The Twelfth-century documents of St. George’s of Tròccoli (Sicily)
By Vera von Falkenhausen, Nadia Jamil, and Jeremy Johns
Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Volume 16 (2016)
Abstract: This study publishes for the first time six authentic and original documents from mid-twelfth-century Norman Sicily. Three are bilingual, written in Greek and Arabic, and three are Arabic. All were issued by the multilingual dīwān of King Roger de Hauteville and relate to the lands and Muslim peasants held of the crown by the Greek monastery of St. George’s of Tròccoli, near Caltabellotta. These documents are of particular interest in four principal ways. First, they permit the reconstruction in unusual detail of the internal administrative processes of the royal dīwān. Second, they preserve the toponymy and describe the topography of the lands of St. George’s that lay in a district of Norman Sicily until now poorly documented. Third, they record the remarkable phenomenon of the immigration to Norman Sicily of Muslims, who apparently commended themselves into the service of a Christian monastery as villeins, in order to escape deprivation and famine in Ifrīqiya. And fourth, they add to the small corpus of Arabic documents from Norman Sicily, contributing much new evidence for their diplomatic form, language and palaeography.
Introduction: The Greek monastery of St. George’s of Tròccoli lay at Sant’Anna, a suburban district of Caltabellotta, some fourteen kilometres northeast of the port of Sciacca on the southwest coast of Sicily . In the nineteenth century, the remains of the monastery were still standing, but they had disappeared before 1924. The modern place-name Tròccoli derives from medieval Greek Tróklos (Τρόκλος, also Τρώκλος), whence Arabic Ṭuruquliš (?), and medieval Latin Trocculi or Troculi, all said to be derived ultimately from the name of the ancient Sican city of Triókala (Τριόκαλα; Latin Triocala), which is generally accepted to have lain at or near Sant’Anna.
Three of the documents of King Roger studied in this article declare that St. George’s was founded by his father, Count Roger I, in 6606 A.M. (1097–1098 A.D.). However, a persistent, but apparently baseless, local tradition maintains that St. George’s had existed since before the time of Gregory the Great and, after it had been destroyed by the Muslims, was merely re-founded by Count Roger. The Greek text of the authentic and original charter (sigillion) of King Roger, dated June 1141, states that Count Roger I had ‘built … the aforesaid church of the saint and great martyr George in the district of Sciacca, and had established it as a monastery in memory of the Christians who had been killed there’ during the conquest of the island from the Muslims.