Lane Baker wins inaugural Andy Kelly Article Prize

Congratulations to Stanford graduate student (and CoSyn contributor) Lane Baker, whose article The Sound of Sin: Episcopal Noise Regulation in the Later Middle Ages”, Viator 52/2 (2021), 131-178, won the inaugural Andy Kelly Prize for the best article published in Viator during the preceding two years. The article draws extensively on the Corpus Synodalium database in presenting an innovative argument about ecclesiastical regulation of the medieval soundscape, and offers a wonderful example of how the database can facilitate new research directions!

Abstract: Starting in the thirteenth century, at dozens of diocesan synods and provincial councils throughout western Europe, clerics turned their attention to the problem of noise. Wielding their power as lawmakers, bishops promulgated new canons and statutes that penalized certain acoustic behaviors in their jurisdictions. In these ecclesiastical noise regulations, we find noise defined in various ways and with many different sources: chatty parishioners, barking dogs, street-performing priests, raucous hunters, urban protestors, and even non-Christian subjects. Existing traditions (biblical, patristic, monastic) had much to say about the virtues of silence, but they cannot entirely explain this new interest in legally suppressing certain sorts of sound. We can only understand the appearance of ecclesiastical noise regulations by considering two related phenomena: new duties for local priests and a clerical push to sacralize the public sphere. Scattered across a variety of ecclesiastical jurisdictions, mostly issued entirely in isolation from each other, and owing little of their substance to anything in the higher juristic tradition, episcopal noise regulations are a case study in legal innovation and convergent evolution. So too they show that the later medieval church’s on-the-ground authority sometimes demanded the silencing—literally—of local rivals.

Corpus Synodalium wins the 2022 ASLH Dudziak Prize

We are pleased to announce that Corpus Synodalium was awarded the 2022 Mary L. Dudziak Prize for Legal History at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Legal History.

An excerpt from the prize citation: As Professor Sara McDougall explains, this database “is a vital resource in seeking to understand local church law, the legislative activity of bishops, as iterated throughout medieval Europe. Previously. . . trying to get at what local church law was in any one place in Medieval Europe, let alone compare it to other places, or try to track changes over time, was quite impossible. This matters because it is so useful to know what was actually happening ‘on the ground’ all over Europe as opposed to focusing only on the decrees issued by the papacy, if we want to know anything about the spread and implementation of any of these ideas and what all that meant for people in practice.”  The committee applauds Dr. Dorin for the scholarly importance, creativity, and intellectual generosity of this marvelous digital legal history project.

Announcing the Digital Atlas of Medieval Dioceses and Provinces!

After five years of work, our wonderful team of student researchers has put the finishing touches on the Digital Atlas of Dioceses and Ecclesiastical Provinces in Latin Christendom (1200-1500)! All of the mapping files and their associated documentation can now be downloaded here, and are available for public use under a Creative Commons license.

The maps are necessarily limited by the constraints of source survival and the state of existing scholarship. It proved impossible to depict the ecclesiastical geography of the Latin East (with the exception of Cyprus), and the boundaries of many jurisdictions in eastern Europe are pretty vague (no doubt this was true in reality as well!). In other parts of Europe (notably Iberia and parts of central Italy), a certain amount of conjecture was necessary to deal with shifting boundaries and contested jurisdictional claims.

We welcome comments, corrections, and suggestions for future updates! 

CESTA Seminar Presentation

On October 15, 2019, members of the Corpus Synodalium project team presented the website and database at the weekly seminar series of Stanford’s Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis. Many thanks to the wonderful audience (both on-site and around the world, via Zoom video-conference) for such an enthusiastic response and so much helpful feedback!

Presenters: undergraduates Clara Romani (Stanford, ’20) & Thawsitt Naing (Stanford, ’19); and Prof. Rowan Dorin

CoSynWorkshop @ Stanford (Day 2)

CoSyn Participants – Stanford University, 27 April 2019

The second day of the CoSyn Workshop proved just as lively as the first. Maureen Miller (UC Berkeley) moderated the first session, at which Christine Barralis (Université de Lorraine) discussed the topic of libertas ecclesiae in late medieval French legislation, Arnaud Fossier (Université de Bourgogne) offered new insights into the intersection of penitential and judicial practices in Italian statutes, and Tony Perron (Loyola Marymount) drew our attention to the strange things happening in medieval English cemeteries in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. 

