Tag Archives: Sal·la of Urgell

Three-pointed sales and the limits of comital power

While I was slogging through the documents in Catalunya Carolíngia IV I became aware that I was seeing a particular thing again and again, that being apparent deals in which a property was sold to one party and then immediately sold on to another. The first set-up like this that I met, and I’m now thinking perhaps the oddest, was the repeated sales of the castle of Carcolzes, which I mentioned here a long time ago. There, Count-Marquis Borrell II borrowed half of the Osona frontier castle of Clarà from Bishop Sal·la of Urgell, pledging the Urgell one of Carcolzes to the bishop in exchange, and then wouldn’t give Clarà back. Sal·la plainly didn’t want Carcolzes for keeps (er, no pun intended), and he complains about it at great length in a document in which he sold it to his sacristan Bonhom for 500 solidi‘s worth of produce. Bonhom doesn’t seem to have liked it either, though, and sold it on to Viscount Guillem of Urgell, which we know because the next year we find Guillem selling it back to Bishop Sal·la for an equivalent price, whereafter Sal·la gave up and gave it to the cathedral of Urgell for his archdeacon nephew to hold as castellan.1

The remains of Castellnou de Carcolzes

The remains of Castellnou de Carcolzes, image from Wikimedia Commons. I suppose the fact that there had to be a new castle shows that the problems were irremediable…

In that case it seems more or less obvious what’s going on, to wit that the bishop got swindled and that there was something really wrong about Carcolzes that became apparent to each of its holders, though never so much as to make them accept a lower price. But the other case we’ve seen here, in which Borrell II (again) sold a substantial deal of land at el Buc in Manresa for 200 solidi to his wealthy follower and castellan Unifred Amat, who then the next day promptly sold it to someone called Guifré, with Borrell witnessing, it was obviously designed to wind up that way in the first place, and I speculated at length as to exactly what configuration of power would explain it.2 Now, I have three more cases that may make things a bit clearer.

The Castell de Gotmar at Callús, from Wikimedia Commons

The Castell de Gotmar at Callús, again from Wikimedia Commons

The first of these is basically the same set-up as the previous: Borrell II’s son Ramon Borrell, acting for his father in Osona in the last year of Borrell’s life, 992, sells an alod called Castellet to a priest by the name of Miró Marcuç for 100 solidi and Miró next day sells it on to Abbot Arnulf of Santa Maria de Ripoll. Arnulf witnessed the first transaction and the same scribe wrote both.3 Here, if I had nothing else, I’d think that for one reason or another Miró needed a big favour from Arnulf and used his apparent connection to the count to get it, though one would ideally still like to know what it was about Castellet that made it better than anything Miró already owned (which was a fair bit).4 The other two cases begin to suggest an answer to that dilemma, and thus to what may have been going on in the case at el Buc too.

The Castell d'Òdena, image from Wikimedia Commons

The Castell d’Òdena, image once more from Wikimedia Commons

Back a bit to 989 and some familiar participants. We are now at the castle of Òdena, founded by none other than Unifred Amat with his daddy Sal·la, and it is two more persons of the latter name who are dealing here, the first being an Òdena-based Sal·la who was clearly connected to the family to which Unifred belongs but whose relation to them is never stated and the second being the bishop (who was Unifred’s first cousin).5 On 10th May the first Sal·la sold the second Sal·la a substantial alod that he had “from my parents or from purchase or from aprisio“, for which the bishop paid him 2 pesatas in goods, probably equivalent to 480 solidi.6 Then, on 12th May, Count-Marquis Borrell II and his son Ramon Borrell, tous les deux, sold it back to the first Sal·la and his wife for two pesadas in goods as before, helpfully explaining that the bishop had sold it to them (presumably on the 11th).7 Why on earth go through all this in three days? The answer seems to be in the only difference between the two property descriptions: the counts sell the estate “sine ulla inquietudine vel sine ullo censu vel sine ulla funccione”, ‘without any disturbance or any rent or any service’, more or less, in other words tax-free. And this is also what happens in the other case, on 16th April 990, where a priest called Sunifred gives Ramon Borrell an estate in Sant Llorenç and gets it back the same day at the price of 100 solidi, but accompanied by “censum vel functionem qui exinde exiebat vel exire debebat”, ‘the render or service that used to come or should have come from it’.8 This case gives us some extra, as not only was it obviously worth 100 solidi for Sunifred to have those dues lifted off the estate, but we also have his purchase of the estate the previous year, and then he paid a pesa in goods, probably about 240 solidi‘s worth.9 So Ramon Borrell was not getting the estate’s worth in this deal: it really was a sale of tax revenue done in a rather roundabout way.

Castell de Sant Llorenç del Munt, Osona

Castell de Sant Llorenç del Munt, Osona

Might this then be what’s going on in the other cases? With Carcolzes, I think it cannot be; the castle went through fiscal hands twice and the people who should have had the advantage of that still got rid of it. In the other two cases, however, it’s more possible. Granted, the documents don’t say that the lands were sold tax-free, but on the other hand we don’t have any indication that they weren’t the counts’ to start with, and it might be that comital land didn’t pay tax (though that would raise more questions). I do think it’s significant that all these deals involve the same limited set of participants, Borrell, Ramon Borrell or Bishop Sal·la, and that they all take place so close together, all within three years of each other bar the case with Unifred Amat. (Carcolzes is trickier, as what we have is Sal·la giving up, rather than the original pledge, but to take him at his word he seems to have held the place for two Pentecosts and more before giving up on getting his own castle back, and he did that in 993, so this could still be in that group.)

The Castell de Clarà

The one that got away: Castell de Clarà, though when Bernat and Borrell had to share it I guess there was more than this!

Whether these are all the same thing or not, though, it tells us something interesting about the power the counts of this age could claim. Firstly, it tells us that they could actually demand enough revenue from privately-held land that it was worth paying quite a lot to be rid of those obligations, though I have my suspicions that the actual demanding of those obligations was fairly new and that if played right this could be less of a general system and more of a protection racket, in which the counts picked somebody whose tax liability they were willing to enforce in order to bind them closer into the structure of personal obligations created by these kinds of deals.10 But it also tells us about limits. The counts of Barcelona circa 990 would not, or could not, simply sell tax revenue; elaborate structures of transaction had to be mounted within which that was done. Later on there would be no problem with this, or even with making a personal obligation out of it: that’s what the money fief’s for, right?11 (Likewise, at Carcolzes, Borrell could apparently not simply compulsorily purchase a half-share of Clarà but had to extort it, though that may have more to do with the fact that the owner of the other half, Sal·la’s brother Viscount Bernat of Conflent, was not under his direct control.12) But at this stage they didn’t have the tools for it; while Borrell II was alive, at least, what would later be done with arrangements in fief had to be cloaked in traditional formulae. The question I have yet to answer is whether this is because what they are doing was actually new (which other things Bishop Sal·la did might support) or because Borrell was especially keen on making his governmentalist power-grabbing look old-fashioned and traditional (which other things he did would support).13 A further question is whether this was happening a lot more widely but is undetectable when we only have one of the documents in the chain. Plenty to do! But here’s one way I’m working this stuff out.


1. C. Baraut (ed.), “Els documents, dels anys 981-1010, de l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 3 (Montserrat 1980), pp. 7-166, doc. nos 239 & 243.

2. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. nos 678-680.

3. Ibid., doc. nos 1635 & 1636.

4. I identify him in ibid., doc. nos 1189, 1364, 1391, 1411, 1537, 1538, 1539, 1592, 1602, 1609, 1620, 1635, 1636, 1734, 1747, 1768 & 1789, in all but two of which (1592 and 1636 as above) he was buying land, mostly in Castell Gotmar and often from the same people, which makes me wonder if we see a large family here consolidating as per Jonathan Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 112-114.

