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Donationes pro remedio animae as Total Social Facts: A Case Study from the Twelfth Century Margraviate of Istria
By Josip Banić
Religio, Fides, Superstitiones…: Faith and Piety in the Adriatic Area: Collected Papers from the International Scientific Conference, edited by Marija Mogorović Crljenko and Elena Uljančić-Vekićic (Poreč, 2017)
Abstract: The author analyzes the donation charter by which a noble couple, Ulrich II and his wife Adelaide, gifted numerous properties in Istria to the Church of Aquileia for the salvation of their souls (16th November, 1102). Inspired by the studies of Marcel Mauss, the donation is contextualized as a “total social fact” and the study investigates other, previously unarticulated aspects of this gift. The author investigates the contemporary political and social background, primarily focusing on the protagonists’ position in respect to the two seminal alliances of their era, the pro-papal and pro-Henrician forces during the Investiture Controversy. In this way, it is concluded that Ulrich II. endowed a religious institution that gathered pro-imperial forces, governed by a loyal and fierce supporter of Henry IV, Ulrich Eppenstein.
Since Ulrich II died without any children, the only heirs to the properties he left to the Church would have been his brother’s children or his distant relatives in Thuringia. However, his brother Poppo II married into a family supporting the papacy, the Spanheims. After Poppo’s death and the remarriage of his widow, Ulrich II. donated the property so as not to render possible any future claims to the inheritance either by the nearby Spanheims or the Ballenstedts, his relatives in Thuringia known for rebelling against Henry IV. Thus, a new aspect of the well-known donation charter emerges.
Since the gift is viewed as a “total social fact”, it is concluded that Ulrich II both demonstrated his allegiance during the decisive conflict of his era, reaffirmed his superior social position of a wealthy nobleman, positioned himself along the pro-imperial forces gathered around the Patriarchate of Aquileia, ensured his father’s properties would not fall into the hands of the enemies of Henry IV and made ample provisions for the salvation of his soul. The article concludes with a new transcription of the charter and its translation into modern English.