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Monastic ‘Centres’ of Law? Some Evidence from Eleventh-Century Rome

Monastic ‘Centres’ of Law? Some Evidence from Eleventh-Century Rome


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Monastic ‘Centres’ of Law? Some Evidence from Eleventh-Century Rome

Paper by Kathleen G. Cushing

Given at the 14th International Congress on Medieval Canon Law, University of Toronto (2012)

Cushing discusses her very preliminary research, which is part of a book-project about Monks and Canon Law in Italy. She is attempting to see if medieval monastic communities shared legal sources, and to see if a network of compilers worked together to circulate canon law texts in Italy and further into Europe.

Cushing notes that between 1000 and 1140 canon law undergoes a large transition, with new compilations being formed and more sophistication in these writings. Historians have traditionally focused on the role of bishops in creating these new sources of canon law, but many of these legal collections were actually compiled in monasteries. Cushing notes how important these collections would be, as the monks would find them useful not only in their dealings with other ecclesiastical officials, but also in maintaining their rules and standards of daily life.

The latter half of the lecture focuses on a manuscript – Collectio canonum Ashburnhamensis, Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana 1554 – which Cushing believes was copied from an original source in Rome. The Collectio Ashburnhamensis includes canons concerning the sacrements and heresy. Cushing comments that “the compiler clearly had direct acess to materials circulating in Rome in the third quarter of the eleventh-century.” The manuscript also contains other Roman references, including a list of Popes, a list of Roman emperors from Octavian to Tiberius III, a Calendar of Roman Saints, and a list of Roman cemeteries and catacombs.


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