Tag Archives: Ramon Martí

Seminar CLXIX: Spanish palaces in Winchester

The next seminar in my backlog of reports, horrifyingly lengthening not shortening despite the regular updates, was another visit of Anglo-Saxon England to the Earlier Middle Ages Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, in the form of George Molyneaux from Oxford with a paper called “The Formation of the English Kingdom in the Tenth Century” on 13th March 2013. I went along, by way of showing the flag, but I’m not going to cover it here, for one thing because Magistra et Mater did already, and for another because it was quite acknowledgedly more or less the same paper I had earlier seen George give in Oxford and which I already blogged here. George did suggest I cover it anyway, with such phrases as “remarkably little development in the speaker’s thought” and so on but what can I say, I’m too far behind, and anyway if I miss that one out I now get to talk about me, always a hard temptation to resist.

The oldest part of the King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester

The oldest part of the King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, looking rather newer on the inside as I discovered

I have been quite looking forward to writing about this one, because it marked the first time I’d got up in public to talk about my work for quite a while. Reaching it thus marks some kind of exit from the slough in which I’d temporarily found myself at Oxford and my starting to gather myself for whatever was coming next, and apparently I did this by accepting the kind invitation of Dr Kate Weikert to host me at the Winchester Seminar on Comparative Medieval Cultures the very next day, on 14th March 2013. The word ‘comparative’ carries more strength here than usually it might, because the set-up with that seminar series was (is, perhaps) that there would be two papers in each evening, chosen to complement each other and provoke, well, comparison. So I stepped up first with “Brokedown palaces or Torres dels Moros? Finding the fisc in late-Carolingian Catalonia” and then local hero Dr Phil Marter followed on with “Archaeological Investigations at the Medieval Palacio de Ambel, Aragón”, and this actually worked really well, it was one of the more fun seminars I’ve been part of.

An aerial view of Sant Esteve and Santa Maria de Palautordera, Girona

An aerial view of Sant Esteve and Santa Maria de Palautordera, Girona

I’ve been trying to work out what to do with my paper ever since, because it was something of an attack piece and I already have too much of a reputation as a negative scholar. All the same, you know, dear reader, that sometimes I feel scholarly outrage rather keenly and this paper was one of those. It was about places in Catalonia which bear a name in the form Palau- or Palou-, of which there are many and which are not fully understood. As long-memoried readers may remember, even some of the ones that are explained turn out not to be when one looks… The root is very clearly Latin palatium, which is what gives us English ‘palace’, but that can’t be what is meant here unless, as I said, conscious that there would be Anglo-Saxonists in the audience, you remember that sites like Cheddar have been called palaces, that is, big halls with some supporting sheds.1 A team led by Professor Ramón Martí at the Università Autonòma de Barcelona have made these names their own and come up with ninety-odd across the counties of old Catalonia, and some of those I’ve come across are only a matter of miles from each other; they’re just too thickly spread to be major élite settlements. Up until quite recently, there was only really one going explanation of these sites, that favoured by Pierre Bonnassie, that they were fiscal estate centres that probably went back to the Romans, but Bonnassie’s sense of the word ‘fisc’ was so broad, applying to properties the counts bought and then sold again the next day, for example, that this doesn’t actually explain as much as it might.2 And perhaps thus, it was in Bonnassie’s Festschrift that Professor Martí published the first version of his alternative theory, which he and a team of researchers have been filling out ever since, that they are in fact the relics of Muslim garrisons from the period of Islamic rule in Catalonia between 714 and 785.3

Distribution map of place-names in palatium and palatiolum in Catalonia, from Cristian Folch Iglesias and Jordi Gibert Rebull, ‘Arqueològia, documentació escrita i toponímia en l’estudi de l’Alta Edat Mitjana: els casos dels topònims pharus, monasteriolum i palatium’, Estrat Crític 5.2 (Barcelona 2011), 364-377 at p. 370

Distribution map of place-names in palatium and palatiolum in Catalonia, from Cristian Folch Iglesias and Jordi Gibert Rebull, ‘Arqueològia, documentació escrita i toponímia en l’estudi de l’Alta Edat Mitjana: els casos dels topònims pharus, monasteriolum i palatium’, Estrat Crític 5.2 (Barcelona 2011), 364-377 at p. 370

