Tag Archives: Charters

A city in distress: Dordrecht and the 1352-1358 interdict

Bull of pope Innocent VI for Dordrecht, 13

Bull of pope Innocent VI with his sentence to lift the interdict from Dordrecht, 1355 June 2 – Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, finding aid 1, Stadsarchieven 1200-1572, no. 274-6

Among the most frequent comments about the COVID-19 virus is the remark this situation is totally new. Historians will remember the 1918-1919 pandemic and the Black Death around 1348. In recent decades my own country faced at least three contagious diseases, some of them badly controlled by the authorities. Whatever our views of current regulations, cities and countries have been confronted with other situations with normal life severely hampered. Events have been cancelled and churches are closed for services. The latter theme prompted me to search for information about and examples of a medieval ecclesiastical punishment, the interdict. What did this mean and how did it work? It was only logical to combine this with a search for online historical resources.

These days I looked in particular at digitized sources held by Dutch archives. There is a wide variety of ways in which they present digitized materials. When I bumped into a bull of pope Innocent VI in the online gallery of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht I found a charter dealing with an interdict touching the largest and most important city of the medieval county Holland. In this post I will look in particular at the rich set of sources for this period under an interdict in this archive, but also at other resources, the historiography about this interdict and at medieval canon law.

This rather long post has five sections. After looking at the character and impact of an interdict the case in Dordrecht comes into view. The third section deals more in general with archival records and the history of archiving in Dordrecht, followed by a section on online records concerning the medieval papacy. In the fifth section you will meet a very active medieval lawyer with a Dutch origin and international connections. At the end I offer some conclusions.

Defining the medieval interdict

The interdict suffers from the far greater fame of another ecclesiastical punishment, excommunication. Excommunicated persons were cut off from the body of the Christian faithful, and the examples of kings facing excommunication made an impression on contemporaries. Elisabeth Vodola’s Excommunication in the Middle Ages (Berkeley, CA, 1986) still is the classic modern study on this subject. Fred Kloek, my own history teacher, wrote a book about papal excommunication and medieval politics, De pauselijke banvloek. Een geestelijk wapen in de middeleeuwse politiek (Amsterdam 1987). He refused to view excommunication as a weapon that became blunt over the centuries. In his view the power of this punishment was initially due to the relative weakness of kings, and thus the popes were able to ensure support from powerful allies, but this balance clearly shifted. Strategies and tactics were different things.

For a definition of the character and impact of an interdict I follow the explanations of Hartmut Zapp in his lemma ‘Interdikt’ for the Lexikon des Mittelalters 5 (1991) col. 466-467. An interdict meant withelding the administering of the sacrament and a halt to church services (cessatio a divinis). Apart from the interdictum personale the interdictum locale could pertain to entire communities, cities and regions, or just one particular place. It became possible to lessen the harsh impact of an interdict, for example by getting papal dispensation for celebrating mass behind closed doors. Religious orders could receive exemptions from interdicts. Only seldom an interdict led to repentance of culprits. An interdict became increasinlgy only a nuisance, not an effective spiritual punishment.

Peter Clarke wrote the most recent full-scale study on the interdict, The interdict in the thirteenth century. A question of collective guilt (Oxford, etc., 2007). For the Low Countries an article by Marian de Smet and Paul Trio offers a good starting point, ‘De verhouding tussen Kerk en stad in de Nederlanden in de late Middeleeuwen, onderzocht aan de hand van het interdict ‘, Jaarboek voor Middeleeuwse Geschiedenis 5 (2002) 247-274. In the absence of research for the entire Low Countries De Smet en Trio focused on local and regional cases. Their article helps to see the interdict on Dordrecht in perspective. They disagree with Hartmut Zapp about the diminishing impact of the interdict in the fifteenth century.

Not just one charter

The interdict led on Dordrecht by Jan van Arkel, bishop of Utrecht from 1342 to 1364, came in a period of political strife. After the death of count William IV of Holland in 1345 his sister Margaret, married to emperor Louis of Bavaria, claimed the succession and wanted her son William to act as a governor in her absence. Parties formed quickly around both Margaret and William. During a coup in 1351 William was taken hostage and imposed as the new count. Supporters of Margaret were exiled. This unlashed a chain of events. The influence of aristocratic families, officials of the count and cities with their own interests, and growing interest from other counts and dukes, not to mention the prince-bishops of Utrecht, set the scene for a period of more than a century of endemic conflict between the two parties.

Understanding the meaning of the charters about this interdict and their relations is much helped by the clear paragraph on them in the Geschiedenis van Dordrecht tot 1572, Jan van Herwaarden et alii (eds.) (Dordrecht 1996) 97-101. Innocent VI’s bull of June 2, 1355 states the interdict dured already thirty months, so it seems to have been inflicted before the end of 1352. Henric Scoutate, a former schepen (échevin), had been excommunicated for murdering three citizens of Dordrecht, among them the bailiff of Dordrecht and another schepen. Henric and his complices sought sanctuary at the main parish church, the Grote Kerk, but an outraged mob entered the church and the churchyard and killed them. This shedding of blood was enough reason for bishop Jan van Arkel to place Dordrecht under interdict. Meanwhile the party strife between the supporters of both claimants developed, and on top of that a war started between Holland and Utrecht.

The bull from 1355 is indeed part of an archival context. A quick search for Innocent VI (Etienne Aubert, pope from 1352 to 1362) in the collections of the archive at Dordrecht brings you to the very first archival collection, toegang 1, Stadsarchieven: de grafelijke tijd, 1200-1572, inv.no. 274, the archives of the medieval city Dordrecht. This inventory number contains 24 documents created between 1354 and 1358, mainly charters but also letters, all of them with digitized images; one item contains seven charters. The papal bull is described under inv.no. 274-6. In the Digitale Charterbank Nederland, the portal for charters in the holdings of Dutch archives, you will find currently 90 charters concerning interdicts.

Only one document from the set at Dordrecht, without indication of the year, 1354 according to the inventory, tells us directly something of the moves made by count Willem. In his letter he urged the city Dordrecht to cancel their verdict on two men, Aper Scoutate and his nephew Henric, to be sent on a punitive pilgrimage (no. 274-1). The count said his mother Margaret did not want to let this happen. We can follow the interdict closely only from 1355 onwards. The letter was written in Quesnoy, the main castle of the counts of Hainaut. The medieval notice on the verso is simply wrong. The city empowered on March 27 three men, Johannes de Zeelandia, Petrus de Leeuwenberch and Henric Prijs, one of the four parish priests of Dordrecht, to deal with the bishop to end the interdict (inv.no. 274-2). On the back of this charter you can dimly see some remarks concerning the actions of procuratores – proctors or agents – at the papal curia in Avignon using this mandate when introducing this case. Among the names is a magister Johannes de Cloetinghe, a place in Zeeland. A day later Henric Prijs was promised financial recompensation by the city Dordrecht for any trouble with the bishop; he received also a letter of credit for 400 guilders (no. 274-3), but this has only been written on the back of the former document. On May 11, 1355 Petrus Majoris, an auditor causarum in Avignon, confirmed that notwithstanding the delay for an appeal Henric Prijs is allowed to appeal in this case (no. 274-4).

Surely we miss other documents from Avignon of the case, but in three letters Henric Prijs told in 1355 something about his troubles and matters around the legal conflict, in particular in his letter sent on May 22 (inv.no. 274-5). Gerard van der Veen, the chancellor of Jan van Arkel, was in Avignon and gave to the cardinael van Bolongen 2000 guilders to act on his behalf. This cardinal was in some way a relation of the count of Holland. Guy de Boulogne (1313-1373) was indeed one of the most important cardinals with many connections. Prijs also noted that Ricardus de Anglia, the second advocatus of the Dordrecht case, had a positive attitude towards Maud (Matilda, Machteld) of Lancaster, the spouse of count Willem V. Henric’s letter of credit had not been accepted, and therefore he begged the eldermen for another one from the Lombards or caoursins in Dordrecht. Henric Prijs seems to have perceived rather quickly the importance of (political) connections and the way things worked in and around the curia.

On June 8, 1355 Prijs announced the bull in which the bishop of Cambrai will act as a iudex delegatus (no. 274-7). A month later (July 8) he complained about magister Johannes de Zelandia, the other advocatus who took thirty écus from him (no. 274-8). This letter seems to indicate also some of the tarifs for actions and acts at the papal curia. In yet another letter without a date Henric repeats his plea to send him money (no. 274-9). On August 12 Petrus Maioris, the auditor causarum, confirms the protest of Henric Prijs and the three other parish priests (Wilhelmus de Lantscroene, Wigger Gerardi and Johannes de Tympel) against the accusations of the representants of Jan van Arkel on May 15 (274-10). On August 15, 1355 bishop Peter of Cambrai [Pierre d’André] sealed two charters, one adressed to Ludolphus Abolensis, clearly a kind of auxiliary bishop, and the other to Jan van Arkel, with the text of Innocent VI’s bull (nos. 274-11 and 12).

A procedural note about the relaxation of the interdict - Ra Dordrecht, toegang I, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, no. 274-14

A legal consultation about the relaxation of the interdict – Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, toegang I, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, no. 274-14

Below I will tell you about editions of the majority of these texts, but I can already show here an unedited text which sheds some light on the use of canon law in this conflict. No. 274-14 is an undated note with a splendid number of abbreviated words, fit for any examination in medieval palaeography! Halfway the text a decretal is mentioned, de offi. del. li.vi, pointing to the Liber Sextus (VI. I.14, the title De officio iudicis delegati). Does it read ix after decretalis or scilicet? This text ends with the conclusion the bishop of Utrecht would have to start a new procedure that could start only in the papal consistory. At the end it also becomes clear Ludolphus Abolensis wrote a consilium to this effect which is joined here by an anonymous lawyer.

Seal of Ludolfus Abolensis

The seal of frater Ludolfus episcopus Abolensis – RA Dordrecht, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, inv.no. 274-17

It is not clear for which diocese Ludolphus Abolensis was the bishop. J.F.AN. Weijling, Bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de wijbisschoppen van Utrecht tot 1580 (diss. Nijmegen; Utrecht 1951; online, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen) mentions him as a bishop who just happened to be in the diocese Utrecht (pp. 185-186). On September 29, 1355, he signed a charter in which he announced in Dordrecht the lifting of the interdict (inv.no. 274-15). A few weeks later he reassured the city this relaxation was effective notwithstanding any action of the bishop of Utrecht (1355 October 14, inv.no. 274-17). Meanwhile the city had already asked a priest, heer Arent, den grauwen priester, to go to Avignon to instruct Henric Prijs to ask for the absolution of the perpetrators of the murders in the church (1355 October 7, inv.no. 274-16). No. 274-21 is a copy of a papal letter dated January 6, 1356 to the abbot of the Norbertine abbey Mariënweerd whom Innocent VI ordered to view the earlier bull as null and void after a succesfull complaint by the bishop of Utrecht about the lifting of his interdict. This letter tells us the names of the three murdered victims, taken from the 1355 bull. At the back of this document is a letter dated May 5, 1356, by Johannes de Zelandia who wrote to the city of Dordrecht he thinks this papal letter is per se legally sound, but he will continue to get the interdict lifted. On the same day Petrus de Leeuwenberch, too, wrote to the city of Dordrecht about the actions by the bishop of Utrecht to cancel the relaxation of the interdict (inv.no. 274-22). According to this letter the cardinalis Boloniensis helped very much to reverse the earlier lifting of the interdict.

