Dionysius Gothofredus

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Dionysius Gothofredus

Dionysius Gothofredus (actually Denis Godefroy; born October 17, 1549 in Paris , † September 7, 1622 in Strasbourg ) was a French legal scholar. Gothofredus was professor at the Universities of Geneva, Strasbourg and Heidelberg and editor of the first critical complete edition of the Corpus iuris civilis (Geneva, 1583). This name for the late Roman collection of laws also comes from him.


Denis Godefroy - or by his scholarly name Dionysius Gothofredus -, the son of Leon Godefroy, Seigneur de Guigneccourt, studied law in Leuven (Belgium), Cologne and Heidelberg. After completing his studies, he worked at the Cour de Parlement (Court of Justice) in Paris from 1576 to 1577. He received his doctorate in Orléans in 1579 and in the same year took up a teaching position at the academy in Geneva. He would certainly have had a brilliant career in Paris, but with his Calvinist faith he was on safe ground in Geneva. He was appointed professor of law in 1580, received civil rights and married Denise de Saint-Yon. From 1581–85 he was released from teaching and was able to devote himself entirely to the "Corpus iuris civilis". In 1587 Godefroy was elected to the city council of Geneva.

In 1589 the French king managed to bring him to France. Godefroy was extraordinary councilor at the Court of Justice in Paris and “Grand Bailli” (bailiff or district judge) in the Pays de Gex (located in Franche-Comté). Hardly 6 months after he settled there, the place was taken by troops of the Duke of Savoy. Godefroy's house and library went up in flames. He fled to Basel with his family and stayed there until he got an apprenticeship at the university in the free imperial city of Strasbourg in 1591.

His reputation as a legal scholar had spread through a number of publications, especially the Corpus iuris civilis (Geneva 1583), so that the Palatinate Elector Friedrich IV wanted him at Heidelberg University . At first Godefroy did not seem to have fully accepted the working conditions, because he was back in Strasbourg in 1601. The Heidelberg team brought him back to the university in 1604, this time permanently. He became a professor of the law faculty and from 1606 also its dean.

His considerable reputation was further enhanced in 1607 through his election as rector of the university and his appointment to the electoral council. The elector sent him to Paris several times on diplomatic missions. Attempts by the French king to bring him back to France he rejected because of his commitment to Calvinism.

The outbreak of the Thirty Years' War (in which the Palatinate Elector Friedrich V played such an unfortunate role) forced Godefroy to flee to friends in Strasbourg in 1620 - in the following year (1621) the Palatinate residence in Heidelberg was destroyed by imperial troops.

After a long illness, Denis Godefroy died in Strasbourg on September 7, 1622.


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