Tag Archives: Sant Pere de Casserres

Expressions of Hispanist medevalist community, in Exeter

We seem now to be firmly into June 2013 in my never-decreasing backlog of reporting, and next up in it was a day out to Exeter, somewhere I hadn’t been for a long time but which called me now for the same reason as it often has before, a gathering of the intermittent organisation known as Historians of Medieval Iberia. The main reason this had occurred was the presence in the UK of a man much cited here, Professor Jeffrey Bowman, visiting Exeter, because of which Professor Simon Barton thereof had wanted to organise a day symposium, and so being called we variously went. Due to the uselessnesses of First Great Western trains, I was only just in time for the first paper, but in time I was, and the running order was as follows, in pairs of papers.

  • Jeffrey A. Bowman, “Lordship and Gender in Medieval Catalonia”
  • Jonathan Jarrett, “Per multa curricula ex parte destructa: membership of a Church community in Catalonia c. 1000″
  • Robert Portass, “Doing Business: was there a land market in tenth-century Galicia?”
  • Teresa Tinsley, “Hernando de Baeza and the End of Multicultural Iberia”
  • Graham Barrett, “Beyond the Mozarabic Migration: frontier society in early medieval Spain”
  • Simon Barton, “The Image of Aristocracy in Christian Iberia, c. 1000-c. 1300: towards a new history”

Professor Bowman’s paper is now out as an article, but some brief account may be of interest anyway.1 The way it worked was to do what I love doing, standing Catalonia up as a better-evidenced counter-example to a broader theory, in this case that of Georges Duby that female lordship as early as the tenth century was an incredibly rare occurrence seen as a pale imitation of masculinity. To do this involved setting up some kind of definition of lordship, which Professor Barton suggested should at least include fighting, doing justice, controlling castles, diplomacy and ‘special projects’. Women with military rôles are not unknown in the Catalan records (wait for a future post here, as I think the phenomenon goes down lower than Professor Bowman had time to look), countesses in the eleventh century at least certainly presided over courts alone, a good few held castles in fief (or by other arrangements2), we have various Arabic testimonies to the countesses of Barcelona being conduits for diplomatic communication and under ‘special projects’, if we mean things like land clearance, Abbess Emma is an obvious example.3

Seal of Countess Ermessenda of Barcelona, Girona and Osona in the Museu Diocesà de Girona

Seal of Countess Ermessenda of Barcelona, Girona and Osona, a woman who would not give up government till there was no choice, in the Museu Diocesà de Girona

So that case looks pretty much made: in this area, for that definition of lordship (and it does occur to me now that it is a very tenth-century-and-later one because of the inclusion of castles, though one could still say the same of Dhuoda I guess), it’s hard to see anything odd about female participation in lordship here and we should stop thinking it odd. And I suppose I’d agree with that, and not necessarily just here (another future post) but there does still seem to me to be a difference, in the Languedoc at least where the ninth century gives enough to compare with, between the rôles in and frequency with which women appear in charters, especially as far as their titles go, to suggest that even if this situation wasn’t odd, it might still be new. It did, however, last: Professor Bowman was keen to stress in questions that those who have looked for a shift towards a lineage system here have found it hard to locate over any timeframe much shorter than a century.4

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

As for me, little enough needs saying there: in the throes of another project entirely and with no time to come up with two papers so close to each other from it, I’d offered the latest version of the now-legendary Sant Pere de Casserres paper; I ran through where the place is, what the sources are, why there’s a problem with the narrative of its foundation and what the actual story might be that would fit it; Graham Barrett suggested some modifications to my Latin and then the questions were all for Professor Bowman, which is fine as he was building a much bigger thesis. One of my problems with the Casserres paper is working out what larger point it makes; the other, of course, is non-responsive archives, but that’s a bigger problem than just here…

The monastery of San Salvador de Celanova in its modern form

The monastery of San Salvador de Celanova in its modern form

The second session put two rather less-connected papers together. Rob was out to demonstrate peasant access to the land market in his corner of early medieval Spain, which has often been overlooked because the dominant Spanish historiography interested in peasants has been more interested in how they resisted power than how they cooperated with it.5 This Marxist perspective needs rethinking, argued Rob, not least because many of these peasants did not live in the Marxist ‘peasant mode’, but operated in both vertical and horizontal networks of power and assistance. Even when those networks led to the monastery of Celanova, whence most of Rob’s material, it was not always to peasant disadvantage to cut a deal with the monks, whose rents were limited, and the land that was then sold to them had often come from other peasants previously. The problem here is of course the definition of peasant, but I think I would agree that whatever we call the free smallholders here they could happily do business with each other, and do so with an eye to their own benefit.6

The Alhambra palace in Granada

The Alhambra palace in Granada, now very keen to be widely known as a World Heritage site

Miss Tinsley’s paper came from a completely different place, sixteenth-century Granada, where one Hernando de Baeza, a Christian interpreter for the last lords of the Muslim state there, was writing a history of recent events. This man is almost exactly the author a multicultural twenty-first century reading of events at the end of Muslim rule in Spain wants: his sources included Africans and women, he spoke all the necessary languages and about the only minority group he doesn’t mention is Jews, but the work was only published in the nineteenth century, from two incomplete manuscripts and is consequently confused and disordered in structure, which with its anecdotal style has left it out of most serious historiography. There is now, however, a recently-discovered complete manuscript to work from (which a Mexican archbishop had made in 1550 to help with converting native Americans!) and this offers more details with which the author’s life can be filled out. He seems to have been an ambassador to the papal court for Queen Isabella, briefly papal chamberlain and a protector of Jews, but whom King Ferdinand however booted out of his offices and whose parents had been burnt by the Inquisition! He seems to have written his history in Rome, a disenchanted man. He may therefore have been attempting something like a dream past of late medieval inclusion, before intolerance and persecution wrecked everything for him and his family. Again, just what we might wish but correspondingly slippery to deal with! This all sounded tremendous fun and I hope Miss Tinsley can make the man’s name better-known, although it transpired in questions that she is dealing with a recalcitrant editor of the manuscript who is being very careful what details he lets her have. That sounded dreadfully familiar, alas…

A Leonese royal charter of 860

A Leonese royal charter of 860

Then came Graham Barrett, who was speaking on those curious populations in the frontier Christian polities of tenth-century Spain whose personal names were Arabic, about whom I’ve spoken myself once or twice, including at an earlier Historians of Medieval Iberia gathering, pre-blog. As that suggests, I had given up trying to get my work on this published before Graham had arrived in England to start his Ph. D., but also in the room was Professor Richard Hitchcock, who was fairly sparing about the absence of his more successful work from the presentation…7 I found it hard to rate this paper neutrally, anyway, it was much too close to my own fruitless sidetracks of yore. Graham’s take on things is always original, however, and he knows the documents far better than me, so there were new thoughts available. In particular he raised the possibility that lots of the relevant documents might be forged, although why one would then put Arabic names into them (and the same names over quite an area, I’d note) is hard to explain.8 He also correctly pointed out that migration of southerners was not necessary to explain these names and that they themselves were not evidence of ethnicity or even cultural affiliation,9 but that they might usefully be mapped against other markers of that, if any could be agreed. There’s definitely a project here, but I suspect that in fact neither of us will be the ones who do it as we both have easier things to attempt…

Brass plate bearing the arms of the Lara family

Brass plate bearing the arms of the Lara family

Lastly our host, Simon Barton, asked whether the approximate synthesis to which historians of North-Western Europe seem now to have come about the medieval aristocracy applies in the Midi.10 Most study of the Spanish nobility has been of families, rather than of a class, but Simon argued that a class identity can be seen in formation after about 1050, with a hierarchy of aristocratic rank, heraldry and literature all developing to emphasise it. He suggested that these markers were developing not so much as spontaneous expression of ideals but as tests that helped mark people off from their imitators, which exposes the ideals in play to us in negative. This was a good wrap-up to a good day that refreshed a realisation for us that even if it’s thinly spread and uncertain of duration, nonetheless there is still a medieval Iberian scholarship in the UK and we’re all active parts of it; it’s never a bad time to be reassured that one has colleagues!


