Piran - Pirano
Cities, Towns and Hamlets

Facsimile of the Statute of the Commune of Piran, Dating from 1384
by Darko Darovec and Janez Sumrada

The issuance of statements of Roman jurisdiction as well as their interpretations and adjustments to the peculiarities of time and territory may be traced back to the very beginning of (so-called) medieval history; to begin with Corpus luris by Justinian. This text later served as the basis for two major European social systems, the Byzantine and Latin worlds. In the latter, the idea of God as the source of law prevailed. By approximately the 10th century, Roman collections of laws as well as barbaric laws had been forgotten - owing to the ignorance of the judges - and common law prevailed. Nevertheless, in Italy, where no local sovereign house existed, Roman law was not completely forgotten in spite of the Lombard invasion and a general spiritual decadence. Pavia, the metropolis of the Lombard kingdom, was also the centre of jurisdiction and from the 8th century on it became more and more attractive for students from throughout western Europe. Meanwhile, the study of law never ceased in Ravenna, the old capital of Romagna. Towards the end of the 11th century, Irnerius, the great teacher, founded a school in Bologna which was to outshine all others. Legal determinations dealing with civil law leaned on glosses from this school as they did on Gratian regarding canon law.

Although all townsmen's intentions that local representations of Roman law, scattered rules, regulating the internal organisation of town life and constitution (iummenta, consuetudines etc.), as well as feudal privileges, should be collected had at first been called ius asinorum, that is, ass law, by scholars of the abovementioned schools, townsmen, divided into nobility, merchants and peasants, under previously determined conditions, started to collect and to incorporate the old communal law into official collections called town statutes. Commissions of honourable townsmen (statutarii) were founded; normally a lawyer was also added to the circle.

Feudal dispersion and the distance between centres of state authority contributed to the expansion of upper Italian and Adriatic cities in the 12th century, as did such events as those related to the Investiture [84] Dispute, a quarrel between popes and emperors. For instance, after he had been utterly defeated at the Battle of Legnano in 1176 by the civic Northern Italian Lombard League, Frederick Barbarossa was forced to grant the cities an autonomy that already adhered to a municipal organisation, and was based on a communal order. In Istria, the communal organisation was at first personified by consuls - needless to point out on the Antique tradition - elected among the local men of note. Nevertheless, due to the fact that often consuls were favourable only to one party or family, the need for an independent administrator arose. Already by the end of the 12th century this function was carried out by a chief magistrate, called the podestą. The word podestą itself has its origins in the word 'power', but, interestingly enough, it was first used with the meaning of the emperor's civic administrator. Independently of podestą, in the 13th and 14th centuries the Major Council (Maggior Consiglio) and the Minor Council (Minor Consiglio) emerged from the already existing arengo (a general assembly, including the entire civic population, which gradually began losing importance in the decision making process until finally losing it completely). The Major Council was a legislative body, consisting of the most powerful families in the town, while the Minor Council had executive power. This kind of power structure was preserved for Venetians at least until the end of the Venetian Republic in 1797; succeeding precisely with this type of administrative system, they did not try to eliminate the autonomy of our towns. At first they were quite satisfied by appointing their chief town magistrate - the podestą, who, after he had been elected by members of the Venetian Major Council, was ordered to obey the well known "Commisiones", as for instance was Lodovico Morosini, when elected captain of Koper as late as 1784, "to rule and administer the townsmen in the honour of our authorities, to apply laws and justice in order with statutes and regulations of this town, if they are not contrary to our honour and the state; in the case of lacks of regulations in statutes you will adopt their customs, and if there are no customs known, you will act as your clear conscience demands, because we trust completely in your goodness and wisdom."

After they had conquered our towns (Izola and Koper in 1279, Piran in 1283), Venetians played an important role in developing and completing laws, included in statutes, mainly with orders (commands [85] or comissiones) or "ducali", but already before Venetians occupied them, towns themselves had often supplemented this basic demonstration of town autonomy with laws from the field of common law; this kind of monument to the commune of Piran has been preserved in fragments of the statute from 1274, which is also the oldest document of this type preserved in Istria. At the same time, it is a known fact that Koper had its laws written down at least by 1238 (Kos, 1928, 334), all of which suggests a lively juridical activity prior to the Venetian occupation and, doubtlessly also under its influence (Darovec, 1989, 159).

At this point let us refresh our memories, thinking again in detail about all the events that significantly influenced the process by which Istrian coastal towns achieved and developed their independence, and consequently, set down these basic juridical writings: the communal statutes.


Towns on the western Istrian coast were already striving to what extent they could to rid themselves of the feudal authority's direct influence from the 9<h century on, the main reason being that they were gradually achieving new town estates, the possibility of developing free seaborne trade thus arising. Venetians had practically supplanted the Byzantines in control of the Adriatic Sea by the 9<h century and began interfering in the relationships between Istrian cities. Istrian cities and Venice shared common enemies in the 9th century, specifically Croats (witness the assaults on Sipar, Umag, Novigrad and Rovinj in 876) and Saracens. Venetians were assigned a major role in the battle against the enemy and they knew how to make good use of it. It is no surprise that Koper, in that period already Venice's most important partner in Istria, in 932 promised the doge of Venice that for the span of his life 100 amphorae of wine per year would be delivered to him; furthermore, the citizens of Venice would be provided full protection in Koper and a solution for paying off Kop-er's debt to Venice would be found.

[86] Venice's supremacy over the sea was evident at doge Peter Orseolo's visit to Pula in 1000, when he took punitive action and assaulted pirates, Croats and Neretlyans. For more than a century these had obliged Venetians to pay taxes for permission to sail undisturbed across the Adriatic Sea. From this visit on, Venetians regarded themselves as dukes (dux) of Dalmatia and every year for Ascension they celebrated the so-called "Sposalizio del Mar" feast in its honour. During the following period, which was marked neither by wars against pirates nor against Venetians, Istrian cities were gradually developing their economies (which included the influence of the Crusades), mostly by agriculture - olive and wine growing - fishing, and the manufacture of sea salt (as well as different crafts). Seaborne trade was also an important source of profit.

