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CHARITY AND WELFARE:
HOSPITALS AND THE POOR IN MEDIEVAL CATALONIA

JAMES WILLIAM BRODMAN


Chapter 2

Feeding the Poor in Medieval Catalonia:

The Role of the Cathedral Almshouse


[8] Pope Urban II's call at Clermont at the end of the eleventh century that launched the Crusades took place during a period of economic hardship that explains some of the dynamic unleashed by popular preachers like Peter the Hermit. While most of Europe was spared the acts of violence associated with events like the People's Crusade, this era nonetheless inaugurated a period in Western medieval history in which the poor became an identifiable and permanent element within society. The crop failures of the late eleventh century were followed periodically by other catastrophes that cast many off the land. These events created a marginalized underclass of beggars who wandered the countryside seeking alms from monasteries or who sought out urban centers for work and sustenance. In addition to these victims of economic dislocation, the roads in the twelfth century became populated with pilgrims, crusaders, students, tinkers, merchants, and others. As a consequence of a more mobile and needy population, the old Christian and monastic tradition of hospitality would have to be substantially modified and expanded to cope with these new and harsh realities. (1)

One of the most basic forms of assistance to the needy is the provision of food. Monasteries had long offered meals to passersby, and at the beginning of the twelfth century this monastic tradition of hospitality was augmented by new forms of urban charity. Within the medieval Catalan lands, the most characteristic form was that of the pia almoina, an almshouse established at the cathedral church and administered typically by the bishop and chapter. At such places, the poor were fed in various ways-- at certain seasons of the year or daily, with a meal or with only bread or even with cash in lieu of food. There is documentary evidence for such establishments in Catalonia, as well as in Aragon, as early as the eleventh century, at such sites [9] as Barcelona, the Seu d'Urgell, Jaca, Roda, and Huesca. (2) But none seems to have been well organized or adequately funded before the later twelfth or early thirteenth century, when Barcelona and Catalonia emerged from a prolonged period of economic stagnation. (3) The gestation of these charities thus was slow. Records show that their economic and institutional development was incremental and that they did not emerge as fully formed, rationalized organizations until the fourteenth century.

The Almoina of Barcelona

The Pia Almoina of Barcelona is the best known of the Catalan establishments, due principally to the work of Josep Baucells i Reig. Here the earliest instance of ecclesiastical charity dates from the late tenth-century will of Bishop Vives, which directed that his estate be given to the cathedral, the poor, and pilgrims. After al-Mansr's raids of 985 and the subsequent restoration of the chapter, Bishop Aeci, on March 9, 1009, donated property to feed the canons and the poor; Baucells notes that these two constituencies were closely associated with each other in the minds of eleventh-century donors, who had not yet made any clear distinction between voluntary and involuntary poverty.(4) By the twelfth century, there developed the mandatum, a custom of feeding a number of poor folk during Lent, which was associated with the liturgical practice of washing the feet of the poor on Holy Thursday. Before 1160, distributions of food were generally ritualistic and by nature only occasional.(5) In 1161, however, Pere de Claramunt, cathedral sacristan, established an endowment in land and money so that three poor persons, chosen by the chapter, could be fed a midday meal throughout the year. In 1210, another canon, Ramon d'Hostalric, willed money to endow a daily meal for one poor person, and between 1227 and 1241 the canon and academic Master Martí left property and rents for three additional paupers.(6) At the same time, the bishop of Barcelona, Berenguer de Palou, who may have fed as many as 120 per day during Lent, established his own permanent endowment. As early as 1217, he directed the beneficiary of the altar of Sant Miquel to feed the apostolic number of twelve poor; the bishop's will of 1241 provided a permanent grant of lands to endow these meals, although no number is explicitly mentioned.(7) Over the next few decades, new endowments were forthcoming from other canons as well as from such lay notables as Ramon de Plegamans; these gifts funded daily meals in the canonical dining room as well as other, special meals that were [10] to be handed out on the anniversary date of the donor's death.(8) At first, the organization of this largesse was haphazard. Individual donors, like Bishop Berenguer and the layman, Pere Grony (in 1264), nominated their own agents, while earlier and presumably smaller gifts were handled in some fashion by the chapter.(9) The scheme was finally rationalized by Bishop Arnau de Gurb in his constitutions of December 1275. All of these funds were now placed under the administration of two canons, who were appointed for a term of two years by the bishop and his chapter, and were subject to an audit at the termination of their service.(10) These proctors named two other clergy of the cathedral to supervise real estate, which amounted to thirty different parcels in 1317 and, a century later, forty others. Other minor officials, such as a key-holder, butcher, collector of rents, and distributor of portions, appear in the records. At the same time, the identification of the individual endowments with their original donors seems to have faded, as they all now were merged into this larger, well-organized cathedral soup kitchen.(11) The establishment, with its kitchen and dining room, continued to function until the 1420s when fears of fraud (namely, that some of the poor were selling, rather than consuming, their daily ration) and the exigencies of construction created a new regime. The old facilities were closed in 1421, and the daily meal was replaced with a payment in cash, four diners on meat days and three on those of abstinence, along with a pound and a half of bread. Even after the almoina had acquired new quarters, first in the new cloister, and then on a nearby site purchased from the Mercedarians, the meals were not resumed.(12) Although lesser known and yet to be studied, a second almoina existed at Barcelona, one that belonged to the Jewish community. (13)

The Almoina of Lleida

The beginnings of the Pia Almoina of Lleida compare chronologically to that of Barcelona's cathedral, although the circumstances were very different. Here the foundation is thought to have been directly episcopal and to have occurred between 1149 ( the date of Count Ramon Berenguer IV's conquest of the city) and 1168 when Bishop Guillem Pérez de Ravidats organized the cathedral chapter. In the capitular constitutions, the bishop gave to the almoina (or Limosna), located in the cloister of the cathedral, a tenth of all tithes, first fruits, and death duties, that emanated from three villages along the Segre, north of the city, and a tenth of other episcopal [11] revenues. An almoner named Odon is a witness to the constitutions.(14) Agustín Prim Tarragó, however, argues that because these tithes are not found in the accounts of the almoina the initiative for its foundation lay with the chapter, which donated a portion of its daily meal to a proctor of alms.(15) It is not known what aid was initially offered the poor, but it is unlikely that they were fed at the table of the canons. By the late 1200s, however, the almoina had its own house, located in the cathedral cloister, from which it dispensed food or its equivalent in money. (16) Endowments similar to those at Barcelona began in 1277 when a canon willed money to feed three paupers; clerics and others, including Bishop Jaume de Roca, continued this tradition throughout the fourteenth century, but it seems to have ended after 1400. Thereafter, the old refectory was remodeled into a chapel where the poor would hear mass, and then be given three diners apiece. Before 1300, the almoina seems to have been the joint responsibility of the bishop and chapter, but thereafter of the chapter alone. The canons, in turn, delegated their authority to two senior almoners or proctors, who in turn appointed an administrator or refector. The latter was obliged to reside in Lleida, buy and distribute food, collect the rents, and dispense alms on Sundays to the poor, the sick, and pilgrims, to those who came to the almoina, and to the inmates of the city's hospitals and prisons. The administrator was assisted by lesser proctors, who collected rents within specific districts, and by a lawyer and a notary. In 1338, the cook was a woman named Na Gordana who had the assistance of two servants; supplies were purchased by one En Sijamo. In addition, two priests were paid three hundred sous per year to celebrate mass each day as the poor were being fed. In the hard times of the 1340s, in response to the increased pressure upon the almoina for assistance, the bishop and chapter limited admission to no more than fifty persons per day.(17)

The Almoina of Urgell

In the Seu d'Urgell, an almoina appears soon after the death of Bishop Ermengol (d.1035) and may be a by-product of the spiritual renewal that he had begun in the diocese, but the early evidence is fragmentary. In 1048 a priest named Oriol was in charge of an almshouse; and Bishop Guillem Arnau de Montferrer's will of 1096 suggests that it, along with a small hospital, was located in a building near the church door. In 1161 canons were obligated to pay any fines levied against them to the "prior-almoner [12] for use of the poor." At this time, it seems the poor were fed in the capitular refectory, a site renamed the almoina when the chapter abandoned its common life at the end of the twelfth century. In the thirteenth century, the almoina was relocated in the new Romanesque cloister. Unlike the almoina of Barcelona, this institution failed to attract private donations sufficient to underwrite its work and in 1279 had to be rescued with a grant of tithes from the bishop and chapter.(18) Despite occasional gifts from clerics and laics -- in 1347, for example, one Jaume de Cava donated one hundred pounds--, the institution's resources remained so meager that it had to suspend operations in years of famine and plague, like 1333 and 1348, precisely when its services were most needed. To compound this problem, after the plague the canons diverted the almoina's revenues to their own support, until the bishop in 1352 ordered a restoration of the expropriated foodstuffs to the institution. When the chapter responded by declaring the almshouse abolished, protests from townspeople forced its restoration, albeit on a reduced basis.(19) The general lack of vigor exhibited by this institution throughout its history may perhaps be due to the relative abundance of grain in this region, which frequently exported its surplus to Barcelona, and a concomitant smaller incidence of hunger.(20)