1. Jeffrey A. Bowman “Countesses in court: elite women, creativity,
and power in northern Iberia, 900–1200” in Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies Vol. 6 (London 2014), pp. 54-70, DOI: 10.1080/17546559.2014.883084.

2. J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 83-85.

3. Idem, “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, DOI: 10.1111/j.0963-9462.2004.00128.x.

4. Cited here was Theodore Evergates, “Nobles and Knights in Twelfth-Century France” in Thomas N. Bisson (ed.), Cultures of Power: lordship, status and porcess in twelfth-century Europe (Philadelphia 1995), pp. 11-35; Georges Duby, “Women and Power”, ibid. pp. 69-85, provided the basic counter-type here.

5. Classically, Reyna Pastor de Tognery, Movimientos, resistencias y luchas campesinas en Castilla y León: siglos X-XIV (Madrid 1980).

6. R. Portass, “Rethinking the «Small Worlds» of Tenth-Century Galicia” in Studia Historica: Historia medieval Vol. 31 (Salamanaca 2013), pp. 83-103, online here, contains some aspects of this paper.

7. R. Hitchcock, Mozarabs in Medieval and Early Modern Spain (Aldershot 2008), building on his “Arabic proper names in the Becerro de Celanova” in David Hook & Barrie Taylor (edd.), Cultures in Contact in Medieval Spain: Historical and Literary Essays Presented to L. P. Harvey, Kings College London Medieval Studies 3 (London 1990), pp. 111-126; references to my presentations can be found on my webpages here.

8. One example would be the apparent court notable Abolfetha ibn December (good name huh?), who certainly does appear in the forged Santos García Larragueta (ed.), Colección de Documentos de la Catedral de Oviedo (Oviedo 1962), doc. no. 22, but also in the less dubious José María Mínguez Fernández (ed.), Colección Diplomática del Monasterio de Sahagún (siglos IX y X) (León 1976), doc. no. 19 and Emilio Sáez (ed.), Colección Documental del Archivo de la Catedral de León (775-1230): I (775-952) (León 1987), doc. no. 68; at that rate, it begins to look as if the reason for putting his name in a forgery would be because it was known to belong to the period being aimed at, which is to say that at least up to three separate forgers thought he was a real historical person.

9. As also argued in Victoria Aguilar, “Onomástica de origen árabe en el reino de León (siglo X)” in al-Qantara: revista de estudios árabes 15 (1994), pp. 351-363 esp. at p. 363 and Fernando Rodríguez Mediano, “Acerca de la población arabizada del reino de León (siglos X y XI), ibid. pp. 465-72 with English abstract p. 472; they collect the Leonese evidence in Aguilar & Rodríguez, “Antroponimia de origen árabe en la documentación leonesa (siglos VIII-XIII)” in El Reino de León en la Alta Edad Media Vol. 6 (León 1994), pp. 497-633.

10. E. g. (cited) David Crouch, The Image of Aristocracy in Britain 1000-1300 (London 1992) or Constance Brittain Bouchard, “Those of my blood”: Constructing noble families in medieval Francia (Philadelphia 2001), to which cf. S. Barton, The aristocracy in twelfth century León and Castile (Cambridge 1997).

Seminar CLXX: Jarrett in Australia

At the end of March 2013 I did something I hadn’t done for many years, which was take a short holiday. You know, an actual vacation, in which I didn’t take any reading (except for the journey, obviously) or plan to go to any medieval sites. I ensured this latter by going to Australia, although there were also other reasons for this and in general one could mark this as part of the turn-around of my life that seems, in retrospect, to have started about this time. I had a lovely time, really liked the country and hope to go again, but this is not a matter for academic blogging, you will immediately see. But I told the estimable Kathleen Neal I was coming to her country, figuring I should try and visit if possible, and her response was: “Great! Do you want to give a seminar?” I should have known there’d be no escape…

Poster for my appearance at the Monash/Melbourne seminar

A sign of the kind of effort Kath makes for her friends! Poster for my appearance at her seminar

But seriously folks! Obviously I can refuse Kath nothing, long-time commentator here and networker everywhere as she has been for me as for many others, but also it was rather flattering to be asked. I wanted to try out the latest version of my paper about Sant Pere de Casserres, so I readied it under the title “On Stone and Skin: inscription of a community at a Catalan monastery around 1000”, as you see above, and was pleased with it. I assumed no-one would turn up, mind, given that it was out of term and Kath had arranged me as an attraction for two separate universities, as it says there “a special seminar jointly hosted by the Monash Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies and The University of Melbourne“. Actually I got about forty-five people coming to hear and see and I’ve rarely been made to feel more welcome. The fact that being on the Internet gives me some strange kind of celebrity value outside Europe will always surprise me—it doesn’t here, I tell you—but it was great fun, I owe all those who came great thanks for being such great hosts, in some cases (Steve) at the cost even of personal injury, and some day I will in fact get the paper finished and into print, I promise…

Mine hosts, at the Old Arts Building, Melbourne University

Mine hosts, at the Old Arts Building, Melbourne University

“No. There is… another.”

[Written offline on the way to an editorial meeting in Birmingham, 19/12/11]

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

Sorry again for delay: for various reasons it has been what I believe is known as “exploding head month” in these (and other) parts. Though by and large as described the Wednesday of Leeds was a grand success, there was some complication arising from the first session, as I mentioned. It will also resolve a few hanging hints if I say that this related to my work on the monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres, and its preceding church, which one way and another took up most of my research time in the first part of the year. One of the papers at the Wednesday session mentioned the place, and so I was able to talk to the speaker about my work on it. As this is now shaping up (and as it was then indeed) I’m quite pleased with it: in its small way it calls into question categories that are often over-schematic for the early Middle Ages, like `monastery’, `forgery’, `memorial’, `history’, `original’ and so on, and shows how secular power can use spiritual affiliations to get cooperation from a local population. Furthermore, it’s the most interdisciplinary thing I’ve ever done as serious research: it uses burial archaeology and epigraphy as well as diplomatic, and also blends the influence of my two most influential teachers in as much as it has me talking about how people of that era could control and use the past, and how power sought roots in localities, and so on.1 In its small way it’s a measure of how I’ve progressed as a scholar and I look forward to getting the thing out there.

