Organise, classify, decide. The Council of Trent and the construction and use of legal knowledge in the modern world

Reading seminar "Council of Trent"

  • Datum: 14.12.2022
  • Uhrzeit: 18:00 - 19:30
  • Ort: Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory
  • Raum: Room G503
  • Gastgeber: Benedetta Albani, Anna Clara Lehmann Martins
  • Kontakt:
Organise, classify, decide. The Council of Trent and the construction and use of legal knowledge in the modern world

This session aims to start a reflection on how the Council of Trent, via the Congregation of the Council, brought forth not only a large amount of case law to clarify the council’s terms and enable its execution, but also comprised the urge to classify and organise this material in ways that were functional to governing purposes. The subject addressed is how legal knowledge is constructed and transformed within long-duration processes of resolution of practical cases.


- Sinisi, Lorenzo (2020), «Pro tota iuris decretalium ulteriore evolutione»: le declarationes della Congregazione del Concilio e le loro raccolte dei secoli XVI e XVII fra divieti e diffusione, in: Historia et Ius, 18, pp. 1-40.

- Hespanha, António Manuel (2003), Categorias. Uma reflexão sobre a prática de classificar, in: Análise Social, XXXVIII, 168, 2003, pp. 823-840.

Commentary: Benedetta Albani and Anna Clara Lehmann Martins

About this Reading Seminar

The Council of Trent had a long and complex fortune throughout history: it bound people and places far apart in time and space, it conveyed knowledge and paradigms, and allowed their continuous use and reuse. Our reading seminar will dive into this fortune, addressing it from five perspectives, each corresponding to a discussion session. First, we will approach the Council of Trent as the object of a wide range of interpretations – on the part of historical actors from the 16th century onwards, but also on the part of recent historiography. Afterwards, we will reflect upon the changes that the Tridentine (and the series of norms following it) brought to how canon law was conceived and practiced along time. A further session will be dedicated to the role of the Council of Trent in establishing a legal framework where procedures shaped actors and vice-versa. The fruitful tension between the Tridentine as part of universal canon law and its transformations when transposed to local realities will also be addressed. Finally, we will discuss how the Council of Trent prompted the construction and transformation of legal knowledge, taking as point of departure the century-long efforts of the Congregation of the Council to interpret the Council of Trent to the Catholic world.

Each session will start with a commentary by a member of the Research Group: "Normative knowledge in the praxis of the Congregation of the Council" or an invited researcher. Open discussion will follow.

Registration is necessary to take part of the reading seminar. Please register at least one week before the session you wish to attend, so as to allow enough time for the sending and preparation of the readings. Last-minute registrations will be accepted only on an exceptional basis, depending of room capacity. One may apply for more than one session in the same act of registration. A reminder of the event will be sent to the participants the day before each session.

To register, please send an e-mail to

The reading material will be in English, Italian and Portuguese. For further information on the seminar sessions, please check the programme.

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