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The war and the manuscript

5 years ago written by
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For the last years I have had the pleasure of working directly with hundreds of charters of over a thousand years in some cases, hidden in Galician ecclesiastical archives and partially forgotten. When facing these written testimonies, it is impossible not to think about who wrote them, where, for whom and why, but also in all the things that each piece of parchment has lived, how everything has changed since the moment they were written. Working with fragments, very damaged and often illegible, I always wondered, what happened to you?

That was the case in studying this beauty:


And, after doing that, the reason which (I believe) explains its state of preservation:

Official report, 23 April 1846, written as a result of the liberal uprising movement, the final episode of which took place at the monastery of San Martín Pinario (Santiago de Compostela, Galicia) itself.

“At the branch office of National Assets they discovered the door open and the first door of the entrance destroyed . . . on the second floor they noticed that the doorway leading to the rooms of the aforementioned office, where the archives of the abolished religious community and various ecclesiastical corporations were located, had been forced with great blows . . . They discovered great quantities of books and files belonging to that said religious communities and corporations lying on the floor in the most chaotic way imaginable, torn apart from their binding and parchment covers, the sheets of different documents mixed up with one another and the majority torn apart, among them pieces of parchment from choral books. They also found them in equal disorder in the windows . . .  some of the volumes were placed on top of others and formed a kind of wall, which was recognized as serving as a parapet for the force defending itself there . . . it was equally noted that many papers may have been burned from the remains they had found on the floor . . . in the hall that had been the library . . . they found piled on beds a considerable amount of documents from the abovementioned archives of the abolished Inquisition, unbound, the sheets torn apart and half missing . . .”

Unfortunately, these reports are not uncommon. In case you are wondering, after that day what remained of the archive was gathered together and moved to several institutions between 1867 and 1946, until they came finally to be integrated into the Archivo Histórico Universitario de Santiago de Compostela. Although, as usual, some charters passed to private hands, as in this case.

Further Reading:

  • Castro Correa, Ainoa. “The reconstruction of Early Medieval Spanish manuscript sources”. Early Medieval Europe, Volume 22, Issue 1 (2014), 69-87. (online)
  • Romero Tallafigo, Manuel. De libros, archivos y bibliotecas. Venturas y desventuras de la escritura. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: Gobierno de Canarias / UNED, 2008.


– by Ainoa Castro

Suggested Citation: Castro Correa, A. “The war and the manuscript”. Littera Visigothica (October 2013), ‎‎(ISSN 2386-6330).

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