Bending the Rules: Tradition, Variation, and Originality in Formulas of Charters from the Kingdom of León (10th-13th Centuries)
James D’Emilio (University of South Florida)
The vast trove of Leonese medieval charters, preserved as original parchments or cartulary copies, are most often exploited as historical sources for their dispositive clauses: the gifts, sales, and agreements they describe; the persons involved; and the circumstances surrounding them. In this paper, I will outline a variety of methods for studying these legal charters as cultural texts and historical documents through analysis of their formulaic clauses: invocations, preambles, sanctions, and calendar clauses. The repetitiveness and conservatism of these elements create a matrix within which variation and innovation stand out and invite further scrutiny. I will address three types of problems. By analyzing the texts of selected preambles in tenth-century ecclesiastical charters, I will identify the religious and social concerns behind their authors’ use, interpretation, and appropriation of scripture and a wide range of Christian literature. Secondly, I will use the geographic distribution of charters and their associations with patrons and institutions of different social rank to explain the preservation or revival of archaic formulas in examples from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Thirdly, I will examine variations within commonly used formulas both as markers of gradual religious and linguistic change, and as evidence of the working methods of scribes and the contribution of benefactors and beneficiaries to the preparation of charters.