Oldradus de Ponte (his family name) or de Laude (Lodi), the name that he most often used when he signed documents, was a professor of law and advocate in the Roman curia in Avignon. He was born in Lodi and died sometime after 1337, probably in Avignon. Oldradus studied law at Bologna at the end of the thirteenth century. He was a layman, married with three sons, one of whom became a jurist. Lay canonists were not unusual in the fourteenth century. He entered the entourage of Cardinal Peter Colonna in 1297 for a short time, and later he taught law at the University of Padua until ca. 1310. He left Padua for the papal court in Avignon. Oldradus served as an auditor and judge in the Rota (papal judicial court) at Avignon. He may have also taught in the law school at the court in Avignon. From the evidence of his consilia (legal briefs) Oldradus was the most important jurist at the papal court from ca. 1311-1337. An Englishman at the curia, Thomas Fastolf, wrote that Oldradus was still discussing cases with auditors in the Rota ca. 1337. That is the last certain notice we have of his life. He met the Petrarch at Avignon, and the poet called him the most famous jurist of the age.

Oldradus wrote many minor works and a significant number of consilia. He composed "additiones" (supplementary comments) to Justinian’s Corpus iuris civilis (to the Code, Digest, and Institutes) and to the Liber feudorum. Oldradus’ importance lies in the several hundred quaestiones and consilia that he wrote during his career. He was one of the first jurists to write a large number of consilia on actual legal problems. He was also one of the first to collect and publish a collection of quaestiones and consilia. Consilia became one of the most important legal genres of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. His collection stands at the very beginning of "The Age of Consilia."

It is important to distinguish between quaestiones (disputatae) and consilia. The jurists had composed quaestiones since the twelfth century. Their origins lay in the classroom. A problem would be posed, and a jurist would then propose a solution to it. Professors would hold special classes in which these "disputed questions" would be debated. In the early thirteenth century, judges or litigants began to request legal opinions from jurists. These briefs were called consilia. When Oldradus worked the two genres had not yet separated. Some consilia were turned into quaestiones, and some quaestiones looked very much like consilia. During the fourteenth century jurists began to write consilia for two reasons: judges and litigants turned jurists for legal opinions as a part of the legal process, and jurists were paid very well for them.

Oldradus wrote consilia on some very important political questions, and they were cited for centuries by later jurists. When the Emperor Henry VI condemned the king of Sicily, Robert of Naples for treason, Oldradus wrote two consilia defending Robert who was a vassal of the pope. Some of the key points that Oldradus made in these consilia were later incorporated into Pope Clement V’s legislation that dealt with the emperor’s jurisdiction. His consilia also touched upon many other legal issues: the legal status of infidels, Jews, and Moslems, as well as issues of church governance and private law. Oldradus’ collection of consilia that are found in the manuscripts differ considerably from the one found in most printed editions of the late fifteenth and sixteenth century. Three different redactions of his consilia collection can be found in the manuscripts. One tradition contains 220 consilia and another 264. Other manuscripts have his consilia arranged in various ways. No manuscript contains the redaction of 333 consilia that printers published for the first time in Rome1478 and that became the standard edition of his work in every later printing. Since they are not contained in any manuscript, consilia 265 to 333 in this edition must be treated with caution because they may not be Oldradus’ work.


Sources. Oldradus de Ponte. Jews and Saracens in the Consilia of Oldradus de Ponte, ed. and trans. by Norman Zacour (1990).


Brendan McManus, "The Consilia and Quaestiones of Oldradus de Ponte," Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law 23 (1999) 85- 113. Francesco Migliorino, "Alchimia lecita e illecita nel trecento: Oldrado da Ponte," Quaderni Medievali 11 (1981) 6-41. Tilmann Schmidt, "Die Konsilien des Oldrado da Ponte als Geschichtsquelle," Consilia im späten Mittelalter: Zum historischen Aussagewert einer Quellengattung (1995) 53-64. Edward Will, Die Gutachten des Oldradus de Ponte zum Prozess Heinrichs VII. gegen Robert von Neapel: Nebst der Biographie des Oldradus. (1917).

Kenneth Pennington

The Catholic University of America