Ainoa Castro Correa – Francisco Álvarez López (Univ. Salamanca)

Documentary practices and uses in rural context of north-western Iberia

Within the context of the transition from Visigothic to Caroline minuscule from the end of the eleventh century until well into the twelfth century in north-western Iberia, and alongside the progressive increase in the use of Romance that will result in the emergence of vernacular languages ​​by the thirteenth century, our proposal intends to address documentary practices and uses in the context of secular rural communities in contrast with those communities culturally located at the centre of change and which are mostly ecclesiastical. With that end in mind, this paper combines three of the perspectives proposed for this congress. We will depart from the analysis of the form and function of secular diplomas made by scribes from rural contexts, before considering the graphic systems and styles used in communities of professional scribes with different levels of literacy. Finally, we will assess the mobility of practices and their authors, taking the parish church and the rural monastery as meeting points.

Form and function: We will examine the interaction between the visual and material aspects typical of framed charters, their production and content, in the context of rural secular communities (what distinguishes the secular documentary corpus in terms of its materiality and use?) and in opposition to the charters associated with central ecclesiastical communities. A comparison will be made between the processes of documentary creation in both environments, their raison d’être and usefulness, and the effect on the resulting product as a material object to be read but also seen.

The scripts and styles of writing communities: We will study the graphic typologies and documentary practices of professional scribes working for central ecclesiastical institutions (cathedrals and monasteries) in contrast to those in centres of a lower cultural level (rural parishes and minor monasteries), examining their possible interaction with regards to the process of absorption and internalization of new palaeographic and diplomatic developments. In this sense, we propose to delve into the life and development of graphic activity of ecclesiastical and lay agents with limited literacy and to evaluate their role in the configuration of identities.

Individual mobility and encounters: The scope of action of the rural scribes will be evaluated alongside their relationship with the secular communities they served. Similarly, we will consider their role as integrating agents as well as their possible itinerancy within (certainly) parochial and, possibly, monastic contexts. As a result of the study of these three perspectives, we will provide a clearer picture of the encounters in the written culture between rural and central scribes and their respective communities, pondering mutual exchanges, reception of new developments and how cultural interaction could affect the evolution of documentary practices in north-western Iberia. This will bring about a better understanding of the practice of writing across all levels of society.

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