Council of Forty

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The Council of Forty, or the Supreme Court of Forty, also known as The Quarantia was one of the highest constitutional bodies of the ancient Republic of Venice, with both legal and political functions as the Supreme Court.

Origins and evolution[edit]

It seems that the Quarantia was established in 1179, as part of the constitutional reforms that transformed the monarchy into the communal form. It was established, therefore, as an assembly of forty electors who were entitled at that time to nominate the Doge. These forty were elected in their turn by nine electors who were nominated by the popular assembly, la concio. After completing their primary role as the Doge's nominators, they remained in power alongside the Doge as the Judiciary, participating with the Consiglio dei Pregadi (Senate) in the state government and the legislative functions, which were often delegated to them by the Great Council, in which the forty were members by law.

After the constitutional reform of 1297, which, with the Serrata del Maggior Consiglio (Lockout of the Great Council), changed the state's form into an aristocratic republic, the Quarantia was responsible for the approval and the scrutiny of new appointments to the Grand Council and the Senate but also, according to Maranini, preparation of draft laws concerning criminal justice and fiscal management.

In time, the Quarantia lost its legislative functions and representation to the Council of Senate and around 1380, after the creation of the College of the Sages, its executive functions were largely taken away as well.

The Forty preserved so that when the functions of government on the Mint (defining title of the coin, nature and quality of the coin), the preparation of financial plans and tax to be submitted to the Great Council and, above all, the supreme judicial function. Forty judges were elected by the Great Council and held office for one year, re-elected, and could co-opt themselves in case of holiday new judges.

The Supreme Court was tripled over time to better meet the judicial needs, creating new Quarantie:

  1. in 1441 the original Forty took the name of criminal and was flanked by the Civil Quarantia
  2. in 1491 the Civil Quarantia became known as the Old and was joined by the New Civil Quarantia

Forty Criminal[edit]

The Criminal Quarantia had jurisdiction over crimes in general and authority in criminal law. The three leaders of the Forty sat beside the Doge and Council Minor in the Serenissima Signoria, the supreme representative body of the Republic. The confirmation of the Serenissima Signoria was necessary to give effect to the death penalty. The functions of prosecutor in front of the judiciary were supported by Avogadori de Comm.

Forty Old Civil[edit]

The Old Civil Quarantia had jurisdiction over issues relating to civil law limited the appellations from Venice, from Dogado and the State from Tue. Access to his judgment was subject to prior scrutiny of the Sentences Auditori old, who then held the role of prosecution.

Forty New Civil[edit]

The New Civil Quarantia had jurisdiction over issues relating to civil law limited the appellations from Domains for Mainland. Access to his judgment was subject to prior scrutiny of new Auditori the Sentences and the causes for children, the latest Auditoriums, who then held the role of prosecutor.


  • Da Mosto, Andrea: L'Archivio di Stato di Venezia, indice generale, storico, descrittivo ed analitico, Biblioteca d'Arte editrice, Roma, 1937.
  • Diehl, Charles: La Repubblica di Venezia, Newton & Compton editori, Roma, 2004. ISBN 8854100226
  • Romanin, Samuele: Storia documentata di Venezia, Pietro Naratovich tipografo editore, Venezia, 1853.

See also[edit]