5. The kindred relations here are worked out by Manuel Rovira, “Noves dades sobre els vescomtes d’Osona-Cardona” in Ausa Vol. 9 no. 98 (Vic 1981), pp. 249-260.

6. Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. no. 1556.

7. Ibid., doc. no. 1557.

8. Ibid., doc. nos 1578 & 1579.

9. Ibid., doc. no. 1559.

10. Ideas about what comital power could demand here are very strongly based around templates from elsewhere and less around local evidence. The best such schematic treatment is probably still Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, “La institució comtal carolíngia en la pre-Catalunya del segle IX” in Anuario de Estudios Medievales Vol. 1 (Barcelona 1964), pp. 29-75, repr. in idem, Dels Visigots als Catalans, ed. Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Estudis i Documents XIII & XIV (Barcelona 1969, repr. 1974 & 1989), I pp. 181-226.

11. Best described in Marc Bloch, La Société féodale (Paris 1939), 2 vols, transl. L. A. Manyon as Feudal Society (Chicago 1961), 2 vols, I pp. 173-175 of the translation.

12. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, pp. 136-141.

13. Sal·la for example issued lands in benefice with the prescription that its holders might seek no other lord and was the first ruler in his area to grant land by convenientia, the term that would later be used of grants in fief; see Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph. D. thesis (University of London 2005), online at http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~jjarrett/thesis.html, last modified 24th March 2011 as of 15th February 2014, pp. 305-307, and Adam J. Kosto, Making Agreements in Medieval Catalonia: power, order and the written word, 1000-1200, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th Series 51 (Cambridge 2001), pp. 54-59; for Borrell’s initiatives, see Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled, pp. 141-166.

From the sources IV: following up the simonists and Vikings

Right! The year has started and it’s time to take up many screens with tight discussion of medieval Latin sources again! Two of the posts in this series have occasioned or involved questions and shortly before Christmas I finally found time, with all the essays marked and no further preparation to do for the last class of last semester, to get into a library and look up the answers. So without further ado here they are.

What’s the Latin for simony?

Theo asked, apropos of the Catalan simony agreement I posted, for the Latin text because the journal in which it’s published is hard to get hold of. Well, it will be out before long in the Catalunya Carolíngia, but since it is, I suppose, unlikely that you will all be racing down the IEC to get your copy on that day, perhaps there’s still an argument for this, and in any case, I’d quite like a digital text of the Latin too, so if I’m typing it up anyway

Iuro ego Ermengaude comes, filius [quod fuit] Borrello comite et filio quod fuit Letg[gardis] con[iuge], ut de ista ora in antea infra [proximos .X.m] dies quod Sallane episcopo, filius quod fuit Isarnus et filius quod fuit Rranlane, me Ermengaude supra scripto commonuerit, per nomine de isto sacramento, quod ipso episcopato de comitatum Urgello Sedis Vicco donare faciam ad Ermengaude, filio Bernardo vicecomite et filio Wisila vicecomitissa, ego Ermengaude comite donare faciam ad isto Ermengaude, filius Bernardus, et vesticione ad illum faciam. Et de ista ora in antea ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto non decebre isto Ermengaude, filio Bernardus vicecomite supra scripto, de ipso episcopato de Sancta Maria Sedis Vico quod est in Urgello. Et si Sallane episcopo ordinare voluerit suo nopoto [sic] Ermengaude supra scripto in sua vita, ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto adiutor illi ero ad ordinare ipso Ermengaude, filio Bernardus supra scripto, sine sua decepcione de ipso Ermengaude, filio Bernardus supra scripto et filio Wisila, si Sallane episcopo aut Bernardus fratri sup aut aliquis ex parentibus vel amicis de isto Ermengaude clericus supra scripto donare mihi faciant pessas .C., aut pessatas valibiles, aut pigdus valibiles de pessas .CC. pro ipsas pessas .C., quod donare mihi faciant infra dies .LX. quod isto Ermengaude, filio Bernardus supra scripto, fuerit ordinatus, et mihi donaverunt pigdus valibiles de pessas .CC. pro alias pessas .CL. quod mihi donent post obitum Sallane episcopo supra scripto, infra medium annum ipsa medietate et ad alium medium in alia medietate. Et si Sallane episcopo non fecerit ordinare ipso Ermengaude suo nepoto upra scripto in sua vita de Sallana episcopo, et ego Ermengaudes comite vivus fuerit, et ipso Ermengaude, filio Bernardus supra scripto, vivus fuerit, ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto ordinare illum faciam, si facere potuero, si Ermengaude clerico supra scripto donare mihi voluerit aut aliquis ex parentibus vel amicis suis donare mihi voluerint et donaverint ipsas pessas aut pessatas aut ipso pigdus supra scriptus. Et ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto non faciam nullam disturbio ad ipso Ermengaude clerico supra scripto de ipsa sua ordinacione de ipso episcopato de Urgello, neque nullum malum ingenium, nec ego nec ullus omines nec nullas feminas per meum consilium neque per nulla mea absencione. Et ego Ermengaude comite supra scripto adiutor ero ad isto Ermengaude, filio Wisila supra scripta, ipso episcopato de Urgello a tenere et abere sicut Sallane odie tenet, contra omnes omines aut feminas quod eum tollere voluerint aut tulerint, sine sua deceptione de Ermengaude clerico supra scripto post obitum Sallane episcopo supra scripto aut in diebus suis, si Sallane episcopo ad illum dimiserit aut quantum ad ille donaverit de ipso episcopato, si Ermengaude, filio Bernardus vicecomite, frater Sallane, et filio Wisila vicecomitissa, filia quod fuit de Seniofredus de Luciano, mihi voluerit facere fidantias et fidelitatem super altare dedicatum, vel super reliquias, et fecerit unde ego Ermengaude comite firmiter fidare possem in illum.

(Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell, pergamins no. 163, as ed. by Cebrià Baraut in ““Els documents, dels anys 981-1010, de l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia Vol. 3 (Montserrat 1980), pp. 7-166, doc. no. 276 at pp. 106-107.)

I’ve already talked enough about this but I do like (i) the way the vernacular nearly makes it through at ‘decebre’, which would be just there in later vernacular promises of the same sort (see the Kosto reference from before), (ii) the way the scribe doesn’t give a damn about the case of his nouns but conjugates the future perfect with scrupulous care and (iii) the fact that when Count Ermengol stresses that he needs a pledge of faith from the future bishop all the future bishop’s family connections are listed, presumably to illustrate the sort of family involved and explain why the count needs this person sworn to him.

OK, that’s one.

