Conference Report: Oliba de Vic. Un bisbe de mil anys enrere/ Oliba of Vic. A Bishop One Thousand Years Ago

Organisers: Prof. Dr. Matthias M. Tischler (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona/ICREA), Mn. Robert Baró Cabrera (Ateneu Universitati Sant Pacià) and Dr. Marc Sureda i Jubany (Museu Episcopal de Vic)

Date, Place: 8.–10. 11. 2018, Barcelona, Bellaterra and Vic

Report by Ekaterina Novokhatko, Institut d’Estudis Medievals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, e-mail: Ekaterina.Novokhatko@uab.cat

Questions on European identity and the future of Europe have become major issues in recent research. Consequently, interest in a common European past has increased and a number of collaborative European projects have emerged. One expression of this can be seen in the HERA network, which is currently funding 18 projects on the theme ‘Uses of the Past’. These projects explore how the past was used across a wide variety of subjects within economics, arts, religion and languages, ranging from the history of the Carolingian world to constructions of identity and citizenship to responses to HIV/AIDS. One of these projects, ‘After Empire: Using and Not-Using the Past in the Crisis of the Carolingian World, c. 900-1050’ in which one of the organisers of the congress, Prof. Dr. Matthias M. Tischler, is taking part, has inspired the organisational committee to present the well-known Catalan abbot and bishop Oliba (971–1046) in the wider European context of the post-Carolingian world.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

One thousand years ago, the social order was defined by prominent characters who carried out reform activities, engaged in politics and organised the religious and secular life of the populace. One of these figures was Oliba. A well-known reformer, former count, abbot of the important monasteries of Santa Maria de Ripoll and Sant Miquel de Cuixà, and finally bishop of Vic, Oliba made a tangible mark on the society and ideology of the 11th-century world. The Congress held in Barcelona, Bellaterra and Vic in November 2018 attracted a range of international scholars and aimed to reconstruct the historical context of Oliba’s time as well as to put him in parallel to other significant political and religious figures.

The congress was organised in three sessions, according to the three fields that represented the main areas of Oliba’s interest: politics and society in a time of changes; written culture and the normative world; and artistic creation. At the beginning of the congress, Ramon Ordeig i Mata and Patrick J. Geary delivered two inaugural talks.

RAMON ORDEIG I MATA (Arxiu i Biblioteca Episcopal de Vic) at first briefly touched on the state of the art: two important historical monographs on the abbot Oliba (of A. M. Albareda, 1931 and of R. d’Abadal i de Vinyals, 1948) and the posthumous edition by E. Junyent i Subirà of the Diplomatari i escrits literaris de l’abat i bisbe Oliba (1992). He then presented numerous acts and donations from 947 to 1046 in order to show the engagement of Oliba and his family in the political and ecclesiastical life in Catalonia. Ordeig i Mata then led the public through multiple facets of Oliba’s policy. He demonstrated how the political and religious interests of count Oliba Cabreta were transmitted to his son and he highlighted the diplomatic capacities of abbot Oliba in building contacts with other abbeys (as Fleury), exchanging of relics and dedicating the most significant Catalan churches at that period. Evoking the principal stages of Oliba’s life (as count, abbot and bishop), Ordeig i Mata corrected the fixed dating of 1018  for Oliba becoming bishop of Vic, arguing that according to the documents, the episcopal election took place from May 7 to July 12 of 1017. He thus pointed out that we still labour under the myth created during the 19th and 20th centuries of abbot-bishop Oliba, and that instead the documentary field we possess provides enough material to discover the real world of 10th/11th-century Catalonia.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

While the first talk focused on numerous Catalan acts and donations, the second one asked these questions from another perspective. This second inaugural speech was given by PATRICK J. GEARY (Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton) who suggested that we should contextualise Oliba’s episcopal activity by observing how he shared a common Carolingian heritage with other bishops of the post-Carolingian world. Geary started his talk with an overview of the Carolingian Empire, in particular with its disseminated monastic and episcopal scriptoria, and the liturgical innovations that began to introduce common Europe-wide liturgical practices and to change the balance of powers. He then emphasised that the bishops in the post-Carolingian world had become the key agents of governments. With the growing imperialist papacy, the lay aristocracy might have seen the episcopacy as a source of power. By comparing Oliba with four other contemporary bishops (Fulbert of Chartres, Gerard of Cambrai, Burchard of Worms and Aribert of Milan), Geary suggested that these spiritual leaders may have shared a common sense of episcopacy, despite the lack of direct communication among each other. He ended his talk with an eloquent question: in this complex changing post-Carolingian world, where new systems of canon law and educational programs were grown in the episcopal schools and where the great monastic orders challenged the bishops’ control in their dioceses, where should we situate abbot-bishop Oliba?

