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Marsilius of Padua and 'the Truth of History'$
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George Garnett

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199291564

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199291564.001.0001

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The Historian’s Use of his Canon Law Sources

The Historian’s Use of his Canon Law Sources

(p.179) 7 The Historian’s Use of his Canon Law Sources
Marsilius of Padua and 'the Truth of History'


Oxford University Press

This chapter shows that although Marsilius affected ignorance of canon law, he was steeped in it. Prior to 1300, he consciously avoided any reference to the most obvious manifestation of burgeoning papal monarchy. Instead, his canon law is drawn almost exclusively from a ninth century Frankish canon law collection, the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals. Reference to this collection would have appeared arcane in the extreme. However, it gave the key early documents, both real and forged, on which papal claims had been built, in chronological order. It therefore provided Marsilius with a handy compendium of historical documents. As a source, it was arguably more important to him than either Scripture or Aristotle. Marsilius believed that he himself had been providentially ordained to ‘unfold’ for the first time ‘the truth of history’, just as history appeared to be reaching its dialectical climax. He called on Ludwig of Bavaria to play the role which providence had allotted him.

Keywords:   canon law, Marsilius, papal monarchy, Pseudo-Isidorian decretals, Ludwig of Bavaria

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