Bezemer, Kees: Pierre de Belleperche

Portrait of a legal puritan
2005. VIII, 200 Seiten. Kt 39,00 €
ISBN 978-3-465-03436-0
Studien zur europäischen Rechtsgeschichte Band 194

"If I had a secular office, I would never accept the tonsure", said Pierre de Belleperche (d. 1308) during one of the many special lectures ("repetitiones") he gave at Orleans law school. Apparently, he felt himself curtailed by his clerical status. After 1296, the French king Philip the Fair gave him the opportunity to move up to the highest offices, but Belleperche never got rid of his tonsure. He also complained about the duration of his stay in Orleans. Yet, in spite of that, he left an oeuvre that from a didactic point of view is exemplary. His lectures on the various parts of the Roman body of law still make good reading because of their clarity and orderliness.

This is not accidental: Belleperche had very strict ideas about the interpretation of Roman law and about the way it should be taught. He had witnessed Justinian's texts being abused by his colleagues and predecessors in Orleans, in particular by the formidable Jacques de Revigny, who, in his view, was too much of a dialectician and without a proper understanding of the spirit of Roman law. The differences of opinion with Revigny's "scripta" make up an important part of Belleperche's work.

Belleperche was particularly appalled by abuses in the French church. This made him the right man for King Philip. All went well, until the persecution of the knights Templar was started: Belleperche was dismissed as Keeper of the Seal, and died a few months later.

This book is about Belleperche's largest work, his never printed lecture on the Code, used frequently but selectively by the Italian Cinus de Pistoia for his own commentary on the Code. Its hidden aspects are revealed, as well as Belleperche's method of interpretation, which was never studied in its own right. It shows us the French background of his work, and how his views on local law were a prelude to Bartolus' strict interpretation of statutes.


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