Altar slab from the pre-monastic church of Sant Pere de Casserres

But, as you know, this has not been an easy task, not least because I’ve never actually had this as a primary project, and so it’s got done in rapid bursts which have not always been complete. Thus I started by just looking at the original charters in 2009, mainly because I wanted to use some unpublished material at last, and that gave me the basic diplomatic data, but then I found out that there were a shedload more from the place only preserved as abstracts.2 So I found out where they were and started planning to go there to read them too, and thankfully I hadn’t actually got to the point of booking tickets when I found out they’d been freshly published with a bunch more and indeed the whole lot put online for free.3 And then I hadn’t been able to get at the stone with the inscriptions on, so I made a trip out there to see it again and they still wouldn’t let me look at it except as a normal visitor, and I wanted to visit the site and it was only by the rarest of good luck that I was actually able to, though that at least was no-one’s fault but mine. And all of this you’ve seen here.4 So when I got to July I’d already had to add in two extra caches of charters, which maybe I ought to have known about. But, it turns out, “there is another”.

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) núm 20

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) núm 20 (which I did see already)

More complicatedly, it’s apparently a private archive. The person who told me this is editing it, so it’s not completely locked away apparently, but nonetheless awkward. And, really, I probably only need an inventory listing; I think it extremely likely that there are no documents in this archive that affect my argument, but since part of that argument hinges on a couple of documents not existing (I should know better than to argue from silence, I know) it is kind of crucial that I know that that’s true. Otherwise the journal I want to give it to will inevitably send it to the guy in question for review and he’ll shoot it down.5 Now I have been in e-mail contact with him, but shall we simply say I did not learn anything more this way than what he told me at Leeds, which did not include for example such details as the name of the archive or its geographical location. I guess he doesn’t want anyone potentially publishing any of it before he can, though I wonder if its custodians know he feels that way.

Interior of the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo, home of the Archivo Ducal de la Casa de Medinaceli

Interior of the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo, home of the Archivo Ducal de la Casa de Medinaceli

Well, you know, I’m a researcher and I know this field a little bit. I gave up hoping for a useful e-mail and set to the question, and found out what the archive is and where it is, which was not very hard to do once I got going. It is the Archivo Ducal de Cardona, which is a non-public part of the much larger and usually more accessible Archivo Ducal de la Casa de Medinaceli, until recently in Seville but now in Toledo.6 And okay, Seville would have been a nice trip but I’m pretty sure I can manage with an excuse to visit Toledo and spend a day with some documents, if they’ll let me and if I even need to. Indeed if there’s genuinely nothing to interest me then it may take less than a day. (So I’d better allow two and have a back-up tourism plan.) There are far worse fates than having to take a long weekend in Spain in springtime. But it does annoy me that I may well be spending, what, three or four hundred pounds to find out I didn’t need to go, simply because someone won’t answer a polite question. Hopefully the Archivo themselves will be nicer about it.


1. Those influences here being most obviously Rosamond McKitterick and Matthew Innes, “The Writing of History” in McKitterick (ed.), Carolingian Culture: emulation and innovation (Cambridge 1994), pp. 193-217; Innes, State and Society in the Early Middle Ages: the middle Rhine valley 400-1000, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 4th Series 47 (Cambridge 2000); McKitterick, History and Memory in the Carolingian World (Cambridge 2004).

2. I found this out from Ramon Ordeig i Mata (ed.), Catalunya Carolíngia IV: els comtats d’Osona i de Manresa, Memòries de la Secció Històrica-Arqueològica LIII (Barcelona 1999), but it was Teresa Soldevila, Sant Pere de Casserres: història i llegenda (Vic 1998) that made me realise how much there was and how much use might be got out of that material. It is essentially where Soldevila’s book came from.

3. In Irene Llop Jordana (ed.), Diplomatari de Sant Pere de Casserres, Diplomataris 44 (Barcelona 2009).

4. The slab is best written up in A. Pladevall i Font, J.-A. Adell i Gisbert, X. Barral i Altet, E. Bracons i Clapes, M. Gustà i Martorell, M. Hoja Cejudo, M. Gracià Salvà i Picó, A. Roig i Delofeu, E. Carbonell i Esteller, J. Vigué i Viñas & R. Rosell i Gibert, “Sant Pere de Casserres” in Vigué (ed.), Catalunya Romànica II: Osona I, ed. Vigué (Barcelona 1984), pp. 354-391 at p. 384, but see alternatively Santiago Alavedra, Les ares d’altar de Sant Pere de Terrassa-Ègara (Terrassa 1979), II pp. 71-74.

5. Because peer review is about keeping people off your patch amirite?

6. Found out by consulting Francesc Rodríguez Bernal, Els vescomtes de Cardona a través dels seus testaments (Lleida 2010); Antonio Sánchez González, Documentación de la Casa de Medinaceli: el Archivo General de los Duques de Segorbe y Cardona (Madrid 1990) and then their website here.

In Marca Hispanica XVI: the actual research target

There was a conference, as you may have heard, and since then things have been unusually sociable in my life, so I’ve had less time to write blog for all the right reasons. That said, I am now really quite far behind with posts, so I’m going to try and squeeze things out faster for the summer. The first target obviously has to be my April trip to Catalonia, which we left on the way back from l’Esquerda with me demanding you all sing the praises of Imma Ollich. This must now continue, as you may remember that I’d met la Professora Ollich solely because of not having been able to get where I actually wanted to go. I explained this to her in the course of the next day’s conversation, and before I’d got much further it had been settled, to my grateful surprise, that she would take me, or rather get her research assistant, a quite wonderfully practical student of Iberian Celts, to drive us all out there. And so we did, early start so that as we approached the target area there was still mist over the Panta de Sau…

Mist over the Panta de Sau, Osona

It looks incredible, but it’s only looked that way for a short time, which was a continual problem to me with this trip. What you have there is a reservoir that was created in 1962 by damming further down the river, and there are two or three villages that Sant Pere de Casserres owned under that water, in drowned ruins. Mind you, the need for the reservoir is demonstrated by the fact that only a few years ago things got so dry in the area that one could go on foot into one of the drowned churches… (A fantastically graphic slideshow here.) It’s just that this looks timeless but actually the landscape my subject people had to work in was rather different. Anyway. We had two distinct aims in this trip, one for me to see the monastery, and one for Professora Ollich to look at some ruins that await proper study on the way, and this means lots of pictures—there are ninety in the directory from this trip, most of which I’ll spare you—so I will put the rest of the post behind a cut, with this taster to give you an idea of the kind of thing that lies beneath…

Sant Pere de Casserres viewed from the visitor centre

Sant Pere de Casserres viewed from the visitor centre

Continue reading

Take note(s) II: re-examining Sant Pere de Casserres

I feel that I ought to say something about the unlikely PR mess that the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council has got itself into, but I’m not going to, for three reasons, in fact four. Firstly, it is very unclear just what the heck is going on there; secondly, others have already writ what can be writ better, not least Gesta and that famously Edgy Historian, Guy Halsall, and you can follow the links there (which, as here, have usually come from JPG, who clearly has a future as a news analyst at somewhere like Reuters if the Vikings ever run out). Thirdly, and most cowardly of me, the current director of the AHRC is deeply implicated in whatever it is, and is also about to become my boss in some distant sense, so I don’t feel that analysing her current actions and research on the open web will do me any long-term favours. And the fourth reason, the afterthought, is the one I should always remember, the Bede Principle: “it may not yet be known what should be written of these things, until they have reached their end”.1 So instead I’m going to write about my current research, even though the same could be said of that, and the ways in which I do it.

Monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres, Osona, Catalunya

Monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres, Osona, Catalunya

Those of you who know my work will realise it involves quite a lot of charters. For my thesis I read, I think, about 3,500 charters in printed editions, though rather fewer in the original. Aware of that latter weakness, when I made the first trip to Catalonia recorded on this blog, I sought out the parchments of Sant Pere de Casserres, which is interesting for what I do because it is a monastery that was founded by a vicecomital family where a castle that had belonged to the counts had stood, and which then became a major lord in its own right, in other words it is textbook privatisation of fiscal power but happening to an area with a church and its community in it making records, and no-one has done much on this place, which moreover still stands.2 There were other exciting aspects, such as the fact that it seems to have been closely entwined with a mother church down the river, also in a defunct castle, which never ceased to have some kind of rights there as far as I can tell, and that the clerics of these two places hardly turn up anywhere else; and the fact that when it was dug early in the century, a palæochristian altar slab covered in graffiti names came up, which has been all but ignored by the subsequent literature on the monastery, which I cannot understand.3 So I wanted to see if the names on the slab were in the charters, and those of you who heard me speak at Leeds in 2009 will know that I think some of them are.4

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) 3

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) 3: the problem charter!

That was already nearly two years ago, though, and you could be forgiven for wondering why this isn’t already submitted somewhere. Well, firstly I found out that the original surviving documents I’d looked at and the others, only preserved as copies, that I’d read in print, were not the only ones, that there were in fact about a hundred more of those copies for my period alone.5 That, as you can imagine, made a potential difference because extra evidence unhinges careless generalisations. So I found out where they were, which was in a big book in Vic, and plotted getting out there only to find, shortly afterwards, that the unstoppable force of the Fundació Noguera’s Diplomataris series had rolled over Casserres and that all its documents were now in print, and yea, even free to the web.6 So my unique selling point and first work with unpublished documents was lost, but on the other hand I didn’t have to spend a week in an archive in Vic checking my findings. So I downloaded it, found with a very quick check that the editor had not spotted the things I’d spotted about one of the documents, decided I still had a paper and set to reading it, and that’s where this post really starts. (Yes, sorry, it’s me.)

Sample of my longhand charter notes

Obviously a functional method that a graphologist would regard with equanimity

As we know I take lots of notes. When reading a few thousand charters that makes for a lot of note-taking, and all this information has to be handled. My technique for this has developed in all the wrong ways, which is to say I did not sit down and think it out and then do it the right way from the get-go, I worked with the very limited technology I had and did stupid things with it which I then bodged later. But it starts with notes, longhand abstracts of each charter mentioning things that are interesting (story kernels, as Lovecraft would have called them, or just stuff like a mill in an odd place, payment in gold not silver, bounds that don’t meet, and so on) and who’s involved, enough to come back to should I need to but not so much that I might just as well photocopy the thing or type it out. In these, some things are one-off marvels, and you get to hear about those quite often, but the real work comes in seeing people, places or things that crop up again and again, enough that we can say something safe about who they are and what they were interested in (“land”). So the notes have asterisks, for all these things that are interesting, in the margins, and lines joining recurrences up or arrows and signes de renvoi to other occurrences, and so on. (You see what this looks like above.) To actually do very much with this, however, I then have to type stuff up, firstly so that it’s electronically searchable and secondly to join up different sets of notes. If I had done this right from the start, I would I think have used a Wiki-structure database, page per charter, page per person, page per place and for each of them an entry recording where they turn up or what other entries link here. Some day when I have enough money for a research assistant this will happen. (Meanwhile, Joan Vilaseca is doing it the hard way and will within a few short years actually have the database I ought to have started with! I am continually amazed by this man’s work.) But as I started, I had no database software at all, so I typed each edition’s notes up as Word files and stuck them full of embedded links, the idea being that that way when data changed in one file it would be cascaded to all the others. Yeah, not quite. I mean, it works to a certain extent, but there is so much messy overlap, documents in several different editions, that it’s never perfect and even where it is, finding a new occurrence of a person or place tends to mean that they need updating in every file where they occur. These files are several megabytes each, they take a long time to update, they eat memory, it’s not good. But it’s what I have. So here’s a chunk, you can see what sort of information I’m recording.

53 = Cat. Car. IV 1868: is a regestum of a donation of land in Savassona with some truly impressively garbled names, a neighbour Gundolfínia and a scribe Aliborn chief among them; the land is being given by a woman to her daughter, interestingly.
54, 55, 60, 73, 76, 78, 90 & 116, perhaps among others, all feature the priest Miró, one of Casserres’s hardest-working canons and visible at the church both before and after its conversion to monastery. He is never a monk, in 73 has heirs though they aren’t identified, and buys property in own right in 78; yet his connection with this supposedly Benedictine monastery is inescapable.
54 & 78 both feature land at la Guàrdiola de Roda.
54, 78 & 140 all feature land on the strata francisca, or so the regesta that preserve this information seem to mean.
54 is a sale to the priest Miró of what seems to be most of a settlement, albeit only two pieces of land and a vine, given its bounds on others rather than people’s properties; nicely positioned on the strata francisca and its own road (presumably to Roda?); sold for only 16 solidi.
55, 56, 62, 64, 67, 80 & 114 all feature a Casserres and Roda landholder by the name of Vives, almost always as neighbour (he witnesses 56, where he is also a neighbour—but then we have so few witnesses recorded—and donates in 114).

Now this is not rigorous, because its principal data capture tool is my brain, which makes mistakes. I knew this, so I was quite keen on adding databases to the mix as soon as I could. A piece of contract work for Professor Wendy Davies, all hail, left me with a good design that I customised for my own use.7 But this was within the last two years of my thesis, both part-time, and I didn’t have time or the will to type up all the charters I’d used for the project into it. Instead, I used it solely for the final chapter, the chunk on Count-Marquis Borrell II of whom you must by now all be bored (although I’m not, be warned). I typed up all documents in which he was mentioned, as atomised names and dates and so on in their appropriate fields. Running various complicated queries over that sample produced names I hadn’t noticed were recurring, whom I then went and looked for in my notes, moving thus from comitally-connected documents to regionally-connected ones, and for how that works out, you can see the book.8 And when new projects came up, I added more sections, and those you can also find lurking behind other parts of the book.9

Screenshot from my Catalan comital charters database

Screenshot from my Catalan comital charters database

When I got to the Casserres charters, though, it was plain I wouldn’t have time to do it the old way, and it was also questionable whether I needed to, since I had the PDF on the computer, already searchable. It was also clear that they would have to be databased, all of them, which raised the question of what possible function longhand notes would have in the project. I was very reluctant not to make any, because atomising a document for data entry is not the same as actually reading it and I was afraid I would miss the stories that make these documents so interesting. But the Casserres ones are mainly preserved as abstracts anyway, so few stories, just bewildering obscurity, and in any case as I say there was no time. So I just data-entered the lot, all 145, three a day and more when there was time. (I’m told by an ex-girlfriend that normal people don’t get up and do academic data entry before they’ve breakfasted or dressed. But for what value of normal?10) But that’s only half the work, because you still have to get the data out and usable. That would be another piece of writing, which I think I’ve just promised to do in Italy in September so I’ll omit it here but suffice it to say, I took each charter entry in turn, I ran queries for recurrences on every name in there, and where there were some I typed them up in one of my old-fashioned files, in fact that very one I excerpt above. And then I printed it, so that there were some notes of a kind after all, which somehow makes me feel better. All the same: if this is a sane way to work, I’m a Dutchman, he says resorting to eighteenth-century ethnic slurs, sorry. (Large parts of my ancestry are fairly uncertain, in fact, but there’s no reason to suppose etc.) The fact that it just about seems to produce the results is perhaps the only compensation, and that other than recording the data better I can’t think of a quicker or more rigorous one. What do you think, if any of you made it this far?

