Bartolus de Saxoferrato
Bartolo de Sassoferrato
Venatura, Marche, Italy
Died13 July 1357
Perugia, Italy
Alma materUniversity of Perugia University of Bologna
OccupationLaw professor

Bartolus de Saxoferrato (Italian: Bartolo da Sassoferrato; 1313 – 13 July 1357) was an Italian law professor and one of the most prominent continental jurists of Medieval Roman Law. He belonged to the school known as the commentators or postglossators. The admiration of later generations of civil lawyers is shown by the adage nemo bonus íurista nisi bartolista — no one is a good jurist unless he is a Bartolist (i.e. a follower of Bartolus).

Life and works

Bartolus was born in the village of Venatura, near Sassoferrato, in the Italian region of Marche. His father was Franciscus Severi, and his mother was of the Alfani family. He read civil law at the University of Perugia under Cinus, and in the University of Bologna under Oldradus and Belviso, and graduated to doctor of law in 1334. In 1339 he started teaching first in Pisa, then in Perugia. He raised the character of Perugia's law school to a level with that of Bologna, and this city made him an honorary citizen in 1348. In 1355, Emperor Charles IV appointed him as his consiliarius. In Perugia Baldus de Ubaldis and his brothers Angelus and Petrus became pupils of Bartolus. Bartolus died in Perugia at the age of 43, and was interred in the church of San Francisco with a monument inscribed with "Ossa Bartoli".[1]

Consilia, quaestiones et tractatus, 1547

Despite his short life, Bartolus left an extraordinary number of works. He wrote commentaries on all parts of the Corpus Juris Civilis. He is also the author of a large number of treatises on specific subjects. Among these treatises is his famous book on the law relating to rivers (De fluminibus seu Tyberiadis). There are also almost 400 legal opinions (consilia) written at the request of judges or private parties seeking legal advice.

Bartolus developed many novel legal concepts, which became part of the civil law tradition. Among his most important contributions were those to the area of conflict of laws – a field of great importance in 14th century Italy, where every city-state had its own statutes and customs. Bartolus also dealt with a variety of constitutional law issues. In his treatise De insigniis et armis he discussed not only the law of Arms but also some problems of trademark law.

Bartolus also wrote on political issues, including the legitimacy of city governments, partisan divisions and the regimes of Italy's petty tyrants. His political thought balanced respect for the Empire with defense of the legitimacy of local Italian governments.

Bartolus is believed to be the first theorist of international law.[2] He and his disciple Baldus of Ubaldis defined a set of norms which enforced the reciprocal independency and autonomy of the city-states of northern Italy, but into the cornerstone of a common discipline established by the Empire.[2] While the city-states were internally self-governing, their mutual relationships were governed by the Holy Roman Emperor.


Already famous in his lifetime, Bartolus was later regarded as the greatest jurist after the renaissance of Roman law. This is evident not only from the above-quoted saying, but also from the fact that statutes in Spain 1427/1433 and Portugal 1446 provided that his opinions should be followed where the Roman source texts and the Accursian gloss were silent. Lorenzo Valla was driven out of the University of Pavia in 1431 for his critique of Bartolus' Latin style. Even in England, where the civil law he had worked on was not applicable, Bartolus was held in high esteem. He influenced civilian writers such as Alberico Gentili and Richard Zouch.

Due to Bartolus' fame, his name was used for the character of a lawyer in many Italian plays and other works, for example Dr. Bartolo in Pierre Beaumarchais' The Barber of Seville (play), and hence Gioachino Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.


Catalogs of manuscripts



  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bartolus" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 3 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 451–452.
  2. ^ a b C Neff, Stephen (2018). "A short history of international law". International Law. Oxford University Press. p. 7. doi:10.1093/he/9780198791836.003.0001. ISBN 9780198791836. OCLC 1052766069. Archived from the original on December 19, 2022. Retrieved May 21, 2021.


Primary sources
Secondary sources