The Almoina of Girona

The origins of organized food distributions in Girona are first detected in the year 1228, when laypeople bequeathed two endowments for this purpose. The smaller of the two, the almoina of Bernat de Subiranegas, provided only a ritualistic assistance to the poor in the form of distributions of bread on All Souls' Day (November 2) and Good Friday.(21) The second endowment established in 1228, while undoubtedly growing out of the same pious intentions, eventually became a local institution of some importance. While this institution belonged to the cathedral, it received its initial grant from Arnau Escala, in the form of houses that he had purchased from the chapter; after the French siege of 1285, a new building was constructed east of the Mercadell. During the fourteenth century, the Almoina del Pa, as it came to be called, became a popular charity among the citizens of Girona. Unlike institutions in other Catalan towns, however, Girona's almshouse distributed only bread, daily between Ash Wednesday and Pentecost. Hard times in the fourteenth century caused this term to be extended; by 1347 it began at Saint Martin's Day (November 11), and in 1355 at All Saints' Day [13] (November 1), with a terminal date of May 1. A will of 1324 names Pere Casadevall as "proctor of the bread alms" and he appears to be tied to the chapter.(22) By the mid-fourteenth century, the Pia Almoina had also acquired a sizable patrimony between the Ter and Fluvia rivers, from which it drew tithes and rents in kind and in coin, collected by bailiffs, or, after 1347, farmed out to others. Unlike the situation at Urgell, neither the plague nor periodic famine seems to have seriously affected its financial stability. Even in the difficult years after the plague, donations continued to expand the patrimony. (23) For example, 78 percent of rural wills, and 35 percent of those from Girona itself, bequeathed something to the elemosina panis, to use its Latin name.(24) The onset of the bad years caused complaints that the institution no longer adequately served the poor because its proctors and their bailiffs had become negligent. To remedy the problem, Bishop Arnau in 1346 appointed a commission to revise the original statutes of 1228. These were reported in 1347; in 1355 Bishop Berenguer added others. Their intent was provide closer supervision of accounts, inventories, and the amount of bread actually given poor people.(25) According to these statutes, the almoina was to be operated by two clerics appointed by the sacristan, a doorkeeper, and a serving woman, but the accounts of 1376-77 list, in addition to this proctor, four serving women, a baker, a person to weigh bread, a carter, and a "scholar." Evidently either men or women could mix and knead the dough, but the baking was entirely a male occupation.(26)

Other Almoinas in Catalonia

In Tortosa, where the documents have yet to be closely studied, there is disagreement about the nature of the effort to feed the poor. Enrique Bayerrii, on the one hand, argues that work of feeding and sheltering the poor was combined and directed by the Hospital of the See, or that of Santa Maria. Christian Guilleré, on the other hand, believes that a separate almoina existed for this task, although it does not yet seem to have been studied.(27) Tortosa, the entrepôt for the Ebro valley's grain exports to Barcelona, like Urgell, may also have experienced fewer difficulties with food shortages. (28) At Tarragona, there is no evidence for any food distribution; the chapter in 1171 included a hospitaller but not an almoner.(29) Likewise, there is no evidence that Vic possessed an almshouse before the fourteenth century when one finally emerged, but under the administration of the municipal councilors and not the canons of the cathedral. (30)

The Almoina of Majorca

[14] Hunger, however, was an ever-present concern on Majorca after its conquest by King Jaume I in 1229. Here legacies to purchase cuarteras of wheat (about fifty kilos) were the most common caritative benefaction in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Typically the testator would establish an endowment to underwrite the distribution of flour or bread on major feasts or during Lent. Particularly generous was Bernat Scala de Sóller who in 1269 left enough money to distribute to the poor some two hundred loaves of bread on each day of Lent; his motives, however, were as much personal as religious. The bread had to be dispensed at the site of his tomb outside the town of Sóller, on the northern part of the island, so that paupers would not only acknowledge the identity of their benefactor but also pray for his soul. Majorca, however, had no central agency responsible for distributing these alms of bread. Instead this duty fell to individual executors, municipal officials, and parish authorities; toward the end of the fourteenth century, however, municipal almoinas began to appear, administered by proctors selected by the local council. Under extraordinary circumstances, however, there could be collective action. In 1349, just after the outbreak of the plague, King Pere III agreed to the request of the island's outlying rural communities that the urban alms funds be consolidated, and their proceeds used to assist farm workers in need.(31)

The Ordinary and Extraordinary Poor

The evidence shows that by the later thirteenth century almshouses functioned in most if not all Catalan episcopal towns, especially the larger ones, and that they were endowed by the local clergy and laypeople to provide food to those in need. Now let us turn and examine their clientele and the nature of this alimentary assistance. In global terms, the numbers helped must have been small within populations where the poor may have comprised between 25 and 50 percent. Thus, for example, Barcelona, whose size ranged from about 25,000 to 40,000 in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, would have had between 6,000 and 20,000 poor people.(32) Such statistics would obviously be subject to fluctuation, increasing during periods of shortage, such as 1315-17 and 1340-50, and decreasing when the crisis had abated.(33) Baucells's studies at Barcelona, nonetheless, indicate that the cathedral almoina actually helped about two hundred individuals at [15] any one time, or only between 1 and 3 percent of Barcelona's poor.(34) At the Seu d'Urgell, the almshouse tried to feed only fourteen persons a day before the plague years and the institution's decline. (35) At Lleida in 1338 there was enough income to feed 137 poor people each day, the so-called "ordinary poor," and 386 "extraordinary poor," namely those who were fed once a year, typically on an important feast or an individual's anniversary of death. While Pere Sanahuja sees this number rising throughout the rest of the century, Prim Bertrán i Roigé is skeptical, arguing that the income from endowments in 1338 was insufficient to feed so large a number.(36) The numbers he cites fluctuated greatly-- 90 per day in 1338, 50 in 1343, between 80 and 85 in 1358, growing to the range of 171 to 200 in 1409 and to 145-151 in 1415. Indeed, Sanahuja himself acknowledges that the chapter in 1341-43 attempted to limit assistance to no more than fifty per day, and accepts as valid a daily average of ninety, which ultimately suggests that several endowments eventually were eroded or dissipated. (37) At Girona, where the almoina just handed out bread and only for seven months of the year (from November through May), the numbers of those assisted were much larger. Fluctuations of distribution--for example, more bread was handed out in December and January than in other months, peaking on Christmas day--make it difficult to estimate the numbers of poor fed during the cold months of the year. Guilleré believes that during the difficult years of 1347 and 1348 some sixty-five hundred individuals were assisted; in 1376-77, out of a population smaller than eight thousand, eight hundred were fed.(38)

What was the major limitation of this aid? Apart from the growth of prejudice against those who were not members of the community, cost must have been a major constraint on a charitable scheme that relied on voluntary gifts. Evidence from fourteenth-century Lleida, for example, suggests that a hundred sous were required to feed one pauper for a year, or nearly three diners a day. Because much of this money derived from endowments, the capital that a donor had to provide was considerably larger. For example, in 1295 when the executors of Bishop Jaume de Roca purchased an annuity worth three hundred sous a year from the abbot of the monastery of Escarp to endow three places at Lleida's almoina the immediate cost to the estate was forty-two hundred sous, or thirteen times the annual aid to the poor. (39)

If only a minority of the urban poor were fed by these cathedral charities, who exactly was chosen? There appears to have been three categories of individuals assisted. First, among the "ordinary poor," that is, those who [16] were fed a daily meal, there were those especially singled out for aid by either the donor or the chapter and those who had no special connections or claims. Then, there were the "extraordinary poor", those who were fed an occasional meal on a feast or anniversary. We know the most about the first group. It was common enough practice for benefactors to endow specific places at the almoina's table, and frequently these were reserved for family members. Pere Grony, for example, a canon at Barcelona from 1291 to 1329, endowed three such places, one of which was given to a nun named Saurineta Gronya, and another to the man who lived with her. Likewise, the priest Ripoll de Cortades, in his will of 1302, directed the almoina of Barcelona to feed the poor of his own kindred, especially individuals who had moved from the family's home district of Ripoll to Barcelona to pursue studies or to serve as clerics -- but for no more than eight years. (40) A year earlier, Gueran de Cervelló underwrote five places and asked that preference be given to students from his home town. (41) This practice of reserving places for family members is also found at Lleida and, given the evidence of Jaume de Cava's 1347 will, not unknown in Urgell.(42) At Barcelona, the almoina's proctors, who were granted the right of presentment by many donors, reserved places for individuals in special circumstances, like students and teachers. In 1256, for example, the bishop accepted the petition of the nuns of Sant Damià that a legacy left by a ropemaker be used to support their chaplain. In 1369, a portion was allotted to Francesc de Mas, a poor student, as long as he studied science, and from the middle of the fourteenth century a portion of the Almoina's income was applied to the support of the cathedral boys and to the salary of a lecturer in theology, whose duties included delivering public talks in the cathedral to instruct the canons, curates, and the faithful. During the reign of Jaume II, the king also gained the right of presenting three paupers to the proctors of the Pia Almoina, a privilege that Alfons III invoked in 1330-31 to assign places there to Bartomeu Carbonell, the nephew of his chaplain and a poor student, and to two women, one a widow and the other left without support by her deceased father.(43)

