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A decretal is a response of the Pope to a legal inquiry or a decision within the framework of the papal jurisdiction, which has been published in document form ( epistula decretalis or litterae decretales ) since the 4th century , which was included in canonical collections and thus received as a general norm. From the 12th to the 14th centuries, decretals were the main source for the development of canon law .

For centuries in the Middle Ages, there was no uniformly codified church law book; therefore decisions were based on the decisions of councils or on individual decisions of popes and bishops, which led to inconsistent and sometimes contradicting decisions. These contradictions were subsequently to be resolved with further papal decretals. In order to document the legal development, one began with the creation of private legal collections . The most important and most successful of such legal collections is the so-called Decretum Gratiani , made around 1140 . Legal collections became more widespread in the 13th century: between 1191 and 1226, five so-called compilationes were created , which are known as Quinque Compilationes Antiquae . The canonist Tankred made at the instigation of Pope Lucius III. the Compilatio quinta published in 1226 . Their arrangement in five books provided the example for all later collections.

The so-called Decretales Gregorii IX , the decretals of Pope Gregory IX , should be mentioned as further collections . from 1234, also called Liber Extra , and the Liber Sextus of Pope Boniface VIII. from 1298. The two very extensive collections claimed exclusive validity: older decretals that were not included in them lost their legal force. The Liber Extra and the Liber Sextus were rounded off by further decretals, namely the Clementines by Clement V (1317) and the Extravagantes by John XXII. (1325-1327).

Well-known decretals in the Middle Ages were z. B. the pseudoisidoric decretals , the decretals Venerabilem and the decretals Vergentis in senium (1199), which had great importance for the development of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages. There are papal decretals in almost all areas of law. Research into medieval decretals is particularly supported by the Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law at the University of Munich.

See also


  • Gérard Fransen: Les décrétales et les collections des décrétales . Brepols, Turnhout 1972, ( Typologie des sources du Moyen Âge occidental 2 = A-III.1, ISSN  0775-3381 ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. M. Elser, S. Ewald, G. Murrer (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Religions. Weltbild, Augsburg 1990, p. 76