et contrado predictum alaudem in potestate et dicione Sancti Laurenti et iubeo componere supradicto fideissore aliut tantum alaude de suo, et omnibus mobilibus rebus quod ibi inueni tradidi in potestate predicti Borrelli propter suum mulum quod in quadruplum ei conponere debuerat, eo quod ipse […………..], et in propter quod condam comes Borrellus instituit in isto scriptura, qui hinrumpere uoluerit componat in duplo.
Igitur ego pretextus Marcus, ut agnoui istum directum ei audii [………… quo]d predictum Delanem dedisse tascas, et quia fecit alium seniorem que non licebat ei facere, ideo consignaui et consigno, [….]tradidi ac trado predictum alaudem in potestate et di[rectum Sancti Laurent]i, ut dictum est. Et omnes mobiles res in potestate predicti Borrelli.
Facta recognicione et consignacione uel tradiccione et extradiccione II idus octuber […………… reg]nante Roberto rege.
Sig+num Oliba, qui ista extraccione et consignacione fecit et firmauit et firmare rogaui. Sig+num Barone. Sig+num Baio. Sig+num Adroario. […………….] Sig+num Guadamir. Isti testes et presenciales fuerint. Sig+num Gondeuini. Sig+num Adalberti. Sig+num Salamoni. Sig+num Marchoni. Sig+num item alium Godmar. [……………..]
[……………. Erui]gius Dei gracia episcopus cognomento Marcho qui et iudex.
[………………] sacer et scripsit cum literas fusas in uerso III ubi dicit «supra», SSS die et anno prefixo.

2. Ibid. doc. no. 89.

3. For Ervigi, see Josep M. Font i Rius, “L’escola jurídica de Barcelona” in Jesús Alturo i Perucho, Joan Bellès, Font, Yolanda García & Anscari Mundó (edd.), Liber iudicum popularis. Ordenat pel jutge Bonsom de Barcelona, Textos jurídics catalans 23 (Barcelona 2003), pp. 67-100 at pp. 82-87. Ramon Borrell is “inspector episcopiis dante Deo nostræ ditioni pertinentibus” in Petrus de Marca, Marca Hispanica sive Limes Hispanicus, hoc est geographica & historica descriptio cataloniæ, ruscinonis, & circumiacentium populorum, ed. Étienne Baluze (Paris 1688; repr. Barcelona 1972, 1989), ap. CLXXII.

4. There is no mention of sureties in Josep María Salrach, Justícia i poder en Catalunya abans de l’any mil, Referències 55 (Vic 2013), which is of course the book to which I refer; see instead Wendy Davies, “On Suretyship in Tenth-Century Northern Iberia” in Julio Escalona & Andrew Reynolds (edd.), Scale and Scale Change in Early Medieval Europe, The Medieval Countryside 6 (Turnhout 2011), pp. 133-152.

5. Classically written up of course in Pierre Bonnassie, La Catalogne du milieu du Xe à la fin du XIe siècle : croissance et mutations d’une société, Publications de l’Université Toulouse-le-Mirail 23 & 29 (Toulouse 1975-1976), 2 vols, II pp. 539-574, and followed in Josep María Salrach i Marès, El Procés de Feudalització (segles III-XII), Història de Catalunya 2 (Barcelona 1987), pp. 291-324, and see also idem, Justícia i poder, pp. 213-234 for examples from the judicial sphere specifically. He doesn’t use this one, but he obviously could have.

Correction: the men of Gombrèn less confused than I thought

Long-term readers may be able to think back to the end of 2009, when I was jubilating over having got decent facsimiles of a few of the charters of Sant Joan de les Abadesses about which I’d had questions. I wrote about one of them then, a hearing in which Abbess Fredeburga of Sant Joan got several people (and apparently fewer than had been anticipated by the scribe) to swear to her nunnery’s long possession of the castle of Mogrony and its term.1 You may even recall that I was previously dubious about this document because the people who swore were given any kind of context in the signatures at the end of the document, and that on seeing the facsimile I was able to conclude that that was because the whole occasion had apparently been confusing and the scribe had made a mess of the document, leaving out various important details that he’d had to fudge back in later. With me so far? Because having now properly incorporated the actual text of the document into my files, I see that I’ve missed a crucial detail, which actually rather alters my idea of what was going on.

Arxiu de l'Abadia de Sant Joan de les Abadesses, volum de pergamins dels segles X-XI, fol. ???

Arxiu de l’Abadia de Sant Joan de les Abadesses, volum de pergamins dels segles X-XI, significant bit the long and crowded signature near bottom right

The crucial thing is the position of the men of Gombrèn, or as the settlement appears in the document, “Gomesindo morto”, dead Gomesèn, presumably a settlement founded by someone of that name some time before.2 Something I hadn’t previously taken fully on board is that this place was within the castle term of Mogrony, although I’d assumed something of the sort as otherwise why would you get those people to swear? But it was, anyway. What I hadn’t previously paid proper attention to is the exact wording of the clause that identifies these men in the signatures. One of them signs for all, a fellow called Admir, and his signature clause is as follows, exactly as in the original save the decoding of the graphical Signum and the filling-out of the abbreviations:

[Signum] Admiro·quimandatarius·fuid[e]ipsoshominesdegomesindo·etsacram[en]to
| superiusconprehenso recepi·p[ro]pterea me exvacuo in istoiuditio deipsu[m]alaude[m] | quiinfraconstitutosterminesestq[uod]superiusresonant

Which, translated as closely as I can get, comes out as:

[Signed] Admir, who was the representative of the men of Gomesèn and received the oath included above, on account of which I quit my claim in this court to the selfsame alod which lies within the assigned boundaries that resound above.

And this is kind of crucial. I’d somehow only ever got as far as the first clause, that he was the representative of the men of Gombrèn, never to the following section. What this means, of course, is that this is not the supporting witness; this is the opposition. The men of Gombrèn had presumably attempted to claim some kind of autonomy from Sant Joan de Ripoll (as it then was), and the abbess had therefore followed her predecessor Emma’s very good example and come to court with witnesses prepared to swear that Emma’s father, none other than Count Guifré the Hairy as you may already know well, had assigned the castle term of Mogrony to the nunnery. That in turn would seem to imply that the Gombrèn men had attempted to claim, not that they were not in the term or that they alone didn’t owe whatever it was to the nunnery, but that the whole term was not the nunnery’s property. (I don’t know who the castellan of Mogrony was at this point, no-one does, but I bet he wasn’t unhappy with this idea; all the same, it evidently wasn’t he who fronted the resistance.3)

Sant Pere de Montgrony

Sant Pere de Montgrony, centre of the point of contention in its slightly more modern form of both building and spelling, from Wikimedia Commons

Now, the sad thing about all this is that Admir and his cronies were probably right. As I said in the earlier post, everything that connects Mogrony (or Montgrony, as it now is) to Sant Joan in its earliest documents either doesn’t exist any more but is reported secondhand in antiquarian works, or else does exist and is patently interpolated.4 The nuns had obviously had, at some point, to fake their claim to this castle. And it’s interesting that Abbess Fredeburga didn’t bring documents to this court, but witnesses to long tenure, 50 years indeed which would have qualified as unchallengeable under the Visigothic Law that ran here still. A scholar who’s recently looked at that usage, Jeffrey Bowman, sees this as the kind of defence that unlettered peasants use against wily churchmen, and although I think that it’s often more knowingly legal than that, nonetheless, it’s certainly not the defence one would expect a nunnery with a good archive to use.5 Where are their charters? I suspect the answer is, not faked yet. However, she found her witnesses, though it may not be surprising that there were apparently fewer than they’d hoped, and the court found for her, and that’s the end of the story for Gombrèn. As I have oft-times remarked here, it’s tough to be up against The Man in late-Carolingian Catalonia, and this is true even when The Man’s a woman (and the Carolingians are about to run out; this all occurred in 987).

We are here; Gombrèn shows up just south of Mogrony if you zoom in one step

None of this in any way forgives the scribe, the usually super-competent Wonder Judge Ervigi Marc, for his numerous blunders. Why is the most important part of the document, the quit-claim that actually prevents the case being raised again, relegated to the very bottom right-hand corner in tiny script? It shouldn’t even technically be on this document: Roger Collins would tell us that for a trial under Visigothic Law there ought to be three documents preserved, the description of the case, the oath of the witnesses, and the quit-claim of the losing party.6 There’s very little incentive to preserve all three of these if you’re the winner, so we usually only have one or two, but here parts two and three were combined, and in a hurry too. Nul points, Ervigi Marc. And all my previous points about the bodges of vital information also still stand, except the linkage of this signature to the confusion over who was swearing, because the people swearing were not the men of Gombrèn; I got that wrong. So I thought I should own up to as much, and now I have.


1. The document is now best edited in Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueollògica LIII (Barcelona 1999), doc. no. 1526.

2. For a suggestion of the founder’s identity, see Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: pathways of power, Royal Historical Society Studies in History (Woodbridge 2010), p. 61, which unfortunately contains a typo but nothing that makes anything unclear.

3. Manuel Anglada i Bayès, Antoni Pladevall i Font, Maria Lluisa Cases, Joan-Albert Adell i Gisbert, Rafael Bastardas i Parera, E. Bargallo i Claves & Jordi Vigué i Viñas, ‘Sant Pere de Mogrony’ in Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya Romànica X: el Ripollès (Barcelona 1987), pp. 110-117. I have long-held views on Mogrony’s early control but they turn out to probably be wrong as well, look for more on that in the near future.

4. Jonathan Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2003), pp. 229-258 at pp. 235-241.

5. Jeffrey A. Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: property, proof, and dispute in Catalonia around the year 1000, Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past (Ithaca 2004), pp. 47-51.

6. Roger Collins, “Visigothic Law and Regional Diversity in Disputes in Early Medieval Spain” in Wendy Davies & Paul Fouracre (edd.), The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge 1986), pp. 85-104, repr. in Collins, Law, Culture and Regionalism in Early Medieval Spain, Variorum Collected Studies 356 (Aldershot 1992), XVI.