Although I did so in the seminar, I don’t want to reprise either Professor Martí’s arguments for this or mine against it here, partly because the open web is not where to start such arguments, but mainly because as I say, I don’t know what I’m doing with this paper yet. A basic problem that is worth expressing openly, however, is that as far as I can discover, the map above is as close to a list of their ninety-odd sites that Professor Martí’s team has published, which makes even agreeing with them quite difficult. One really wants to know what the evidence is. So, for the seminar, I made a list. I went through all my various charter notes and the volumes of the Catalunya Carolíngia and Atles Històric de Catalunya that I have and found forty-eight such sites, not too bad considering that I could barely touch the counties of Barcelona, Cerdanya or Urgell. The main thing I learnt from that was something that Professor Martí’s team would also acknowledge, I’m sure, that no one explanation will deal with all of these sites. The idea of them as fiscal complexes or ancient Roman centres runs into immediate trouble when one realises that the earliest recorded one in my list was a new-build, put up before 832 by Abbot Castellano of Arles in an area he’d just cleared from wasteland.4 And in fact, the only reason we can be sure that any of these sites were not new-builds, however unlikely it seems that they should be, is archæology, and here we mean actual digging since the eight sites that have been surveyed by Professor Martí’s team all produced ceramics that could be early enough for their argument, but equally could not.5

Archaeology underway at l'Aiguacuit de Terrassa

Actual digging underway at l’Aiguacuit de Terrassa, site of a Palacio fracta

Well, here again fuller publication of results would really help, but as far as I can discover, including from the Martí team’s own publications, only three of these sites have been dug: Palofret in Terrassa, Les Palats in Carcassonne and l’Hort de Pelat in Riudoms.6 The first of these was at least active in the right period, and the latter two of these produced unusual burials, one of which is in fact almost certainly Islamic, though I’m less sure about the crouched burials at Les Palats, which the original excavators thought Visigothic and which have now been lost. All three of the sites, however, and a number of others, were once Roman villas, and until we get something more like a list of sites with their evidence from Professor Martí’s team I do feel as if that might be a simpler explanation of these place-names, although I do note that many of these places do appear to have had fiscal connections and operated as estate centres.7 That is, however, firstly not incompatible with them having previously been villas, and secondly what we would expect from similar work in Castile and the Carolingian world where palatium is exactly what you call a rural complex at which renders are collected.8

Façade of the Palacio de los Hospitalarios, Ambel, Aragón, from Wikimedia Commons

Façade of the Palacio de los Hospitalarios, Ambel, Aragón, from Wikimedia Commons

As it turns out, this is also plausibly the case in Aragón, because the Palacio de Ambel, about which Dr Marter was talking, is or at least was indeed a rural estate centre where renders were collected. That rather minimises its very complex history, though, the earliest parts of which are pretty obscure. What you are looking at there is, functionally, the outside of a really posh nineteenth-century block of flats. The trappings of that have been stripped away, however, to reveal a Renaissance grange of the Hospital of Saint John, for whom its Preceptory died in the siege of Malta of 1515, which seems to be depicted in a few surviving wall-paintings inside the building. And it really is inside, too: the current roof, complete with arcade, is directly over three small towerlets invisible under the tiles, between which it’s actually possible to clamber on top of the vaulting that used to hold up the old roof, and now just holds up the ceiling on its underside. Before the Renaissance phase, this was a complex of buildings rather than the single quadrangle arrangement, and one of those buildings was a Gothic church, erected by the Knights Templar from whom the Hospital got the place when the Order was suppressed. Its rood screen is still there and behind it is Islamic decoration in geometric interlace, and internal decoration that includs fake bricks painted over the stone courses, but all of this is Templar-period, not Mudejar. The church, though, is probably the oldest bit of that complex, because it reuses a circular tower, which is reckoned a Torre dels Moros (as almost everything early in Spain seems to be) but which, being built of packed earth on a stone lower course, isn’t giving away much with its architecture. It is probably ninth-century, which is still Islamic in this area, but the dating evidence is basically guesswork, so other schemes could be considered.