In the afternoon, the first session on politics and society opened with STEFANO M. CINGOLANI (UB) discussing forms of organisation and manifestation of power. Cingolani argued that as bishop and abbot of two monasteries, Oliba tried to incarnate the model of a good governor while administrating justice by tribunal. In this act, he was directly influenced by Carolingian models, although predominantly by the earliest ones (from Charlemagne’s and Louis the Pious’ times). At the same time, Oliba might have balanced pacifist activity (in terms of the Peace and Truce of God) with participation in political alliances with Catalan counts. Cingolani proposed to look at Oliba through the psychological definition of power as “the ability to cause or to prevent change”. Citing the book of American psychologist Rollo May (Power and Innocence. A Search of the Source of Violence, 1972), Cingolani suggested to apply his five types of the power (exploitative, manipulative, competitive, nutrient and integrative) to Oliba’s religious policy and to show how all five functions worked together in his case.

The following talk of DAVID ABADÍAS I AURÍN (AUSP) was dedicated to episcopal authority around the year 1000. Referring to the chapter on bishops from the Carolingian Admonitio generalis (789), Abadías i Aurín asked how we can interpret the episcopal mission (spiritual and terrestrial at the same time) in the period when Church and secular power went hand-in-hand in everyday life, to the point that they were identified as one and the same organism. He underlined that from Antiquity Church institutions stayed in close contact with civil power, whereas the particularity of the year 1000 was the relation of parity between the Church and the civil power. Paying attention to the Liber regulae pastoralis (590) of Gregory the Great, Abadías i Aurín argued that the pastoral duties of the bishop made him one of the main promoters of culture and that episcopal power and charisma became their definitive features around the year 1000. These bishops, stemming from noble families, performed politico-religious symbiosis by their pastoral capacity and were prepared to govern so that they contributed to society, culture, politics and the religiosity of European civilisation around the first millennium. The Gregorian reform led to the disappearance of this model of the charismatic bishop by replacing it with a new, bureaucratic one.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

The next contribution of JOSEP M. SALRACH I MARÉS (UPF) highlighted the political and religious context around the year 1000. Firstly, the speaker briefly exposed the economic and social processes that led to the formation of feudal society to the end of the 11th century. Secondly, he developed the idea of dissemination and reconstruction of power (through violence and peace) in a geopolitical perspective. He presented Oliba engaged in politics in the Iberian Peninsula (through his relations with al-Andalus and matrimonial projects in northern Christian kingdoms) and then concentrated on Oliba’s openness to other religious and cultural centres crossing the Pyrenean borders. Through the circulation of Ripoll manuscripts, the numerous trips of abbot-bishop Oliba and the famous encyclical letter on his death (1046), Salrach i Marés showed the large panorama of cultural and political network among European religious and political centres, from Ireland and Britain to the Central Europe and from northern Germany to Italy and the northern Christian realms of the Iberian Peninsula.

Concluding the first day, the archaeologist JOSEP M. VILA I CARABASA (UAB) presented the evolution of the archaeological situs of town issued from the Roman world until the century of abbot-bishop Oliba. His focus was on the implantation of churches in the forming Catalan counties. Based on examples of archaeological remains of Roman towns, vilae romanae, necropolis and castles (especially in Tarragona and Sant Julià de Ramis), Vila i Carabasa showed the progressive development of the architectural structure of the church from the Roman model to the creation of the church of Romanesque style. He underlined that, by his religious reforms and active politics of church consecrations, Oliba contributed to the formation of this new style.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018. 

