The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig XIV 6 (c. 1300), folio 242v (detail): baptism of a Muslim, illumination from the Vidal Mayor
This is the pilot version of what will become a major text database of legal texts concerning the status of religious minorities in the Middle Ages. The base currently contains several hundred texts, but will gradually grow to several thousand texts by 2015.
The database is part of the research project “RELMIN: The legal status of religious minorities in the Euro-Mediterranean world (5 th -15 th centuries)” ( www.relmin.eu ), funded for five years (2010-2015) by the “Ideas” programme of the European Research Council’s Seventh Framework Programme and directed by John Tolan, Professor of history at the University of Nantes. The research team consists of doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers and associated scholars throughout the world. In addition to creating the database, the team organizes seminars and conferences in Nantes and elsewhere in Europe and the Mediterranean.
Through this database, RELMIN collects and publishes legal texts defining the status of religious minorities in pre-modern Europe. The corpus of texts is rich and varied, spanning ten centuries over a broad geographical area; these texts, in Latin, Arabic, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic (and also in Medieval Spanish, Portuguese, and other European vernaculars), are dispersed in libraries and archives across Europe.
The Roman law code of emperor Theodosius II, promulgated in 438, accorded to Jews (and their synagogues) measures of protection but also restricted their access to certain functions of the Roman administration. These principles echo through the canon law and imperial and royal legislation of Medieval Europe, providing the bases for an inferior and often precarious place in Christian society for Jews. Later canon lawyers and lay princes extended the same inferior but protected status to Muslims living in their realms, particularly in Sicily and Spain. In Muslim societies, Qur’an and Hadith define the status of the dhimmi , protected minorities (principally Jews and Christians). Hundreds of legal texts from Muslim Spain, Sicily and elsewhere testify to the role of religious minorities and to the legal issues posed by their daily relations with the Muslim majorities: Fatwas (judicial consultations) and hisbas manuals (municipal law collections) deal with everything from the reliability of Jewish and Christian witnesses in court trials to dress restrictions. While Jews were everywhere the minority, their relations with the adherents of other religions were also based on sacred texts (the Torah) and on the legal opinions of the Talmud. Various Jewish authors of Medieval Europe, from Cordova to Krakow, in texts such as biblical commentaries, letters, or responsa , offered legal advice to fellow Jews on the proper and legal limits to relations with Christians and Muslims.
The texts that appear in this database are thus extremely diverse (in provenance, language, nature, purpose …). By bringing them together, we seek to offer students and researchers an important tool for the study of the history of interconfessional relations and specifically for the study of the legal strictures (and protections and privileges) conferred on religious groups. While it will be impossible for this or any one project to compile an exhaustive anthology of texts, we seek to present a broad and representative sample of texts.
Suggestions, corrections, contributions We invite scholars who use the database to provide feedback and to contribute to the work of compilation.
We welcome corrections of any errors or omissions in any of the articles of the database. We also invite you to suggest texts to be included in the database. If you are willing to contribute to the database by writing one or more entries, please let us know.
All correspondence may be sent to : firstname.lastname@example.org