Vikings in Portugal

The second follow-up is apropos of the post in which I included a chunk of Sampiro’s Chronicum that failed to document Viking attacks on the north of Iberia in the eleventh century. Since I posted that, a learned commentator has supplied many more such references than I realised existed, but not the one that was in the Richard Fletcher reference I was originally following up. He cited “R. Pinto de Azevedo, ‘A expedição de Almanzor a Santiago de Compostela em 997, e a de piratas normandos a Galiza em 1015-16′, Revista Portuguesa da História 14 (1974), 73-93”, and this I have now gone and got. It turns out to be a short piece presenting two documents from the seventeenth-century cartulary of a monastery called San Salvador de Moreira, documents which appear to have been made there but whose originals are lost and which somehow didn’t get edited in the Portugaliae Monumenta Historica when that was done. One refers to an attack by al-Mansur on the area concerned, which is probably to be pinned to 997, and the other to, well you’ll see. (Of course, that’s not what the transactors thought was important about the record, but you know, times change.) This document was not known to any of the other people who’d worked on these raids at the time that Pinto wrote, but he gives references to them and since that was the original point of query, so shall I: they are L. Saavedra Machado, “Expedições Normandas no Ocidente da Hispania” in Boletim do Instituto Alemão Vol. 3 (Coimbra 1930), pp. 44-65, and Reinhard Dozy, Recherches sur l’histoire et la littérature en Espagne pendant le Moyen Âge (probably the 2nd edn. of Leiden 1849, though it doesn’t say), II p. 302 where there starts a chapter called “Les Normands en Espagne”. Dozy was using a source called the Chronica Gothorum but that would be another post (if anyone wants).

The charter that Pinto adds to this mix starts like this:

Non est enim duuio sed pleris manet in ueritate eo quod ego Amarcio Mestalis sedente fuit in coniungio eum uxore sua Adileoua sine quoliue escritura dedit ipso Amarelo precio de suo peguliar que solo abuit, et ganauit ereditates et miscuit eas ad illa sua que abuit de suo aboligo ubi ipsa Adileoua aligo nom dedit et as comparamus alias ereditates nos ambos et misquimis illas ad eriditate de Adioleoua et separauimus illas unas de alias per firmitates factas que abea Adileoua illas que mesturamus ad illa sua sicut comparamus ea de suo tribu et aber, Amarelo illas que solo comparauit et illas que comparauit cum sua mulier, et sunt ipsas comparationes de tribu de Amarelo, isto abuisse Amarelo, sicut et fecemus usque ad obitum de Adileoua. Post sua morte per anis plures tenuerunt suos filios sua ereditate quanta superius resona, et quanta est mea tiui eu Amarelo illa integra pagata sine calumnia de filius de Adileoua, per annis plures in de illa domna Lupa prolis Aloiti et Guncine pro non uindere nec donare nisi ad illa et illa mici, rouorauit placitum que sic uenere mici aligo uno male in ipsa ereditate aut de alia causa ajutasse me et sacasse me inde sano stantes firmiter de amborum parte in ista actio et in nostra robore per currigula annis.

(Archivo Universitaria da Coimbra, do maç 194 of the Convento de Santa Cruz de Coimbra, fo. 200r & v., ed. Pinto, “A expedição de Almanzor”, pp. 91-93.)

The story really starts in the next bit but I think I ought to try and set it up. It’s not easy to understand, at least for me, this is very much on the way to being Galician or Portuguese already and it might in many cases be easier to read it that way. As far as I can work out, a chap called Amarelo Mestaliz who had a wife called Adileuva with whom he bought lands from both their families that they amalgamated and then redivided and of which he passed some onto their heirs after Adlieuva died, now promises his entire remaining share to a noblewoman called Loba Aloitiz, on condition that they can only sell or give it to each other thereafter, because of the help and succour she gave him or for other reasons I can’t make out in the Latin. OK, so what was this help? Here’s where the story really starts.

In Era M L iija mense Iulio ingressi fuerunt filius et neptis Lotnimis multis in Doiro, predans et captiuans de Doiro in Aue per viiije menses. Ibi captiuarunt tres filias de me ipso Amarelo et remansi mesquino, pasarunt Leodemanes illos catiuos a uindere totos, ipsas filias de Amarelo nomine Serili Ermesenda Faquilo, et non aueua que dare pro eas a Leodemanes, pro it [for proinde?] producto fuit in Argentini ante illa domna Lupa pro uindere ad illa mea ereditate sicut aueua scritura roborata et prendere ibi que misesse ea a Lotmanes pro ipsas meas filias, et illa non quisit, et mos misericordia abuit super me et prosolbiui me per scriptura pro dare illa ubi potuisse, pro tale actio aueruaui com Froila Tructesindiz que li dedise ea per carta et dedi mici que misi pro filias meas, et sacaui eas de captiuitate.

This is worth at least trying to translate:

In the Era 1053 [1015 AD] in the month of July there arrived many sons and grandsons of Leudeman on the Douro, preying and capturing from the Douro to the Ave for nine months. There they captured three daughters of me Amarelo and I remained behind weakened, the Leudemen carried off all those captives for to sell, those daughters of Amarelo by name Serila, Ermesenda and Faquilo, and I had nothing to give the Leudemen for them, so then this was brought up in Argentino before the lady Loba, to sell to her my heredity just as I had it by confirmed scripture and to take there what might be given by her to the Leudemen for my selfsame daughters, and that woman did not accept it, and behaved mercifully towards me and I promised by scripture to pay her for it when I was able, for which action I agreed with Froila Tructesindiz that I would give her by charter what he gave [it must be, even though that isn’t what it says] to me that I sent for my daughters, and I ransomed them from captivity.

This is marvellous isn’t it? The Vikings (for whom I’d never seen this name before, though the extracts supplied by Cossue all use it; anyone know its origin?) are there for a while, and while they’re there they’re open for business. It’s apparently possible to approach the Viking camp and broker a price for three young Galician girls on behalf of their father. Who do you suppose are the go-betweens? And it’s just such a marvellous picture of Loba, too, gently refusing to take his living off him for an errand of mercy. She deserves to be remembered. Exactly what the position of Froila is, other than Loba’s agent for some reason, isn’t clear to me, but he will come back.

Because, unfortunately, Amarelo’s troubles didn’t end there. At the end of the same year, he became too ill and infirm to look after himself, “per malos annos” as the scribe has him put it, ‘through bad times’, and so he sold his remaining lands to his daughters instead, divided between them to be taken when he died, on condition that they would look after him, clothe him and feed him till then. But they treated him badly, he felt, so, he called a big meeting, and there presumably browbeat his slack daughters out of their entitlement. Instead, he now gives everything he has left, including what he has loaned out to others, to Dona Loba again in settlement of the debt he owes her, which is only now quantified as 15 solidi, getting in return a bed, some bedclothes and an ox, and upkeep for life. The daughters were at the meeting and confirmed this so presumably the rest of the meeting or their own guilty consciences were enough to persuade them to settle for their own inheritances. And once again, Dona Loba is being much nicer than she needs to be; the lands might easily be worth 15 solidi, though they equally might not, but the ox and the goods take a chunk out of that and even if he doesn’t look like living much longer, another dependent is a further drain on any gain she might get from an estate which must be pretty much all sold anyway.

And that’s what we have. Which is, if you ask me, a pretty good story, albeit of a life we can all be glad we didn’t have, showing a community patron might work in the best of ways, and it’s also interesting evidence for Vikings and what effect they can have on a community, these raiders who then sell what they’ve looted back to you. (I don’t suppose the daughters’ lives were exactly full of joy at this time either, I should point out.)

There is the little question of whether we can believe it. It is only found in a seventeenth-century cartulary copy, but they clearly didn’t make it as they’ve mangled its Latin so badly, so it must at least have been older than that. Nonetheless, the fact that it actually uses Portugal as a place-name this early is a bit worrying. Pinto however pointed out that it fits with other notices of Viking activity, more or less, specifically a 1014 raid led, Scandinavian sources apparently tell us, by Olaf Haraldsson, that must presumably have hung around a while. The transactor, poor Amarelo, appears in other earlier documents, so that he should be an old and infirm man by 1015-6 is about right; and on the whole it seems to be plausible, if not necessarily exact in every word. However, you may remember that when I first introduced this it was to try and work out what the evidence was that Tuy was sacked by Vikings at this time. Pinto sheds a little light on this too, while comparing Viking raids that this one might have been, because he notes that Dozy reckons that the 1014 raid was responsible for that, so that’s presumably where the idea comes from (and before that from episcopal lists with gaps, if I understand Fletcher right). Here, I think we should let Pinto have the last word:

Confesso-me, porém, insuficientemente documentado para emitir opinião segura sobre a invasão normanda deste territorio.