This economic expansion led to a quarrel with Venice in 1145, when Pula, Koper and Izola unsuccessfully rebelled. The defeated Istrian cities were obliged to accept "promises of loyalty" (facere fldelitatem), which bound them to the doge of Venice, and to promise to provide naval support to Venice. Another rebellion by Pula failed in 1149 and was followed by a renewed promise of loyalty towards the doge of Venice (1150). This promise was expanded to other cities that had taken part in the rebellion: Rovinj, Porec, Novigrad and Umag. They had to swear that they would provide military aid, meaning ships, and that they would pay taxes (mainly in olive oil). Subjecting all the cities from Savudrija to Premantura was very important to Venetians; as evident from the wonderful reception given to the Venetian victors - Morosini and Gradonico, commanders-in-chief - when they finally succeeded in conquering Istrian towns. On that occasion, the doge of Venice named himself "Istriae dominator."

Despite the uncertain circumstances, cities were gaining administrative autonomy, mostly due to economic independence and the absence of their masters. Moreover, in the period of the last feudal lords temporal, Spanheim and Andechs-Meran, cities were allowed not only to elect their civic chief magistrates freely, they could also make trading contacts "on large distances" one with another, as Pi-ran did with Dubrovnik in 1188 and Split in 1192, and Porec with Dubrovnik in 1194. Moreover, they were allowed to settle quarrels by themselves; thus Labin made a peace treaty with Rab, and Piran with Rovinj in 1210 when it was threatened by warriors from Koper.

[87] In contrast to towns from the interior, settled by the landlords who could only give the towns town privileges (in Slovene territory from the 13th century on), Istrian towns preserved some elements of self-government from the Late Antique period. From the Byzantine period on, local autonomy had been slowly disappearing in towns, but it never disappeared completely. There were some elements of local autonomy preserved, as for instance the elected jurats (iudices) called scabins (scabini) in the Frankish period. Towns were governed by the so called locopositi, appointed by the central authority. These were becoming more and more accustomed to the town life until they finally accepted some relationships typical of the life in town. In the 12th century, towns began gaining independence from the supremacy of bishops and local feudal lords. Northern Italian towns led the process, which soon had certain influences in Istrian towns. Thus townsmen settled communes (Koper in 1186, Piran in 1192, Porec in 1194, Pula in 1199, Trieste and Muggia in 1202) with the arengo - an assembly of all townsmen - as the supreme authority that elected temporary town magistrates called consuls, and later podestąs and/ or captains, generally also called rectors.

Patriarchs of Aquileia, whom the German emperor had given Istria as a fief in 1212, managed to considerably restrict the freedom of decision-making in Istrian towns. Patriarch Wolfgar started appointing his own representatives in towns and larger villages. One of them was "Potestas Marchionis", who was on the throne for a certain period of time in the Pretor's Palace in Koper. Later administrators of patriarchs of Aquileia were called gastaldius, richtarius and margraves. in spite of the fact that the Margravate of Istria had been given power over the whole of Istria, lands of the counts of Gorizia in central Istria and those of the lords from Duino and Kvarner were left out of control of the patriarchs of Aquileia. Yet in 1220, the German Emperor granted the patriarch of Aquileia, Berthold Andech, the right to publish decrees about trade, to exercise juridical power and grant amnesties, to coin money and prohibit the towns from electing their magistrate - podestą (particularly if it was a citizen of Venice) - without said patriarch's approval. These orders were also the basis of the so-called Istrian regional law or the statute, approved by the patriarch in 1222. Given that the patriarchs' policy was grounded in the reinstatement of central power over the Margravate of Istria, at that time in danger [88] of being lost, it necessarily led to rebellions by the towns on the western coast of Istria and to conflicts with the Venetians. The latter, helped by the townsmen of Koper, managed to establish a universal Istrian organisation called "Universitas Istriae", governed by a citizen of Venice, in 1230. The alliance was dissolved after a year because Koper was gaining importance in comparison to other towns. Piran played a decisive role in breaking up the organisation, deciding to support the patriarch of Aquileia, later ensuring this town a certain degree of autonomy in regard to Aquileia, which was confirmed by an agreement of mutual concord, signed by the patriarch Berthold and the commune of Piran in 1231.

The political situation in Istria became quite strained, especially in the 2nd half of the 13th century, when the seat of the patriarch of Aquileia was assigned to Gregorio Montelongo (1251-1269). The patriarch's power over the country was loosening, yet it was strong enough to control the policy of the towns.

At first the patriarch favoured the role of Koper over Trieste on one side and over the coastal towns in the middle Istria and villages in the central part of the peninsula on the other. Consequently, in 1254 the patriarch assigned Koper supremacy over Buje, Buzet and Dvigrad. Similarly, the influence of Koper over Piran and Muggia was enhanced.

The situation was becoming more tense by 1276, when Koper laid siege to Porec. The fact that the patriarch tried to stop the military expansion of Koper by asking for help from Albert, the count of Go-rizia, is evidence enough that he was no longer in control of the situation. The most egregious aspect of his error was that he put in direct conflict two parties which, at that time, were both acting against the patriarchate. The count of Gorizia and the commune of Koper formed an alliance and in July, 1267, the count ordered that Gregorio Montelongo should be imprisoned in the Rozac monastery in Friuli. Porec secured itself against this new alliance by recognising the supremacy of Venice on July 27. Umag (1267), Novigrad (1270), Sv Lovrenc (San Lorenzo) and later Motovun (1275) followed the example of Porec, for the new alliance between Koper and the count of Gorizia was making pressure on Istrian towns. Venice did not change the communal order in Istrian towns, limiting itself to appointing the podestą from Venetian among patricians.