That Bonnassie story in full, or, psst! wanna buy a tower?

The monastery of Sant Cugat del Vallès

I said I would tell you Pierre Bonnassie’s story that I used, with caution, in the Oxford seminar paper just gone, and so I will. It’s about a man called Hisnabert and a tower scam. No, not a pyramid scam: read on. Here’s how Bonnassie put it, in my own rough translation.1 He was writing of the wild lands beyond the organised frontier, and said:

This extreme march was really a terra incognita, except to a few specialists. How can one not, in dealing with this, cite the enormous mistake committed in 1012 by the monks of Sant Cugat concerning their territory of Calders? At that date, a certain Hisnabert, pretending to be descended from a very noble line, presented himself to them and claimed that he had, with great effort and at great expense, installed his household, his peasants and livestock there, cleared the territory there and built a tower fifteen cubits in height. The monks, taking him at his word, saw in him ‘an envoy of God and of Saint Cucuphat’ and conceded the domain to him under very advantageous conditions. It would only be five years later, in 1017, that they discovered the imposture (nothing had been done and Calders was in the same state ‘of desert and of solitude’ as in the past!) and they delayed no longer in getting the donation anulled by the judges of the count, Ramon Borrell.

Zing! How could this come about, you may ask, and there the answer is a bit more complex. Sant Cugat is one of the older monasteries in Catalonia: it later claimed to have been founded by Charlemagne (of course) but at the very least it was operational by the 850s, and in 878 it obtained a precept from King Louis II, the Stammerer as he is known to us, confirming all its properties.2 This was, shall we say, aimed at the future, in as much as it included a huge swathe of frontier land at that point well beyond any organised control.3 But, by the approach of the year 1000 that had changed; continuous creeping frontier clearance had advanced the line of organised settlement well into these “extreme furthest ultimate marches” and Sant Cugat was now facing the possibility of being able to claim its rights in these lands, for which reason in 982 it had had them freshly royally confirmed so as to deal with any possibility of people claiming reversion under the Visigothic thirty-year rule and so on.4 The territory was still far from them and difficult to control, of course, so this was why someone like Hisnabert would have seemed so heaven-sent to them; a powerful man who could perhaps reduce some of it to order and get them something out of it. (And if he couldn’t, of course, well, nothing much lost, something that Bonnassie’s version chooses not to consider.)

A tower in Calders, Barcelona

A tower in Calders (probably not the right one but not far off the right height)

But is this really what was happening? If so, it seems very odd that we get to hear about it. That the story was written down once in the grant to Hisnabert is probably explicable: this was an unusual situation and probably demurring voices were raised at the monastery, so the story functions here as a kind of insurance, saying why this odd thing made sense to do. But why do we have it? Once the old grant had been proved worthless, would you keep the original? and would you then, as Sant Cugat did, copy it up later into your cartulary? Okay, maybe their copying endeavour was that attention-less and their archiving that shoddy, but it’s a problem, enough of one to make the original text worth hunting down, and happily for us all, Josep Rius Serra’s edition of Sant Cugat’s cartulary is online. So, what does that say? Well, this is a long document, by the should-be-legendary super-scribe, Bonhom.5 It begins with an account of the capture of Barcelona by Louis the Pious that brought these lands into royal control, the fact that they then remained unused,

because of the incursion and persistent siege by a multitude of the depraved and most savage Ishmaelite race with their troops which raised battles and raids without intermission against the fortifications and castles of the Christians which were founded in the marches of the aforesaid Barcelona

all of which made it a bit unsafe, if you see what he means, and so for more than thirty years, do you see what he did there (and Bonhom is a judge, his own copy of the Visigothic law survives, we know he knew what that implied) it was left for pasturing beasts and nothing more.6 He then sets out the bounds of the property, and there’s quite a lot. But, he adds, after many years of this ceaseless plunder and demolition by the Muslims, Ramon Borrell and his brother Count Ermengol (the First of Urgell) raided through to Córdoba itself, guided by the Hand of God, and:

they put all the Saracens and Berbers to flight, with the help of God, and the king of the Muslims [Mucelemiticum], who had fled to them, they placed in the royal seat at Córdoba. Then God gave tranquillity unto the Christians, and they went out and walked everywhere around the aforesaid Marches [presumably thereby setting boundaries…] and they built many fortifications and castles which had once been destroyed by the aforesaid power of the pagans.

