Calendar of Papal Registers Relating To Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 11, 1455-1464. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1921.
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The present volume extends from 1455 to 1464, and comprises the contents, as far as they come within the scope of this Calendar, of the ‘Vatican’ and the ‘Lateran’ Registers of Calixtus III (fn. 1) and the ‘Vatican’ Registers of Pius II. (fn. 2) The ‘Lateran’ Registers of the latter pope will be dealt with in the next volume of the Calendar.
From the descriptions of the successive Registers, given in the footnotes of this and the preceding volumes of the Calendar, it will be seen that, whereas in the case of the ‘Vatican’ series of Registers the contemporary Rubricelle, or brief tables of contents, still survive at the beginning of each Register, this is not the case with the corresponding Rubricelle of the ‘Lateran’ Registers. The folios which contained them were, it may be supposed, detached when the ‘Lateran’ Registers were re-bound, apparently in the 17th century. They were, perhaps, collected and bound by themselves, thus forming volumes of contemporary tables of contents of the ‘Lateran’ Registers of Boniface IX (with whose pontificate the ‘Lateran’ series begins (fn. 3)), and of each of his successors. Not only have these original ‘Lateran’ Rubricelle, whether bound into volumes or not, entirely disappeared, but for the period from Boniface IX to Nicholas V, inclusive, no later substitute for them exists.
From the pontificate of Calixtus III onwards, however, there is a series of volumes of MS. Indici, containing indexes, or brief tables of contents, of the ‘Lateran’ Registers. (fn. 4) They may have been copied from or based upon the original Rubricelle before the latter were destroyed, or more probably, as will be seen, they were compiled independently and directly from the Registers. Whatever may have been their origin, they are, as will also be seen, careless, inaccurate and incomplete. They are therefore unreliable, and almost worse than useless as a guide to the contents of the Registers. The existence of this Indice of the ‘Lateran’ Registers of Calixtus III has had, therefore, no effect on the method of preparing the text of the present volume, which has continued to be, as hitherto, the systematic examination of the contents of each successive Register, folio by folio. The only real advantage of the Indici is, in fact, that they preserve brief summaries of the contents of certain Registers which no longer survive, in the case of Calixtus III five in number. Of these summaries of lost bulls of Calixtus III, a few come within the scope of the Calendar, and a list of them is accordingly appended below. (fn. 5)
For the pontificate of Calixtus III there are two separate Indici. The first is in two volumes, numbered 325 and 326, the second is a single volumes, numbered 327. The latter is somewhat more complete than the former, was probably its basis, and may therefore be considered first. Described in pencil on the back as ‘Callisto III e Giulio III,’ with the modern number ‘Indice 327,’ it was evidently intended to be a substitute for the lost ‘Lateran’ Rubricelle. It professes to follow, in fact, like the surviving ‘Vatican’ Rubricelle, (i) the order of the years of the pontificate, and of the several Libri, or Registers, belonging to each year, thus: Liber i anno i, Liber ii anno i, etc., as far as Liber vii anno i, then Liber i anno ii, etc., as far as Liber vii anno ii, then Liber i anno iii., etc., as far as Liber vii anno iii, and so on, ending with Liber vii anno vi, and an extra Liber viii of that year; (ii) the order of the folios of the successive Libri, or Registers. The Registers of Calixtus III are thus divided in the Indice into six yearly sets, professing to correspond to the years of his pontificate, viz. anno i Libri i–vii, anno ii Libri i–vii, anno iii Libri i–vii, anno iv Libri i–vii, anno vi Libri i–vii, and anno vi Libri i–viii, the total number of Registers surviving when the Indice was made being therefore 43. (fn. 6) The first five of the six years of the pontificate are thus represented as having produced an equal number of Libri or Registers, namely seven each, whilst the sixth and last year is credited with one Liber more than the preceding years. On the face of it, this remarkable equality in the output of Registers conflicts with reason and experience. There is never, in fact, as indeed might a priori be expected, any equality in the number of Registers produced in the successive years of a pontificate. In paritcular, the Registers of the first year of a pope always outnumber, often very considerably, those of any subsequent year. The equal distribution, according to the scheme of the Indice, of the Registers of Calixtus III amongst the six years for which, according to the Indice, his pontificate lasted, at once therefore challenges inquiry. The result immediately reveals the unreal and misleading character of the