[89] La Serenissima did not decide to take measures against the Koper-Gorizia alliance immediately but it was slowly tightening the noose around the two. Meanwhile, the seat of the patriarch of Aquileia had been empty between 1267 and 1274 and only the newly elected patriarch Raimondo of Torre signed a peace treaty with the Koper-Gorizia alliance in 1275 in Cividale del Friuli. They promised one another to exchange prisoners and repair the damage caused in the years between 1267 and 1275 by war, plundering and disorder. The peace treaty did not put an end to common actions carried out by the Koper-Gorizia alliance in Istria. In 1278, an alliance in the name of the patriarch was forged between the count Albert and the representatives of Koper against Venice and its allies in Istria. The agreement was settled in Pazin in the absence of the patriarch. The two parties also agreed as to how the areas of influence should be divided, so that in the case that Koper won, the city should achieve control over the coastal towns, while the count should establish control over the estates in the Istria hinterland. The two allies used the fact that Venice was busy with the war against Ancona to their advantage and after the siege of Motovun, which had bravely defended the attacks and finally broken the siege, the count occupied Sv Lovrenc (San Lorenzo). At that moment Venice responded with all its military forces. After a successful siege of Izola, Venetians forced Koper to capitulate. They broke a part of the city walls and the city towers. Although Venice had subdued Koper by using military force, it took the same measures with Koper as with other Istrian towns which had subjected willingly to La Serenissima.

In January, 1283, the Major Council of Venice accepted the "capitulation" of Piran. Besides the end of the alliance between Koper and the count of Gorizia, this was also the beginning of the end of the self-governmental policy of Istrian towns (only Pula, Trieste and Muggia remained independent), although several attempts at achieving independence were later carried out.

Although Venetians left a kind of internal autonomy, mainly the town council and a Venetian podestą as a chief magistrate to certain of the assaulted Istrian towns, they centralised the conquered territory from the military point of view and in 1301 established an institution, called "provincial captaincy", first in Porec, later in Sv. Lovrenc Pazenatiski (named also San Lorenzo in Pasenatico) (1304). Although the local [90] autonomy granted administrative and legislative power to the towns, from the military point of view podestąs were subordinate to the regional captain, who was also keeping an eye over the whole defence system of the land. This military administration did not cover the territory from Koper to Dragonja, including Izola and Piran, whose military and legislative power was executed by the podestą and the captain of Koper, who managed to preserve the title of town magistrate until the demise of the Republic of Venice.

Podestąs from Venice were governing towns, lands and market towns (terre - smaller administrative units, which could not become seats of dioceses, but had the right to exercise a self-governmental system and consequently to have podestąs), obeying commands (commissioni), given by the Senate of Venice (Senato), and to particular communal statutes, which were usually adapted to Venetian norms after the town had fallen under Venice's supremacy. Such a legislative and governing system allowed the richest and the 'most noble' class of townsmen to exploit their positions and they slowly rose above the rest of the citizens, partially due to the fact that this segregation made it easier for them to lead the town community. This process concluded with the establishment of town councils. These, imitating the Venice of the 13th century, decreed the "closure" of town councils (serrata), meaning that town councils were not allowed to accept representatives of new town families. These were accepted only in the cases of a general depopulation due to wars or epidemics that affected noble families.

The aristocratic system, following the example of Venice, concentrated power in the hands of a few wealthy and powerful families, thus excluding any possibility for the lower class to exert any influence over the process of governing. An oligarchy of noble families was created.

The oligarchy was partly limited by Venetians, who, on one hand allowed the model of the town autonomy familiar to Venice, with a town council and an appointed magistrate, but established a centralised military administration on the other. This allowed the Venetians to accrue benefits from the traditional conflicts between towns and protect the country from disorders, which arose mostly due to Venice's limitation of seaborne trade.

[91] Communal statutes represented the basis of civic autonomy even after the town council had been closed and a kind of town oligarchy established. The basis of this law was doubtless the local common law a peculiar mixture of the Roman tradition and later medieval praxis, which was, later still completed with orders, or ducali, from La Serenissima.

According to the sources, the statute of Koper was the first to be mentioned in Istria (1238), but the oldest existing statute is that of Piran, from 1274, preserved in the Regional Archive of Koper, unit of Piran. This is by all means the oldest statute in Slovenia [1] and after the statute of Dubrovnik the oldest on the eastern Adriatic coast. The preserved issue of the statute of Koper dates back to 1423 (Margetic, 1993), while the preserved issue of the statute of Izola dates back to 1360 (Kos, 2000).


Tt is easy to trace back the interesting history and prehistory of the first issue of the statute of Piran, dating back to 1274, chapters of which have survived in fragments, and of all the following issues, additions and editions, in the text, written by Pahor & Sumrada (1987, XXV-LXII and LXXIII-XC). Yet we think it is worth mentioning the fact that no Istrian communality statute has been re-issued and edited so many times as the statute of Piran, and had its editions so scrupulously written. In fact, the editions of the 14th century allow us to trace various aspects of the development of the law of Piran and, consequently, the law of Istria, back to the 11th century and possibly even further back. The following issues, fragments of and additions to the statute of Piran have been preserved (Stari statuti, 1987, 87-94):

  1. Fragments of the statute of Piran from 1274, in three different volumes (preserved in the Regional Archive of Koper (later: PAK), the Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 1, 2 and 3);
  2. The statute of Piran from 1307, in two parchment codices (preserved in PAK, the Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 4 and Archivio Diplomatics Biblioteca Civica Attilio Hortis in Trieste (later: ADT), 6 EE 8)
  3. [92] The statute of Piran from 1332, likewise in two parchment codices (preserved in PAK, Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 5 and ADT, 6 EE 9);
  4. The statute of Piran from 1358, in two parchment codices (preserved in PAK, Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 6 and ADT, BEE 10);
  5. The statute of Piran from 1384, parchment codex (preserved in PAK, Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 7).