The rest of the charter’s Latin, since I’ve copied everything but this, may as well go in here too:

Dum uenimus ad anno pleno integro cadiuit ego Amarelo in mesquinitate et in infirmitate per annos malos et non aueua in meo iure pan nec aligo genere causa que aprestamo ominis est per que uiuere fecissime a meas filias carta que partissent mea ereditate in tercios post mea morte pro que eram de singulos matres et pro it dedissent mici uictum et uestitum et seruissent in mea uita, et non abuerunt unde, et deleisciarunt me mal in me infirmitate. Dum tale uidi, feci concilio ante Tructesindo Guimiriz, Gardalia Branderiz, Ordonio Brandiliz, Guntigio, Salamiro, Cendon, Ascaldo, Gaudila, Amarelo Cendoniz, Queta, Rodorigo Gardaliz, ipsa Sesili, ipsa Ermesenda, ipsa Faquilo, Elduira et Petro Aderiquiz et crepantauit ad illas cartas et scripturas. Obinde nomine ego Amarelo Mostalis placui mici pacis uoluntas nullo para meto ditate, de duas partes de ipsa ereditate do uobis inde duas partes integras, tam de parentela quam etiam de comparentela per terminos uigus et locis antiguis omni rem que a prestamo ominis est et ibi potueris inuenire, et do uobis illa pro dimisione qui mici feci illa domna Lupa, est ipsa hereditate in uilla Vilabredi subtus Castro de Boue urbio Portugal pro que accepi de uos uno lenzo et camisa antimana uno boue et in uita mea abeatis de me cura quantum potueritis. Isto mici placuit et illos XV solidos argenzdeos que iam de uos pressi pro in illa captiuitate et inde contra uos non remansi, ita deodie de iure meo sede abrasa et in uestro tradita. Aueatis uos et posteritas uestras in seculum seculi. Siquis tamen minime quod fieri non credo aliquis omo uenerit uel uenero contra anc cartula inrumpendo et tiui illa deuindigare uel octorgare noluero paie a uobis ipsa ereditate dublata et perenne auituro. Notum die iij nonas Aprile Era M L VI. Amarelo mano mea rouoraui +. Ic presentes Gardalia, Queta, Petro, Pelagio, Ordonio, Guntigio, Aluito, Salamiro, Ermesenda, Sesili, Faquilo, Elduira confirmo +. Petro Gardalis, Godisareo presbiter, Froila, Vermudo, Gundila notuit.

From the sources I: yer actual simony

All right, when a blogger lacks for content, especially a historical blogger, the best thing to do is always to get him or her back to the sources. Several things have arisen lately, on blog or off, where I’ve needed some particular source and been annoyed it wasn’t on the Internet, or that it was still only typed up on my old and disused P333 which now lurks in a shed unpowered. I found one of those latter in an old printout from teaching at Birkbeck, and typed it up for a recent lecture; then the photocopier broke down and no-one actually got the handout in time to refer to it, but y’know, I tried. So I thought that, having typed it up again, I’d also put it here, because it’s interesting and probably useful to teach with.

Bishop Ermengol of Urgell mistrusting a lay magnate doing homage to him, from the Liber Feudorum Maior

Bishop Ermengol of Urgell mistrusting a lay magnate doing homage to him, from the Liber Feudorum Maior

What this is, then, is my translation of an agreement between Count Ermengol I of Urgell (993-1010), son of my old fascination Borrell II of Barcelona (and also of Urgell), and Bishop Sal·la of Urgell (981-1010), who has also featured here in the past. They agree by this that Sal·la’s nephew, also called Ermengol, seen above in the mitre, will succeed his uncle as bishop, and set out the price that Ermengol demands for ensuring that this occurs. It goes like this.

I Count Ermengol, son of the late Count Borrell and the late Countess Ledgarda, swear that from this hour and hereafter to the last day of days, that Bishop Sal·la, son of the late Isarn and the late Ranló,a and I have nominated one Ermengol by this scripture, by this oath, namely, that I shall undertake to give the bishopric of the county of Urgell to Ermengol son of Viscount Bernat and of Viscountess Guisla. I Count Ermengol shall undertake to give [it] to that Ermengol, son of Bernat, and I shall perform his investiture. And from this hour in future I the above-written Count Ermengol, will not keep that Ermengol, the above-written son of Viscount Bernat, from that bishopric of Holy Mary at the See at Vic which is in Urgell.b And if Bishop Sal·la shall wish to ordain this above-written nephew Ermengol in his lifetime, I Count Ermengol as written above will be a helper to him in ordaining that Ermengol, the above-written son of Bernat, without any deception of this Ermengol, if Bishop Sal·la or his brother Bernat or any of the kinsmen or the friends of that Ermengol, the cleric named above, shall undertake to give me 100 pesas, or the value in pesetas, or a pledge of 200 pesas through another 60 pesas that they shall give me after the death of the above-written Bishop Sal·la, half of it in the first half of the year and the other in the other. And if Bishop Sal·la shall not have ordained this Ermengol his nephew in the lifetime of Bishop Sal·la, and I Count Ermengol be yet living, and that Ermengol, the above-written son of Bernat, be living, I that above-written Count Ermengol shall perform the ordination of the above-written cleric Ermengol,c if I be able, if the above-written cleric Ermengol shall wish to give me, or his kinsmen or his friends shall wish to give to me and shall have given those pesas or those pesetas or that pledge written above. And I the above-written Count Ermengol shall offer no disturbance to the above-said cleric Ermengol over his ordination to that bishopric of Urgell, not I nor any man nor any woman either by my counsel or by my stay. And I the above-written Count Ermengol shall be a helper to that Ermengol, the above-written son of Guisla, to hold and have the bishopric of Urgell just as Sal·la holds it today, against all men or women who should wish or attempt to attack him, without any deception of the above-written cleric Ermengol after the death of the above-written Bishop Sal·la or in his days, if Bishop Sal·la shall defer the episcopate to him, or give to him anything or that bishopric, if Ermengol the son of Viscount Bernat brother of Sal·la, and son of Viscountess Guisla, daughter of the late Sunifred of Lluçà,d shall wish to perform homage and fidelity to me on a dedicated altar, or on relics, and he should do [this] so that I Count Ermengol can have faith in his fidelity.