For brevity’s sake I would have skipped the three charters of Francesco degli Atti, bishop of Florence, to the city Dordrecht and the dean of Geertruidenberg (nos. 274-18 to 20) about the absolution for citizens of Dordrecht, but it is interesting to note how this bishop refers thrice to the fact he acts as a vice-regens for cardinal Aegidius, Gil Albornoz (1310-1367), clearly the most important cardinal in this period. Almost at the end stands the set of seven transfixed charters, with as the main document the foundation of a chapel at the Grote Kerk by Aper and Henric Scoutate (inv.no. 274-23, 1356 May 10). In my view it seems this could well be the new gesture of reconciliation replacing the earlier pilgrimage. The very last document concerning the interdict is a charter issued by bishop Jan van Arkel and Henricus Mierlaer, archdeacon of Utrecht and provost of the St. Martin’s cathedral on December 6, 1358 (inv.no. 274-24) announcing finally the end of his interdict. In this very short charter all attention should go to the words about dilectus noster consanguineus Arnoldus de Iselsteyn, a nephew of the bishop who had been the bailiff of the city Amersfoort and keeper of the castle Stoutenburg. Earlier Arnoud of IJsselstein had been involved in financing the policies of his uncle. In 1358 he was a councillor of count Willem. A mental illness ended Willem’s short reign.

Searching archival records in Dordrecht

Among the Topstukken [Highlights] at Dordrecht are more documents concerning legal matters, You can look at a charter from 1299 confirming the stapelrecht of Dordrecht which ensured traders had to unload their freights and bring them to the market before continuing their voyages, and at a manuscript from 1525 with municipal ordinances (keuren). For each item a short essay has been added explaining its meaning and importance. However, for these two items and for the 1355 bull no reference is given to the specific fonds or archival collection, as if nobody seeing these documents and reading the essays would want to see them in their archival context.

The set of charters and letters about the interdict at Dordrecht is without any doubt the largest surviving one in the Netherlands. Jacob van Oudenhoven noted them in his Oudt ende nieuw Dordrecht (…) (Haarlem: Vermerck, 1666; online, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) 357-359 as a part of the official inventory made in 1649 of the records in the IJzeren Kast, the iron chest with city records (pp. 339-367). P.H. van de Wall published the bull in his edition of sources concerning Dordecht, Handvesten, privilegiën (…) der stad Dordrecht (3 vol., Dordrecht: Van Braam, 1770-1777; 2nd ed., Dordrecht: Van Braam, 1790; vol. 1, online, Delpher) 247-249. In his opinion it was not necessary to publish other documents about this case because the case was well known. He mentioned drawer Q where this and other documents were kept, and noted in particular only a charter of September 29, 1355 (Q.12) in which the bishop of Cambrai lifted the interdict (inv. 274-15).

Theologian Guillaume Henri Marie Delprat (1791-1871) was the first to write again at length about this set of documents. He published the majority of them in his article ‘Dordrecht onder kerkelijk interdict, 1352-1356’, Kerkhistorisch Archief 3 (1862) 1-64 [online, Internet Archive]. Delprat did not edit the papal bull, but only referred to Van de Wall, because large parts of the papal bull are repeated in another document (no. XVII). Delprat was a pioneer of research into the fourteenth-century religious movement of the Devotio Moderna. In the same journal he published an article about another interdict, ‘Het bisdom Utrecht en het graafschap Holland onder kerkelijken ban in de jaren 1280 tot 1283’, Kerkhistorisch Archief 3 (1862) 321-397. In both articles Delprat looked at the history of the interdict and at cases in medieval Europe.

The city archives of Dordrecht have rich holdings and a long history, charted by P.J. Horsman in his study Abuysen ende desordiën : archiefvorming en archivering in Dordrecht, 1200-1920 [Abuses and disorder: the formation of archives and archiving in Dordrecht, 1200-1920] (PhD thesis, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 2009; online). The oldest surviving medieval municipal accounts from the Northern Low Countries stem from Dordrecht. In the inventory by P. van den Brandeler, Inventaris van het archief der gemeente Dordrecht (3 vol., Dordrecht, 1862-1869; online, Hathi Trust Digital Library) the documents about this interdict had been placed in a separate rubric (I, 56-63) with twenty items. Van den Brandeler gave also the old signatures for these documents, most of them kept in the Iron Chest, and he referred when possible to the edition by Delprat. The inventory by J.L. van Dalen, Inventaris van het archief der gemeente Dordrecht (2 vol., Dordrecht 1909-1912) is basically still in use and searchable online in the search system of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, last edited in 2014. The references to Delprat have not been included in the descriptions. The current finding aid gives the documents concerning the interdict in chronological order. Horsman tells specifically Van Dalen added to each item the number given by Van den Brandeler and the old signatures. In my view references to editions are meta-data which enrich a finding aid. On closer inspection these references have been assembled by Van Dalen in the regestenlijst in the second volume of his inventory. These regesten give one-line summaries of the juridical content of documents in chronological order.

Photo of J.L. van Dalen at website Regionaal Archief Dordrecht

Jan Leendert van Dalen (1864-1936) is the man sitting at his desk on the website of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht. He wrote twice at some length about the interdict on Dordrecht. In his book on the history of the Grote Kerk [De Groote Kerk (Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerk) te Dordrecht (Dordrecht 1927; online, Delpher] he discussed the affair (pp. 30-34) and he gave the text of the four letters by Henric Prijs [inv.no. 275-5 to 8, pp. 171-174], followed by summaries of the pieces not published by Delprat. Perhaps this explained his somewhat fatigued tone in the second volume of his history of Dordrecht a few years later [Geschiedenis van Dordrecht (2 vol., Dordrecht 1931-1933; vol. I, vol. II, Delpher]. Van Dalen devoted just one paragraph (II, 687) to the interdict in a distinctly tired tone, as if alread all that could be said had been written. Perhaps he was thinking about the study by G.D.J. Schotel, Een keizerlijk, stadhouderlijk en koninklijk bezoek in de O.L. Vrouwe-Kerk te Dordrecht (Amsterdam 1859; reprint Schiedam 1987; online, The Memory of the Netherlands) where you can find editions of five documents (pp. 94-98). Four of them had just been published by Delprat. In the fifth document Schotel succeeded in missing twice a crucial word, and his indications of gaps are wilful. Before I saw his edition I had already transcribed this document, the letter of count William, and you will find it in an appendix to this post.

It is ironical to see how Van de Wall not only edited the bull, but gave its exact signature in the IJzeren Kast (Q.5), how Delprat omitted it in his edition, and how Van Dalen put his references into regesten, as a kind of end notes. At that time it was a long standing tradition for Dutch archivists to create such short summaries which focused on the legal actions documented in archival records. If you think this is too much irony, you should ponder the sentence in the accompanying essay on the website of the archive at Dordrecht stating the papal bull should have been returned to the diocesan archive of Cambrai, because this bishop was ordered by pope Innocent VI to lift the interdict. The information has been condensed from the volume of essays about the archives of Dordrecht, Van ijzeren kast tot hamam. Topstukken uit het archief van Dordrecht, Jan Alleblas et alii (eds.) (Zwolle-Dordrecht 2011), with on pp. 23-24 the papal document, and on pp. 10-11 an article about the Iron Chest.

Papal records

Whatever you think about the chequered history of these records in Dordrecht, you will have to consider also I could at the moment of writing not visit a library to consult a number of important resources. I had no access to a copy of the Suppliques d’Innocent VI (1352-1362), U. Berlière (ed.) (Rome 1911; Analecta Vaticano-Belgica, V) nor to the Lettres d’Innocent VI (1352-1362), G. Despy (ed.) (Brussels, etc., 1953; Analecta Vaticano-Belgica, XVII, 1) or Innocent VI (1352 – 1362). Lettres secrètes et curiales, publiées d’aprés les registres des Archives Vaticanes, Pierre Gasnault, M.H. Laurent, Nicole Gotteri (eds.) (5 vol., Paris 1958-2006). Through the services of the bibliographic database of the Regesta Imperii you can quickly consult online the entry for Innocent VI by Pierre Gasnault for the Dizionario Biografico Treccani (2004).

Thus finding online resources was not just a question for the resources of the Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, a regional archive because it holds also archival collections of other cities and villages around Dordrecht, but also for finding access to more general sources and editions, in particular for papal documents. I could not access the database Ut per litteras apostolicas which covers the editions of medieval papal registers, nor did I have access to CD-ROM’s with images of these registers. An article by Yves Renouard, ‘Les minutes d’Innocent VI au Vatican’, Archivi d’Italia e rassegna internazionale degli archivi 2 (1935) 12-26 – online, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Rome – taught me an object lesson how difficult it is to approach the papal registers from the period in Avignon. Even having them in front of you does not make things a straightforward task, because acts of Innocent VI have been mixed with those of other popes.

You can find digitized images of Van Dalen’s regesten within collection 131, Archiefdienst van de gemeente Dordrecht, inv.no. 1851, the archival collection of the archival service at Dordrecht. In my view they would become more useful when added as an appendix to finding aid 1 for the early municipal records until 1572. I created a concordance between the works of Van den Brandeler, the old signatures in the IJzeren Kast, Delprat’s edition, Van Dalen’s inventory and his regesten. Among the digitized resources which I could use is the Bullarium Trajectense for papal charters until 1378 concerning the medieval diocese Utrecht, edited by Gisbert Brom (2 vol., The Hague 1891-1896; online, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, vol. I and II). Brom, Bullarium, no. 1548, gives a summary of the charter of January 6, 1356 (inv.no. 274-21) registered in Reg. Av. t. 12, fol. 534. The bull of 1355 is summarized in Brom, Bullarium, no. 1533 (p. II, 71), present in Reg. Av. t. 11, fol. 496v.

It would have been wonderful to use also the riches of the Repertorium Germanicum, but this resource starts only for the period from 1378 onwards. However, with some luck I could use an edition of supplications to the pope from the diocese of Utrecht in the fourteenth century. The edition of Supplieken gericht aan de pausen Clemens VI, Innocentius VI en Urbanus V, 1342-1366, R.R. Post (ed.) (‘s-Gravenhage 1937) has not yet been digitized, but it appeared also in the journal Archief voor de geschiedenis van het Aartsbisdom Utrecht 60 (1936) and 61 (1937), accessible at the Trajecta Portal for Belgian and Dutch ecclesiastical history.

Some supplications give you reason to think they did came into existence with a particular background, or they contain precious information about some persons. Wigger Gerards was a parish priest in Dordrecht, but also a chaplain of count William V [Post, no. 19 = Brom I, no. 1058 and Berlière I, 302, 1343 February 10]. Nicolaas de Stuyc from Dordrecht, a canon of the cathedral chapter in Utrecht acted in 1355 as a messenger for the clergy of the diocese Utrecht at the papal curia [Post, no. 14, 1342 Oct. 16 = Berlière I, no 251, and Post no. 458, 1355 Nov. 9 = Berlière II, no. 724]. He had been a councillor of countess Johanna of Brabant who was married to William IV of Holland [1349 March 26, Post, no. 213 = Berlière I, no. 1537]. Peter van Leeuwenberch was a baccalareus in canonibus and dean of St. Mary’s chapter, Utrecht [Brom, II, no. 1465, 1353 Feb. 6]. Chancellor Gerard de Veno comes into view in the supplications, too. Post noted he obtained numerous canonries during his career, starting in 1347 with a canonry of the cathedral chapter in Utrecht [Post, no. 153, 1347 July 3]. Johannes de Zelandia is first mentioned as a legum doctor and iudex curie vestre temporalis civitatis Avinionensis [Post, no. 502, 1358 April 6], and slightly later also as a vestri sacri palatii advocatus [Post, no. 506, 1358 May 22]. In a later request he used also the title advocatus fiscalis [Post, no. 523, 1359 Jan. 26]. In this request he tried to obtain a canonry at the St. Peter’s chapter in Utrecht for his brother Wisso, a cleric in Zierikzee, a town in the province Zeeland.

Not only priests did ask favors from the popes. On December 10, 1353, Margaret, duchess of Hainaut, received papal permission to have masses read in locis interdictis and the same day she gets also permission to enter cloisters with six women, to be able to have mass celebrated before sunrise, and to use a portable altar [Post no. 413 = Berlière II, no. 371; Brom, II, nos. 1494-1497]. The duchess clearly reckoned it would be wise to be prepared encountering interdicts anywhere. William V and his wife Maud of Lancaster, and John of Blois, too, requested only much later such a similar permisson [Post, nos. 473-474, 1357 April 30].

