Brian D. George:Information about Wilfred the Hairy
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Count Wilfred the Hairy (b. 847, d. 11 Aug 897)Wilfred the Hairy (son of Sunifred I)213 was born 847 in Rousillon, France, and died 11 Aug 897 in Ripoll.He married Winidilde van Vlaanderen, daughter of Baldwin English and Judith.
Notes for Wilfred the Hairy:
Wilfred I, called the Hairy (Guifré el Pilós in Catalan; Vifredo el Velloso, also Wilfredo, Wifredo, Guifredo, or Guilfredo in Spanish), was de facto count of Urgell (870-897), Cerdanya (870-897), Barcelona (878-897), Girona (878-897), Besalú (878-897), and Ausona (886-897); he was not, however, count de jure until 878.
Wilfred was of Gothic lineage of the region of Carcassone. Traditionally, he was born near Prades in the county of Conflent, now Rià, in Rousillon, France. Count of Urgel and Cerdanya since 870, he received the counties of Barcelona, Gerona, and Besalú in 878 from the Carolingian king of France, Louis the Stammerer. His reign coincided with the crumbling of Carolingian authority and unity. He was thus the last count of the Hispanic March appointed by the French king and the first to transmit his vast holdings as an inheritance to his sons (nonetheless sanctioned by the monarch). For all of this he is generally regard as the founder of an independent Catalonia.
Some of his most important acts were the repopulation of the long depopulated no-man's land around Vic (the county of Ausona, a frontier between Christian and Moslem), the reestablishment of the bishopric of Vic, and the foundation of the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll, where he is buried.
According to legend, he was the son of Wilfred of Arriaount (or Wilfred of Arri), a county near Prades. His father was murdered by Salomón and Wilfred became his avenger, killing the assassin. Nevertheless, at the time of Ramón de Abadal's study, he was considered to be the son of Sunifred I of Barcelona, count of many counties under Louis the Pious and Charles the Bald. Sunifred was the son of Belló, count of Carcassonne during the reign of Charlemagne. Thus, as a descendant of Sunifred and his brother, Sunyer I, count of Ampurias and Rousillon (834-848), he was a member of the Bellonid dynasty.
In the dynastic struggles that accompanied the three years between Louis the Pious' death (840) and the Treaty of Verdun (843), the count of Barcelona (and many other margravates and counties: Septimania, Gerona, Narbonne, Béziers, Agde, Melgueil, Nîmes, and Toulouse) Bernard of Septimania, aligned with Pepin II of Aquitaine, while the Bellonids maintained their allegiance to Charles the Bald. In 844, after taking Toulouse and capturing Bernard, Charles had him executed. In exchange for his fealty, Charles gave the dead count's honours of Barcelona, Gerona, Narbonne, Nîmes, Agde, Béziers, and Melgueil to Sunifred.
In 848, William, son of Bernard, was named count of Toulouse and Ampurias by Pepin II. He quickly moved to eliminate Sunifred and Sunyer.
The Bellonid dynasty was revived slightly by the appointment of Dela and Sunyer II, sons of Sunyer I, to the countship of Ampurias in 862. Next, Charles the Bald made their cousins, Wilfred the Hairy and his brother Miró (known as the Old), counts respectively of Urgel and Cerdanya, and Conflent in June, 870 at an assembly at Attigny. For in that year, the mysteriously ill-chronicled Salomón, count of Urgel, Cerdanya, and Conflent, had died.
Wilfred came into possession of Barcelona through the his service to the king against the rebel Bernard of Gothia, count of Barcelona, Rousillon, and numerous other Septimanian counties. Wilfred, Miró, their brother Sunifred (afterwards abbot of Arles), and the viscount of Narbonne, Lindoí, marched against Bernard on behalf of Charles the Bald and his son, Louis the Stammerer. In March and April of 878, they defeated the nobles faithful to Bernard, like Sigebuto, bishop of Narbonne, and expelled all partisan priests from the churches there. At the Council of Troyes in August that year, presided over by Pope John VIII and King Louis II the Stammerer, Wilfred was formally invested with Urgel and Cerdanya, Miró with Conflent, Sunyer with Ampurias, and Oliba II with Carcassonne. On September 11, Bernard was dispossessed of his counties and the bishops of Elna, Urgel, Gerona, and Barcelona were confirmed in their sees. Bernard's honours were dispensed to Wilfred (Barcelona, Ausona, Besalú, and Gerona) and Miró (Roussillon) and the counties of Narbonne, Béziers, and Agde were separated from that of Barcelona. Sunifred was made abbot of Arles and Riculf bishop of Elna. Wilfred immediately ceded Besalú to his brother Radulph (878-920).