The afternoon session featured papers by Véronique Beaulande-Barraud (Université de Reims) on the manuscript tradition of the Liber synodalis of Reims; by Emmanuël Falzone (Université catholique de Louvain / Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles) on the emergence of consistory courts and the diffusion of statutes concerning episcopal officials; and by Jeffrey Wayno (Columbia University) on the implementation of Lateran IV in the province of Rouen.

And appropriately enough (given the lively intellectual exchanges), the end of the workshop was marked by a spectacular fireworks display (courtesy of Stanford Baseball)!

Onward to Metz, for our next workshop!

CoSyn Workshop @ Stanford

CoSyn Keynote Reception – Stanford University, 26 April 2019

The third CoSyn Workshop is off to a great start! The day began with an overview of the Corpus Synodalium database and progress, followed by presentations of work-in-progress by Stanford graduate students Ana Núñez and Lane Baker. The afternoon session, moderated by Fiona Griffiths (Stanford), featured papers by Michelle Armstrong-Partida (UTexas-El Paso) on concubinage and clandestine marriage in late medieval Catalonia, Carole Avignon (Angers) on the vocabulary of betrothal, and Sara McDougall (John Jay College of Criminal Law-CUNY Graduate Ctr) on the treatment of illicit pregnancy in northern French ecclesiastical legislation. The afternoon concluded with a keynote address by Charles Donahue, Jr. (Harvard Law School) on the (very appropriate!) topic of “Why Should Anyone Care about Medieval Synodal Legislation?” – a question to which the day’s collective discussions offered a rich set of answers! 

Expanding the Digital Atlas – More Reflections from the Research Team

Work continues on the Digital Atlas of medieval ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Here Stanford undergraduate Lauren Schlansky (’19), who started working on the atlas in January 2019, reflects on her contribution:

“I joined the project about a year after its creation. Using existing maps and records, my predecessors on the project were able to create a digital map of diocesan boundaries in late medieval Europe. My primary role in the project has been to represent on a new layer of the map provincial jurisdictions in Medieval Europe between 1200 and 1500, and to accurately reflect the changes in jurisdiction between the different provinces. The provinces, which encompassed and presided over multiple dioceses, frequently gained and lost jurisdiction over different dioceses, making their representation on a single map challenging. The dynamic and interactive aspect of this map, however, affords us the ability to trace the changes in jurisdiction in Medieval Europe over time on a single map. Using the mapping software ArcGIS, I created multiple shapefiles for each province, in which each shapefile represents the province’s new boundary for a particular period of time. With a click of a button on the map, we can progress temporally — from 1200 to 1300, for example — and visually track the changes in provincial boundaries. Together, the digital map and the textual corpus of local ecclesiastical legislation, to which the map is connected, will allow us to better understand the movement and influence of laws, as new laws were promulgated or ignored by different regional, provincial, and diocesan jurisdictions over time.”

Creating the Digital Atlas – The Research Team Reflects

A key element of the CoSyn project has been the creation of a digital atlas of diocesan and provincial boundaries of medieval Latin Christendom. Stanford undergraduate Clara Romani (’20), who started working on the atlas in June 2017, shares her reflections: 

Historical research is not always glamorous. In this case, however, it to some extent was. For this project, it involved cutting-age technology, mysteriously missing maps, and, occasionally, some creative (but well-grounded!) estimations.

My role in this project, along with that of [fellow Stanford undergraduate] Claire Womack (’20), fell on the cartographic side of things. It seemed simple enough: use existing maps to create a comprehensive, digital model of medieval ecclesiastical boundaries. We started by digitizing an excellent series of maps begun under Vatican auspices in 1930s Italy. We had to track down a few volumes mysteriously missing from the Stanford collections and resolve some conflicting boundary lines, but overall, we didn’t know how good we had it in those early days. Though much of Italy kept excellent records, other regions were not so accommodating. Medieval diocesan borders were ill-defined — or sometimes undefined — even by their contemporaries. In Spain, the ever-advancing Reconquista endlessly pushed and pulled at the boundaries of Christendom. In southern Italy, bishops quarreled over residual micro-dioceses, remnants of Byzantine colonization.

Over time, the project grew more and more complicated by poor records, missing sections, and chronological discrepancies between maps. However, with the help of ArcGIS mapping technology and the assistance of numerous colleagues at Stanford and other institutions, we were able to cobble together a rough snapshot of medieval Catholic geographical situation. Our work, brought to life by Thawsitt Naing, will now allow researchers to explore the visual, cartographic elements of this corpus of ecclesiastical legislation.”

