French illustrated copy of Gratian’s Decretum


The Decretum, meaning a series of decrees, was the first of six volumes of the laws of the Church, known as canon law. Several hundred medieval copies of the Decretum survive today. Little is known of the text’s creator, Gratian (fl. 1140), a legal scholar in Bologna.

This copy of the Decretum contains marginal commentaries known as glosses, explaining the legal concepts of the main text. The commentary in this copy partly derives from the work of Stephen of Tournai (b. 1138, d. 1202), a French legal scholar. Text divisions are marked with decorated initials in the so-called ‘Channel Style’, featuring multi-coloured illustrations with animal or human figures interwoven with foliage.

This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.

Full title:
Gratian, Decretum
4th quarter of the 12th century, Paris or Sens, France
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Arundel MS 490

Full catalogue details

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The study of law in medieval Europe was revitalised in the 12th century. Joanna Frońska explores the production of legal works and their use by scholarly communities in this period.

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