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Simone Rosati

University of Milan

THE MEDIEVAL AGRICULTURAL CORPORATIONS IN THE TERRITORIES


OF THE PATRIMONY OF SAINT PETER
HISTORICAL-JURIDICAL STUDY
(CENTURIES XIV – XV)

The present study attempt to address, in both its historical-juridical and comparative traits,
the jus proprium of the agricultural corporations in some areas of the Papal States, i.e. the Patrimony
of Saint Peter, between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The investigation, according to the
chosen methodology, includes both the historical-juridical and the territorial fields, to which the
compilations belongs. At the end of the present study, it became clear how the farm guilds represented
in territories of the Patrimony of Saint Peter an important legal and political entity that was essential
not only for agricultural activity, but also for the socio-economic well-being of its Members.

Key words: Papal States. – Centuries XIV-XV. – Statutes. – Farm Corporations.

1. GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF
THE MEDIEVAL AGRICULTURAL CORPORATIONS

Talking about agricultural corporations in the territories of the Papal State firstly means
talking of the land ownership. The land ownership in the legal medieval experience cannot be
compared to that of today, which is based on dichotomy between private property and public property
and on preponderant role of single individual1. In the medieval age, the situation was completely
different and indeed next to the private property existed many forms of ownership profoundly
connected to the utilitates, which the nature offered to man2. In order to improve the clarity of this

1
For details about the land ownership in the legal medieval experience, see P. Villani, “Ricerche sulla proprietà e sul
regime fondiario del Lazio”, Annuario storico italiano per l’età moderna e contemporanea, 12/1960; P.Grossi, Il dominio
e le cose. Percezioni medievali e moderne dei diritti reali, Giuffrè, Milano 1992; E. Rook Basile, S. Carmignani,
N.Lucifero, Strutture agrarie e metamorfosi del paesaggio. Dalla natura delle cose alla natura dei fatti, Giuffrè, Milano
2010; A. Dani, Le risorse naturali come beni comuni, Effigi, Arcidosso 2013; F. Valguarnera, Accesso alla natura tra
ideologia e diritto, Giappichelli, Torino 2014.
2
E. Cortese, “La proprietà e le proprietà”, Atti del Convegno di Pontignano (30.IX- 3.X.1985), Milano 1998, 514.

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concept, we use a concrete example that demonstrate the high fragmentation of the land ownership:
to the pasturelands corresponded the ius pascendi, to the sowing the ius serendi, to the firewood
collection the ius lignandi and so on3.
All these rights (ius pascendi, ius serendi, ius lignandi…) were truly forms of dominion over
the land and this discloses one of the most significant elements of medieval culture in which we can
find the following characteristics:
1. The essential role of local community as a fundamental element of identity of each individual and
as structure of mediation between man and nature4.
2. Primacy of the Custom as main normative expression of the collectivity5.
3. Primacy of effectiveness because the law is shaped by the economic facts mainly related to the
agriculture6.

Figure 1. Map of the City of Tarquinia (18th century). The map illustrates very well the ownership structure in the lands
of Tarquinia as well as it was in the medieval period.

3
Ibid.
4
P. Barcellona, L’individualismo proprietario, Boringhieri, Torino 1987, 110-111.
5
D. Quaglioni, “La consuetudine come costituzione”, Dominii collettivi e autonomia. Atti della V Riunione scientifica
(Trento, 11-12 novembre 1999), Cedam, Padova 2000, 21-37.
6
P. Grossi, L’Europa del diritto, Laterza, Bari 2007, 32.

