Medieval Writing
Papal Minuscule - 12th century

Script Type : minuscule, a form of diplomatic minuscule

Date : from around the 11th century

Location : the papal curia in Rome

Function : document hand, specifically for use in the less formal type of papal bulls

This segment shows the first few lines of a papal bull of Pope Eugenius III of 1145 (Trier, Stadtbibliothek, Archiv Q 23).(From Steffens 1929)
Pass cursor over letters to see examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : The bull is of the less formal grade, with the seal (not shown) attached with hemp. It instructs the abbots of two newly founded monasteries at Springiersbach and Lonnig to live truly according to the Augustinian rule. The script is a somewhat simplified form of diplomatic minuscule. When you compare the individual letter forms of this script with those of the more formal grade of papal bull of contemporary date shown in this example set, there is very little difference. Yet somehow the script looks simpler and neater and easier to read. The main difference is the lack of calligraphic flourishes and eccentricities. Ascenders are still very tall, much more so than descenders. There is no extended letter spacing in the st or ct combinations. Abbreviation marks consist of a range of simple slashes and hooks, and the papal knot is not employed.

The ascenders of b, l and h have wedged or split tops, while that of d goes in a backsloping curve. The descender of q curls to the left, like a g. Both the tall and short forms of s are employed. There is very occasional use of the straight backed d as used in Caroline minuscule, and of the simplified r after a vowel as in Gothic scripts.

There are no examples of w, y or z, but a k has crept in in the date, for kalendas.

There are numerous abbreviations in the text, and the Tironian et is used. Pass the cursor slowly along the lines of text to decode them. There is no paleography for this sample as yet, but there will be, when I can get my head around the papal language.

On the other hand, you may learn more about papal documents by looking at The Diplomatics of the Papal Documents, formerly on the Vatican Secret Libraty website but now only accessible from The Internet Archive.

Script Index

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 24/10/2011.