Project: To be the neighbour of San Pedro

To be the neighbour of San Pedro: Divine Judgement in tenth century northern Spain

Project leader: Dr Jamie Wood

Funder: John Rylands Research Institute, University of Manchester

Project outline


From the obligations that peasants owed their lords to the ever-present fear of the End of Days, judgement was essential to the medieval social order. Hitherto, the study of judgement has focused on either legal or theological questions, rarely both. In To Be the Neighbour of Saint Peter (1989), Barbara Rosenwein demonstrated that monasteries in the Latin West were not ivory towers but crucibles for the formation of the social order, while Wendy Davies (Acts of Giving, 2007) used documentary records to build a rich picture of the landholdings of the monasteries of early medieval northern Spain and the social and legal practices that supported their existence. What has received less attention, however, is the Christian religious culture of the monks of northern Spain. We have an increasingly detailed idea about the economic and social functioning of monasteries, but not of the religious and cultural practices that underpinned their existence as religious communities.


My overall project synthesises legal, theological and devotional sources from northern Spain to test the hypothesis that discourses about God’s power were in intense, reciprocal dialogue with legal practice. My proposition is that we cannot properly understand early medieval legal practices unless we understand the institutional contexts in which our legal documents were (usually) produced and (nearly always) preserved.  I aim to understand how the region’s monasteries bound together human and heavenly justice across time and space and how, by combining ideas and practices of judgement, monasteries established their identities and authority as upholders of order.

Northern Spanish monasteries invested heavily in manuscript production and the Rylands holdings incorporate several produced at the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña and the surrounding region in the 10th century:


The project examines the manuscripts using the following criteria:

  • List explicit references to judgement within texts/ manuscripts (e.g. references to judges, the Last Judgement) – this will enable me to ascertain the prevalence of key concepts associated with judgement across the sources and also to compare the Rylands manuscripts against published editions.
  • Identify and compare procedures laid down for judgement – to understand how judgement was understood to function in practice.
  • Focus on sections where direct quotations and paraphrases are made of earlier sources (i.e. the texts being commented on) on judgement – to unpick how ideas of judgement were largely conditioned by what previous authorities had written.
  • Analyse manuscript sections which emphasise judgement (using results of 1-3) – to consider whether there are codicological or palaeographical indications about how contemporaries viewed judgement.
  • Survey images within commentaries to identify types associated with judgement (using results of 1-3) – to understand relationship between images and textual messages about judgement (as has been demonstrated by Rudolph, Reading, Art and Polemics in the Cîteaux Moralia in Job, 1997).