Tag Archives: Oliba Cabreta

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.

The Case of the Disappearing Abbot (sorter penance)

I had been holding off on writing this post because I knew that it would be probably be wrong unless I could check a few things in the recent edition of the the charters of Santa Maria de Serrateix, but on due inspection there’s one copy in the UK and it’s in Birmingham.1 (The IHR has had one on order since mid-2007 so I don’t think this is really the UK’s fault.) More relevantly, on overdue inspection, it’s not actually Serrateix I meant to write about, so the excuse is kind of gone. This is the Case of the Disappearing Abbot that I promised Ms Highly Eccentric after enlisting the dark arts to Choose my own Archive.

Fifteenth-century depiction of Count Guifré the Hairy

Fifteenth-century depiction of Count Guifré the Hairy

Before I can explain this, some kind of background is necessary. If you remember Count Guifré the Hairy, we can start there. Guifré, who ruled Barcelona, among other places in the area, from 878 to 898, died leaving a brother, a cousin, four sons and a daughter in charge in his various counties and foundations, the sons including the eldest, Guifré II Borrell (898-911) and the youngest, Sunyer (911-947) who succeeded in turn in the three counties of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, and the middle one, Miró II el Jove (898-927), who ruled Cerdanya, and perhaps Besalú in succession to his uncle Radulf (878-924). With me so far? Miró II died and left four sons, looked after by his widow their mum, Ava. Sunyer didn’t make things easy for them, but by the 940s they were ruling in their own right, Guifré (927-957) (yes, they love those old names in this family) and little bro Oliba Cabreta (927-990) in Besalú and Sunifred in Cerdanya (927-967), with the other little bro Miró III Bonfill (967-984) going into holy orders and spending his early adult years as a deacon learning to Latinise impossible Greek words.2 Nonetheless, and despite being older, these brother counts (and the deacon) were at a territorial disadvantage compared to Sunyer’s sons, Borrell II and Miró III (yes, I know, they’re in different counties so we’re supposed to be able to tell them apart, OK?), who succeeded him in 947.3 The reasons were firstly that the big conjunction of Girona, Barcelona and Osona, and Urgell which Borrell ruled alone, contained the two biggest cities and almost all the coastline, and secondly that it contained almost all of the frontier, a small salient in the pagus of Berguedà bordering Cerdanya being the Besalú brothers’ only access to the riches of al-Andalus. Worse: the Barcelona brothers also had three of the area’s four bishoprics, including two of the three whose territories lay in Besalú and Cerdanya, and the third wasn’t under the Besalú family’s control either.

Control of the Church was important in this area and the elder cousins went various ways about getting some. Eventually, in 970, Miró Bonfill became bishop of Girona, which is a long story for another time, but before that the brothers had done quite a lot to push the independent nunnery of Sant Joan de Ripoll, on their borders, under their thumbs, nicking its lands and exchanging others back on bad terms, and eventually setting up a rival monastery right next door across the border. This was a two-handed operation: Oliba Cabreta and Sunifred took lands off the nunnery which were in their territory and gave them to the rival, and Miró Bonfill gave the victims extra lands elsewhere to soothe them, lands that, interestingly, were mostly close along the border and recently acquired from Borrell II, another story for another time.4 They pulled exactly the same double on the Girona border, donating heavily to Sant Esteve de Banyoles but also building a rival house, and that was Santa Maria de Serrateix, which is why I got confused. But the one we want is Sant Pere de Camprodon, whose documents have only very recently been entirely published.5 I’m not sure that Camprodon was built with that purpose in mind, in fact, as the donations of scammed land there are all rather after the story that I’m about to tell, but it certainly wound up as a counterweight to Sant Joan.

