Liber Diurnus Romanorum Pontificum

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Liber Diurnus Romanorum Pontificum (Latin for "Journal of the Roman Pontiffs") is the name given to a miscellaneous collection of ecclesiastical formulae used in the Papal chancery until about the 11th century. It fell into disuse through the changed circumstances of the times and was soon forgotten and lost.


The collection contains models of the important official documents usually prepared by the chancery; particularly of letters and official documents in connexion with the death, the election, and the consecration of the pope; the installation of newly elected bishops, especially of the suburbicarian bishops; also models for the profession of faith, the conferring of the pallium on archbishops, for the granting of privileges and dispensations, the founding of monasteries, the confirmation of acts by which the Church acquired property, the establishment of private chapels, and in general for all the many decrees called for by the extensive papal administration. The collection opens with the superscriptions and closing formulae used in writing to the Emperor and Empress at Constantinople, the Patricius, the Exarch and the Bishop of Ravenna, to a king, a consul, to patriarchs, metropolitans, priests and other clerics. The collection is important both for the history of law and for Church history, particularly for the history of the Roman Church. The formularies and models set down are taken from earlier papal documents, especially those of Gelasius I (492-496) and Gregory I (590-604).

This collection was certainly compiled in the chancery of the Roman Church, but probably only a comparatively small number of the formularies contained in the extant manuscripts were included at first, the remainder being added from time to time. There is no systematic arrangement of the formularies in the manuscripts.

Of the three existing manuscripts, the codex discovered in 1646 in the library of the monastery of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome and that since the eighteenth century is in the Vatican Archives, seems to date from the end of the eighth or the beginning of the ninth century; the manuscript, once in the Jesuit library at Clermont, France, now in the Benedictine library at Egmont, Netherlands, from the middle of the ninth century; and the third, originally from Bobbio, in the Ambrosian Library at Milan), to the end of the ninth or the beginning of the tenth century.

Theodor von Sickel, in the "Prolegomena" to his 1889 publication of the text of the Vatican manuscript (the only one then known to exist) showed that the work possesses by no means a uniform character. He recognized in it three divisions, the first of which he ascribes to the time of Honorius I (625-38), the second to the end of the seventh century, and the third to the time of Hadrian I (772-95). For his part Louis Duchesne (Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Chartes, LII (1891) 7ff) differed from Sickel, and maintained that the original version of most of the formularies, and among them the most important, must be referred to the years after 682, and that only the last formularies (nn. lxxxvi-xcix) were added in the time of Hadrian I, though some few of these may have existed at an earlier date.

Hartmann defended the views of Sickel (Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichte 13 (1892) 239ff). Friederich (Sitzungsberichte der bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München, Phil.-hist. Kl., I (1890) 58ff.) investigated more closely the case of some of the formularies attributed by Sickel to one of the aforesaid periods, and attempted to indicate more nearly the occasions and pontificates to which they belonged. These investigations established beyond doubt that the collection in the Vatican manuscript had already attained its present form towards the end of the 8th century, though a significant portion had been compiled during the 7th century. The Liber Diurnus was used officially in the papal chancery until the 11th century, after which time, as it no longer corresponded to the needs of papal administration, it gave way to other collections. Twelfth-century canonists, like Saint Ivo of Chartres and Gratian, still used the Liber Diurnus, but subsequently it ceased to be consulted, and was finally completely forgotten.

During the 17th century a manuscript of the Liber Diurnus was discovered in the monastery of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome by the humanist Lucas Holstenius, who also obtained another manuscript from the Jesuit Collège de Clermont in Paris. The death of Holstenius and pressure from the ecclesiastical censors led to the edition printed at Rome in 1650 being withheld from publication, the copies being stored at the Vatican. The reason for so doing was apparently formula lxxxiv, which contained the profession of faith of the newly elected pope, in which the latter recognized the Sixth General Council and its anathemas against Pope Honorius for his Monothelism. In other words, it appeared to acknowledge that a pope was capable of heresy. Holstenius's edition was reprinted at Rome in 1658; but was again withdrawn in 1662 by papal authority, though in 1725 Benedict XIII permitted the issue of some copies.

From the manuscript in the Jesuit library at Clermont, which disappeared after 1746 as a result of the suppression of the Society of Jesus, but which was rediscovered in 1937 in the library of the Benedictine monastery of Egmont, the Jesuit Jean Garnier prepared an edition of the Liber Diurnus (Paris, 1680), which is very inaccurate, and contains arbitrary alterations of the text. In his Museum Italicum (I, II, 32ff) Jean Mabillon issued a supplement to this edition by Garnier. From these materials, the Liber Diurnus was reprinted at Basle (1741) and Vienna (1762) and taken up by Jacques-Paul Migne in his monumental Patrologia Latina (tome CV, Paris, 1851).

A more reliable edition was published by Eugène de Rozière, Liber Diurnus ou Recueil des formules usitées par la Chancellerie pontificale du Ve au XIe siècle, Paris, 1869. In the interest of this edition Daremberg and Renan compared Garnier's text with the Vatican manuscript, then regarded as the only one still existing. From this same manuscript Theodor von Sickel prepared a critical edition of the text: Liber Diurnus Romanorum Pontificum ex unico codice Vaticano denuo editus (Vienna, 1889). Just after the appearance of this work, however, Antonio Maria Ceriani announced the discovery of a new manuscript, originally from Bobbio, in the Ambrosian Library at Milan; towards the end this was more complete than the Vatican manuscript. This text was published at Milan in 1891 by Achille Ratti, a younger collaborator of Ceriani, and later to become Pope Pius XI.

Later editions have been able to take into account not only the oldest surviving manuscript, which is preserved in the Vatican and is described on the website of theVatican Secret Archives, and the slightly later manuscript in the Ambrosian Library, but also the rediscovered Clermont manuscript.

The Vatican manuscript contains 99 formularies, the Clermont 100 and the Ambrosian 106. Each manuscript has formularies that are not in the others. All "seem to be free reelaborations, mainly for monastic use, of official texts from the papal curia and the perhaps most famous and authoritative episcopal ones, for study in the schools of the monasteries and repeatedly updated for this purpose" (Vatican Archives). In other words, they served more or less as style books.

Sickel believed that the manuscript now in the Vatican Archives was the actual text used in the papal chancery. That hypothesis has now been abandoned, especially since it has been shown that this manuscript reached the library of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme from that of the Benedictine monastery of Nonantola.

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The information on this site seems to be inaccessible in February 2007. However, a mirror reproduction of it can be found at the end of the document "AA VV - Liber Diurnus Romanorum Pontificum - LT.doc" downloadable from Documenta Catholica Omnia. This document, curiously, reproduces Garnier's notes to the text of the Liber Diurnus as in Migne's Patrologia Latina, but not the text itself.