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Judicial Inquiry as an Instrument of Centralized Government: The Papacy’s Criminal Proceedings against Prelates in the Age of Theocracy (Mid-Twelfth to Mid-Fourteenth Century)

Judicial Inquiry as an Instrument of Centralized Government: The Papacy’s Criminal Proceedings against Prelates in the Age of Theocracy (Mid-Twelfth to Mid-Fourteenth Century)

By Julien Thery

Proceedings of the 14th International Congress of Medieval Canon Law (Toronto, 5-11 August 2012)., (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2016)

13th century painting of Innocent III at Sacro Speco, Subiaco – photo by Holly Hayes / Flickr

Abstract: From the end of the twelfth century until the Great Schism, the papacy prosecuted hundreds of prelates who were charged with ‘crimes’ (crimina), ‘excesses’ (excessus), or ‘enormities’ (enormia, enormitates), these words being used interchangeably in the documents. These proceedings were often called inquisitionis negocia. Most of them were initiated at the papal Curia and sentences were usually reserved to the pope or to a cardinal appointed by the pope.

This article is based on the study of 570 cases between 1198 and 1342. It presents a general introductory survey of this judicial practice, which has never been studied before and seems curious, because, although serious and shameful charges were involved, ultimately many processes had minimal consequences for the accused. After a discussion of the sources which were used to establish the list of cases, a typology of the accusations is proposed. Finally, after a brief description of the procedures’ general characteristics, the various results of the processes are discussed.

Introduction: In August 1308, Pope Clement V wrote to Raymond, abbot of the small Benedictine monastery of Tourtoirac in Périgord, in southwestern France, to inform him that perpetual silence (silentium perpetuum) had been imposed on a monk of Tourtoirac named Jean de Chanteyrac. Jean had recently approached the papal Curia, then in Languedoc, to ‘appeal’ against his abbot and to report ‘several crimes and defects’ he attributed to him. We know nothing more about the nature of these ‘crimes’, which is not specified in the papal letter.

Click here to read this article from hal.archives-ouvertes.fr

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