oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - Roman law and the development of Hungarian private law before the promulgation of the Civil Code of 1959

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 1021-545X
  • E-ISSN: 2411-7870



Although Hungary had close relations with the Byzantine Empire, the fact that King Stephen I (St. Stephen) (1000-1038) and his country adopted western Christianity made the penetration of Byzantine (Roman) law into Hungary impossible. Roman law had a direct influence in Hungary only during the age of the Glossators. The impact of Roman law was much less marked in the royal statutes and decrees, the . King Matthias made an attempt to codify Hungarian law by issuing Act VI of 1486 (). The law-book of Chief Justice Stephanus Werböczy (c. 1458-1541) systematising feudal customs in Latin, the language of administration of the kingdom of Hungary, was entitled . It was never promulgated, so never formally became a source of law but nevertheless it became authoritative. Containing feudal private law, and usually applying Roman law only formally, it became 'the Bible of the nobility' for the following three centuries. The first attempt to codify private law in Hungary was made in the last decade of the eighteenth century. The Diet of l790-1791 set up a legal committee to prepare the necessary reforms. The idea of a comprehensive Hungarian civil code gained ground from 1895 onwards. One of its most consistent advocates was Gusztáv Szászy-Schwarz, who wished Roman law to form the basis of a codification of civil law in Hungary. The Draft Civil Code of 1928, considered by the courts as (until the Civil Code of 1959 came into operation) reflected the strong impact of the Swiss of 1907 and of 1881.

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