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Burchard’s Di­gi­tal De­cree

Links to the project

Ecclesiastical law had a lasting influence on Western and Central Europe until the 20th century and contributed fundamentally to the emergence of common European legal foundations. The ways in which these influences were transmitted are manifold and go back a long way. For it was not only since the 12th century - as is often claimed - that Europe developed into a unified area in many respects in the course of a shaping of ecclesiastical and Roman law. Rather, great importance is attached to efforts to collect, systematise and further develop ecclesiastical law, which were undertaken in the often underestimated era between the Carolingian reforms and the scholarly awakening of scholasticism and canon law in the 12th century.

By far the most influential collection of this period is owed to Bishop Burchard of Worms (1000-1025). His work, the so-called ›Decretum Burchardi‹, was considered the ecclesiastical law book par excellence in the 11th and 12th centuries and could be quoted with the simple reference »ex Burchardo, ex Bruchardo, ex Brocardo« - not only scholars of canon law but also practitioners of diocesan administration knew immediately what was meant. This practical legal significance was probably also responsible for the fact that the Worms bishop's collection was able to hold its own as a standard work against more up-to-date collections. Even the ›Decretum Gratiani‹, written around 1140 and the basis for all further developments in ecclesiastical law and scientific canon law, was supplemented and commented on with Burchard's work.

Burchard’s Di­gi­tal De­cree

Host Academy
Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz

Location and federal state
Kassel, Hesse; Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate; Erlangen, Bavaria

Editions: Medieval and (Early) Modern History

Project number

The project places the ›Decretum Burchardi‹ at the centre of fundamental, multi-perspective research: It makes the important manuscript tradition accessible, develops a reliable critical edition and examines the rich traces of reception in Germany, Italy, France and Spain. The innovative aspect of the project is the digital indexing as well as the reception-historical orientation, which gives an impression of the enormous dynamics of European legal cultures.

The Europe-wide dissemination of the witnesses of transmission and reception as well as the cross-epochal impact of the collection require the integration of international cooperation partners in the project. Due to these tasks, the development of a digital working platform is at the centre of the project. It serves as a digital resource for the preparation and internal and external availability of the various materials (manuscripts, catalogues, source editions, etc.) as well as the publication of an extended digital edition. In addition, it enables the exchange and bundling of the lively international research on sources and reception of medieval canon law and its digital offerings.

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