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  • Un mariage contesté: "L'union de la Cité et de la ville inférieure de Lausanne" (1481)
  • Jean-François Poudret
Un mariage contesté: "L'union de la Cité et de la ville inférieure de Lausanne" (1481). By Clémence Thévenaz Modestin. [Cahiers Lausannois d'histoire médiévale, 38.] (Lausanne: Université de Lausanne. 2006. Pp. 313. €24,00 paperback.)

Even though the qualifier "nuptials" appears in an account of the town of Lausanne in 1479, it is not a "marriage" but a political union that reveals both the ambitions of the people of Lausanne and their tense relations with Bishop Benoît de Montferrand. This union has been well known to historians since the seventeenth century. But this knowledge has been totally freshed, by the author, thanks to a systematic examination of all available sources, in particular the accounts books of the town of Lausanne. Clémence Thévenaz knows a way to make them talk. The registration of an inn's bill frequently allows us to identify the protagonists and the purpose of their meeting. Another asset consists in the full edition of fifty-eight supporting documents completed by bibliographic notes of the principal craftsmen of the union. Consequently we can say that this study constitutes a valuable contribution to the history of Lausanne.

Until the union of 1480, Lausanne was divided into two communities each one with its own administration. The city (civitas) was administered by two syndics and one Council where the Chapter played a key role. As for the lower town (villa, villa inferior), it was governed by two syndics or "priors" and divided into four districts, each one represented by six delegates to the Council that thus counted twenty-four members.

Above all there were constant tensions between the Bishop Benoît de Montferrand (1476–91) and his subjects of Lausanne who were the principal cause of the union. Puffed up with their rights, the bishop and his officers frequently violated the franchises. In March of 1478 the lower town's Council decided to carry out the union and to secretly meet the city's representatives. [End Page 350] From then on these two institutions collaborated closely in this project but did not prevail until July 9, 1480. If the event was celebrated the same day by a bonfire, this first act of union did not emerge without questions. Thus, the request to affix the seals of the "Official de Lausanne" and of the Metropolitan court of Besançon remained unanswered. A new request to affix the seals of the "official," the Chapter, and the Metropolitan court or at least one of them is made but unanswered. We can imagine the bishop forbidding his "official" to seal an act prejudicial to his rights. This new act of union, shorter but more complex than the first one, settled numerous questions that have not been answered yet, in particular the community's new denomination as, Civita [ti]s Lausannensis communitas, because the city is worthier than the township, the text says. It was to be governed by twelve counselors and two syndics or governors recruited one within the city and the other one within the lower city. This union was concluded for the future and will not have retroactive effects, which again brings up questions on the reach of the version of 1480 and of 1481. Although the author judges the first one to have been already a perfect agreement,we doubt, in law, that it could be considered as binding for the parties before obtaining the approval of the Chapter. If we keep in mind the marital metaphor,we could see in the act of 1480 a matrimonium initiatum and see in the act of 1481 a matrimonium perfectum!

The bishop's anger rightfully increased, as the Chapter rallied. On the one hand, he should have been convened by the Chapter when it deliberated, and on the other, further to art. 64 of the "Plaict general," no innovations were permitted without consulting with the three orders, gathered in a secular court under the presidency of the prelate. Obviously, this led to many appeals to the Metropolitan court of Besançon, the...


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