Decorations now inside the church of Sant Miquel Arcángel, Ambel

Decorations now inside the church of Sant Miquel Arcángel, Ambel

Dr Marter and his team, or teams of which he has been part, anyway, have been working on this place for years, and what they are mainly doing is trying to stop it falling down and slowly restore it to its medieval configuration, which has involved such things as removing trees, finding a sixteenth-century letter hidden in the wall, and so on. But there was also time for some reflection on how the building had gone through its earliest sets of changes, and why the church wears such Islamic decoration. Was there an existing church in the area that this one replaced, and whose existing congregation, presumably Mudejar or Mozarab or whatever one wished to call them, culturally Arabicized, needed to be comforted that the new lords understood who they were and what was particular to them? Maybe, though if so sticking a Gothic rood screen in the way perhaps cancelled that message. Anyway, it seems clear that the place has lots to tell even after so many years’ work. And both of us got to think quite hard with each other’s examples about what one calls a Palacio on the Christian-Muslim frontier of Spain, and what work a palace really did anyway, and what it might once have been so as to wind up performing those functions. It was a good evening and I hope to see and indeed take part in more seminars so well configured in the future.

1. Obviously I have not yet got bored of citing John Blair, “Palaces or minsters? Northampton and Cheddar reconsidered” in Anglo-Saxon England Vol. 25 (Cambridge 1996), pp. 97-121, DOI: 10.1017/S0263675100001964.

2. 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, I pp. 144-153.

3. Ramón Martí, “Palaus o almúnies fiscals a Catalunya i al-Andalus” in Hélène Débax (ed.), Les sociétés méridionales à l’âge féodal (l’Espagne, Italie et sud de France Xe-XIIIe s.) : hommage à Pierre Bonnassie, Méridiennes 8 (Toulouse 1999), pp. 63-69.

4. Pierre Ponsich (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia VI: els comtats de Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir i Fenollet, ed. Ramon Ordeig i Mata, Memòries de la secció històrico-arqueològica LXX (Barcelona 2006), doc. no. 17.

5. When I gave this paper, the most recent publication of the team’s theories seemed to be Cristian Folch Iglesias and Jordi Gibert Rebull, “Arqueològia, documentació escrita i toponímia en l’estudi de l’Alta Edat Mitjana: els casos dels topònims pharus, monasteriolum i palatium” in Estrat Crític Vol. 5 (Barcelona 2011), pp. 364-377; there is also Gibert, “La integració a al-Andalus dels territoris a ponent del Llobregat” in Butlletí de la Societat Catalana d’Estudis Històrics 16 (Barcelona 2005), pp. 39-72 at pp. 50-55; Ramón Martí, “Palacios y guardias emirales en Cataluña” in A. Riubal (ed.), II Congreso de Castellología Ibérica, Alcalá de la Selva, 2001 (Madrid 2005), pp. 293-309; and Ramón Martí, “Del fundus a la parrochia. Transformaciones del pobliamento rural en Cataluña durante la transición medieval” in Philippe Sénac (ed.), De la Tarraconnaise à la Marche Supérieure d’al-Andalus : les habitats ruraux (IVe-XIe siècle). Desde la Tarraconense a la Marca Superior de al-Andalus: los asentamientos rurales (siglos IV-XI), Méridiennes : Études Médiévales Ibériques 2 (Toulouse 2006), pp. 145-166, among other publications that more or less replicate these, though there might be newer ones I’ve missed.

6. The data for the latter two sites have to be strained from the publications in the previous note: there is no stand-alone publication of them that I’ve discovered, and these articles give you little more than a few lines on each. For Palofret, there is Joan Soler i Jiménez and Vicenç Ruiz i Gómez, “Els palaus de Terrassa: estudi de la presencia musulmana al terme de Terrassa a través de la toponímia” in Terme Vol. 15 (Terrassa 1999), pp. 37-51, online here. This article was written in the liught of Martí’s first publication of his theory, so that the interpretation of the site as Islamic is partly following him.

7. I get the Roman data also from the articles cited above, which is a bit master’s tools, but presumably the data is all equally valid.

8. See for example José Angel García de Cortázar & Ester Peña Bocos, “El palatium, símbolo y centro de poder en los reinos de Navarra y Castilla en los siglos X a XII” in Mayurqa Vol. 22 (Mallorca 1989), pp. 281-296; Josiane Barbier, “Les lieux du pouvoir en Gaule franque : l’exemple des palais” in Carl Ehlers (ed.), Deutsche Königspfalzen: Beiträge zu ihrer historischen und archäologischen Erforschung. 8: Places of power, Orte der Herrschaft, Lieux du pouvoir (Göttingen 2007), pp. 227-246; Darryl Campbell, “The Capitulare de Villis, the Brevium exempla, and the Carolingian court at Aachen” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 18 (Oxford 2010), pp. 243-264.