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

Sant Pere de Casserres, from above

(Of course all this is not, of itself, a new problem: check the first sentence of this article and see if it doesn’t make you cringe with complicity. Then read on. Hat tip to Ralph Luker at Cliopatria.)


1. Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum, V.23: “quid de his scribi debeat, quemve habiturum sint finem singula, necdum sciri valeat”, my translation.

2. Okay, there is in fact a reasonable amount of work on the place, which could probably all be found referenced in three of the four latest bits, those being: A. Pladevall i Font, J.-A. Adell i Gisbert, X. Barral i Altet, E. Bracons i Clapes, M. Gustà i Martorell, M. Hoja Cejudo, M. Gracià Salvà i Picó, A. Roig i Delofeu, E. Carbonell i Esteller, J. Vigué i Viñas & R. Rosell i Gibert, “Sant Pere de Casserres” in Vigué (ed.), Catalunya Romànica II: Osona I, ed. Vigué (Barcelona 1984), pp. 354-391, updated by J. Pujades i Cavalleria, C. Subiranas i Fàbregas, Pladevall & Adell, “Sant Pere de Casserres” in Pladevall (ed.), Catalunya Romànica XXVII: visió de sintesí, restauracions i noves troballes, bibliografía, índexs generals, ed. M. L. Ramos Martínez (Barcelona 1998), pp. 201-206, and the third Teresa Soldevila i García, Sant Pere de Casserres: història i llegenda, l’entorn 35 (Vic 1998), which is much the closest to my kind of social analysis. There is also, however, Pladevall, Sant Pere de Casserres o la Presència de Cluny en Catalunya (Barcelona 2004), which I am hoping to get hold of at last in the next few days; it’s not widely held even in Spain. With a bit of luck I still have a paper.

3. It’s been extensively written about by itself, in for example P. de Palol, “Las mesas de altar paleocristianas en la Tarraconense” in Ampurias Vol. 19-20 (Empúries 1957-1958), pp. 81-102 at p. 87; S. Alavedra, Les ares d’altar de Sant Pere de Terrassa-Ègara (Terrassa 1979), II pp. 71-74; and in Pladevall et al., “Sant Pere de Casserres”, p. 384. I owe the first two references to Mark Handley, who’s been hugely helpful helping me track this thing through the literature on stones. It is however not mentioned at all in Soldevila’s book and the Pladevall et al. article discusses it only separately.

4. J. Jarrett, “How To Take Over An Archive: Sant Pere de Casserres and its Community”, paper presented in session ‘Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Diplomatic, I: Pushing the Boundaries‘, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 14th July 2009.

5. Somewhat amazingly, the relevant book, a 1736 manuscript copy of a list of renders and properties made for a fifteenth-century prior of the house, was found in a Tarragona bookseller’s in the 1980s; it is now in the Arxiu Comarcal d’Osona, and Soldevila was thus able to base her book firmly upon it.

6. Irene Llop (ed.), Col·lecció Diplomàtica de Sant Pere de Casserres, Diplomataris 44 (Barcelona 2009).

7. There was an expert whose identity I never discovered in that project somewhere, but since the variant design I came up with delivered the same results quicker for a megabyte less coded back-end, I’m calling it mine.

8. J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia, 880-1010: pathways of power (London 2010), pp. 140-166.

9. That on Malla and that on l’Esquerda were new work, for which I added all the relevant charters I could find to the database to produce ibid., pp. 73-99.

10. I should perhaps make clear, though, that we were long broken up when she saw me doing this.

Carl and Casserres

Sorry for the gap between posts here. Things have been very busy but it’s the kind of busy that produces results, which will be duly reported here when Bede’s famous dictum is duly fulfilled. Also, I will finish blogging Kalamazoo in the coming seven days I hope. Meanwhile, though, here’s a short thing I originally wanted to post before I went, which I will ironically precede with an almost-irrelevant long thing! Here:

You see, it is the nature of the Internet that it tends towards a huge ever-growing pulsating brain that rules from the centre of the ultraworld, or at least it grows all the time and once I thought of the phrase there was no turning back. Anyway, I should not be surprised by the fact that while I was preparing for Kalamazoo (of which more at the weekend) I discovered things on the Internet that once were not there, in fact, quite recently weren’t there. But both gave me to such joy that I want to share.

The first of these is that my old friend, indeed one of my oldest friends, Carl Anderson, has joined the blogosphere and you can find him at The High Plains Drifter. This has been going since March, and indeed I’d noticed him turning up in comments at Wormtalk and Slugspeak, but took my own sweet time working out that this probably meant there was a blog, since Carl has never been shy about putting his words on the Internet except perhaps where they were sung. The blog has some linguistic content I can’t really follow, not least because Carl’s experience runs from Scandinavian to Meso-American languages, medieval and modern, but when I mention that his last few posts are about H. P. Lovecraft, Old and New World multiculturalism as it relates to fantasy writing, proto-Canaanite inscriptions in Egypt and the late Ronnie James Dio, you’ll maybe see how he and I have some overlapping interests. Worth a visit, I submit.

The other is a bit more of an alloyed joy. Checking back for I don’t remember what at the Fundació Noguera’s pages for its Col·lecció Diplomataris that I mentioned a little while back, I saw with some shock that they’ve uploaded still more and that that includes an edition of the charters of Sant Pere de Casserres.1 Now, you may remember that these are documents in which I am deeply interested, I’ve spent time with them, in fact I presented at Leeds about them last year. The work I did for that however revealed that another archive trip would be necessary to finish the paper, and as I’ve been moaning there hasn’t been time. Well: no need any longer! The stuff I wanted, which was all in copies so no real benefit from seeing the originals, is in this edition, and so is quite a lot more I hadn’t realised had been registered in various places. So I have my work cut out a little bit but I can finish that paper, almost any time I can free the time to do some reading. This is surely good, right? Well, certainly, and it’s very grateful to Irene Llop and the Fundació for making it possible that I am, to be sure.

