In the course of the Middle Ages, papal deeds developed into an important medium of communication and are therefore of particular historical interest. Scientists from all over the world have been working with these writings for more than 100 years. The research is made possible by a project of the Göttingen Academy, which began in 1896 and has been supported by the Pius Foundation since 1931. Recently, the “Bund-Länder Kommission” has made further funds available, so that it is now also possible to research papal documents from previously largely unnoticed areas along Europe's eastern and western borders.
For a long time in the Middle Ages, there was only one central institution in the midst of Europe's political and cultural diversity: the papacy. The Pope led bishops and other clergymen, appointed judges, granted privileges and granted possessions, ruled in disputes, and corresponded with worldly rulers. He did this by means of documents which he sent to the person concerned. These documents played a major role in securing the papacy's position of primacy. In the 12th century their number increased dramatically, a sign of the growing power and centralization of the church. The Papal deeds influenced the development of the scriptures and chancellery practices of many European regions. Their research is therefore not only one of the most attractive, but also one of the most important fields of work in mediaeval studies and European history.
The project "Papsturkunden des frühen und hohen Mittelalters" includes documents dating back to 1198, and has so far focused on relations between the Pope and Christianity in the territory of the Holy Roman Empire and neighbouring regions (Italy, Germany, France). Approximately 30,000 documents have been handed down. Recently, the “Bund-Länder Kommission” has made funds available for a long-term project that will enable a reorientation of research on Papal Papers.
The aim is to examine the papal influence also in the “peripheral zones” of the East and West. Many new discoveries are expected in these peripheries, which also promise new answers to the question of how the popes applied their universal claims against political particularism.