The unbearable emptiness of being post-Roman: Aragonese depopulation and the rest of the field (Feudal Transformations XII)

The latter part of a conference volume that I was recently reading, so as to make watertight the final revision of a forthcoming paper, has set me thinking about the whole transformation argument one more time.1 (Still not ready to write that paper yet.) However, because that conference was concentrating mainly on late Antiquity and was largely attended by archæologists and historians who travel with them, it’s left me looking at it from an unusual point of view, and one that I have some trouble articulating (though that may just be shortage of sleep or coffee). So here is a slightly wandering review which may help me clear my thoughts. It’s a long long post, so it mostly lies behind a cut; you’ll be able to tell, I hope, from what lies above that whether you need to read either the post or the book.

Cover of Philippe Sénac (ed.), <u>De la Tarraconaise à la Marche Supérieure d'al-Andalus

Cover of Philippe Sénac (ed.), De la Tarraconaise à la Marche Supérieure d'al-Andalus

Because of the late antique focus, the book’s input is much less about the feudal transformation concept we know and, well, know, and more about what Chris Wickham has called ‘the other transition’, the end of the Roman system of trade and land ownership and the development of successor kingdoms. He, and some others, have argued that those kingdoms are ultimately based on a system of service-for-land that is later formalised as what the « mutationnistes » call feudalism and that others have wished that they wouldn’t.2 Okay so far?

A high medieval illumination of battles during the Reconquista

A high medieval illumination of battles during the Reconquista

Because, also, the book is mainly about the old Tarraconensis, the Roman and later Visigothic province of North-West Spain and the northern side of the Pyrenees, the contributors also have to deal with two other historical or historiographical complexes. First and less disputable is the effect of Islam on this furthest reach of Islamic Spain, though there is debate here about how strong that effect was. Second is the supposed Reconquest and its attached depopulation-and-repopulation historiography, which holds or held that the frontier zones between the new Islamic polity and the surviving or following Christian principalities along the Northern edge of Iberia became almost empty and were then settled by an aggressive movement from those kingdoms that culminated in the demolition of the fragmenting Islamic Caliphate and the recovery of Toledo, Tarragona, Lisbon or whatever your favourite important Iberian capital is. This historiography has, as we have seen before, come under less attack for Aragón than for elsewhere, and since that was definitely in the conference area opinions here varied quite widely. However I still have a sense of some consensus that the historians of the transformation who approach it mainly from documents are missing a number of important tricks, and am therefore trying to get my head round what these suggestions do to that historiography. Continue reading

Rustici ad libertatem! or, things I’d like to discuss with Ramon Martí

I’m sorry it’s been so long. There was the Vienna trip, which will make for a couple of posts, and then there were just other things that needed doing before spending quality time with the Internet. On the upside, activity should now be fairly intense for a while, as I’ve been reading a range of stuff that’s caused me to bluster, think and start drafting posts. First of these, then, follows.

Ramon Martí i Castelló is Titular Professor of Medieval History at the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona, and is a name I come across quite frequently. I’ve corresponded with him once or twice and he’s always been drily helpful, but I’ve so far really only met him in print. This is always stimulating, but frequently makes me wonder if someone changed the consensus take on Catalan medieval history while I was out. Anglo-Saxonists might feel the same way about Eric John, and I’m sure there are others in everybody’s field; it’s all sustainable, but it’s very different from what most people argue… I’ve recently hit it again, in an article of his from 1999 called “Conquistas y capitulaciones campesinas”. There is a translation in the relevant volume later on, under the title “Peasant victories and defeats”, which just isn’t as snappy.1

