Union Académique Internationale

Interview of Klaus Herbers, President of the UAI & Director of the Epistolae Pontificum Romanorum project

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What is the aim of the project?

The Epistolae Pontificum Romanorum project aims to categorize the papal documentation in Europe up to 1198. In all, no less than 25,000 notices presented in the form of regestes have been produced. These results are divided into two categories both on a regional basis (Italia, Gallia, Germania, Iberia, etc.) but also chronologically, which broadens the work started in the 19th century by Philippe Jaffé. New data is systematically put online and updated regularly.

More info here.

How is it original and innovative?

The project takes up a learned tradition but relies on new technologies at our disposal to put the results online. Thus, the value of the pontifical documentation touches on a considerable number of study themes for the early Middle Ages. This raises at the same time questions concerning the formation of the institutions in general, the specific modalities of communication, the multiform aspects of the letter, the ius commune of Europe constituted on the basis of Roman and canon law which spread through writings, legates and delegated judges (especially in the 12th century). Thus, the contribution of the popes to the formation of Europe in the High Middle Ages appears more and more clearly and opens the way for us to new interpretative possibilities.

Why is this a long-term project?

The documentary mass, as well as the multiple aspects (for example, regional ones), to be taken into consideration are huge and the work on this material takes a lot of time.

Who do you collaborate with?

The list of collaborations is long and also depends on the regions which are the subject of a particular study at present. In recent years we have worked a lot for the Iberia pontificia with various Spanish colleagues (Fernando López Alsina, Santiago Dominguez Sánchez, Carlos de Ayala), for the Italia pontificia with Milan (Maria Pia Alberzoni in particular), for the Gallia pontificia with the German Historical Institute of Paris (Rolf Große and Laurent Morelle among others). Recently, a sub-project was launched in the region of the former Lotharingia (collaboration between Luxembourg, Michel Margue, and Aix-la Chapelle, Harald Müller) as well as a project dedicated to the diocese of Liège (Jean-Louis Kupper, Florence Close). In general, collaborations also involve initiatives relating to canon law (Regesta decretalium, Gisela Drossbach) and digital ones (Artem, Nancy, Monasterium, Graz etc.).

What are the latest news about the project (discoveries, conferences, publications)?

A recent publication (Daniel Berger, Klaus Herbers, Thorsten Schlauwitz, Papsturkunden in Spanien III, Berlin, 2020) has made available a number of previously unknown documents which broaden our perspectives on the process commonly referred to as Reconquista in Spain and which happens in the 12th century. The eminent role of Toledo and the question of religious conversions give rise to a new interpretation. The last conference on these general aspects was organized in Paris as part of the UAI’s centenary in November 2019 in collaboration with the German Historical Institute: “Les actes pontificaux. Un trésor à exploiter – The Pontifical Acts. A treasure to be exploited”. The publication resulting from these meetings will appear in the collection “Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen”.