Iudex Bononiensis

Irnerio’s life and works have been reconstructed from documents naming him. Of these there are only fourteen, dating from 1112 to 1125; in them he appears first as a causidicus, then as a iudex.

Like all jurists, the father of the Bologna school must be imagined to have taken part in public life and hence travelled widely. Gloria in the late nineteenth century surmised that Irnerio must have been Emperor Henry IV’s missus as early as 1110, though he never managed to prove the point.

A few years later, in 113, Irnerio is known to have counselled Countess Matilde di Canossa: as a papal supporter she had connections with the Tuscan milieu which we know to have been an important centre of Romanization. Not until she died in 1115 did Irnerio go over to the cause of Henry V whose policies seem to have been closely tied in with Irnerio’s own.

Irnerio took part in many imperial placita (assemblies). He went to Rome in 1118 to canvas for the election of the anti-Pope, which among other things earned him ex-communication. Thereafter, down to 1125, no document mentions him. That silence now inclines Cortese to pick up Savigny’s theory that the master followed Henry V to his homeland, or that, if indeed he did return to Bologna, his school may have suffered under the excommunication and even risked closure.

As handed down by Morena, the legend of the master’s demise owes much to the death of Aristotle. It would appear to date from shortly after the last document we possess, though the reliability of that has recently been rebutted.


Text curated by Professor Nicoletta Sarti - President of the School of Law and Dr Alessia Legnani Annichini – tenured researcher at the Department of Juridical Science, Bologna University.