Peasants at work, from the Bíblia de Ripoll

Peasants at work, from the Bíblia de Ripoll

I could go on at great length about this short article, because it leaves so much unexplained; this is why I’d like to talk to Prof. Martí about it, once my Catalan is better. But there’s value in trying to get out the reasons it gives me problems, in case they’re not much good. So, let me try and explain. His paper is a contribution to a lengthy debate about slavery and serfdom in Catalonia. The canonical view is probably Pierre Bonnassie’s, which as with most of his work makes better sense for Catalonia than anywhere else (like Marx with Russia).2 Bonnassie argued, firstly, that under the Visigothic kings of Spain slavery was still economically important, even if Roman-style fundi of dormitoried labourers working the owner’s fields (what Marx would have called the Ancient Mode of production) were probably rare compared to servi casati, ‘hutted’ slave families living on the plot of land they worked. (This refinement owes as much to Josep María Salrach as it does to Bonnassie really,3 and fits better into what the neo-Marxists now call the Tributary Mode of production.) Secondly he argued that due to slow but growing Christianization, which made it harder to pretend that these men and women who shared a church with you and got the same sacraments weren’t really human beings, due to the diminution of supply of slaves due to warfare as the kings slowly brought the whole peninsula under control, and due to political and economic collapse, that system was falling apart by the end of the Visigothic era, as the increasingly ridiculous legislation against fugitive slaves shows. Thirdly he argued that in the early independent Christian areas, the open frontier offered a zone of opportunity to which fugitives could go to make a new life and where the new power structures would support their rights, which as soon as that territory was opened up by the Carolingian take-over (in Catalonia—other processes along the northern coast obviously) meant that a slave system back in the mountains (where large-scale demesne farming didn’t really work anyway) was unmaintainable, so for a short period there is a society here in which peasant dependence is minimal, and almost all of them are free smallholders who can bear arms and owe neither rent nor labour to anyone, except what everyone owes to the public power by way of military service and tax. And (fifthly) as the economy booms in the late tenth and early eleventh century and the rich get richer, and then suddenly public power collapses, the increasingly oppressed peasantry is rapidly forced into subjection to the new lords and becomes the tied serfs that have to wait till the fifteenth century for its violent revolution. All this can be summed up as the “d’une servitude à un autre” argument.4

Martí’s version is much starker. As I first read it, I thought he was genuinely suggesting that the peasants took up arms to free themselves in the wake of the social disorder caused by the Carolingian takeover, which he sees as much more aggressive than, well, the sources do, albeit that they are all Frankish sources.5 In fact it’s not quite that amazing, but it’s not exactly canonical. In fact he suggests that the Visigothic kings’ measures were more effective in preserving slavery than Bonnassie thinks, mainly because they were in a powerful position and it seems hard to explain why they shouldn’t have been able to do this.5bis He argues that the Muslim takeover in any case arrested any decline, and froze Christian society’s development for some years, so where lords could hold their position they could continue to own slaves, even though slaves might find better lives working for the state on taken-over fiscal estates. And then he argues that because of resistance to the Carolingian takeover, and the Carolingian readiness to overturn social structures, converting the old fundi to benefices whose owners were often shuffled, and to support the establishment of immigrant and other armed yeoman households independently populating the frontier for its defence, this is the period in which it was possible for the slave system to break down, and that remaining slaves would have taken full advantage of the social breakdown to escape to new situations and become independents. By the time the charter evidence really gets going, in the late ninth or early tenth centuries, everyone can agree that slavery is so rarely seen that it seems basically to be domestic, and that there are an awful lot of free peasants. Martí is basically saying, this all happened in the century or so of effective Carolingian rule when our sources hardly exist and the Carolingians were prepared to endorse, establish and defend a new social order breaking out of the old one.

The Carolingian host on the march (though not on the March)

The Carolingian host on the march (though not on the March)

It’s difficult to argue with this, in as much as it’s possible in the absence of evidence to argue almost anything. And certainly others have argued that slavery persists much later than Bonnassie thought, Paul Freedman believing in the freedom effect of the frontier but thinking that there was probably always more dependence and slavery than the sources, which are obviously generated by landholders, would ever show, and Gaspar Feliu generally arguing that the lords never really lose that much control, and that it’s the way servitude is defined and exploited that changes, not its existence.6 All the same, the amount of peasant initiative and their ability to overcome a previously-rigid structure of oppression once the state behind it doesn’t want to hold it up, is very different in this account from Bonnassie’s, Freedman’s, Feliu’s or anyone’s really. It’s not fully explained here either, referring the reader to other works of his which are much harder to track down, though I’ll give it a go. How to get a grip on this and assess on what it is that my disinclination to accept it is based?

I don’t actually have a realised alternative argument, it must be said, except that on the whole I’m somewhere between Bonnassie and Feliu; I think that there probably was a lot of oppression of peasants by powerful people but on the whole, there was more smallholding liberty in the Carolingian period as documented (as opposed to the bit we can’t see) than before and after. I’ve explained why I think this elsewhere, but Martí’s argument isn’t on this continuum. I think that the differences in argument arise from differing accounts of two particular things, or at least my differences with this do. (This ignores our considerable difference over the extent to which the pre-Catalans were complicit in the Carolingian takeover; I think his version is militantly nationalist almost to the point of delusion, but it doesn’t actually alter his argument if it wasn’t like that.) The first of these is the definition of slavery, or servitude, and the second is the róle we give to the ‘public power’, the ‘state’ or whatever you want to call the government of the day.

