1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vacarius
VACARIUS (1120–1200?), Italian civilian and canonist, the first known teacher of Roman law in England, was doubtless of the school of Bologna, though of a later generation than the hearers of Irnerius. He was brought to Canterbury, possibly by Becket, together with a supply of books upon the civil law, to act as counsel (causidicus) to Archbishop Theobald in his struggle, which ended successfully in 1146, to obtain the transfer of the legateship from the bishop of Winchester to himself. We next hear of Vacarius as lecturing at Oxford, in 1149, to “crowds of rich and poor,” and as preparing, for the use of the latter, a compendium, in nine books, of the Digest and Code of Justinian, “sufficient,” it was said, “if thoroughly mastered, to solve all legal questions commonly debated in the schools.” It became a leading text-book in the nascent university, and its popular description as the Liber pauperum gave rise to the nickname pauperistae applied to Oxford students of law. Nearly complete MSS. of this work are still in existence, notably in the cathedral libraries at Worcester and Prague and in the town library at Bruges. Fragments of it are also preserved in the Bodleian and in several college libraries at Oxford.
The new learning was not destined to make its way without opposition. King Stephen silenced Vacarius, and ordered the destruction of the books of civil and canon law which had been imported by Theobald. The edict to this effect seems, however, not to have been in force after the death of its royal author in 1154 (“eo magis virtus legis invaluit quo eam amplius nitebatur impietas infirmare,” Joh. Sarisburiensis). There is ample evidence that the civil law was soon once more a favourite study at Oxford, where we learn that, in 1100, two students from Friesland were wont to divide between them the hours of the night for the purpose of making a copy of the Liber pauperum. Whether or no Vacarius ever resumed his Oxford lectures after their interruption by Stephen we are not informed. In any case he was soon called off to practical work, as legal adviser and ecclesiastical judge in the northern province, by his old friend and colleague at Canterbury, Roger de Pont l'Eveque, after the promotion of the latter, in the year of Stephen's death, to the archbishopric of York. Thenceforth the name of “magister Vacarius” is of very frequent occurrence, in papal letters and the chronicles of the period, as acting in these capacities. He was rewarded with a prebend in the collegiate church of secular canons at Southwell, half of which he was allowed in 1191 to cede to his “nephew” Reginald. He is last heard of in 1198, as commissioned, together with the prior of Thurgarton, by Pope Innocent III. to carry into execution, in the north of England, a letter with reference to the crusade. It is doubtless to the second half of the life of Vacarius that the composition must be attributed of two works the MS. of which, formerly the property of the Cistercian Abbey of Biddleston, is now in the Cambridge University library. One of these, Summa de assumpto homine, is of a theological character, dealing with the humanity of Christ; the other, Summa de matrimonio, is a legal argument, to the effect that the essential fact in marriage is neither, as Gratian maintains, the copula, nor, as Peter Lombard, consent by verba de praesenti, but mutual traditio.
Authorities. —Most of the original authorities are textually set out and annotated by Prof. T. E. Holland in vol. ii. of the Oxford Historical Society’s Collectanea (1890). Wenck, in his Magister Vacarius (1820), prints the prologue, and a table of contents, of the Liber pauperum, from a MS. how lost. He returns to the subject in Stieber's Opuscula academica (1834). F. Maitland in the Law Quarterly Review, xiii. pp. 133, 270 (1897), gives a full account of the Cambridge MSS., printing in extenso the Summa de matrimonio See also Muhlenbruch, Obs. juris Rom. i. 36; Hanel, in the Leips. Lit. Zeitung (1828), No. 42, " Intelligenzblatt," p. 334; Savigny, Geschichte, rv. 423; Stolzel, Lehre von der operis novi denunt. (1865), pp. 592-620, and in the Zeitschrift fur Rechtsgeschichte, vi. p. 234 ; Catalogue general des MSS. des bibliotheques publiques de France: Departements, t. x. Lieberman, in the English Historical Review, xi. (1906), pp. 305, 514, identified Vacarius with one " Vac." of Mantua, the author of Contraria legum Longobardorum, but withdrew â€¢ this antecedently improbable suggestion (ib. vol. xiii.) after T. Patella had shown, in the Atti delta R. Academia di Torino, xxxii., that " Vac. Mantuanus," the author of the Contraria, must have been " Vacella," who, in 1189, was a judge at Mantua. (T. E. H.)