Church of the monastery of Sant Pere de Camprodon as it now stands, from Wikimedia Commons

Church of the monastery of Sant Pere de Camprodon as it now stands, from Wikimedia Commons

A church at Camprodon was consecrated in 904, which is the first we see of it.6 By 946 it seems that it was a monastery, though that document is only known from a register, and the compiler of the register, for whom Camprodon would obviously have been a monastery, may have updated his source.7 Either way, it seems to have belonged in some sense to the bishop of Girona, because in 948 the eldest brother of the Besaluú comital family, Guifré of Besalú gave Bishop Godmar II some land elsewhere in exchange for the church and its land. We know this because in 952, when Guifré made a trip north to meet King Louis IV (936-954) at Rheims for a variety of reasons, one of the things he came back with was a royal precept of immunity for what was now apparently a monastery.8 That precept names Guifré as the founder, so we have to think of him as being personally connected with this place even if it seems like a whole-family investment. It also explains the exchange by which Guifré acquired the place. That exchange also survives, or at least a document that claims to be that exchange does, but it’s been hailed as a forgery not least because it adds a quite incredible price-tag of 1000 solidi from count to bishop. Someone added this in superscript to the precept as well, and on the whole I think it can be discarded though why one would add it—one could hardly claim it had never been paid or something—I don’t know.9

The precept also mentions gifts to the new monastery from the counts’ mother Ava, which we have, and several from its first abbot, Laufred, which we don’t.10 That’s important. All of this Louis placed under immunity:

establishing all of the which above-mentioned things with the integrity of all the properties under our mundeburdus, as it is called, by royal authority most intactly against the disturbances of all men, and we order that no public judge or any judicial power whatever shall dare to trespass over the churches or the places of the aforesaid monastery for the hearing of cases by judicial custom or the exacting of tolls or preparing of works or any renders or taxing the vassals or their followers or requiring any written demands, but shall presume to exact neither road-tax nor gate-tax or pasturage or toll or any unlisted exaction… 

(This is only a standard formula but I still love it. No possibility uncovered.)

Now, Laufred is the missing abbot. We don’t see him in person, except maybe once in 948 at a hearing where, if it is he, he attests as Lamfredus abbas et diaconus. I’m not convinced this is the same man; this Abbot Lanfred doesn’t turn up anywhere else either but that doesn’t mean they have to be the same guy.11 So maybe calling him the disappearing abbot is unfair, because actually he may never appear, but we know he was in charge at Camprodon because Count Guifré told Louis so, and because he is named in another document, which is the consecration of his successor Teuderic.12 And Teuderic was being appointed because Laufred had disappeared. To be more precise, he went on pilgrimage ‘because of his sins’, or so it says, but he apparently never came back. Whither he went we don’t know, though Rome would have been a popular choice at this time and also more than slightly dangerous, not least because of the danger of malaria. Anyway, there’s nothing too mysterious about that, but it seems that Camprodon never got word. The consecration of Teuderic says that they waited seven years for Laufred’s return before plucking up the courage to ask the counts if they could have a new abbot. Now, they didn’t ask Guifré, because he had been killed in a revolt at Besalú which would have been one of the other stories I could have told you.13 That happened in 957, so in 962 they asked his brother Sunifred Count of Cerdanya, who was very busy at exactly this time cutting deals with Abbess Fredeburga of Sant Joan de Ripoll by which the nunnery got only a bit of its lands back in exchange for other lands which went, guess where, Camprodon.

Gratuitous picture of Besalú as it now stands behind its fourteenth-century bridge

Gratuitous picture of Besalú as it now stands behind its fourteenth-century bridge

So are you seeing a stitch-up here or am I just being over-suspicious? The place is a monastery by 948, but the consecration of Teuderic claims that Laufred wasn’t appointed till after the trip to the king. And that’s odd because the king’s scribes were told he was abbot. Or at least, an abbot: this and the 948 hearing could be reconciled if he were abbot of somewhere else and parachuted into Camprodon after it got its immunity. That might explain why we don’t see him here much; but it doesn’t explain why the first thing he did was head off on pilgrimage never to return. Either way, after he left until 962, and possibly before, Camprodon was running with no abbot. And they couldn’t get a new one under Guifré they had to wait a long time before they could get one even from Sunifred, and then it seems to mesh with other schemes of his. It looks as if the counts didn’t want an active abbot here, and Teuderic doesn’t last long either, as Abbot Audà first appears in 965.14

But, having appointed one at all, why not replace him once he’d gone? Well, there could be any number of reasons for that: if you’re hard-nosed you might want to think that the counts were taking the revenues, and if you were in the middle you might note that Laufred appears to have been fairly wealthy and that Guifré’s relationships with his nobility were apparently strained and so perhaps he was determined not to risk offending an apparent ally gone missing, or perhaps more importantly the remaining family, by handing Laufred’s rights over to someone else. I confess that when I first read this document my sentimental conclusion was that Guifré didn’t want to admit that his friend was dead. This is probably too soft, and I would now opine that the middle road probably makes more sense. But it’s odd. I suppose that the key lesson is that a monastery can be a very short- to mid-term political tool and that, while I’m sure the counts didn’t mind having their souls prayed for, they weren’t really bothered about keeping this place running to rule. The important thing was that it was where it was, a thorn in the side of the independent and wealthy convent at Ripoll, and for that they were willing to invest.


