When driving through the Italian countryside near where the region of Lazio meets the region of Campania, it is impossible to miss the beautifully imposing structure of the Monastery of Monte Cassino gracing the skyline. What you might not know when looking at this architectural masterpiece is that it houses a masterpiece of a different kind.
Over the last two weeks, we have discussed the origins and development of the Italian language on our show (Episode 1, Episode 2), and we mentioned the “Placiti Cassinesi” and their role as the first written form of Italian.
The Placiti Cassinesi are a group of four parchments that were discovered by abbot Erasmo Gattola in the Monastery of Monte Cassino in 1734, but they date back to between 960 and 963. A “placito” is a judge’s opinion and each parchment is a resolution of a dispute on the property of several lands located in the Italian cities of Capua, Sessa Aurunca and Teano, between three monasteries owned by Monte Cassino and Rodelgrimo d’Aquino, a local landowner. The monasteries lost the lands when squatters occupied them after a Saracen attack caused the monks to flee the area. The Placiti Cassinesi show the judge’s ruling, as well as witness testimonies, that the monasteries were indeed the lands’ legitimate owners.
The oldest of the Placiti Cassinesi, the Placito Capuano (pictured), is considered to be the first existing documentation of the Italian language; where its closeness to Latin is still noted, but the text is closer to spoken vernacular than traditional written Latin. All the texts show linguistic features typical of the area of Capua and many of their traits are still in today’s Southern Italian regional languages.
The original, Latin, modern Italian, and translated texts of the Placiti Cassinesi is below:
Sao ko kelle terre, per kelle fini que ki contene, trenta anni le possette parte Sancti Benedicti. Capua, Marzo 960
Sao cco kelle terre, per kelle fini que tebe monstrai, Pergoaldi foro, que ki contene, et trenta anni le possette. Sessa, Marzo 963
Kella terra, per kelle fini que bobe mostrai, sancte Marie è, et trenta anni la posset parte sancte Marie. Teano, Luglio 963
Sao cco kelle terre, per kelle fini que tebe mostrai, trenta anni le possette parte sancte Marie. Teano, Ottobre 963
Sapio quod eccelle terre, per eccellas fines quas eccic continet, triginta annis illas possedit pars Sancti Benedicti. Capua, Martius 960
Sapio quod eccelle terre, per eccellas fines quas tibi monstravi, Pergoaldi fuerunt, quas eccic continet, et triginta annis illas possedit. Suessa, Martius 963
Eccella terra, per eccellas fines quas vobis monstravi, sanctae Mariae est, et triginta annis illam possedit pars sanctae Mariae. Teanum, Julius 963
Sapio quod eccelle terre, per eccellas fines quas tibi monstravi, triginta annis illas possedit pars sanctae Mariae. Teanum, October 963
So che quelle terre per quei confini che qui sono contenuti trent’anni le possedette la parte di San Benedetto. Capua, Marzo 960
So che quelle terre, per quei confini che ti mostrai, furono di Pergolardo, e qui sono contenuti e per trent’anni li possedette. Sessa, Marzo 963
Quella terra per quei confini che a voi mostrai è di Santa Maria e per trent’anni la possedette la parte di Santa Maria. Teano, Luglio 963
So che quelle terre per quei confini che ti mostrai per trent’anni le possedette la parte di Santa Maria. Teano, Ottobre 963
I know those lands, whose borders are shown in the map, have been owned by St. Benedict’s region for thirty years. Capua, March 960
I know those lands, whose borders I have shown you, were property of Pergoald, and here are part of, and it has owned them for thirty years. Sessa, March 963
That land, whose borders I have shown you, is property of St. Mary, and St. Mary’s region has owned it for thirty years. Teano, July 963
I know those lands, whose borders I have shown you, have been owned by St. Mary for thirty years. Teano, October 963