With certain enviable exceptions, every historian has sometimes to admit that they got something wrong, and this will not be the first time I do so here, but up till now I’ve only once had to do this about something I got into print. Sadly, this has now arisen, as in August 2012 I came across something that meant I had to let go of one particular bête noir of my work on the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, that being the information supposedly preserved there about the area of Mogrony (now Sant Pere de Montgrony).
Sant Pere de Montgrony, centre of the point of contention in its slightly more modern form of both building and spelling, from Wikimedia Commons
In 2003, when I sent in the text for what would become my first paper, it contained a goodly chunk about Mogrony, because I was contending that everything Sant Joan’s documents said about this place was essentially made up.1 This included the surviving versions of the nunnery’s endowment in 887, which claim the place for the nunnery in a way that they clearly not only could not later enforce but a full century later did not even mention when going to court about it.2 I went for this as follows:
“The castle of Mogrony has often been said to have been a centre of a princely lordship in the eighth century whose line donated or sold the place to Count Guifré. This suggestion rests on almost no actual evidence, and much of what underpins it existed, if at all, in the Sant Joan archive.56 In 899, the year after the death of Count Guifré the supposed donor, in which Charles the Simple was invited to place his protection over all of Sant Joan’s property, it seems that the castle was not among that property, as all that was mentioned at Mogrony was ‘the cell of Mogrony with its limits and bounds’.57 Furthermore, when in 906 the assembled bishops of the province of Narbonne offered Emma similar guarantees, they too only mentioned ‘the cell which is called Mogrony with the parish subjected to it’.58 Thus, though Sant Joan was clearly a force in the area, there is no early evidence that it then held the castle.”
That, I think, all holds up, but the devil is as so often in the footnotes, and in particular n. 56:
“56 The suggestion originated with Francisco Codera y Zaidín (in his ‘Límites Probables de la Dominación Árabe en la Cordillera Pirenaica’, Boletín de la Real Academia de Historia 48 (Barcelona, 1906), pp. 289–311, repr. in idem, Estudios Críticos de Historia Árabe Española (Segunda Serie), Colección de Estudios Arabes 8 (Madrid, 1917), pp. 235–76, at pp. 307–9 in the original). It was based on observations of a lost manuscript by Jaime Villanueva (Viage Literario a las Iglesias de España tomo X: viage a Urgel (Valencia, 1821), p. 19), some very hypothetical onomastics and a report of another now lost Sant Joan manuscript, otherwise unknown even to Masdeu before the 1939 sack, and unseen by Codera. Nonetheless, the suggestion has been picked up and expanded by Abilio Barbero (in ‘La Integración Social de los “Hispani” del Pirineo Oriental al Reino Carolingio’, in P. Gallais and Y.-J. Riou (eds), Mélanges Offerts à René Crozet, Professeur à l’Université de Poitiers, Directeur du Centre d’Études Supérieures de Civilisation Médiévale, à l’Occasion de son Soixante-Dixième Anniversaire, par ses Amis, ses Collègues, ses Élèves et les Membres du C. É. S. C. M., vol. 1 (Poitiers, 1966), pp. 67–75, at p. 72, the article reprinted in A. Prieto (ed.), Conflictos y Estructuras Sociales en la Hispania Antiqua (Madrid, 1977), re-edited A García Bellido et al. as Conflictos y Estructuras Sociales en la España Antiqua (Madrid, 1986), pp. 151–65), Esteve Albert (Les Abadesses [de Sant Joan, Episodis d’Història 69, (Barcelona 1965)], pp. 10–17), A. Vadillo Pinilla (‘El Dominio de San Juan de las Abadesas: algunas consecuencias de su formación’, in M.A. Ladero Quesada (ed.), En la España Medieval IV: estudios dedicados al Professor D. Angel Ferrari Núñez Tomo II (Madrid, 1984), pp. 1019–45) and Albert Benet i Clarà (‘Castell de Mogrony’, in idem, A. Pladevall i Font and J. Vigué i Viñas, ‘Castells i Viles del Ripollès anteriors al 1300’, in Pladevall [(ed.)], Catalunya Romànica X[: el Ripollès (Barcelona 1987)], pp. 26–32, at p. 28). Given the weakness of the original suggestion (uncited after Barbero’s article), I do not think their respective conclusions about Mogrony and its rulers can easily stand.
“57 ‘Id est in praedicto pago ausonensi cella Mucronio cum finibus et adiacenciis suis . . .’: see n. 25 above.
“58 HGL V 32: ‘. . . cellam quoque [sic] dicitur Mucuronio cum subjuncta sibi parrochia…’.”