1. Jordi Bolòs i Masclans (ed.), Diplomatari del monestir de Santa Maria de Serrateix (segles X-XV), Diplomataris 42 (Barcelona 2006).

2. The family is covered as background in Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època (Barcelona 1948; 1948; 1962), 3rd edn. repr. as “L’Abat Oliba i la seva època” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i Documents 13-14 (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), II pp. 141-277. On Miró especially there is also Josep María Salrach i Marès, “El bisbe-comte Miró Bonfill i la seva obra de fundació i dotació de monestirs” in Eufèmia Fort i Cogul (ed.), II Col·loqui d’Història del Monaquisme Català, Sant Joan de les Abadesses 1970 II, Scriptorium Populeti 9 (Poblet 1974), pp. 57-81, with English summary pp. 422-423, and Salrach, “El comte-bisbe Miró Bonfill i l’acta de consagració de Ripoll de l’any 977” in Estudis de llengua i literatura catalanes oferts a R. Aramon i Serra en el seu setanté aniversari IV, Estudis Universitaris Catalans Vol. 26 (3a època Vol. 4) (Barcelona 1984), pp. 303-318.

3. There is actually one recent article on these two I haven’t yet got hold of, Miquel Coll i Alentorn, “Dos comtes de Barcelona germans, Miró i Borrell” in Marie Grau & Olivier Poisson (edd.), Études Roussillonnaises offertes à Pierre Ponsich. Mélanges d’archéologie, d’histoire et d’histoire de l’art du Roussillon et de la Cerdagne (Perpignan 1987), pp. 145-162.

4. A story told, indeed, in Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming).

5. 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, docs 116, 257, 268bis, 296, 301, 304, 317, 319, 328, 337, 346, 351, 360, 365, 374, 375, 384, 395, 400, 415, 425, 428, 446, 453, 512, 528, 529, 531, 568, I, III & V, and P. Ponsich (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia VI: els comtats de Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir i Fenollet, ed. R. Ordeig i Mata, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXX (Barcelona 2006), 2 vols, docs 278, 437 & 623. In hunting through all these briefly I found a late purchase by Abbess Emma I didn’t know about so I shall have to update that post now as well. I’ll refer to the charter volumes as either CC5 or CC6 in what follows.

6. CC5 116. On Camprodon’s history see Jordi Vigué i Viñas, Antoni Pladevall i Font, N. Peirís i Pujolar & Xavier Barral i Altet, “Sant Pere de Camprodon” in Pladevall, Catalunya Romànica X: el Ripollès (Barcelona 1987), pp. 85-95, where a lot of the relevant documents are also edited. There is also Miquel Sants Gros i Pujol, “Sant Pere de Camprodon, un monestir de Besalú” in Art i cultura als monestirs del Ripollès (Montserrat 1995), pp. 69-87, which apparently contains a number of things I should have been aware of a while ago but which, I confess, I haven’t seen.

7. CC5 268bis.

8. The precept is edited as, and my translation quoted below is made from, Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia II: els diplomes carolingis per a Catalunya, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica II & III (Barcelona 1926-52), 2 vols, Camprodon I.

9. CC5 III.

10. Ava’s gift is CC6 278.

11. CC5 288. This is a good hearing, this one: let me jog your memory… However, it is also a seventeenth-century copy and the copyist doesn’t appear to have been very clear what the names were.

12. CC5 351. This is the point to admit that this is a very odd, and perhaps suspicious document, even before someone added that price: the scribe seems to have deliberately chosen odd vocabulary (that would however be more common in the twelfth century) and it calls Louis IV imperator, all of which seem to me like signs of a later fabrication. The surviving document appears palæographically and physically to be an original, however. It’s good enough for a story at least, but if I were using this for proper publishable work I would be a lot more careful about its narrative.