Commemorative plaque at Santa Maria dAmer in Catalonia, recording the 1485 agreement between the peasant rising known as the Remences and their lords by King Ferdinand the Catholic of Aragó, Count of Barcelona

Commemorative plaque at Santa Maria d'Amer in Catalonia, recording the 1485 agreement between the peasant rising known as the Remences and their lords by King Ferdinand the Catholic of Aragó, Count of Barcelona

Martí has taken a very stark definition of slavery, which could be nuanced a great deal. Me, I think there is a difference between free, serf and slave which must have been very hard to draw in individual cases, but which can be expressed (and is best seen) in land transfers: a free man sells the land, a serf is sold with it but not without it, and a slave can be sold with no land involved. What this doesn’t really cover is the tenant, whom Professor Feliu has rightly warned me was surely the most common person we never see. He could be free and still included in a land sale, though he might well consent or witness without being specified as such I suspect.7 But Martí again isn’t on that continuum, so I can leave that problem of mine aside, for the moment. Bonnassie argued that by the ninth century, there was really little visible difference between the slave, who lived with his family on a plot of land and was subject to various duties, renders and levies to his owner, and the poor peasant who technically owned some land but had had to commend himself to a lord, did labour for him, paid him various renders and so on. They worked in the same fields, worshipped in the same church, and generally lived the same lives. This distance was not unbridgeable, and even in the Visigothic period there are complicated laws about marriages that cross it.

The argument more or less ignores domestic slavery, which is obviously more oppressive, has various implications that still draw me a great deal of web-search interest, and which clearly continued, but since we are like good post-Marxists focussing on the means of production here, let those unfortunates step back into the shadows. Martí repeatedly argues for the Carolingian conversion of fundi, big-estate farms of the Ancient type, into benefices, which means that he is thinking in terms of concentrated agricultural slavery. It’s true that the Visigothic Law does seem to be trying to save that, and that the Muslim polity further south did take over big estates bodily and run them with only semi-free labour, and therefore might have done here too; that is, if fundi lasted till 718 the Muslims might have maintained them as fiscal estates and that slavery might therefore have continued there, though whether we’re really looking at barracks of men and women in chains fed from a communal kitchen like US plantations are sometimes imagined rather than outhoused families farming strips and notionally owned is more dubious; there really just isn’t evidence for the former after the Forum Iudicum, and that, being normative not documentary, is a world of interpretative difficulties. I would need to chase up the other papers of Martí’s before I knew why he thinks this is defensible, but at the moment it doesn’t seem right to me, and I prefer Bonnassie’s take on it.

King Sisebut of the Visigoths, as depicted on a gold tremiss of his reign (image from Wikimedia Commons)

King Sisebut of the Visigoths, as depicted on a gold tremiss of his reign (image from Wikimedia Commons)

Then there’s the fisc. Until the late-ninth century almost all the charters we have from Catalonia are either royal precepts or dispute settlements that royal missi or counts heard in Carolingian-style courts (albeit with Visigothic-style judges and saiones). One of these, from 832, is a case where a count tries (and fails) to claim a man as a servus fiscalis, which Martí claims as proof that the counts still held big estates of the fisc for which slave agriculture was appropriate. Wrapped up in this is the question: what happened to the lands which belonged to the Visigothic state? We know that it was separate from the land the kings themselves owned, because some chronicles of those kings criticise King Sisebut for mixing the two up.8 And my charters are full of land that is called fiscs, and occasional unspecified ‘benefices’ which seem to be held by officials.9 But are these two the same thing? Were the royal lands partly taken over by the Muslims, and then the walis of Barcelona, and then its counts for the Carolingian kings? Or is it just that all abandoned land is swallowed up into the fisc during the Carolingian takeover? Could the title to its supposed slave cultivators have been maintained through all that in either case? Martí says yes, until the Carolingians turn up at least; Bonnassie said it was gone before they arrived. (Feliu says it hardly matters what you call it, there are big landowners who have tied dependants at all points.) The problems are made worse because we can’t assume that everything the later counts hold or dispose of is fiscal land, even though at times Bonnassie did; like the earlier kings, they have lands of their own.10 Here I don’t have an answer; I know I don’t think there was slave agriculture of any kind really, and that serfdom was as yet unformalised even if, especially in Barcelona county rather than Osona, there were big estates farmed as demesne which must have looked like serfdom did later once definitions were clearer. But as to how much there was a survival of public landholding that the Carolingians might have messed up, I couldn’t tell you. Boundaries are remembered that are that old; but that’s not the same thing as what dues whatever’s in them is supposed to pay and to whom, which is essentially what the difference is and breaks down when there is, for example, no king any more.11

