Dr. David Nicholas

title.none: Modestin, Un mariage conteste (Dr. David Nicholas)

identifier.other: baj9928.0801.011 08.01.11

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Dr. David Nicholas, Clemson University (Emeritus),

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2008

identifier.citation: Modestin, Clemence Thevenaz. Un mariage conteste: L'union de la Cite et de la Ville inferieure de Lausanne (1481). Cahiers Lausannois D'Histoire Medievale vol. 38. Lausanne: Universite de Lausanne, 2006. Pp. 313. $30.00 2-940110-51-4. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 08.01.11

Modestin, Clemence Thevenaz. Un mariage conteste: L'union de la Cite et de la Ville inferieure de Lausanne (1481). Cahiers Lausannois D'Histoire Medievale vol. 38. Lausanne: Universite de Lausanne, 2006. Pp. 313. $30.00 2-940110-51-4. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Dr. David Nicholas
Clemson University (Emeritus)

This book concerns the union of the four quarters ("banners") of the lower town of Lausanne with the bishop's upper city into a single municipality. Most works in the limited historiography have argued that the official merger was made by the act of July 6, 1481. Modestin, however, sees a legally valid union resulting from an agreement of July 9, 1480, which previous authors have considered merely a draft. Her convincing reason is that a single city government was formed in September 1480 based on the terms of the July text. This regime created the agreement of 1481.

The division at Lausanne existed by 1212. Each part had its own wall, both under the bishop's lordship. Modestin discusses the early conflicts of bishop and lower town, most of them concerned with the town's efforts to get its own council. By the 1470s the city had two syndics in theory but usually one in practice (a layman) and a council of four clergy and four laypeople. The lower town had two syndics chosen in banner assemblies. A council of twenty-four consisted of six persons per banner. The two cities handled some matters in common, including fortifications and a tax for defense in 1474-5. The accession of Benoit de Montferrand as bishop (1476-91) precipitated the union. He fought both the canons and the lower town over criminal jurisdiction. His arbitrary arrests precipitated cooperation between citizens of lower and upper towns, including a common assembly in early 1479.

Modestin's most important sources are manuscripts from the Archives de la Ville de Lausanne, particularly the Registers of the Councils and the accounts of the lower town, and the Manual of the cathedral chapter at the Archives of the Bishopric. She also used the archives of the dukes of Savoy and of other towns. The originality of the book is its use of these documents to clarify the legal standing of the act of July 9, 1480, delineate the joint city government formed in September, follow negotiations in the year between the two texts, clarify the position of the cathedral chapter, and provide biographical information on the persons from both city and town who led the negotiations.

Opposition to the union was centered in the upper city, which the accounts show only started paying taxes after July 1481. Modestin separates negotiations with the bishop from those with the chapter. The canons did not oppose the union in principle but objected to not being consulted as a body in 1480, a problem that was remedied in negotiations thereafter. The document itself was favorable to the chapter. The canons' distaste for the bishop was exacerbated when he diverted water of the upper city to his palace in early 1481. The chapter asked the officials of the united city for help, and in the course of these negotiations conceded the legality of the merger.

The conceptual nucleus of the book is its comparison of the texts of 1480 and 1481. Some clauses were repeated verbatim. Aside from different historical arguments used to justify the union and some variation in order of topics, the agreements declared that the united town would be governed by syndics and a council. The continued judicial superiority of the city was guaranteed. The canons got two representatives on the joint council. The keys to the accounts and secret documents were given to one councilor of each sector in 1480, but the 1481 text gives them to two from the town and one from the city. Minor differences of custom such as meeting times of the councils and dates of elections were settled. In support of her thesis that the act of 1480, not that of 1481, created the union, Modestin notes expenses for a city-wide festival in the accounts of the lower town for July 9, 1480, not those of 1481. Joint meetings of officials from both Lausannes began after the election of syndics and councilors in September 1480, and taxes were apportioned for the coming year. All provisions expressly reserved the authority of the bishop; the union did not attempt to encroach on his rights. This part is more precise in the second text, probably because by then the bishop was firmly opposed, and it is placed in the preamble rather than in the text. The number and mode of election of the councilors are more detailed in the 1481 text, as is the role of the canons in the united town. Although the city paid much less in taxes than the town, each part chose one syndic. The act of 1481 provided for annual audit of accounts.

The bishop insisted that documents record his opposition to the union. Disorders in the town that included the attempted murder of a syndic, allegedly on the bishop's orders, accompanied his appeal to the councils of Fribourg and Bern. They ruled the union valid insofar as it was done by laypeople; but the canons, as ecclesiastics, could not participate. This was unacceptable to the new government of Lausanne, which turned to the duke of Savoy, whose arbitrators rendered a separate judgment on February 3, 1483. It reiterated that anything in the union that violated the sovereignty of the bishop was invalid, but it did not mention specifically annulling the participation of the canons in the united town, and this appears to have satisfied the Lausannois. As such marriages go, this one was thus relatively peaceable, despite the book's title. Although hostilities sputtered on for several years, the union was generally accepted by the end of 1487.

Aside from a discussion of the institutional background, the historiography of the Lausanne union, and a single paragraph on the historiography of European double cities, the book consists entirely of a comparison of the two acts of union and a reconstruction of the diplomacy and agitation that produced the second one. It includes editions of fifty-eight documents with explanatory footnotes. All original documents are in Latin, but Modestin prints French summaries of clauses in several texts that do not concern the union. The book concludes with alphabetized biographies of thirty-six persons involved in forging the union.

It is unlikely that much if anything will be found to modify Modestin's conclusions. Her topic, however, is extremely restricted. Little is comparative, and there is even less about the social structure of the two Lausannes, wealth pyramids, and/or elite formation. Scholars of urbanization will find useful her description of the mechanics of the union, elections, functions of the councils, and relations of the obstreperous bishop with both the lower town and the cathedral canons who were his nominal subjects. She does not draw broader conclusions from the raw material that she cites, for example the fact that the entire upper city paid the same tax as the poorest banner of the lower town. In fairness, documentation for Lausanne appears to be minimal before the late fifteenth century, but other books in this series of local history are less narrowly conceived than this one.