Liber Sextus

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The first authentic collection of Church legislation after that of Gregory IX (1234). It was commissioned by Pope Boniface VIII in 1296 and promulgated on March 3, 1298, embracing some 64 years of papal and conciliar legislation. Although the constitutions of the Councils of Lyons (1245, 1274) were in circulation, and some popes had made collections of their own constitutions (e.g., Innocent IV in 1246, 1251, and 1253, and Gregory X when promulgating the 1274 Council of Lyons), there was some uncertainty about the force of much of the papal legislation after 1234. Upon Boniface's election in 1294, the University of Bologna, among others, petitioned its former alumnus (126064) to look into the question.

Selecting three seasoned canonists (William Mandagout, Archbishop of Embrun; Bérenger frÉdol, Bishop of Béziers; and Richard Petronio, vice-chancellor of the papacy), Boniface gave them a free hand. The new collection, completed within two years, was named Liber Sextus (Sext) and, like the decretals of Gregory IX, was divided into five books, with titles and chapters. Of the 15 popes between 1234 and 1294, however, only six were represented (Gregory IX, Innocent IV, Alexander IV, Urban IV, Clement IV, and Nicholas III), being allowed some 108 chapters, while Boniface's own legislation occupied 251 chapters; to a total of 359 chapters some 88 regulae iuris, or rules of interpretation of law, were added, mainly from Roman law. The many papal constitutions denied a place were thereby declared null and void for the future; others of a transitory nature were not given in full but noted simply as reservatae. Although Boniface accepted all but one of 41 chapters of the third collection of Innocent IV (1253), he recast other decretals, at times retaining only the central idea; on occasion he also modified conciliar decrees, composing, for example, the constitution Cum ex eo (Sext 1.6.34) in mitigation of Licet canon of Lyons (Sext 1.6.14). It is, indeed, significant that the constitutions of Boniface included in the Sext were written in great part for that compilation. What he intended was, in effect, a codification rather than a collection; in fact any papal decree admitted to the Sext was now universally binding, irrespective of its original scope. Boniface was not simply adding to the decretals but rather, as he put it when explaining his choice of title, advancing Gregory's five books to the state of perfection proper to the number six. Many glosses on the Sext were written, notably by Joannes Monachus (1301) and joannes andreae (c. 1301), that of the latter becoming ordinaria. The Sext was printed many times and is part of the official corpus iuris canonici of 1582.

Bibliography: l. e. boyle, "The Constitution Cum ex eo of Pope Boniface VIII," Medieval Studies 24 (1962) 263302. g. le bras, "Boniface VIII: Symphoniste et modérateur," in Mélanges d'histoire du Moyen Age, dédiés à la memoire de Louis Halphen (Paris 1951) 383394. e. gÖller, "Zur Geschichte des zweiten Lyoner Konzils und das Liber Sextus," Römische Quartalschrift für christliche Altertumskunde und für Kirchengeschichte 10.2 (1906) 8187.

[l. e. boyle]