I don’t seem to think the same things about these important building blocks of the argument about what happened between late Antiquity and the medieval period, what Chris Wickham has called ‘the Other Transition”, in Catalonia, as does Martí.12 He certainly knows more about it than I do, though whether that explains how he thinks of it is another question. I do wonder for example whether, since the different ways Gaspar Feliu and I seem to see things is at least partly a factor of the fact that I know Osona best and he knows Barcelona, where estates are bigger and seigneurial power larger, better, it may not be the case that Professor Martí, who is best centered in Girona, is seeing a regional situation in this old area that was never frontier that genuinely did differ from the two frontier counties.13 And I think there is some pretty basic difficulty with what Martí is proposing at the level of continuity, because it requires a very great deal of continuity through all the disturbances of the seven and eighth centuries, rebellion, secession, invasion and resistance, take-over and foreign occupation, which is then able to just collapse into severe and violent discontinuity as soon as the magic Carolingians turn up and take a more hands-off approach. I think the obvious period for discontinuity is during the Muslim occupation myself, when the supervision of the area by the state is basically military garrisons in a few places and the isolated places can now remake things their own way. But what mainly intrigues me about this is that from such quite fine differences over some important basics we can pile up deductions, conditioned by those different views, until we are so far apart that almost all we can do is throw things at each other’s preconceptions, because our two takes on the same evidence essentially don’t meet at several points.

1. Ramon Martí, “Conquistas y capitulaciones campesinas” in Jordi Camps (ed.), Cataluña en la época carolingia: arte y cutura antes del románico (siglos IX y X) (Madrid 1999), pp. 59-63, transl. as “Peasant victories and defeats”, ibid. pp. 448-451.

2. Most easily accessible in Pierre Bonnassie, “Survie et extinction du régime esclavagiste dans l’occident du haut moyen âge (IV-XI s.)” in Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale Vol. 28 (Poitiers 1985), pp. 307-343, transl. J. Birrell as “The Survival and Extinction of the System of Slavery in the Early Medieval West, fourth to eleventh centuries” in Bonnassie, From Slavery to Feudalism in South-Western Europe (Cambridge 1991), pp. 1-59.

3. Josep Maria Salrach, El Procés de Feudalització, Història de Catalunya 2 (Barcelona 1987), pp. 93-109; Salrach has since written what is probably a very important book precisely on this question, La formación del campesinado en el oriente antiguo y medieval: anàlisis de los cambios en las condiciones de trabajo desde la Roma clásica al feudalismo (Barcelona 1997), which I haven’t yet read; clearly time to fix that.

4. The phrase is Bonnassie’s, translated by Jean Birrell as “From one Servitude to Another: the peasantry of the Frankish kingdom at the time of Hugh Capet and Robert the Pious (987-1031)” in Bonnassie, From Slavery to Feudalism, pp. 288-313; rev. from orig. French as “D’une servitude à l’autre: les paysans du royaume” in R. Delort (ed.), La France de l’An Mil, Points-Histoires H130 (Paris 1990), pp. 125-141.

5. In particular, though the Royal Frankish Annals are plainly hiding some complexity when they baldly say that Girona handed itself over to Charlemagne in 785, the whole area between there and Urgell seems to be in Carolingian hands very soon after, and this just isn’t something a single campaign that isn’t even mentioned in the annals could conceivably have done. I just find the Catalan-cooperation version far easier to understand. Cite for the Annals in the previous post but one. Meanwhile, one of the first things that made me baulk at this paper was his adduction of the Hispanus John as evidence that the Barcelona area was one of lawless warbands at this time. John (or Juan, or Jean—what language do you use for a man who came from who knows where in Spain, fought around Barcelona before the place really spoke Catalan and settled in what’s now France?) is discussed in José Enrique Ruiz Domenec, “Un «pauper» rico en la Cataluña carolingia a fines del siglo VIII” in Boletín de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vol. 36 (Barcelona 1975-1976), pp. 5-14, and Susan Reynolds, Fiefs and Vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted (Oxford 1994), pp. 106-110; he was no peasant, but trailed round a small force of armed men who later became his dependants when he scored two big estates from Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. They were probably his dependants before that, too. The fact that he was out there in no way shows that there were peasant warbands on the rampage as the Carolingians arrived.

