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New Contributions to the Research on Medieval Ilok and its “Statute”
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Str. 83 - 118
The medieval town of Ilok (Hung. Újlak) is unique in north-eastern Croatia in presenting a combination of several distinct and important historical subjects. Besides the town or borough itself (with its fortifications, churches and monasteries, “free” municipality, and a relatively strong and bustling economy), historical research has been attracted by three more topics related to it: the two aristocratic families who consecutively held Ilok among their domains (both the Iločki/Újlaki included high-ranking individuals who had a considerable influence on the Kingdom’s political matters); the final stage of life and the early cult of St. John Capistran (an outstanding Franciscan friar of Italian origin who died in Ilok in 1456); a compilation of urban law known as the ‘Ilok Statute’, which was approved by the king in 1525 (just months before the Ottomans captured Ilok) and which remained unknown until its recent discovery in Vienna, followed by publication in 1938.
The so-called Ilok Statute represented the central topic of the conference held in Osijek and Ilok in 2000, and a majority of papers in the resulting conference volume (published in 2002) are dedicated to it. It has turned out, however, that most of these contributions have methodologically gone astray, being written by jurists with little knowledge about the history of medieval law and specifically about the legal context to which the Ilok Statute belongs. These authors failed to recognise the importance of the fact that the Statute’s five books are not a homogeneous elaboration and recording of the local law, but rather a product of two components of different origin put together. One is the list of privileges and rules granted to Ilok, probably at some point in the 1450s, by the town’s lord, Nicholas of Ilok, then voivode of Transylvania and ban of Mačva; this corresponds to the Statute’s first book. The other is the collection of laws and customs obeyed by “the eight free cities of Kingdom of Hungary,” namely Buda, Pest, Košice (Kassa), Bardejov (Bártfa), Prešov (Eperjes), Bratislava (Pozsony), Trnava, and Sopron; this makes up the remaining four books of the Statute.
This second and more extensive component of the Statute has already been studied (e.g. by Š. Mertanová, L. Margetić, and others) as important documentary evidence of the formation of the so-called ius tavernicale. The term means the jurisdiction encompassing those free (royal) towns of the Hungarian kingdom which, from the end of the fourteenth century onwards, appealed to the royal officer called chief tavernicus (chamberlain), the most important among them also sending jurors to the court presided over by him. The contents of this larger part of the Statute obviously cannot be presumed to reflect the social and legal conditions of Ilok itself or to address its specific juridical needs. Matters are different with the first, privilegial book of the Statute, but even there it is appropriate to ask (as does D. Vitek in his contribution to the volume) whether the Ilok law had its sources and models among earlier records of the urban laws comprised within the “tavernical” jurisdiction. Comparison of the two parts of the Statute, however, shows rather that the first book is a separate entity, whose regulations were individually designed to deal with local situations, unlike the en bloc adopted remainder of the Statute.
Given its complex structure, it is difficult to find an appropriate legal term to describe the Ilok codex. The term statute, widely used in Croatian scholarship and only challenged by L. Margetić since 1994, seems to be misleading because it suggests a similarity to the statutes of Dalmatian cities and communes, which as a rule represent autonomous codification of local customary laws. At the same time, the Ilok code is not a simple urban privilege, an enactment form characteristic of medieval Slavonia and Hungary. Not only the mere size of the codex, but also the initiative which the burghers of Ilok showed in putting it together from two different sources and in obtaining its confirmation from the king, make the Ilok law compilation an atypical case of urban legislation. Thus a broader and more neutral term is yet to be found for it (Margetić has proposed that of liber legalis or ‘law book’). Regrettably, although by size the present conference volume is a considerable input to this recently intensified field of research, its actual contribution to asking and discussing relevant questions is slimmer than should be expected.
Ilok; legal history; statutory law; the Middle Ages
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