|Paper 620-b||From Ecclesiastical to Municipal Will: Shifts in Power, Law, and Literacy in Central European Cities, 14th-16th Centuries|
Index terms: Law, Literacy and Orality, Religious Life, Social History
In this paper I hold that the podestà literature, a corpus of 13th-century didactic texts targeted at Italian city magistrates and their retinue, should be read as an attempt at voluntary self-regulation. The portrait of an ideal city magistrate propagated therein constituted a call for reform of men originating within militia circles. However, as this vision of leadership did not materialize, it was followed by a new round of institutional tinkering and criminal legislation under popular pressure.
The purpose of this paper is to present the results of research on the testamentary law and practice in Central European cities. Comparative studies, based on the canon, synodal, municipal, and state laws were designed to explain the phenomenon of rivalry over the jurisdiction of last will acts of laypeople, as well as theirs sub sequential gradual transition from ecclesiastical to secular system of law. However, these substantial changes taking place during the 14th, 15th and beginning of 16th centuries, still tended to be legitimized, as based on old laws and customs of the given community. Therefore, it seems that struggle over sovereignty of Late Medieval powers still drew heavily upon the authority of tradition.
This paper traces the evolution of the medieval hospital in the Lombard region of northern Italy in order to illustrate the transition of influence, status, wealth, and power from the medieval Church to the lay citizenry and from them, finally, to the civic authorities of the city-state. Over the course of the 12th through 15th centuries medieval hospitals in Italy, originally intended to house pilgrims and comfort the dying, evolved from religious institutions reflecting communal and personal piety to civic facilities intended to provide a comprehensive social welfare and medical service to the urban community. The medieval hospital provides an excellent vehicle for examining the alteration of the civic jurisdictional landscape of the city. It provides, as well, a model for the nature of religious life and charitable activity among lay citizens.
This paper is the result of researching archival documentation for over 175 hospitals in 13 cities established in the Lombard region of northern Italy between the 12th and 15th centuries in order to trace this evolution.