Intervention in Ausona
After the investiture of 878, Wilfred's lands stretched from the Pyrenees to the coast, from Urgel and Cerdanya to Barcelona and Gerona. This was the first time since the reign of his father (which ended in 848) that these different geographies had been united politically and the only other time within that century. The land between these regions—Ripollés, Vall de Lord, Bergueda, Lluçanès, the Plana de Vic, Moianès, Guilleries, and Bagés—had long been depopulated; since the rebellion of Aissó.
Wilfred embarked on the process of repopulating these territories with immigrants from the heavily populated mountain regions—Pallars, Urgel, and Cerdanya—to which people had fled in the two centuries between the collapses respectively of Visigothic and Carolingian authority. Wilfred's plan involved repopulating and subsequently annexing the counties to already extant counties he controlled. Thus, Vall de Lord went to Urgel and Berga to Cerdanya. The remaining counties of the territory—Ripollés, Lluçanès, the Plana de Vic, and Guilleries—centred aroung Ausona (the city), had a unique ethnic and cultural history for the people were the descendants of an ancient tribe. Wilfred formed the county of Ausona out of this distinct region. To this he attached Moianés and Bagés, the lands around Manresa, which were distinct in their history themselves. In 885, Wilfred designated a viscount to exercise power during his absence from Ausona, then the frontier with the Moslems.
The ecclesiastic state of the region was no better than its political state, the parishes largely remaining outside of the universal hierarchy. Wilfred brought the parishes of Bergueda and Vall de Lord within the sphere of the geographically proximal diocese of Urgel. However, it was necessary to reestablish the lapsed bishopric of Ausona. Consulting the archbishop of Narbonne, metropolitan of Catalonia, in 886, he received permission to install the priest Gotmar in the diocese of Ausona. The new bishop immediately set about restoring the repopulated city (devastated and in ruins since the Moslem conquest and the rebellion of Aissó) and its cathedral. Wilfred himself founded two new monasteries: Santa María de Ripoll (880) and San Juan de las Abadesas (885). The churches in the region gained much power and privilege, including the right to elect their own abbots in the tradition of Saint Benedict. Wilfred's daughter, Emma, became abbess of San Juan in 899 and received from king Charles the Simple immunity from comital jurisdiction and in 913 recognition of all its occupied lands.
When Louis the Stammerer died (879), the kingdom was divided between his two young sons: Louis III received the ancient northern partitions of the Merovingian kingdom, Neustria and Austrasia (including Lorraine), and Carloman received the southern partitions, Burgundy and Aquitaine (including Septimania). The problems plaguing the throne were exacerbated when both Louis (882) and Carloman (884) died soon after their succession. Not wanting to crown Louis the Stammerer's remaining son, Charles the Simple, of only five years, the nobles of France looked about for a powerful man who could defend the land from the fearsome Vikings and their vicious raids on the Channel and Atlantic coasts. At the Assembly of Ponthion (884), the Franks chose Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fat, already king of Germany and Italy. Charles, son of Louis the German, therefore became the first person since the death of Louis the Pious to reign over the entire realm of his illustrious great-grandfather. He would also be the last. Imcapable of much, he was lethargic and probably suffered from epilepsy. He came down in November, 885 with a grand army to fight off the Norsemen besieging Paris. Instead, however, he bought them off, paying them to attack Burgundy (not a friend of his) instead. He left Paris in December. He couldn't deal with revolts in Swabia, Saxony, Thuringia, Franconia, and Bavaria and the nobles of the Empire got together to depose him in 887. He died two months later (888). Arnulf of Carinthia, his nephew, succeeded him in Germany, Berengar of Friuli succeeded him in Italy, and Odo succeeded him in France. The breakdown in royal authority and the dynastic change which accompanied it in France forever rent the Empire in two and the Carolingian polity which empowered the counts at the beginning of the century was nonexistant by the end, the counts were independent—especially in the outlying regions, like Catalonia.
