The rise of universities and the elaboration of the papal bureaucracy

The emergence of papal power as an international force in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries could not have happened without the parallel development of two characteristic high-medieval institutions: the university and the administrative apparatus of the papal curia. Higher learning in the eleventh century was the preserve of cathedral and monastic schools, loosely organized and guided by prominent individual teachers. The articulation of more systematic institutions of higher learning came about gradually through the formation of universities in Bologna and Paris in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. Although they owed their existence to royal, not papal, power (Bologna was chartered by Frederick Barbarossa in 1158, Paris by Philip Augustus in 1200), universities, and especially their faculties of law and theology, provided the intellectual ballast for papal supremacy. It was primarily in this learned milieu that notions such as the papal plenitude of power and the vicariate of Christ were formulated and disseminated. Furthermore, popes exercised a controlling hand on these powerful intellectual factories once they were up and running. In 1210, Innocent III sent the Compilatio tertia, the first papally authorized book of canon law, to the 'masters and students' of Bologna, with instructions that they were to 'use these [decretal letters] without any scruple of doubt...both in judgments and in teaching (tam in iudiciis quam in scholis)'.17 Some twenty years later, another pope of the Conti family, Gregory IX, recognized the corporate independence of the Paris university, reaffirming the rights of the masters after an ugly dispute with the city's royal officials. University teachers, in turn, influenced generations of students from every corner of Europe, who then carried home ideas of apostolic sovereignty.

As we will see shortly, the universities were by no means monolithic in their support of papal power, but numerous cardinals sprang from the ranks of the masters and scholars, as did many who oversaw appeals to the curia from its outlying regions partes.18 Scholastic education provided not only ideological indoctrination, but also the practical training demanded of both petitioners

17 Friedberg, ed., Quinque compilationes, 105.

18 John Baldwin's catalogue of masters at Paris between Third and Fourth Lateran lists a total of forty-six masters, of whom four became cardinals and over two dozen prominent cathedral dignitaries. See his 'Masters at Paris from 1179 to 1215: A Social Perspective', in Robert L. Benson, Giles Constable and Carol D. Lanham, eds., Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), 138-72.

and judges at the papal court. Indeed, the rise of the universities corresponded to a rapid growth in the apparatus of government needed to cope with the increasing volume of business brought before the apostolic see. In the earlier Middle Ages, the papal household had been primarily organized for liturgical duties, though there were officials to handle archival and financial affairs. Substantial changes began in the eleventh century. The cardinals emerged not only as the electors of the pope (starting with Nicholas II's election decree of 1059), but also as his chief advisors and executive aides. The chapel, with its ceremonial responsibilities, remained a key part ofthe papal household, but its importance was eclipsed by an ever expanding bureaucracy of public administration. The production of documents was handled by the chancery, overseen by the chancellor or, from around i220, vice-chancellor, and carried out by an army of notaries and scribes. The management of fiscal affairs, including revenues from the Papal States and from traditional payments such as Peter's Pence, not to mention clerical taxes like the crusade twentieth, was overseen by the chamberlain. The most notable camerarius was Cencius Savelli, the future Honorius III, who compiled the famous Liber censuum (1192), which catalogued the papacy's incomes from throughout Europe.

While the chancery and the chamber each had their own courts (the audientia litterarum contradictarum for the former, the audientia camere for the latter), the 'supreme court' was the consistory, also known as the audientia sacri palatii, presided over by the pope himself. Since the pope could not personally hear all cases, cardinals and other prominent curial dignitaries were assigned as auditores, eventually formalized as the rota. The decisions of the pope and his justices, copied into the magnificent papal registers along with selected chancery documents, for which the recipients often paid a fee,19 formed a body of precedents mined by canonists as the living ius commune of the Western church. The explosion of chancery letters also provided a lively market for forgers, concerning whom Innocent III was especially anxious.20 The final significant office, established in the thirteenth century, was the

19 With the exception of the registers of John VIII and Gregory VII (only the latter extant in an original manuscript), the series of papal registers begins with the correspondence of Innocent III. See Leonard Boyle, A Survey of the Vatican Archives and of its Medieval Holdings (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1972), 103-13. Now-lost registers were in use as early as the fifth century, and certainly during the twelfth century, as discussed by Uta-Renate Blumenthal, 'Papal Registers in the Twelfth Century', in Papal Reform and Canon Law in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum, i998), no. i5.

20 See, for example, Reginald L. Poole, Lectures on the History of the Papal Chancery Down to the Time ofInnocent III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, i9i5), i49-5i.

penitentiary, empowered to issue routine dispensations such as those for marriage within the prohibited degrees or obstacles to clerical ordination. Navigating this maze was not for the uninitiated, and it involved a corps of professional proctors, some employed full-time by kings and wealthy ecclesiastical individuals and corporations, others hiring out their services to bewildered petitioners, for a fee of course.

The transformation of the papal court into a bustling and cosmopolitan hub was particularly remarkable given that the curia was often itinerant during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. This nomadism was a seasonal phenomenon in part (popes preferred to spend the summer outside the sweltering Urbs), though it also arose from the demands of ruling as the princes of the Papal States, upon whom it was incumbent to supervise the districts of their realm. Flight could sometimes be a necessity when the aristocracy and people of Rome were hostile to their bishop. So while some popes did primarily reside at the Lateran, many spent lengthy periods elsewhere in Italy or abroad. The long sojourns in Lyon during the thirteenth century are especially notable. Although papal peregrinations might have been irksome to appellants and tiring for those in the caravan, it did serve as a visible reminder of apostolic power, and the sites visited by the touring popes fixed a local memory of papal authority for generations.21

If central bureaucratic machinery was critical to the successful implementation of Roman jurisdictional claims in the High Middle Ages, no less important was the activity in provinciis of papal representatives. These included legates, who might be resident prelates empowered to act on the pope's behalf (later called legati nati), usually archbishops (Canterbury and Rheims, for instance), or the more powerful legates a latere, typically cardinals sent on specific missions, such as the promotion of crusading, the settlement of political conflicts (typically quarrels between crown and mitre), or the imposition of reform agendas, but simultaneously given wider compass to exercise the papal vices while in the legatine field by granting dispensations and indulgences. Though standing legates were not common, legati a latere could be plentiful. As many as a dozen such emissaries criss-crossed Germany in just a few years during the 1140s and 1150s.22 Also increasingly common throughout Latin Christendom was the papal tax collector. Needless to say, such

21 Brenda Bolton, 'The Caravan Rests: Innocent III's Use of Itineration', in Anne J. Duggan, Joan Greatrex and Brenda Bolton, eds., Omnia disce: Medieval Studies in Memory of Leonard Boyle, O.P. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), 41-61.

22 Johannes Bachmann, Die p├Ąpstlichen Legaten in Deutschland und Skandinavien (1125-1159) (Historische Studien, 115; Berlin: Emil Ebering, 1913), 67-100.

officials were not received with enthusiasm. In the Swedish diocese of Skara, deputies of the papal chaplain Bertrandus Amalrici were assaulted by local priests excommunicated for their failure to pay up.23

The linchpin of local papal jurisdiction, however, was the judge-delegate. These were generally native dignitaries whom the pope commissioned to hear cases appealed to Rome. As a rule, then, they were not the ordinary judges (bishops and their archdeacons or other subordinates), but individuals selected by the papal court or, more commonly, the plaintiffs, to conduct the trial back in the country of origin. Their collective activity surely outweighed that of the apostolic curia itself. The English prior Richard of Dunstable alone heard nearly four dozen cases as a papal judge-delegate during his more than thirty years in office.24 Since the party appealing to Rome was normally allowed to select its own judge-delegate, subject to challenge by the opposing party, the institution was, in theory, a check against an unfair ordinary.25 However, given that the opposing party also had to send a representative to Rome or hire a proctor in order to ensure fair deliberations, delegated papal jurisdiction worked in favour of well-heeled individuals and corporations that could afford the expense of such a trip if it meant getting a sympathetic judge. The overwhelming importance of the iudex delegatus and the complexity of his job is suggested by the number of canon-law texts governing his work. The title 'de officio iudicis delegati' in Gregory IX's Liber extra (lib. 1, tit. 29) contains forty-three chapters, compared with just twenty for the office of the judge ordinary (lib. 1, tit. 31).

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