But reservations were also made for the more typically needy, like Arnau de Sanç in 1327 who was old and not able to work, or to a poor youth with an injured arm. Baucells argues, however, that at Barcelona few places were available that had no strings attached, perhaps only the original, small group of twelfth-century endowments, those of the mandatum .(44) Maria Echániz Sans's study of Barcelona's almoina in 1283-84 concludes that the poor helped here were not the marginalized but rather the so-called [17] deserving poor.(45) At Lleida, the story is much the same. Among those aided were twenty students, a beadle of the Estudi General and two acolytes attached to the chapter. There were also handouts to a diverse group of individuals temporarily in need: abandoned children aided until they could be sent to the local orphan hospital, the father of two captives being held in Granada, an Italian bishop on pilgrimage, and the victim of a highway robbery. (46) Of the fifty or so paupers who received a daily meal, as few as eighteen (only those whose places were funded with tithes directly by the chapter itself) were without connection or claim.(47) At Lleida, however, the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary poor disappeared at the beginning of the fifteenth century, when food distributions were replaced with cash subsidies. During the difficult years of 1409 and 1415, the numbers that the almoina aided fluctuated between 145 and 200 individuals a day, for a total of 68,566 payments in 1409 and 59,219 in the 1415.(48)

Beggars, vagrants, and other marginalized people were more likely to receive handouts that were distributed at funerals and on the anniversaries of a benefactor's death. This custom, dating back to the twelfth century, had several variants. In its simplest form, baskets of bread would be left on or beside the tomb on the day of a funeral, and in subsequent years as well, to solicit prayers for the deceased from paupers who would congregate around church porches and cemeteries. In some instances, however, the bread would be given to the residents of convents and monasteries, and in other cases, particularly from the fourteenth century, small sums of money might be substituted for the loaves. (49) At Lleida, for instance, the bread offerings donated at funerals, usually enough to feed between ten and fifteen persons, were collected by the clergy and given to the Pia Almoina for use in its daily distribution of food. (50) In other places, such money was placed in endowments, whose income would be used to feed a given number of the "extraordinary poor" on the anniversary of the decedent's death.

Baucells's studies at Barcelona, the most complete on this account, enumerate the endowments of over three thousand such meals that were dispensed between 1200 and 1500. For various reasons, some endowments eventually lapsed, but in the year 1317, for example, 1,920 such meals were delivered to the poor. (51) Some generous individuals bequeathed money for full-time places in the almoina as well as smaller amounts for the commemoration of their anniversaries. We can cite the gifts of Bishop Berenguer de Palou that not only fed fourteen paupers a day but also another hundred on his anniversary, or that of Ramon de Riera who endowed two daily portions and a hundred special meals, fifty on his anniversary and another fifty [18] on the first Friday of Lent. In 1250, Master Ramon made a kind of hybrid donation, twenty meals on the last Friday of each month.(52) At Lleida the numbers are smaller but the practices are similar: in the fourteenth century about 350 annual meals were given out on anniversaries and on the feasts of the Mother of God, the Holy Cross, and All Saints as well as during Holy Week.(53) At Girona, where the Pia Almoina distributed only bread --130,000 loaves in 1347-48 and 44,000 somewhat larger ones in 1376-77--, there would not have been a distinction between the ordinary and extraordinary poor. Here, assuming that each person was given a quarter loaf, as many as 2,500 individuals were served on a daily basis in 1347-48, with an estimated distribution of 6,500 portions, or 1,625 loaves, on Christmas day. Thus, at Girona a wider category of poor were served, but in a lesser amount, than were assisted at either Barcelona or Lleida; it seems likely that they were not selected at all but rather served on demand.(54) At Urgell, there likewise were large-scale distributions of bread from the cloister, but seemingly on an irregular basis as funds became available. (55)

Apart from the cathedral almshouses, handouts of food were also made by wealthy households, of which the best known is that of the king. King Pere the Ceremonious in the midfourteenth century systematized royal alms in the form of the Almoina reial, and among its functions was the daily distribution of food to those who presented themselves at the royal residence, wherever it was at the moment. The almoina's ordinances of 1344 specified that bread would be given daily to sixty paupers, that leftovers along with the bread, wine, fruit, and cheese that had grown stale or old should also be distributed each day, but to a different group of needy persons, and that, as a remembrance of Christ's humility, thirteen others should be given a meal every day, with the king himself serving it on Good Friday. Extra rations of bread would be provided on feast days, as well as on fast days when what was saved provisioning the royal table was to be given to paupers.(56) Like the recipients of bread distributions and anniversary meals, the poor served seem to have been not a special privileged group, especially given the itinerant nature of the royal court, but rather merely those who presented themselves at the king's back door.

Parochial Charity

Within the Crown of Aragon, the marginalized, itinerant, and criminal poor were the responsibility of the cathedral, while the local poor increasingly [19] were entrusted to newly developing parish institutions. (57) In 1288, within the Kingdom of Valencia , for example, a "father of the poor" was elected in each parish. His duties were to dole out money each Saturday and meat and rice in addition on holidays. On All Saints' Day, warm clothing and blankets were distributed against the upcoming winter. (58) In Reus, there was a bacinus pauperum (or collector for the poor) in the fourteenth century.(59) On Majorca by 1300, the legacies left to benefit the poor were pooled into municipal alms funds administered by almoners appointed by the town council or in rural parishes by the local pastor.(60) In smaller towns, however, care for the deserving poor remained in the hands of some central agency. In Vic, it was the city council that took the responsibility for distributing alms. Here the city councilors administered not only the Almoina General but also a fund or bací to provide clothing to the poor. In Girona, the Vestuari, a charity established by the canon Bernat Vilafreser in 1245 and subsequently administered by the chapter, distributed shirts and breeches to the poor at Easter, and tunics on the feast of All Saints.(61) Castilian parishes in the fifteenth century developed an institution that, like Italian montes de pietà, distributed and loaned money at no interest to parishioners in need. (62) In Barcelona, relief funds were established in each of the seven urban parishes under the titles of bací, colecta, and plat for the deserving poor. The earliest was founded in the neighborhood of Vilanova del Mar, at its parish church of Santa Maria del Mar. Its existence is documented in 1320, but it may have been functioning as early as 1296 or even 1275.(63) Each fund was administered by elected lay parishioners, called baciners , who collected, managed, and distributed money as alms. In the parish of Sants Just i Pastor, for example, there were three such officials who oversaw collection boxes (bacins), one placed at the cathedral, another in the parish church, and the third midway between the houses of the Franciscans and Mercedarians. One baciner was an "honored citizen," the second a merchant or artisan, and the third a worker. Alms were to be distributed twice a year, a few days before Christmas and during Holy Week, and could be in the form of clothing, flour, and/or money. At Santa Maria del Mar, normally one or two baciners were elected, but there could be as many as five in difficult years. Most were merchants, but also chosen were notaries, apothecaries, artisans, and silversmiths. (64) At Santa Maria del Pi, detailed ordinances describe the election of the three baciners (on Candlemas, later on New Year's Day), their obligation to collect alms each Sunday at various locales throughout the city, and their distribution of alms to the poor. They were specifically forbidden to give anything to beggars, idlers, or the "depraved." As at Sant Just, meals were not given out because [20] the needy had homes where they could presumably prepare their own food. Instead, flour was distributed at Christmas and on the feast of Saint John in June, bread on the feast of All Souls' (November 2), clothing once a year, and small amounts of money once a month. In 1423 and 1428, for example, each poor person was given two canas of cloth, enough for a suit of clothing; in 1423, most recipients received one or two arrobas of flour (or twenty-six to fifty-two pounds). Cash grants were evidently proportional to need with most, in the 1420s, ranging from one and a half to three sous. Statistically, more women were aided than men; the size of the cash grants was influenced both by gender and class, with males and those of prominent families getting more. In 1423, the largest dole went to an ailing widow, with other grants recorded for a sick lawyer, a bricklayer, a draper, a silversmith, and Jaume Rossell's widow who had a daughter. None of those assisted was a rural worker. (65)