And that’s all there is, no signatures, no witnesses, but there seems no reason to doubt it per se because of Ermengol’s later reputation (see below), unless his viscount brother’s offspring got really literary when contesting their grandmother’s will with him I suppose (which they had to do). Unless that be the case, however, when they talk about lay investiture and simony and so on, this is what they mean. Here is a real example.1 This kind of deal was being cut in many places. Note especially, if you care to, the following things:

  1. The form of document they are using here is a convenientia, an agreement, and it is basically a feudal one; that ‘without any deception’ riff is straight out of feudal pacts of the era and because of that is almost one of the first phrases we have in written Catalan, ‘sin engany’, though this document is entirely Latin. And, in that form, we would not expect signatures, witnesses or indeed a date, as the text is apparently more part of the act than a record for the future. Yes, it’s arguable, but it has been argued and certainly this is what such oaths look like except for the Latinity.2
  2. Sal·la is already Count Ermengol’s sworn vassal (and yes, we are allowed to use that word in this context dammit), but ironically, his son, Ermengol II, would eventually swear fidelity to Bishop Ermengol…3
  3. You could probably just about argue that this is not simony, but insurance; Ermengol comes doesn’t say that he will oppose Ermengol archileuita (as he is at this time) as bishop if the money isn’t paid, just that he won’t help him or perform the investiture. Technically he’s being paid to ensure that Ermengol does become bishop, not to allow him to do so. However, I don’t think many canon lawyers in Rome of 1056 would have seen it that way. I also don’t think anyone in X1003 Catalonia cared, however.
  4. It should be noted that what we are reading here is an agreement about the ordination of a man who is now recognised as a saint, albeit largely for his war-leadership against the Muslims; so subsequent papacies have also forgiven him this unfortunate slip.4
  5. Sal·la did in fact ordain Ermengol in his own lifetime, as coadjutor, and Count Ermengol I was still alive to insist at that time—he died on campaign in Córdoba in 1010, fighting Castilians who had been hired by the other contendor for the Caliphate—so the money must have been forthcoming.5 Of course, a bishop ordaining his own successor is quite uncanonical too but SAINT okay SAINT d’you hear me? Heros de la reconquesta, homes!
  6. We don’t, sadly know how much was actually being paid because we don’t know what a pesa was at this time. It’s clearly a weight of bullion—Urgell is not minting coin at this time, though it does later—but how much is unclear. Gaspar Feliu once reckoned it was an ounce of gold or a pound of silver, reckoned as equivalents, but he’s since decided it’s more complicated than that.6 Of that order, anyway, so, a lot. And a peseta is not a coin, but the equivalent in kind, a pesa-worth. So, it’s 100 pesas now, or their equivalent, or else 200 later of which 60 to be paid now. He drives a hard bargain (which may be why Sal·la took the low price…).
  7. Also, just a small point but observe that the women mentioned are political agents. Count Ermengol disclaims that he might use a woman to upset the agreement; mothers are named for all participants (in fact, for a Catalan feudal agreement, it’s rather unusual for fathers to be named, but this is very early and that form’s not yet established) and Guisla’s parentage, which was powerful as was she, is also mentioned. They’re not actually here but then they’re not bishop or count; doesn’t stop them being important.

So there you are, perhaps it’s useful, I certainly think it’s interesting, and I had it typed up already…

(Cross-posted to Cliopatria with revisions.)


a Isarn was Viscount of Conflent and possibly also of Urgell from perhaps 954 until 974; Ranló was his wife and Viscountess, there is no problem with that title for scribes of the time.

b Vic, as Anglo-Saxonists may be more aware than many, is based on a Germanic word for trading-place. This is why both Urgell and, well, Vic, have Vics, but this is Vic de la Seu d’Urgell and that’s Vic d’Osona and because Vic got big and commercial and Seu d’Urgell mainly stayed a bishop’s fortress town Vic has basically got to own the name in Catalonia and no-one uses the full form anymore.

c I love the trouble the scribe took to keep the Ermengols distinct. Given that it is finally comprehensible in a way that many such documents are not I will happily forgive him making it nearly the opposite in achieving that.

d Sunifred was Vicar of Lluçà, which was at the time one of the richest frontier castles there was in Osona. Bernat had married down but well, and Guisla was a tough customer also.

1. The text is printed in Cebrià Baraut (ed.), “Els documents, dels anys 981-1010, de l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia Vol. 3 (Montserrat 1980), pp. 7-166, doc. no. 276.

2. On these documents and other Latin precursors you should see Adam Kosto, Making Agreements in Medieval Catalonia: power, order and the written word, 1000-1200, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th Series 51 (Cambridge 2001).

3. Baraut, “Els documents, dels anys 1010-1035, de l’Arxiu Capitular de le Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia Vol. 4 (1981), pp. 7-178, docs no. 486 & 487.

4. For more on him see Jeffrey A. Bowman, “The Bishop Builds a Bridge: sanctity and power in the medieval Pyrenees” in Catholic Historical Review Vol. 88 (Washington DC 2002), pp. 1-16.

5. Uncle and nephew appear together at the union of the monastery of Sant Pere del Burgal with the reforming house of Notre Dame de la Grasse in 1007 (and if you need a better proof of how what a later age saw as Church corruption was fine with the first wave of reformers if it got the job done, I don’t know where you’d find it). The document is edited in E. Magnou-Nortier & A.-M. Magnou (edd.), Recueil des Chartes de l’Abbaye de la Grasse tome I: 779-1119, Collection des documents inédits sur l’histoire de France : section d’histoire médiévale et de philologie, Série in 8vo 24 (Paris 1996), as doc. no. 91.

6. References gathered, if that sort of thing interests you, in Jonathan Jarrett, “Currency change in pre-millennial Catalonia: coinage, counts and economics” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 169 (London forthcoming), p. 00 n. 40.

Stock take, part IV: o but these are just taking up house room and brain space

Right, this has gone on too long, which is more or less the point of the thread indeed but the time has come to wrap it up and make some pledges. Because, you see, I have a bunch of papers kicking around that are finished, ready to submit, in fact in some cases have been submitted and come back unloved, but this doesn’t mean I’m throwing away that research. No: these should be out there working for me and gosh-darnit I intend that they shall go out once more. There is no room in the 2-up, 2-down of my brain for academic output that has now fully grown to be lounging on the mental sofa eating crisps and claiming there’s no journals to apply to for work. Get out! I shall name and shame them.

The Romanesque cathedral of Urgell, from Wikimedia Commons

The Romanesque cathedral of Urgell, from Wikimedia Commons

  1. Oldest first: “Bishop and Brother: kindred and Church in an early medieval noble family”. This was a part of the thesis that kept getting cut. Never quite essential enough to make the grade, I gave about half of it as my first ever Leeds paper and then bound it as an appendix to my thesis to try and counterbalance the fact that I’d hardly considered the Church. At least, it seemed that way at the time but really, on rewriting stuff for the book it seemed to me that really, there was quite a lot of Church in it and I’m not sure why I was worried. Anyway. The other half of it is summarised in the book, but the two halves still belong together because the original catch was just that: it’s about Bishop Sal·la of Urgell and his brother Viscount Bernat of Conflent, who around the year 1000 are easily visible collaborating as a family to maximise their wealth and power but who use completely different tactics to achieve their individual aims. The point is a contrast of lay and clerical modes of power, and all it needs, I am convinced, with a couple of recent articles on related people assimilated at least, is a rewrite to make that agenda louder and then I have two journals in mind for it, one UK and one actually in Catalonia. I would like it to go the latter more because it would get me seen by the people in my actual field but it goes to the former first because that will get me seen by people who might hire me. Next time, Catalonia, next time.
  2. The three papyrus Bulls recording the promotion of Archbishop Ató of Osona

    The three papyrus Bulls recording the promotion of Archbishop Ató of Osona

  3. OK, next up. “Archbishop Ató of Osona: false metropolitans on the Marca Hispanica”. I first gave a version of this at a conference in 2003, and the first proper write-up some time in the next year after I’d learnt a lot more about papyri, which feature heavily. I have given about half of it here as a blog post, but only half. The trouble is, it’s huge. I sent it to a journal Gesta knows well a while ago and they came back saying “we like it but you need to cut it by half, somehow” and the reviewer was quite snippy about what bits weren’t contributing anything. If I’d cut everything he suggested, though, half the point would have been gone. So I consulted Professor McKitterick and she suggested an entirely different journal which would probably have it uncut. And then, to my great shame, I didn’t get round to it. Right, well, that’s enough of that. I have made a rapid attempt to check for related work, believe that I have found the most obvious examples and this one will now be next out the door, before even the Leeds papers book paper item because all it needs is formatting and submitting. Now, given its size that’s still no negligible task but it is stupid that I have not done this and I hereby pledge that this will end.
  4. Sant Andreu de Gurb, home in its previous incarnation to the parchments of Adalbert of Taradell and family; photograph by the author

