The Pomposa documents and Ferrara

Written by  Corinna Mezzetti

A project to publish X-XII century documents held in the records office of the Montecassino MonasteryDocumento di Pomposa, 1010 aprile 30 (Archivio di Montecassino, Carte di Pomposa, fasc. III, n. 36, recto)

A large set of documents from Ferrara was gathered in the records office of the Montecassino Monastery at the end of the eighteen hundreds, grouped together as the Carte di Pomposa [Pomposa documents] archive. There are about three thousand parchments from the records offices of various monasteries in our area: Sant'Antonio in Polesine, San Giorgio, San Silvestro, with the largest number from Santa Maria di Pomposa. The Montecassino archive comprises 2,827 parchments, arranged into 105 files. The documents are in chronological order, ranging from 933 to 1663, and are not subdivided in accordance with their file of origin. The documents are accompanied by six nineteenth-century handwritten registers summarising the legal contents. An initial investigation of the archive allows us to separate out a thousand parchments that involve Ferrara church institutions from the entire group of documents. These documents, with their stories of property and people evinced by the notarial deeds, have to be still gone through. In addition the details of the journey made by these Ferrara documents still have to be pieced together, from when they left their original church files to when they arrived at their current Montecassino home. ItDocumento di Pomposa, 1010 aprile 30 (Ivi fasc. III, n. 36, verso). is very difficult to reconstruct the history and travels of such a body of work, and the sources which could reveal the reasons behind each successive transfer are often missing. The documents are mainly of interest to historians due to their texts, for the juristic acts - a sale, a tenancy, a donation, etc. - that gave rise to this documentary process. Drafted on a sheet of loose parchment, the medieval document contains the text of the notarised contract, providing it with authenticity and legal value on the recto side (this is the flesh side rendered clearer by the liming process). The hair side is darker than vellum on the verso side, and this is where we find preliminary texts and short summaries of the document, added as a memorandum to the legal contents of the main document. The verso side also contains marks and file notes, proof of the filing processes and the transfers that the papers underwent. The Ferrara parchments held in Montecassino contain many signs of their filing history on their verso sides. It is these very "signs" that give us an idea of how the present collection took shape, giving rise to the Montecassino Pomposa archive. At the end of the seventeen hundreds, Napoleonic suppression ofDocumento di San  Silvestro, 1089 aprile 5 (Ivi, fasc. IX, n. 174, recto.) church institutions meant that the documents were removed from their original filing locations and gathered in a state depository in Ferrara, and then added to the historical diocesan records office. A selection of the most valuable documents was prepared in 1807 to send to Milan, where a centralised Regno d'Italia [Kingdom of Italy] records office was in the process of being set up. Only a portion of the selected Ferrara papers arrived in Milan, and they are now in the state records office. Many documents ended up elsewhere: initially purchased by the antique dealer, Carlo Morbio, they were then sold by his heirs and dispersed. A collection of the papers were purchased by the state of Rome records office, while a larger set of parchments was purchased by Padre Agostino Theiner in 1880, and then sold to the German cardinal, Federico di Fürstenberg, archbishop of Olmütz. He donated them to the Montecassino Monastery in 1882, mother house of the Benedictine order. The Ferrara and Pomposa documents of Montecassino are still unpublished. Scholars have often entertained the idea of publishing the Pomposa documents but to date this idea has been ignored. In order to rectify this situation, a renewed publishing projectThe belltower of Pomposa Abbey. has been set up and I am working on it with the support of the Ferrara Provincial delegation of local history and with scientific support from the University of Ferrara and Florence. The research to date is the first element in a publishing programme that will be organised into four volumes, devoted to publishing the Pomposa file documents dating from the X to the XII centuries. This project proposes aims to recreate the Pomposa Abbey files as they had been before the suppressions of the late 1700s, resulting in their dispersal among various archives, their amalgamation with material from other Ferrara-related files, and the loss of many documents that are no longer kept in their original forms.