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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a section of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

published by the Clarendon Press

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

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Chapter 10

Vol. VII
Note D

On the Officers of the Papal Household

These officers, who formed practically the ministry of the Pontifical State, are thus enumerated by a MS. of the twelfth century found in the Lateran and published by Mabillon (Museum Italicum, II.570). It is entitled 'Johannis Diaconi liber de ecclesiâ Lateranensi ad Alexandrum III pontificem,' and is quoted and commented upon by Savigny and Hegel.1

'In the Roman Empire and in the Roman Church of to‑day there are seven Palatine Judges, who are called Ordinarii, who ordain the Emperor,​2 and with the Roman clergy elect the Pope. Their names are as follows: —

I. Primicerius, II. Secundicerius, who receive their names from their offices themselves. These two, walling in the Emperor on the right hand and the left, seem in a certain way to reign with him: without them no decision of importance is taken by the Emperor [one of the MSS. reads here 'Pope']. Moreover, in the Roman Church in all processions they lead the Pope's palfrey,​3 taking precedence of the bishops and other magnates.

'III. The third is the Arcarius, who presides over the tribute.

'IV. The fourth is the Sacellarius, who hands forth to the soldiers their pay, gives alms to the sick on the Sabbath day, and bestows upon the Roman bishops and clergy and persons in orders their presbyteria [stipends].

'V. The fifth is the Proto­scriniarius, who presides over the scriniarii whom we call tabelliones [scriveners].

'VI. The sixth is the Primus Defensor, who presides over the defensores, whom we call advocates.

p277 'VII. The seventh is the Adminiculator, whose duty it is to intercede for orphans and widows, for the afflicted, and for captives.

'In criminal cases these men do not judge, nor do they pronounce a capital sentence on any man, and at Rome they are clerics who are never promoted to any other rank.

'But the other magistrates, who are called Consuls, conduct trials and punish those who are amenable to the laws, and pass sentence on the guilty according to the magnitude of their crimes.'

In the four centuries which elapsed between Paul I and Alexander III many changes have taken place, but there seems reason to suppose that the officials here enumerated were to be found in Rome in the eighth century. I would suggest, have, a doubt whether they were necessarily all ecclesiastics at the period with which we are now dealing. Christopher and his son Sergius seem to me more like laymen than clerics.

As Hegel points out, the full title of the Primicerius and Secundicerius should include the addition notariorum; and they may be considered as the President and the Vice-President of the Papal Chancery.

The statement that they with the Roman clergy elected the Pope would of course not be true for the eighth century, in which there was still a semblance of popular election. Savigny, however, suggests that these seven Judices Palatini directing the election of the Pope may have furnished the type for the seven cardinal-bishops of a later day and may even have had some influence on the selection of seven as the number of the Electors in the Holy Roman Empire.

The Author's Notes:

1 Savigny, Geschichte des Römischen Rechts im Mittelalter, I.378‑381, and Hegel, Geschichte der Städteverfassung von Italien, I.245. The latter must surely be mistaken in assigning the MS. (which was dedicated to Alexander III) to the tenth century.

2 'Qui ordinant Imperatorem.'

3 'Manuatim ducunt Papam.'

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