It is necessary that the following issues be separated from the five stated above due to the differences in the formal structure, contents and purpose:

  1. The statute of Piran from 1384, printed in 1606 in Venice (preserved in PAK, Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 8 and ADT, Raccolta Patria 3-2502);
  2. The so-called statute of Piran from 1542, preserved in a paper volume (preserved in PAK, Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 9);
  3. The first volume of amendments and additions to the statute, 1367-1400, parchment codex (preserved in PAK, Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 10);
  4. The second volume of amendments and additions to the statute, 1416-1602, parchment codex (preserved in PAK, Municipal Archive of Piran, statutes, n° 11).

We consider it appropriate that the thus far extant editions and transcriptions of the statute of Piran be mentioned here:

  1. Although it is by all means true that the statute of Piran from 1384, printed in 1606 in Venice, is the first edition, born out of actual everyday needs, it is also true that especially by printing another, separate text, published at the same time, called "Novae leges, or-dines, correctiones, declamtiones, additiones et absolutions Statu-torum Communis Terrae Pirani..." Nicolai Petronio Caldana tried to enhance the practical value of the 1606 edition, especially by adding margin notes which guided the reader to the corresponding regulations. This edition might be considered an attempt to publish all the regulations, collected in the statute, in one place; its indices and instructions were meant to make the edition even more [93] applicable, as is already evident from the subtitle. Unfortunately the publisher only printed parts of the regulations from the second book of the amendments and additions to the statute, 1416-1602, and only those valid yet at the time of publishing (conf. Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, LXXXVIII-XC).
  2. Fragments of the statute from 1274 were first published by Kan-dler as a supplement to the magazine L'lstria VII/1852, n° 12 (20-3-1852), and later in Cociice diplomatico Istriano under the year 1274 (n° 360), by the same author (conf. Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, LXXXVI).
  3. Camilo De Franceschi prepared for publication the issues of the statute of Piran from 1307, 1332 and 1358, preserved in Trieste. His book, entitled Gli statuti del Comune di Pirano del 1307, confronted con quelli del 1332 e del 1385, was published posthumously in Venice in 1960 (conf. Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, LXXXVI-LXXXVII).
  4. A transcription of all issues of the statute of the commune of Piran from the 13- to the 17- century was made by Miroslav Pahor and Janez Sumrada and published in 1987 in the collection The Sources of Slovene History' at The Slovene Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Scientific Research Centre of the SASA. The edition is accompanied by authors' presentations and an accompanying study, written in consideration of all ecdotic principles.


The bill of the statute from 1274 was first introduced in the Major Council of Piran on July 8<h; adopted by the assembly of townsmen (arengo) on September 29<h, 1275. It was divided into at least eight, probably 10, volumes, the same as the following issues. Most likely it was written in two counterparts, which holds true for later issues; one copy was usually held in the communal treasurers' office, the second by the podestą. Issues from 1307, 1332 and 1358 have been preserved up to the present in two duplicate copies, excepting the issue from 1384, only one copy of which has been preserved; the lost copy had probably served Nicolo Petronio-Caldana, a jurist [94] D. Darouec & 1 Sumrada, Statut piranskega komuna iz leta 1384 from Piran, as a basis for a printed version of what at that time was still a valid statute that he was preparing in 1606 (Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, LXXXVIII). Until the middle of the 19th century, when the Municipality of Piran donated one copy of each of the remaining issues to Kandler, only one copy of the 1274 issue had been preserved (Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, LXI).

The issue from 1274 has not been preserved in the original version. It has survived in three comparatively late partial transcriptions of six of the statute's clauses, which date back to the period between the last third of the 16<h century and the turn of the 17<h and the early 18<h centuries.

Let us first sum up which parts of the communal statute from 1274 have survived in later transcriptions before we continue with a brief description of the manner issues of the statute of Piran were promulgated in the 14- century (Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, XXXVII-XXXVIII).

  1. The introduction to the statute, where the authors are stated. These were, besides the captain Campolo, four consuls, Almeric Petronio, Henry Petidona, Dominic Rufo and Joan Nareno. The municipal chamberlain Almeric, named Pesce, the municipal scribe John Montanesi and 12 sages (sapientes), appointed by the Major Council to help the captain during his mandate, also participated in creating the statute. From among the 12 sages, Henry from the family of Karantans, who was obviously supporting the Aquileia party, Walter Gojna, supporting the Koper party, and Nicolai Picha, supporting the Venice party, deserve special mention. The statute was written by the notary Mengolin Petener and uicedominos Almeric Fabelli and Mengosi, the son of Marquard Cataldi.
  2. The captain's or the podestą's oath, which is almost a statute of its own, for it states briefly what political laws and rules the governing podestą or captain will obey. Analysis of the captain's oath reveals that the statute was divided into ten volumes and that the majority of laws, which thirty-three years later were to become part of the statute from 1303, were already included in it.
  3. The oath of consuls, who governed Piran during the time when it was not possible to elect a captain or podestą, independently of the reason. Analysis of the oath reveals that it became part of the statute in 1307, partly altered, as an oath of jurats, who had replaced consuls in the Venetian period of the municipal history. [95]
  4. Chapter 36 in volume VII of the statute, where it is stated that after the captain's or the podestą's mandate has expired, he must transfer the power to consuls. He is prohibited from asking - directly or indirectly - for a new mandate and from proposing a successor and handing power over to him.
  5. Chapter 37 of volume VII of the statute, where it is ordered that the captain or the podestą should keep the municipality of Piran in the same state of freedom and independence that the town had possessed at the moment when he assumed power. A fine of 200 Venetian libras was imposed on him in case he would try to start any kind of negotiations to submit the municipality to a third party or to reduce the municipal territory by any means.
  6. Chapter 54 of volume VIII of the statute, where it is prohibited to sell salt, grain and other cereals, unless using measures valid in the municipality of Piran.


