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Law in Fresco in the Vatican Museums

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The following is a guest post by Megan Lulofs Kuhagen, a Legal Information Analyst in the Public Services Division.  Meg has previously posted on a variety of topics including States in the SenateHouse Committee Hearings Videothe Cardiff Giant, the Canadian Library of Parliamentfootball blackouts, and librarian services.

We have written about Roman law and canon law before at In Custodia Legis. On my recent trip to the Holy See, I was lucky enough to see the Room of the Segnatura inside the Vatican Museums featuring a fresco that represents both.

The Room of the Segnatura was painted by Raphael and his students between 1508 and 1511. It is named for the Segnatura Gratiae et Iustitiae, which was the highest court of the Holy See at the time. The name of the fresco representing Roman law (with Emperor Justinian I) and canon law (with Pope Gregory IX, although the portrait is actually of Pope Julius II, who commissioned the work) is Cardinal and Theological Virtues and the Law.

Emperor Justinian sits on the left. His collection of Roman law is now called the Corpus Iuris Civilis​, or the Co​rpus Juris Civilis, and forms the basis of most modern civil codes.

Pope Gregory IX sits on the right. Canon law is still very much a part of the Law Library’s collection. In fact, we receive the official gazette of the Holy See, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and a supplement regularly.

The Room of the Segnatura was used by Pope Julius II (Pope Gregory IX’s likeness in the fresco) as a library and private office. It is as grand in stature as it is in beauty (a polite way of saying that I am rather short, and my pictures of rather large Justinian and Gregory reflect this fact).

Check out the Vatican Museums’ virtual tour of the room. Or, try reading a guide to the room, like this 1895 book written by Eliza Allen Starr.

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