The second day started with the talk of MATTHIAS M. TISCHLER (ICREA/UAB) on the Europe-wide network of knowledge transfer and learning by abbot-bishop Oliba. Tischler demonstrated the large network of Ripoll before Oliba, especially due to the contact that Count Borrell II (947–992) had with the abbey of Aurillac and the visits of Bishop Godesscalc of Le Puy (928–962) to Ripoll. Tischler confirmed the importance of the medieval scriptoria of that time for Arabo-Latin and Greco-Latin translations. Furthermore, he reminded us of Oliba’s participation in developing connections with northern Iberian centres (Pamplona, Oviedo and Palencia). Apart from the well-known arguments for the particular relations between Ripoll and the French abbey of Saint-Benoît de Fleury, Tischler stressed Oliba’s passion for Antique and Carolingian poetry that unified the abbots of both monasteries, and argued that it was the Loire region (with Tours) who may have given the final impetus to the creation of the three famous Ripoll Bibles of Oliba’s time. Finally, Tischler developed the panorama of Oliba’s interest in Greco-Latin translations, coming from the Roman and possibly Neapolitan manuscript context. All of these sources thus clearly show that abbot-bishop Oliba sought to acquire the main texts of Carolingian culture.

In order to consider the long-term impact of Carolingian rule on the legal culture of Northern Italy and Catalonia, STEFAN ESDERS (Freie Universität Berlin) analysed two legal sources, the Liber Papiensis and the Liber iudicum popularis. The Liber Papiensis, written in Pavia around 1000 and called the law given by the Lombard and Frankish kings, shows that the written law was regarded as a canonised text and bears witness of the beginning of some sort of commentary literature on law. Moreover, some manuscripts containing the Prologue to the Bavarian Law give us an idea of how legal pluralism was explained and legitimised and underline that the Franks wanted to be seen as warrantors of this legal pluralism, paying respect to legal traditions of the region. The Catalan Liber iudicum popularis was a legal complilation produced in Barcelona in the 10th century and based on Visigothic law. This text contains also the Prologue to the Bavarian Law (called here Prologus de auctoribus legum) that emphasises that the Franks wanted to have Visigothic law observed in the Spanish Mark. Comparing these two legal texts, Esders demonstrated the ethnically-defined legal pluralism of the Frankish Empire that retained a dual structure in Catalonia and represented a more multifaceted problem in Northern Italy. He thus demonstrated the fruitfulness of a comparison of different legal and intellectual cultures on the fringes of post-Carolingian Europe.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

URSULA VONES-LIEBENSTEIN (Köln) pointed out the coexistence of different chapter rules in the diocese of Vic in the 11th century. Exploring the implantation of the Aachen Rule for Canons in the Catalan region according to the promulgation of Louis the Pious in 816, she then focused on the network between Catalan, French and Italian bishops. Vones-Liebenstein illustrated the first unsuccessful attempt to achieve the reform of the cathedral chapter under Bishop Berenguer Sunifred of Vic in the presence of Abbot Arbert from the Augustinian abbey Saint-Ruf of Avignon in 1087/1088. The second attempt took place in 1098 by Bernard, Archbishop of Toledo. In both cases the aim was to reform the community of canons, reinforcing the strictness of their everyday life, fulfillment of the liturgy of hours, assistance at the chapter, enhancing the confession of sins, humility in behaviour and struggle against simony. Hence, the second half of the 11th century was a curious period with the coexistence of both advocates of the Aachen rule and the Augustinian monks living side by side in Vic.

ADAM J. KOSTO (Columbia University, New York) created a parallel between two prominent bishops of the 10th-11th centuries, abbot-bishop Oliba from Catalonia and Wulfstan, bishop of London and then of York. Kosto based this comparison on the numerous documents from both regions. Since the range of the Catalan documents is broader, the speaker focused on more unusual documents, such as the inventories of the treasury of Ripoll abbey, the ritual texts, the records of oblation and the letters of appointment, in order to ask if analogous sources existed in the other region. All these documents pointed to the reasonable possibility of parallel documents in the Anglo-Saxon context as well as to the normative impulses for the production of the documents. Kosto argued that from the Wulfstan corpus, we notice evidence for the use of the mandates in Catalan legal procedures and can see the absence of chirographs in Catalonia before 1043. The speaker concluded his talk by emphasising that the parallel study of documentary culture in the two regions improves our understanding of both.

