Dr. Edward Peters 

To work for the proper implementation of canon law is to work for the up-building of the Church herself. It is

to play an extraordinarily constructive role in continuing the redemptive mission of Christ. Pope John Paul II







1983 Code



1917 Code


 Liber Extra



 Eastern Code


1152 x 864


4 jan 2013

The Pontifical Commission for the Codification of Canon Law (1904-1917)


Pietro Gasparri (1852-1935) was the driving intellect behind the Catholic Church's first codification of canon law in the early 20th century, but one should not forget the other members of the papal commission that aided him. Below, then, are what might be termed "the Men behind the Man behind the Code of Canon Law." 




Several of the men listed here were considered "papabile" in their time. See my Notes on the Canonist's Conclave of 1922.

All full members of the commission were Cardinal Fathers, with a young canonist, the future Pope Pius XII, serving as an assistant. Their academic credentials (where I could locate them) were impressive, and not a few had also made their mark outside of canonistics. Most of the early members were Italian, of course, though Spain (Vives y Tuto and Merry del Val y Zulueta), Germany (Steinhuber), Holland (van Rossum) and France (Matthieu) were represented. Several (Martinelli, Satolli, Cavvichioni, Vives y Tuto, and Merry del Val) had significant exposures to Anglo-American common law. Some died († ) before the Pio-Benedictine Code was promulgated. To these were added various consulters, some of whom were later promoted to the Commission itself.



Most photos are taken from Salvador Miranda's Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, used with permission, and linked to biographical sketches thereon.


See also Reginald Fellows, "The New Code of Roman Canon Law", Journal of Comparative Legislation and International Law, 3rd Ser., Vol. 1, No. 3 (1919) 239-244.





Commission President


Pope St. Pius X, 

in his motu proprio,

Arduum sane munus,

19 March 1904, 

announced plans to codify

the Canon Law of the

Roman Catholic Church


See also:

Cdl. Gasparri's letter, Perlegisti


For some documentation regarding the early days of the Pio-Benedictine Code, click here.

Pietro Gasparri


Commission Assistants



Eugenio Pacelli



& Adam St. Sapieha



Commission Charter Members soon named to Executive Council


  B. Cavicchioni


† 17 Apr 1911

  F. Cavignis


† 29 Dec 1906

D. Ferrata


† 10 Oct 1914  

  C. Gennari


† 31 Jan 1914

 J. Vives y Tuto


† 7 Sep 1913



Other Commission Charter Members


  A. Agliardi


† 19 Mar 1915


F. Cassetta


G. Gotti


† 19 Mar 1916

 F.-D. Mathieu


† 26 Oct 1908

R. Merry del Val



Ramp. del Tindaro


† 16 Dec 1913



F. Satolli


† 8 Jan 1910


F. Segna


† 4 Jan 1911  


A. Steinhuber


† 15 Oct 1907  


S. Vannutelli


† 19 Aug 1915


V. Vannutelli



1) Pope Pius X, m.p. Arduum sane munus, Acta Sanctae Sedis 36 (1903-1904) 549-551; see also American Ecclesiastical Review 30 (1904) 500-502, and, in a German trans., Archiv für katholisches Kirchenrecht 84 (1904) 347-350.


2) R. Merry del Val, lit. circ. Pergratum mihi, Acta Sanctae Sedis 36 (1903-1904) 603.



Consulters and others promoted to Commission over time



G. Bisleti



G. de Lai


F. Giustini

M. Lega


S. Martinelli


B. Pompilj  

W. van Rossum




Other original Consulters to the Commission

  • Priests: A. Eschbach, T. Esser, V. Fernandez y Villa, P. Giustini, B. Klumper, P. de Langogne, C. de Lai, L. Janssens, M. Kaiser, A. Lepicier, C. Lombardi, A. Pillet, G. Sebastianelli, P. Valenzuela, A. Veccia, F. Wernz.


Others named Consulters to the Commission over time

  • Archbishops: J. Befani, E. Binzecher, A. Budini, P. Checchi, I, Costa, J. de Montel, O. Giorgi, J. Latini, E. Lucidi, I. Lugari, D. Mannaioli, B. Melata, J. Nervegna, H. Pezzani, A. Sili.

  • Priests: C. Benedetti, I. Bucceroni, M. de Luca, A. Lepidi, J. Noval, B. Ojetti, D. Palmieri.

  • Layman: C. Capogrossi-Guarna


Others named to or contributing to Commission work over time included: P. Bastien, C. Beccari, F. Do Rego Maia, E. Estaban, Joachim a S. Simone Stock, J. Laurentius, S. Many, A. Mariani, R. Maribi, P. Pacelli, F. Parillo, A. Rolli, J. Rossi, C. Santucci, I. Serédi, A. Sincero, M. Sleutjes, J. Sole, F. Spolverini, D. Taccone-Gallucci, A. Verde, P. Vidal. (See Stickler, Historia Iuris, 378). As well, G. Osterle, J. Serédi (Wrenn, Jurist 41: 301).



Read more about the codification process:

Every man has his special mission in life. Mine was the codification of Canon Law and the support of Benedict during the [First World] War. These two tasks are now completed.  Cdl. Gasparri on 22 Jan. 1922.


His Eminence did not mention his: 1) authoring of De Matrimonio in 2 vols., the most influential treatise on marriage in since Gratian; 2) his negotiation of the Lateran Treaty seven years later, and 3) his editing of 7 out of 9 volumes of the 1917 Code's Fontes. Most men would be proud to have accomplished any one of these tasks.