ABSTRACT

“Death penalty, that is, if it is a lesser noble or an honourable citizen, let him be decapitated and if he is other, let him be hung”. 1 This Barcelonan legal definition illustrates a difference respected throughout the country: decapitation for a baron or a noble and the gallows for the non-privileged. The usual fate for those condemned to die was one of two options: “To be hung or lose the head”. 2 This was coherent with wider medieval society. All over Europe, the baron hanging from the gallows, despite having been accused of behaving like a robber-knight, appeared in feudal narratives as an ignominious insult that led to a lawsuit by his relatives and friends. 3 In the same sense, shortly before 1190, the troubadour Guillem de Berguedà portrayed the tension between King Alfonso of Aragon and the viscount of Cardona, saying that the former should bury the latter alive or hang him with a rope—“If not bury the viscount alive or not hang him with a rope”—, 4 thus showing contempt for the viscount by wishing he would die in a way unbecoming to his noble status. Instruments for decapitation that accompanied the news that the knight Joan Sort “had his head removed from his shoulders” (<italic>fonch levat lo cap de les spatles</italic>) in 1465 (BC ms, 978, fol. 110v) https://s3-euw1-ap-pe-df-pch-content-public-u.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/9780429198885/3fe84b75-8595-4bb2-823f-2baa7a9ae5fc/content/fig10_1.jpg"/>