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the "deserving" poor break down into two distinctive groups. The first, which included people like the lawyer Joan Albanell and his wife, consisted of those who could no longer support themselves due to some permanent disability. Sickness, old age, and widowhood are the most frequently cited justifications for assistance at Santa Maria del Pi.(66) Lacking the support of family or a corporate body like a guild, such individuals could fall back only on the assistance of their neighbors. Members of the second group were victims of the economic cycle, able to get by in good times but in need of help during periods of famine and unemployment. Catalonia, for example, suffered from food shortages in 1315-17 and from 1333 to the onset of the plague; the period 1380-1420 was an era of general economic crisis during which as much as 80 percent of the population was reduced to poverty.(67) A study of poor relief in Barcelona's parish of Santa Maria del Pi suggests that there was also some geographical basis to poverty. In the district of the Arrabal, located across the Ramblas from the parish church, needy families who received parochial assistance in the fifteenth century were found on practically every street. But the most needy, that is, those who received regular doles, tended to congregate in just six areas that seem to be the "poorer" neighborhoods. Handouts in other areas fluctuated a great deal, presumably following the cycle of the economy.(68)

The assistance to these two groups is revealed in the scattering of accounts that have survived from some of Barcelona's bacís from the early fifteenth century.(69) These records show that the actual solicitation of coins from parishioners had become largely symbolic and yielded only a small [21] percentage of the revenue expended on the needy. Most of the money now came from legacies, (70) most often in small amounts between two and a half and ten sous, but which could include exceptional gifts like the 133 pounds, 6 sous, and 7 diners that Arnau Serra contributed to the alms fund of Santa Maria del Pi in 1400. All of these gifts were capitalized in the form of censos and censales, rents on pieces of property owned by the plat or income from public obligations issued by entities like the Kingdom of Majorca, the Generalitat of Catalonia, or the City of Barcelona. Government bonds and real estate investments generally paid a return on capital of between 5 and 10 percent.(71) The total income available for the poor varied considerably from parish to parish -- at Sant Just, just over £13 a year, but rising to the range of £300-350 at Santa Maria del Pi and between £336 and £576 in the wealthy parish of Santa Maria del Mar. (72) In comparison to this investment income, revenue derived from direct alms collections was insignificant. At Santa Maria del Pi, collections averaged no more than £4 per month in 1423, less than a sixth of the bací 's total income.(73)

We know less about distributions from parochial alms funds than we do about their sources of income. The best study of alms distributions is that from Santa Maria del Pi for the years 1423 and 1428. It is difficult to quantify the reasons that underlie the need of these parishioners because, while permanent disability was the justification for assistance cited most frequently, in the majority of cases no reason whatsoever is recorded. One suspects, however, that cyclic economic hardship was an important, if unstated, cause because the second of the two years studied, 1428, was one of unusual hardship. The records of the bací reflect this, showing a greater number assisted in 1428 than in 1423, with the largest monthly disbursement occurring in March 1428. While in the typical month more women were aided than men, in October and November 1428, the gender ratio was reversed, suggesting a problem of unemployment. Furthermore, those who appeared on the dole list in 1428 for the most part did so only once, and this also suggests that their need was a temporary one.(74)

The Diet of the Poor

Now that we have discussed where, when, and to whom food and other assistance were distributed, let us examine the nature of the assistance and its delivery. Neighborhood charity, as we have seen, tended to be discreet. It provided the needy with clothing for the winter, flour, and monthly supplements [22] to income, all of which were designed to permit the poor to continue living in a normal fashion within their neighborhood. Cathedral charity, on the other hand, was public; the poor had to appear daily at the almoina to receive food, a daily monetary dole, or a combination of the two. Today, the former would compare with various forms of public welfare, and the latter with the soup kitchen.

Detailed accounts permit us some insight into the character of the assistance distributed in the form of daily meals. Typically medieval Catalans took two meals a day, one around ten in the morning and the other near six in the evening.(75) The poor, however, were served only once, around midday. (76) The menus were dull and repetitious, except for the special meals that were served on religious holidays, or on the anniversary of some benefactor. For example, the leper hospital of Sant Llàtzer in Barcelona served its inmates special menus on fifteen holidays; Barcelona's Hospital of Sant Macià did the same on Christmas and on the feast of its patron saint. (77) The expenditure of Valencia's Hospital of En Clapers on various items of food consumed by inmates and the staff suggests the outline of a fairly typical medieval institutional diet. In 1388-89, of the over six thousand sous spent on consumables, 30.1 percent went for wheat, 25.7 percent for wine, 18.4 percent for mutton, 14.3 percent for condiments, 5.2 percent for oil, 4.5 percent for fish, and 1.8 percent for eggs. (78)

The staple of the diet was bread, for rich and poor alike; at Girona, as we have seen, this was the only item of food dispensed to the poor. According to the depictions in murals at the almshouse of Lleida, the bread could be large, round, and fluffy loaves of yeast bread or else the flat, hard, unleavened variety found elsewhere in the Mediterranean. At Barcelona, two sizes were common: the dinal, a small loaf used as offerings at funerals, and the dobler, the size commonly consumed and which cost two diners. (79) Bread could be made of rye, wheat, or a mixture of grains that could also include barley, millet, and even melon seeds. At Urgell, where rye predominated in the grain restored to the almoina in 1352, it would seem that the bread was rye; Bertrán supposes the same to have been true at Lleida.(80) But throughout the peninsula, rye was gradually supplanted with wheat bread.(81) Not only was rye bread disparaged as being the food for poor and rural folk, but it also carried the threat of ergotism.(82) At Girona, the pattern was slightly different. Here wheat bread was a special treat reserved for Christmas and Easter; on other days, the poor were served bread made from barley flour. At Barcelona in 1283-84, 61 percent of the grain received by the almoina as rents in kind is known to have been wheat and 9 percent barley and other [23] grains; the remainder, which is not identified in the sources, may well have been wheat too. (83)

There have been various estimates of the amount of bread served to the poor. Estimates are a low at Girona, where large numbers of the poor were given quarter loaves, which amounted to about 200 grams of bread per day in 1347-48 and 250 in 1376-77. Pere Desvilar mandated that his hospital in Barcelona serve each inmate a loaf made from sifted wheat that weighed eighteen ounces. At the other end of the scale, Bertrán estimates that the poor of Lleida, for the week of June 19-25, 1338, received 715 grams of bread per day. In between the extremes would be the 560 grams per day served at Barcelona after 1421 when other food distributions were replaced with cash. At the Hospital of En Clapers, in Valencia, the daily ration ranged from 531 grams in 1374/75, a period of shortage, to 768 grams in 1388-89, a more normal year. Other studies suggest that the ration of the poor here was somewhat less than the general population elsewhere would consume. (84) The portion of bread amounted to, in Bertrán's calculations, 78.43 percent of the total caloric intake of the meal; Echániz Sans at Barcelona is less precise but still concludes that the combination of bread, wine, and meat amounted to over 75 percent of the food provided and consumed. (85) By way of comparison, the Constitutio cibariaó, enacted at Lleida in 1168 by Bishop Guillem Pérez de Ravidats, provided that each canon was to be given a daily ration of bread amounting to about 750 grams, which means that the various charitable regimens provided the poor with less bread than typically consumed by the clergy. (86)

Besides bread, wine was the other principal staple served to the poor at Barcelona every day except Holy Thursday and Good Friday. (87) It was normally purchased at the local market to save cartage and because it could be purchased for less money than the higher quality vintages produced on the almoina's own estates commanded. At Lleida, the wine came from both sources. There are no estimates of the ration provided at Barcelona's table, but the Hospital of Pere Desvilar dispensed a sixth of a quart per day. Bertrán has estimated that Lleida in 1338 gave each poor person .53 liters per day, amounting to 12.34 percent of the total calories provided by the almoina's meal.(88) This is close to the fifteenth-century portions provided by Burgos's Hospital del Rey (.75 liters of poor, local wine) and Toledo's confraterntity of San Pedro (.84 liters), but only half what the average medieval person seems to have consumed. Even the residents of Valencia's Hospital of En Clapers imbibed between .77 and 1.25 liters per day in the later fourteenth century. (89)

