Medieval Writing
Papal Minuscule - 13th century

Script Type : minuscule, a form of diplomatic minuscule

Date : from around the 11th century

Location : the papal curia in Rome

Function : document hand, specifically for use in the more formal type of papal bulls or privileges

This segment is from a privilege of Pope Gregory IX of 1234, confirming papal protection to the monastery of St Gall (St Gellen, Stiftsarchiv, A.4.B.3). (From Steffens 1929)
Pass cursor over letters to see examples taken from the page illustrated above.

Distinctive letters : This is a formal diplomatic minuscule of the 13th century and is a neat and minute script. It does not have the elongated ascenders and descenders of earlier versions of the script, rather the ascenders of letters such as b, d, l and p tend to have abrupt angles or kinks. The descender of q hooks to the left, and is differentiated from g by an extravagant curl on the latter. As usual i and j are identical, as are u and v, while s appears in both the short and long form. There are no examples of k, w, y or z.

While this script does not have such extravagant calligraphic flourishes as the 12th century version, the peculiar extended ct combination appears, as in

iniuncto, as does the extended st, as in iustitiam.

The papal knot is employed as an abbreviation mark, although abbreviations are not extensive. It is seen in the word


This is not continuous text, coming from one corner of the document, but pass the cursor slowly along the lines to reveal some words. There is no paleography exercise for this sample as yet, but we will get there eventually.

In the meantime You can find all about papal documents from the article The Diplomatics of Papal Documents, formerly on the Vatican Secret Archives website, but now only accessible through the Internet Archive.

Script Index

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This site is created and maintained by Dr Dianne Tillotson, freelance researcher and compulsive multimedia and web author. Comments are welcome. Material on this web site is copyright, but some parts more so than others. Please check here for copyright status and usage before you start making free with it. This page last modified 24/10/2011.