Some older source editions and studies relevant for the papacy at Avignon have been digitized, too. Among them are works such as Die päpstlichen Kollektorien in Deutschland während des XIV. Jahrhunderts, Johann Peter Kirsch (ed.) (Paderborn 1894; online, Internet Archive) and Claude Faure, Étude sur l’administration et l’histoire du Comtat Venaissin du XIIIe au XVe siècle (1229-1417) (Paris-Avignon 1909; online, Gallica). Most instructive is also a formulary with models for supplications created by a papal procurator from Hamburg working at Avignon, Das Formelbuch des Heinrich Bucglant. An die päpstliche Kurie in Avignon gerichtete Suppliken aus der ersten Hälfte des 14. Jahrhunderts (…), Jakob Schwalm (ed.) (Hamburg 1910; online, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek Hamburg). As for late medieval accounts, you might want to look at digitized accounts from four French regions and the papacy at Avignon in the project Ressources comptables en Dauphiné, Provence, Savoie et Venaissin (XIIIe-XVe siècle) with for example seven registers Introitus et Exitus of the Camera Apostolica between 1334 and 1342. I mention some of these resource on purpose, becaus they figure also in a most interesting article which provides crucial clues in the next section. The relevant chapters and the select bibliography in the History of courts and procedure in medieval canon law, Wilfried Hartmann and Kenneth Pennington (eds.) (Washington, DC, 2016) are of course the first place to look for more resources.

Back of document 274-2

The note on the verso of the mandate issued by the city Dordrecht, May 27, 1355 – RA Dordrecht, Stadsarchief 1200-1572, inv.no. 274-2 (enlarged and contrast enhanced)

In view of the large number of documents concerning this case edited by Delprat it seems only natural to supply here transcriptions of those documents that have not yet been published. I decided to edit the papal bull of 1355, after all the very document which prompted my investigations, and three other documents, the letter of count Willem, the short legal consultation and the charter of the bishop of Utrecht that ended in the interdict in 1358. I hesitated to edit also the rather long letter with the mandate for the agents of the city Dordrecht (inv.no 274-2), but perhaps I had better leave something to do for others, too! For those wanting to start I placed here an enlarged and sharpend image of the notes made in Avignon on the verso of the mandate as an invitation to look at the documents yourself.

Focusing on Johannes de Zelandia

One person in the Dordrecht documents, magister Johannes de Zelandia, stands out for his functions and legal degree. While contemplating his faits et gestes I could luckily use a scanned version at the website of the MGH in Munich of an article by Knut Schulz, ‘Bemerkungen zu zwei deutschen Juristen im Umfeld des päpstlichen Hofes in Avignon im 14. Jahrhundert. Johannes Henrici (von Seeland) und Wilhelm Horborch’, in: Formen internationaler Beziehungen in der Frühen Neuzeit. Frankreich und das Alte Reich im europäischen Staatensystem. Festschrift für Klaus Malettke zum 65. Geburtstag, Sven Externbrink and Jörg Ulbert (eds.) (Berlin 2001) 159-178.The complaints by Henric Prijs about Johannes’ need for money have some ground indeed. Johannes not only reached high offices, but later on possessed several houses in Cologne. Schulz thought there was no biographical notice about Johannes, but in fact there is a very short notice “Henrici (Johannes)” by J. van Kuyk in the Nieuw Nederlandsch Biographisch Woordenboek III (Leiden 1914; online, Huygens Institute for Dutch History) col. 579.The article of L.Ph.C. van den Bergh, ‘Aanteekeningen over de geschiedenis der advocatuur in Holland’, Nieuwe Bijdragen voor Regtsgeleerdheid en Wetgeving 5 (1855) 486-505, is from 1855, not 1885 as wrongly indicated by Van Kuyk [online, Hathi Trust]. Van den Bergh mentioned Johannes just once (p. 489), and I will come back to this reference.

Schulz doubts rightly whether Johannes was an auditor sacri palatii. Post records one request presenting him as a vestri sacri palatii advocatus [Post, no 506, 1358 May 22]. In one of the documents in Dordrecht Johannes calls himself in Romana curia advocatus [inv.no. 274-21, 1355 May]. Schulz shows him foremost as one of the procuratores at the curia for the city Hamburg, in particular for an interdict case richly documented in the edition of sources by Richard Salomon und Jürgen Reetz (eds.), Rat und Domkapitel von Hamburg um die Mitte des 14. Jahrhunderts (3 vol., Hamburg 1968-1975). You can read the accounts of the Hamburg agents with payments to Johannes online in the edition of Th. Schrader, Die Rechnungsbücher der hamburgischen Gesandten in Avignon 1338 bis 1355 (Leipzig 1907; online, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg). In a safeconduct issued in 1359 Johannes is mentioned as a legum doctor and causarum fiscalium patronus [Brom, Bullarium II, no. 1624, 1359 June 20]. With three other lawyers he contributed a legal consultation on a conflict between the clerics and the city of Speyer in 1373, and here, too, he is a sacri pallacii apostolici advocatus. I could trace not only the manuscript Wolfenbüttel, Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 277 Helmst., fol. 211r-213v, but you can even look online at his consultation in another manuscript, Frankfurt am Main, Universitäts- und Stadtbibliothek, Ms. Praed. 88, fol. 34r-36v. Schulz noted Johannes became in 1357 with four other magistri at the curia an advocatus for the dean and chapter of Trier. Among them was a Richardus de Anglia who earlier on had acted also for Dordrecht. The image of the papal curia as a busy beehive where people circled around the pope and cardinals for their favor and money comes readily to your mind. The multiple tasks and charges, and the money coming with them, give his note “Vester totus”, yours truly or literally “completely of you”, in his letter of May 5, 1356 to the city of Dordrecht a hollow ring [inv.no. 274-21].

Schulz’s main scoop was the rediscovery of an article by Léon-Honoré Labande, ‘Liquidation de la succession d’un magistrat pontifical du XIVe siècle, l’Allemand Jean Heinrich (1375-1376)’, Annales d’Avignon et du Comtat Venaissin 1 (1912) 177-199 [online, fascicule 2 and fascicule 3, Gallica]. Labande edited the last will of Johannes de Zelandia; unfortunately only half its text has been preserved. A charter published in the Oorkondenboek van Groningen en Drenthe, P.J. Blok et alii (eds.) (2 vol., Groningen 1896-1899), searchable at Cartago, mentioned Johannes with the nickname dicto Lalaman, which definitively sounds as a phonetic rendition of the word l’allemand. No. 458 (1358 May 14) contains a verdict in a case heard by Petrus Majoristhe auditor sacri palatii we already met, concerning Gerardus de Veno, yet another figure in the documents at Dordrecht, who had to surrender his income from a prebend in Groningen. The first witness to this charter is our Johannes de Zelandia, in Romana curia advocatus. In his will Johannes donated his manuscript of the Lectura Codicis by Cino da Pistoia to another lawyer, Pons de Lagnes (Lecturam Chini super Codice, Labande, p. 185).

Johannes de Zelandia was also twice a temporal judge for the city Avignon. In an article by Louis Duval-Arnould, ‘Les registres de la Cour temporelle d’Avignon à la Bibliothèque Vaticane (Vat. lat. 14761-14781)‘, Mélanges de l’école française de Rome 92 (1980) 289-324, he is signalled as Johannes Henrici Alamanni in 1359 and 1375, the last year of his life. The manuscript Città del Vaticano, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 14774 (description), documents his activity in 1375. In the same issue of this journal Jacques Chiffoleau, too, mentioned Jean de Zélande in a paragraph on the wide variety in background and the difficulties to retrace people at Avignon [‘La violence au quotidien. Avignon au XIVe siècle d’après les registres de la Cour temporelle’, MEFR 92-2 (1980) 325-371, at 330].

Foto van Janskerkhof 18, Utrecht - foto: D.C. Goosen, Het Utrechts Archief, 2011

The claustral house Janskerkhof 18 – image: Het Utrechts Archief, cat.no 819349, photo by Dick Goosen, 2011

Much to my surprise Samuel Muller Fzn., the famous archivist at Utrecht, wrote a century ago about a claustral house of the St. John’s chapter in Utrecht which meester Jan van Zeeland bought in 1364 [S. Muller Fzn., Over claustraliteit: bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van den grondeigendom in de middeleeuwsche steden (Amsterdam 1890; Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afd. Letterkunde, vol. 19; online, Internet Archive) 137; Utrecht, Het Utrechts Archief, toegang 222, Kapittel van St. Jan, inv.no. 135-4, 1364 Aug. 31]. Muller supposed Johannes was a lay person. Thanks to the study about the jurisdiction on immovable property in the medieval city Utrecht by Martin de Bruijn, Husinghe ende hofstede. Een institutioneel-geografische studie van de rechtspraak over onroerend goed in de stad Utrecht in de middeleeuwen (Utrecht 1994) 194, we can even identify this house at the present Janskerkhof square no. 18, located somewhat backwards.

It would not help to bring together here all possible bits of information about Johannes de Zelandia, but some of them make you think again about this most interesting figure. Labande shows for example he was married to Amantia. If you think he was only active in Avignon in these years, the safeconduct I mentioned points in another direction. You will be less surprised by a charter from 1356 showing Johannes Heynrici de Zelandia at the abbey of Egmond, an institution under the protection of the counts of Holland [Haarlem, Noord-Hollands Archief, toegang 356, Abdij van Egmond, inv.no. 127 (1356 Dec. 17)]. This charter was copied into a cartulary (inv.no. 3, fol. 67v), a thing noted only in a regest (no. 367). It has not been included in the Digitale Charterbank Nederland, because the description is only given in a regest. It is the very document Van den Bergh noticed in 1855 in the Egmond cartulary. Johannes acted as the procurator of this abbey, too. Brom recorded him paying in 1357 for abbot Hugo the yearly sum to the papacy [Brom, Bullarium II, p. XXXVIII, also in G. Brom (ed.), Archivalia in Italië belangrijk voor de geschiedenis van Nederland I.1 (The Hague 1908); online, Huygens Instituut for Dutch History) p. 389, no. 1092].

Robert Fruin, the founding father of Dutch historiography in the nineteenth century, mentioned him appearing in an account of the counts of Holland in 1356 [R. Fruin, Verspreide geschriften I, P.J. Blok, S. Muller Fzn. and P.L. Muller (eds.) (The Hague 1900; online, Internet Archive) 137]: Item gegeven Meester Philips van Leyden voor sinen cost, die hi dede tutrecht met Meester Jan van Zeeland om den zoene te verclaren . . . , “given to master Philips of Leyden for his costs when was at Utrecht with master Jan of Zeeland to explain the reconciliation” [The Hague, Nationaal Archief, toegang 3.01.01, Graven van Holland, registers inv.no. 221, EL 22, fol. 64, and inv.no. 223, EL 27, fol. 100]. Philips of Leyden (1326/27-1382) is famous for his treatise on the care for the common good and the power of princes, De cura reipublicae et sorte principantis, first published in 1516. I searched in vain for any reference to the interdict for Dordrecht in his work. The reconciliation is surely the one between count Willem V and the bishop of Utrecht. Anyway, it shows Johannes again in action within the diocese of Utrecht. In 1357 Philips was sent to Avignon as an ambassador for count Willem.

Apart from a lack of access to archival records and printed editions, I had to find out things without the help of the most important scholarly literature. Two fairly recent volumes concerning the papacy in Avignon are accessible in open access, Offices et papauté (XIVe-XVIIe siècle) (Rome 2005; online, Open Edition) and Offices, écrits et papauté (XIIIe-XVIIe siècle) (Rome 2007; online, Open Edition), both edited by Armand Jamme et Olivier Poncet, provide very interesting articles and also a number of lists of functionaries for a good deal exactly at Avignon during the fourteenth century.

