Carvajal, Authority & liability in 9th-10th C Nothwestern Iberia

Authority and liability in ninth- and tenth-century Nothwestern Iberia: the evidence from the sanction clauses

Alvaro Carvajal

Charters recording property transfers and dispute agreements in the Astur-Leonese realm include sanction clauses to prevent anybody from acting against the charter´s dispositions. These clauses can be spiritual, secular, or both, with secular sanctions varying from the restitution of ownership to fines and even physical punishment. The clauses consider a variety of potential offenders. These do not necessarily correspond to those liable for the payment of any material compensation or fine, for there are cases in which the liability falls on the party that performs the donations or sale that the charter records. Moreover, whenever fines are to be paid, they can be due to the offended party, to a secular authority, or both. References to secular authorities may inform us of how authority was perceived and enacted within the contexts in which this clauses were written. Given the irregular contours of lay and ecclesiastical power in Northwestern Iberia, contrasting regional variation in the use of sanction clauses may offer us an overview of how justice and authority were projected on, conceived, and enacted in different local and regional spaces. This paper thus aims to study secular sanction clauses from Galicia, northern Portugal, Asturias, Cantabria and León in order to explore and contrast the notions of authority and liability which they presented.