13. On which see Salrach “El comte Guifré de Besalú i la revolta de 957. Contribució a l’estudi de la noblesa catalana del segle X” in Amics de Besalú i del seu Comtat (edd.), II Assemblea d’Estudis sobre el Comtat de Besalú, pp. 3-36.

14. CC5 365.

Guifré consangineus Borrelli comite

The Castell de Llordà, Vall d'Aran, the centre of the old term of Isona

The Castell de Llordà Vall d'Aran, the centre of the old term of Isona

I’m coming to realise that in some ways the best thing for this blog’s content, other than commentary on other people’s research which always feels a little parasitical, is the footnotes that don’t make it. You know what I mean? The word limit is tight, there’s this thing you’ve tried to dispatch in a paragraph, you’re pleased with its erudition but it doesn’t ultimately have much to do with your argument. So it gets cut every time and you never actually get it in print. (Not that the stuff that stays in ever yes let’s leave that shall we right.) But they’re perfect for blog posts. So here’s one about a man called Guifré. Or maybe Gauzfred.

Gauzfred, or maybe Guifré, and far from alone in my period and area in bearing either name, was a relation of Count Borrell II of Barcelona, Girona, Osona and Urgell (945/7-993), which is how I know about him. Exactly what relation he was, however, is not clear. He turns up in documents only four or five times, which is more than some nobles get, but still isn’t really enough. Let me break them down for you:

  1. In 973 he appears with Borrell in two fascinating charters whereby the deserted city of Isona, where Borrell had been maintaining garrisons and a small rural population to support them, was handed over to the monastery of Sant Sadurni de Tavèrnoles with instructions that they should populate the area. There’s masses more that could be said about this operation and as it is another footnote that didn’t make it I may well blog it separately. For now, however, note that our man appears here as Guifré, consanguineus Borrelli, kinsman of Borrell.1
  2. The next one is the dubious case; in a document of 981 through which land was sold just outside the city of Vic in the centre of Osona (not Isona), at a place called les Planes, a Count Guifré is named as neighbour. This is difficult because there was living at the time a Guifré who would later be Count of Cerdanya, and his brother Oliba was already entitled count by this time even though their father, Marquis Oliba Cabreta of Cerdanya, was still living. This is a family where the comital dignity was always shared between all brothers so if one of that generation were a count by 981, it’s not impossible firstly that little Guifré were and secondly that he had land in the thriving city of Vic where the family was well connected, even though it be in someone else’s actual county. Otherwise, however, we have to believe that this was Borrell’s kinsman because of how he goes on to appear.2
  3. In 987 there was a very large gathering about the frontier city of Cardona, which is probably also worth a blog post but has at least had lots written about it already. At it, Borrell attempted to refound the city for the third time in his family’s history, and gave the inhabitants substantial judicial privileges and amnesty to any fugitives who made it there. He also made Viscount Ermemir of Osona their defence commander and patron, and did various other things organising their independent operation. Guifré, or rather Gauzfred was there to see it done, and attested as Gocefredus comes et frater Borrelli, Gauzfred, count and brother of Borrell. Guifré of Cerdanya was Borrell’s second cousin once removed, and besides the name is different this once, so this is definitely not meant to be him and far more likely to be the mysterious kinsman with frontier interests.3
  4. Later that same year the same Viscount Ermemir is said to have made a present of some of his properties in that area to the new monastery of Santa Maria de Serrateix, which, confusingly, the family of Guifré of Cerdanya had recently founded and about which we will shortly hear more in The Case of the Disappearing Abbot. This document is what they call ‘dead dodgy’ as it attributes the foundation, which was within living memory by a count still in power, Oliba Cabreta no less, to his grandfather Guifré the Hairy, already halfway to legend in this area but not a plausible figure for the job in 987. It’s possible however that that’s all that’s been changed in this copy, and whether that be so or not there appears as witness Gauzfred, frater comitis Borrelli, brother of count Borrell, without a noble title of his own.4

There may be more in documents whose editions I haven’t yet got at, Solsona especially given the focus of these involvements, but I would like to think he’d have been spotted by the aristocracy-hungry antiquarians of yore. So, let’s briefly gather that: a kinsman of Borrell’s who can later be described as a brother—but then why not call him that in the first place? At first not a count—there are some titles that don’t always get mentioned when individuals are doing business but that’s not one—but later a count in good standing, and then finally, when not with Borrell but witnessing a donation to the ‘other’ family’s house, not a count again. Almost always concerned with lands on the far frontier, but the only sign of his own land is back at Osona, which hasn’t been on the frontier for a century.