Despite my total lack of understanding of non-English capitalisation of titles at that point, I exult even now in the pedantry and bibliographical research that resulted in that footnote – no-one, but no-one, ever seems to cite Codera in such a way that the actual title on the spine of the book is mentioned, and the two reprints of Barbero’s piece confuse the record massively too, but the problem is with Codera and with Villaneuva. Y’see, what Codera said is that there was a document at Sant Joan that mentions a princeps Quintilianus hanging out at Mogrony in the year 736, and others have built on this a model of vestigial lords hanging on in their local areas long after the Muslim conquest. Nowadays, what you could not do in 2003, you can find Codera online and see this.3 I translate:
“Father Villanueva was the first who encountered and published a short notice of this person: in a codex of the monastery of Ripoll, in eighth-century script, he found the following chronological text: ‘From the Incarnation moreover of the Lord Jesus Christ to the present first year of Prince Quintilian, which is Era , are 736 years.’ While we had no more notices referring to Quintiliano than that which Father Villanueva published, it was necessary to doubt this person’s existence, suspecting a problem with the date; but with new data encountered, such as the notice of the death of Quintiliano in the year 778, at which date, according to a martyrology of Sant Joan de les Abadesses, he was ‘senioris de Mocrono‘, it seems that we must admit the existence of this person as ‘lord’, ‘king’ or ‘chief’ of a more or less extensive territory in the mountains of Montgrony, all the more since in a document of the year 804 figures another Quintiliano, lord of Montgrony, who could easily be the descendant or successor of Prince Quintilian (I).”
Here again, though, the footnote is crucial:
“(I) We owe these notices and bibliographical data referring to Quintiliano to our good friend Don Joaquín Miret y Sans, distinguished investigator of the history of Catalonia.”
This is, you will notice, as well as being a fine example of regula magistri, not really a citation, and although the sack of Sant Joan de les Abadesses in the Civil War might go some way to explaining why, of course, none of these Sant Joan materials mentioning Quintilà survive, many of their other charters survived and nothing there from 804 can have come from them in the first place. Miret never published this stuff, anyway, to the best of my knowledge, so there’s no way of knowing what he saw, but it’s always seemed significant to me that the history of Sant Joan by the pre-war archivist, Josep Masdeu, who died in the defence of his documents indeed, did not mention this stuff.4 That, even now, leaves me feeling that it’s much safer, when everything else we have from Sant Joan about Montgrony is faked or disputed, to mistrust anything from there about the place when it can’t be examined. The problem is with what Villanueva saw, which now looks likely to be authentic.
Sant Joan de les Abadesses, should-be location of the evidence missing from this post’s argumentation
Let us note first off that Villanueva and Miret don’t have to have been talking about the same thing. Villanueva had a dating clause or some kind of chronological summary that one might attach to a chronicle or similar; it doesn’t survive either but then that is much less surprising than at Sant Joan because the Ripoll archive was entirely burnt in 1835. What Miret had found seems definitely to have been notices of some lord of Montgrony, quite possibly in faked donations to Sant Joan that must therefore have postdated 987 when no such documents were available to them. Miret’s cites don’t call the guy ‘princeps’, though, and Villanueva’s does not associate him with Montgrony. We can’t now explain what Miret saw, but none other than Michel Zimmermann reports a very simple solution for what Villanueva had, proposed by Rudolf Beer in his attempt to reconstruct as much as possible of Ripoll’s lost library:5
“In the middle of a table of ancient eras and of the lives of the patriarchs, one finds [says Zimmermann as if the MS still exists, though I cannot see from what he says that it does] a curious note: Ab incarnatione autem Dni Jhu Xpi usque in presentem primum Quintiliani principis annum, qui est era LXX quarta sunt anni DCCXXXVI. Villaneuva restores DCC before the year of the Era and concluded from it that the page was written in 736: he was constrained to deduce from it that, twenty years after the Muslim invasion, there ruled a prince whose name recalled that of the ancient kings of Toledo, probably installed with refugees in the Pyrenean valleys where the Saracens had not yet ventured. R. Beer prefers to correct DCCXXXVI to DCXXXVI and turn Quintilianus into Toledan royalty.”
This seems to me to be very likely to be right. Ripoll certainly had some pretty old books, this being exactly the context of Zimmermann’s discussion, and that one of them could have been a theological and chronographical volume dating to 636 is far from impossible, though its loss is a bit of a blow if so.6 In that case, the Prince Quintilà was no mere prince as the English use would have it; he was the king, no less. What he was not, however, was anything to do with Montgrony, and that place’s supposed lord’s ephemeral trace in unlocatable manuscripts may some day force me to write another retraction. Still: I should have looked at Beer before I wrote, maybe even at Zimmermann if there were then any copies in the country, and maybe even thought of this elegant solution myself, rather than assuming all these people were just wrong. I’ve said elsewhere that Villanueva wins as many disputes with modern scholars as he loses when someone decides he was wrong, even now; I’m not sure that handing him this one doesn’t mean he wins them all…7
1. J. Jarrett, “Power over Past and Future: Abbess Emma and the nunnery of Sant Joan de les Abadesses” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 12 (Oxford 2005), pp. 229-258, here at pp. 235-241. I also reprised this view in my Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: pathways of power, Studies in History (New Series) (Woodbridge 2010), p. 47 n. 107 and “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi: Organisation of Society in the pre-Catalan ‘Terra de Ningú'” in †A. Deyermond & M. Ryan (edd.), Early Medieval Spain: a symposium, Papers of the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar 63 (London 2010), pp. 97-127 at pp. 109-110, perhaps the one I now regret the most: “… Quintilà has become an accepted feature of an excitable kind of historical writing (Vadillo 1984; Benet, Pladevall & Vigué 1987: 28), but there is really no good reason to suppose he ever existed.” (p. 110).
2. Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i Manresa, Memòries de la Secció històrico-arqueològico LIII (Barcelona 1999), 3 vols, doc. 4, 8 & II, the last being the fake version including the castle of Mogrony; cf. ibid. doc. no. 1526 where the area is contested with the nunnery bringing no documents in evidence.
3. F. Codera y Zaidín, “Límites probables de la dominación árabe en la cordillera pirenaica” in Boletín de la Real Academia de Historia Vol. 48 (Barcelona 1906), pp. 289–311, repr. in idem, Estudios críticos de historia árabe española (segunda serie), Colección de Estudios Arabes 8 (Madrid 1917), pp. 235–76 at p. 308 & n. of the original:
“El P. Villanueva fué el primero que encontró y publicó una corta noticia de este personaje: en un códice del Monasterio de Ripoll, de letra del siglo VIII, encontró el texto cronológico siguiente: «Ab incarnatione autem Dñi Jhu Xri usque in presentem primum Quintiliani principis annum, qui est Era LXX quarta (falta la nota DCC) sunt anni DCC.XXX.VI.» Mientras no hubo más noticias referentes á Quintiliano que la publicada por el P. Villanueva, cabía poner en duda la existencia de este personaje, sospechando que pudiera haber equivocación en la fecha; pero encontrados nuevos datos, cual es la noticia de la muerte de Quintiliano en el año 778, en la cual fecha, según un martirologio de San Juan de las Abadesas, era senioris de Mocrono, parece que hay que admitir la existencia de este personaje como señor ó rey ó jefe de un territorio más ó menos extenso en los montes de Montgrony, tanto más, cuanto en documento del año 804 figura otro Quintiliano, señor de Montgrony, que bien pudo ser hijo ó nieto y sucesor del Príncipe Quintiliano (I).
(I) Debemos estas noticias y nota de la bibliografía referente ´ Quintiliano á nuestro buen amigo D. Joaquín Miret y Sans, distinguido investigador de la historia medioeval de Cataluña.”
4. Josep Masdeu, Sant Joan de les Abadesses: resum historic (Vic 1926); the Sant Joan documents not published in Federico Udina Martorell, El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Textos XVIII (Madrid 1951) are now published as Joan Ferrer i Godoy (ed.), Diplomatari del monestir de Sant Joan de les Abadesses (995-1273), Diplomataris 43 (Barcelona 2009). The earliest survivor is from 885 and that’s one of the dodgy ones, Ordeig, Catalunya Carolíngia IV, doc. no. 4 (= Udina doc. no. 3).
5. M. Zimmermann, Écrire et lire en Catalogne (IXe-XIIIe siècles, Bibliothèque de la Casa de Velázquez 23 (Madrid 2003), 2 vols, II pp. 632-633 n. 32:
“Au milieu d’une table des ères antiques et des vies des patriarches, on trouve une curieuse note : Ab incarnatione autem Dni Jhu Xpi usque in presentem primum Quintiliani principis annum, qui est era LXX quarta sunt anni DCCXXXVI. Villanueva rajoute DCC devant l’année de l’ère et en conclut que la page fut écrite en 736 ; il est contraint d’en déduire que, vingt ans après l’invasion musulmane, régnait un prince dont le nom rapelle celui des anciens rois de Tolède, probablement installé avec des réfugiés pyrénéennes où les Sarrasins ne s’étaient pas encore aventuré. R. Beer préfère corriger DCCXXXVI en DCXXXVI et rendre Quintilianus à la royauté tolédane.”
The reference is to Rudolf Beer, Die Handschriften des Klosters Santa Maria de Ripoll, Sitzungsberichte der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (philosophisch-historische Klasse) 152, 153, 155 & 158 (München 1907-1908), transl. P. Barnils as Los manuscrits del Monastir de Santa María de Ripoll (Barcelona 1910), cited by Zimmermann from the Spanish with no page reference.
6. Zimmermann, Écrire et lire, II pp. 620-674 on the survival of Visigothic culture in Catalonia: he opts for a very limited spectrum of such material essentially focussed on Isidore and the Spanish versions of the works of Gregory the Great leavened with a little canonical material.
7. Jarrett, “Centurions, Alcalas and Christiani perversi“, pp. 118-119.