In the 14th century the procedure for adopting new issues of the statlute of Piran were established. The introduction to the 1307 issue of the statute informs us that the 1274 statute obliged its authors to renew and complete the statute every five years, while in the 1307 issue a rule was adopted that the statute should be reissued every twenty five years after the previous issue had been published (vol. 1, ch.18). This rule was first violated as early as the middle of the 14th century, but was in force until the beginning of the 15th century. The procedure of creating the 1307 issue, which included amendments and additions, adopted after the publication of the statute from 1274, was more or less similar to the previous one, when the 1274 statute was discussed: the proposal of the issue was presented by the podestą and four jurats, who had replaced consuls. The 1307 issue was first read and announced in the Major Council; it was the last issue of the statute of Piran ratified (but not adopted) by the arengo of Piran (in ipso arengo uoce tocius populi Pyani fuerunt laudata et confirmata). The issues which followed were merely announced to the people of Piran (publicatio in arengo) for informative purpose, the [96] Major Council composed of the newly raised town patricians, being the body where the amendments and additions were discussed and adopted by vote. The statute prescribes in detail the procedure of voting: at least 80 councillors, two thirds of the members of the Major Council, formed a quorum at its session. An amendment was adopted if supported by three quarters of the councillors present (conf. vol. 3, ch. 20). The single regulations (partes), usually brought up for the discussion by the podestą or by jurats, came into effect if at least two thirds of the members of the Major Council were present and if the majority of the present councillors supported the amendment by secret ballot (ad busolas et balotas) (conf.vol.9, ch.4). A public announcement followed. Although the Major Council had the competence to elect the sages (sapientes), the Council renounced the right in favour of the podestą and the four jurats, all of them naturally coming from patrician families. The elected sages, usually elderly patricians, often had experience in drafting amendments for a new issue. Quite a few of them were involved in the preparation of the previous issue a quarter of a century earlier.

However, the manner in which the 36 amendments and additions, constituting the beginning of the first volume of amendments (1367-1400), were adopted did not follow the regular procedure practiced in the 14th century. On this occasion the order that the statute should be renewed every twenty-five years was purposely broken, for only nine years had passed since 1358, when the previous issue had been adopted, with the explanation that ambiguities and mistakes were present in several regulations included in the statute, and that they were the reason for suits and charges (questiones et lites) amongst the townsmen of Piran. According to the explanation, in order to avoid suits it was necessary for some of the existing regulations to be amended or re-adopted. The podestą and four municipal jurats suggested that the Major Council, exceptionally, ignore the regulation regarding the time limitation between two editions, which the Major Council approved by the vast majority of 78 votes to 5. Due to the fact that the session had a quorum, the resolution came into effect and in the following few days amendments and additions were approved by members of the council by ballot vote. Special attention was drawn to the fact that the recently approved regulations were of the same legal value as those from the 1358 issue, while [97] those clauses from the 1358 issue that contrasted with the newly approved determinations, would be regarded invalid after new clauses were publicly announced. A copy of the recently adopted regulations should be preserved in the office of the municipal treasurers, as it was the usual procedure for all new issues of the statute. in the years before the following issue was published in 1384, seventeen new regulations were written down in the book of amendments after those adopted in 1367. The process of continually approving new amendments and additions and thereby of changing particular regulations of the previous issue, continued after the following issue had been published and finally replaced the custom that a new issue should be written every quarter of a century. Thus the issue from 1384, written between 1383 and 1384 and ratified again in 1401, is the last of Piran statutes which includes the whole municipal juridical system (the so-called statute from 1542 is but a private transcription of the 1384 issue and some other determinations; conf. Pahor & Sumrada, 1978, LXXXV). The 1384 issue, including amendments and additions, which became hard to follow in the 15th and especially in the 16<h century due to their great number, remained valid till the end of Venetian supremacy over Piran (1797). Since 1606 the Nicolo Petronio-Caldana's printed edition of the 1384 issue was being used.

The 1307 issue includes a condition that the statute should be written down in two counterparts (dua statuta, unum simUern alteri et unius tenoris, conf. vol. 3, ch. 18). The condition was preserved in the later issues and undoubtedly also held true for books of amendments and additions, as we can see in the first book of amendments (1367-1400) and in the printed Nicolo Petronio-Caldana edition, where it is quite evident that margin notes in the volume of regulations did not refer to the second book of amendments and additions to the statute (1416-1602) but to the duplicate copy of the first book of amendments. Duplicate copies of the first and second book of amendments and additions have not been preserved.

It is difficult to determine which copies were held in the municipal treasurers' office (later in the archive of the vicedomines* office) and which in the podestą's palace. The first book of amendments (1367-1400) and the 1384 issue undoubtedly come from the podestą's office. The series of issues dating from 1307, 1332 and 1358, [98] preserved in PAK, has been used considerably less than their counterparts, preserved in Trieste (ADD, for these editions were preserved in Koper in a better state; it is evident that copies, currently preserved in Trieste, served as working papers when the following issues were being prepared. Margin notes in the 1307, 1332 and 1358 issues, all preserved in ADT, on the basis of which several clauses have been reformulated, excluded or amended in the next issue, confirm this hypothesis. These issues can thus be called working copies and served either the podestą or his "commission" while they were preparing the next issue of the statute; therefore it is quite certain that they were preserved in the podestą's office. Two texts served as sources when the 1384 issue was being prepared, the 1358 issue and the book of amendments - for many amendments and additions from this book either served as a basis for new clauses of the 1384 issue or influenced several clauses from the 1358 issue that were reformulated in the 1384 issue (Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, LXXV-LXXVII).


