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The lands of Saint Ambrose: The acquisition, organisation and exploitation of landed property in north-western Lombardy by the Monastery of Sant'Ambrogio Milan, c.780-1000

Balzaretti, R; (1990) The lands of Saint Ambrose: The acquisition, organisation and exploitation of landed property in north-western Lombardy by the Monastery of Sant'Ambrogio Milan, c.780-1000. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis is a detailed local study of the property controlled by the monastery of Sant' Ambrogio Milan in the pre-eleventh century period. Its central premise is that landowning brought the monastery a degree of material power whose nature has hitherto been poorly understood, in contrast to its spiritual importance which is well-established. Chapter One examines the authenticity and usefulness as tools for answering historical questions of three hundred and fifty charters which provide the main evidential base of the thesis. Chapter Two discusses the geographical, social and political context within which the monastery functioned, focussing not simply on the major ecclesiastical and lay jurisdictions in the region but also on the mechanics of how land itself was 'held' by a religious community with little opportunity to enforce its ownership. In Chapters Three, Four and Five it is established where the monastery had property, how and when this was acquired, within a chronological framework extending from the period before the foundation of the community (in 789) to the end of the tenth century, a chronology which is essential to an understanding of the intricate changes which occurred as the result of continuing acquisition and alienation by the monastery throughout the period. Chapter Three argues that the foundation and initial endowment of the community before c.835, by kings and archbishops, established the basic framework of monastic holdings, concentrated in the hills and lakes of the north and the plains of the south and east. Chapters Four and Five discuss how the monastery added to and coped with its properties in the south and north respectively, via studies of the relationships which existed between the monastery and existing local owners. The resulting picture suggests that the monastery was as much exploited as exploiter in some villages, and that it had to deal with resistance which was at times very prolonged. Chapters Six and Seven provide analyses of the economic organisation of property which this accumulation necessitated, particularly the development of estates and the nature of the relationships with free peasants, tenants and dependants. An important place is assigned to Sant'Ambrogio's urban contacts, which made it part of an economy which was, within the limitations of the period, amongst the most sophisticated in Europe. The final chapter assesses to what degree and in what ways this landowning could be said to have manifested itself as 'power', especially the degree to which the abbots had or had not become great lords by the end of the period. The conclusions reached tend to suggest that controlling land and extracting surplus from it was not as easy as many studies of this and other early medieval monasteries have assumed.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The lands of Saint Ambrose: The acquisition, organisation and exploitation of landed property in north-western Lombardy by the Monastery of Sant'Ambrogio Milan, c.780-1000
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10129509
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