And, you see, this is why I don’t mind so much that there are no chronicles from this area so early, because that’s most of one for 1010 right there. There’s even truth behind the Biblical triumphalism: it seems that a number of frontier fortresses were demolished as part of the peace terms between Borrell II (because he had to come into this somewhere) and his brother Miró III and the Caliph al-Hakam II after he came to power in 961, so these places would have been vacant for most people’s memory by this time.7 And this is the context into which Hisnabert arrives, after a full page of the printed edition gone on historical preamble. Bonhom goes on:

Meanwhile there came forth a certain noble man, Hisnabert, of the nobler sort of origin, who predestined by God and Saint Cucuphat had taken over much of the aforesaid place and sought it from us to live in, he having come there with all his household… [and the rest as in Bonnassie]. For this place, heavy experience tells, was placed in great terror and trembling, so that anyone who should live there from day to day would not escape being himself often subject to danger on account of his or others’ possessions or money. On account of which it pleased us [Abbot Guitard of Sant Cugat, in whose voice the document is phrased] and all the congregation of monks subject to the aforesaid martyr, with the consent of the lord Count Ramon, his wife Countess Ermessenda acquiescing, Borrell Bishop of Osona assenting, Pere Bishop of Girona and Ermengol Bishop of Urgell agreeing, we unanimously with good heart and prompt will give and concede the aforesaid town and its church of Santa Oliva with the money or offerings of first fruits or other gifts of the faithful, and of these tithes we dedicate two whole parts [presumably of three]… to you the aforesaid Hisnabert.

There then follows a long precision of the terms under which he holds, which are basically that his family may inherit it but that neither he nor they may bestow this property or its proceeds anywhere other than Sant Cugat, that Sant Cugat will still be able to pasture their animals there and they retain rights of access and can remove him if necessary. And the abbot and fifteen monks sign along with six untitled laymen and the count and countess. So okay, let me just pull out some things there:

  1. If Hisnabert is actually a fraudster, it’s not just the monks and abbot he’s fooling here; he’s also fooled the count and countess and every bishop in Catalonia, some of whom know this area as only frontier landgrabbers could (that’s Saint Ermengol to you);8
  2. the specification of the property’s bounds calls it Santa Oliva, “as it was called in antiquity”; I don’t quite know if they’re anticipating him restoring the church, they don’t say so explicitly, but they do appear to anticipate it rendering tithe (or rather money: denaria not decima), which in turn implies a reasonable population base and it’s hard not to imagine the church is already up and running;
  3. it seems to be implied that Sant Cugat’s contact with this area has been, and will remain, running herds of animals through it; at that rate, they ought to be passing through the area probably twice a year if not more, and should also have known there was no tower if tower there wasn’t, not just far quicker than five years later but even before this was being granted, which is also implied by the gravis experientia of its vulnerability that they report; it all reads as if this was familiar territory to them, even if still wild.

All of which then makes me want to look at the five-years-later charter, also available online.9 And, lo, it is a bit complicated, but basically what happens here is that a woman called Adelaide comes to court at Barcelona, on behalf of her infant son by her late husband Guillem del Castell Sant Martí, whose father Galí had cleared some frontier territory at Calders, and she says Sant Cugat are moving in on her land and what’s the count going to do about it? So the abbot rocks up with his papal privilege and royal precepts and so forth and sets them all down, but the array of judges present, including Ponç Bonfill Marc, Son of Ervigi Marc the Wonder Judge, look them over and find there’s nothing in them covering this property. Red faces for Sant Cugat’s men! But it’s no better for Adelaide, who also can’t prove any right to the land. “On which account,” intones young Ponç, “it was judged in the same court to be better and more true that this land should be princely land just like the other spaces of waste land,” or to put it another way, the count gets to swipe it. It seems to be at this point that the abbot produced the grant to Hisnabert, or Isimbert as Ponç prefers to spell it, which is the first point at which it becomes clear we’re talking about the same property or properties, but the judges decided that since Sant Cugat had held no right to the land, they could not rightfully have granted it to Hisnabert. The count, however, so careless about his property, decided that probably Sant Cugat should have it after all, now, and granted it there anyway, aww, whereafter,

since it is necessary to build castles and fortifications in the waste marches and in solitary places against the attacks of the pagans, and since Isimbert himself did not develop this land, which instead remains a waste and solitude, the above-noted Guitard, abbot, and his monastic brothers were advised and ordered, on the instruction of Countess Ermessenda and by her son Count Berengar, and by the men written below, that they should seek out such a man as would build and develop this waste land in the service of God and Sant Cugat, just as they should require, and they give it to that man by this precarial charter of donation for management together.

By this stage I’ve already lost track of just whom Hisnabert even would have ripped off: Galí and son, the monks, the count? But what is clear is that no-one is here saying he wasn’t a nobleman or had lied or whatever, or that there was no tower. That would have been at Santa Oliva, presumably; the land here is at Calders, and the problem seems to be that he hadn’t developed that, in other words, that his tenure had resulted in insufficient value added. The count, or rather the countess—this case, despite its date of 1017, seems to have dragged on past Roman Borrell’s death in 1018, take note—weren’t happy with that, but the implication seems pretty strong that if the monastery had not been told to do otherwise, they’d have given the lands straight back into Hisnabert’s hands. Instead, the document as we have it has the whole hearing copied out merely as a precursor to the new grant to one Bonet Bernat. And then, right at the end, in a fit of afterthought worthy of his learned father, Ponç adds, along with his own signature and that of the other judges, this codocil:

we the judges who edited this, and by the ordination of our competence gave a term to the waste land at Torre, the tower that Isimbert made in the lands of Sant Cugat by the ordination of the above-noted donation that Abbot Guitard made to that Isimbert, and we reserved all the lands brought under cultivation, and all the buildings and workings that are in the circuit of the already-said tower to that term. The rest however, we ordain just as is written here. Signed Ponç, also known as Bonfill, cleric and judge, who have written these things….