classification in the Indice. The pontificate lasted, in fact, not six years, but slightly less than three years and four months, viz. from 20 April, 1455, to 6 August, 1458. (fn. 7) The Indice thus professes to record the contents of the Registers of more than two years which did not belong to the pontificate, that is to say, the contents of Registers which never existed. Further, the descriptions of the Registers given by themselves, (fn. 8) far from showing that the 43 Registers ‘rubricated’ in the Indice were annually equal in number, show that the first year alone claims at least 15 Registers, more than a third of the whole number, leaving some 28 to be divided amongst the remaining 2⅓ years of the pontificate, an average of 12 per annum, nearly double the annual number assigned in the Indice. It is not difficult to assign a motive for the adoption of the strange classification used in the Indice. It evidently served the purpose of a secret code, intelligible only to those persons who possessed the key. Such persons alone could recognise, under the description in the Indice, the real indentity of any given Register. The uninitiated searcher for a particular bull, for example, one which he knew had been dated in the pope's first year, would turn in vain for help to the Indice. His search there might be rewarded with the information that the desired bull would be found recorded in the Register described in the Indice as ‘Anno vi Liber viii.’ The mere fact of being referred for a bull of the first year to a Register of an imaginary sixth year would probably in most cases be enough to bring an amateur search to a speedy close, and persuade the searcher to have recourse to the official archivists. More than ordinary intuition would evidently be required to enable a non-official searcher to identify in a Register disguised as ‘Anno vi Liber viii’ one which belongs in reality, not to the sixth year of the pontificate, but to the first. (fn. 9) In days when searches in the records, and the fees therefor, were the monopoly of the official archivists, the disguise had thus an intelligible raison d'être. It is also evident that, in order to enable the officials themselves to read their secret code, they must have had a key or concordance between the real numbers of the Registers and the artificial numbers assigned to them in the Indice. It must have been similar to the Concordantia which the present Prefect of the Vatican Archives kindly allowed to be copied, and which, as far as the end of Calixtus III, is printed below, pp. xviii sqq. This Concordantia is the joint work, finished in 1903, of the late Prefect of the Archives, Mgr. Wenzel, and his nephew, Signor Emilio Ranuzzi, (fn. 10) and furnishes the modern searcher with the necessary key between the Indice numbers and the numbers which the Registers bear at the present day.
The other Indice, which was probably compiled from the one just described, is in two volumes. The first volume is lettered on the back ‘Calixtus, PP. III, Tom. I. a litt. A ad L,’ and has the modern numbering ‘Indice 325.’ The second volume, comprising the rest of the alphabet, is similarly lettered, mutatis mutandis, and has the number ‘Indice 326.’ In this Indice the same artificial scheme, viz. of six imaginary years and an equal number of Libri under each, is adopted as that in the single-volume Indice just described, but the Rubricelle, or brief summaries of the bulls ‘rubricated,’ are, as its title indicates, arranged alphabetically, namely in the alphabetical order of the dioceses concerned, all the dioceses beginning with ‘A’ being first grouped together for the whole pontificate, followed by all those beginning with ‘B,’ and so on through the alphabet. Within each letter-group the dioceses are not in strictly alphabetical order, because the same order is followed in each group as that adopted in the one volume Indice already described, namely, the order of the Libri or Registers of the several years of the pontificate, viz. Liber i anno i, Liber ii anno i, and so on to the end of the pontificate, the ‘B’ group of dioceses following on the same plan, and in like manner the rest of the alphabetical groups. The dioceses in a given group are therefore quite out of strict alphabetical order, so that in the ‘A’ group the order may be Asaviensis, Ardfertensis, Aladensis, Akadensis, Aberdonensis, etc. To this rough alphabetical arrangement by dioceses, for which a model existed in the voluminous index to the ‘Avignon’ series of Registers of the 14th century, (fn. 11) there are one or two unavoidable exceptions. For example, bulls which concern the whole of Christendom or the whole of a religious order, or which are otherwise not confined to the limits of any particular diocese, are to be found under some such general heading as ‘Constitutiom.’ Where no particular diocese is concerned, as in the case of exempt monasteries, there is a heading ‘Nullius,’ i.e. Nullius Diocesis, whilst bulls which concern Rome or the Roman Court are given under ‘Urbis.’