2
That said we have to make one other brief point, because talking about agricultural
corporations means also talking of juridical particularism due to the absence of a centralist power
state, which controlled every aspect of society7. This particularism means that each social group, from
the smallest (like the corporations) to the greatest (like the Municipality), had got its own legal and
moral order regulated by the statutes8. Therefore, in the territories of the Papal state, also the farmers
used to congregate in the agricultural corporations in which were set out detailed rules concerning
the country works and the relations between the associates. It is important to emphasize that in the
territories of the Pontifical State there was an intense regulatory activity by the Guilds of Arts and
Crafts. In fact, the presence of a superior authority, the Papal State, did not prevent from practicing
self-regulation through the statutes on which certainly the ecclesiastic authorities (in particular the
Provincial Rector) supervised9.
From the content point of view, the Statute collected local laws or customs, oaths by
magistrates and associates of corporation, resolutions of legislative body and so on10. In all this
regulatory material, we can find two different topics: one is of an internal nature and the other is of
an external nature. The first concerns the relations between the associates and lays down rules of
conduct not only juridical but also moral and religious, as demonstrated by the dispositions regarding
the funerals, the assistance to the sick and the religious processions11. Probably this is the oldest part
of the corporations statutes in which we can find the local customs crystallized through the continuous
and intentional behavior of the collectivity. The second, of external nature, regards the relation
between the corporation and the Municipality, extremely sensitive matter because of the need to avoid
the conflict of competence among the two sources of jus proprium12. For this reason, the city
authorities approved the Statute of the Guilds of Arts and Crafts with the aim of ensuring that the
corporations, by pursuing their personal interests, could damage the common good of collectivity.

7
P. Grossi, L’Europa del diritto, Laterza, Roma-Bari 2007, 37-64.
8
F. Calasso, Medioevo del diritto. I°- Le fonti, Giuffrè, Milano 1954, 410; A. Campitelli, Europenses. Presupposti storici
e genesi del diritto comune, Cacucci, Bari 1991, 82; P. S. Leicht, Storia del diritto italiano. Le fonti, lezioni, Milano 1937,
288. Bartolus a Saxoferrato (Sassoferrato, 1314 – Perugia, 13 luglio 1357) defines the limits of ius statuendi: “collegia
licita et approbata in his in quibus habent iurisdictionem et quo ad ea quae ad ipsos collegiatos pertinent, possunt
facere statuta”. Bartoli, ad D. 1,1 De iustitia et iure, l. 9 Omnes populi, n. 6.
9
T. Cuturi, Le corporazioni delle arti nel comune di Viterbo. Studi dell’Avv. Torquato Cuturi, Società Romana di Storia
Patria, Roma 1883, 6.
10
M. A. Benedetto, “Statuti (Diritto intermedio)”, Novissimo Digesto Italiano, XVIII, Unione Tipografico-Editrice
Torinese, Torino 1960, 386-388; F. Calasso, 421-423; E. Besta, Fonti: legislazione e scienza giuridica. Dalla caduta
dell’impero romano al secolo decimo sesto, Hoepli, Milano 1925, 684.
11
P. S. Leicht, 294.
12
F. Calasso, 434.

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2. ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE OF THE AGRICULTURAL CORPORATIONS

From the organizational point of view, the medieval agricultural Corporations, in consequence
of the high fragmentation of the land ownership, could assume two different types of Association: on
the one hand, the Guilds formed for the administration of the lands in collective properties and, on
the other hand, the Guilds between landowners or peasants13. In the Patrimony of Saint Peter, the first
category of Association did not exist in the period under review because the collective rights on
common lands were recognized to all inhabitants of the rural municipality and not to particular
categories of Association. Therefore, the Statute of the City fixed directly the rules regarding the
exercise of the collective rights as well as the ius pascendi, the ius lignandi or the ius aquandi14. The
second category of Association, instead, united certain groups of agricultural workers or landowners
such as, for example, the horticulturists, winegrowers, greengrocers and so on15. This Type of Guild
was present in the territories of Saint Peter and, in particular, a legal source of great interest are “Li
statuti degli ortolani”, namely the statutes concerning essentially the cultivation of the fields and the
management of vegetables market, topics in which the corporations of “ortolani” had exclusive
jurisdiction. These guilds, said “arti degli ortolani”, had a very important role in economic and social
life of three great Municipalities of the Patrimony of Saint Peter: Viterbo, Tarquinia e Tuscania, which
have left us some remarkable evidences of their agricultural guilds. In all three cities, in fact, we have
found the fourteenth-century Manuscripts of the “statuti degli ortolani” that were written in a similar
way both in terms of content and in terms of language (i.e. Italian vernacular)16.