And that, I think, changes everything. Because look, a tower! It was there all along! And cleared lands and buildings and stuff! Hisnabert had done his stuff! Instead, what seems to have happened is that Adelaide’s suit, far from the only one that Sant Cugat’s efforts to make its privileges and precepts count in these lands kicked off, had started an enquiry no-one wanted, not even her at the end, leading to Ramon Borrell being able to assert fiscal control of the area and thus retaining the ability to direct it, via Sant Cugat. That this is so, even though the terms on which it was given back to the monastery grant them full right, is clear from Ermessenda’s later order to change its manager; Bonet Bernat was presumably one of her people she wanted in instead. Or, indeed, maybe Hisnabert just hadn’t done enough. But either way, Sant Cugat weren’t, to their credit, about to turf him and his familia out on their collective ear; his tower was quietly secured as its own term by the judges, quite possibly once the countess (not a woman it was wise to cross) had left, and left “the rest… just as is written here”. So for once, a happy ending, except for Adelaide and her little son Bernat (wait, Bernat? but no, there are probably a dozen Bernats here, it probably isn’t the son being put in charge alas) at least.

Charter of Sant Cugat del Vallès

A charter of Sant Cugat (not the right one, but probably about the right height...)

Those of you who were at the paper will maybe notice that this isn’t quite how I told the story there: instead, I suggested that the monastery had dispossessed Hisnabert for some reason, and had kept the charter to be able to prove their own title to it and the terms under which they could do that, whereas actually it seems that they probably kept it because they still had him there on the land. I would have to confess that I seem to have relied too heavily on notes and didn’t myself then notice the codocil in the second document, which does rather alter the picture. Still, I take some small solace in the fact that apparently Bonnassie didn’t either and he had it in print for thirty-five years before anyone spotted a problem…


1. P. Bonnassie, La Catalogne du milieu du Xe à la fin du XIe siècle : croissance et mutations d’une société (Toulouse 1975, 1976), I p. 127.

2. R. d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolíngis a Catalunya, Memòries de la Secció Històrico-Arqueològica II & III (Barcelona 1926-1952), Sant Cugat del Vallès I.

3. Not that this area was completely anarchic! I have got so fed up of waiting for my paper on this to come out that it is very tempting just to stick the proof PDF on the web somewhere, but for now, I still hope that you will one day be able to see: J. Jarrett, “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi: Organisation of Society in the pre-Catalan ‘Terra de Ningú'” in †Alan Deyermond & Martin Ryan (edd.), Early Medieval Spain: a symposium, Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar 63 (London forthcoming), pp. 83-109, now heading for its fourth third anniversary in process.

4. On the thirty-year rule you can at least see my work, in this case, Jonathan Jarrett, “Settling the King’s Lands: aprisio in Catalonia in perspective” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 18 (Oxford 2010), pp. 320-342 at pp. 325-327.

5. The document is edited as J. Rius Serra (ed.), Cartulario de «Sant Cugat» del Vallés (Barcelona 1946), doc. no. 449.

6. On Bonhom, meanwhile, see Jeffrey A. Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: Property, Proof, and Dispute in Catalonia around the Year 1000, Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past (Ithaca 2004), pp. 84-92, where his copy of the Forum Iudicum is briefly described and where references to it are given.

7. See Jonathan Jarrett, “Archbishop Ató of Osona. False metropolitans on the Marca Hispanica” in Archiv für Diplomatik Vol. 56 (München forthcoming), pp. 1-42 at pp. 14-15 with references to the Catalan scholarship.

8. On whom see Jeffrey A. Bowman, “The Bishop Builds a Bridge: Sanctity and Power in the Medieval Pyrenees” in Catholic Historical Review Vol. 88 (Washington DC 2002), pp. 1-16.

9. Rius, Cartulario II, doc. no. 464. This one’s brilliant.

From the sources II: the men of Gombrèn and Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Outside of the cloister of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

Outside of the cloister of Sant Joan de les Abadesses

A little while ago I managed to get in touch with the current archivist of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, Joan Ferrer i Godoy, who has been really helpful, and is also fresh from the achievement of publishing all the monastery’s documents from 995 to 1273 as part of the excellent Diplomataris series by the Fundació Noguera; two of you at least may find this information useful.1 One of the ways in which he has been helpful is that he’s sent me images of the two documents I most wanted to look at there, thus potentially saving me a trip (though I may go again anyway, when I go). Almost all of Sant Joan’s early archive is now in the Arxiu de la Corona de Aragó in Barcelona, but a very few pieces remain at Sant Joan, and that meant that when Federico Udina i Martorell published the early series as part of a programme of the ACA’s he did four documents from transcripts in Barcelona rather than the originals.2 Two of these are both quite important documents to me (and the other two are interesting forgeries): the former is the partner to the huge hearing over the Vall de Sant Joan that I’ve talked about so much before, in which the count’s representative admitted that he’d lost the case, and I may talk about that here later on. Today however I want to introduce you to the other one, a hearing about which I’ve been suspicious for a long time.