It’s just… I did go and spend a chunk of archive time on this stuff. It was part of a bigger mission of getting some stuff done with unpublished material, partly for exclusivity and partly because of reviewers of my paper submissions saying things like “it is not even clear that the writer has seen the original documents” and so on, which smarted because often I hadn’t, even though that shouldn’t have invalidated the sort of conclusions I was drawing. So here I was making sure that wouldn’t happen, and of course I didn’t move fast enough and now they’re out. But, you know, someone could have said, at the various archives the stuff is located where Dr Llop must also have worked, “Sabia que alguna treballi per una edició d’aquells?”, to which I would probably have gone, “… Uh, em disculpeu: en anglés, si us plau?” and they could have said, “Someone is working on a printing of these documents”. And then I’d have been able to move even faster and Dr Llop might have benefitted from my Leeds paper and generally, I wish I had the sort of contacts that might have made this less of a surprise and might have let me keep that unique selling point a bit longer. That said, what I was saying about the preservation is not said in Dr Llop’s edition and the other things I was doing with the evidence are still new; I still have a paper and now I can finish it sooner. So I’m not really complaining, just, wistful for the exclusive that will now not be.


1. Irene Llop (ed.), Col·lecció Diplomàtica de Sant Pere de Casserres, Diplomataris 44 (Barcelona 2009).

I will probably have to approach from the ground

Sant Pere de Casserres viewed from the air

Sant Pere de Casserres viewed from the air

I may have given a paper on the place but I haven’t yet been there; it’s not terribly accessible and its archives are no longer on site. I will, though. Just that, as I say, I won’t be coming from this angle…

I traditionally give an abstract of my papers here when they’re presented and I see no reason to make a difference this time; I will have to do more archive work before it can head for a print queue, although I hope it will survive that process fairly well. Here you are:

How To Take Over An Archive: Sant Pere de Casserres And Its Community

In 1006 a monastery was established on a rock in a Catalan river by a dowager viscountess. Before she obtained the alod on which the house was founded, there had been there a mother-church whose documents barely survive. An examination of the monastery’s parchments however reveals a major preliminary effort to adopt and reshape the church’s history, a process in which its clerics seem to have been complicit and its documents rewritten. This paper teases the process out of the texts and uses them to question conventions of documentary interpretation.

It’s good, I think, if slightly familiar.

Three sorts of priest, part 2: the lost mother churches of St Peter

It’s long past time for the second of these posts about priests. Last time I dealt with cathedral chapter priests spreading the Word in the cathedral’s different properties, books in hand; this time I have less of an answer and more of a question. As before, however, we’re still dealing with the servants of St Peter. In particular, the servants of this place here:

The ruins of Sant Pere de Roda de Ter, as they stand today

The ruins of Sant Pere de Roda de Ter, as they stand today

This is what’s left of the Romanesque church in the old Iberian fort of l’Esquerda, otherwise known as Roda de Ter, about which I’ve written before. The ruins in the photograph are pretty much all twelfth century except some of the floors which have been cleared down to the palaeochristian levels, but we first know about this place in documents, other than when it was sacked in 826 by the mysterious rebel warlord Aizó, because of the act of consecration of an earlier church, probably wooden, from 927. There is a pattern here, of places whose existence as a community we only see when their members get together and contact the bishop about this church they’ve built, rebuilt, restored or just decided to have consecrated, but they’re usually further out than this, which is actually on the inwards side of the then-new cathedral of Sant Pere de Vic relative to the frontier. For this and for other reasons, which I won’t go into here, it seems that this whole area had been somewhat left behind since being at the very edge of Empire in the time of Louis the Pious.1 This gives us problems in saying anything about it, as the charters relating to the place are very few. The church itself may have had a fair few, but as you can see it’s in no shape to hold them now, and they don’t seem to have made it anywhere else, so what we have is the records from other places who held land nearby, which were few; the good land round here appears to have been on the river, where a lot of mills were set up including some apparently operating commercially and one owned on a timeshare. Worse, about half the charters we do have, we don’t have full records of: those of Santa Maria de Ripoll all got burnt in 1835 and are now only known from archivists’ regesta, and those of the pre-monastic church of Sant Pere de Casserres, which we’ll come to in a moment, don’t appear to have made it through the later monastery’s rather curious preservation filter and are only known where the cathedral later acquired an interest in Casserres as a parish and made notes of its earliest records for its own purposes. Santa Maria’s regesta usually give boundaries, but Casserres’s don’t, and neither give witnesses, so all the stuff I would usually do linking people together through transactions can’t work here. That means that we may well not be getting the full picture and what I’m about to say could be changed by further evidence if there was any.

That said, even in what little there is there are loads of clerics: twenty-one in total between 927 and 1000. This is more than one priest per parish per life, you know? Four of these people are identifiably chapter priests from Vic, but the other seventeen do not appear at Vic, or, as far as I can tell, anywhere else; they’re just here. Most of them are priests, but sometimes they have juniors along with who are only described as clericus. When I first came across this material, therefore, having Anglo-Saxon history deep in my background, I thought, ‘well, it’s a minster, isn’t it? The old fort’s still a centre for this, they’re doing the pastoral care for the whole area from the old city’.2 But there’s a problem with this idea, alas, and it’s shaped like this:

Monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres, Osona, as it stands today

Monastery of Sant Pere de Casserres, Osona, as it stands today

The building you see here is the early eleventh-century monastery, but before that was here there was a church here, also dedicated to Sant Pere, and there was a castle at the other end of the stack in the middle of the Riu de Ter on which they both stand. It is about 3 miles from Roda de Ter (and, according to the Google Map below, about 5 km now by road; point A is Casserres, point B l’Esquerda), very definitely within any plausible term before industrial population levels, which in any case didn’t really hit this area.3 Most of this church’s early documentation is only known as regesta and there’s precious little of that, but after approximately 1005 (actually it must be later, but we’ve covered this already and it doesn’t affect what I’m observing) full documents exist from here and those, also, are full of clerics. Hardly surprising, you may say, given that the place was on the verge of being converted into a monastery, and that’s fair enough. It could just be that Sant Pere de Casserres, because of receiving patronage from powerful people whereas Sant Pere de Roda just had its own closed group, had a natural advantage and that the bishop or whoever was easily be persuaded to move the local pastoral care network out a bit further. Roda is, after all, very close to Vic, as dragging the map below so as to see south-west will show. But some of the priests at Casserres don’t go on for very long, and though they were apparently able to turn up to sign new documents of transactions that they originally witnessed, I wonder how long they’d been in the area. Also a complication, and a bigger one: Sant Pere de Roda itself owned land on the Casserres rock, so some of these priests of Casserres may actually have been priests of Roda. These things make a simple shift from one to the other, while not impossible, a bit messy. In any case, we seem to be looking at a system quite like an English minster system where a lot of clergy share a base, but it’s right close to the cathedral and they never turn up there. So I think this is the system before the cathedral and parishes, slowly being over-written by new jurisdictions in this centre that power left behind. What that doesn’t tell you of course is what these priests were like, whether they had any training beyond hand-me-down tradition, what their actual responsibilities were except for care of what was an ancient burial ground like so many other hilltops; but I think they were definitely a sort apart from the chapter clergy and their Carolingian Renaissance book-learning we saw in the last post.4


1. All of what follows is based on either or both of J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (London forthcoming), Chapter 3 part 2, or the paper that I have to write for Leeds this year whose topic is basically the formal presentation of the second half of this blog post of the past.

