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Title: Irnerius  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Bulgarus, Bologna, University of Bologna, Hugo de Porta Ravennate, Brachylogus
Collection: 11Th-Century Births, 12Th-Century Deaths, 12Th-Century Latin Writers, Italian Jurists
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


For the saint with this name, see Himerius of Cremona.

Irnerius (c. 1050 – after 1125), sometimes referred to as lucerna juris ("lantern of the law"), was an Italian jurist, and founder of the School of Glossators and thus of the tradition of Medieval Roman Law.

Decretals with Glossa ordinaria

He taught the newly recovered Roman lawcode of Justinian I, the Corpus Juris Civilis, among the liberal arts at the University of Bologna, his native city. The recovery and revival of Roman law, taught first at Bologna in the 1070s, was a momentous event in European cultural history. Irnerius' interlinear glosses on the Corpus Juris Civilis stand at the beginnings of a European law that was written, systematic, comprehensive and rational, and based on Roman law.


  • Life 1
  • Teaching 2
  • Works 3
  • Reputation 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7
  • External links 8


He was born in Bologna about 1050.

At the urging of Countess Matilda of Tuscany he began to devote himself to the study of jurisprudence, taking the Justinian code as a guide. After teaching jurisprudence for a short while in Rome he returned to Bologna, where he founded a new school of jurisprudence in 1084 or 1088, which would rival the law school of Ravenna.

Some jurisprudence had been taught at Bologna, before Irnerius founded his school, by Pepo and a few others, and a tradition of jurisprudence had developed at Pavia since the mid-ninth century.[1] He introduced the custom of explaining the Roman law by means of glosses, which originally were meagre interlinear elucidations of the text. But since the glosses were often too extensive to be inserted between the lines of the text, he began to write them on the margin of the page, thus being the first to introduce the marginal glosses which afterwards came into general use.

After the death of Pope Paschal II, he defended the rights of Emperor Henry V in the papal election and upheld the legality of the election of the imperial antipope Gregory VIII. After 1116 he appears to have held some office under the emperor. He died, perhaps during the reign of the emperor Lothair II, but certainly before 1140.


Irnerius taught along lines firmly established in the teaching of Scripture, by reading aloud a section of the civil law, which the students would copy, and add to the text his commentary and explanatory glosses. Thus he was the first of the glossators, whose explications of the law became an essential part of the legal curriculum.

The text of Justinian's Pandects used in Bologna, referred to as the Littera Bononiensis, closely parallel to the Littera Florentina, would be disseminated throughout Europe as students returned home from Bologna: there are versions of the Bolognese Littera with provenances in Paris, Padua, Leipzig and at the Vatican (Purpura 2001).


According to ancient opinion (which, however, has been much controverted), Irnerius was the author of the epitome of the Novellae of Justinian, called the Authentica, arranged according to the titles of the Code. His Formularium tabellionum (a directory for notaries) and Quaestiones (a book of judicial decisions) are no longer extant (EB).

The Summa Codicis, attributed to Irnerius by Herman Fitting in his 1894 edition [2] is now widely considered a later work of between 1130 and 1159, but remains the earliest known summa on Justinian's Code [3]

Another important work, Quaestiones de juris subtilitatibus,[4] was generally ascribed to Irnerius until Hermann Kantorowicz published a manuscript from the British Museum.[5]

Other juridical works and glosses that are ascribed to Irnerius are extant only in fragments, or their authorship is uncertain.


Irnerius was largely forgotten; his name was revived by German historians of the later 19th century and came to prominence with the celebrations marking the octocentennial of the University of Bologna.[6] His name is also seen in manuscripts as Hirnerius, Hyrnerius, Iernerius, Gernerius, Garnerius, Guarnerius, Warnerius, Wernerius, Yrnerius. He called himself Wernerius when he signed documents.

Anders Winroth[7] has questioned much of the received account for Irnerius' life and questioned his importance for the history of Roman law in the Middle Ages.


  1. ^ The emergent role of Pavia put forward by Charles M. Radding, The Origins of Medieval Jurisprudence: Pavia and Bologna, 850-1150(Yale University Press, 1988) was considered to be overstated by most reviewers.
  2. ^ Fitting, Summa Codicis des Irnerius, mit einer Einleitung (Berlin, 1894)
  3. ^ Lange, Rómisches Recht im Mittelalter I (Munich, 1997), pp. 403-405.
  4. ^ Fitting, "Quaestiones de juris subtilitatibus des Irnerius, mit einer Einleitung" in Festschrift zum 200jährigern Jubiläum der Universitat Halle-Wittenberg, 1894.
  5. ^ Kantorowicz with W.W. Buckland, Studies in the Glossators of the Roman Law: Newly Discovered Writings of the Twelfth Century (New York, 1939) reassigned Quaestiones de juris subtilitatibus to Placentinus.
  6. ^ F. W. Maitland, reviewing Enrico Besta, ed. L'Opera del' Irnerio, vols I and II (Turin, 1896) in The English Historical Review 13 No. 49 (January 1898:143f).
  7. ^ Anders Winroth, The Making of Gratian's Decretum (Cambridge, 2000)


  • Friedrich Carl von Savigny, Geschichte des Römischen Rechts im Mittelalter (2nd. ed., Heidelberg, 1834–1851) iii. 83
  • Del Vecchio, Notizie di Irnerio e della sua scuola (Pisa, 1869)
  • Julius von Ficker, Forsch. z. Reichs- u. Rechtsgesch. Italiens, vol. iii. (Innsbruck, 1870)
  • Hermann Fitting, Die Anfange der Rechtsschule in Bologna (Berlin, 1888).
  • Anders Winroth, The Making of Gratian's Decretum (Cambridge, 2000)


  • Nouveau Larousse illustré (in French) undated, early 20th century

External links

  • :Catholic Encyclopedia Irnerius
  • Archaeogate: Gianfranco Purpura, "La Littera Florentina", 2001 (in Italian)
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