Arxiu de l'Abadia de Sant Joan de les Abadesses, volum de pergamins dels segles X-XII, fo. 35

Arxiu de l'Abadia de Sant Joan de les Abadesses, volum de pergamins dels segles X-XII, fo. 35 (full-size image linked behind)

Here it is. What this is is a hearing from 987 in which Abbess Fredeburga, most mysterious of the abbesses of Sant Joan, called a bunch of people together in court before Marquis Oliba Cabreta of Besalú and had them testify that the monastery had owned the castle of Mogrony since the time of Abbess Emma, and swore to what its territory was as well.3 Now, this was almost certainly not true; Sant Joan’s documents from Emma’s time that mention Mogrony are all interpolated, apparently to establish this very same fact, and of course Emma herself was no stranger to the sworn oath to complete fiction as a judicial tactic, having used it on Oliba’s father her brother in that same huge hearing I already mentioned.4 What this means is that anything from Sant Joan that mentions Mogrony is automatically dubious, and close reading of this charter in Udina’s edition made me no more comfortable about it:

  1. first of all, the people swearing the oath are not identified until the very end, in that little paragraph by a signature at the bottom right there, where they are identified as the men of one village, Gombrèn.5 Now, this is the nearest settlement to the castle so fair enough but I did wonder why no-one had thought to mention who they were till then, as you’d think that was a fairly important part of their value as witnesses.
  2. Secondly, I wondered why the Incredible Wonder Judge Ervigi Marc was scribing, as he had nothing in particular to do with Sant Joan, never appears in its other documents, and was first and foremost a man of the counts of Barcelona, not Oliba Cabreta. Judges did travel, certainly, but this is out of his area and it’s still odd.6
  3. And that got odder with each of the witnesses I checked. None of Oliba’s usual men are here, though one guy, Florenci, at least appears with no-one else; instead, almost every witness I could identify had good pedigree as a follower of his cousin Borrell II of Barcelona, Ervigi’s main employer, not of Oliba.7

So at this point my thought was that this document, which has been used to argue some pretty dubious stuff, was itself probably pretty dubious. I suspected that a hearing had been made up and the witness list borrowed from a charter of Borrell’s, though against that I did have to admit that no matching charter of Borrell’s seems to have survived. Later reflection showed me that that wouldn’t work, because they’re all named in the opening lines too—modulo the apparent correction in line 3 where ‘radulfo’ is added over a scraped patch, he not being in the witnesses—so if it was made up it was done in one go. Some of the witnesses are big men and at least one, Tassio, really did appear with many counts, so he’s not surprising.8 The others are still weird though. Obviously sight of the original was the only thing that might get me any further, and now, here we are. So, what difference does this make?

  1. It actually is an original, or close to, which in and of itself chucks a load of possibilities out of the window. It’s one bit of parchment written in contemporary script and there are autograph signatures on it, so we have to accept that there was some kind of hearing or meeting at or close to the date it gives.
  2. On the other hand the men of Gombrèn are still, as we say in the trade, ‘well dodgy’. Observe that long long horizontal stroke in the centre of the page; that’s the list of people who swore, evidently running short. What that means is that Ervigi (who certainly wrote the main part of the document, the scribal signature right at the bottom is the same precise Caroline hand as the first few lines I’m sure) didn’t know who was swearing when he wrote this, left a gap and then there weren’t enough oath-takers to fill it. So, prior redaction to a set of facts not then fully known.

So what I now think is this, as a first guess. Gombrèn was in Oliba Cabreta’s territory by now, so it had to be before him that this case was heard, or at least it would be best if it were. I still don’t understand what Fredeburga, about whose connections we know little, was up to that Oliba’s court was apparently packed with Barcelona nobles (and we certainly don’t have to assume there was no-one else there; the panels for these things are chosen for relevance and can be subsets of the court9), but apparently she’d brought people with her. Ervigi accordingly wrote this document up first, leaving out the names of those taking the oath because it doesn’t seem to have been clear who they would be, and the witnesses because they would need to follow the list of those swearing.

Once it was finally agreed who was taking the oath, and perhaps even once it had been taken, he added them in, two or three fewer than he’d allowed for, in bigger letters to try and fill the gap (I’m pretty sure that is the same hand, all the letter forms look the same as the smaller script to me) and finished the document by adding the witnesses’ names, letting the clerics and one or two who at least don’t say they’re clerics write their own in a few places. Among them however was the man in charge of the men from Gombrèn, Miró (as ever one of about a dozen otherwise-unknown Miros involved), and at this point Ervigi seems to have realised that as well as not initially naming the oath-takers, he’d never explained who they were. So that information was squeezed into the signature he wrote for Miró (perhaps at the same time he realised he’d also missed out a boundary clause and added it between lines seven and eight). Also, there seems to have been some doubt about whether a record botched this badly would be legal, because another signature added at this point is the one at the middle of the penultimate line, ‘S+ bonutius cl[ericu]s doctusqu[e] lege qui ha[s] conditione[s] roboraui’, ‘signed Bonnuç, cleric and learned in law, who have confirmed this oath’. Except that that still looks like Ervigi’s hand to me so I wonder how learned this cleric was, in fact, that he didn’t sign himself. Anyway, there’s almost no other instance of a specifically legal approval like that from this era, and I think it’s significant.