    Sant Andreu de Gurb, home in its previous incarnation to the parchments of Adalbert of Taradell and family; photograph by the author

  5. “Documents that shouldn’t survive: preservation from before the archive in Catalonia and elsewhere”. This was put together in something of a hurry for Leeds 2008 and turned out to be one of my better papers even if I fluffed the delivery somewhat. Several people told me I should publish it forthwith as it’s important, or so they think, and suggested some very high-profile journals they thought I should try. And there’s really only two things I need to read for it and they’re both short, or at least the parts of them that need reading are short. But I can’t, because it’s based on Lay Archives work and I’ve been asked quite firmly not to do anything with that work, at least until the project itself has managed to publish. But because I have so much else that needs finishing, though it grates me I see no point in causing an upset by pursuing this until all concerned parties agree that I can.
  6. 1176 copy of the 945 foundation charter of Sant Pere de les Puelles

    1176 copy of the 945 foundation charter of Sant Pere de les Puelles

  7. “Legends in their Own Lifetime? The Late Carolingians and Catalonia”. Mentioned already, born out of the twin wombs of “The Continuation of Carolingian Expansion” and “The Identity of Authority” fertilised by the pressing need to come up with something for last year’s Haskins Society conference. This actually turned out to be a good paper, or so I thought, and on good advice I got a professor who’d been there to critique it for me. Now all I have to do is revise according to his criticisms and send it off. Furthermore, a high-end journal already saw a version of this back when it was still basically “Continuation” in argh 2006 and they came back with a friendly revise-and-resubmit, which I should therefore have done straight away and maybe I’d have a job now. But I didn’t, because I wasn’t happy with it and it wouldn’t have been as good as I wanted. Now, this version is that good, so I think the first thing to do is to send it back to the same journal and see if they want it still. Failing that, another journal has actually asked me for it, so if its first home no longer has space or interest, they shall get their wish. This is another easy score and it will therefore go into third place on the list of shame, because I really don’t have an excuse for not having it done by now.
  8. You may be bored of this charter by now but I never will be

    You may be bored of this charter by now but I never will be

  9. Lastly the newest: “Nuns, Signatures and Literacy in late-Carolingian Catalonia”. Fresh from delivery, this one of course has a home, and when I say it’s finished I mean that I think it could be printed as it is and it would shame no-one involved. However, there is actually a lot more work on nuns in early medieval Spain than I have read, and I want to take Wendy Davies’s advice from my viva and make sure it’s in my thinking before I submit the final version. So perhaps it should have been in the previous version, as all the relevant reading is currently on my desk but there’s still a fair whack of it. Nonetheless, I intend finishing this one very soon, because I have done enough things for Professor McKitterick rather too late and by halves and this will not be another of them.

So, er, I make that fourteen papers I have in some sort of form without having done enough to get them published, and that’s ignoring the fact that I was contemplating a second bookThis is really not helping me. There is a point of view that says that one can’t actually drop everything one’s working on to concentrate on one at a time and to do so would make me unhappy, it’s true. But this is just stupid.

There is a need for a resolve of sorts. So, here is my pledge. I will revise, format and submit “Archbishop Ató”. I will do all the necessary reading for “Uncertain Origins” and make sure that it isn’t me who is holding up the Leeds volume. I will try and do both of these in the next three months, but I won’t promise the timing because of now being teaching and having other papers in final stages, book about to reach proofs and so on. However, I will do it at the earliest feasible point. Then I will revise and submit “Legends” and then I will concentrate on “Succession to the Fisc” until delivery time and then we’ll see what happens next.

Antapodosis in Catalonia (scheming bishops)

I haven’t told any stories for a while, and for some reason it does seem to be part of my mission to pull these anecdotes out of my material for people’s entertainment. So let me reintroduce to you a character from whom we’ve heard before, Bishop Sal·la of Urgell (981-1010). I’ve tried to put something out about Sal·la before, but I’ve not so far had any luck convincing anyone else to be interested enough.1

Part of the reason for this may be that Jeffrey Bowman has written an article already about Sal·la’s son Saint Ermengol, who not only had a wilder name but died in a wilder way and started more fights, and everyone likes warrior bishops.2 Sal·la was wilier than that and stayed out of fights, by and large, preferring to do his work by negotiation. This was more or less what my paper was about, in fact. But the main reason for its lack of success, I suspect, is that it’s one of the first real papers I ever wrote and I mainly used it as an excuse to tell stories about Sal·la, when I should perhaps have been doing analysis. Subsequent versions of the paper have never entirely escaped this, simply because Sal·la left so many stories behind him in his charters. So if I put two of the best ones here, maybe I can finally put them down and make something better of the paper. Failing that, I shall at least have entertained you for a short while and put something more about him on the web.

The Cathedral of Urgell

Sal·la was reasonable-level nobility, being son of a Viscount of Conflent and Urgell, brother to the succeeding Viscount of Conflent, and first cousin once removed of another Sal·la, a very powerful frontier magnate who founded the abbey of Sant Benet de Bages. The previous bishop had been another member of this kindred, though exactly how he was connected has never been fully worked out.3 They were not however top-rank, unlike some of the bishops who came from the comital family. Possibly because of this, one of the repeated motives of Sal·la’s career is disputes with or returns to co-operation with good old Count-Marquis Borrell II.

Sal·la and Borrell must have had quite a lot of dealings. Borrell made good use of his unexpected succession to the county of Urgell (the bishopric is rather larger than the county), and when he died in 993 he was not only touring the farflung reaches of the county, but he was doing so with Sal·la in tow, which we know because Sal·la witnessed the will he arranged shortly before his death, which is preserved in the Urgell cathedral archive. Sal·la was also named as one of the almsmen (like executors, but more concerned with the state of your soul) for Urgell; Borrell appointed three or four of his trusted contacts or family in each county to oversee the carrying-out of his will there. He also made provision for what should happen if any of them died before the will was needed, so he clearly thought he was going to get better, and I can picture him having to be badgered into making the will at all, but in fact he was wrong, and died within the week, whereupon Sal·la and the rest of the entourage saw him buried and then started on the lengthy process of sorting out the bequests.4 So, although necessity may have pressed Borrell here, it’s not that he and Sal·la couldn’t cooperate and respect each other.

