From Protestatio to Gratiarum Actio While Becoming a Master in Theology


Innovation in medieval studies is the creative ability to go back to sources. Digging, exploring, and connecting material pieces of evidence, facts, and individuals uncover new knowledge. One of the most significant sources for the medieval textual production is the university. Understanding the writings stemming from different faculties of medieval universities requires skills, curiosity, and tools. Among such instruments, the statutes of universities help researchers not only to decipher the organization of the academic institutions and interpret the rules that apply to scholars and to their professors, but also to decode how and why texts were produced. The faculty of theology represents the highest level where education led during the Middle Ages and delivers the highest degree such as the master in theology. All over Europe, such faculties become the impetus that drives the intelligentsia to produce a textual heritage that today generates inspiration for magisterial carriers. Among them, Professor Maarten Hoenen is one to praise today. Taking as a point of departure a recent publication of Maarten Hoenen, 1 I will propose to investigate the relation between the statute of universities and of intellectual practices within medieval academia-more precisely, how a researcher should dig for complementary sources when the main documentation depicting an intellectual practice, such as the protestatio and gratiarum actio, is missing. I do not intend to be exhaustive, but simply to focus on how we should understand these two actions, protestatio and gratiarum actio, in connection with the Sentences commentaries. 2 The paradox is that we have traces of these two practices in the surviving manuscripts stemming from the university, but we do not always have a description of these actions in their statutes. Protestatio represents an oath that bachelors take at the beginning of an academic exercise, and the gratiarum actio is the final paragraph that closes the same exercise by thanks addressed to the public. The span of time I will focus on is between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, since this is the period from which some testimonies survived that today help to better clarify how these actions were performed in medieval academia. It is also the period of naissance of the new faculties of theology all around Europe, as it is the case with Bologna, Vienna, Cracow, or Prague. They all embraced the model disseminated in Paris and Oxford on reading on the Sentences of Peter Lombard to obtain the degree of doctor in theology, and they contribute to building tradition, and therefore to produce sources for us today.



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Monica Brinzei
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

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