oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Women do not sit as judges, or do they? The office of judge in Vincentius Bellovacensis'

Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



It was Charles Homer Haskins (1870-1936) who coined the expression "Renaissance of the twelfth century". Before him this expression referred more specifically to the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century as nineteenth century Swiss historian Jakob Burckhardt put it. Nevertheless the twelfth century Renaissance of Roman law was well known among legal historians, although they used less flattering expressions for the phenomenon of the rediscovery. Rudolf von Ihering (1818-1892) opened his by stating that Rome had three times dictated its laws to the world, first when it exercised its full power in Antiquity, secondly after the fall of Rome for the unity of the Church, and thirdly as a consequence of the reception of Roman law. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), who had failed as a law student, had a conversation with Neckermann on 6 April 1829. On that occasion Goethe compared Roman law with a duck that continues to dive under and to rise again, sometimes hides itself, but never gets lost. Sir Paul Vinogradoff (1854-1925) considered the problem regarding the fate of Roman law after the downfall of the Roman state as the "most momentous and puzzling problem" within the whole range of history, and he continued by describing the medieval revival of Roman law as "a ghost story" that treats of a second life of Roman law after the demise of the body in which it first saw the light. The language spoken during this "Renaissance of the twelfth century" was the language of the Church (and the ecclesiastical schools), of the scholars and of the scribes. The similarity with classic Latin was obvious, but in quite a few cases this similarity was demonstrably misleading, since the instititutions hidden behind those words (mainly substantives) were new, or better: alien to Antiquity. Consequently this "Renaissance of the twelfth century" entailed the resurgence of many old substantives, however with a new sense. Friedrich Carl von Savigny (1779-1861) was the first to focus attention on the shift in meaning of the word "".

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