Medieval Writing  
A Florilegium of Dates (2)
diploma of Louis III
Dating clause on a diploma of Louis III of 882 (Marburg, K. Preussisches Staatsarchiv). (From Steffens 1929)
The script here is diplomatic minuscule, meaning that the basic letter forms are those of Caroline minuscule but the ascenders and descenders are very tall and elaborate while the bodies of the letters are tiny. The elaborate papal knot abbreviation mark is employed. The dating clause reads:

Data XVI k(a)l(endas) Febr(uarii) anno dominicae incarn(ationis) dccclxxxi, indict(ione) xiii, anno vi to (above) regni hludouuici serenissimi regis.

Given on 16 kalens February in the year of incarnation of the lord 881, 13th indiction, 6th year of the reign of Louis (or Ludwig) most serene king. (17th January 881 or 882?)

The scribe must have been feeling a bit rattled when he did this one, as the date XVI is written rather messily over an erasure. That's not all. Like the previous example, this uses anno domini dating, which was first adopted for private charters as in the previous example, then later appeared in German royal diplomas under Louis III and Charles III, and only eventually appeared in papal documents in the 11th century.

Now we have a problem. Louis III acceded to the throne in August 876. That would make January in the 6th year of his reign 882, not 881. However, 882 was the 15th indiction, and 881 the 14th, so it is inconsistent whichever way you read it. Steffens has gone for 882, on the basis that the regnal year was most likely to be accurate while the scribe, in the absence of slide rule or pocket calculator, had simply miscalculated the others.

privilege of Poe Alexander II  
Dating clause from a privilege of Pope Alexander II of 1071 (Milan, Archivio di Stato). (From Steffens 1929)  
This is from a papal bull of the very formal grade known as a privilege. While the body of the text is in the peculiar script of the papal chancery known as curialis, the dating clause, appended by the hand of the chancellor, Cardinal Petrus, indicated as being priest, cardinal and librarian, is in Caroline minuscule. It reads:

Datu(m) Lateranis, viii k(a)l(endas) ap(ri)lis p(er) manus Petri s(an)c(t)e Romane eccl(esi)e p(res)b(ite)ri cardinalis ac bibliothecarii

anno x pontificatus domni ALEXANDRI s(e)c(un)di pape, d(omi)nice u(er)o incar(nationis) mill (esimo) sep(tuagesimo i, indicione vii.

Given ...... 8 kalens April .....................

year 10 of the pontificate of lord Alexander II, pope, in the incarnation of the lord, in truth, 1071, 7th indiction. (25th March 1071)

This reflects the tendency of papal documents towards verbosity and the desire to record who participated in the whole procedure and what their position was. It uses the three pronged approach of anno domini date, here entered in words rather than Roman numerals, indiction, and the year of the reign of the pope.


diploma of Archbishop Hillin  
Dating clause from a diploma of Archbishop Hillin of Trier, of 1159 (Trier, Stadtbibliothek, Archiv, H.16). (From Steffens 1929)  
This 12th century ecclesiastical document has a very elaborate dating clause, bringing in some obscure elements that relate to the church calendar. (To understand this fully you may have to take a leisurely look at the Reading a Calendar section.) The script is a very neat and elegant diplomatic minuscule, utilising the papal knot abbreviation mark. It reads:

Acta s(un)t hec Treueri anno d(omi)nice (above) incarnat(ionis) mill(esimo) cent(esimo) lviii, indict(ione) vii, epactis nullis, concurr(ente) iii, u id(us) Martii

Regnante Frid(er)ico i(m)p(er)atore, anno regni ei(us) vii, ordinatio(n)is (etiam) n(ost)re simil(iter) vii, legatio(n)is uero iiii.

Enacted here at Trier in the year of the incarnation of our Lord one thousand one hundred and fifty-eight, 7th indiction, epact nil, concurrents 3, 5 ides March in the reign of the Emperor Frederick, the 7th year of his reign, similarly, indeed, in the 7th year of our ordination and, in truth, the 4th of our office of legate. (11th March 1159)

You may be tempted to think that this contains a great deal of style for very little substance, and is really a very honorific and ceremonial conclusion to a document rather than a statement of the date. However, it does all mean something. The anno domini date ought to be simple enough, but the usage in Trier was that the year started at the feast of the Annunciation, 25th March. In our modern dating it is necessary to add one year for a date preceding that, so 11th March 1158 in medieval dating from Trier becomes 1159 to us. The indictions we have met several times.

The epact represents the position of the year in the 19 year cycle which relates the solar to the lunar calendar, and is part of the process of calculating the golden number, as it is the remainder of the year plus one divided by 19. Epact nil coincides to golden number I. Concurrents are an alternative method of designating the Dominical letter. Concurrents 3 coincides with Dominical letter D. From these you can calculate when Easter fell in this year, it you really feel inclined.

5 ides March represents 11th March, as the ides fall on the 15th in March.

The date is then given in terms of the regnal year of the emperor, who was crowned on 9th March 1152. As the instigator of the charter is an archbishop who obviously thinks he is sufficiently important to be a date determining entity in his own right, it is also given in terms of his own years in the position of archbishop, and then as a papal legate. There is a whole social reading of this date which extends well beyond simply knowing what day it represents.


mandate of Pope Eugenius III  
Dating clause from a mandate pf Pope Eugenius III, of 1145 (Trier, Staadtbibliothek, Archiv, Q. 23). (From Steffens 1929)  
This example is from the simpler and less formal grade of papal bull known as a mandate. The script is a much less elaborate form of diplomatic minuscule to that used in the more formal diplomas, and the fancy papal knot abbreviation mark is not employed. It demonstrates that the complexity of the date does reflect the degree of solemnity of the document. It simply reads:

Dat. Lat(erani) II k(a)l(endas) Ianuar(ii).

Given at the Lateran, 2 kalens January. (31st December)

Not only are all the honorifics absent, there is no indication of the actual year. The date 1145 has been determined from the historical content and the itinerary of Pope Eugenius III.



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