The Parador de Cardona, 14th-century castle in a 9th-century precinct and now a hotel!

The Parador de Cardona, 14th-century castle in a 9th-century precinct and now a hotel!

The evaluation of these traces is difficult because these documents of course have authors. Some of their content is dictated by the formulae that legally valid, or maybe socially adequate, documents, ought to follow, but less than you might think. For example, there is no formula for the Cardona franchise, because there just isn’t another occasion like it: it has a short narrative, a privilege unrivalled by anything else in the area’s history and so many special provisions that it bends out of any standard shape. It was clearly also a major occasion and the scribe may have been inclined to record it in high register, giving people dignity and standing they didn’t normally own to (though he didn’t call Borrell dux, which sometimes happens on such occasions).5 And lastly it survives only as a copy, so whatever agendas it was drafted with have probaby also gone through more or less conscious corrections by the copyist. That’s the sort of problem I mean. The scribe who (originally) wrote the Serrateix donation presumably worked for the abbey, which was a family house for the family of Besalú-Cerdanya, not Guifré consanguineus‘s, so would they have recognised any half-title he might get in circumstances like the Cardona one? If they did, did the eventual copyist who added in the Guifré the Hairy reference recognise it, and might he have taken out this other Count Guifré’s title anyway, and even maybe chosen the name Gauzfred instead, to stop him confusing things and making it look even more anachronistic? And then what did his neighbours in Osona call him and is that the only really normal record?

Then, who might he in fact be? Borrell had two known brothers, Ermengol Count of Osona who first appears in 942 and seems to have been dead in 945 when Borrell first appears as count donating for his late brother’s soul, and Miró, who after the retirement of their father Sunyer in 947 succeeds alongside Borrell to the counties of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, but who seems from his will and Borrell’s almost non-appearance there till then to have been really concentrated on Barcelona alone.6 Both these are mentioned in other family wills and so on, but Gauzfred is not. He is not to be prayed for in either of Miró’s or Borrell’s bequests, or mentioned in Sunyer’s or his second wife Riquilda’s donations either. But Sunyer had a previous wife, Eimilda, whom we hardly see except in her marriage pact, which isn’t dated as it survives but from the presence of an older Viscount Ermemir of Osona we can date to before 917.7 There are no children recorded from that marriage and we don’t see very much trace of her, but Szabolcs de Vajay has argued that a woman called Guinilda who turns up in the nobility of southern France ought to be identified as a daughter of this marriage, and if there was one…8 And it is clear at least that Gauzfred’s family relationship to Borrell is troublesome to describe, as well as being strongly implied by the record that Sunyer’s second wife got her sons into the succession and managed to more or less wipe out the record of poor Eimilda and her children if there were any.

The monastery of Santa Maria de Serrateix as it now stands

The monastery of Santa Maria de Serrateix as it now stands

So since I first discovered this guy in the records, my feeling has been that he was a son of Sunyer, either by Eimilda or by some other relationship not recorded, who was shunted out of any claim he might have had to the succession by Sunyer’s second marriage and the grooming of those children for the various counties in Sunyer’s hands. However, like those mysterious priests of a while back there were apparently some things for which dealing with this awkward relative were necessary, and with brother Miró safely dead and the need to organise the far frontier whither Gauzfred seems to have been banished, at least professionally, Borrell seems to me to have found him a róle as a coordinator and overseer of the various agencies, monasteries, bishops and viscounts, he had running settlement projects in these rather wild areas.

So I like to think of Gauzfred as a greying warlord, quite possibly based in Isona, a man who had never got to be count, to whom Borrell made an offer of status that he couldn’t refuse in exchange for cooperation in those northern frontier zones and who at last took a place in the state for a short while. But he must have been old when he did so. Count Ermengol was apparently old enough to fight in 942, so at least 14 and probably older. That means that Sunyer was married to Riquilda by 927 latest and I would rather say at most 925. If Gauzfred was born to Eimilda the previous year, 924, he would have been 49 by the time his rehabilitation appears to us, and then 64 by the time of his last appearance; and given that Sunyer and Eimilda were married by 917 at least he could clearly have been a lot older. All the same it heartens me, to see in these documents not just the fascinating machinations of frontier government, and the righteous-aggressive process of bringing it into touch with a dominant centre, but also the 40-year-old magnate Borrell reaching out the hand of friendship to his ten-year-or-more-senior family black sheep, and it apparently being accepted after so long quite literally in the wilderness. I hope that Gauzfred was able to die happy with his lot.


1. Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Diplomatari del monestir de Tavèrnoles (segles IX-XIII)” in Urgellia Vol. 12 (Montserrat 1995), pp. 7-414, doc. nos 23 & 24, the former also edited from a different copy as Federico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos 17, Publicaciones de la Sección de Barcelona 15 (Madrid 1951), doc. no. 174.

2. Eduard Junyent i Subirà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Catedral de Vic (segles IX i X), ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (Vic 1980-1996), 5 fascs, doc. no. 491. On little Count Oliba of Ripoll and his even littler brother Guifré, and indeed their martial then monastic father, see Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, L’Abat Oliba, Bisbe de Vic, i la seva època (Barcelona 1948; 2nd edn. 1948; 3rd edn. 1962), 3rd edn. repr. as “L’Abat Oliba i la seva època” in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i Documents 13-14 (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), II pp. 141-277.

3. Now edited by Antoni Galera i Pedrosa (ed.), Diplomatari de la vila de Cardona, anys 966-1276: Arxiu Parroquial de Sant Miquel i Sant Vicenç de Cardona, Arxiu Abacial de Cardona, Arxiu Històric de Cardona, Arxius Patrimonials de les masies Garriga de Bergus, Pala de Coma i Pinell, Diplomataris 15 (Barcelona 1998), doc. no. 7, but the older edition of Jaime Villanueva, Viage Literario a las Iglesias de España tomo VIII: viage á las iglesias de Vique y Solsona (Valencia 1821), ap. XXX, is still useful because of the commentary. More up to date work on this document and its contents from Victor Farias, “Guerra, llibertat i igualitarisme a la frontera” in B. Riquer i de Permanyer (ed.), Historia Política, Societat i Cultura dels Països Catalans volum 2: la formació de la societat feudal, segles VI-XII, ed. Josep María Salrach i Marès (Barcelona 1998, repr. 2001), pp. 112-113.

4. Villanueva, Viage Literario VIII, doc. XXVII. This must also be edited in Jordi Bolòs i Masclans (ed.), Diplomatari del monestir de Santa Maria de Serrateix (segles X-XV), Diplomataris 42 (Barcelona 2006), but I haven’t found time to get at that yet; it would be interesting to see what Prof. Bolòs thinks of our man Gauzfred. These two volumes are also where all the other evidence for early Serrateix and its foundation come from so I must check it before writing up the Disappearing Abbot.

5. I have argued that there is no authentic charter calling Borrell dux except a huge and grandiloquent donation to Sant Cugat del Vallès and the consecration of Sant Benet de Bages, the former written up by the equally verbose scribe and judge Bonhom, edited by J. Rius (ed.), Cartulario de «Sant Cugat» del Vallés vol. I (Barcelona 1945), doc. no. 217, and the latter not by Bonhom but equally over-the-top, ed. Albert Benet i Clarà (ed.), Diplomatari de la Ciutat de Manresa (segles IX-XI), Diplomataris 6 (Barcelona 1994), doc. no. 92; see Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 64-66. On Bonhom, who is a fabulous generator of source material, 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.

6. On the evidence for the family, see Prosper de Bofarull y Mascaró, Los Condes de Barcelona Vindicados, y Cronología y Genealogía de los Reyes de España considerados como Soberianos Independientes de su Marca (Barcelona 1836, repr. 1990), vol. I online at http://www.archive.org/details/loscondesdebarce01bofauoft, last modified 10 Jul. 2008 as of 15 Jan. 2009, I pp. 64-81. I argue for the grooming of a son for each county in J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming).

7. Udina, Archivo Condal, doc. no. 9.

8. I can’t find the de Vajay reference now, for some reason, but I think I must have got it from Martin Aurell, “Jalons pour une enquête sur les stratégies matrimoniales des comtes catalans (IXe-XIe s.)” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium internacional sobre els orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-1992), also published as Memorias de le Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols. 33 & 34 (Barcelona 1991 & 1992), I pp. 281-364.