[24] Apart from bread and wine, meat was the most commonly served food; it was part of the diet of all social classes, albeit in small quantities.(90) At Girona in 1360, for example, there were some forty butchers to serve a population of ten thousand.(91) Meat, of course, could not be consumed on days of abstinence -- Fridays, the eves of certain feasts, and certain days during Lent and Advent. Echániz counts 155 days of abstinence so observed in Barcelona in 1283-84, although Bertrán's work at Lleida for 1338 suggests that far fewer were meatless. In any case, the records show that meat was served on 253 days out of 365 at Lleida, and on 185 days out of 340 at Barcelona. (92) By contrast, the canonical constitutions of Lleida (1168) permitted meat on only 180 days a year to a clergy who presumably followed a stricter regimen,.(93) Mutton was by far the meat eaten most often, representing 174 of the 185 meat portions given out in Barcelona in 1283-1284; beef was second, with twelve servings at Lleida and seven at Barcelona; the menus were rounded out at Lleida with one serving of pork and at Barcelona with four of veal. The mutton was presumably very mature lamb; in Castile the custom was to slaughter sheep only after they had reached forty to forty-five kilograms. Beef typically came from old milk cows or diseased animals; indeed, at Barcelona, Echániz speculates that much of the meat for the almoina was purchased from butchers who specialized in discarded animals and served, especially in the summer months, with salsa to hide the bad smells. (94) The records of the almoina show no poultry served -- understandable because chicken was typically priced as high as pork, which next to lamb and veal was the most expensive meat and considered to be suitable only for the sick or for special occasions. In general, the cheapest meats predominated. (95) Neither Bertrán nor Echániz have estimated the size of meat portions, but that served to pilgrims at the Hospital del Rey in Burgos is thought to have been about 300 grams.(96) In Catalonia, however, the portion might have been as small as 100 grams. At Pere Desvilar's hospital, for example, inmates by statute were supposed to receive either 90 grams of mutton or 110 grams of veal or beef. (97)

Fish, salted, dried, or smoked, was served more rarely, only 14 times in Lleida in 1338, but 110 times in the seaport of Barcelona. At Lleida, conger eel, the only variety of fish consumed, appeared during Lent, especially on the Thursdays and Sundays between the feast of the Annunciation and Holy Thursday. It was completely absent from the rest of the year; instead, on other days of abstinence, the poor would be given wine, oil, dried beans, and salsa plus a half diner (or òbol) with which to purchase a main course.(98) At Barcelona, where a greater variety of seafood was available at the pescateria del mar, fish like mullet, sea bass, or dolphin were fairly common [25] during the colder months, especially during Lent. Like meat, fish was purchased daily from local sellers, but as at Lleida the custom of paying out money in lieu of fish seems to have developed also.(99) At Lleida, Bertrán estimates the portion of eel served to have been 62.26 grams, that we can contrast to the pilgrim portion at Burgos of 83 grams plus one sardine.(100) The Church at this time also permitted cheese and eggs to be served on days of abstinence; for the poor, cheese was a staple, not a condiment. At both Lleida and Barcelona, cheese seems to have been served on Fridays, especially in the summer when fish was hard to come by, but never during Lent or Advent; in addition, eggs also appeared on the menu at Barcelona. Portions were small, estimated to be about ninety grams at both locales. (101)

In the Book of True Love, Juan Ruiz, the archpriest of Hita, assigns as a penance for the sins of greed, pride, avarice, lust, perjury, gluttony, and envy to the Lord of Flesh a diet of vegetables -- chick peas, string beans, asparagus, spinach, lentils, and beans.(102) Arnau de Vilanova, in his widely read Regimen sanitatis, furthermore, argued that legumes were unsuitable for the healthy body, that vegetables should be eaten only after being cooked, and that fruit was suitable only as medicine.(103) While such foods were clearly less esteemed than bread, wine, and meat, they nevertheless formed a significant, and the least expensive, part of the diet of the poor. Echániz's study at Barcelona reveals a monotonous selection, limited almost exclusively to cabbage, spinach, and beans. Cabbage appeared on the menu 75 percent of the time, spinach 13 percent; beans appear to have been served along with flour, oil, and a little meat as cassoulets. At Lleida, there was more variety but fewer servings. Bertrán lists broad and kidney beans and other vegetables like spinach, swiss chard, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage as major components of 109 meals and garlic and onions for 50 more. At Barcelona, spinach and cabbage were served in the cooler months, with salsa substituted in the summer as a condiment to improve the taste of meat. In Valencia, the garden of the fourteenth-century Hospital of En Clapers grew cabbage, garlic, spinach, onions, peas, beans, various kinds of melon, gourds, eggplant, lettuce, basil and other herbs, and leeks. At Lleida, beans were served in June, August, and November, and other vegetables were served as they were in season. Here too there was a salsa de casa that, according to a 1311 recipe, consisted of pepper, ginger, and saffron. Olive oil was used in small quantities with fish and in stews; salt was used in seemingly large amounts; but very little if any fruit was used, since it was regarded as a food for the sick or merely as a condiment to accompany other dishes. (104)

Estimates of the nutritional value of these free meals vary. Judging by [26] medieval standards, Echániz describes the diet as privileged, being more secure and varied in content than the normal food of the working class. Bertrán, judging it by modern norms, finds it woefully inadequate, unbalanced, monotonous, deficient in key minerals and vitamins, and in terms of calories adequate for women but 20.9 percent too low for men. The 2,372.9 calories that he estimates were provided by his sample menu were certainly far below the 4,700 to 6,882 calories that have been estimated as being typical for medieval religious, or the 3,500 required by the average laborer. Of course, almshouses with more limited aims, like that of Girona, which distributed only bread, provided a far smaller proportion of nutritional needs. (105)

The Iberian sources are silent on questions of gender and status, but studies elsewhere reveal that these could influence the quality and amount of food given the poor. The accounts of the English Hospital of Saint Leonard from 1461 to 1462, for example, show that while all received the same basic allotment of bread, meat, and beer, a woman received slightly less (6.5 percent) fish, unless she had purchased and held a sacerdotal, that is, a man's, place. (106)

* * *

The four centuries of charitable assistance to the hungry that have been reviewed here demonstrate an evolution from the occasional and ritualistic distribution of food to a few local poor into a complex and articulated system of assistance. Many forces were responsible for this development -- the growth of towns, the differentiation of the poor into various groups and classes, the maturation of ecclesiastical and then of municipal institutions, the gradual accumulation of permanent endowments. To a great degree this charity was motivated by religious concerns, which might explain why many deferred making contributions until the end of their lives. In such circumstances, because the identity of the poor themselves would be irrelevant, the assistance would be open to any person of need.

In Catalonia, however, this was less and less the case. Eastern Spain, like Italy, was a region of seaports and towns and, in addition, was on the fringe of the frontier. More so than more predominately rural and agricultural regions, Catalonia attracted numbers of outsiders who, during difficult years, could easily overwhelm the mechanisms of assistance. Thus, no later than 1250, as early as in Italy, contributors and others in Catalonia began to distinguish between the deserving and undeserving poor and to [27] discriminate on that basis in the distribution of charity. After 1250, we see no new almoinas established, and those already in existence begin to reserve a considerable proportion of their places for the pauperes verecundi, that is, poor scholars, officials, or relatives. With the formation of new parishes in towns like Barcelona, most new caritative initiatives after 1250 took place within the neighborhood and focused exclusively on the local and deserving poor. In smaller towns like Girona and Urgell, where there were fewer parishes and perhaps a smaller marginalized population, cathedral or municipal assistance continued to dominate, but this assistance was seasonal and supplemental, being limited to basic staples. As a consequence, even in smaller locales, the bias toward local people temporarily in need is clear. While the older almoinas would continue to distribute some food to the marginalized, increasingly the task of dealing with those without a neighborhood fell to the public shelter, which in the medieval period bore the title of hospital.


Notes for Chapter Two

1. For a general discussion of the rise of the poor as a permanent social class, see Mollat, Poor in the Middle Ages, 57-69. On the obligation to assist the poor, as related in patristic texts and then adapted by the twelfth and thirteenth-century canonists, see Tierney, Medieval Poor Law , 44-54, 68-75.

2. The almonry at Jaca was founded by Bishop García in 1076, that at Roda by Bishop Dalmau in 1092, and that at Huesca by Bishop Esteban in 1108. See J. Boix Pociello, "Les persones pobres e miserables a la Ribagorça medieval," Acta historica et archaeologica mediaevalia 5-6 (1984-85): 194-95; and Antonio Ubieta Arteta, "Pobres y marginados in el primitivo Aragón," Aragón en la Edad Media 5 (1983): 20-21.

3. Stephen P. Bensch sees the period 1140-1220 as crucial in the development of Barcelona's economy and urban patriciate. See his Barcelona and its Rulers, 1096-1291 (Cambridge, 1995), 232-33.

4. Josep Baucells i Reig, "La Pia Almoina de la seo de Barcelona," in A pobreza, 1:81-82.

5. The ritual of monastic hospitality included the mandatum, or washing of the feet. See: Mollat, Poor in the Middle Ages, 47; and Josep Baucells i Reig, "Gènesi de la Pia almoina de la Seu de Barcelona: Els fundadors," in La pobreza, 1:19.

6. Baucels, "Gènesi,", 26-33; Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 87-90.

7. Evidence suggests that Bernat de Santa Eulàlia was able to use Bishop Berenguer's endowment to feed fourteen poor, two more than originally intended. Baucels, "Pia Almoina," 93-94, 98.

