Team members:

No travel report has had a greater influence on subsequent representations of the Holy Land than the Descriptio terrae sanctae, written by the Dominican friar, Burchard of Mount Sion from 1280 onwards. It is regarded as a key text for its description of the geography, topography and ethnography of the Holy Land, which encompasses both Old and New Testament representations as well as contemporary views of the existentially threatened crusader states. The more than 80 surviving manuscripts and 20 printings not counting multiple vernacular translations, testify to the works popularity, which enjoyed such a wide dissemination thanks to its many adaptations, abbreviations and variants. It is surprising therefore that the origin of the text, its complex history of transmission and especially the question of its archetype have not yet been adequately addressed.

To this end, the urtext will first be produced in Open Access as a digital edition with explanatory notes and commentary (sub-project A). This will allow the nine most relevant witnesses (seven manuscripts from the a and b family of the long recension and the two copies of the earliest short recension) to be reproduced with the greatest possible detail and flexibility. A subsequent printed edition is planned for ease of use. Second, (sub-project B) an in depth analysis of the reception will establish and contextualise the manuscript tradition as well as the process of the Descriptio’s development through a set of groundbreaking case studies. Third, (sub-project C) the establishment of a stemma for the short recension and a description of the complete manuscript tradition (in TEI encoding) for both the short and long recension along with excerpts and illustrations, will accompany the edition and provide a more precise understanding of their dependencies.

The edition of the urtext, the study of its reception and the associated manuscript catalogue will establish a new foundation for research on Burchard and representations of the Holy Land in general. This illuminating, late thirteenth century description of the Levant will likewise stimulate anew our approach to patterns of conception by revealing complex processes that underlie the transmission and adaptation of travel literature. It likewise sheds light on a range of topics that are central to medieval research, such as mobility, materiality and medium, perceptions of space and alternity, as well as Christian-Muslim interactions in the eastern Mediterranean.


Burchards Dekret Digital

The research project “Burchards Dekret digital”, under the direction of Prof. Dr. Ingrid Baumgärtner (University of Kassel), Prof. Dr. Klaus Herbers (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg) and Prof. Dr. Ludger Körntgen (Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) is part of the Academies Programme, with which the Union of German Academies supports long-term research projects such as central editions, dictionaries, and text corpora as stores of knowledge. The project, under the umbrella of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, has a planned funding period of eighteen years (2020-2037).

The project centres on one of the most influential collections of medieval canon law, the Decree of Bishop Burchard of Worms (1000–1025). The aims of the research project are firstly to carry out a multiperspectival analysis of the work’s transmission, reception, and significance for legal and cultural history, secondly to produce a critical edition, in print and online, and thirdly  to create a digital work platform with an international focus.

The starting point for the project is the observation that canon law had a lasting influence on developments in Western and Central Europe right into the twentieth century, and made a fundamental contribution to the emergence of common European legal foundations. The origins and conduits of these influences are diverse and extend far back into the past. It is often claimed that Europe’s development into a (in many respects) unified space, following reconfigurations of canon law and Roman law, did not begin until the twelfth century. But in fact considerable importance must be accorded to the efforts to collect, systematize and develop canon law that were undertaken in the often underestimated period between the Carolingian reforms and the scholarly beginnings of canon law studies and  scholasticism in the twelfth century.

By far the most important collection of this period, the Decretum Burchardi was regarded in the eleventh and twelfth centuries as the definitive book of canon law, and could be quoted with the simple reference “ex Burch(ardo)”. This was instantly comprehensible not only to scholars of canon law but also to diocesan administrators. This practical legal importance was one of the reasons why Burchard’s compilation was able to maintain its status as a standard work in relation to later compilations. Even the Decretum Gratiani of 1140, the foundation for all subsequent developments in canon law and scholarly canon law studies, had extracts from Burchard’s work added to it or inserted as commentary.

In close collaboration with partners from all over the world, the project places the Decretum Burchardi at the centre of fundamental, multiperspectival research. It will give access to surviving manuscripts all over Europe; it will produce the first ever critical edition; and it will sift through the rich traces of the work’s reception, particularly in Germany, Italy, France and Spain. The project is methodologically innovative both in the provision of digital access and in the focus on reception history, which gives an impression of the powerful dynamics of European legal cultures. A digital work platform is being constructed to manage these diverse tasks. This will not only make it possible to publish a comprehensive digital edition, but will in future make available materials such as manuscripts, catalogues and source editions. It will also promote scholarly dialogue on an international level, and bring together the many researchers currently working on the sources and reception of medieval canon law, in order to do justice to the wide dissemination and epoch-spanning impact of the Decretum Burchardi.