As for Dutch sources I acutely felt the need to look at accounts of the counts of Holland. The editions by H.G. Hamaker, De rekeningen der grafelijkheid van Holland onder het Henegeouwsche huis (3 vol., Utrecht 1875-1878) cover mainly the first half of the fourteenth century. The sequel edited by H.J. Smit, De rekeningen der graven en gravinnen uit het Henegouwsche huis (3 vol., Utrecht 1924-1939) is not available online. I could check one relevant volume of other accounts, De rekeningen van de grafelijkheid van Holland uit de Beierse periode, I, De hofrekeningen en de dijkgraafsrekeningen van de Grote Waard, I: 1358-1361, D.E.H. de Boer and J.W. Marsilje (eds.) (The Hague 1997; online, Huygens Institute for Dutch History). It would expand this post too much to give here a survey of relevant digitized sources at the portal of the Huygens Institute. I looked rather closely at some of them, but to no avail. However, you can benefit form the digitized guide by M.J. van Gent and M.-Ch. Le Bailly, Gids voor de landsheerlijke archieven van Gelre, Holland, Zeeland en het Sticht. Bestuurlijke, economische en sociale geschiedenis vóór 1500 (The Hague 2003).

Local history and European history

The Dordrecht city archivist Van Dalen was decidedly a man doing local history. Despite its great length my post has indeed the purpose of showing wider connections which come together at a particular place in a particular period. While researching this post I was also reading the Wereldgeschiedenis van Nederland, edited by Lex Heerma van Voss and others for the Huygens Institute for Dutch History (Amsterdam 2018). The aim of this book to show world history inside the history of one country holds a strong appeal for anyone who likes to transcend the borders of your usual territory. I am woefully aware that my foray into papal history has been hampered by not having access to a number of vital printed editions and modern works about the papal curia in Avignon, and I could not investigate other persons and subjects sufficiently. I would dearly want to check relevant registers and accounts of the counts of Holland at the Dutch national archives (Nationaal Archief, toegang 3.01.01, Graven van Holland) and similar sources for the bishops of Utrecht held at Het Utrechts Archief (toegang 218-1, Bisschoppen van Utrecht), even if the period 1340 to 1380 is only partially covered in the latter.

A significant catch in this post is insight in the way regests can both be helpful and most irritating. Putting information about document both in descriptions and in regests goes against the principle of a single point of definition. When the regests are not clearly and actually connected to the documents they describe, and in the case of a digital finding aid, literally and preferably linked directly and correctly to each other, you can miss crucial information. When you check for example for the abbey of Egmond the charters of this abbey held at the Noord-Hollands Archief Haarlem in the Digitale Charterbank Nederland you will find 811 charters in this database, but the regestenlijst added to finding aid 356 contains some 1,550 summaries. If this random example is only one occurrence of a serious problem, this database needs serious tuning and updating. In some cases rather old regesten currently get a new lease of life, even as additions to refurbished and reorganized inventories, but this cannot be done properly by just copying and pasting. The problem with these old summaries is not their focus on legal matters, but the way they can form a second information layer which should be consistently connected to finding aids and the items within them. The example of the regesten in Dordrecht surviving as part of another collection is rather extreme.

Originally I had planned a rather concise post with just some notes on an interesting papal bull, but the documents around it contain much more than had surfaced until now. The paragraph on Johannes de Zelandia became almost an independent post, but I decided to put it right in the centre of this contribution. Johannes was not just a proctor for one particular case. He put his mouth where the money was, in Trier and Hamburg among other places, and he did have other important functions as well. His possessions included houses in the Provence, in Cologne and Utrecht. The variant versions and spellings of his name and his nickname make him difficult to trace. Nearly forty years ago Wybe Jappe Alberts wrote an article ‘Tussen Keulen en Parijs. Overpeinzingen bij vijftig jaren bisdomgeschiedenis’, Jaarboek Oud-Utrecht 1981, pp. 26-34 [online, Utrecht University Repository], where he looked at the importance for Utrecht of the archbishops of Cologne in the first half of the fourteenth century. Between Cologne and Paris runs the road to Avignon and Rome. This post shows some rather curved parts of that road, and some of the wider views you might encounter. It is definitely possible to view a local interdict in a much wider context.

A postscript

I would like to point here to the bibliography on medieval ecclesiastical punishments at the blog FULMEN: Excommunication et autres censures spirituelles de l’Anqituité à nos jours.

Charters, cartularies and rolls

Startscreen ANR Rotulus

However fragmentary the transmission of medieval sources may be, the sheer number of charters and cartularies is still impressive. Some cartularies saving the text of charters were not made in the usual codex form of manuscripts, but as rolls. This phenomenon is the subject of the French research project ANR Rotulus at the Université de Lorraine and the accompanying blog, also called Rotulus. Looking at material evidence can help you to avoid looking at sources only as texts. In this post I will look at this project, and no doubt there are also examples of such roll cartularies or cartulary rolls outside France. One of the reasons to look at this subject now is an upcoming scholarly event in April.

A different form

The project ANR Rotulus that will run from 2019 to 2021 is an initiative of the Centre de Recherche Universitaire Lorrain d’Histoire (CRULH), based in Nancy and Metz. The project was prompted by the presence of some sixty cartularies in roll format (“cartulaires-rouleaux”) in the French database for cartularies CartulR – Répertoire des cartulaires médievaux et modernes at the Telma platform of the Institut de Recherche d’Histoire des Textes (Paris and Orleans). It was possible to add another sixty cartulary rolls to those already identified. The team of ANR Rotulus has created a very well organized bibliography on the use of rolls in medieval society. Eight years ago I wrote a post about the best known medieval use of rolls, for accounting purposes. In a post about heraldry and legal history I mentioned a number of heraldic rolls.

Logo Rotulus blog

At the Rotulus blog you can find announcement of scholarly events concerning medieval rolls. On April 3 and 4, 2020 a workshop will be held at Yale University on the theme “L’édition numérique et les manuscrits en rouleaux médiévaux” [The digital edition and manuscripts in roll form]. The workshop will deal with subjects such as the palaeography and cataloging of medieval rolls, and with the transcriptions of manuscripts and critical editions. There will be an introduction into best practices in digital editing, and the use of XML and TEI will come into view. The workshop will be hosted by the group of scholars united around the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in the project Digital Rolls and Fragments. At the heart of this workshop will be a devotional roll written in Latin and Middle English, dated between circa 1435 and 1450 (Takamiya MS 56, digital version). Of course you can find more (digitized) rolls and scrolls at the Beinecke. You will forgive me mentioning here English Paleography and Manuscript Culture, 1500–1800 by Kathryn James, curator of Early Modern books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke Library, just published by Yale University Press. The website of ANR Rotulus mentions a meeting later this year on the theme Fonctions des cartulaires-rouleaux : approches sociales et contextuelles d’un genre documentaire [Functions of cartulary rolls: social and contextual approaches to a documentary genre], to be held at Metz on November 5-6, 2020.

A recent contribution at the Rotulus blog focuses on a cartulaire-rouleau held at the Bibliothèque Municipale of Angers from the abbey of Notre-Dame du Ronceray. This twelfth-century cartulary consists of six rolls, each of them measuring nearly six meters by 29 centimeters and containing six to eight parchment sheets (MS 844, 845, 846, 847, 848 and 848b). The library at Angers posted a somewhat longer and illustrated version of this post on its own blog. This roll cartulary is duly mentioned in the CartulR database (no. 1383), the material units have each its own description on the level called Exemplaire-tradition where it becomes clear it has the form of a roll (rouleau). The database CartulR has a useful glossary showing among other things the variety of cartularies.

On November 14 and 15, 2019 a conference was held at Angers about the diversity of cartulary rollis. Both the material side of these documents as also their place within diplomatics, the historical auxiliary science for studying charters and related resources, came into view. Among the subjects to discuss was the need for creating a special database with a repertory of cartulary rolls. The second day of this event, held at the Archives départementales de Maine-et-Loire in Angers, ended with a presentation of some roll cartularies in the holdings of this regional archive.

The team of ANR Rotulus very sensibly looks at all forms of medieval rolls in order to understand their uses and development. Why did cartulary rolls come into existence? What role could they have? Who did benefit from this particular form? Is it an exclusively ecclesiastical or monastic format? Half of the cartulary rolls repertoried untll now stems from priories. Rolls from Cistercian monks and from nuns form a distinct minority. Approaches to uses of literacy and gender history, too, will have to be invoked to interpret and understand such facts. Of course I checked CartulR for the presence of cartulary rolls. One example among the 65 results is currently held outside France. The Rijksarchief in Bruges has a roll cartulary for the collegiate chapter of Saint Sauveur in Harelbeke (CartulR, no. 5213). The team of ANR Rotulus has not yet added to CartulR the sixty cartulary rolls which they spotted.

Beyond France

Startscreen Materiale Textkulturen

It is only logical to look beyond France for the existence and role of cartulary rolls. CartulR does contain information about some Spanish and Italian cartuiaries, but for these countries no cartulary rolls are mentioned. Recently Stefan G. HolzJörg Peltzer and Maree Shirota edited the volume The Roll in England and France in the late Middle Ages (2019; available in open access), a publication included in the bibliography of ANR Rotulus. This volume is part of a book series published for the Sonderforschungsbereich at the university of Heidelberg concerning Materiale Textkulturen. At the blog of this project you can read a post about this volume (Materiale Textkulturen, Band 28) which is a product of the subproject Rollen im Dienst des Königs [Rolls in the king’s service].

Among cartulary rolls outside France those of Margam Abbey held at the National Library of Wales are easily spotted. The Discovery portal of the National Archives in Kew brings you quickly to at least seven examples in various English archives, but not at the National Archives themselves. I was a bit troubled by the fact the Gaunt Roll held at the East Sussex Record Office (GLY 1139) did not show up at first at Discovery in a simple search for cartulary roll. In the Répertoire des cartulaires d’institutions religieuses médiévales sises dans l’espace wallon actuel (Pratiques médiévales de l’écrit, Université de Namur) you can find in its 2017 overview three examples kept in Tournai. It is tempting to add more examples to this post, but I am confident the interest of some of my readers will be kindled enough to find out more about this remarkable resource type.

An addition

At Archivalia Klaus Graf noted I could have mentioned examples of cartulary rolls from Germany. You could indeed start searching at Archivportal-D with terms such as KopialbuchKopiar and Rotul or Rotulus. Searching with the terms Urkunden and Rotul* brings substantial results.

Seals as signs and objects of medieval legal history

Earlier this year I looked here at the portal Medieval Digital Resources, and even though I did not mention them, I looked there for the presence of particular telling objects. When I discussed here in January a new project concerning charters in Dutch archives one of the questions about this database is the visibility of and attention to seals. Lately I noticed there is a substantial number of recent projects around medieval seals. Two recent publications help to view seals in a larger setting than your sight suppose at first sight. Seals represent also legal power, and the images on seals should have a niche in the field of legal iconography.

Seals make connections

Seal of the Roman King William, 1252 - Utrecht, HUA, Stadsbestuur 1122-1577, no. 47

Seal of the Roman king William at a charter for the city Utrecht, 1252 June 18 (OSU III, no. 1261; OHZ II, no. 931; MGH Dipl., Heinrich von Raspe und Wilhelm von Holland, no. 281) – Utrecht, Het Utrechts Archief, collection 701, Stadsbestuur van Utrecht 1122-1577, inv.no. 47

Searching for a fitting image for this post I decided to put here an image of a seal fixed to a charter held at Utrecht by Het Utrechts Archief. The seal shown shows the figure of count William II of Holland, the only Dutch Roman king (1248-1256). A quick search in the Digitale Charterbank Nederland brings you at first to some twenty charters issued by William, only nine of them with images. In a few cases his seal has been disfigured by the way it was fixed to the charter. William’s charters figure in the oorkondenboeken for the diocese Utrecht and the county Holland, the critical editions of charters for these regions, and they have been edited by Dieter Hägermann, Jaap Kruisheer and Alfred Gawlik, Die Urkunden Heinrich Raspes und Wilhelm von Holland 1246-1256 (MGH Diplomata, Die Urkunden der deutsche Könige und Kaiser, 18; 2 vol., Hannover 1989-2006).

Let’s turn to the two new books. The book edited by Laura Whatley, A companion to seals in the Middle Ages (Leiden 2019) is actually a volume of essays on several themes around and with seals. Its price can seem formidable. In the same series Reading Medieval Sources appeared in 2019 a volume on Money and coinage in the Middle Ages, Rory Naismith (ed.) (Leiden: Brill, 2019) which can be viewed online in open access.

The second book to mention here is the volume Seals – Making and Marking Connections across the Medieval World, Brigitte Bedos-Rezak, (Leeds: ARC Humanities Press, 2019), available in hardprint and as an e-book. This book, too, comes at a very substantial prize. However, you can download the introduction.

Logo Sigillvm network

Instead of speculating about the policies behind the prizes of these works it is perhaps wiser to start with a tour of websites devoted to medieval seals. The presence of the international network SIGILLVM is a natural point of departure. This website provides basic information about research before and after 1800. In fact there is a concise PDF by Brigitte Bedos-Rezak on research perspectives. There is a section about collections of seals in archives and museums and also a section for seals created by individual persons.

The Sigillvm network does not provide a section with web links. The number of blogs about seals is a surprise. I might as well start with projects and websites in France. At the ARCHIM portal, the showcase of the French national archives, is a section with seals from Burgundy. The Bibliothèque nationale de France has created the blog Trésors de cire [Treasures in wax] where you can find among others things bibliographies about the conservation and restauration of medieval seals. In the Sigilla database you can find digital images of seals in French collections. The database can be searched for themes such as seals of for example Cistercians, the corporations of Bruges and the bishops of Paris, and for major collections, including those with seal impressions and casts of seals. SigiAl is a blog dealing with seals in the Alsace and Upper Rhine regions, territories with a place both in French and German history.

In Germany you might start with having a look at the Siegelblog with the subtitel Sphragistik als historische Hilfswissenschaft, sigilography as a historica auxiliairy science. The blog Verkörperung kommunaler Identität [Embodiment of communal identity] brings you clearly into the fields of legal history. Seals held at the Stadtarchiv Speyer are the focal point, and in particular the impressions made by fingers on the back of seals. Some seals have another seal on the back, but the beautiful seal of the city Speyer showing the mighty cathedral show also fingerprints. We will follow this track later on. Christian Lohmer has created a digital collection of casts held at the Monumenta Germaniae Historica in Munich, mainly for seals of German kings, emperors and princes. The digital collection links as far as possible for each seal to the work of Otto Posse, Die Siegel der Deutschen Kaiser und Könige (5 vol., Dresden 1909-1913), digitized at Göttingen. The Historische Kommission für Niedersachsen und Bremen has created a database for the Welfensiegel, the seals of the House of Welf, one of the oldest still existing aristocratic families in Europe. The database contains currently some, 1,450 seals.

From Austria comes the project Siegel der Bischöfe der Salzburger Metropole [Seals of the bishops under the metropolitan see of Salzburg], a title meaning seals of the bishops within the archdiocese Salzburg and the archbishop himself, too. Thus you will find seals from the dioceses Gurk, Chiemsee, Seckau, Lavant, Innsbruck and Feldkirch, all in all some 750 seals.

Among the projects from the United Kingdom the Imprint Project clearly beckons for attention. This projects aims at studying the fingerprints in multiple perspectives. They show not only the process of sealing charters, but also the ritual side of signing. The history of using fingerprints for identification and the development of methods for data capture are addressed by the project team. You can follow its activity also on the aptly named blog First Impressions. Durham University has created both a virtual exhibition about seals of Durham Cathedral and a catalogue for medieval seals with digitized images. While writing this post I looked in disbelief at an empty collection guide to seals at the website of the British Library. Seliau / Seals in medieval Wales is a virtual exhibition of the National Library of Wales, with an accompanying blog, Exploring Medieval Seals. You can download the exhibition catalogue Seals in context. Medieval Wales and the Welsh Marches (PDF). The Berkshire Record Office in Reading has created the virtual exhibition Small Objects of Power introducing you to and showing medieval seals.

Start screen Sigillvm Portugalliae

Let’s end this tour with some projects around the Mediterranean. El Sello Medieval is an already longer existing virtual exhibition about medieval seals, created by the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Madrid. The second website is the home of the project Sigillvm. Corpus dos selos portugueses, a website you can view in Portuguese, English or French. Apart from project information and the database with an inventory of medieval seals in Portugal there is a small digital collection of recent relevant literature and a bibliography, and in particular a generous links selection. The inventory can be accesses only in Portuguese, but you can search with terms (Termos usados). Alas the section for virtual exhibitions is empty.

Of course basic guides to sigillography – sometimes the term sphragistics is used – have been around online now for two decades. The links collection for this theme at the portal Historische Hilfswissenschaften at the Universität München is still useful. You can consult online a PDF of the Vocabulaire internationale de la sigillographie (Rome 1990). Sometimes seal matrices have become objects of art, but more often personal seal matrices have been destroyed when their owners died. The survival of originals seals, the creation of seal casts and the interest to collect these combined with the study of matrices make the study of seals a field with several layers. The web directory of the Portuguese Sigillvm project is a fair attempt to present links for a variety of collections.

The approach of the Imprint project and the project at Speyer which bring fingerprints into view open questions about seals in a new way. Legal historians can note how modern forensic expertise can be applied also to historical materials. Who handled seals and matrices? Is the very act of sealing not just as important as attaching a beautifully looking seal which can indeed make an impression on contemporaries and future generations? It is only natural that disciplines such as semiotics, the study of signs, and cultural anthropology look rather differently at seals than medievalists, art historians and legal historians usually do. Visual culture, politics, government and art come together in seals. If my post looks as part of an object lesson in approaching seals as signs and objects – with not just a front side but also other telltale elements – my brief tour here serves its goal.

A postscript

Travis Baker kindly pointed to the volume Seals and their Context in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2015) with an important article by Paul Brand on seals and the law in medieval England.

Banner DigiSig

For some inexplicable reason I did not include the project DigiSig from St. Louis University in this post, but I had duly bookmarked this project dealing with seals from medieval England. It offers a database for searching seals in a number of British collections, and a search facility for the kind of figures represented on seals with a detailed classification scheme. Both tools are most valuable for sigillographic research.

Digital approaches to medieval charters

Start screen DCN

On January 25, 2019 the Digitale Charterbank Nederland [Digital Charter Database Netherlands, DCN] was launched at Het Utrechts Archief in Utrecht. In this project the Huygens Institute/Institute for Dutch History of the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences works together with Het Utrechts Archief, many other Dutch archives, and the IT firm De Ree in Groningen to create an online database with not only medieval charters, but also charters written between 1500 and 1800. Among the speakers at the presentation was Els De Parmentier (Ghent) who made an illuminating comparison with the Belgian project Diplomata Belgica. It is only natural to compare both projects and to report on some early impressions.

The third attempt succeeds

In fact two previous attempts at the Huygens Institute to create an online database for all medieval charters in Dutch holdings had not reached their goal. Almost by chance financial support of the Dutch Science Foundation NWO, the presence of an archivist, Karel Engbers, who had recently joined the staff of the IT firm De Ree which supplies an archival system use at many Dutch archive, and the preparatory work of the Huygens Institute together resulted within eighteen months in the current database.

The DCN has a search screen with both a simple search and an advanced search mode which opens by clicking on arrows. The advanced mode is fairly restricted. You can search for phrases and for single words, and you can set a time period to limit the search results. The search tips lead you to the Dutch archives portal created by De Ree. The portal has a search interface in Dutch, English and German, but the page with search tips is only available in Dutch. In the top menu you will not find in the English and German version the choice for newspapers (kranten) and the very useful guide to institutions with holdings for cultural heritage (erfgoedgids).

The second half of the DCN starts screen

I did not want to go immediately to another track of this post, but you can hardly escape from the crucial role played by the archival system of De Ree. In fact the start page of the DCN looks below the introduction very much like the result pages of the Archieven portal. On the right you can use filters for archival institutions (diensten, shortened from archiefdiensten), the presence or lack of images and other files (bestanden), and for toegangen, finding aids. By the way, Het Utrechts Archief figures large with more than 25,000 charters, but as for now only for some 6,600 items digital images have been provided. For each charter you can go directly to the relevant finding aid. Currently the database of the DCN contains already 170,000 charters with for some 24,000 items digital images.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and thus two invited speakers, Hans Mol (Leiden University and Fryske Akademy) and Ronald van de Spiegel at the presentation gave an early report about the functions of the DCN. Finding all occurrences of the abbot (abt) of Middelburg proved to be not straightforward. The use of wildcards is of course important in view of the different spellings of names and locations. With the DCN you can chart for example the changes in the preponderance of papal and royal charters or measure the importance of towns. More disconcerting is the way the datations of charters can led to a presentation of results with in the date field the number 1000 – or another year starting with 1 – instead of the date in the description. In order to work properly the archival system needs to have correct input in its own datation field of the finding aid. Instead of blaming this particular system – or any system for that matter – you will have to look more carefully at the quality of the original input created by archivists. Some crucial fields might have been left empty, and sometimes even a clear indication you are dealing with a charter might be absent. The institutions using De Ree’s system can continuously add and correct their data, but those institutions which do not use it cannot easily update their data within the DCN.

Karel Engbers (De Ree) explained how he urged to widen the selection of charters mentioned within the finding aids at the beginning of the project and during its unfolding. He urged for instance to include also specific genres of charters, and also the occasions where only a top-level description is given, even the most superficial ones like “a bundle of charters, 1350-1550”.

A look at Diplomata Belgica

Startscreen Diplomata Belgica (detail)

Maybe you will already have some ideas about the DCN, but I think you can see them much clearer when you compare the DCN with Diplomata Belgica. In fact I would have preferred to write here about this outstanding digital project much earlier, but things went different. The subtitle of this website with a French and English interface clearly sets its limits and character, “The diplomatic sources of the Medieval Southern Low Countries”. You will find here charters from the territories corresponding more or less with the current country Belgium. The word diplomatic stems from the auxiliary historical science diplomatics, the discipline dealing with medieval charters. For practical reasons, the sheer number of medieval records, this discipline often halts at the year 1300, and only seldom much later, up to 1340.

In her lecture Els De Parmentier made it very clear how you can use Diplomata Belgica to search for very specific questions about medieval charters, giving you a very comprehensive range of fields with both diplomatic and additional information, in particular the presence of religious orders. Apart from the main search interface you can use the interface Recherche Tradition / Tradition Search to search for the textual transmission of charters: as original or as a separate copy, in particular repositories, the writing material, the name of manuscripts and even the Stein number for French cartularies. Perhaps the most important information of De Parmentier’s lecture was the attention to the multiple way you can study charters: within the text of a document, in documents with the same actors, documents with identical compositions, and for example in documents issued by a particular person or institution for the classic research into the working of medieval chanceries. I will leave out here her comparison with other digital projects for medieval charters, for example those at the French Telma portal, the Digitaal Oorkondenboek Noord-Brabant, the Cartago project for charters from Frisia, Drenthe and Groningen, the registers of the Hainault counts of Holland (1299-1345), the international Monasterium project. the Anglo-Saxon charters and the DEEDS project. Each of them has many qualities, but all are slightly different in their approaches. Their common denominator is the choice of approaches founded on diplomatics.

Two approaches to charters

Some impressions become clear after De Parmentier’s lecture. In its current form the DCN is mainly what it shows on your screen, a set of charters filtered from the online finding aids of a large number of Dutch archives and from data sets – and images – provided by some other archives. You can see quickly where to go for rich holdings, but the crucial quality of the data provided by these archival institutions is very clear, too. It is a bit silly to see lots of charters dated in 1000, 1040 or 1085 when you know the actual number of charters for these years is much lower. The time range of the DCN goes considerably beyond the normal scope up to 1300 of (digital) editions of charters for particular regions or princes to include charters issued between 1500 and 1800.

The DCN faces a serious problem with the way datations of charters are handled due to the quality of the input provided by holding institutions. Sometimes one date field with incorrect or insufficient information can lead to a wrong representation of the actual date range. Instead of grumbling about this state of affairs it is perhaps wiser to check the actual input and the cases which are or seem incorrect. The larger lesson is for many digital projects you will need to use fields in a correct way, think only of such standards as EAD (Encoded Archival Description) and Dublin Core, and of course for your own digital presence and services. Sooner or later you will want to share information. Many Dutch archives offer their finding aids also as open data, yet another spur for checking interoperability and correct working before connecting to other projects or presenting data to the general public. In a finding aid archivists describe items as succinctly as possible but uniquely distinguishable from other items, and it should be no surprise descriptions do not contain all possible information, let alone full transcriptions. Some archival institutions provide transcriptions, for example the Regionaal Archief Tilburg.

The DCN website mentions a diplomatic definition of charters, a single act written on parchment or paper pertaining to a legal situation or a legal action – e.g. a sale, a donation – made legally valid by the internal and external characteristics of the deed, such as a seal or a signature. For me the use of the phrase bevoegd persoon (authorised person) seems almost to exclude private persons. The phrase ‘Charter’ is de archiefterm, “[a] charter is the archival term”, wordings written by Jan Burgers, the project leader (Huygens Institute and University of Amsterdam), is simply not correct. In the latest version of the Dutch archival terminology (2003) a charter is defined as a document containing an act validated by one or more seals or a notary’s sign. This definition clearly differs from the definition in the famous Dutch manual by Muller, Fruin and Feith (1898) who saw a charter as the expedition (grosse) of an oorkonde, to be distinguished from a concept or a final version (minuut). The 2003 definition is much clearer about the documentary nature and more succinct. It is foremost an archival definition, and not primarily a concept from or defined by the needs of diplomatics. Luckily the explanations by Burgers about the importance of charters as historical sources are on spot.

Logo Huygens Institute / ING

In my view the Digitale Charterbank Nederland is a tool which reflects archival practices and needs. Its great power is the way you can look at charters within their archival context instead of seeing them only as specimens of a separate documentary genre, and having images of them on your screen. The search possibilities of the DCN are somewhat restricted, even when you allow for the way you can focus on a single archival collection. It is only wise to remember two earlier attempts to create this Dutch charter database failed. Hopefully the problem with the dates in the charters can be solved quickly by the contributing archives and De Ree. Thus we will have at our disposal a primarily archival tool which supplements other Dutch digital projects for medieval charters, such as the digitized versions provided by the Huygens Institute of the oorkondenboeken for Utrecht (OSU), Holland and Zeeland (OHZ), and Gelre (Guelders) and Zutphen (OGZ). Creating links between these editions and the DCN is one of the things that will enhance this database. In particular the coverage with digital images in the DCN is still a bit low, but no doubt this will change rapidly. The qualities of the DCN should also become rapidly available with an English, French or German interface for all scholars worldwide wanting to use charters in Dutch holdings for their research. Without some understanding of archives, archival theory and the classic historical auxiliary sciences such as diplomatics, palaeography, chronology and sigillography you will and cannot tap completely the wealth of information charters can provide.

Charlemagne’s Europe, a construction


While busy with updating the congress calendar of my blog I spotted an announcement about a project at King’s College London, The Making of Charlemagne’s Europe. The website consists of a database containing one thousand early medieval documents, mainly charters. The database is surrounded with a series of useful guides, instructions, a bibliography and a selection of links. The first aim of the database is to create a unified framework to extract socio-economic and prosopographic information from the selected charters. A second aim is stimulating research into these early medieval legal documents themselves.

As a medievalist I have been trained to use all available written evidence to its utmost extent. My first frown when looking at this database was caused by the fact that not all surviving relevant documents, some 4,500 records, have been included here, but perhaps I expect too much. The database is clearly still in a beta phase. The list of charter editions from which documents have been extracted is fairly long. Some collections have been included entirely, for example the charters in the Diplomata Karolinorum series of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, and from many others at least a few items have been selected. From the edition of the Chartae Latinae Antiquiores all charters between 768 and 814 have been included.

It is probably wise to remember that we are looking in fact at a pilot project, and not to judge it too quickly. If you insist on having more materials immediately at your disposal, you can relish the presence of many online resources indicated in the splendid array of useful links. In this post I will tell you about my first experiences with the website of this project. The decision to create a database for researching Carolingian charters was not an easy choice. The visions behind this project are relevant for many comparable projects. What are the benefits of this project? Does it help to get closer to the legal realities within the Carolingian empire? Does it help us to refine our perceptions of legal history?

Back to basics

Chronicles and charters are the basic materials for doing historical research on subjects from medieval history. In a way the focus on charters of this project brings you back to a familiar playground. When you start to use the database in its simplest way, by browsing charters, you are immediately struck by the multitude of available filters, not only for classic attributes as the transmission date, repository and place names, but for many more determining elements. The filters help you to analyze a corpus of documents in a very structured way and helps to make comparisons possible on a sound base. In particular connections between people and changes in roles – and status – can become much clearer than they were before.

However, I could not help thinking that somehow you will find here only information that has been already labelled by others, but in fact the project team has done a lot more. They insist on making clear the multiple roles and significance of the information in charters. The student guide of the website gives good examples of the tiny differences in very similar charters that should make on think matters anew. In one charter a person is described as the abbot of a monastery, in the next example he is not. The first example mentions the patron saint of a church, in the next charter this information is not present. The examples show also the necessity of distinguishing the location where the charter was created, the place of a donation, places within a certain territory, and unidentified place names. Tucked away in one of the paragraphs of this guide is the very important remark that the database does not give you the actual text and images of charters. Links to digital versions will be added in the coming months. This basic feature, or should one say: basic lack, deserves more emphasis than just an oblique reference.

Results for DKar I:117

The selection of documents already included in the database was made with an eye to the greatest possible range of places, regions and types of transactions. It should not surprise you that I concluded that even the city of Utrecht, in the Carolingian period decidedly at a distance of the most important places and persons, is present in the database. The charter DKar I:117 (June 8, 777) proved to be a very instructive example. Utrecht is not only the name of the bishop’s see but also of his diocese. The charter was granted at Nijmegen. Several locations in the charter are within the diocese of Utrecht, a number of them at unidentified locations. The recipient of the grant is count Wigger for Alberic, the rector of St. Martin’s at Utrecht. Alberic is a priest. Charlemagne is credited with three qualities: king of the Franks, king of the Lombards, and patrician of the Romans. This is the only example of Utrecht in the database, but it contains enough to place it in a wider context. In 778 Alberic became the bishop of Utrecht. Gaining such personal information is one of the aims of the project.

Seemingly strange is the missing location of the Upkirika, one of the objects granted. The database gives for individual elements the exact wordings, and the location super Dorestad places this church at least clearly in the region surrounding this well-known trade centre south-east of Utrecht. Apart from properties the grant includes also a toll right. The image above does not show the large clickable map where you can see identified locations. To the left of the map is a list of all locations mentioned in a charter. A second overview mentions place relationships. In DKar I:117 Leusden is a place within a smaller territory, in Flettheti. I was somewhat mystified that the database has as a place entry Utrecht, territory (Flehiti), and not inversely Flehite, with as description “territory in Utrecht”. The procedures behind place relationships are discussed in an interesting contribution on the project website.

The list of useful links at The Making gives for the Netherlands only the online version of the registers of the counts of Holland and Hainaut between 1299 and 1345 and a link to the online list of medieval cartularies and modern editions at TELMA. In the list of charter sources only the Oorkondenboek van Noord-Brabant tot 1312 (ONB) has been included. However, a number of Dutch and Belgian charter editions (oorkondenboeken) is even available online. The Oorkondenboek van het Sticht Utrecht tot 1301 (OSU) has been digitized by the Huygens Institute, as are the ONB – in a partnership with a foundation for the history of Brabant –  and the Oorkondenboek van Holland en Zeeland tot 1299 (ONH). The portal Cartago leads you to charter editions for Friesland, Groningen and the German region Ostfriesland. Medieval charters from Belgium will become available online in 2015 within a project called Sources from the Medieval Low Countries, supported by the Belgian Royal Historical Commission. You can use a cd-rom with the Belgian Thesaurus diplomaticus from Brepols. The URL for the Diplomata Belgica does not yet function. Among the Scandinavian diplomataria the Svenskt Diplomatarium is not mentioned, perhaps because the oldest document in it dates from 817, just outside the period under consideration here. On that ground you could also exclude the Diplomatarium Norvegicum which starts in 1050. I am sure this and similar information will be swiftly added or corrected.

Apart from browsing for charters you can browse for agents and places with a similar wide range of filters. Conceptually the very act of creating of a charter is seen as amounting to a fact, called a factoid, with connections to places and peoples, and probably changing them, too. It is very advisable to read the contributions at the website about the choice to create a database instead of opting for the use of “mark-up” texts.

By the way, choosing Utrecht as an example in this post is not a random act. The Utrecht Centre for Medieval Studies has a fine tradition of research into many subjects of the Carolingian period, including legal history, for example the history of penitentials, see Rob Meens, Penance in medieval Europe, 600-1200 (Cambridge, etc., 2014). The latest project Charlemagne’s Backyard looks at the rural history of the Low Countries in the Carolingian period, combining both written and archeological evidence.

A first impression

Are there similar projects where you can find more? The Making of Charlemagne’s Europe does use data from the Nomen et Gens project at Tübingen with prosopographical and onomastic information from the eight century. CharteX deals with charters from the twelfth to the sixteenth century. The use of maps in the project of King’s College London reminded me of the interactive maps of Regnum Francorum Online, a project of Johan Åhlfeldt. It is certainly wise to use this geographical information to check and corroborate search results in the KCL’s project. It is surely possible to give more examples of digital projects which support your research into Carolingian legal documents, such as the Carolingian Canon Law Project led by Abigail Firey (University of Kentucky), and the Bibliotheca legum (Karl Ubl, Universität Köln) with the socalled Völkerrechte.

It is a silly joke but The Making of Charlemagne’s Europe is still a bit in the making. The rebuttal by the project team to this remark is really justifiable: They assemble the very evidence to help you to question the truth behind the assumption that Charlemagne and his successors aimed at creating something like a European presence. When you combine the data contained in their database with printed and online editions of Carolingian charters, and preferably also with any other kind of legal documents from this period, you will be able to get a much more detailed view of Carolingian society, the networks and relations. The Making is not the definitive answer to research questions, but it does deserve inclusion in your digital toolkit when doing Carolingian legal history. One of its great merits is its refined conceptual framework for studying and analyzing medieval charters. Even without a working database the approach to Carolingian charters is worth close study. 2015 is just a few days old, there is enough time this year to look at legal history with new eyes!

Carved in stone: runes and Nordic law

When I started creating the blog roll for my blog, an important element of most blogs, I very soon found a blog using the same design as I do and touching subjects as medieval law which are also in my sphere of interest. Jonathan Jarrett is a very active blogger on the history of tenth-century Europe. When you look at his blog roll you will see he does not only point to many other blogs but also to a host of very useful websites in the field of medieval studies. One of the sites mentioned by Jarrett helped me to find the subject for this post on runes and Nordic law. You will soon see the Dutch twist to this theme!

Late Antique and Early Medieval Inscriptions is a portal created by Mark Handley to printed information and websites concerning inscriptions from Late Antiquity onwards into the Early Middle Ages up to 900 AD. Outsiders might not be completely aware that inscriptions are not the most commonly used source for medieval historians. It takes special training to decipher the texts after having learned the various scripts, and what is more, you will have to acquaint yourself with other technical matters as well before you can safely try to give an interpretation of such inscriptions.

For two reasons I feel prompted to write here about runes. The first impulse comes from Chris Wickham’s book The Inheritance of Rome. A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 (2009). One of the images in his book shows the famous Jelling runestone set up by the Danish king Harald Blåtand (Bluetooth). In my hometown Utrecht we happen to have a full-scale copy of this stone, as do by now ten other cities. In January I stumbled for a posting by surprise on a digitized seventeenth century treatise on runes by the Danish historian Ole Worm, [Runir] seu Danica literatura antiquissima (..) (Hafniae [Copenhagen] 1651). It took me some time before I could bring both leads together in a post.

The Jelling runestone

The Utrecht copy of the Jelling runestone

The Utrecht copy of the Jelling runestone came to my city in 1936 as a gift from Danish friends of The Netherlands to celebrate 300 years Utrecht University. The stone stands between the Academiegebouw, the central building of Utrecht University, and the medieval cathedral. On the Jelling stone one side has been inscribed in runes. Two other sides of the stone show images and the sequel of the inscription.

