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Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Medieval and Early Modern Jurists

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Report No. t255

Lapus de Castellionus

d. 1381


Alternative Names

Lapo da Castiglionchio



L. is frequently called ‘il vecchio’ or ‘senior’, to distinguish him from his grandson, a humanist of the early 15th century of the same name. The toponym that serves as their surname is now a neighborhood in Rignano sull’Arno (città metropolitana Firenze) in the Val di Sieve about 20 km. southeast of Firenze. L’s family descended from the Lombard lords of Quona (not precisely identified) in the Val, aristocrats but not high nobility. This family history influenced the ideas that L. expressed in Italian in his Epistola to his son Bernardo (ed. L. Mehus, Bologna 1753; ed. again in Antica possessione con belli costumi: due giornate di studio su Lapo da Castiglionchio il Vecchio (Firenze-Pontassieve, 3-4 ottobre 2003) [Firenze 2005]), a document that is taken to illustrate the intellectual pride of ‘the nobles’.

We first see L. around 1353, when he is studying canon law with Johannes Calderinus in Bologna, but we know that before that he was associated with the circle of Florentine literary friends of Francesco Petrarca (Zanobi da Strada, Francesco Nelli, and Giovanni Boccaccio). They regarded L’s move to law as a kind of apostasy. They continued to share, however, similar social and political views, views that tended to elitism, support of the Guelfs, and of the Florentine oligarchy.

When Firenze reopened its studium in 1357, L., now a doctor, was paid, in some cases quite handsomely, to lecture, at various times, on the Decretals, the Sext, and the Clementines. The payments continued only until 1369–70, but it is possible he continued to teach for free until 1378, the year of his exile. He had illustrious colleagues in Firenze including Baldus de Ubaldis, who was such a good friend that L. was godfather to his son Giovanni in 1360. A list of L’s library survives. On the civil-law side he had only the basics: Azo, Roffredus Beneventanus, Accursius, Bartolus de Saxoferrato, and of Corpus iuris civilis only the Institutes. On the canon-law side, he had all the parts of the Corpus iuris canonici that were available in his time and a full representation of the literature: the 13th-century masters, such as Bartolomeus Brixiensis, Hostiensis, Guillelmus Durandus; the masters of the previous generation such as Johannes Andreae, Alexander de Antella, Guilelmus de Monte Laudano, Jesselinus de Cassanis, and contemporaries such as Johannes Calderinus, Federicus Petruccius de Senis, Paulus de Liazariis.

L. played an important role in Florentine politics. Within the city, he served as: ‘console’, ‘consigliere’, member of the ‘Arte dei giudici e notai’, ‘sapiente’, ‘consigliere del Comune’, and captain of the Guelf party. Outside the city, he was podestà of Monsummano and ambassador to the pope at Avignon, where he gave three discourses that survive; ambassador to Lucca, to Siena, and to Genova. L. went too far, however, in the name of the Guelph party, in the use of warnings (‘ammonizioni’) and proscription, attracting the hatred of many. After the revolt of the Ciompi of 1378, from which he was lucky to escape, he was declared a rebel, sentenced to death, and his property confiscated, and ultimately sentenced to exile in Barcelona. Permission to kill him was given to anyone who found him elsewhere. But the following year, despite the warnings sent by the Florentine government, he was called to lecture on the Decretals at Padova. Following that he was in Roma, to which the pope had returned from Avignon. Urban VI made him a senator, and L. pronounced the official prayer when the pope invested Carlo di Durazzo with the kingdom of Napoli. It seems that L., with others of the exiles, was planning to intervene in Florentine affairs. In January 1381, a few months before his death of natural causes, there was an attempt to poison him.

The three short unpublished works called Disputationes in studio paduano (a quaestio and two repetitiones) may be connected with his stay in Padova. The repetitio known as Tractatus de hospitalitate (t. 14) certainly stems from L’s experiences in Firenze. In it L. shows that Firenze had the most ancient system of what was elsewhere a new and complicated hospital law. The De canonico portione et de quarta (t. 15.2), which Panciroli suspected was the work of Panormitanus, is also, almost certainly, L’s.

L’s Allegationes were his best-known work, as is evidenced by the subsequent reworkings of it. Spagnesi describes them as the first printed consilia. If we define the genre broadly, that is true. But unlike later consilia, these seem to be mostly arguments that had been, or should be, used in court. Antonius de Butrio wrote an abstract of them that the printer Riessinger put in the ed. Firenze 1568 (a work edited by Bernardo Zanchini, a descendant of L). The number of the allegations went from 132 (of which some were canceled) to 140. Three years later, Quintilianus Mandosus is said to have purged the text of defects and certainly accompanied each of them with extensive commentary and updates (Ziletti ed., Venezia 1571). For example, in allegation 89 Mandosus’ additio reaches fifteen pages, almost three times as much as the text commented on.

Source: E. Spagnesi, in DGI. M. Palma, in DBI (22 [1979]).

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