The Early Stages of the Illustration of the Decretum Gratiani


Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellowships in the History of Art




The Decretum Gratiani is the first volume of the collection of ecclesiastical legal texts known as the “Corpus iuris canonici,” The Body of Canon Law, since 1500 and used by the Roman Catholic Church until 1917. The volume was one of the most popular texts and reference works in medieval western Europe. Initiated by Gratian, who may have been a monk teaching canon law in Bologna, the Decretum Gratiani was completed around the mid-twelfth century. Shortly afterwards, it began to be illustrated, giving birth to an outstanding corpus of illuminated manuscripts. When and where was its visual tradition established? Were a few main centers responsible for its origin, perhaps in core university cities such as Bologna or Paris, or was it the product of a complex interaction among many places? This project explores these questions through a detailed analysis of the volume’s illustrated copies dating before around 1210-1220.