A plaquette explaining the Jelling runestone

It is very thoughtful that at least a plaque in bronze was provided in 1936 with the stone to explain something of its significance, but more is needed to gain insight into the history and meaning of this rather large object. The Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen has devoted a special website to Jelling and the Jelling runestone. Wickham writes that king Harald ruled from 958 until 987. Around 965 he was baptized. Harald ruled Denmark from Jelling where he put this stone to commemorate his father Gorm.

On Mark Handley’s splendid portal to early medieval inscriptions you can use nearly 500 links to all kind of websites for this subject. For this post I looked to websites telling me more about runes and about the Jelling runestone. Among the databases I quickly found the Scandinavian Runic-text Database (Samnordisk runtextdatabas) at Uppsala Universitet where you can download a database with runic inscriptions, Rundata 2.5. Its interface is only in Swedish in which language I am not very fluent, and therefore this tool takes sometime before you can use it. The Jelling runestone has the signum DR 42. Luckily the website is linked to a forum on runes, the Uppsala Runforum with a generous link collection, and thus I arrived at the website Danske Runeindskrifter of the Nordisk Forskninginstitut, the University of Copenhagen and the Nationalmuseet in Kopenhagen. Although the search interface of the database on this website is only in Danish, somehow searching here was easy. Three inscriptions are to be found at Jelling. Scholars have designated the large stone as Jelling-sten 2, with the number DK SJy 11. In English the text of the inscription is translated as:

King Haraldr ordered these kumbls made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Þyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.

indicates a king. Kumbl, kuml in modern Danish, is the word for a monument. The stone was rediscovered only in 1586. Ole Worm saw a notice in the church at Jelling stating this year.

A drawing on the Jelling runestone

The interpretation of the Jelling runestone is complicated by the two images carved on it. Wickham flatly states: “Harald was Christian, but the imagery of the stone is not”. Ole Worm made a famous drawing of the images in his Danicorum monumentorum libri sex (1643). The pages 326 to 338 of his book deal with the Jelling runestone. Incidentally five books by Worm have been digitized at the university of Strasbourg. The inscription below the drawing has been duly noted.

The main figure on the Jelling runestone

This image elicited even more confusion and discussion. For a long time it was assumed Christ was pictured, but only in the nineteenth century scholars concluded the figures represents king Harald. Here, too, one can discern another inscription.

Runes and Nordic law

The modern study of runes has suffered from the abuse of this script and the racist ideology of the German Third Reich. The rune for the letter S was used in the emblem of one of its most deadly organizations. Its use is forbidden in present-day Germany. I remember attending a seminar in Munich where it was made very clear that it is virtually impossible to detect anything German in early medieval Europe. On top of the historical abuse of runes the imagery of the Vikings and the popular imagination still fired by their reputation for ransacking and plundering has deeply marked the way Scandinavian history is looked upon. The Vikings were both raiders and traders. The grim stories collected in the Edda and in particular in the Icelandic sagas picture this northern region as a dangerous area of medieval Europe. It is necessary to be aware of this background, but at the same time one needs to step backwards and to look at Scandinavia’s medieval history in all its aspects, including laws and legal culture.

In fact inscriptions in runic script do not very often contain legal texts. Legal manuscripts from medieval Scandinavia, too, use seldom runes. Perhaps more manuscripts with laws in runic scripts might have existed once, but only one example has survived. In Danish medieval law it is restricted to the Skånske Lov (Scanian Law), transmitted in runic script only in the Codex Runicus, a manuscript written around 1300 (Copenhagen, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, ms. AM 28 8vo) and once owned by Ole Worm. Other medieval manuscripts with the Scanian Law use the normal alphabet. The website Handrit enables you to find quickly and sometimes very extensive information on medieval Scandinavian manuscripts at Reykjavik and Copenhagen. Some manuscripts have been digitized for this website.

Inscriptions with runes are sometimes witnesses of powerful kings, but they did not legislate using runes. You can check this for inscriptions from Bergen in the Rune Type database of the Nasjonalbiblioteket in Oslo. At the website for Danish runes links are provided to relevant websites on runes. Pride of place should go to the Runenprojekt Kiel which leads you to runes in the Futhark script and the places where these have been found in Europe. For The Netherlands only three inscriptions in Futhark are mentioned. The Kulturhistorisk Museum of the Universitetet i Oslo has a runic archive. In Sweden the Swedish National Heritage Board presents a substantial section on runes on its website, including a digital version (PDF) of part 3 of the Gotlands runinskrifter.

Digitized sources for medieval Nordic law

I had better concentrate here on medieval Nordic laws and lead you to some digitized medieval manuscripts containing these texts, and to other digital collections. In March 2011 a manuscript from the Swedish Royal Library returned after 300 years to Copenhagen. The manuscript Codex Holmiensis 37 with the Jyske Lov, the provincial law for Jutland, is now at the Danish Royal Library and can be consulted online; a full description and bibliography are additional assets. At Lund University Library another manuscript with the Jyske Lov has been digitized for the Laurentius Digital Manuscript Library (Mh 18; 14th century), and also a manuscript with the Skånske Lov and also the Skånske Kirkelov (Mh 41; 15th century). A German translation was published in 1593 and has been digitized at Heidelberg (Dat Rechte Judske Lowbock (…) (Schleswig 1593)). Another version in German appeared in print in 1717 (Das Jütisch Low-Buch (…) (Flensburg 1717)). Schleswig-Holstein belonged for many centuries to Denmark. At Lund more legal manuscripts from Scandinavia have been digitized, among them the Sjaellaensfare logh, the laws of Sjaelland (Mh 23; 15-16th century). A critical edition of the Skånske Lov, the Jyske Lov and other medieval Danish laws can be found in Danmarks gamle landskabslove med kirkelovene [Denmarks old provincial laws and ecclesiastical laws], Johannes Brodnum-Nielsen and Poul Johannes Jorgensen (eds.) (8 vol., Copenhagen 1933-1961). Copenhagen, Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, AM 4 4to, is another digitized manuscript with the text of the Jyske Lov, this time dating from around 1300.

For later Danish laws I can at least offer the links to text versions of the Dansk Lov issued on behalf of king Christian V in 1583 – edited by Vilhelm Adolf Secher – and the Kongeloven af 1685 (Lex Regia). It is good also to point to the project for the digital editions of the works by the great Norwegian scholar Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754) who in many of his works mentions the old Nordic laws and his views on law and justice.

It is not sensible nor possible to provide here a complete overview of digitized legal manuscripts from medieval Scandinavia. The digitized legal manuscripts at Lund contain texts in Old Norse, Swedish and Danish, and this points to the fact that the history of Denmark, Norway and Sweden is closely related. In this post I also mention texts from Iceland, and these, too, cannot be neglected. On Sagnanet, the portal to digitized books and manuscripts with the medieval literature of Iceland, you can find also some texts on jurisprudence (Lögfræði) and legal literature (Lögbaekur). The Swedish Kungliga Biblioteket has not digitized any legal manuscript, but on the website at least two legal manuscripts are briefly introduced, the Kalmar or Åbo manuscript of the Magnus Eriksson Landlag (Magnus Eriksson’s Law of the Realm) (B172) and the Äldre västgotenlag (Elder Westrogothic law) (B 59). The Ediffah project helps searching for manuscripts and archives in both the Swedish Royal Library and five Swedish university libraries.

Apart from digitized manuscripts in particular charters from Scandinavia can be searched online using the Diplomatarium Danicum, the Diplomatarium Norvegicum and the Regesta Norvegica. The Danish charter project is connected to a project presenting Danish medieval texts, among them the Jyske Lov (Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek (KB), NKS 295 8vo), the Skånske Kirkelov (KB, NKS 66 8vo) and the Flensborg Stadsret (Flensburg, Stadtarchiv, Perg. 12 x 17). The Norwegian charter project is a part of the Dokumentasjonprosjektet which leads you to archaeological material, an online dictionary and more texts. One of the digitized manuscripts with a Norwegian law text contains the Magnus Lagabøtes landslov in the Hardenbergs Codex (Copenhagen, KB, GKS 1154 2°). Bergen University Library, ms 1836, is a fragment from a later version of this law, Magnus Lagabøters Nyere Landslov. At Bergen you can also search in the database of the Diplomsamling, a collection with some 1250 charters, 300 of them dating before 1600.

You can search specifically for manuscripts in the REX catalogue of the Danish Royal Library, and you can look in REX also in the holdings of other Danish libraries. One of the digitized manuscripts at Copenhagen worth pointing at is the Södermannalagen of king Magnus Eriksson (KB, NKS 2237 4°), since March 2011 deposited at the Royal Library in Stockholm. Among the Codices Latini Haunienses are some law texts in Latin. Swedish charters can be searched in the Svenska Diplomatarium database of the Riksarkivet in Stockholm.

Digital libraries in Norway do provide online access to source editions on medieval Norse law. The rather restricted search interface of NBDigital, the digital library of the Nasjonalbiblioteket in Olso, may take some time to adjust to, but you can find many digitized books on legal history and relevant source editions. Using the Ask website of Bibsys you can benefit from an advanced search form. In the Bokhylla of the Norwegian Digital Archive you can use for example the volumes of Norges gamle love indtil 1387 [Old laws of Norway until 1387] (5 vol., Christiania 1846-1895), Danske kirkelov (…), Holger Rørdam (ed.) (3 vol., Copenhagen 1883-1889), books on medieval and early modern seals (sigiller), and sources for ecclesiastical history. The Digitalarkivet itself brings you to a rich variety of sources: census records, ecclesiastical administration (kirkebøker), pledge registers and a general searchable database for all these sources. One of the largest Norwegian research projects is concerned with tingbøker, court proceedings, including cases concerning witchcraft. There is a database for searching witchcraft trials. A number of editions of seventeenth-century proceedings is accessible online.

For Danish medieval legal history it is useful to be aware of the DigDag project, a historical-geographical atlas for Denmark until 1600, and of the Adkomstregistrering 1513-1550 which provides information on persons, place-names and documents. The Statens Arkiver, the Danish National Archives, offer a number of services at their website; the Danish version lists more than the German and English version! Swedish archival records are being digitized in ArkivDigital, a project completely accessible only for subscribers. The Swedish National Archive has a central database for searching archival collections in Swedish archives. A number of record series in the Swedish Riksarkivet can be searched online, and also a substantial number of databases, for example court proceedings from the dombok for Värmland in the seventeenth century. The Finnish National Archive, too, has started a digital archive. This institution takes also responsibility for the digital Diplomatarium Fennicum for medieval charters from Finland.

The Swedish National Library has digitized a number of Swedish books printed before 1700 (Svenskt tryck före 1700). Among them are an edition of city bylaws, Sverikes rikes stadz lagh (…) (Stockholm 1628) and privileges for merchant towns, Biärkoa Rätten (…) (Stockholm 1687). At Lunds Universitet you can find digitized texts of many laws in the Fornsvenska textbanken, a linguistic corpus for Old Swedish for which critical text editions have been used, in particular the Samling af Sveriges Gamle Lagar edited by Carl Johan Schlyter and others between 1827 and 1877.

Looking for more

Of course I am woefully aware that I have missed a lot of information due to my inadequate knowledge of Scandinavian languages and relative unfamiliarity with Nordic research institutions and their websites. At my pags on digital libraries l have not yet put anything on Denmark… No doubt you can find more using general websites on Scandinavian culture. A nice example is Kulturnät Sverige. Let’s not overload this post and give you just one example from the numerous projects listed at this portal, the digital Svenska ostindiska kompaniet archiv at Göteborg University Library. A number of Danish digital resources for legal history have been brought together by the Kongelige Bibliotek. I found this only after I had finally spotted the Kulturperler search interface on the KB’s manysided website…

You can also find useful information in the ViFaNord, the Virtuelle Fachbibliothek Nordeuropa und Ostseeraum, a cooperative project of the universities in Kiel, Greifswald and Göttingen. At the very least ViFaNord will bring you to some websites for specific projects. With some luck I found a Danish website on rape, Voldtaegt, with a page on the history of Scandinavian law pointing to several online sources. For modern Scandinavian law it might be useful to go to Juridisk Nettviser. Hopefully this post satisfies to some extent the curiosity of those interested in the history of law in Scandinavia. It gives you a taste of this subject, at the best a menu card, but not a diner or the complete Scandinavian kitchen.

