Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
A Sip from the "Well of Grace"

A Sip from the "Well of Grace": medieval texts from the apostolic penitentiary

Kirsi Salonen
Ludwig Schmugge
  • Book Info
    A Sip from the "Well of Grace"
    Book Description:

    The first book to include full texts and photographs from the Apostolic Penitentiary, A Sip from the "Well of Grace" is groundbreaking in its analysis of one of the most important papal offices of the Middle Ages.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1715-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    Kirsi Salonen and Ludwig Schmugge
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Part I. The Penitentiary in the Service of Christians

    • 1 History of the Study of Penitentiary Material
      (pp. 3-12)

      Like all other papal offices, the Penitentiary kept a register of its decisions. The medieval registers of the office, thought to have been lost after the Napoleonic invasion of Italy, were rediscovered around 1913¹ and in 1928 were deposited in the Vatican Secret Archives.²

      The registers of the Penitentiary can be found in the Vatican Secret Archives under the archival signum Penitenzieria Apostolica, Registra Matrimonialium et Diversorum.³ This series consists of 746 register volumes covering the period between 1409 and 1890. There are 160 volumes from the period before the reform of the Penitentiary (which completely changed the structure of...

    • 2 The Penitentiary in the Late Middle Ages
      (pp. 13-68)

      According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, the pope possessed the plenitude of power (plenitudo potestatis) within the medieval church. As the successor of St. Peter he was in charge of distributing graces, privileges, and forgiveness (i.e., absolutions) throughout christendom. In the thirteenth century, the rapid development of the regulations of canon law had two consequences: the papal administration began to expand at a rapid pace, and the number of matters directed to the authority of the pope increased.¹

      The development of canon law, especially in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, changed the practice of confession and forgiving. During...

    • 3 How the Decisions of the Penitentiary Were Made
      (pp. 69-83)

      The process of petitioning the Penitentiary began back home when someone who had violated the regulations of canon law turned to his/her confessor and confessed his/her sins. If the violation committed was so severe that the confessor could not absolve the sinner, he would advise the person in question to turn to the local bishop over the issue. Bishops had greater authority than parish priests, and in many cases the local bishop could absolve the sinner. There were, however, also crimes so severe that they were outside even the powers of the bishops. If our sinner had violated ecclesiastical law...

    • 4 Documents Produced by the Papal Penitentiary and Their Diplomatics
      (pp. 84-106)

      Every year the Penitentiary approved several thousand petitions that it had received in the form of supplications directed to the Holy Father. As we learned from Chapter 3, the process produced different types of documents. In practice we can divide the documents produced by the Penitentiary into three groups: supplications (both original petitions and their copies), letters issued by the Penitentiary (both the originals and their copies), and the so–called litterae ecclesiae documents. These documents can be found in the Vatican Secret Archives (supplications) and in various local archives throughout christendom (letters and litterae ecclesiae).

      The original supplications were...

  5. Part II. Documents

    • List of Documents and Illustrations
      (pp. 109-110)
    • 1 Litterae ecclesiae
      (pp. 111-113)

      The letter reproduced below is a rare example of the litterae ecclesiae—i.e., letters issued by minor penitentiaries to those Christians who confessed their sins to them in the main basilicas in Rome. The person in question is Nanne Torberni Kärling¹ (Nanne, son of Torbern Kärling), a Swedish layman from the Diocese of Skara. He arrived in Rome in the autumn of 1449, where he stayed until early spring 1450. The other person mentioned in the letter, Torstein Kärling, was the late brother of Nanne.

      The letter attests that Nanne had confessed his sins and been absolved by the German...

    • 2 Different Types of Absolutions, Dispensations, Licenses, and Declarations
      (pp. 114-188)

      Matters of marriage have already been discussed in the first part of this book; we will not repeat the details here again, but will go directly to the cases we want to present. We have here three different cases, in which different kinds of documents have been preserved. Even though most of the letters of the Penitentiary were considered unnecessary and were therefore thrown away after the death of the supplicant(s), letters referring to marriage dispensations could be useful later. They could be used as testimony of the legality of children born of the marriage, after the death of their...

  6. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 189-192)
  7. Index of Names
    (pp. 193-194)
  8. Index of Places
    (pp. 195-196)