13
P. Rasi, Le corporazioni fra gli agricoltori. Studio storico-giuridico, Giuffrè, Milano 1940, 7-9.
14
For example the municiple statute of Tarquinia (1545) states that: “Quoniam pascuorum jura pariter, et aquarum in
tenimento Corneti comunia sunt, ordinamus quod nemo praesumat prohibere quemquam sua animalia pascuare, et
aquare in quibuscumque locis reservatis vineis, pratis, cannetis, et aliis locis bladatis et seminatis”. Statuta Civitatis
Corneti, 1545, Liber V, Cap. XCIV (Quod nemo prohibeat quemquam eius animalia pascuare, et aquare, et de pena
prohibentis).
15
P. Rasi, 99-102.
16
These are the medieval statutes that we have found in the three cities: Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481
(Archivio storico Viterbo); Statuti dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379 (Archivio storico Tarquinia); Statuta
hortulanorum Tuscanae, Tuscania 1422 (Archivio storico Tuscania).

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Figure 2. “Statuto degli ortolani” of Tarquinia (1379 A. D.)

These Corporations had an organizational structure well defined and hierarchical. In the high
levels of these corporations, there were two officers, called Rettori, which exercised the main
political, executive and judicial functions.
In particular, the rettori had Association’s political representation, the power to require
compliance with the laws and regulations internal to the Company, take disciplinary actions, rule on
disputes between the associates and finally they carried out welfare work including help for needy
corporation members17. Another important figure was the “Cammorlengo” that performed the office
of Bursar and Treasurer of the corporation and, more specifically, he had to track the various income
and expenses, manage the goods of Association and collect the taxes imposed in connection with the

17
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. V; Statuta hortulanorum Tuscanae, Tuscania 1422, Rubr. VI;
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. II. For example, the Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani of Tarquinia
provides in Article 2: “Li quali rectori iurino a le sancte Dio evangelia, ne la presentia de tucta la compagnia, di regere
e manutere la compagnia in buono statu pacificu; e iusto suo potere conservare le rascioni e li beni de la compagnia; e
fare rascione a ciasque uno ke la dimanda de tucti li compagni iurati e familiari. Et ad essi sumariamente, sença libelli
oblatione, termini ponere, sententiare e condennare, et essequire sententie e condennationi siccome ad essi parrà lo
spacciare; spetialmente dove questione sia desfì a cinque libre”.

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pursuit of agricultural activities18. In the “arti degli ortolani”, there was also a collegiate body, the
“Consiglio”, which had the task to take the most important decisions such as, for example, the
amendments to the Statute of the corporation or the approval of new rules 19. Finally, the “ortolani”
completed the corporate structure and these were landowners, farm workers, sellers of vegetables and
fruits (employment performed by women). The requirements for entering in the guild consisted of
the domicile where there was the corporation, regardless of the place of birth, the oath to comply with
the regulations contained in the statute and the payment of the corporation tax20.

3. DISCIPLINARY PROVISIONS CONTAINED IN THE STATUTES

As we have already said, the association between farmers had exclusive jurisdiction over two
areas related to the agricultural activities: the cultivation of the fields and the management of
vegetables market. In respect of the first aspect, the main problem was to irrigate the fields21 and, in
this regard, the statutes of ortolani established meticulous rules concerning the time in which it was
possible to take water and the maintenance of irrigation system22. In respect of the second aspect, the
sources in question contains the testimony of two types of market23: the weekly market that took place
on the day of the week fixed by the statute and accepted only the local merchants associated with the
Company and the annual fair in which participated the merchants coming from everywhere24.

