Medieval canon law under the digital microscope

Richterhammer auf einem Tisch
Bild: Duda

Historians at FAU are researching one of the most important collections of canon law from the medieval period

It was considered the definitive book of church law from the 11th century up until the beginning of the 12th century and its influence as the most important collection of this time stretched well into the early modern period: the Decretum Burchardi. In a research project in which a historian from FAU has a leading role and which has received funding for 18 years, the book is now to be edited, commented and contextualised.

The research will focus on the decretum of Bishop Burchard of Worms, who remained in office from the year 1000 to 1025. The project leaders Prof. Dr. Ingrid Baumgärtner (University of Kassel), Prof. Dr. Klaus Herbers (FAU), and Prof. Dr. Ludger Körntgen (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) hope to achieve three main research objectives. Firstly, the work is to be analysed from several different perspectives, secondly, the team aims to publish a critical edition online and in print, and thirdly, it aims to establish a digital work platform with an international focus for interpreting the texts and analysing the history of their impact.

The research project has now been included in the academy programme of the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities and will receive a total of 6 million euros in funding over 18 years. ‘This funding recognises the significant influence of the decretum and shows how important a fundamental analysis of the work is. We are very pleased to have received it,’ says Prof. Baumgärtner.

Canon law influenced the development of Western and Central Europe up until the 20th century and also made a significant contribution to forming joint European legislation. The Decretum Burchardi is a very important document. It was already well known in the 11th and 12th centuries, and not only among scholars of canon law.

Its impact in Europe, above all in Germany, Italy, France, and Spain, is now to be investigated in the planned research project. The project takes an innovative methodological approach by investigating the history of the impact of the work and incorporating digital components. The planned work platform will make materials such as manuscripts, catalogues and source texts available online via open access thus enabling academics to exchange information easily on an international scale.

Further information

Prof. Dr. Klaus Herbers
Phone: + 49 9131 85 25812