|Fishing, Fishermen, and Fishmongers in Medieval Sardinia, 12th-14th Centuries
Index terms: Archives and Sources, Charters and Diplomatics, Local History, Manuscripts and Palaeography
In medieval Sardinia fishes represented without doubt one of the pillars of nutrition. All Sardinian condaghi (monastic cartularies of the 12th-13th centuries) refer to the construction, purchase, or donation of nassari (nassarios), places where there were placed traps made with mastic or twigs of myrtle or of reeds, and generally used for fishing trout and eels abounding in the local watercourses. Another fishing system consisted in empty, during the summer season, the volitragos or bolutragos, large pools of water where fishing was collected. Also, a widespread practice was fishing by poisoning water with the latex of euphorbia; Sassari’s Statutes (14th century) contemplated severe penalties for both the fishermen for fish sellers using that system. By permission of the judge of Arborea, the monasteries also had the right to fish in the fish ponds in the Gulf of Oristano. Camaldolensian Bonarcado had the privilege to fish in judicial fish stocks. Even in the medieval Sardinian statutes there were different rules that regulated the sale of fishes in cities.
Today Dragør is a charming little fishing town ten kilometres south of Copenhagen, yet in the Middle Ages it was the site of one of the most important herring markets in Northern Europe. Often overlooked in favour of the markets of Skanør and Falsterbo, Dragør at its peak was visited by over 20,000 people annually and was an important trade hub in the Baltic Sea region. This paper uses archival research and the archaeological record to piece together the life of this market with a special focus on local produce sold at the market, and the ecclesiastical foundations that owned stalls and chapels there.
While scholars have mapped out the folkloric motifs and social issues at stake in the mock epic battle of Carnival and Lent, the enumeration of foodstuffs deserves closer examination. This paper will focus on the opposition between fresh and preserved fish in French iterations. I will follow the transformations of Lent's signature dishes from the 13th-century poem featuring a host of delicacies, to later renditions dominated by less palatable fare. The unsavory fish topos brings out the social undertones of the satire against Lent's prescriptions, emphasizing the strain that fasting causes on the poor.