Urgell 12, charter of sale of 839 on parchment

All the same, there seem to have been times when they didn’t, and these only start to come out after Borrell’s death. The first one of these I found was a sale by Bishop Sal·la from 995, in which he disposed of a castle at Carcolzes (I’d show you the ruins but sadly ‘Carcolzes’ is a Googlewhack) to his sacristan, who was called Bonhom and paid 500 solidi for it. The interesting bit is not that, nor even that Bonhom seems to have overstretched himself, because he immediately sold it to Viscount Guillem of Urgell, who next year sold it back to Sal·la, always for the same 500 solidi sum. Sal·la resignedly gave it to the cathedral, although in such a way that his nephew, the future bishop Ermengol about whom Bowman was writing, acquired the management of it. The interesting bit is actually how Sal·la got hold of this castle that no-one wanted. The scribe, one Lleopard, wrote it down in what must however surely be Sal·la’s own words:

In the name of God. Sal·la, Bishop by the grace of God am seller to you Bonhom priest and sacristan. By this scripture of sale do I sell to you my castle of Carcolzes with its rock and its building and its villages which are within its bounds and with its bounds…. And all these things are in the county of Urgell, and it came to me Bishop Sal·la by charter of compensation from my lord Count Borrell for that half of the castle of Clarà or other amends which might have satisfied me, which he ought to have made to me from the seventh Ides of October up to the first following Feast of Pentecost. In such a way did my lord Count Borrell hand over all the above things thus with this charter of compensation from his right into the power of me Bishop Sal·la for my own: so that if at that same above-said first following Feast of Pentecost in the 5th year of the rule of King Hugh the Great he should not have returned to me that selfsame half of the above-said castle Clarà in stewardship [baiulia] or if by then he had not made other amends which might have been satisfactory to me, I Bishop Sal·la in the name of God might have full and most firm power over the above-said castle of Carcolzes with all the above things to do with as I might wish. And I waited for him up until the aforesaid assembly of Pentecost and I reminded him in sight of good men that he should have returned to me all the above said things or should have made other amends to me, and he did not do this. And I again gave him another placitum from the Nativity of the Lord up till the next Pentecost and ever I reminded him, both in person and through my messengers, that he should have returned to me all the above-said things or have made other amends to me, but he did not do this. Again and again I gave to him other placita and others so that he might keep this agreement about the above-said things or make other amends, but he did not do this and he abandoned all the above-said things to me Bishop Sal·la and allowed it to befall. On this account I Sal·la, by the will of God Bishop, by this scripture of sale sell to you Bonhom priest and sacristan the above-said castle of Carcolzes with its rock with whatever I have there, excepting those tithes which are Holy Mary’s, for the agreed price of five hundred solidi in gold, in silver, in cloths or in other agreed payment which you have given to me and I at the present time have received in my hands, and none of this price remains with you the buyer, and it is clear.

Just in case you got lost in the legalese there, I’ll précis: Sal·la has a half share of a desirable castle residence in far frontier Osona, which is real development land but also part of an essential defence network.5 Borrell, for these reasons most likely, and by the power vested in him as count and marquis and therefore military supremo for the area, takes it over, and promises Sal·la that he will either return it before Pentecost or else make over compensation to Sal·la in the form of this castle at Carcolzes, much further from the frontier and a place that no-one wants, though it seems to take them time to realise this for some reason. Sal·la doesn’t want to lose this family property (we know from his brother’s will that he, Viscount Bernat, retained the other half), and so repeatedly extends the loan term in the hope that Borrell will give back Clarà, but Borrell doesn’t want Carcolzes either and manages thus to force Sal·la to take it. Eventually all Sal·la can do is pass it on to his nephew as a kind of training castle, and he records his disgust and sense of grievance with the whole process for us in the charter.6

Now because we only know when Sal·la sold it, in 995, we don’t know when this tortuous process took place, only that it must have been before Borrell died in 993. The same is true of the story I’m about to pair it with; it must have happened before Borrell died, but we don’t know when.7 It matters only in as much as it would be nice to know who started the swindling contest, but since the final scores seem to have been one all, it doesn’t matter too much. Here then is the antapodosis, the tit-for-tat, with which the Carcolzes case was either paid or brought.8

Aerial view of the village of Os de Civis, Andorra

One of the areas that the bishopric of Urgell covers that the county doesn’t is the valley, now independent region, of Andorra. Now it’s independent, but in the late tenth century the counts of Urgell considered it their territory, and the locals begged to differ, or sometimes, differed quite loudly, with weapons and so on. So there were castles here with which the count pinned down his rule, and thus there were stewards of the castles whom he appointed. An unfortunate one of these, Sendred of Somont, took up the tale in 1003:

Let it be known to all men present and future that I Sendred, Archdeacon, however unworthy, of the Holy Mother of the See of Urgell and bailiff of the Andorra valley, sadly for my sins or some reason, was placed in command of a castle that my lord Count Borrell built against the men of the Andorra valley, which is called Bragafols. However those men raised siege-works against the castle and took it, and the aforesaid Count flung me in chains and leg-irons and held me for a long time over that castle. And he examined me in his name through his magnates and nobles so that I would agree to give to him that alod of mine which I had in Somont, which I held from the franchise of the men of Andorra and from my parents. I however responded to him: ‘I am not going to give away the alod of my parents before my death at the very earliest!’ And I sent a message to my lord, to Bishop Sal·la and he himself sought the Count and said to him: ‘For what reason, my lord, are you holding a cleric and Archdeacon of Holy Mary in chains?’ The Count answered: ‘If he will not give me that alod of his which he has in Somont I shall not release him’. The Bishop responded: ‘That alod which you seek is already the above-named Mother’s’. As soon as he heard the words of the Bishop and he proved that all this was true, the Count was exceedingly angry and released me from my chains and leg-irons. And on account of this service which Holy Mary the Mother of God and my lord Bishop Sal·la have done me, we, I Sendred son of Centoll and my wife Ermeriga give to My Lady the aforesaid Virgin Mary Mother of God the already-said alod which we have in Somont, with its entrances and exits and with all the things pertaining to it, in this way, namely, so that we or our kinsman may hold the aforesaid alod as long as we may live, in the service of Holy Mary [… ] by donation to Bishop Sal·la and his successors…

So that was nicely done, because as you may have realised this document, that actually transfers the property, is from more than ten years later.9 The land may have been promised, but Sendred actually explains the transfer in terms of this episode, so it would seem that if there was a back-history it became irrelevant. It seems a lot more likely, given the situation Sendred got himself into—and his position is not unambiguous, given that he seems not only to have had family connections to the area he was guarding but also accepted land from his eventual opponents—and the fact that he and his wife made every possible reservation when the gift finally had to be made (Sal·la was ill in 1003, and this may have been the stimulus to make good the promise), that Sal·la brazenly appropriated the land by his assertion, the only one that might have forestalled Borrell perhaps, but still, and then ten years or more later Sendred finally accepted it. But you have to admit: it’s one in the eye for Borrell, and he may never have found out how he’d been twitted. Perhaps Sal·la was still quietly grinning to himself until, out at Castellciutat in 993, he suddenly realised his old enemy and counterpart really wasn’t well. But I doubt he would have mentioned it, even then…

Castle of Llirt, near Somont

There’s loads of ways I could take these documents further, to look at bishops’ rôle as support for lay rulers, the use of churchmen as castellans in Catalonia (about which there is other work), clerical marriage, church dynasts, many things. If anyone would like any of these expanded do say and I’ll muster a few words. But for now, meet a cunning man with a mitre: ladies and gentlemen, Bishop Sal·la of Urgell.


1. I did however present it at Leeds, or a version of it, as “Sales, Swindles and Sanctions: Bishop Sal·la of Urgell and the Counts of Catalonia”, paper presented in the session “Telling Laymen What To Do”, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 11 July 2005, and a text of that paper is available as an appendix to my doctoral thesis, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 2005, pp. 289-302.

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

3. Most recent attempt known to me is Manuel Rovira i Solà, “Noves dades sobre els vescomtes d’Osona-Cardona” in Ausa Vol. 9 no. 98 (Vic 1981), pp. 249-260, online here.

4. On Borrell’s death and its location, see Cebria Baraut, “La data i el lloc de la mort del comte Borrell II de Barcelona-Urgell” in Urgellia Vol. 10 (Montserrat 1990), pp. 469-472. The will and the Urgell portion of its publication are printed by Baraut in idem (ed.), “Els documents, dels anys 981-1010, de l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell”, ibid. Vol. 3 (1980), pp. 7-166, nos 232 & 233; documents from this edition cited below as Urgell + no.