8. The Plegamans was the most prominent family in thirteenth-century Barcelona; Ramon was vicar of the city, and then royal vicar and bailiff of Catalonia. In 1240, he asked that as many poor be fed on his anniversary as funds permitted; in 1241, the canon Ramon de Riera endowed daily meals for two poor persons and special meals for fifty others on his anniversary and also on the first Friday of Lent; Bishop Berenguer's estate initially fed fourteen daily and another hundred on his anniversary (ibid., 96, 98). The smaller amount of a single morabetin was left by the canon Larrentius in his will of 1267 to feed the poor in the cathedral refectory (ASPP, carp. 25, perg. 333). On Plegamans, see Bensch, Barcelona, 321-22.

9. The bishop's will directed: "We assign the alms for the alms of the aforesaid poor, so that those poor may henceforth be fed in the refectory of the Church of Barcelona, all in such manner that they be able to be suitably refreshed, under the direction of one cleric, or canon or benefice holder of this Church, who is to be called the 'Almoner,' appointed by the bishop or chapter of Barcelona, and who is held to answer once a year to the authority of the chapter and bishop." Sebastián Puig y Puig, Episcopologio de la sede barcinonense (Barcelona, 1929), 442, no. 96. The layman Pere Grony in 1264 placed his endowment in the hands of the curate of the parish of Sant Miquel. Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 99.

10. Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 104.

11. Ibid., 99, 106-7.

12. Ibid., 110-12.

13. Antonio Pons, Los judios del reino de Mallorca durante los siglos XIII y XIV (Palma de Mallorca, 1984), 2:126.

14. Sanahuja, Beneficencia en Lérida, 42-45; Josep Lladonosa i Pujol, Història de la ciutat de Lleida (Barcelona, 1980), 138.

15. See Agustín Prim Tarragó, Cosas viejas de Lérida (Lleida, 1893), 6. Sanahuja counters by arguing that the reason for this is that those tithes were diverted from the almoina in 1237 by Bishop Pere de Albalat to the cathedral construction fund (Beneficencia en Lérida , 48-50).

16. The dining room contained rude tables, probably arranged in a rectangle, with stools and chairs. Food was served on ceramic platters; wine was in pottery jars, from which it was poured into individual bowls. Prim Bertrán i Roigé, "El menjador de l'almoina de la catédral de Lleida. Notes sobre l'alimentació dels pobres lleidatans al 1338," Ilerda 40 (1979): 110-11.

17. An example of an endowment is the will of Ramon de Montanyana, an archdeacon and canon of the cathedral, which in 1309 provided funds for the alimentation of seven poor persons in the almoina of Lleida, and three others in that of Valencia. In addition four large loaves of white bread (two more in Valencia) were to be distributed to the poor at the onset of winter, and in June one hundred measures of rough linen cloth were to be given out. See Sanahuja, Beneficencia en Lérida, 62-64, 68-76. See also Prim Bertrán i Roigé, "L'Almoina de la Seu de Lleida a principis del segle XV," in La pobreza, 2:349-52, 355; and his "El menjador," 110. The custom of distributing food to external constituencies was not unusual. In the English town of York, for example, the Hospital of Saint Leonard, in addition to feeding its own inmates, distributed food at its gate to regular dependents and itinerant beggars and to the inmates of the local leper hospices and the prisoners of York Castle See Patricia Helen Cullum, Cremetts and Corrodies: Care of the Poor and Sick at St. Leonard's Hospital, York, in the Middle Ages (York, 1991), 29.

18. Batlle, Urgell medieval, 112-13, 119-21.

19. Ibid., 123-25.

20. For the grain trade between Urgell and Barcelona, see Mutgé, La ciudad de Barcelona, 49.

21. Bread in the amount of a hundred sous was to be given out on All Souls' Day, and two hundred sous worth on Good Friday. Christian Guilleré, Diner, poder i societat a la Girona del segle XIV (Girona, 1984), 158.

22. Christian Guilleré, "Assistance et charité à Gérone au début du XIVème siècle," in La pobreza , 1:194; Christian Guilleré, Girona medieval: L'etapa d'apogeu, 1285-1360 (Gerona, 1991):10, 89.

23. Christian Guilleré, "Une institution charitable face aux malheurs du temps: La Pia Almoina de Gerone (1347-1380)," in La pobreza, 2:318-21; 324.

24. Christian Guilleré, "La peste noire à Gérone," Annals de Institut d'Estudis Gironins 27 (1984): 132.

25. Guilleré, "Institution charitable," 314-15.

26. Ibid., 326.

27. Enrique Bayerri y Bertomeu, Historia de Tortosa y su comarca (Tortosa, 1956), 7:580; Guilleré, "Institution charitable," 313n.

28. In time of need, for example, Tortosa would keep the grain for itself and embargo sales to Barcelona (Mutgé, La ciudad de Barcelona , 70).

29. Lawrence J. McCrank, "Restoration and Reconquest in Medieval Catalonia: The Church and the Principality of Tarragona, 971-1177" (Ph.D. dissertation; University of Virginia, 1974), 586.

30. Eduard Junyent, La ciutat de Vic i la seva història (Barcelona, 1976), 124.

31. Alvaro Santamaría, "La asistencia a los pobres en Mallorca en el bajomedievo," Anuario de estudios medievales 13 (1983): 388-93; 398.

32. Michel Mollat, "Pauvres et assistés au Moyen Âge," in A pobreza, 1:17; Carme Batlle, L'expansió baixmedieval (segles XIII-XV), vol. 3 of Història de Catalunya, ed. Pierre Vilar (Barcelona, 1988), 90. Estimates of poverty in Italy range from 10 to 30 percent in the late thirteenth century, and upwards of 50 percent by the mid-fourteenth century (Henderson, Piety and Charity, 246-47).

33. In general, Catalonia in the fourteenth century suffered from the problem of underproduction, so food was never plentiful. But the degree of crisis varied. A contemporary source, for example, states that in 1333, a year of great hunger, more than ten thousand people died in Barcelona, but in 1328-29, when shortages were not so severe, the king permitted some wheat to be sent to Valencia where shortages were greater. Mutgé, La ciudad de Barcelona, 42-44.

34. The Llibre Vert, an account book of the almoina, dating from 1317 lists 176 poor people being fed daily, and another 975 individual, endowed rations; Baucells's accounting for that year is 178 daily meals and 1,920 individual meals. Fourteenth-century sources speak of a more or less constant 288 poor people; in 1536 the number was 279. In terms of endowments, Baucells counts 88 places established between 1200 and 1299, 186 for 1300-1399 and 40 in the fifteenth century; the peak period for the establishment of new endowments was the decade 1290-99. Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 102-103. At the end of the fifteenth century, the number of places grew to 288 per day. Josep Baucells, "L'església de Catalunya," Acta historica et archaeologica mediaevalia 13 (1992): 433.

35. Batlle, Urgell medieval, 123.

36. Sanahuja, Beneficencia en Lérida, 84-85; Bertrán, "El menjador," 93-94.

37. Bertrán, "Almoina de la Seu de Lleida," 355; Sanahuja, Beneficencia en Lérida, 68-69, 102.

38. Guilleré, "Institution charitable," 329-31; Batlle, L'expansió baixmedieval, 255.

39. Sanahuja, Beneficencia en Lérida, 71, 114.

40. Josep Baucells i Reig, El maresme i la Pia Almoina de la Seu de Barcelona: Catàleg del fons en pergamí de l'Arxiu Capitular de la Catedral de Barcelona (Barcelona, 1987), 27-30.

41. Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 108.

42. Sanahuja, Beneficencia en Lérida, 61; Batlle, Urgell medieval, 123.

43. Mutgé, La ciudad de Barcelona, 34.

44. Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 97, 107-8.

45. See her "La alimentación de los pobres asistados por la Pia Almoina de la catedral de Barcelona según el libro de cuentas de 1283-84," in Alimentació i societat a la Catalunya medieval (Barcelona, 1988), 186.

46. Bertrán, "Almoina de la Seu de Lleida," 361-63. Students, particularly in educational centers, were not uncommon recipients of this sort of largesse. In fifteenth-century Valladolid, for example, the monastery of San Benito handed out some ninety meals a day -- sixty to beggars and thirty to students: Rucquoi, "Hospitalisation et charité à Valladolid," 396.

47. Sanahuja, Beneficencia en Lérida, 80.

48. Bertrán, "Almoina de la Seu de Lleida," 355.

49. Equip Broida, "El ápats funerais segons els testaments vers al 1400," in Alimentació i societat a la Catalunya medieval (Barcelona, 1988), 264.

50. Bertrán, "El menjador," 91.

51. Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 102-3.

