After Empire: Using and Not Using the Past
in the Crisis of the Carolingian World, c.900‒c.1050 (UNUP)
Prof. Dr. Stefan Esders (Berlin), PD Dr. Max Diesenberger (Vienna), Prof. Dr. Sarah Hamilton (Exeter), Prof. Dr. Simon MacLean (St. Andrews) and Prof. Dr. Matthias M. Tischler (Barcelona)
From Carolingian Periphery to European Central Region: The Written Genesis of Catalonia
Prof. Dr. Matthias M. Tischler (Barcelona)
This UNUP-project analyzes the transformation of political geography through the case study of Catalonia. Catalonia was a periphery of the Carolingian Empire, which in the tenth century became an important political and cultural centre. This is a particular interesting case study for post-Carolingian transformations of European geography because it was a multi-faceted region of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, social, religious and political variety, which brokered relations between the Mediterranean and Western European spheres. Catalonia thus provides the possibility to assess the quality of European culture from a peripheral perspective. Recent scholarship has begun to interpret Catalonia within a wider Carolingian/post-Carolingian environment, but this UNUP-project provides an opportunity to place it in an even broader context and to enable comparisons with other regions of Europe across the tenth century. The question of how ‘Carolingian’ and ‘European’ culture impinged on the reorganization of the post-Carolingian Empire has never been seriously addressed with regard to North-Eastern Iberia.
The focus here will be on the role of cultural and religious memory in transforming this region through selective production and reception of Carolingian text culture, as shown by the preservation and copying of manuscripts. The working hypothesis is that the same elite networks who exerted power over lands and people were also engaged in the legitimation and stabilization of their power through manipulation of the Carolingian cultural legacy. Manuscripts and archives allow us to analyze the afterlives of Carolingian systems of knowledge in various fields as they were put to use in building new identities in a former Carolingian periphery. Contributing to the central questions of UNUP, the project asks how different pasts were used and not used to model a new landscape of centres and peripheries in post-Carolingian Europe. Building on the rich body of research on Carolingian textual history, the project will examine the transmission of texts as revealing channels of communication between cultural centres and peripheries. Available concepts such as those of ‘manuscript migration’ to and from the Iberian Peninsula, ‘itineraries and networks of oral and written communication’, and the Iberian Peninsula as a ‘space of transfer and transformation’ will enrich the already established master narrative of the European-wide spread of Carolingian texts and scribal techniques.
No systematic overview of Carolingian text and book culture in this region having yet been done, the aim is to identify central places of manuscript production and storage (preserved copies and testified ones through inventories, catalogues, donations and text reception) in Catalan episcopal sees and monasteries (Urgell, Girona, Ripoll, etc.), on the one hand, and in Septimania (Narbonne, Carcassonne, Aniane), on the other. Fresh codicological and palaeographical research on the manuscripts will provide new insights into rhythms of reception, production and perception of various texts and text genres and thus a periodization of changing forces of identity building. The bipolar character of ‘medieval Catalonia’ as a buffer zone and middle ground between the core of Carolingian cultural, religious and legal systems and the Islamicate world of the Iberian Peninsula and beyond also has to be taken into consideration. Never fully integrated into the Carolingian world, ‘medieval Catalonia’ used the parallel crises of the Carolingian Empire and the caliphate of Córdoba to forge simultaneously a sense of political and cultural emancipation. This post-Carolingian phase of transition is characterized by Catalonia’s parallel reorientation towards a growing Europe of regions and especially towards the bishop of Rome – and it can be asked whether the papacy helped strengthen Catalonia’s reorientation to Carolingian culture from the turn of the first millennium onwards.
Core research questions include: How did users of texts deal with the emergence of a plurality of claims about the norms governing post-Carolingian society? How did contemporaries imagine their relationship to the Carolingian past? Was ‘being Carolingian’ a concept of tolerance of cultural multiplicity? How Carolingian were ‘Catalonia’ and other peripheries during the long tenth century? Were there different forms of ‘Carolingian’ culture and different strategies of identity building through Carolingian texts depending on the varying socio-political developments of the Empire’s peripheries? What in particular does this mean for the transformation of the ‘Catalan’ border region? Through exploration of such questions, the project will interrogate the older image of Carolingian culture being a homogenizing culture of unification and unity in showing that we deal in our region with a process of selected palimpsesting of cultures – Carolingian and Iberian, Frankish and Mediterranean. The grid of Carolingian texts and texts genres allows comparison with the (various) developments in the regions dealt with in the other UNUP-projects: Can we identify common authorities, normative orders, and specific ‘Catalan’ ones? The fact that some of the earliest excommunication formulas of this period come from Urgell is one example of intersection.