18
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. XI; Statuta hortulanorum Tuscanae, Tuscania 1422, Rubr. VII;
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. XII. In the statute of Viterbo (Rubr. XI), the Cammorlengo had to
be “homo bono et legale et di bona conversatione”.
19
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. LVII; Statuta hortulanorum Tuscanae, Tuscania 1422, Rubr. VII;
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. XIII. This is the disposition of Tarquinia’s Statute: “Ordinamo
ke onn’anno nel tempo de la generale electione sieno electi a brisciali cinque consilgieri: spetialmente uno de la valle
de Sancto Iovanni, uno de le Pantana, uno de la valle de la Fontana nuova, uno de Vallegatula et uno de Malgiano; li
quali sieno tenuti a venire a la congregatione et a li consigli quando serrano chiamati da la parte del rectori, a la pena
ad esso inponendo per li rectori; pagandola per la metà a la compagnia, e per l’altra metà a li rectori”.
20
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. LXXVIII; Statuta hortulanorum Tuscanae, Tuscania 1422, Rubr.
XXXII, XXXVII, XXII; Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. V, XXIV.
21
About the cultivation of the fields in the Medieval times, see A. Cortonesi, Il lavoro del contadino. Uomini, tecniche,
colture nella Tuscia tardomedioevale, CLUEB, Bologna 1988, 15-17.
22
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. XXIX, XXXIII; Statuta hortulanorum Tuscanae, Tuscania 1422,
Rubr. XXXI; Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. XXXII.
23
About special characteristics of medieval market, see G. Luzzato, Storia economica d’Italia. Il medioevo, Sansoni,
Firenze 1973, 230-232.
24
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. LVIII; Statuta hortulanorum Tuscanae, Tuscania 1422, Rubr.
XXXII, XXXVII; Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. XVII, LVII.

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Any disputes that should arise regarding the irrigation of the fields and the weekly market
were submitted to the Guild of the Ortolani that decided through the Rettori25. The proceedings
pending before the corporation judges26 had two fundamental features:
1. Brevity and simplicity of the proceedings because it was devoid of the formalities of the roman
and canon process.
2. Decision based on equity. In fact, the iudices had to decide on the basis of the objectivity and
the concreteness of the fact, without having recourse to abstract legal notions.
To start the judgment, it was necessary to present a formal action by means of written or oral
summons, after which followed the summary trial27. The judge had ample discretionary powers of
decision and ample operative flexibility because he could freely and without formalisms interview
witnesses who had to answer promptly28. The parties had the right to enclose evidence such as a
public act, private contract, witness, confession, whose effectiveness was evaluated by the judge on
the basis of direct knowledge of events and persons involved29. The proceedings, assessed the proofs
and exceptions, after few days came to the judgment of which was drafted minutes, called bastardello,
against which the parts could appeal to the municipal judicial bodies30. The decision, if was not
contested, became enforceable and so the rectores of the guild ordered the enforcement of the
judgment and in the event of a breach by the losing party they applied the foreclosure31.

25
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. XIII; Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. II.
26
On jurisdiction of medieval corporation, see F. Calasso, “Iurisdictio nel diritto comune classico”, Studi Arangio Ruiz,
4/1953, 423-432; A. P. Schioppa, “Giurisdizione e statuti delle arti nella dottrina del diritto comune”, Studia et documenta
historiae et iuris 30/1964, 190-194.
27
A. Lattes, Il diritto commerciale nella legislazione statutaria delle città italiane, Hoepli, Milano 1882, 263.
28
Ibid., 263-264.
29
Ibid., 281-286.
30
T. Cuturi, 40-42.
31
A. Lattes, 294-300.

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Figure 3. Carlo Rosati, Graphic reconstruction of “fontanile” used for the irrigation and for watering the animals in the
papal lands.

With the exclusion of the irrigation of the fields and the weekly market (topics reserved to the
exclusive competence of the Corporation), the jurisdiction in relation to torts and delicts committed
in the agricultural sphere was ratione materiae and so, as the case may be, it could belong to the Guild
or the Municipality. In particular, the theft, the gambling, the blasphemy, the insult, the shooting with
a crossbow, were maleficia persecuted by both the Association and the municipal judicial bodies; the
other delicts, instead, as the arsons, the waste of the cultivated fields, the occupying the land of others,
were reserved to the municipal judges.
Apart from this summary trial, the statutes of Ortolani established also a sort of compulsory
mediation that allowed the Rectores, within 15 days from the beginning of their investiture, to solve
the dispute between the parties32. Therefore, if these did not respect the solution, the heads of the
guild could imposed a financial penalty and even, in the most serious cases, the expulsion by the
company.
Another remedy stated in the agricultural Code consisted in the Arbitration, which was
available in case of disagreement between associates on the irrigation of the fields or the monetary
valuation of the lands. The disputants appointed one arbitrator each and so these latter, assuming the
judicial functions normally attributed to the Rectores, closed the dispute within 8 days33.

32
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. III.
33
Ibid. Rubr. XXXVIII.

