Vignettes of Capitular Life in Barcelona: More Stipends, Obits, and Vervain Garlands

As Canon Fàbrega explained in the excerpt posted last week, the clergy of the Cathedral of Barcelona received daily distributions inter praesentes which came from three different purses or funds: the canonical purse, the purse of the Manna, and the common or Anniversary purse. Having described the stipend the canons received  from the first purse each day if they were present in quire, he now turns to the two other sources of payment.

The High Altar of the Cathedral of Barcelona as it looked from the 14th century until 1969, when the retable was ripped away and the sanctuary redesigned in the wake of Vatican II. Engraving by F. J. Parcerisa, 1839.

In addition to the canonical distributions that were reserved to the canons alone, the canons and beneficiaries received another stipend from the hands of the manner or bursar of the Manna, which was “the distribution given for the obits and funerals to be said in the said church” (Libre dels oficials, f. 46r). The amount of this distribution was fixed according to the different categories of burials and Requiem masses.

The third group of distributions inter praesentes which Cathedral clergy received came from the Anniversary purse, also called the common purse because both canons and beneficiaries were paid from it. The Libre dels oficials states, “In this church there is a distribution vulgarly called the common distribution, or Anniversary distribution, which is meted out to the reverend canons and beneficiaries who participate in the divine offices, both day and night” (ff. 46r-47v).

This purse was managed by a protector, a procurator, and a bursar, who had to oversee a variety of aspects of Cathedral life, all of which were suitably enumerated in the chapter constitutions. I cannot mention them all, but by way of example here are a few of their responsibilities (ff. 51):

Pay twenty pounds every year for dowries of maidens to be married.

Pay the usual salaries of the Chapter’s proctors, of the organist of this Cathedral, of the organ pumper, of the protector of the said Anniversaries, of the archivist, of the Chapter notary, of the librarian, of the standard-bearers on Corpus Christi, of the scholar of the chapel of St. Eulalia, and of the readers of the Passions on Holy Week.

Every time a procession of pilgrims to the Abbey of Our Lady of Montserrat is held, the procurator of the said Anniversaries is bound and obliged to go before the said procession and to find inns for lodging and to feed the clergy of this Cathedral who go in the said procession, as is the custom, and must also pay from this purse all the expenses of food and drink and otherwise.

Ensure the lighting for the feast of Our Lady in February, and give wax candles to the officials, as is the custom.

Care for the green candle that shines before the True Cross.

Ensure that the vervain garlands are prepared on the morrow of the feast of St. John in June.

But the task that occupied the greater part of the bursar’s time was certainly the management of the stipends he had to give daily to each of the canons, beneficiaries, and chaplains who participated in the liturgical life of the quire or in other legitimately assigned duties. These distributions were also minutely regulated and we cannot explain them fully here, but the norm was the following:

On semidoubles, simples, and ferias

Mattins: 1 penny at the Invitatory
               2 pence at the II Nocturn
               1 penny at the Te Deum
               1 more penny, at the bursar’s discretion
Minor hours: 4 pence (one penny for each hour)
Mass: 1 penny at the Kyrie
           4 pence at the preface
Vespers: 4 pence
Compline: 2 pence
Total: 1 shilling and 8 pence

On Sundays and doubles

Mattins: 1 penny at the Invitatory
               2 pence at the II Nocturn
               1 penny at the Te Deum
               2 more pence, at the bursar’s discretion
Minor hours: 4 pence (one penny for each hour)
Procession: 3 pence
Mass: 2 pence at the Kyrie
           4 pence at the preface
Vespers: 4 pence
Compline: 2 pence
Total: 2 shillings and 1 penny 

Beneficiaries who were not priests received the same amounts minus one penny at Mattins and another at High Mass. Chaplains had somewhat smaller stipends.

At Christmas Mattins, the bursar of the common purse gave each of the assistants two rals (each ral was worth two shillings), and at Tenebrae, he gave each fourteen pence.

Those who attended the processions of Corpus Christi, St. Eulalia, St. Severus, the Assumption, and the Conception received seven pence instead of the usual three, and at the Kyrie at the High Masses on these feasts, they received four pence instead of the usual twopence. 

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

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.)