2. For the ‘Minster hypothesis’, cf. J. Blair, “Ecclesiastical Organization and Pastoral Care in Anglo-Saxon England” in Early Medieval Europe Vol. 4 (Oxford 1995), pp. 193-212, Eric Cambridge and David Rollason, “Debate: The pastoral organization of the Anglo-Saxon Church: a review of the ‘Minster Hypothesis'”, ibid. pp. 87-104, and David Palliser, “The ‘minster hypothesis’: a case study”, ibid. 5, pp. 207-214.

3. I guess this will be covered in Teresa Soldevila i García (ed.), Sant Pere de Casserres. Llegenda i història (Vic 2004), which will also cover the 1993-1997 excavations that revealed the necropolis here (yes, here too), but I haven’t been able to get hold of that yet and am working from Antoni Pladevall i Font, Joan-Albert Adell i Gisbert, Xavier Barral i Altet, Esteve Bracons i Clapes, Marina Gustà i Martorell, M. Hoja Cejudo, Maria Gracià Salvà i Picó, Albert Roig i Delofeu, Eduard Carbonell i Esteller, Jordi Vigué i Viñas & Roser Rosell i Gibert, “Sant Pere de Casserres” in Vigué, Catalunya Romànica II: Osona I (Barcelona 1984), pp. 354-91. If by some mischance you don’t read Catalan and would still like to know more, the old monastery’s website is genuinely very good if you can stand Flash, but it doesn’t tell you much about the surrounding area’s demography, and the CR article does.

4. It’s not just in Catalonia that almost every hilltop appears to have an Iberian or Roman necropolis sunk into it, either; see José Antonio Benavente Sorriano, Juan Ángel Paz Peralta & Esperanza Ortiz Palomar, “De la Antigüedad tardía hasta la conquista cristiana en el Bajo Aragón” in Philippe Sénac (ed.), De la Tarraconaise 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. 99-119 for more examples.

In Marca Hispanica IX: actual charter scholarship

This is the last one of the Catalonia trip edits, so from here on it’ll be back to the more mundane writing and stolen graphics… So I thought I’d give you some hardcore diplomatic work as well as a pretty picture, by way of demonstrating that I wasn’t just being a tourist.

The last three days of my trip were spent commuting into Barcelona, rather than touring, you see. There was actually a bit of city-walking as I made an attempt to track down Professor Feliu in person, and that took me past the gardens of the Palau Reial and past a good deal of modern and impressive office architecture, but I didn’t have time to look at anything very much. I will say this, in case you ever find yourself trying to find a street address in Barcelona: the blocks may contain seven or eight different shops, offices or even houses each; or they may contain a single giant hotel. They are still numbered at a notional two numbers per block, and various crazinesses with “-bis” and so on are sometimes used to separate addresses but basically it’s impossible to count doorways to see how far you have to walk, or to tell when you’ve found your address unless it wears a name. Yes, I did have to walk some way. But once I’d got back into town (Professor Feliu in the end came and found me in town, for which I must thank him—we had a good chat, although it had to be in French) I got myself to the Biblioteca de Reserva in the old University building. I have to say, even with a Cambridge background, this building is quite impressive. It wasn’t so much the age of the buildings, or even its splendour though a big hallway with status of Isidore of Seville, King Alfonso X the Wise and other Spanish or Classical intellectual luminaries staring down from either side, will stick in my mind. It mainly struck me because it was so cool and quiet and lush, and full of plants and trees. For example, when I stepped out of the library to take a break, this was the scene that greeted me:

Western courtyard of the Universitat de Barcelona old building, from the first floor gallery

You see, I can cope with this as a study environment. So, what was I actually doing? Well, I mentioned above that I had some plans to work on the charters of Sant Pere de Casserres, and they are in the Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona. The staff there were very helpful, though more cautious than those at Vic; I had to surrender my passport and could only see a few at once. There turned out to be just enough from before my self-imposed date threshold to establish that it was a good point to choose as after that the diplomatic changed sharply, and although at the time of writing I haven’t had time to do any detailed analysis of the contents, I already know that there’s enough material here for two papers and one of them will serve for Leeds 2009. (If only I had my 2008 paper so well advanced…) So that was pretty encouraging.

Now, let me show you how a charter scholar does his work :-) Firstly, have a charter:

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) núm 20

This is Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins C (Sant Pere de Casseres) núm 20, and there is a full-size higher-resolution version under the image here if you want to study it closely. So the first thing to do is scribble some description, but as you can see it I’ll spare you. Note however that this one’s especially good for the range of scripts; all these people seem to have signed for real and they none of them show the same hand, which is interesting, because so much of the writing we have is in formal scripts, it’s fascinating to me that that isn’t what people use when they sign their names. Are they going up a register so as to stand out? Or are they reverting to their ‘usual’ hand? I don’t know.

Next question is, what does it actually say? And if you want to do this properly, you have to transcribe it. So, off the file created on the laptop I’d borrowed specially for this purpose, I give you the diplomatic transcription:

In dei om~ptis N~ne SciaNT [NT in ligature] o~nis d~m credentes quia mot? e~ placit: in sede uico Int~ cenobio Sci~ petri / kastru~ serres & Vutardo tarauellense de alaude q~d conda~ Reimu~d? drog? relinq~d ad p~fata / cenobii. Dicens p~phat? Vutard? q~d facere non potuit quia karta pr~ inde fecit ad socru~ suu~ olibane de cha/praria, In hac uero audiencia fuit brenar~d? uicescomes qui cum Reinardo abb~e sua~ exibuit leg / testimonia ante Wifredo iudice quia quando [change of pen here] ipsa karta fuit facta q~d Vuitard? ostendebat Reimu~d? prephat? / auctor demenserat & alienat? a sensa?, & ideo ego Vufred? iudex p~ condicionib? editis recepit ipsos testes & confirmo ipso / alaude in potestate sci~ petri & potestati de reimu~d? ut ab hodierno die in antea eu~ habeaNT [NT in ligature] que~ ad modu~ / at ordinauit p~phat? Reimu~d?. Condiciones uero que p~tin~ & ad Negocii reseruate ut conditeruNT [NT in ligature] in ipsa cenobio. Et si quis hoc disru~pere [..] libra~ auri p~soluat & hec consignacio firma p~maneat, Est aut~ ia~dictus / alaudes in ipso angulo ant~nunio , & suNT [NT in ligature] domos & t~ras & uineas & molinos cu~ t~minas & p~tinenciis & exios ut / ios. Kartam uero qui ostensa[.] i~ placito fuit in~ne olibane caprariense euacuata fuit & p~ma~sit / p~missu~ e~ cu~ testib? qui in condicionib? resonaNT [NT in ligature]. Facta deficione .iii. id~ marcii, anno, XXXIIIJ / rei~ Radb~to rege. *Guifredus l~ta q~ & iudex q~ cu~ guitardo recep~ / testes & sub SS
/
*hECFREdVS GRACIA DEI AbbA SS *SUNIARIVS m~cho SSS / *VUIlielmus X
//
SSS P&r? l~, Rogat? scripsit, & sub scripsit X die & anno q~d supra

