About the Irnerio Project

CIRSFID is an interdepartmental centre of the University of Bologna that specializes in the history and philosophy of law and in legal informatics. The centre occupies Palazzo Dal Monte-Gaudenzi, a building named for the great legal historian Augusto Gaudenzi: the university decided to honour his memory by making the palazzo, formerly his family home, a place in which to research the history of medieval law. The job of laying the groundwork for reviving this kind of study in Bologna was entrusted to CIRSFID.

In line with the cross-disciplinary approach that guides its activity, CIRSFID took up the names of Augusto Gaudenzi and Guido Fassò - the one a historian and the other a philosopher - two thinkers whose influence on the Bologna school can still be felt. Already recognized internationally as a leading centre for research in legal philosophy and in computer science and law, CIRSFID is now poised to play an important role in medieval studies, too. Among the primary projects being carried forward there is one aimed at bringing together into a single corpus the major books of law compiled in Bologna during the Middle Ages.

The core part of this project consists in digitizing and classifying the vast collection of legal and theologico-philosophical codices making up the rare-books collection of the Reale Collegio di Spagna in Bologna: with this digital catalogue, built under the guidance of Professors Domenico Maffei and Andrea Padovani, not only can the fragile codices be readily accessed and studied, but their preservation for future use is guaranteed, too. The project -named for the primus illuminator of Bolognan legal science, the Italian jurist Irnerius - would not have been possible had the Collegio di Spagna not made its rare-books collection available. Funding for the project comes from the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna, and also from the Italian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The digital images have been reproduced under the editorship of the publishing house CLUEB.

The work done beginning in the twelfth century by the jurists active in Bologna and across the continent, namely, the Roman and canon law they put together, makes up to this day the foundation of law in Europe, a law imbued with concepts - such as "aequitas", "iustitia", "genus et species", and "ius" - occurring in philosophical as well as in doctrinal-juridical thought.

The Collegio acquired its first codices from its founder, Cardinal Gil de Albornoz, who bequeathed them to it in 1364. The holdings of the Collegio have since been catalogued in accurate detail under the direction of Domenico Maffei, who generously made this catalogue available so it could be made into a digital database: the outcome is a rich and composite store of knowledge that spans different fields and whose codices find different uses. Thus, we have the illuminated codices, richly historiated with images of striking beauty - the work of the best artists of the day, not only in Bologna but from central Italy and other parts of Europe, too - and next to these we have another set of codices, plainer and more scholarly, clearly intended ad usum scholarum. In each of these last there are usually collected many different works - some of them presented in summary form, others in anthologies - and they can be used to advantage in historical enquiry, as when looking to reconstruct the curricula and the educational system of the day.

One of these codices (a hefty 420-leaf book of the early fifteenth century) has close to 520 repetitiones, consilia sapientum, quaestiones, and rubricae on topics that make up a coherent group. It is not difficult for us to speculate how this collage came about, with the dominus legens laying out the subject matter and then the judges and the jurists providing examples, quite likely advancing contrasting opinions in the process.

The codices numbered 1 and 2 both contain a Vulgate Bible with the prologues of Saint Jerome and, following that, the Interpretationes Hebraicorum Nominum, attributed to Stephen Langton. The outstanding difference between these two codices of equal content, and the reason why they are so interesting to us today, consists in the profuse illumination, attributed to Pisa in the first codex and to Bologna in the second - but some experts disagree, attributing the illumination to the French school and only the swash letters to Bologna. Other scholars have thought these codices to belong to the famous canonist Giovanni d'Andrea, but it is now established that they belonged to Cardinal Albornoz himself.

The scholarly value of the holdings of the Collegio di Spagna is attested by the contents themselves: witness the epistles of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, found in a codex dating to the first half of the twelfth century, and the Laudi Sanctae Crucis of Rabano Mauro, found in what is thought to be the oldest codex in the entire collection, and the most elegant at that. Scholars in theology can look at the thirteenth-century codex containing Thomas Aquinas's Queaestiones de Potentia Dei. Legal scholars have at their disposal precious copies of Accursius's Magna Glossa and of Gratian's Decretum. There is, too, a late-thirteenth-to-early-fourteenth-century copy of Rolandino de' Passaggieri's Super Arte Notariae (supplemented with certain additiones, of a much later date, by Pietro d'Anzola), and equally worthy of note is codex no. 219, dating to the end of the thirteenth century, and containing, among other things, Gratia Aretino's Summa de Iudiciis - a revised and expanded version of it penned by the author himself. There also reproduced in the collection the entire Corpus Juris Civilis and Corpus Juris Canonici, preciously decorated at several places.

The Collegio di Spagna was built in 1364 at the initiative of Cardinal Gil de Albornoz as a dormitory for Spanish students in Bologna, whose university (the studium) beckoned as a centre of study in canon law, theology, and medicine. The Collegio is the only extant example of many dormitories that housed foreign students all across Europe during the Middle Ages. It received a royal charter in 1530 at the request of Charles I, king of Spain (a wish he had expressed just before his crowning) and can be considered the oldest Spanish institution anywhere, for it was built and designated as such from the very beginning, one and a half centuries before the two separate kingdoms were joined that would make up the unified Kingdom of Spain. The Collegio has proudly worked its way through countless difficulties over the course of the centuries, and now, supporting itself entirely on the cardinal's legacy, and hence without receiving any public moneys, it continues to accommodate free of charge some fifteen becarios, students attending different schools at the university, and who in their native Spain are traditionally referred to as los bolonios.

The Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna supports local projects devoted to scientific research, training and education, artistic creation, land and cultural resources, and public-health and human services. The arts are a special focus of activity, examples being the restoration of the tomb of Rolandino de' Passeggeri, in Piazza San Domenico in Bologna, an initiative funded entirely by the foundation, and another the picture gallery and newspaper and photo archives which the foundation runs through its own Centre of Art and Historical Collections in San Giorgio in Poggiale.

[Author: Bernardo Pieri]