Finally, and perhaps shamefacedly, Ervigi signed off at the very bottom, admitting to, ‘rasas ac emendatas atq[ue] sup[er]positas in u[e]r[s]o III· & uiii· ac nono ac…’ and I can’t even read it, ‘erasures and corrections and superscripts in the third line and the eighth and the ninth and…’ Poor sod. No backspace on parchment.

Sant Pere de Montgrony with the old castle's rock behind it

Sant Pere de Montgrony with the old castle's rock behind it

So it is an odd occasion. Fredeburga may not have known that what she was contending wasn’t true, that depends when the interpolations to Emma’s documents were made, but she may have had trouble sorting out the oath-swearers because of dissent on the matter. She also seems to have had trouble getting Oliba’s own following to pay attention, and Borrell may have been behind the panel who did attend, intending to unsettle his elder cousin. There’s many lurking pieces of politics behind this hearing that may explain its oddity. But the main reason it looks dodgy is no malicious or fraudulent purpose, but that the problems getting people to swear seem to have led the unfortunate scribe to make a complete hash of it. Never attribute to malice what can be satisfactorily explained by incompetence, eh?

(Edit: now cross-posted to Cliopatria.)


1. Joan Ferrer i Godoy (ed.), Diplomatari del monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses (995-1273) (Barcelona 2009).

2. Federico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas: Escuela de Estudios Medievales, Textos XVIII, Publicaciones de la Sección de Barcelona no. 15 (Madrid 1951), ap. II, docs A-D.

3. Udina, Archivo Condal, ap. II D, now edited from the original as Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i de Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. no. 1526. On Fredeburga see Esteve Albert, Les Abadesses de Sant Joan, Episodis de la història 69 (Barcelona 1968).

4. Mogrony: J. Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2003), pp. 229-258 at pp. 235-241; the hearing is edited in Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 38 or Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV doc. no. 119; the former has palæographical notes par excellence but the latter has the correct date… Discussion, Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future”, pp. 241-248.

5. The Latin makes clear that the origin of the modern placename is ‘Gomesindo morto’, ‘dead Gomesèn’, whoever he may have been. For a suggestion, see J. Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis (University of London 2005), p. 141 & n. 268.

6. For judges in general and Ervigi Marc in particular, see Jeffrey A. Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: Property, Proof, and Dispute in Catalonia around the Year 1000, Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past (Ithaca 2004), pp. 81-99.

7. Jarrett, “Pathways of Power”, p. 249 n. 155.

8. Ibid., pp. 229-230.

9. For example C. Devic & J. Vaissete, Histoire Générale de Languedoc avec les Notes et les Pièces Justificatives. Édition accompagnée de dissertations et actes nouvelles, contenant le recueil des inscriptions de la province antiques et du moyen âge, des planches, des cartes géographiques et des vues des monuments, rev. E. Mabille, E. Barry, E. Roschach & A. Molinier & ed. M. E. Dulaurier, Vol. V (Toulouse 1875, repr. Osnabrück 1973), Preuves: Chartes et Documents nos 193 & 194, are two hearings from the same day and town by the same judge, but the witnesses differ per case.

Actually doing research: "nobles of the palace", Barcelona 990 A. D.

Lately my work has been held up by a single piece of research I’ve been trying to do as quickly as possible for the last chapter of the eventual book (though don’t get over-excited, I’m not revising these things in order and there’s still loads to go). This bit however needed new work and has been a right dog. It’s kind of done now and I thought there would be worse things I could do than say something about it.

I’ve been looking at Borrell II, again, and in particular at whether he had a steady court of followers and dependants, or whether he had to draw a self-standing nobility to him by patronage. The answer is kind of `both and neither’ as you’d expect, but in order to give some concrete examples of this I’ve zeroed in on one particular hearing.1 It’s an interesting and unique hearing in itself, as the matter of it is that an official called Sendred whose title is custos monetae—if he were an organisation he’d be a Currency Watchdog I suppose—appeals one of Barcelona’s moneyers, Guiscafred, for making substandard coin. What we have is not actually the document where he was tried, however, because Bishop Vives of the city immediately sails into action and tries to argue with the count that, because Guiscafred is the bishop’s man, the bishop ought to try him. Now this is of course the right of clerical privilege that got Thomas á Becket killed, but Borrell and Vives, at least as they are recorded by the unusually verbose and hyper-accurate judge Ervigi Marc, whose detail is often really useful in these records, have a civilised exchange about it. Borrell is said to have emphasised that it’s his business to protect the public, and that however much he respects the Church action has to be taken here, and Vives therefore offers the compromise that if Borrell lets him deal with it, he will administer sentence without any further delay. This settlement, not the actual trial, is what the document is intended to record, but it’s already opened up many many cans of worms that tell us loads about how money was being produced, used and checked in the city at a time when other documents tells us its standard was a problem.2

Courtyard of the Palau Comtal de Barcelona, now the Plaça del Rei, as it stands today

But the interest for me, at least today, is that Ervigi Marc (call him Harvey Mark if it helps you) states that this hearing was held in the palace of the count in Barcelona, which although we have reason to believe it had recently been rebuilt is the first mention we have of that building, and he calls the assembled worthies who are hearing the case “nobles of the palace”, nobiles palatii. So my question was, immediately, who are these people and how ‘palatine’ are they?

