Abbot Oliba

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Oliba (c. 971–1046) was the Count of Berga (998–1003) and Ripoll and later became Bishop of Vic (1018–1046) and Abbot of Sant Miquel de Cuixà. He was one of the spiritual founders of Catalonia. At that time, he may have been the most important churchman of his age in the Iberian Peninsula.

Oliba was also a writer. He and his monks in the scriptorium at Ripoll wrote many works about his world. His most crucial writing may have been his translations of Arabic manuscripts into Latin.

Family[change | change source]

We don't know exactly when Oliba was born, but it was near 971. He was born to a rich family.[1] He was the third son of a Catalan count, which is a type of nobleman. He gave up his possessions to take up the Benedictine habit in the Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll. He had three brothers and a sister.

As count[change | change source]

In 988, Count Oliba Cabreta took the habit, meaning he became a monk, and retired to Montecassino with St. Romuald, which met in Cuixà.

Oliba began to perform his duties as a count, a medieval nobleman. His brother Bernard inherited Besalú and Guifré Cerdanya; Oliva received Berga and Ripoll.

Between 988 and 1002, Oliva was Count of Berga and Ripoll. He was associated with his brother Guifré.

Church life[change | change source]

Oliba promoted the idea of Peace and Truce of God (Catalan: Pau I Treva de Déu) until 1022. In 1027, he signed an agreement with other bishops and noblemen in Toulouges (Roussillon). In this treaty, they all agreed to decide on days when no one would fight battles with anyone else and fugitives could run to churches.

Oliba was very influential. In 1023, King Sancho III of Navarre asked him for advice because he wanted his sister Urraca to be her second cousin Alfonso V of León. Oliva said not to do it, but Sancho ignored him. His letters to the various contemporaneous kings of Spain indicate to us that Alfonso and his successor, Vermudo III, were regarded as imperatore. And the king of Navarre was a mere rex.

Oliba started or reformed the monasteries of Montserrat (1025), Fluvià, and Canigó. He consecrated or patronized many other churches, such as the Collegiate Basilica of Manresa. He started the Assemblies of Peace and Truce, which later became Catalonia's corts, or parliament. He improved the decoration of his church at Ripoll and rededicated it on 15 January 1032. He was a close advisor to Count Berengar Raymond I of Barcelona and he rebuilt the cathedral of Vic with help from Countess Ermesinda. The new cathedral was rededicated to Peter and Paul on 31 August 1038. He died at his monastery at Cuixà in 1046.

Monk and abbot[change | change source]

In August 1002, when Oliba was 31 years, he became a monk of the Benedictine Order in the Monastery of Ripoll.

In 1008, after the death of Abbot Seniofré, Olive was elected abbot, or leader of the monastery. Months later, he was elected abbot of the Monastery of St. Miquel de Cuixà. Oliba decided the monasteries should be more austere and disciplined.

By the following year, Oliba had become a little famous. In 1009, he was also elected abbot of Sant Martí del Canigó. Other monasteries liked his way of running things, such as the monasteries of Sant Feliu and Sant Sadurní Tavèrnoles.

Oliba spent his time and energy defending churches' property and rights against attacks by his manor. In 1011, he went to the Vatican to meet the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Sergius IV, and he won several bulls, which are papal rulings, for his monasteries. These papal bulls had significant power: the Pope, whom medieval Catholics considered God's representative on earth, said that the monasteries and lands owned were under the protection of St. Peter and the attack on the abbey was an aggression against the authority of the Pope.

Santa Maria de Ripoll[change | change source]

Cloister of Santa Maria de Ripoll

In the late tenth century, Catalonia became an important place for culture and art. The people there had access to Arabic science, and the places where monks wrote and made copies of other pieces of writing called scriptoria became some of the best in Europe.

Ripoll was the most critical scriptorium in Catalonia. With help from things he learned at Ripoll, Pope Sylvester II introduced the Arabic numbers, the concept of zero, and the astrolabe to Europe. During Oliba's time, the library at Ripoll gained three the number of pieces of writing; together with the Bobbio, it became one of the most important libraries in the Christian world during the middle ages.

Sant Miquel de Cuixà[change | change source]

San Miquel de Cuixà - Cloister

Oliba made architectural modifications to this monastery. Oliba had a walkway built around the sanctuary with three apses. Then, he built a dome over the altar and the crypt. He also erected the Nativity, Chapel of the Trinity, and the two towers of Lombard, of which only one is still standing today.

Sant Martí del Canigó[change | change source]

The monastery of St. Martí del Canigó was founded by Oliba's brother, Count Gifré II of Cerdanya-Conflent. Gifré took an old church at the foot of Canigó and became an important monastery.

In 1009, this church and its community were made up of monks from Cuixà. Abbot Oliba ruled it throughout his community until 1014 when it had enough monks to start an abbot of its own.

Gallery[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Conant, Kenneth John (27 April 1978). Carolingian and Romanesque architecture, 800 to 1200. Penguin Books. p. 473. ISBN 978-0-14-056113-5. Retrieved 16 March 2014.

Other websites[change | change source]

Media related to Abbot Oliba at Wikimedia Commons