Vignettes of Capitular Life in Barcelona: Treats for feasts

In the previous post of this series, Canon Fàbrega i Grau explained how the daily distributions of the canons’ benefices worked in the Cathedral of Barcelona around the year 1580. Today he recounts the special treats meted out not only to the canons, but even to laymen on the most solemn feasts.

The Cathedral Quire

On Easter day, the ministral gave two hundred neules to the porter. At Mass, while the choir of canons sang the prose Victimae paschali laudes, the porter threw these treats to the faithful in handfuls of ten neules together with little laurel branches, just as we might throw sugar candy today. 

Bishop John Ermengol, who ruled the diocese of Barcelona from 1389 to 1408.

Eighteen shillings were distributed among the canons on this most solemn of days, in remembrance of an ancient custom. This money represented the cost of the paschal lamb that, formerly, was brought in on a flower-strewn tray and blessed during the offertory of the high mass. Bishop John Ermengol suppressed this custom on 18 May 1400 at the petition of the provosts on duty in March and April, replacing the lamb with its value in specie.[1] 

On Christmas day, the provost on duty for December supplied the canonry with pork and veal which, suitably carved, was distributed among all. Each canon received twelve pounds of pork and fourteen of veal, in addition, of course, to bread, wine, nectar, and neules. On the days within the Christmas octave, more cuts of meat were handed out to the canons as well as to the beneficiaries and the lay employees of the Cathedral. There was enough for everyone, even for the rectors of the six urban parishes which then existed in Barcelona.

At other times of the year, besides the portions of bread and wine, there were also portions of salt, mutton, pork, rabbit, chicken, goose, fish (almolls frits, fried European bass), cheese, cabbage, onions, beans, cucumbers, cherries, blackberries, walnuts, figs, etc.

– p. 38

[1] Translators’ note: In his Viage literario a las iglesias de España (“Literary Voyage to the Churches of Spain”), vol. 18, pp. 24-25, Jaime Villanueva explains that the lamb was presented at Easter Mass already roasted and impletum bono farcimento composito ex carnibus dulcibus et salsis, et ex ovis et salsa (“filled with good stuffing made up of sweet and salt meats, and of eggs and sauce”). After the blessing it was carved and distributed to the canons, including the king, a canon ex officio, if he was residing in Barcelona at the time. (Note than in vol. 17, p. 152, of the Viage, Villanueva states that this blessing, carving, and distribution was done during Vespers of Holy Saturday. We have not been able to ascertain which account is correct.)

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