17.01.02, Diacciati and Tanzini, eds., with contributions by Faini and Perani, Lo Statuto Di San Gimignano Del 1255

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David Foote

The Medieval Review 17.01.02

Diacciati, Silvia, Lorenzo Tanzini, Enrico Faini, and Romaso Perani, eds. Lo Statuto Di San Gimignano Del 1255 . Biblioteca storica della Valdelsa, 28 . Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2016. pp. vi, 166. ISBN: 978-88-222-6411-4 (paperback).

Reviewed by:
David Foote
University of St. Thomas

In this work, Silvia Diacciati and Lorenzo Tanzini offer an edition of the 1255 statutes of San Gimignano. Prior to this new edition, only selections of the San Gimignano statutes were available in print--in a mid-nineteenth century work by Luigi Pecori (Storia della terra di San Gimignano). In producing a new, reliable edition of the statutes, Diacciati and Tanzini have rendered a valuable service to historians of the medieval Italian cities. The manuscript upon which the edition is based is the earliest extant copy of civic statutes for San Gimignano. As such, it is among a select group of Tuscan statutes from the early to mid-thirteenth century--sources with much to tell us about the dynamic political forms of medieval Tuscan cities.

Preceding the Diacciati's and Tanzini's edition of the statutes are two helpful introductory essays. The first, by Lorenzo Tanzini (1-20), situates the statutes within the legal and political history of San Gimignano. The second essay, by Enrico Faini (21-40), is historiographical in nature, pointing to the ways in which scholarly treatments of normative texts have evolved over the past two decades, and how these methods have contributed to our understanding of the thirteenth-century communes. The edition of the San Gimignano statutes of 1255 (43-143) is followed by an index of rubrics (145-153) and an edition (by Tomaso Perani) of a late-thirteenth century Florentine manuscript containing additions to the statutes of 1255 (155-163).

The San Gimignano statutes were compiled by the Twelve Captains and Rectors of the Popolo, along with four Sapienti chosen for the task (43). It is likely that the civic officials of San Gimignano were motivated, at least in part, by pressure from Florentine officials, who wanted to ensure that the San Gimignano statutes were consistent with Florence's newly established authority over the city. The officials in charge of the compilation organized the statutes thematically into four books. The first two books address matters of public administration: Book I, which contains sixty-seven rubrics, focuses specifically on matters concerning public officials (oath formulas, election, payment etc.) (44-71); Book II, which contains fifty-three rubrics, treats a broader range of issues concerning public administration and civil cases (71-88). The seventy-five rubrics in Book III focus specifically on penal law (89-112). Book IV, the final book of the collection, contains a broad miscellany of regulations containing 105 rubrics (112-143).

As Tanzini points out, this organization of rubrics into books represents a new trend in the compilation of Tuscan statutes; and, apart from fragments of Sienese statutes from 1233, this collection of the San Gimignano statutes is the earliest extant example of this new trend. Throughout much of the early thirteenth century, civic statutes were revised annually with the arrival of the new podestarial regime. The San Gimignano statutes witness the emergence of a new strategy. Their thematic organization represents an effort to produce a more stable body of legislation. Why the change? Among the most serious challenges for the use of written records in civic administration is the tension between change and continuity. How can a body of administrative records provide a stable witness to political and social norms and address the many contingencies which call for ever-new applications and interpretations of these norms? Among the reasons why the San Gimignano statutes are of such interest for historians of the communes is their witness to new and innovative ways in which Tuscan officials wrestled with this very problem. It appears that by the mid-thirteenth century Tuscan officials began to look to civic statutes to address the continuity side of the equation. Innovations in recording the debates of deliberative assemblies--e.g., the Riformagioni dei consigli--addressed the more dynamic process of applying norms to the many contingencies that arise in the normal course of civic life. In particular, the Riformagioni of the early thirteenth centuries typically recorded full accounts of assembly debates. By the mid-late thirteenth century, they recorded only the final decisions of these debates. This made the Riformagioni easier to use as a complementary written record for keeping the statutes up to date.

How well did this process work? Additions to the statutes in 1292 (edited by Perani and included at the end of this volume) along with a comparison between the statutes of 1255 and 1314 (the next extant copy of San Gimignano statutes) suggest that civic statutes continued to be revised on a regular basis, though perhaps not annually. Does this mean that the above-mentioned innovations failed? Enrico Faini's historiographical study of normative texts in Tuscany suggests not; or rather, that the question itself may be misleading. Drawing on the work of scholars like Hagen Keller and Paolo Cammarosano on the early formation of communal archives (i.e., in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries), Faini highlights the symbiotic relation between a variety of written records used in civic administration, such as normative texts recording matters of custom and law (e.g., Constituta legis et usus), collections of documents recording communal rights over the contado (Libri iurium), and, as we move into the early thirteenth century, deliberative texts such as the Riformagioni. Two important points emerge from these studies. First, normative texts emerged in dynamic relation with a variety of other written records. Second, this symbiotic relation maintained something of the character of a hermeneutical circle (Faini does not use this term). Normative texts guided the deliberations of deliberative councils as they debated issues concerning communal rights in the contado and the rights and duties of groups within the commune. These debates and deliberations, in turn, shaped the interpretation of existing statutes as well as the writing of new ones. Cycling through these texts, so to speak, groups within the commune worked through issues of individual and corporate identity. This is why it is potentially misleading to ask whether the innovations in the San Gimignano statutes succeeded or failed. To ask such a question implies that one should expect to find a progressive stabilization of communal records in which normative texts emerge as the privileged center of an 'archival solar system' around which other archival records, like Riformagioni, revolve. Faino suggests that communal archives were polycentric throughout the communal period, reflecting the polycentric nature of communal society itself. This is not to deny real development in the written records and institutions that sustained communal society. Rather, it is to call attention to the ways in which an emerging sense of communal identity remained in complementary tension with individual and group identities, activities and interests within the commune. In sum, this volume edited by Diacciati and Tanzini gives us some valuable reflections and tools for thinking about the formation of civic identity in thirteenth-century Tuscany.

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