Church, State, and Law: Something from La Stanza della Segnatura

One last pictorial law and religion post from my recent trip to Rome.  If you enter the Stanza della Segnatura, one of the Raphael Rooms, in the Vatican Museums, your attention is likely to be absorbed by “The School of Athens.”  But on the wall just to the right of it, you would see two frescoed panels placed on opposite sides. 

The first is of the Emperor Justinian receiving the Corpus Juris Civilis (the “body of civil law”) from his great jurist, Tribonian.  Compiled in the early 6th century AD, the Corpus Juris Civilis represented the first great collection of civil law (and it influenced the development and content of many civil law systems), much of which was drawn from ancient Roman law.

The second panel is of Pope Gregory IX receiving the Decretals from the Dominican St. Raymond de Penafort in the early 13th century.  The Decretals were an early organization of the canon law of the Catholic Church which were intended by the Pope to be definitive.

The work of Harold Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (recommended and discussed on this site before), is an important place to learn about the relationship and mutual influence of the civil and canon law.  Berman’s emphasis is primarily on the latter’s influence on the development of the former, rather than on the revival of Roman law.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: