July 22, 2010

Liber Diurnus Romanorum Pontificum (VIII - IX)

Vatican Secret Archives:

The Vatican Liber Diurnus codex, which was discovered by Luca Holste (Holstenius) among the manuscripts of the Roman library of the monastery of S. Croce in Gerusalemme in 1646, went to the Vatican Secret Archives in the XVIII Century, where Theodor von Sickel studied it towards the end of the XIX Century, and then edited the 1889 edition in Vienna.


For a long time, the codex was thought to be the only surviving copy of the ancient formularies book of the Papal Chancery and that is why it was called diurnus, even though the title is not present in the manuscript, but was taken from the canons collection by Cardinal Deusdedit (XI Century), where there are the formularies derived from the libro Romanorum Pontificum qui dicitur Diurnus. The Vatican Liber Diurnus (V) codex drew the scholars’ attention after the discovery of two other manuscripts belonging to the same tradition, called codex C and codex A: the first one (codex C = Claromontanus), which used to belong to the Clermont Jesuit College, was copied by father Sirmond and then published by father Gamier in 1680, arousing bitter controversy, it disappeared after 1746 because the Jesuit library was sold after their suppression and it was found again in 1937 in the library of the Egmont Benedictine Monastery, in Holland, where it had arrived thanks to a donation; the second one (codex A = Ambrosianus) was discovered in 1889 by Antonio Ceriani in the Ambrosian Library at Milan, where Cardinal Federico Borromeo, well-deserving founder of the same Library, had sent it after a purchase of manuscripts from Bobbio in 1666; it was published in facsimile by L. Gramatica and G. Galbiati in 1921.

The study of the three copies, which all derived from a lost archetype, with the same structure in common, but different for some important peculiarities of the text and dating back to various periods (the Vatican codex seems to have been copied at the end of the VIII Century or at the beginning of the IX, the Claromontanus one around the mid IX Century and the Ambrosianus one at the end of the IX century or around the beginning of the X), allowed us to reach more certain conclusions on the nature of Liber Diurnus, as it was handed down.


The three copies are collections of formularies, mainly papal ones, predominantly canonical or didactic. The three manuscripts contain formularies coming from the papal chancery, but also from the Episcopal ones, they record schemes of monastic customs, liturgical formularies and much more. Even if, as far as the papal formularies are concerned, we have to recognize that the three copies of the Diurnus derive from a real formulary of the papal chancery, so important and official to definitely recall a curial source (see the following formularies, in their specific terminology: privilegium, preceptum de commutando mancipio, de usu pallei, de ordinatione pontificis, nuntius ad exarchum de transitu superscriptio, de electione pontificis ad exarchum superscriptio), for the other texts it is necessary to think about other sources (for example, formularies like: preceptum de donando puero, item de ordinando presbytero, excusatoria). The three collections of formularies, under the common title Liber Diurnus, as they reached us, seem to be free revisions of official texts of the Holy See and of the most important and authoritative bishops’ sees, mainly for learning purposes in the monastic schools and for that reason always updated.

The Vatican Liber Diurnus codex, which is mutilated at the beginning and at the end (Luca Holste already noticed some papers missing), gathers 99 formularies (the Claromontanus codex has 100 formularies while the Ambrosianus one has 106), mainly in common with the other two copies (the recent edition by Hans Foerster underlines the similarity); Sickel demonstrated that, besides the common character of the formularies of codexes V, C and A, the Vatican manuscript has an earlier text than the two other copies.

The formularies, which nearly always lack of any chronological or onomastic element, substituted by the indefinite pronoun ille, illa, illud, are written without continuity (Carolingian writing), with the titles in uncial writing.

Although the manuscript was copied towards the end of the VIII Century or at the beginning of the IX Century, the antiquity of some of the texts it contains is outstanding: some formularies seem to even date back to a pre-Gregorian period (that is before Gregory the Great, 590-604), some others to the beginning of the VII Century and others which date back to the following years, nearly up to the period when the codex itself was composed. After Sickel’s hypothesis on the Roman origin of the Vatican manuscript dropped (which the scholar considered to be the book of the Papal chancery), the issue of the codex origin still remains unsolved; according to some scholars, it was composed in a monastery of Northern Italy (Bischoff); according to others (recently also Marco Palma) in the scriptorium of the monastery of Nonantola; this last theory is the most credible, not only for palaeographic reasons, but also for the proved transfer of the manuscript from the Nonantola monastery to the Roman one of S. Croce in Gerusalemme.

The importance of the Liber Diurnus (of which the Vatican codex is the most valuable testimony) for the Church and the papal history is outstanding. It witnesses the ecclesiastic tradition and the style of the official Papal documents during the VI, VII, VIII and IX Centuries: the pope’s election, the relationship between the Pope, the Eastern Emperor and the Ravenna Exarch, the administration of the Patrimonium Petri, the building and the consecration of churches, the formulary of the most solemn papal documents, protection privileges and apostolic exemptions granted to monasteries or to other ecclesiastic institutions, the primacy of the Roman Church on other Episcopal sees…

At f. 67v for example, we can find one of the oldest narrations we have of the procedures for the pope’s election (formulary 82, for which there are good reasons to say that it dates back to 715: […]diu enim nobis in oratione manentibus, ut omnium mentibus celestis dignatio demonstraret quem dignum ad successionem apostolicae vicis iubeat eligendum, eius gratia suffragante et omnium animis inspirante, in uno convenientibus nobis, ut moris est, id est cuncti sacerdotes ac proceres ecclesiae et uni|versus clerus atque optimates et universa militaris presentia, seu cives honesti et cuncta generalitas populi istius a Deo servate Romane urbis, si dici licitum est a parvo usque ad magnum, in personam ill., sanctissimi huius sanctae apostolicae sedis Romane Ecclesie diaconi […] concurrit atque consensit electio; see picture I).

At f. 69r (see picture II from line 14) we can see an interesting mention of the same «scrinium Lateranense», synonym of the «arcivum sanctae Romane Ecclesiae», where documents of special interest for the Holy See are arranged: Hoc vero decretum a nobis factum subter, ut prelatum est, manibus propriis roborantes, in arcivo domine nostrae sanctae Romane Ecclesiae, scilicet in sacro Lateranensi scrinio, pro futurorum temporum cautela recondi fecimus, in mense […].

At f. 17v, we can find one of the solemn harangues with which the popes used to begin their most important documents (then called privilegia):Quoniam semper sunt concedenda quae rationabilibus congruunt desideriis, oportet ut devotio conditoris pie constructionis oraculi in privilegiis prestandis minime denegetur (see picture III).



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