Methodologically this is a lot of what I do, a kind of poor man’s prosopography, but there are problems, mainly the lack, except in the case of the august scribe, of surnames. So someone is present called Sunifred: you wouldn’t believe how common a name this was at the time, and there’s just no way to say which of the other Sunifreds who turn up with the count or the bishop are when they’re not closely associated with some land where they turn up consistently. Likewise people called Miró. But with some of the group we can do better. There are for example two people called Guitard. This makes it almost vanishingly unlikely that one of them is not Guitard de Mura, a minor noble who makes it good by getting concessions of castles from both count and bishop of Barcelona beginning at about this time; he will surely have been there when the two came into dispute in his home city. That leaves the question of who the other one is, and there’s a guy who turns up witnessing for the monastery of Sant Cugat for areas all over the general Barcelona area (which Guitard de Mura does not, as his lands are all further away or actually in the city, as far as we can tell) who is at least a possible.3 There are several other names that leap out at me from Borrell’s other documents; it is at least a good chance that the attenders called Bonnuç & Seniol are the men of that name who sporadically and separately witness Borrell’s documents all over the frontier territories, here with the boss on this occasion. A deacon called Arnulf who seems to have otherwise only appeared in or around Girona also turns up only with the count, and was therefore perhaps a tame and apparently portable chaplain, which makes it likely that some Girona contingent was there, so that the Gauzfred who is present is probably the Vicar of Girona we know from later documents. And the judges are Borrell’s men too, of course, and one deacon present, Adalbert, seems to be a judge in training who only gets the full title in later appearances. Another Recosind appears to be a city landholder who deals occasionally with Borrell. Likewise, there is present a Marcuç who seems to crop up in city contexts and maybe also occasionally witness for the nearby monastery of Sant Cugat del Vallès. But it’s not just Borrell’s men: one person called Sesnan, I can’t find in Borrell’s documents, but one such is in a fair few of Bishop Vives’s, and seems to be someone the bishop gives land at the end of his life, perhaps as a reward for years of service. You’d expect there to be a few of the bishop’s men present, after all, given that one of them is the accused. And the bishop’s palace is actually right next door, possibly even adjoining the comital palace, so ‘nobles of the palace’ could be a bit relaxed as a term?

But there are also a bunch of people who just don’t recur. The names are sometimes so odd that I would think it was a garbled copy, except that it’s an original and Ervigi Marc is firstly easy to recognise by his signature and secondly not a man to make that kind of mistake. It does however mean that you can be sure, when someone is called Falcuç, and is a deacon, that he is not seen elsewhere, because all of the documents from Osona, Manresa, Girona, Besalú, or the archives of the cathedral of Barcelona, the counts themselves (though that is patchy this early) or that of Sant Cugat (though there there is a later monk of the same name at least) are well indexed and he does not occur. This guy is a one-off appearance, and there are a few others like him too. What kind of ‘nobles of the palace’ can these be who are never seen there, or anywhere else either? Not nobles at all, surely.

So my initial conclusion is that, unfortunately, Ervigi is talking a regular gathering of incidental petitioners up big because big people are involved. Actually the assembled are there for a whole bunch of reasons, and some of them are probably ordinary citizens just come along for the ceremony or to plead their own cases. Someone wanted a good crowd for this one, hauled them all in, and Ervigi lets style get ahead of fine status gradations. But it’s still a good little exercise in who might be there when the count holds court, and shows quite nicely that the body is always changing because many of the count’s men all have lives of their own and turn up either when he needs them or they need him but not by default, which is more or less what the rest of the discussion into which this chunk will go has been showing as well. So I would say that’s what it shows of course, at least it’s consistent with that. But if anyone would prefer to offer a different view I’m open to it…


1. A. Fabregà i Grau (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Barcelona: documents dels anys 844-1260. Volum I: documents dels anys 844-1000, Fonts Documentals 1 (Barcelona 1995), doc. no. 201.

2. On which you will some day be able to see J. Jarrett, “Currency change in pre-millennial Catalonia: coinage, counts and economics” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 168 (London forthcoming).

3. I’m not giving the detailed cites for these people’s occurrences, it would swamp the page and you don’t really need it. Or, if you do, you can wait till the book comes out :-) But at least you can now access the Sant Cugat documents online. That’s such good news, in fact, that it will make for a post by itself…