5. On the defence network, see Albert Benet i Clarà, “Castells, guàrdies i torres de defensa” in Federico Udina i Martorell (ed.), Symposium Internacional sobre els Orígens de Catalunya (segles VIII-XI) (Barcelona 1991-2), 2 vols also published as Memorias de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona Vols. 23 & 24 (Barcelona 1991 & 1992), I pp. 393-407.

6. The sale to Bonhom which is quoted here, Viscount Guillem’s sale to Sal·la (which mentions the sale from Bonhom) and Sal·la’s gift of the castle to the cathedral are Urgell 239, 243 & 244 respectively.

7. Roland Viader appears to know that it was in 988, which may be true but I don’t know how he knows and haven’t yet read his book where he apparently says this, which is R. Viader, L’Andorre du IXe au XIVe siècle. Montagnes, féodalité et communautés (Toulouse 2003).

8. Antapodosis is of course Greek, and was the title of a scurrilous revenge memoir written by Bishop Liutprand of Cremona in the late tenth century (transl. F. A. Wright in idem (transl.), The Works of Liutprand of Cremona: Antapodosis; Liber de Rebus Gestis Ottonis; Relatio de Legatione Constantinopolitana. Translated for the first time into English with an Introduction, Broadway Medieval Library 8 (London 1930)). He and Sal·la would have missed each other by a generation and he won’t have been at Rome when Sal·la went there (which he did, in 1001), and I don’t suppose they’d have got on, because Sal·la seems more proper than Liutprand, but I expect they might have found themselves on the same sides in a lot of arguments if they’d ever shared a synod.

9. Urgell 286. I’ve added the punctuation but the direct speech is in the actual document.

Winner’s preservation

There is a particular problem with doing medieval history that is well-known to people generally: the Church are how we have almost all the written evidence. We all know this, especially those of us working on charters, and spend a lot of our time trying to work out what that means for our evidence and what we can do with it despite that, or whether we just have to work with its strengths. Yes?

Now that I’ve done so much work for the Lay Archives Project I know, better than many I suppose, that there are occasionally documents in Church archives that are apparently nothing to do with the Church, but in most, almost all cases (Cluny apparently being an exception, along with most of Catalonia but not, apparently, the Midi) these are explicable either as parts of dossiers relating to property that later came to the relevant Church, possibly via a smaller one, or (very rarely—we know of two cases, maybe three) secular administrative dossiers of properties later granted to the Church, which is not quite the same thing and far more exciting to historians of government. But, basically, the Church has it all, and when we get charters like the Anglo-Saxon Fonthill Letter that were at some point in their history marked “inutile” on the dorse, we know we’re lucky to have them at all, because usually what’s kept is only what’s apparently useful.1

Illuminated initial from a St Petersburg Anglo-Saxon manuscript

This means that by now I’m surprised when I come across arguments that the Church clearly ruled the law-courts, because all the records we have show them winning. Of course they do! Why would a loser in a court case keep the document that did him out of the lands? Why would he even be given it to keep? The winner wants that. We know what happened to inconvenient documents like this…2 So it bothers me to find arguments like that, even supported with others (law is a process involving writing and the Church are writing specialists, etc., another idea that won’t die—on the other hand I don’t think even Catalonia had a surviving lay notariate so where exactly I stand on this is unclear), in the work of someone whose stuff is otherwise rich and thought-provoking. At least partly because it involves the idea that I know more in one tiny field than they do, and it seems unlikely given how much they’ve done in it themselves.

Anyway. I can bring something positive out of the rant. We do actually get to see, in Catalonia, what it looks like when the Church loses. (The counts too, but that’s easier.3) In this area hearings can generate a lot of documents, but canonically there are three each, the record of the actual hearing in which the arguments are set out, the oath of whatever witnesses are called, and finally the evacuation or quitclaim of the defeated party, a loser’s document that goes to the winner (as do the rest). Quite often the scribes don’t adhere to this and we get these lumped together in one or two documents.4 Now one of these is our special guest.

Ruins of the castle of Pinyana, once property of Vicar Sendred de Gurb

In 1002, Bishop Sal·la of Urgell, in the north-west of Catalonia, brought to court a plea against the castellan Sendred, head of the powerful Gurb family, who had for some years held the castle of Queralt.5 Sal·la, a wily fellow, was claiming that the castle rightly belonged to the cathedral of Urgell and sought Sendred’s homage for it. Sendred produced a charter in which the castle had been granted to his father, and Sal·la, uncharacteristically at a loss, obtained an adjournment to a more southerly court where he brought two ecclesiastics of good repute to swear to the truth of his claims.6

This is all we have, the set-up and the oath. But the Gurb family still had the castle years later. Baraut edits this document as if the cathdral had won the case, and Benet (see n. 5 below) says that Sal·la clearly couldn’t make his victory stick against so powerful a character, but to me it seems more likely that it didn’t stick because he lost. Sendred had a charter, Sal·la didn’t and there is thus no evacuation or quitclaim, even though that would be more use to keep than this, and I bet that’s because there wasn’t one. What we have is the oath by which Urgell’s case for the prosecution was put, and someone presumably thought that might be useful to produce again. Or maybe they just filed it disheartenedly when they returned home, who knows. Urgell’s archive seems to have been filed by neglect more than anything sometimes, I could tell you stories. Maybe another time, if you’re good :-)

But yes: that’s what it looks like when the Church loses, I reckon. It looks almost as if they won, or it doesn’t get seen.

1. S. Keynes, “The Fonthill Letter”, in M. Korhammer (ed.), Words, Texts and Manuscripts: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Culture presented to Helmut Gneuss (Cambridge 1992), pp. 53-97.

2. I’m thinking of the Lombard case where it was shown that the defendant had burnt a charter he was claiming never to have seen, and so the judge then asked him what it had said, and he replied something like, “if it had been advantageous to us, I would hardly have burnt it!” Discussion in C. Wickham, “Land Disputes and their Social Framework in Lombard-Carolingian Italy, 700-900” in W. Davies & P. Fouracre, (edd.), The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval Europe (Cambridge 1986), pp. 105-124; rev. in Wickham, Land and Power: studies in Italian and European social history, 400-1200 (London 1994), pp. 229-256.

3. F. Udina Martorell (ed.), 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), doc. no. 177.

4. R. Collins, “Visigothic Law and Regional Diversity in Disputes in Early Medieval Spain” in Davies & Fouracre, The Settlement of Disputes, pp. 85-104. More generally see J. Bowman, Shifting Landmarks: Property, Proof, and Dispute in Catalonia around the Year 1000, Conjunctions of Religion and Power in the Medieval Past (Ithaca 2004).

5. On Sendred and his family see either A. Benet i Clarà, “Sendred de Gurb” in Ausa: patronato de estudios ausonencs Vol. 8 (1977), pp. 238-254, or idem, La Família Gurb-Queralt (956-1276). Senyors de Sallent, Olò, Avinyó, Manlleu, Voltregà, Queralt i Santa Coloma de Queralt (Sallent 1993).

6. C. Baraut (ed.), “Els documents, dels anys 981-1010, de l’Arxiu Capitular de la Seu d’Urgell” in Urgellia: anuari d’estudis històrics dels antics comtats de Cerdanya, Urgell i Pallars, d’Andorra i la Vall d’Aran Vol. 3 (Montserrat 1980), pp. 7-166, doc. no. 287.