A Franciscan Inquisitor's Manual and its Compositional Context: "Codex Casanatensis" 1730

Geoffrey Ward Clement, Fordham University


When first sanctioned by Gregory IX c. 1236, the medieval, or as it is sometimes called, the papal-mendicant inquisition was in its incipient stages of formation. From the inquisition's earliest days, Franciscans were involved in inquisitorial activity as part and parcel of a broader and more variegated campaign against heresy in the thirteenth century. That Franciscan involvement in the medieval inquisition has not received attention commensurate with that of the Dominicans is an imbalance that has only recently begun to be addressed. In tandem with the Franciscans' early involvement in the inquisition was their especially symbiotic relationship with the papacy in the thirteenth century and beyond. Franciscans were called upon by the papacy to preach the cross, serve as papal penitentiaries, and make official canonical inquiries into any number of situations or issues, not least among them the presence of heretical groups in many central Italian towns and cities. It was not until the final years of the pontificate of Innocent IV (1243-1254), when Innocent designated inquisitorial districts throughout Italy, that Franciscan involvement in the papal-mendicant inquisition became regular and systematized. From the mid-thirteenth century on, Franciscans served regularly in central Italy as inquisitores hereticae pravitatis early in their careers, and then later in a host of hierarchic roles both within the church and the order. Contemporaneous with the changes sketched above, a heretofore completely unknown genre of literary production emerged to provide texts to educate, inform and guide inquisitors in the discharge of their duties. Often called inquisitors' manuals, these texts collectively formed a class of documents of wide range and scope—from formularies, to manuals of procedure, to expositions of various heretical doctrines which inquisitors were charged to counteract. One of these works was Codex Casanatensis 1730, which was written and compiled in the early fourteenth century for use by Franciscan inquisitors in Tuscany. While other collections of inquisitorial materials dating from the period are also extant, for many reasons they are more akin to florilegial collections than unitary works. In contrast, Casanatensis 1730 is more unique since three-quarters of the manuscript was penned by one hand and assembled in a particular order. Furthermore, Casanatensis 1730 incorporated many novelties of the time including rubricated headlines, Arabic numerals, cross-references and an extensive alphabetically-arranged topical index. Some materials in other hands were later added to produce the codex in its present form, but at its core, it was conceived and produced in one place, at one time, by one person who was likely an inquisitor himself or a functionary in the service of the inquisition. It is for these reasons that Casanatensis 1730 affords us a privileged glimpse into the Franciscan inquisition in Tuscany in the early fourteenth century—a time when the Franciscan Order itself was experiencing internal crises and dissension over interpretations of their rule and form of life. Furthermore, almost none of the historiography to date has considered a work like Casanatensis 1730 in its entirety. Instead, many modern scholars have focused on parts of manuscript collections for other scholarly purposes, or classified parts as manuals without considering any collection as a whole. Casanatensis 1730 is a work perfectly suited to such a holistic analysis since it was clearly produced and intended as a single work. By considering Casanatensis 1730 in these terms, an analysis of the codex's contents and some of the internal structural relationships between its parts will cast light both upon the Franciscan inquisition in central Italy in the early fourteenth century, as well as the literary genre of inquisitors' materials—texts that were meant to refine and enhance the inquisition's reach and efficacy at a critical moment in the early history of the Franciscan order in central Italy.

Subject Area

Religious history|Canon Law|Medieval history

Recommended Citation

Clement, Geoffrey Ward, "A Franciscan Inquisitor's Manual and its Compositional Context: "Codex Casanatensis" 1730" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3564858.