Last modified: 2017-11-11 by andrew weeks
Keywords: spannum |
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Those "grangia" (French, "grange", lit. a barn) were initially big fortified
buildings used to store grains, peas and other agricultural products harvested
by the monks. Progressively, the abbeys abandoned agriculture but still
needed barns to store the product of the tithe.
The tithe is called in French "dime", from Latin "decima", and I guess that the English word is also based on "tenth". Giving one tenth of one's goods to the church seems to be a very ancient rule in Christian communities, as reported in texts by St. Cyprian and Origenes (3rd century). During the fourth Roma Council, Pope Damasius (IVth century) promised anathem to those who wouldn't pay the tithe. Collection of the tithe, however, was organized only when the tithe was included in state laws (Herstal Capitular Book, 779; confirmed by Charlemagne, 780, 789, 801; Louis le Pieux and Charles le Chauve, 877). In theory, the tithe should concern any kinds of goods, but it was de facto limited to agricultural products. There were different kinds of tithe, which usually varied between 1/40th and 1/10th of the goods.
According to the Carolingian system, the tithe belonged to the Bishop, who collected and shared it in four parts: one four himself, one for the clergymen, one four church building and one for the poors. Since the system became too complex, the collection of the tithe was allocated to the parish priests. However, the feudal lords and the powerful abbeys rapidly hijacked the tithe. As "protectors" of the parish churches, the lords claimed to be owners of the tithe, which they shared only with the powerful abbots. The system was condemned by the kings and the church, to no avail.
Moreover, the big communities such as the chapters and the abbeys, did not pay the tithe, which caused some troubles.
The abbeys needed special buildings to store the product of the tithe. They built big barns, known as "granges dimieres" or "granges aux dimes", which were fortified against rodents, birds, Frysian pirates and other rascals of that ilk. When those abbeys were suppressed and trashed, most barns were preserved because they were very useful for storing agricultural products. A good example of such barns is the Grange de Meslay (building, XIIIth century; roof structure, XVth century; former possession of the abbey of Marmoutier) near Tours, where the Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter organized a famous music festival until his death.
Ivan Sache, 13 Sep 2003