Every year the death of scholars in the field of legal history makes you reflect about the very different paths scholars pursue in their research. Over the years I try here not to look only at their scholarly achievements, but also at the way they lived, their human qualities and attitude. Sometimes it is challenging to give a complete picture of someone in view of his many activities. With Peter Landau not only a scholar of medieval canon law has passed away. The Monumenta Germaniae Historica and the Max-Planck-Institut für europäische Rechtsgeschichte announced his passing on Thursday May 23, 2019. Here I will look briefly at his scholarly career and publications, and I will tell about my personal experience with him in Munich.
From Berlin to Munich
Berlin was the place of birth of Peter Landau (February 26, 1935), but you must mention a lot of other towns in Germany and abroad when you want to do him justice. You will find the main dates of his life in the curriculum vitae on the website of the Stephan-Kuttner-Institute for Medieval Canon Law. Landau studied from 1953 onwards law, philosophy and history in Berlin, Freiburg im Breisgau and Bonn. In 1956 he got support from the Studienstifitung des deutschen Volkes. He stood his first federal juridical examination (Erstes Juristisches Staatsexam) in Cologne in 1958. In 1960 he became an assistant at the university of Bonn. Guided by Hermann Conrad he defended in 1964 his dissertation on the canonical concept of infamy, published as Die Entstehung des kanonischen Infamiebegriffs von Gratian bis zur Glossa ordinaria (Cologne-Vienna 1966). His PhD thesis brought him in 1965 to Yale University where he worked with Stephan Kuttner, not only for the preparation of his second dissertation (Habilitationsschrift), but also as a lecturer on canon law. In 1968 he defended his study on the role of church patrons in medieval canon law, published seven years later [Ius Patronatus. Studien zur Entwicklung des Patronats im Dekretalenrecht und der Kanonistik des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts (Cologne-Vienna 1975)].
Peter Landau hold his first tenure as a law professor from 1968 to 1987 at the very new university of Regensburg, founded in 1962 and really starting in 1967. In these years he was twice a guest lecturer in the United States, at Berkeley in 1977 and in Chicago in 1984. He declined the call in 1983 to succeed Helmut Coing at the university of Frankfurt am Main. It will not do mentioning here all academic honors bestowed on Peter Landau. His membership of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences led him in 1986 as their representative to the board of directors of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH), a role he had until 2014. In 1987 he became a professor of law at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München in the surroundings of the Leopold-Wenger-Institut für Rechtsgeschichte. His major role in the field of research concerning medieval canon law is clear from his presidency of the Society for Medieval Canon Law (1988-2000) and his presidency of the Stephan-Kuttner-Institute of Medieval Canon Law since 1991.
When you look at the list of Peter Landau’s publications, even when only updated until December 2014, the years in Munich gave him the space and time for many publications despite a growing number of other tasks and duties. In July 1992 Landau hosted the quadriennial International Congress of Medieval Canon Law. By chance I had planned to work in Munich for my own thesis in June 1992. Even during the weeks of preparation for this congress other things continued as well. I attended the seminar Landau held on Anglo-American legal philosophy. I remember helping the staff with sending out by post the final congress mailing. The congress was a great event, not just a chance to meet people, but also a gathering of scholars from different disciplines all bringing their light on medieval canon law.
Rather unexpectedly the Institute of Medieval Canon Law had to move from Berkeley, and in 1995 Munich was chosen as its new home. At a meeting in May 1995 with Peter Landau he asked me whether I would like to help with the new start of this research institute, and in particular with creating again a functioning library with the scholarly collection of Stephan Kuttner. Early 1997 I came to Munich to start with this task. Imagine yourself surrounded by hundreds of large boxes, many of them containing books, others offprints, letters and microfilms! Peter Landau set the direction of the things to do and just as important, he showed his confidence in me. His connection to the MGH helped to get quickly support from its library staff in creating an electronic catalogue. He urged me to attend also a seminar of his colleagues in the Abteilung A of the Wenger Institute, by any account Germany’s focus of research into Roman law. One of the most amazing things about Peter Landau was his absolutely marvellous ability to change focus and to go straight to the matters at hand, be they the very heart or important details. He smiled when his secretary Hille Sachtler gave him his daily map with letters to sign. Details about conciliar canons and papal decretals were literally within his reach in his large office lined with walls of files concerning legal collections and about ongoing research projects he was involved in.
Creating critical editions of important texts in the field of medieval canon law is one of the most urgent needs in this field, but also an often daunting task, even for the experts of the Kuttner-Institute. Peter Landau edited with the late Rudolf Weigand and Waltraud Kozur a late twelfth-century summa, Magistri Honorii Summa ‘De iure canonico tractaturus’ (3 vol., Città del Vaticano 2004-2010). He saw the completion of another summa edition, again with Weigand, Kozur, Martin Petzolt and Karin Miethaner-Vent and others, of the Summa ‘Omnis qui iuste iudicat’ sive Lipsiensis (5 vol., Città del Vaticano 2007-2018). The presence of these editions is among the most important developments in the field of ongoing research into medieval canon law.
You will soon be aware of the sheer width of Landau’s scholarly interest when you look at the different subjects and periods he addressed in his publications. The number of journals he contributed to is impressive in itself. It is a surpise to note his article on ‘Karl Marx und die Rechtsgeschichte’, Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 41 (1973) 361-371. A number of his articles concerning canon law have been reprinted with updates in the volume Kanones und Dekretalen. Beiträge zur Geschichte der Quellen des kanonischen Rechts (Goldbach 1997). You can find his contributions on many more themes in the volume Europäische Rechtsgeschichte und kanonisches Recht im Mittelalter. Ausgewählte Aufsätze aus den Jahren 1967 bis 2006 (Badenweiler 2013). Last year a volume appeared with 40 articles showing also his interest in German law of the two last centuries [Deutsche Rechtsgeschichte im Kontext Europas (Badenweiler 2018)]. He was the editor and co-editor of a number of volumes with articles on a variety of themes. His book on the foundations and history of Protestant church law shows another theme of his publications, Grundlagen und Geschichte des evangelischen Kirchenrechts und des Staatskirchenrechts (Tübingen 2010). Catholic Bavaria proved to be a most welcome and respectful home for the Protestant Landau.
Peter Landau showed his interests in many ways. His time was precious indeed. Very often he succeeded in asking immediately the right questions. It is reassuring to know he readily made time free for a beer in a nearby Biergarten when guests left Munich after a research visit. While reading my musings I noticed that I left out some very personal memories of Peter Landau which I really like to keep private, but I can assure you they show him at his most helpful. Let’s remember Peter Landau for his energy, his vision for the study of medieval canon law, his legacy as a teacher and a prolific author. In him we have lost a man of many qualities.