In the evening, MARC SUREDA I JUBANY (MEV) organised a guided tour of the exhibition in the Episcopal Museum of Vic, Oliba episcopus. This exhibition contains an impressive collection of manuscripts, charters and liturgical objects from 10th-11th-century Europe. The unique conserved wooden altar from Ripoll also takes its place in the central room. One of the exhibition treasures represents the crucial object of pre-Romanesque art in Catalonia: for the first time, all three Bibles from Santa Maria de Ripoll, Sant Pere de Roda and Sant Miquel de Fluvià are exhibited together. The digital architectural reconstruction of the Cathedral district of Vic from its foundation up to the present allows us to see the whole ensemble of buildings conceived by Oliba and even to walk in the nave of the 11th–century Vic Cathedral.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018. 

 

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

Consequently, the session of the third day took place in the Episcopal Museum of Vic and tackled the artistic creation of Oliba’s time. The first talk by ALAIN RAUWEL (Université de Bourgogne-EHESS, Dijon/Paris) was dedicated to the role of the bishop in the active development of church art in the 10th-11th centuries. In order to illustrate this idea, Rauwel displayed different images of the bishop consecrating a church or celebrating the Holy Mass. The synthesis of symbolic meanings is expressed by the depiction of the church building (“maison-Dieu”, a topic becoming very important in Carolingian and post-Carolingian religious thought), of liturgical books (in particular the Liber pontificalis) and of liturgical objects used in the ceremony. Furthermore, through analysing three types of images (of Christ, of the Trinity and of doctrinal synthesis), Rauwel demonstrated the importance of the parallel between Christ and the bishop, the episcopal engagement in the patronage of arts, without neglecting the potential concurrence between the bishops and the lay governors.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

GERARDO BOTO VARELA (UdG) emphasised the role of architectural archetypes of the year 1000 as a mirror of political and spiritual activities of the Catalan counts. Through the analysis of the architectural complexes of Santa Maria de Ripoll, Sant Miquel de Cuixà and the Cathedral of Vic, Boto Varela elucidated the different architectural decisions of abbot-bishop Oliba, whose strategy was to renovate the ecclesiastical space in the ancient style, being at the same time inspired by and oriented towards Rome. The architectural dialogue between different regions (Rome, Lombardy, Burgundy and Rhineland) which influenced the Ripoll style reflected the personality of Oliba, a statesman, churchman and ideologue who contributed to the creation of natural and singular Catalan chef-d’œuvres.

© Facultat Antoni Gaudí, Ateneu Universitari Sant Pacià, 2018.

FRANCESCA ESPAÑOL I BERTRAN (UB) called Oliba a protagonist in the arrangement of liturgical ornamentation. Having analysed the ornamenta ecclesia in Catalonia of the 11th century, Español i Bertran based her research on the inventories of monastic treasures. She pointed out how the Sermon of the monk Garsias from Sant Miquel de Cuixà (1043/1046) expressed the international contacts of Oliba. His trips to Rome and his embassies to other centres contributed to the enhancing exchange of relics, goldsmithing, gems and clothing. At the time of Oliba, the important relic of St. Eudald was translated from Ax-sur-Ariège to Ripoll. The Ripoll initiative to construct the anthropomorphic reliquary for his skull also bore witness to the Catalan connections with exterior monasteries (in this particular case with Sainte-Foy de Conques). Two inventories from Ripoll (by 1008 and by 1047) indicate the increase of liturgical furnishings and objects of cult during the abbacy of Oliba.

To sum up, the congress brought to light multiple facets of 11th-century Catalonia that were in dialogue with the surrounding regions. The fruitful interaction between international scholars discussing legal, normative, historical, intellectual, cultural, liturgical and artistic sources helped to identify new perspectives of research in the different fields of Humanities and to elaborate new ways of academic communication. The abbot-bishop Oliba, both a ruler and a monk, a pastor and a politician, a noble aristocrat and a humble homo religiosus, is an ideal symbol of strategic academician partnership between Catalan and international research. The goal of this Oliba congress to build bridges and develop new perspectives of common international work was thus achieved.

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