Call for Papers

Legal Diffusion in the Late Medieval Church :
Local Ecclesiastical Legislation, 1215-1500

Metz (France), June 13-14, 2019

     This conference will mark the conclusion to a two-year Franco-American collaborative research project led by Rowan Dorin (Stanford University) and Christine Barralis (Université de Lorraine) from 2017-2019. This collaboration has been supported by the FACE Foundation (Thomas Jefferson Fund), by the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and by the Université de Lorraine.

Scope and Aims
     The aim of this conference is to study the diffusion,exchange, creation, transformation, and resilience of ecclesiastical norms in medieval France and its neighbors from 1215-1500, in particular across diocesan and provincial jurisdictional boundaries. The underlying research project focuses on medieval France and nearby territories (modern France, Flanders, Switzerland, northern Italy), but the concluding gathering offers an opportunity to open up the geographical field to all of Catholic Europe, in a comparative perspective. Continuer la lecture de « Call for Papers »

Appel à communications:

Diffusion des normes dans l’Église de la fin du Moyen Âge:
Les législations ecclésiastiques locales, 1215-1500

Metz (France) 13-14 juin 2019

     Ce colloque marquera l’aboutissement d’un projet derecherche sur deux ans (2017-2018 et 2018-2019) faisant l’objet d’une collaboration franco-américaine et dirigé par Rowan Dorin (Université de Stanford) et Christine Barralis (Université de Lorraine). Projet financé par le Thomas Jefferson Fund de la FACE Foundation, les universités de Stanford et de Lorraine, le Centre France-Stanford d’études interdisciplinaires.

Enjeux et objectifs scientifiques
     L’objet de ce colloque est d’étudier les transferts, créations, transformations et résiliences de normes au sein des législations ecclésiastiques locales entre 1215 et 1500. Le projet de recherche dont est issu cette rencontre est centré sur la France médiévale et les territoires proches (France actuelle, Flandres, Suisse, Italie du Nord), mais le colloque pourra être l’occasion d’ouvrir le champ géographique à l’ensemble de l’Europe catholique, dans une optique comparatiste. Un intérêt particulier sera porté à la porosité ou l’imperméabilité des frontières juridictionnelles diocésaines et provinciales, dans un questionnement sur la création et l’éventuelle uniformisation des droits locaux. Continuer la lecture de « Appel à communications: »

Working Repertory of Local Ecclesiastical Legislation, 1200-1500

In 2011, Rowan Dorin began compiling a repertory of local ecclesiastical legislation that survives (in whole or in part) from Latin Christendom between ca. 1200-ca. 1500. The repertory lists the date, place, and classification (diocesan statutes,provincial canons, etc.) for each known text. Most entries also include the issuing authority and the language. References are given to the most recent (or otherwise standard) editions of each text; fuller information can be found by consulting the individual editions or local repertories (e.g. Pontal-Artonne for France). For those texts that exist only in manuscript, only the principal witnesses are listed.

The repertory includes mainly synodal/diocesan statutes and provincial canons, but other scattered genres appear on occasion. As of the most recent update (23 July 2018), the repertory contains 2098 entries. It continues to be updated regularly based on further findings, so corrections and/or additions are actively welcomed. The repertory is for public use, but users are kindly requested to acknowledge it in any research that draws on it.

The working repertory is downloadable here.

1000th Text Added to Corpus

As of this afternoon, the text corpus now contains 1000 entries! The millennial addition was the 1337 diocesan statutes of Elne, in the ecclesiastical province of Narbonne.

Perpignan, BM 79, f. 100r (Image credit: IRHT)

We took this text from vol. 3 of José Saenz Aguirre’s Collectio maxima conciliorum Hispaniae (1694), but hopefully we’ll be able to visit Perpignan at some point to consult the surviving manuscript copy of the text (Bibl. Municipale, ms. 79, ff. 94v-100), since Aguirre’s edition is missing the final article and the IRHT microfilm – pictured here – is not exactly easy reading!

CoSyn awarded grant from Denning Digital Humanities Initiative

We’re delighted to announce that CoSyn has been awarded a 2018-19 grant from the Roberta Bowman Denning Initiative in the Digital Humanities.  These grants support “projects that focus attention on Humanities and Technology, demonstrating the benefits of cross-disciplinary approaches in research and teaching.” This grant will support the creation of the online database, the development of a mapping tool, and a significant expansion of the underlying text corpus.

We are very grateful to the Denning Fund Committee for its support!


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