Jerome of Périgord

Jerome of Périgord[lower-alpha 1] (died 30 June 1120), in Spanish Jerónimo, was a French monk who became the bishop of several dioceses in Spain. He was a companion of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (“El Cid”), and in 1097 or 1098 became the bishop of Valencia after Rodrigo’s conquest of the city. Forced to abandon it following Rodrigo’s death, Jerome entered the service of Duke Raymond of Galicia in 1102 and became bishop over the churches in Salamanca, Ávila and Zamora.[1]

Original diploma of the Cid making a gift to the church of Valencia under Jerome

Jerome has been posited as the author of both the anonymous verse history Historia Roderici,[lower-alpha 2] in which he is not mentioned, and of the anonymous epic poem Cantar de mio Cid, in which he figures as a warrior-priest.[lower-alpha 3]

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Jerome’s life before he came to Spain is obscure. According to Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, writing a little over a century later, he was originally from the region of Périgord in France.[lower-alpha 4] He was a black monk, possibly at the Cluniacabbey of Moissac further south.[1] His obituary is not listed in the necrology of Moissac, although that of his contemporary and countryman, Bishop Gerald of Braga, is.[5]

It is unclear when Jerome came to Spain, although he was certainly one of the “honest and learned” (honestos et litteratos) French monks recruited by Bernard of Sedirac, archbishop of Toledo, at the suggestion of Pope Urban II.[6] According to Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, Bernard went to Rome in 1096, where he tried to join the First Crusade only to be turned back by Urban. The pope, however, was travelling in southern France between the synod of Clermont (November 1095) and the synod of Nîmes (July 1096). Bernard was present at Nîmes, and he and Urban both attended the consecration of the Basilica of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse on 24 May 1096. Moreover, Urban visited Moissac on 13 May 1096. If Jerome was indeed a monk of that place, and Rodrigo de Rada’s account is accurate, then it is probable that he was recruited during Urban’s visit.[7] Thus, it has traditionally been assumed that Jerome did not cross the Pyrenees until Bernard’s return to Spain sometime after July 1096.[8] However, Gerald of Braga had been installed in his see by earlier that year and the recruitment of French monks for Spanish work may have begun as early as 1088.[6] Jerome probably entered the cathedral of Toledo as a canon before joining Rodrigo Díaz in Valencia in 1097 or 1098.[9] A document from the Cid’s rule in Valencia describes him as “coming from the North” (adueniente de Susana), which must refer to France, and suggests he may have arrived directly from there.[10]

At Jerome’s arrival in Valencia, Rodrigo gave him a property at Yubayla (now El Puig), which had been conquered in July 1093.[11] After the conquest of Valencia in 1094, Rodrigo wanted to replace the native bishop of the Mozarabic rite[lower-alpha 5] with one of the Latin rite.[9] According to a later source, he asked Bernard of Sedirac to send him a new bishop for Valencia. If Jerome was sent by Bernard,[lower-alpha 6] he was sent as a mere priest, not yet consecrated a bishop. According to a document drawn up for Rodrigo, Jerome was “canonically elected with the agreement of the people” in Valencia.[11] He then travelled to Rome to be consecrated “by the pope’s hand” (per Roman pontificis manus), becoming thereby the first bishop of Valencia in connection with the wider church in about a century.[1] The dates of his election as bishop and of his trip to Rome are not clear. Sometime after the conquest of Murviedro on 24 June 1098,[14] the old mosque of Valencia was consecrated as the new cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary.[13] That same year, after the consecration of the new cathedral, Rodrigo made the church a large endowment of his personal property. The charter of this endowment, possibly drawn up by Jerome himself,[15][16][17] survives in its original form with Rodrigo’s autograph. Jerome and the priests of the cathedral then pronounced excommunication and anathema on anyone who would deprive the church of this gift.[8] The charter also specifies that Jerome “raised by a special privilege of freedom” (specialis priuilegii libertate sublimato) from the pope, probably a reference the church of Valencia being exempted from any metropolitan authority and being subject only to the pope.[11][13] The charter implies that Jerome was not elevated to the bishopric until after the consecration of the new cathedral, but historian Bernard Reilly has argued that Jerome’s trip to Rome must be placed in the first half of 1098.[12]

The donation of Jimena to Valencia in 1101

Rodrigo died in 1099 and his widow, Jimena Díaz, took over. On 21 May 1101, Jimena donated a tenth of her possessions to the Valencian church under Jerome.[18] In late August 1101, the city was blockaded by the Almoravid Emirate and Jimena sent Jerome to the court of King Alfonso VI of Castile and León to ask for assistance. Alfonso arrived with an army in February 1102. Perhaps at the royal court in 1101 or after Alfonso arrived at Valencia in 1102, Jerome appears to have made himself a suffragan to the archbishop of Toledo, as the bishops of Valencia had been in Visigothic times.[lower-alpha 7] It proved impossible for the king’s army to hold the city; Valencia was abandoned to the Almoravids in May.[20] Jerome managed to take with him the two diplomas of Rodrigo and Jimena, perhaps in the hope that he would one day be restored to Valencia.[21] They remain in the archive of Salamanca to this day.[18][22]

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