The Crisis and the Counts
In the great tradition of their family, Wilfred, Miró, Dela, and Sunyer II maintained fidelity to the Carolingian monarchs up to Charles the Fat (deposed 887, died 888). They visited the royal court in 886 to ask for privileges and the precept granted to Teotario, bishop of Gerona. Upon the death of Louis the Stammerer, however, this loyalty became largely passive. When Louis's sons Louis and Carloman marched against Boso, king of Provence, the Catalan counts supported Carlomand, but did not join the expedition. A far cry this was from the prompt action taken against Bernard of Gothia. But the counts did not care for far-off events and avoided attending the assembly of Ponthion dealing with the question of the Vikings—a mostly meaningless question for the Catalans.
The counts rejected Charles the Fat's successor, Odo, but they did not rise in favour of Louis the Stammerer's surviving son, Charles the Simple. Odo was too absorbed with the Northmen and the partisans of Charles the Simple to involve himself in the far south of the realm.
In 886, a presbyter named Esclua, taking advantage of the absence of Teotardo, archbishop of Narbonne, was consecrated bishop of Urgel and expelled the titular bishop Ingoberto with the tacit permission of Raymond I, count of Pallars-Ribagorza, and Wilfred. He complicated the situation further by declaring himself metropolitan of Tarraconensis, separating his diocese from that of Narbonne. Now acting metropolitan, Esclua promptly removed Servus Dei from the bishopric of Gerona. Servus; who was rejected by Dela, Sunyer, and Wilfred, and consecrated by Teotardo; took refuge in the monastery of Bañolas. Esclua, with the help of the bishops of Barcelona and Vic, consecrated Eremir bishop of Gerona. In 888, he resurrected the sees of Pallars and Ampurias to recompense Raymond, Sunyer, and Dela for their support.
If at first Wilfred tolerated the dethronement of Ingobert—there was little love between the two—he could not allow the metropolitan pretensions of Esclua—because of his friendship with Teotardo. The independent dioceses were a method of securing political independence and this Wilfred wholly opposed. He could not allow his vast dominion to be torn asunder by the pretensions of individual counts to ecclesiastic separation.
By 883 or 884, the Moslems felt menaced by the expansion of the Christian counties. Wilfred had established positions in Ausona (like Cardona), Bergueda, and Vall de Lord; even some advanced posts as far as the Valle de Cervelló south of the River Llobregat. The frontier of Barcelona passed north of Solsona, past Besora, Tantallatge, and Correà; that of Berga, past Sorba, Gargalla, and Serrateix; and that of Ausona past Cardona, Manresa, and Montserrat. The Banu Qasi fortified Lérida in response. Provoked by this, Wilfred attacked Lérida and the governor of the city, Ismail ibn Musa. The attack went very badly. The historian Ibn al Athir describes the defence as a massacre of the attackers. Ismail's successor, Lobo ibn Mohammed, attacked Barcelona some years later and Wilfred died in the fight on August 11 in 897. As stated above, he was buried in the monastery at Ripoll.
The weakening of Frankish royal authority in the Hispanic March is principally the result of the establishment of heridity in the succession to the counties. In 895, Miró the Old died and his county of Roussillon passed, without interference from King Odo, to Sunyer II of Ampurias. In the same way, Wilfred was never confirmed by the monarch in his possession of Ausona. The kings had lost their position as lord of the counts. The importance of custom to the Middle Ages cannot be overstated. As hereditary succession became the custom, it became accepted as law and there was nothing the kings could do. The counts had become sovereigns in their own dominions.
The lack, however, of a true legal heritage for this technically illegal practice caused the early experiments in hereditary succession to be a touch problematic. When Wilfred died in 897, his sons—Wilfred Borrel, Miró, and Sunifred—governed his patrimony jointly, recognising Wilfred Borrel, the firstborn, as primus inter pares: first among equals. When the sons of Wilfred had sons of their own, this ideal broke down and the counts promptly transmitted their regions of governance to their descendants. Wilfred Borrel and the youngest son jointly ruled over Barcelona, Gerona, and Ausona; Sunifred, Urgel; and Miró, Cerdanya, Conflent, and Berga.
La família catalana dels comtes de Carcassona. Genealogia de Guifré el Pilós dins d’Els primers comtes catalans. Barcelona, Ediciones Vicens Vives, 1958. Pages 13-29.
Children of Wilfred the Hairy and Winidilde van Vlaanderen are:
- +Sunifred II, b. 870, d. 950, Monastery of La Grassa in Conflent.