Vignettes of Capitular Life in Barcelona: A Shilling for Mattins

In the previous installment of this series, Canon Fàbrega i Grau described the “portions” received by those who worked in the Cathedral, which were originally given in foodstuffs, although part thereof was later given in coin. These portions came from half of the Chapter’s patrimony, which itself was divided into twelve equal parts each administered by a provost. Each of the twelve provosts was assigned a month during which he was to hand out the daily portions due to each “portioner”.

The other half of the Chapter’s patrimony was managed by the Casa de la Caritat (“House of Charity”), which used a certain share thereof for works of piety, hence its name. The Casa de la Caritat was established on 24 April 1226 by Bishop Berenguer de Palou, and was originally administered by two canons called caritaters, although within a few decades a single canon-caritater carried out this task.

Faced with a financial crisis, in 1273 Bishop Arnold de Gurb imposed a yearly tax on the ten richest parishes of the diocese, which thenceforth provided the Cathedral with 275 pounds per annum. The canon-caritater was assigned to manage this sum, and was responsible for doling out a certain portion of the money every day to the canons if they were present at the liturgical offices. Fàbrega i Grau now describes how these “daily distributions” worked.


Besides the distribution of the portions, the Cathedral clergy also received funds from another endowment if they were actually present in the functions that took place in the Cathedral throughout the day. These distributions, handed out to those who were physically present in their proper places, came from three different funds or purses: a) the canonical purse; b) the purse of Manna; and c) the common or Anniversary purse.

Ever since the financial reform of the Barcelonan chapter undertaken by Bishop Arnold de Gurb in 1273, the canon-caritater was in charge of handing out what were called the canonical distributions, because they only applied to canons. But since on account of changes in the administration of the distributions, fewer and fewer of them were given as foodstuffs and more and more in coin, on 23 February 1570, Bishop William Caçador instituted a new canonical officer to take over its administration: the clavari (Latin clavarius, “key-bearer”). 

The clavarius was to oversee the daily distributions made in coin made through the hands of a beneficiary who held the office of bursar. The bursar was tasked with handing out the requisite amounts to the canons throughout the day, either in quire or in the places of work assigned by the chapter constitutions. He made the distributions according to a previously-established programme. Although I cannot enter here into too much detail, I can say that these distributions were, generally speaking, the following:

• At Mattins, during the reading of the homily, that is, during the three readings of the Third Nocturn: 1 shilling (on ordinary major doubles, 2 more shillings were added)
• At the beginning of the procession held every Sunday and on double majors before High Mass: 2 pence
• At the end of the procession: 2 pence (on ordinary double majors, 1 shilling was added)
• At High Mass “a bit before raising God”: 2 shillings
• At Vespers, during the Magnificat: 1 shilling
• At Compline, during the Nunc dimittis: 4 pence

Total: 4 shillings and 8 pence

The clergy of the Cathedral of Barcelona entering quire in procession (Engraving by F. J. Parcerisa, 1839).

Extraordinary distributions were meted out on the greatest feasts. Here are a few examples, since I am unable to provide the financial programme of all of them:

On the feast of the Circumcision (1 January)

• I Vespers: 3 shillings
• Compline: 4 pence
• Mattins: 3 shillings
• Procession: 1 shilling
• High Mass: 6 shillings
• II Vespers: 3 shillings
• Compline: 4 pence

Total: 16 shillings and 8 pence

On the feast of the martyrdom of St. Eulalia, patroness of Barcelona (12 February):

• I Vespers: 5 shillings
• Compline: 4 pence
• Mattins: 3 shillings
• Procession: 1 shilling
• High Mass: 6 shillings
• II Vespers: 5 shillings
• Compline: 4 pence

Total: 20 shillings and 8 pence

On the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross, titular of the Cathedral (3 May):

• I Vespers: 2 shillings
• Compline: 4 pence
• Mattins: 3 shillings
• Procession: 2 shillings
• High Mass: 3 shillings
• II Vespers: 2 shillings
• Compline: 4 pence

Total: 12 shillings and 8 pence

On the feast of Corpus Christi:

“In addition to the usual, during the procession let each canon receive 24 shillings, and during the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the high altar, on the feast day and throughout the octave, 1 shilling” (Libre dels oficials, f. 40r)

On the feast of the Conception of Our Lady (8 December):

“In addition to the usual, at the procession, 3 shillings” (Libre dels oficials, f. 40v)

On the feast of Christmas:

• I Vespers: 5 shillings
• Compline: 4 pence
• Mattins: 24 shillings
• Procession: 1 shilling
• High Mass: 6 shillings
• II Vespers: 5 shillings
• Compline: 4 pence

Total: 41 shillings and 8 pence

– pp. 40-42

2 thoughts on “Vignettes of Capitular Life in Barcelona: A Shilling for Mattins

  1. Have you learned what e.g. the ordinary ‘4 shillings 8 pence’ is in modern money? Certainly there’s a significant difference between that amount and the income distributed on the major feasts. 4 shillings GB in 1700 would have more or less the purchasing power of 240 GB pounds in 2010 (first equivalency converter I found online): of course I have no idea what currency is represented by ‘pounds’ and ‘shillings’ here. In any case, presumably 4 shillings 8 pence a day plus the feasts guaranteed that the canons weren’t living in poverty.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The coins minted & used in the Crown of Aragon followed the pound/shilling/penny (Latin libra/solidus/denarius, Catalan lliura/sou/diners) system common throughout the former Carolingian Empire before the Revolutions as well as in Great Britain before decimalization.

      Unfortunately I have not been able to find a source detailing what the purchasing power of Aragonese currency in 1580 would have been in modern currency. This tool can convert English pounds going back to 1270 to modern GB pounds: https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency-converter/

      Assuming the Aragonese pound was similar in value to the contemporary English pound, 4s. 8d. in 1580 is worth £3.84 today. But this was certainly not all the canons earned. As mentioned in the previous article, the canons received all of their food from the distribution of “portions”. The 4s. 8d. was a stipend inter praesentes for attending the offices, but the canons also received money for fulfilling chantry duties and an additional daily stipend from the common purse, which we shall discuss in a future post.

      Liked by 2 people

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