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As regards the sanctions prescribed in the statutes, they were of monetary nature and increased
proportionally to the recidivism until, as we have seen, the most serious penalty (the expulsion by
Company) which involved the loss of all rights associated with the membership status34. Furthermore,
the crimes committed by two Rectores implied the doubling of the sanctions. The amounts of financial
penalties was distributed in such a manner that one-half belonged to the Guild and the other-half was
equally divided between the Rectores and the private prosecutor.
A significant part of the “Statuti degli ortolani” concerned the religious and moral
prescriptions35. Indeed, in the statutes of the papal State, the first provisions contained the declaration
of obedience and fidelity to the Pope and the Church, necessary pre-condition for approval by the
competent ecclesiastical authorities36. However, the moral and religious nature of the Corporations
of Ortolani did not end with these formal declarations, but the Christian principles of love and charity
represented the ideal model that should have governed the relations between the guild’s members. In
this sense, the Christian Faith was the value that, better than any human interest, could ensure the
peace and the cohesion within the Corporation; therefore, the writers of the statutes, aware of the
importance of the Guild’s unity, incorporated into agricultural regulation several provisions aimed at
strengthening the moral and religious obligations.
A first occasion for this social cohesion were the processions in honor of the Saint in which
had to participate all the members of the Association. On this point, the Ortolani were obliged to buy
a big candle that was carries in procession through the streets of the town and those who did not take
part in the religious feast were severely punished37. Other important moments were the associates’
funerals, the Sunday Masses and the participation in the sacraments whose non-fulfilment caused the
imposition of the monetary sanctions.
In addition to Processions and religious feast, the guild’s members had to put into practice the
noble human and Christian ideals in their everyday life and especially in employment relationships.
The Corporation of Ortolani was not only an association intended to defend the economic interests

34
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. I, II, III, VI, V, VI, VII, VIII; Statuta hortulanorum Tuscanae,
Tuscania 1422, Rubr. I, III, IV, VIII, X, XIII; Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. I, II, III, IV, V, VI,
VII, VIII, IX, X.
35
Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. XX, XXII; Statuta hortulanorum Tuscanae, Tuscania 1422, Rubr.
III, XIII, XVI; Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr. IV, LX.
36
T. Cuturi, 6.
37
The Statuto degli ortolani of Tarquinia (rubr. XVI) stipulates that “Ad onore e reverentia de Dio onnipotente e de la
gloriosa vergene Maria, matre sua; statuimo et ordinamo ke onn’anno ne la festa dell’Assuntione d’essa beata vergene
Maria, facciamo uno cerio sufficiente de .XXX. libre de pura cera e sença papiro”.

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of farmers or to resolve disputes, but also a kind of spiritual union between people who recognized
them-selves in the Christian values and in the social cooperation.
For this reason, the agricultural statutes obliged associates to assist each other in moments of
difficulty. For example, if a member of the Guild had been victim of violence, all other members
should have help him, accompanying him in a safe place in which he would have received assistance
both by day and by night and free legal aid. Moreover, the Articles of Association recognized a
considerable respect for women who, fearing for their safety and physical integrity, could ask for
assistance from the farmers at any time and especially when they went through the fields.
Furthermore, the mutual respect between “ortolani” had to be observed also in speech: anyone
who was responsible for injuries and verbal outrage incurred severe financial penalties, which
doubled if said in the presence of the Rectores. Lastly, the Statutes prohibited misbehavior in the
performance of work activities as in the case of the Associate’s member that engaged a seller for the
fruits and vegetables market who already worked for another member38.

4. CONCLUSION

At the end of the present study, it became clear how the Ortolani guilds were not only an
Association between agricultural workers, but also a spiritual and moral union between persons that
identify with a common heritage of values, principles, cultures and civilization such as, for example,
the Christian religion, the solidarity, respect for women, and fairness. In this sense, the study of
agricultural corporations in the territories of Saint Peter has helped to underline a typical aspect of
medieval legal culture, namely the essential role of local communities, as human structures of social
and political inclusion.

Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Viterbo 1481, Rubr. LXXX; Statuto dell’arte degli ortolani, Tarquinia 1379, Rubr.
38

XLII.

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