The result of an examination of these Indici is meagre, both in quantity and quality. They permit the recovery, as has been mentioned, (fn. 12) of the contents of five of the lost Registers of Calixtus III, but their Rubricelle, or summaries, are as imperfect and inaccurate as they are brief. A common type merely comprises the name of the diocese concerned and the name of the person in whose favour the bull is issued, followed by a brief and vague ‘Perpetua vicaria (or Parrochialis [ecclesia], or Monasterium, or Prioratus, etc.) certo modo (or per privationem, or per assecutionem, or per permutationem, etc.) [vacans],’ neither the name of the void benefice, nor that of its previous holder, being given. The number of the Liber and folio and the year of the pontificate are, of course, always added, according to the artificial scheme already described. In some cases the historian may posses the knowledge required to identify the unnamed benefice. Thus, such an entry as ‘Lichesledensis (sic). Riccardus Oldem. Nova provisio monasterii ‘ (fn. 13) would leave him little the wiser, if he did not know already that the anonymous monastery of which fresh provision was made to Richard ‘Oldem’ is St. Werburgh's abbey at Chester.
Not only, however, is the information in the Indici exceedingly meagre, but the standard of accuracy is not high. Errors by a Roman scribe in reproducing what must have seemed to him the barbarous spellings of nonLatin surnames are, of course, pardonable, not least of all in the case of Irish surnames. (fn. 14) Rarer, of course, and also less venial, are errors in the spelling of Christian names, even the more international ones. (fn. 15) The compiler of the Indice was, moreover, not very sound in his knowledge of the names of the dioceses of Christendom, not only those of the more ‘barbarous’ regions of the West, but even dioceses in Italy itself. (fn. 16) The result of this still less excusable source of error is that in the alphabetical arrangement by dioceses, as described above, the name of a diocese not unfrequently occurs under the wrong letter of the alphabet. Thus, one who is searching for mentions of the diocese of Kilmore will not find all the mentions of ‘Kilmorensis’ (fn. 17) where he is entitled to find them, namely amongst the diocese whose names begin with a ‘K.’ If, in fact, he chance to turn to the dioceses beginning with an ‘H,’ he will find there his diocese at least once, under the spelling ‘Hellmorensis.’ (fn. 18) Similarly Tuam (Tuamensis) is several times disguised as ‘Suanensis,’ (fn. 18) and is therefore liable to be lost amid the dioceses whose names begin with an ‘S.’ (fn. 19) Not only is the Indice guilty of such mis-spellings as have been described, but it also contains, in the case of some of the bulls, mis-descriptions of the subject-matter itself. Thus, in one case an abbot is recorded to have obtained a dispensation to hold incompatible benefices, instead of an indult to wear the mitre, ring and other pontifical insignia, etc., in other words, to be a mitred abbot. (fn. 20) In another case, a bishopelect is said to have received his ‘Munus,’ the brief conventional way of saying that he received a faculty to be consecrated by any Catholic bishop of his choice, in communion with the apostolic see. What he really received was a dispensation, on account of his being of illegitimate birth, to act as a bishop, and to hold and rule his see. (fn. 21)
A much more serious defect, constituting in itself an insuperable bar to the use of the Indice as a guide to the contents of the Registers, consists in its deliberate and systematic omissions. In the case of some classes of bulls, such as grants of the office of a notary public (tabellionatus officium), the practice of the compiler of the Indice is variable. He generally omits them, but he also occasionally inserts them, (fn. 22) whilst certain other categories of bulls, such as indults to have a portable altar, to receive plenary indulgence, to choose a confessor, and the like, he passes over entirely.
It is abundantly evident that the numerous errors and omissions which have been described more than suffice to preclude, as has been already pointed out, the possibility of using the Indice as an easy and expeditious substitute for the slow and patient turning over of the leaves of the original Registers themselves.
Itineraries of Popes Calixtus III and Pius II were compiled by the Editor from the marginal dates in this volume, similar to the Itinerary of Pope Nicholas V in volume X. They have been omitted, by direction of the Deputy Keeper of the Records, as not directly bearing on the history of Great Britain and Ireland.
The Editor again desires to acknowledge the continued assistance of Dr. W.H. Grattan Flood, M.R.I.A., who has looked through the proofs, and made numerous suggestions on points of Irish nomenclature and topography.
Both the Index of Persons and Places and the Index of Subjects have been compiled by Mr. S. C. Ratcliff, M.A., of the Public Record Office, to whom the Editor is also indebted for many useful suggestions made whilst the sheets were passing through the press.