A few conventions there may need explaining. It’s supposed to be what’s on the document, exactly, unless it’s in brackets. Square brackets are my comments, angle brackets hypothetical readings. Slashes, tildes and asterisks are my exceptions to the exactness—the first are line breaks and the second are a representation of the marks of abbreviation, all of them alike, which is sloppy I know but forgive me a limited typeface. The asterisks indicate a signature not written by the main scribe. The question marks are one abbreviation mark I have preserved as is, that is, they’re not actually interrogation points but a mark meaning -us has been omitted. So there’s your transcription, and you may be able to trace this on the document (and if you think I’ve got it wrong I’m happy to be corrected). Now what does it actually mean? With the advantage of having read quite a lot of Catalan charters, I can fill in the gaps, but this is still a story in itself. If I just skip to translating, it goes:

In the name of omnipotent God. Let all believers in God know that there was held a hearing in the See of Vic between the monastery of Saint Peter of Casserres & Guitard of Taradell over the alod that the late Ramon Drog left to the aforementioned monastery, Guitard saying that he could not do that since he made a charter of it to his cousin Oliba of Chapraria. In this audience, indeed, was Viscount Bermon, who along with Abbot Reinard displayed his testimony before Guifré the judge that when this charter that Guitard was showing was made, the author, the aforementioned Ramon, had become demented and was out of his mind. And therefore I Guifré the judge, through sworn oaths, received the witnesses themselves and I confirm the selfsame alod in the power of Saint Peter and the power of Ramon so that from this day into the future they may have it just as the aforementioned Ramon ordered. In fact, reserve you the oaths that pertain to the business so that they can be archived in the monastery. And if anyone [should come] to disrupt this, let him pay a pound of gold and let this verdict remain firm. The alod itself is moreover in l’Angle in Antuniano, and there are houses and lands and vines and mills with their bounds and appurtenances and exits and entrances. Meanwhile the charter that was shown in the hearing in the name of Oliba of Capraria was disavowed, and the promise of that remains with the witnesses who are recorded in the oaths. Definition made the 3rd Ides of March, in the 34th year of the rule of King Robert. Guifré, deacon and also judge, who with Guitard received the witnesses and signed below.

Hecfred by the grace of God Abbot signed. Sunyer, monk, signed. Guillem X.

Signed and subscribed Pere the deacon wrote and subscribed X the day and year as recorded above.

All right, I haven’t finished thinking about this document yet, but let me call out some points for you.

  1. Firstly, though I’ve translated fairly loosely in a couple of places there, this is very strongly styled. The drop into not just direct speech, but a direct imperative (“reseruate”, ‘reserve you’), is really unusual. Whoever wrote the text that this is derived from (see 4 below…) was apparently working from dictation more or less, and Guifré apparently wanted to wash his hands of it post haste: he ties up various loose ends as he thinks and gives instructions as if it were a memo, not a solemn court judgement.
  2. His dismissal of the case and the details of it might be explained because, for example, it was well known to all parties that Ramon Drog had indeed gone a bit doolally in his last months and quite possibly sold his lands several times over, and the question was going to be whether Guitard of Taradell could put this over on the judge. Guifré, working out that he’s been had, gives Guitard short shrift and basically banks everything with the monastery, including the warning that the witnesses will remember him admitting the charter to Oliba was useless. It’s a fairly weak claim anyway, that the land can’t be the monastery’s because it’s someone else’s when that someone else isn’t the plaintiff, but the defence isn’t so hot either is it, “oh well he was mad, your honour, mad he was, oh yes, well known it is how mad he was honest”. But the people saying this are the local viscount and the abbot of the monastery so there’s little hope for Guitard really. Once the monastery had convinced Bermon to show up, and his mother had founded the place so they have a connection, Guifré was really just filling in the blanks. It’s tough to be up against The Man in early eleventh-century Catalonia.
  3. Nonetheless, a few things here don’t add up. We don’t have the oaths of the witnesses; normally they would indeed be on a separate document, but it’s not here even though it was supposed to be kept in the monastery. Nor do we have any record of the gift to the monastery; Ramon made a charter to someone else, but the monastery have to rely on witnesses and heavy local enforcement, as well as claiming their donor later went mad. Where are these documents they should have, both before and after the hearing? You have to wonder whether it’s all entirely kosher, or if in fact this might be a Scheinprozess, a fake hearing intended to produce a document that proves property when other proof is lacking. And if they don’t have the oaths either, maybe it’s an entire fake, a document that records a hearing that never really happened.
  4. Because, you see, the document isn’t an original. But it has the signatures on it, I hear you say, how can it not be original? Well, yes, signatures. And look, one of them’s the abbot. Not the abbot named in the text, but a subsequent one. Unless one of the four (which is very few, and two of them at least are members of the monastery) witnesses was an abbot from elsewhere, this was written up and signed later on, and Pere seems to write other documents for Casserres which are basically copies of older charters to which they apparently refer. I haven’t worked this out yet, but there are incontrovertible examples.

So quite a lot going on there. Next, try this!

Biblioteca Universitària de Barcelona, Pergamins, C (Sant Pere de Casserres) 3

No okay, only kidding. But you can imagine how my heart sank when I saw it. In fact, though, it’s fascinating, at least to me. There are five separate transactions written up here, and one, the third, has autograph signatures, albeit only two and them both clerics. The trouble is, it postdates the first one on the parchment, but this huge parchment was clearly set up to take that big transaction, not the tiny one, which seems to have been fitted round and so must have been written up from something else after the date of both of them. That in turn means that they either used new witnesses, or the two clerics were both still around to sign again. So much for autograph signatures as a proof of originality!

And meanwhile, what are they actually doing? The first transaction is so huge because it has 40 donors and vendors (they’re all called both) and deals with 23 pieces of land. It must have been a huge occasion! Except that, having given all the boundaries ,when the scribe gets to the bit where he should record the prices paid for these lands, he gives up and writes instead, “p[ro]p[te]r p[re]cio sic inclos[um] in ipsas scripturas resonat”, ‘because of the price that is recorded in the selfsame charters thus included’. In other words, he’s making a big narrative out of lots of charters, this isn’t one huge occasion, it’s a story combining 23 separate transactions for the sake of a permanent record. One might have guessed this from the crossings-out that imply fairly clearly that the scribe has lost his place or the plan of how to deal with a source text in front of him, but then he goes and admits it for us. This is supposed to be a very material foundation legend built as a kind of pancarta and then they add four more transactions that had happened already as well onto it like they were making a huge one-sheet cartulary (which is basically what a pancarta is, in case you were wondering; the web seems to have no useful definition). No wonder they abbreviate so heavily! But what I haven’t figured out is who it is doing this. There was a church at Casserres before the monastery, and this document doesn’t mention monastery or monks in any of its parts. All these transactions are dated to before the monastery was established, but we’ve already seen that that doesn’t mean much. And there’s four separate scribes with clearly different hands and another two clerics in the signatures. What parish church has five working priests and extra staff? There’s another just across the way at Sant Pere de Roda with a similar number, and they even own land around this church, so what on earth’s going on? They can’t both be mother churches so close to each other!

I haven’t worked it out yet, but because I now have this stuff under my belt, I reckon I probably will. Just, maybe not right now…

And all right, I’ve finished now, I’m back in the UK even virtually now, back to the books and the blogs. I hope I haven’t driven you all off…