If the fact that the arengo was losing its importance relative to the 1 Major Council between 1307 and 1358 may be traced through issues corresponding to that period of time, the 1384 issue provides evidence of the final and total affirmation of the oligarchy of Piran. As usual the Major Council entrusted the so-called "Council of Sages (Consiglio dei savi)" - on that occasion there were nineteen of them - the body which together with the podestą composed the statutory commission, to create the statute. The commission went through the 1358 statute, planned changes, wrote new clauses and decrees on the basis of the amendments to the statute, written down in the era between the two statutes, and reformulated the entire statute. There is no evidence that the arengo or the Major Council adopted the changes. The order that whatever was done by the commission, to which the statute was entrusted, should enter in force, prevailed. The arengo had lost its political power completely, although it is named once again in the chapter entitled "Defacientibus stridorem in arengo" (Prohemium f. l). According to this decree, the arengo might be convoked by the podestą, but nowhere is it stated that the arengo should [99] have any function. The decree was written against individuals who might try to break the assembly convoked for the populari of Piran to listen to the orders of the podestą. Obviously the Major Council was behind the podestą's orders. Although the decree has been repeated in all the preserved issues of the statute of Piran, in the last issue it acquired a completely new importance. It is evident that the disputes between the Major Council and the podestą resolved in the favour of the former.

That aside, the statute from 1384 is the most scrupulously organised of all the statutes of Piran from the 14th century. It appears as if the authors had in their minds the structure of the 1274 issue, and imitated it in some aspects, although with different purposes and content. The first volume is dedicated entirely to the authorities and administrative bodies. Besides the Major Council, the jurats (indices comunis), the town chancellor (cancelario comunis), the chamberlain (camemrio comunis), valuers (iusticiarii), fontegarii, cathauerii, doorkeepers, lawyers, heralds and vicedominos, mentioned in previous issues, in this one we also come across inspectors of streets and the coast, inspectors of villages, custodians of ecclesiastic properties and the Minor Council, unknown to the previous statutes written in the 14th century. We also come across several clauses dealing with voting; that is, with electing administrators and members of the Major Council. In spite of the fact that the number of the members in the Major Council had been limited up to that time, a solution was found for admitting in the council all adult members of those families who had participated in the closure and had not yet disappeared or moved or lost their membership in any other way. Normally a deceased member was replaced by the voting in of a replacement. This procedure was nothing new, but the present statute changed it significantly. The so-called vote was anything but legal. There was a hat on the podestą's table and as many ballots in it as the number of councilors present. The number of golden ballots corresponded to the number of commanding officials the election required and the number of silver ballots corresponded to the number of administrative officials required. In the case of the election of a new member or members, the corresponding number of golden ballots was introduced into the hat. The person who received the golden or gilt ballot had the right to name one person from amongst the members of patrician families whom he [100] regarded "worthy" of the honour of becoming a councilor. The person elected into the Major Council by this procedure could become a member if he had reached the age of 20. The same procedure held true for the election of clerks. But the newly raised nobility wanted to achieve the right of all adult noblemen to become members of the Major Council. For this reason every son from a noble family who had reached the age of 25 could present himself to the podestą and claim his membership rights. After the rights had been approved, the Major Council had to elect him, meaning that he was granted membership more or less automatically. This procedure obviously led to the violation of the membership limit. In the first half of the 15<h century the number 100 was more or less respected. In the following years, the Major Council counted 120 or even more members. The rule that the majority should have four fifths, meaning 80 votes, in order that a bill be passed, apparently protected the rights of the weaker families. Notwithstanding that appearance, weaker families were gradually left aside. Although the regulation explicitly excluded all possibilities of new families being elected among the members, two new families were granted membership approximately at that time: the family della Torre and the family De Castro. Undoubtedly the first one was accepted for its wealth, the second in order to finally incorporate the Kastinjol fief into the municipal area.

The second and third volumes of the statute include penal law. It is obvious that some of the laws had changed since 1307. Some laws had been annulled, others transferred to different volumes. Civil law, mainly chapters referring to protection of property, begins in the fourth volume. The fifth volume continues the previous subject, laying stress on debts, foreigners and guarantees (conf. Gestrin, 1978). In the sixth volume there are some regulations about contracts of sale; further on, there are several regulations dealing with exchanging, auctioning, donating, alienating and dividing property. In the seventh book regulations about inheritance, guardianship and protection of minor orphaned heirs' property are collected. The eighth volume deals with house rents, some particular types of trade with meat, bread, wine, olive oil and fruit. In this volume regulations forbidding gambling (conf. Mihelic, 1993), on protection of the municipal property, measures and weights are gathered. The ninth volume enacts works on farms in the Savudrian karst, works in vineyards, salt marshes and olive oil [101] mills and declares obligations of the colonus towards his master. In addition, there are two regulations on notaries (conf. Darovec, 1994) and some other, less important regulations. Finally the tenth volume deals with fishing, fish reservations and preserves and fish inspectors; further on with safeguarding of vineyards, feasts and lending arms to foreigners. Here regulations that the statute should be written in two counterparts and that it should be renewed every 25 years are stated, together with some other regulations about refugees, taxes on articles of consumption and others (conf. Darovec, 2004). It is easy to notice that the statute written in 1384 has its regulations organised in a logical order, as opposed to those dating from 1307 to 1358, which included new regulations replacing those annulled or joined together in a special chapter in those statutes. Several regulations protecting the poor and casual workmen were included in the statute by the Major Council. It should especially be mentioned that the commune of Piran, after bad experiences with bankers, prohibited lending money at interest until 1348, a year marked by pest. The prohibition is also mentioned in the statute from 1358. The regulation about lending money imposed a penalty of loss of capital and a fine of 30 "lira", 12 "soldi" and 6 "denar". The prohibition is repeated in the 1384 statute, reducing the fine to 25 "lira", while the penalty of losing one's capital still remained. But if the authors of the 1354 statute had elaborated the regulation to render it "concise", in 1384 they did away with concision, and, consequently, they made the regulation less severe. The new regulation is even milder because all workers and Piran's casual workmen were exempted from it, "qui non subiacent huic statute".

Although lending money was still prohibited, probably it was precisely this regulation that enabled Jews to settle in Piran. These, in different circumstances and with different rates of interest, replaced the former bankers from Florence. This indicates that the municipality could not survive without people lending money. The hypothesis becomes quite logical if we think that especially ship owners and merchants needed loans and cash. The settlement of Jews in Piran may therefore be considered as ancillary to the proliferation of the expansion of credit operations on the coast as well as in the hinterland (conf. Persic, 1975; 1977; 1984). The abovementioned regulation was in force until the end of the Republic of Venice.