A practical postscript

Having at your disposal a nice selection of links to digitized sources is one thing, reading texts in medieval Scandinavian languages is something else. I did not mention the Medieval Nordic Text Archive (Menota). For this project a number of links to relevant dictionaries have been put together for your convenience. Menota itselfs brings you to digital editions of mainly literary texts, among them the Heimskringla, and brings you also a fine links selection. A concise guide to Scandinavian studies is provided for example by the UCLA Universitiy Library. For information about current research on legal history in Scandinavia I somehow missed the article by Heikki Pihlajamäki, ‘Legal history in the Nordic countries. A short story of Nordic legal history’, Clio@Themis 1 (2009).

A second postscript

In 2013 Ditlev Tamm and Helle Vogt made a short movie on Translating Medieval Danish Law. In this introduction to their project for the English translation of medieval legal texts from Denmark they show several manuscripts kept at the Royal Library in Copenhagen. A second movie with Tamma and Vogt in Danish from Det Juridiske Fakultet at the University of Copenhagen focuses somewhat longer on Danmarks Gamle Lov. The University of Aberdeen has a project The Medieval Nordic Laws in coopration with the Ubniversity of Stockholm.. The team will translate law texts and create the Medieval Nordic Legal Dictionary. Since Autumn 2014 there is an accompanying blog with a useful overview of laws and editions to be included.

The coming of Christianity to Scandinavia is the subject of a book by Anders Winroth, The conversion of Scandinavia. Vikings, merchants and missionaries in the remaking of Northern Europe (New Haven, Conn., 2012), and you will enjoy also his The Age of the Vikings (Princeton, NJ, 2014).

Sagnanet, the partnership between Cornell University and the National Library of Iceland is no longer live. Its functions have been taken over by the Handrit portal.

The world of history

Yesterday the 21st International Congress of Historical Sciences (ICHS) started in Amsterdam. One of its central themes is water, and this is surely worth the attention of historians, too. Today Amsterdam certainly offered lots of water when in a few hours over 40 mm rain came down, a small quantity compared to the ongoing rains that afflict the people of Pakistan and China. Other nations and people suffer daily from the lack of any water. History on the grand scale will inevitably miss the details which matter most for ordinary people. What about the connection between water and law? Law is by no means a neglectable detail, not for ordinary people nor for historians retracing their footsteps. Let’s have a look at the programme of the ICHS organized jointly by the Dutch Royal Historical Society, the University of Amsterdam, the Dutch Royal Library (The Hague) and the International Institute for Social History.

On Tuesday August 24, a session will be held on “Ethics, History and Law”. At stake here is in particular the grasp of politics on historical research. The four papers in this session touch widely different subjects. Antonis Liakos will discuss the abuses of history by politics and the influence of history in politics. Pierre Nora will present a paper on the French legislation about history and remembrance of the past between 1990 and 2008. Paolo Pezzino dives into a classic juridical matter, the role of historians as experts in court. Jörn Rüsen will reflect on the role of history and remembering the major traumatic experiences of the past century.

In the main programme there are three sessions focusing in law.  There will be also sessions on history and human rights, and on slavery. Another session combines Scottish networks on the Atlantic and the history of legal attitudes to piracy. In other sessions some papers touch law and legal history at least in their titles. Billy K.L. So speaks about company law reforms and business modernization in China and Japan in the early 20th century, Anne Redgate discusses liturgy, law and self-representation in medieval Armenia and England. Ana Sofia Ribeiro will focus on sexual violence in 18th century Portugal, and Marianna Muravyeva will talk about legal attitudes to sexual violence in modern Russia. Torsten Feys’s subject is shipping interests and American immigration laws, and Joanna Woydon brings Polish schoolbooks on the 1981 martial law to our attention. Maria Cmierzak tackles the attitudes of the lawyers who reformed the Polish constitution during the last century, and Ditlev Tamm will speak about the transmigration of legal scholarship.

The ISCH hosts also separate programmes. The largest programme is organized by the International Federation for Research in Women’s History. I feel a bit disappointed that only three out of eighteen sessions deal substantially with law: there will be sessions on nationalism, imperialism and women’s rights, on the global struggle for women’s citizenship, and on women’s freedom and civil rights in the African diaspora. The Commission Internationale de Diplomatique represented by Theo Kölzer has organized a session on charters. Papers will concern documents concerning the judiciary in medieval Sicily, medieval Italian merchants and their documents, a notary from medieval Lucca, testaments in Portugal and Spain, and public documentation on devotional practices in medieval Zaragoza. The Commission Internationale de Démographie Historique will held eleven sessions at the International Institute for Social History. Three sessions focus on inheritance law from a comparative perspective. Two other sessions deal with the question whether family systems are only beneficial to land-owning families. With respect to legal history this program looks promising. In fact it makes up for any apparent or real absence of subjects concerning law and history.

It is definitely too early yet to say anything about the success of this major international congress which is convened every five years. It is indeed a question whether more legal history would benefit the ICHS, or that legal historians would win by giving attention to this congress series. It is up to legal historians to be present themselves at such congresses or to opt for other ways of exchanging results from ongoing research, to look at their own research from a comparatist’s view or simply to meet other researchers which deal with the same period, country, region, people or whatever phenomenon or historical event.

The Dutch VPRO television reports daily about the Amsterdam ICHS on its own history website (only in Dutch). At the opening session the Canadian historian Jean-Claude Robert, secretary of the ICHS,  gave a lecture on the history of water management in Canada, a subject which is prominent in Dutch history, too. Reading about the very different appreciations of water depending on its role and impact I could not help thinking of the website about wetlands in Pakistan and the communications network on Pakistan wetlands. What will happen to these wetlands now one has to face another, more terrible impact of water? How can historians help reconstructing life and landscapes in devastated regions? The disasters caused by water in this and other regions are not just a regional problem but a challenge to the global community.

Lex scripta

Lex scripta, “written law”, a thing you would almost take for granted. Our medieval ancestors coined the phrase quod non est in actis, non est in mundo, “what is not noted in acts, does not exist in the world”. Written evidence started to become the only evidence admitted in court, yet oral proceedings and oral pleading exist until today. I could continue musing on this theme, but today I would like to bring something else to your attention. Thanks to the University of Pennsylvania Libraries, affectionately abbreviated to Penn Libraries, you can now find the digital proceedings of the second Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age, held October 30-31, 2009, under the title Lex Scripta: The Manuscript as Witness to the History of Law.

In the proceedings of this two-day symposium edited by Lynn Ransom you will find papers by Abigail Firey, Edward Peters, Kathleen E. Kennedy and Susan L’Engle on medieval manuscripts. Jonathon Brockopp discusses early Islamic legal manuscripts -alas there is not yet a PDF of his and L’Engle’s presentations- and Georg Vogeler writes about the forms of presenting charters online. Timothy Stinson reports on the concluding panel discussion concerning the digitization of medieval legal documents. Hugh Cayless addresses the subject of open licensing and images of medieval manuscripts.

The symposium last year was also held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Henry Charles Lea, the great historian of the medieval inquisition, whose library has been held since 1926 by Penn Libraries. At the symposium Edward Peters discussed Lea’s early work and his views on medieval canon law. Speaking of medieval canon law: it is never too late to visit the new website of ICMAC, the Iuris Canonici Medii Aevi Consociatio or International Society of Medieval Canon Law, launched last February at the University of Toronto!

Another vast subject of legal history is touched upon by many of the digital exhibitions also presented on the website of Penn Libraries at their Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. Jewish law is one of the main subjects in the Judaica Online Exhibitions. This last section, too, helps to confirm the merits of the plural name Penn Libraries. Let’s not forget to mention the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image (SCETI) with information on manuscripts from the Schoenberg collection and the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts, the enterprise to bring together information on the sales and presents whereabouts of medieval manuscripts.

An addendum: these digital proceedings are really not the only materials concerning medieval canon law now available online. In particular The Medieval Canon Law Virtual Library is worth visiting.

A second addendum : Jörg Erdmann wrote a study called “Quod est in actis, non est in mundo”. Päpstliche Benefizialpolitik im sacrum imperium des 14. Jahrhundert (Tübingen 2006) published by the Deutsches Historisches Institut in Rome. At the DHI website you can find statistical appendices to his book.

Yet another postscript: some images accompanying Kenneth Pennington’s lecture Legal Manuscripts and Books in Cyberspace can be found at his own website.

Charting medieval charters

Picture your average nineteenth-century historian working with medieval sources: accounts and charters are his daily bread, his life is a seemingly dull existence in dark and dusty rooms surrounded by his beloved sources. Picture your average armchair historian today: surfing the web hour after hour, plodding through many worthless websites, and still seldom finding quickly what you are looking for. If our grandfathers could look today for medieval charters online, they would be stunned at the number and the form of the digital charterbooks, Urkundenbüchercartulaires and oorkondenboeken you can access at home. The question for us is more often: where to start? It is the good old Virtual Library, and in particular the German branch in Munich, VL Geschichte, that offers a fine starting point. And yes indeed, as used to be the practice in the nineteenth century, you will need to know German to read the judicious comments on the websites presented there. At the very least admit that it is at last a page with detailed comments!  Call it a rite of initiation to the historian’s trade, but anyway it reminds you of the fact it will not do to just read the edition of a charter and to use it immediately for any purpose.

Charters have a juridical content -and form, too, very often- but they are not just juridical records. Auxiliary disciplines such as paleography and diplomatics which assist the interpretation and use of charters exist already since the late seventeenth century, and history does cross regional, national and linguistic borders. Roughly speaking one can distinguish sites which present only the texts of medieval charters, accompanied by the annotations of the editor(s), and sites which offer both the original charters and an edition, sometimes also a digitized version of the original edition. Deciphering the original handwriting can be quite a feat, understanding annotation is not always straightforward business. Two examples of websites on charters: the most ambitious and far ranging project is probably Monasterium, “das virtuelle Urkundenarchiv Europas”, with apart from summaries and digitized images useful information such as glossaries, reference works and institutions, and 140,000 charters online from Austria, Germany and Italy; the site can be viewed in nine languages. The Codice diplomatico della Lombardia medievale (secoli VIII-XII) provides enriched editions of charters from existing editions, and also a repertory of notaries (as yet only for Pavia). The developments in early medieval Lombardy have been seminal for the development of notaries on the continent, a point stressed by Kees Cappon on January 29, 2010, in his inaugural lecture at the chair for the history of the notariate at Amsterdam University. The CDLM-project is developed in collaboration with Scrineum, a consortium for the study of medieval sources and books in Northern Italy, with its own online journal.

The internet offers also guides to the more familiar printed form of sources. Columbia University has a page which guides you to editions of medieval papal documents, but unfortunately papal registers after pope Innocent III are not mentioned at all. It is only fair to mention the digital collections at Columbia University Libraries which include the Digital Scriptorium, the Advanced Papyrological Information System and the John Jay Papers. If you insist on finding online at least the titles of those papal registers after 1216 the bibliography by Thomas Frenz at the Universität Passau should be your safe haven. Frenz treats also paleography, heraldry and medieval Latin. The French portal Ménestrel for medieval studies has fine sections on Diplomatique and Cartulaires. Searching the wealth of French cartularies is even easier using cartulR, the repertory of medieval and modern cartularies created at the IRHT in Paris and Orléans. French researchers have not hesitated to give the CNRS network site on diplomatics a Latin name, De rebus diplomaticis.  An updated edition of G.R.C. Davis’ Medieval Cartularies of Great Britain and Ireland (first edition 1958) is scheduled for publication in a few months by the British Library. Let’s end this post with a link to Scottish charters and cartularies at Glasgow University, because there you will find also a useful links selection in English.