Abbot Oliba

The Man Behind the Peace and Truce of God

Abbot Oliba was a Benedictine abbot, Count of Berga and Ripoll (998-1002), Bishop of Vic (1018-1046) and Abbot of Santa Maria de Ripoll and Sant Miquel de Cuixà (1008-1046).

He also founded the Monastery of Montserrat and restored the towns of Manresa and Cardona and, as impulsor of the Assembies of Pau i Treva or Peace and Truce, was one of the most influential political figures of his time.

As Abbot of Ripoll, whose Scriptorium was a major centre of learning,Oliba greatly influenced Catalan culture of the day and he was also a patron of Romanesque art and architecture.

Abbot Oliba was born in Besalú in 971 and died in Sant Miquel de Cuixà on October 30th 1046.


Short Biography of Abbot Oliba

Born in 971 in Besalú, Oliba was the third son of Count Oliba Cabreta of Cerdanya and Besalú and Ermengarda of Empúries, which means he was the great-grandson of Count of Barcelona Guifré el Pilós.

In 988, his father retired to the Benedictine monastery of Montecassino and whilst his brother Bernat inherited Besalú and Guifré inherited Cerdanya, Oliba inherited Berga and Ripoll, which he renounced in 1002, when at the age of 31 he joined the Benedictine order in the Monastery of Ripoll.

In 1008, following the death of Abbot Seniofré, Oliba was elected abbot of Ripoll and a few months later he was also chosen as abbot of the Monastery of Sant Miquel de Cuixà.

His effective leadership led him to becoming abbot of Sant Martí del Canigó, Sant Feliu de Guíxols and Sant Sadurní de Tavèrnoles over the next few years and in 1011, he went to the Vatican and met with Pope Sergius IV, who issued a series of bulls in his favour.

At the time, Catalonia was the frontier between the Christian and Muslim worlds and the scriptorium at Ripoll became one of the most important centres in Europe for introducing Arab ideas such as Arabic numbers and the concept of zero and technology like the astrolabe.

At the end of 1018, Oliba was named Bishop of Vic and he began the construction of a new seat for the dioces at the Cathedral of Sant Pere in Vic.

In 1020, he became personally involved in the reconstruction of Manresa, which had been destroyed by the troops of Abd-al-Malik in 1003, and in 1025, he founded the Monastery of Montserrat.

However, his long-term legacy was really his participation in the Assemblies of Peace and Truce from 1010 onwards, which were a successful attempt to curb the violent behaviour of the nobles of the day.

The Peace of God established sagreras or refuges around churches where people could escape from violence and the Truce of God forbade violence from Saturday evening until the end of Sunday.  

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