[102] While reading the introduction to the 1384 statute, the reader may soon notice a wish, expressed by the members of the statutory commission, that statutes should be written in an elegant style (Prohemi-um f. 1). It appears that the Council of the Sage wanted to relieve the prevailing monotony of all the earlier issues. Every earlier regulation besides those regarding governing and oaths, which needed to be pronounced explicitly by members of the Major Council or by municipal governing and administrative bodies, began with "statuimus". The Council of Sages, creating the last statute of Piran in the 14th century, avoided the monotony by replacing "statuimus" with corresponding synonyms, as for example "mandamus", "ordinamus", "jubemus", "flrmamus", etc. The true author of the statute was striving to formulate clauses in such a way that he would not need to repeat synonyms. For instance, he also used the forms "volumus", "providimus", "disposuimus", "prohibemus", "censimus providendum", "constitu-imus", "addimus", "declaramus" etc. Further on, he used forms such as "teneantur", "obsewetur", "eligantur", "eligi debeant", "habeat lib-ertatem eligi", etc. The old verb "statuimus" is here expressed by 41 different verbs, 36 of which are verbs of command. But this author had another plan in mind, as well. The fact that the abovementioned verbs do not always appear at the beginning of each regulation, meaning that the author of the statute did not cling to the usual form repeated by the earlier authors, who had stuck to the verb "statuimus", confirms this supposition. -statuimus' was used by the creator of the present statute almost exclusively in the fourth volume, in which 20 out of 21 regulations start in the usual way. Similarly, he used the verb "mandamus" in the third volume. The second volume is more interesting from the stylistic point of view, for the verb "ordinamus" is used only once. In all the remaining regulations, the principal verb has been replaced by the adverb "item". These few examples are sufficient demonstration that the scribe of the 1384 statute wanted to create something new. For this reason it would be worth examining his style in detail. The richness of his syntax, of which he makes good use, especially by using the inverted word order, is surprising. For example: "avium pauperum et habitatorum nostrorum miserentes, ordinamus", etc., or "Carceratis subvenientes statuimus", etc. These are still among the most simple formulations. More complicated, for instance, is "Solvere expensas qui eorum [103] causa fuerit clignum noscitur, quare providimus" or "Ad hoc ut cives et habitatores Pirani causam habent labomndi super temtorio comunis Pimni, mandamus", and the like. Such extraposition is not always necessary. Sometimes the main verb stands on the beginning of the clause. Sometimes the only particle, preceding the verb, is an adjective or an adverb.

Writing down all the initial letters of all regulations in order to find out why the notary, who gave the final shape to the text, decided on this unconventional use of grammar, revealed a surprise. If the "Council of the Sages" decided to remodel the statute, in order that it would not sound so dry and dull as all the preceding issues had sounded, this had to be done. But the notary, of whom the linguistic creation of the text and its final image depended, outsmarted the Council of the Sages and - probably for the first time in the history of the writing of statutes on the eastern Adriatic coast - produced an acrostic. The initial letters of all the regulations from the first volume (including the introduction) make up the following clause: GRACIA SANCTI SPIRITVS ASSIT PRINCIR that is: The mercy of the Holy Ghost be present at the beginning', PRINCIP being an abbreviation for principio. Regarding the practice, applied in the second, third, and fourth volume, described in the present text, we should expect that the notary would continue in the same way. The fifth volume illustrates the notary's determination to prove to the reader that he could write the statute successfully without needing to respect a certain word order. Twelve different initials were used in 42 chapters; the letter U, occasionally used also instead of a y has been used eight times, the letter C six times, N five times, O and P four, E, I and S three, Q and L twice and A and B once. The same holds true for the tenth volume, where the initials do not obey any particular kind of order. However, the tenth volume yields a surprise: the initials of all the 32 clauses sum up the following sentence: MARCUS CAVIANO SCRIPSIT HOC STATVTVM - 'Marko Caviano wrote this statute'. Thus the scribe and the linguistic creator of the 1384 issue of the statute of Piran revealed his name and surname. According to the introduction, Mark Caviano was one of the "sages"; that is, one of the authors of the statute. The sentences about him tell us that he was a notary, and surely a good one. The entire structure of the statute, especially the acrostics, is evidence that, by following this unusual procedure, he wanted to immortalise [104] his name, as he succeeded in doing - discretely yet excellently. The initials of regulations, included in the seventh volume, sum up the complete Latin alphabet from A to U. Regarding the fact that in the text he always used a Z instead of a C, and also a U instead of a V the acrostic sums up a complete alphabet, or better, the initials sum up a perfect alphabetical acrostic, probably inspired by oriental texts. Three regulations were left out of the acrostic; he decided to begin them with initials A (Addimus), I (Iuris) and C (Carere). That was carried out in a perfect way, too.

Finally, if we sum up the initials of the eighth and the ninth volume and read them top-to bottom, as was intended by Caviano, we get the fourth acrostic, which runs as follows: GERIVS BANC), PETRVS DE SALONO, EGORGIVS DE MAFEO CAPITA STATVTARIORVM (George Bano, Peter de Salono, George de Mafeo, leaders among the authors of the statute).