52. Ibid., 96-98.

53. Bertrán, "El menjador," 93.

54. Guilleré, "Institution charitable," 329-31.

55. Guillem Tor in 1347 left twenty pounds for the repair of the bridge of Sant Esteve, with the stipulation that if the work were not completed within four years that the money be instead given to the Pia Almoina for the distribution of bread to the "poor of Christ." See Batlle, Urgell medieval, 124.

56. Agustí Altisent, L'Almoina reial a la cort de Pere el Cerimoniós. Estudi i edició dels manuscrits de l'almoiner Fra Guillem Deudé, monjo de Poblet (1378-85) (Abbey of Poblet, 1969), xix-xx, xli-xlii. The kings of Castile did not have a similar royal almoner, although there are instances of such alms, as when Juan I in 1387 ordered that forty poor people be clothed and three hundred be fed (López Alonso, Pobreza en la España medieval, 477).

57. Within the Low Countries, "tables of the poor" that were established by parishes also played a prominent role in aiding the poor; see M.-J. Tits-Dievaide, "Les tables des pauvres dans les anciennes principautés belges au Moyen Âge," Tijdschrift voor geschiedenis 88 (1975): 562-75. On the general obligation of parishes to provide hospitality to the poor, according to canon law, see Tierney, Medieval Poor Law, 75-78.

58. Mollat, Poor in the Middle Ages, 141.

59. See wills of 1348 and 1366 in Salvador Vilaseca Anguera, Hospitales medievals de Reus (Reus, 1958), 28-29.

60. Santamaría, "Asistencia a los pobres en Mallorca," 391,400.

61. Junyent, Vic, 124; Guilleré, "Charité à Gérone," 195.

62. López Alonso, Pobreza en la España medieval, 392-93.

63. Others were located at the parishes of Santa Maria del Pi, Sant Pere de las Puelles, Sant Jaume Apostol, Sant Miquel, Sant Just.

64. Carme Batlle i Gallart, "La ayuda a los pobres en la parroquia de San Justo de Barcelona," in A pobreza, 1:65-67. We have this 1344 description of the institution: "Likewise, there is another praiseworthy custom, whereby in each of the seven parish churches of this city certain upright men are chosen each year who have the responsibility of collecting on behalf of the deserving poor, and who distribute in secret what they collect to the deserving poor of the said parochial churches." Quoted in Miguel Pardo Fernández, "'El bací des pobres vergonyants' de la parroquia de Santa María del Mar," Estudios històrics i documents dels Arxius de Protocols 8 (1980): 149-53.

65. Joan-F. Cabestany and Salvador Claramunt, "El «Plat des pobres» de la parroquia de Santa María del Pí de Barcelona (1408-1428)," in A pobreza, 1:160-71.

66. Ibid., 167, 171. Similar categories of the "shamed" poor have been identified as the principal objects of charity in late medieval Florence: Henderson, Piety and Charity, 257, 266, 272, 340, 393.

67. Mutgé, La ciudad de Barcelona, 42-44; Batlle, L'expansió baixmedieval, 288, 424.

68. The poorer neighborhoods are identified by their lack of prominent residents, or of artisan families, churches, and religious or municipal structures. See Salvador Claramunt, "Una primera aproximación para establecer un plano de la pobreza vergonzante en el arrabal de la Rambla, de Barcelona, a lo largo del siglo XV," in La pobreza, 2:380-82.

69. For example, there are accounts from Santa Maria del Pi from 1401, 1402, 1423, and 1428; and from Santa Maria del Mar for 1404, 1416, 1421 and 1425.See Salvador Claramunt, "Los ingresos del «Bací o Plat dels Pobres» de la parroquia de Santa María del Pí de Barcelona, de 1434 a 1456," in La Pobreza, 1:373; and Aramayona, "Santa María del Mar," 173.

70. While the giving of pious legacies dates back many centuries, the legal procedures for the disposition of such bequests do not appear in Barcelona until the fourteenth century. Synodal legislation of 1354, which may in fact reflect the reforms of Bishop Ponç de Gualba (1303-34), placed the administration of legacies destined for spiritual uses in the hands of the clergy. Executors were given one year to fulfill the terms of the will, at which time they would have to make an accounting to the bishop, on penalty of being placed under interdict; for a variety of reasons this goal seems rarely to have been attained. See Utterback, Pastoral Care, 70-71, 164-90.

71. The principal risk, it seems, came from currency devaluation that lessened the real value of the return. See ibid., 164-65;Claramunt, "Los ingresos," 374-75, 378-79, 383; Batlle, "San Justo," 69. In Valencia, beginning in 1368, hospitals like En Clapers and La Reyna began to invest endowments in municipal bonds, the censal de la ciutat, earning a return between 7.7 and 8.3 percent. See Agustín Rubio Vela, Pobreza, enfermedad y asistencia hospitalaria en la Valencia del siglo XIV (Valencia, 1984), 62-63. In fourteenth-century Venice, charitable trusts were strongly encouraged by the municipality to invest in bonds rather than directly in real estate. The government evidently feared that the latter strategy would remove tax-paying property from the rolls and would obligate charities to excessive maintenance expense. In Venice, however, given the interest defaults of the next century, real estate proved to be the better investment. See Brian Pullan, "Houses in Service of the Poor in the Venetian Republic," Poverty and Charity: Europe, Italy, Venice, 1400-1700 (Aldershot, England), 4.

72. These statistics are all from the first half of the fifteenth century. See Batlle, "San Justo," 71; Claramunt, "Los ingresos," 376; Aramoyona, "Santa María del Mar," 188.

73. Cabestany and Claramunt, "Santa María del Pí," 165.

74. Ibid., 166, 170. This is essentially verified by the more comprehensive studies of charitable confraternities in Florence. Normally, institutions of the Orsanmichele provided the bulk of their assistance to women; in the second quarter of the fourteenth century, two-thirds to three-quarters of all of its clients were women -- widows, married women burdened with children, and, after the plague, young women needing dowries. But during the hard times of the mid-fifteenth century organizations like the Buonomini di S. Martino gave the bulk of their alms to men, many poor migrants who had entered the city looking for work. See Henderson, Piety and Charity, 260-61, 288, 340, 384, 388-89, 399.

75. For example, it is reported that King Joan II in 1478, when he in his eighties, awoke at 5 A.M., ate between 8 and 9 A.M., supped at 6 P.M. and went to bed around 10 P.M. Salvador Claramunt, "Dos aspectos de l'alimentació medieval: Dels canonges a les «miserabiles personae»," in Alimentació, 171. A study of Castilian peasants reflects a similar pattern, two meals a day -- in the morning and the evening --, although in places this increased to three in the summer, particularly during the harvest. See: P. Martínez Sopena and María J. Carbajo Serrano, "L'alimentation des paysans castillans du XIe au XIIIe siècle d'après les «fueros»," in Manger et boire au Moyen Âge: Actes du colloque de Nice (Nice, 1984), 1:340.

76. The Rule of the Hospitaller Order of the Holy Spirit, interestingly, permitted members to eat twice a day (but no more); in speaking of the hora prandii pauperum, however, it suggests that the poor were fed but once. "Regula ordinis S. Spiritus de Saxia," Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina (hereafter, PL), ed. Jacques-Paul Migne (Paris, 1844-85) 217:1141, caps. 10, 13.

77. The fifteen holidays were Christmas, New Year, Epiphany, Candlemas, the Annunciation, Easter, Ascension Thursday, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, Saint John the Baptist in June, Santa Margarita, Marian feasts in August and September, All Saints, and Sant Llàtzer. See Aurora Pérez Santamaría, "El hospital de San Lázaro o Casa dels Malalts o Masells," in La pobreza, 1:111-12. Sant Macià served wine, salsa, honey, dove, fowl, pork, and other foods that were donated by the hospital's rural tenants. See Roca, Sant Macià, 10.

78. Rubio Vela, Pobreza, enfermedad y asistencia, 142-43.

79. Bertrán, "El menjador," 95. French calendar iconography of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries shows peasants eating bread shaped into large and small round loaves. See P. Mane, "L'alimentation des paysans en France et en Italie aux XIIe and XIIIe siècles à travers l'iconographie des calendriers (sculpture, fresques, mosaiques et vitrail)," in Manger et boire au Moyen Âge: Actes du colloque de Nice (Nice, 1984), 1: 321; Mutgé, La ciudad de Barcelona , 30.

80. Bertrán, "El menjador," 96; Batlle, Urgell medieval , 125.

81. Fifteenth-century sources rarely mention rye; this study concludes that wheat bread predominated. See María del Carmen Carlé, "Alimentación y abastecimiento," Cuadernos de historia de España, 61-62 (1977): 255-56.

82. The disease is caused by ergot, a fungus that infests grain such as rye and produces a toxin that attacks the circulatory and nervous system. It is not destroyed by baking or cooking, although it does produce a bad taste. The disease is manifested by the swelling and blackening of the feet, leading to gangrene, and accompanied by prolonged and excruciating pain.

