Jarrett, Ceremonies of Property Transfer in Carolingian Catalonia

Ceremonies of Property Transfer in Carolingian Catalonia: a model of documented transaction

Jonathan Jarrett (Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham)

It is widely accepted, but very hard to prove, that the charters by which we usually know of property transfers in the European early Middle Ages describe meetings and even ceremonies that actually happened, and in which the documents themselves formed a part, as symbolic objects representing either the will of the transacting parties, the property itself or the community’s recognition of the transaction. There, however, agreement ends and assumption has tended to prevail. The remarkably dense documentary record of the area that is now Catalonia for the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries however contains several descriptions of such ceremonies, and often preserves autograph signatures, so that it permits a model to be constructed for how at least one document-minded early medieval culture actually carried out its transactions. This paper examines the materials from which such a model might be constructed, stresses the difficulties and offers some preliminary components of an answer.