Like Mark Caviano, these three were members of the "Council of the Sages". Gerius Bano was called Georgius in the introduction of the statute (Prohemium). In the same introduction, the surname of Peter de Salono was de Asalono. Given the number of regulations in both volumes, Caviano had to choose abbreviated forms. When giving shape to George de Mafeo, Caviano made the mistake of mixing up the order of two regulations, so that the acrostic reads Egorgius instead of Georgius. The question arises whether the Major Council or at least the "Council of the Sages" knew what the notary Caviano was doing as the leading scribe. There is no indication that they did. All that can be said is that the acrostics were noticed neither by Lorenzo Appolonio, who transcribed the statute in 1542, nor Nicolo Petronio Caldana, who prepared the statute together with his own Italian translation for the publication in 1606. The fact that both read VOLUMUS where they should have read NOLUMUS proves it. (Besides, they committed other, quite serious errors while reading the text.) The acrostics also went unnoticed by later writers of the history of Piran: Luigi Morteani, Pietro Kandler and Camillo de Franceschi. So it seems that the acrostics in the last book of statutes of Piran of the 14th century were Caviano's secret. Be that as it may, these facts make the 1384 issue of the statute of Piran an authentic linguistic and graphic masterpiece (conf. Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, LXI-LXII; Stari StatUti, 1988, 28-32). [105]


The parchment codex with folio dimensions 31 x 21.5 cm (arcus 31 x 43 cm) is a unique example. The actual structure of the codex is not original: instead of the missing folios, sixteen unnumbered pages, made of paper, of 30 x 21, 5 cm format (that is, folios of 30 x 45 cm format), written in Humanistic Cursive Script, have been inserted into the codex. They include a detailed list of additions to the statute, followed by the index (pp. 7-10) of the first and second volumes, a list of feasts (De foestivitatibus observances capitulum pp. 11 -12) and the third, fourth and a part of the fifth volume's indices ( pp. 13-16). An unnumbered folio with a resting part of the fifth volume's index and the sixth and seventh volume's indices follow. Two paper sheets from folios, including pages 13-14 and 15-16 follow, including the eight, ninth and tenth volume's indices. The following paper sheet of the same format includes most of the introduction to the statute. The missing folio with part of the introduction was numbered 1, for original folios follow, numbered from 2 to 148, and finally one unnumbered folio. The first eleven quinternium were bound, then a bin-ium, then an uncompleted trinium (with ff. before 115 and between 115' and 116 cut off). Then came a binium, with the folio for f. 120' cut off. The codex ends with three quinternium, the last of them being incomplete: the last folio has been excluded from the codex. The codex is bound in two wooden cases 1 -1.2 cm wide, lined with brown cloth, the same as the other two copies of the statute, preserved in Piran, and has a stick with data: Volumen Statutomm et Correctionum Com (munitatis) Pirhani 1384, the signature 3/V.

The codex starts with an index and an introduction, followed by the first volume of the statute (ff. 2-29), than the second (ff. 29'-35), the third (ff. 35-40), the fourth (ff. 40'-44'), the fifth (ff. 44'-60'), the sixth (ff. 61-74), the seventh (ff. 74'-90'), the eighth (ff. 90'-99), the ninth (ff. 99-107) and the tenth (ff. 107-114'). What follows on ff. 114'-147' are several regulations from the period between the beginning of the 15<h century and 1588, mixed with transcriptions of the ducali. The text of the 1384 statute is written in a splendid Gothic Bookhand Minuscule, adorned with beautiful initials in several colours at the beginning of each volume. Titles of the volumes, making up the fragment of index, rubrics, including singular volume and clause titles, [106] and Roman numerals for each of the clauses appear in decorative red ink. The text itself is written with black ink, faded and damaged by abrasion in many spots. The sheets, substituting folios, which have been torn out of the original, are written in a uniform Humanistic Cursive Script with ink, while the additions at the end of the codex are written in different scripts, from Gothic Cursive to several types of Humanistic Cursive.

The codex in general is preserved in a worse state than the rest of codices in the archive of Piran; it can be compared with the issues preserved in the Arcivio Diplomatico in Trieste. Many folios, the empty ones as well as those written on, have been cut out. The text also has some other lesions: text on ff. 2-2' and 3 recto is rather damaged by abrasion, the right lower corner of f. 6 has been torn off, part of the text at the right lower corner of f. 14 is torn, there is a hole in f. 17. A stain under the initial letter Q at the beginning of the fourth volume (f. 40) make the last five lines of the text on f. 40 and on the opposite 41 recto more difficult to read. The right lower corner of f. 48 is torn diagonally, while f. 49 is torn from the lower edge towards the middle of the page, thus making an inverted V shape. F. 67 is torn from the lower edge towards the middle of the page, the right lower corner was cut out, but both lesions have been restored. There is a small hole on the lower edge of f. 98, the right upper corner is cut out in an L shape, also ff. 102 and 104 have small holes, a part of parchment has been cut out off the lower part of f. 114.

F. 148 recto has been left empty, but the writing scheme is still visible, as it is also in some other places. There is information written on f. 148' that the codex was restored in 1578, in the time of the podestą Andrea Balbi, because time had ruined it quite badly (uetustate consumption). The judices, syndicus, both vicedominos, the secretary and the military commander (comiles domini potestatis) of Piran at the time are listed. There are some writings and sentences from 1587 on f. /149/, the author being Cezar Prat, the secretary of Piran at that time, while on f. /149'/ there are exercises in calligraphy, the beginning of the writing and some sentences, written down in the time of the podestą Piero Giustiniani by his secretary, Baldissero Guidozzo. The sentence "Non decet principem totam stertere noctem" (It does not befit to an emperor to snore all night"), (conf. Pahor & Sumrada, 1987, LXXXIII-LXXXIV and Stari statuti, 1988, 91-92) is particularly humorous.

[107] For all the reasons discussed, it is easy to agree with the decision to choose to publish the 1384 issue of the statute of Piran as the first edition of a facsimile of a statute. Not only is this issue a unique exemplary, it is also the last complete issue of statutes of Piran, an issue which sums up and gives a new order to all the existing law of Piran and to all customs, developed by a particular juridical system and a particular civilisation. And it is an artistic masterpiece, with ingenious, hidden and direct witticisms. We hand over this edition, as faithfully reproduced as we could manage, believing that it may revive the interest in such cultural monuments in all public spheres.

Piran, the 8th July 2006

Editors' note: This is an inaccurate and misleading statement since Piran, Istria was not part of Slovenia before the recent breakup of Yugoslavia.


  • Založba Annales, 2006 - http://www.heartofistria.hr. © All rights reserved.

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