5bis. There is this basic problem here for anyone studying Visigothic Spain: how, if it was so strong, did it collapse? Or, if it was so weak, how did it survive so long and act so powerful? Peter Linehan points out people struggling with this in his History and the Historians of Medieval Spain (Oxford 1993), but doesn’t have a solution, and no-one really does.

6. Paul Freedman, The Origins of Peasant Servitude in Catalonia, Cambridge Iberian and Latin American Studies (Cambridge 1991), pp. 1-68; Gaspar Feliu, “La pagesia catalana abans de la feudalització” in Anuario de Estudios Medievales Vol. 26 (Barcelona 1994), pp. 19-41, and “Feudalisme: llibertat i servitud” in Miguel Barceló, Gaspar Feliu, A. Furió, M. Miquel & J. Sobrequés, El Feudalisme Comptat i Debatut. Formació i Expansió del Feudalisme Català (Valencia 2003), pp. 45-70. Professor Feliu kindly sent me offprints of both these papers, for which I thank him.

7. Feliu, “Pagesia catalana”; I’d reached some of the way along this path before I received that article, as can be seen in my “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London 2005, pp. 160-167.

8. Questions of the Visigothic fisc most recently discussed (I think) in Santiago Castellanos, “The Political Nature of Taxation in Visigothic Spain” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2004), pp. 201-228.

9. Jarrett, “Pathways”, pp. 188 & 194, mentions two of these apparently fiscal allotments; it’s hard to say what will make the final cut just now but as it currently stands two more are added in idem, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (London forthcoming).

10. Bonnassie made a table of alienations of the fisc by the counts of Barcelona in his La Catalogne du Milieu du Xe à la Fin du XIe Siècle: croissance et mutations d’une société (Toulouse 1975-1976) 2 vols, I pp. 145-148, but one of them was a sale of lands that the counts had only bought a few years previously and which had passed to the seller there from a village founder who had developed it (Jarrett, “Pathways”, p. 195 n. 166). If that was fisc, so was anything the counts owned in any way at all, and there needn’t be anything ancient about it.

11. On continuity of boundaries see Jordi Bolòs i Masclans, “Paisatge, poblament i societat a Catalunya entorn de l’any 1000” in Imma Ollich i Castanyer (ed.), Actes del Congrés Internacional Gerbert d’Orlhac i el seu Temps: Catalunya i Europa a la Fi del 1r Mil·lenni, Vic-Ripoll, 10-13 de Novembre de 1999 (Vic 1999), pp. 254-283, with English abstract pp. 285-286.

12. Chris Wickham, “The Other Transition: from the ancient to feudalism” in Past and Present no. 103 (Oxford 1984), pp. 3-36; rev. in idem, Land and Power: studies in Italian and European social history, 400-1200 (London 1994), pp. 7-42.

13. Jarrett, “Pathways”, is essentially centered on Osona and the Ripollès immediately to the north, though it also touches Urgell and Rulers and Ruled will make more of the latter evidence even as it spreads the range in Osona. Feliu’s key article on Barcelona, derived in turn from his thesis, is “El condado de Barcelona en los siglos IX y X: organización territorial y económico-social” in Cuadernos de Historia Económica de Cataluña Vol. 7 (Barcelona 1972), pp. 9-31. Martí’s works meanwhile include the definitive collection of the charter material from the Cathedral of Girona, Col·lecció Diplomàtica de la Seu de Girona (817-1100), Diplomataris 18 (Barcelona 1997), although it was still not he who published that material for the Catalunya Carolíngia series, which oddly never cites his edition. I imagine some disagreement behind this.

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

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

The Roman theatre at Tarragona in its ruins

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

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

A bronze triens of King Achila of the Visigoths

A bronze triens of King Achila of the Visigoths

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

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

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

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

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

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

The monastery church of Santa Cecília de Montserrat

The monastery church of Santa Cecília de Montserrat

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

The three papal papyri of Pope John XIII to Vic

The three papal papyri of Pope John XIII to Vic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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