83. Echániz, "Alimentación de los pobres," 179; Guilleré, Girona medieval, 89.

84. Guilleré, "Institution charitable," 331; Bertrán, "El menjador," 106; Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 110. By comparison, the Hospital del Rey in fifteenth-century Burgos served pilgrims and its sick inmates a loaf of bread made of unsifted flour that weighed about six hundred grams, called a panchón. See Luis García Martínez, "La asistencia material en los hospitales de Burgos a fines de la Edad Media," in Manger et boire au Moyen Âge: Actes du colloque de Nice (Nice, 1984), 1: 335. At Toledo, the confraternity of San Pedro fed poor folk at sites throughout the city on February 2 with a meal that included two loaves of bread weighing 690 grams. See J.P. Molénat, "Menus des pauvres, menus des confrères à Tolède dans la deuxième moitié du XVe siècle," in Manger et boire au Moyen Âge: Actes du colloque de Nice (Nice, 1984), 1:316. Carme Batlle i Gallart, L'assistència als pobres a la Barcelona medieval (s. XIII) (Barcelona, 1987), 51. For example, a study from Provence suggests a daily diet of closer to one thousand grams; privileged consumers like the residents of the Spanish college at the University of Bologna ate approximately double that amount. Rubio Vela, Pobreza, enfermedad y asistencia, 145-47.

85. Bertrán's estimate is that the 715 grams of bread at Lleida provided 1,861 of the 2,372.9 calories provided per day in his sample week: see his "El menjador," 106; Echániz, "Alimentación de Barcelona de 1283-1284," 185. Loaves at Girona were to weigh 800 grams, but these presumably were to be shared four ways: Guilleré, Girona medieval, 89.

86. Leo Moulin, more broadly, has estimated that inmates of medieval religious houses of average wealth ate between 1.5 and 2 kilograms of bread per day, much more than either the Catalan poor or the canons from Lleida seem to have enjoyed (Claramunt, "Dos aspectos," 168-69).

87. In more northern latitudes, the wine would be substituted with beer or ale; at Saint Leonard's of York in 1287, the ration amounted to a half gallon of beer, with a like amount as an extra portion on feast days (Cullum, Cremetts and Corrodies, 16).

88. Echániz, "Alimentación de los pobres," 179-80; Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 110; Bertrán, "El menjador," 97-98, 107; Batlle, L'assistència , 51.

89. Molénat, "Menus des pauvres," 314. Bertrán estimates that the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries average daily consumption of wine was one to two liters ("El menjador," 98). Martínez García contrasts the .75 liter given to the poor with the 4 liters allotted to the brothers of the Hospital del Rey ("Asistencia material," 353). Lleida's canons in 1168 were allocated 1.3 liters per day, close to Leo Moulin's estimate of 1.5 liters for the average religious in medieval Europe. See Claramunt, "Dos aspectos," 168-69. and Rubio Vela, Pobreza, enfermedad y asistencia Valencia, 147.

90. The consumption of meat was also a statement of religious orthodoxy, particularly since groups like the Albigensians, who were present in Catalonia, forbade meat and all dairy products to their adherents. See Josep Hernando, "Els moralistes i l'alimentació a la Baixa Edat Mitjana," in Alimentació , 276. The records of the leper hospital of Sant Llàtzer in Barcelona show that the typical quantity of meat purchased was a half pound, for an inmate population and staff that numbered perhaps two dozen. Surely, here at least, the meat was little more than a flavoring agent in some sort of stew of beans and/or vegetables (Pérez Santamaría, "San Lázaro," 100).

91. Guilleré, Girona medieval, 22.

92. Bertrán, "El menjador," 99; Echániz, "Alimentación de los pobres," 180.

93. Claramunt, "Dos aspectos," 168.

94. Bertrán, "El menjador," 99-101; Echániz, "Alimentación de los pobres," 180-81; Martínez and Carbajo, "L'alimentation des paysans castillans," 1:339. The confraternity of San Pedro at Toledo in the late fifteenth century served the poor exclusively beef, reserving mutton for the sick. But the beef was undoubtedly from old cows, since it served its own members veal stew and roasted chicken (Molénat, "Menus des pauvres," 315, 317). Only in the early fourteenth century did municipal legislation address the problem of diseased meat; Barcelona enacted an ordinance against its sale in 1301, Valencia in 1295, and Lleida in 1340. See Michael McVaugh, Medicine before the Plague: Practitioners and Their Patients in the Crown of Aragon, 1285-1345 (Cambridge, 1993), 226.

95. While the almoina at Lleida served no poultry, the records of the visitation made by the commander of Gardeny in 1409 show 13.9 percent of his meals to have contained poultry (chicken, partridge, capon, or turkey): Bertrán, "El menjador," 101. In Castile, chicken was considered a luxury food everywhere except Galicia and Asturias. Sumptuary laws forbade its consumption at feasts except for those of confraternities, ecclesiastical chapters and important people; the giving of chickens as charity, on the other hand, was encouraged (Carlé, "Alimentación y abastecimiento," 270). As to price, in Barcelona in 1331, lamb, veal and fresh pork sold for eight diners per pound, ham for seven diners., ox, cow, or mutton for six diners. Meat with off smells could command no more than five diners. By contrast, chickens cost one sou each and capons 2.6 sous. Butchers who specialized in the meat of diseased or damaged animals were grouped together at the meat market located near the Boquería gate (Mutgé, La ciudad de Barcelona, 21-24).

96. Like the Catalan establishments, the hospital at Burgos served mostly mutton, although chicken was given to the sick (Martínez García, "Asistencia material," 355). In 1494-98, the confraternity of San Pedro at Toledo gave out a much more generous portion: 759 grams of beef and another 50 grams of different meat; but this meal was intended as a feast, not a normal meal (Molénat, "Menus des pauvres," 315). By contrast, wealthy consumers like the canons of Lleida were served three meats at special meals, with one sheep for each ten canons, a large ham for each dozen canons, a cow for each twenty-four, a large duck for each four or a young duck for each two, a year-old hen to be shared by two canons, and a younger hen allotted each participant (Claramunt, "Dos aspectos," 169).

97. This estimate is based on the price of bad meat at five diners to the pound, and the òbol or half penny that was at times given to the poor in lieu of a meat or fish course. For Desvilar, see Batlle, L'assistència , 51.

98. In 1329, a half diner (or òbol) would purchase a quarter pound of the cheapest fish, dolphin, or tuna. Sea bass and sardines cost four diners per pound. Mullet at six diners and sturgeon at eight diners were certainly out of reach for the poor (Mutgé, La ciudad de Barcelona, 20).

99. Bertrán, "El menjador," 102, 109; Echániz, "Alimentación de los pobres," 181; Baucells, "Pia Almoina," 110.

100. Bertrán, "El menjador," 102; Martínez García, "Asistencia material," 355.

101. There is no mention of eggs as a menu item at Lleida (Bertrán, "El menjador," 106). At Barcelona, cheese was the main course for 12 percent of the meals, eggs for 2 percent (Echániz, "Alimentación de los pobres," 182). Portions for the canons of Lleida in 1168 were specified at five eggs and three large pieces of cheese on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays; Leo Moulin, on the other hand, estimates that medieval religious typically ate between 70 and 111 grams of cheese at a meal, a portion close to that served to the poor (Claramunt, "Dos aspectos," 168-69). On fast days at the Hospital of Pere Desvilar in Barcelona, the poor were to be given fish, cheese, or eggs at the cost of one diner (Batlle, L'assistència , 51). Synodal regulations at Barcelona (1354) recommended that all the faithful should eat cheese and eggs on days of abstinence (Utterback, Pastoral Care, 66).

102. Juan Ruiz, The Book of True Love, trans. Saralyn R. Daly, ed. Anthony Z. Zahareas (University Park, Pa., 1978), 299, verses 1162-69.

103. See McVaugh, Medicine before the Plague, 147.

104. Echániz, "Alimentación de los pobres," 182-83; Bertrán, "El menjador," 103-105. It seems that vegetables were only slowly introduced in the diet. Sources before 1200 rarely mention anything beyond garlic, onions, and colewort, but at Avila in the thirteenth century, for example, the chapter is recorded to have received leeks, garlic, onions, vetches (as fodder for animals), and garbanzos, and later asparagus, spinach, lentils, and beans (Carlé, "Alimentación y abastecimiento," 254, 273-74). See also Rubio Vela, Pobreza, enfermedad y asistencia, 83.

105. Echániz, "Alimentación de los pobres," 184-85; Bertrán, "El menjador," 107-9; Claramunt, "Dos aspectos," 169. Girona's bread allotment has been estimated to have provided only a quarter of the calories needed by the poor (Guilleré, "Institution charitable," 331).

106. Cullum, Cremetts and Corrodies, 17.