A gastald (
Latin"gastaldus" or "castaldus", Italian "gastaldo" or "guastaldo") was a Lombard official in charge of some portion of the royal demesne(a "gastaldia" or "castaldia") with civil, martial, and judicial powers. By the " Edictum Rothari" of 643, the gastalds were given the civil authority in the cities and the reeves the like authority in the countryside. Under the Lombard dominion, territories were delimited by "giudicati" or "judgments" among the several " gastaldi". From the immediate region of Parmaand of Piacenza, numerous such "giudicati" survive, which cover the range of Lombard rule. The documents follow the same formalized structure, of which one between the gastaldo Daghiberto and the "gastaldo" Immo was adjudged by Adaloald, at Ticino, November 615.
As paid officials with direct allegiance to the roving Lombard kings, whose seat was nominally at
Pavia, the "gastaldi" were often in conflict with the dukes, the great Lombard territorial magnates who pursued policies of autonomy. By the 9th century, the powers of the "gastaldi" had devolved to largely administrative ones. The title gradually disappeared over the final century of Lombard power, surviving only in a few instances, especially in the Mezzogiorno, where ducal Lombard power continued for another two hundred years, for example at Capua, which was included in the Lombard Duchy of Beneventoand where the count's title remained "gastaldo" as late as the ninth century, when Gastaldo Landulfo began strenuously to establish his independence. About 1200, in his "Magna derivationes", Uguiccione of Pisa included "gastradeus" [sic., a copyist's slip for "gastaldeus"] given the meaning "rector loci", the "administrator of a place". [H. D. Austin, "Germanic Words in Uguiccione's Lexicon" "Speculum" 23.2 (April 1948:273-283) p. 276.]
In Milan, the institution of "gastaldi" endured within the cathedral chapter until the close of the
Middle Ages. In the Arsenal of Venice, the "gastaldi" endured to the arrival of Napoleon, in the form of confraternities of craftsmen in the shipyards; the sign of the carpenters' guild, painted under the direction of "Misier" Zacharia d'Antonio in 1517 and renewed in 1753, under the "gastaldia" of Francesco Zanotto "gastaldo" and company, is in the Museum of Venetian History, Venice. [Illustrated in Fernand Braudel, "The Wheels of Commerce", 19 82, vol. II of "Civilization and Capitalism" p 314.]
Old High German, "gastaldus" came to denote a steward. "Castaldy" appears in Middle English" with an abstract meaning of "stewardship"; the specific function, however, remained foreign to Anglo-Saxon or Norman institutions.
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