The Digital Decretals


Welcome to the Digital Decretals

[NB 9/23: A revised text of the entire gloss, Books 1-5, and an updated corresponding spreadsheet are now available on The Text page.]

This is a Digital Humanities project to render into electronic form Bernard of Parma’s commentary on the Liber extra, the first official and exclusive collection of canon law for the Catholic Church, edited by the Dominican St. Raymond of Penyafort (1175-1275) and promulgated in 1234 by Pope Gregory IX (1227-41).  Although it was one of a number of commentaries on the Liber extra produced in the 13th century, Bernard's work would quickly become canonized as the Glossa Ordinaria to the collection, and became the foundation for canon law instruction on the Liber extra in the medieval University.  It is, thus, the commentary found copied into the margins of the overwhelming majority of surviving Liber extra manuscripts.  The version of the text presented here is based upon the 1582 printed edition dubbed the Editio Romana, put together by the commission known as the Correctores Romani and published by order of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-85) as part of the authorized text of the Corpus iuris canonici for the post-Tridentine Church.

This digital version, which presents Books 1 through 5 of the Glossa Ordinaria in their entirety, does two things.  First, and most obviously, it provides a fully searchable text of the gloss.  The text is structured using Microsoft Word headings, which erect a virtual architecture that recreates the hierarchical division of the gloss into 5 books, 185 titles, 1971 capitula, and thousands of gloss words (lemmata), following the sequence of the Liber extra.  This architecture can be viewed by simply opening up the navigation pane sidebar in Word or a compatible word processing program (or viewing the bookmarks tree in the companion PDF file).  This allows a user to quickly jump forwards and back to any place in the text down to the lemma level.

Second, and most significantly, the tens of thousands of legal allegations in the gloss have been standardized such that they can be searched and quantified.  For the first time, users will be able to identify where and how often any particular text is cited from the Liber extra, Gratian’s Decretum, or the 4 volumes of the Corpus iuris civilis: Codex, Digest, Institutes, Novellae/Authenticum (NB: allegation counts for every capitulum from the Liber extra are included on the ancillary spreadsheet).  As anyone who has used a medieval legal commentary knows, the legal allegations are an absolutely essential part of assessing how individual laws were actually received and interpreted within the precedent-based system that medieval Canon Law evolved into coming out of the 12th century, and offer a vivid illustration of the central role of jurisprudence in shaping the legal institutions of the medieval Church.

Since the text is made available for download as a Microsoft Word and/or PDF file (see The Text page for the download links), all text searches will be done through the native program in which it is used, usually ctrl+F for Word (which opens up a search bar in the Navigation Pane), and shift+ctrl+F in Acrobat (for the advanced search feature).

The system of legal allegations I have devised is fairly intuitive, but it does require a brief tutorial and an ancillary spreadsheet to utilize, so please take a moment to read the information in these pages.

Edward A. Reno III

Associate Professor of Medieval History

Adelphi University, Department of History