Compagna Comunis

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Compagna Comunis was the name of the Medieval commune of Genoa during the Middle Ages.


A deed issued in 958 by Berengar II granted the city full rights of ownership and judicial freedom[1], giving rise to the process that would eventually lead to the formation of the Medieval commune in the 11th century.

In 1097, the bishop of Genoa Arialdo founded the Compagna Communis, an administrative body comprised of both the Imperial feudal lords and the eight historical district associations of Genoa, the Compagne Rionali. These districts retained their social an political identity significance for several centuries: in 1382 the members of the Great Council were still being labelled by the compagna they belonged to in addition to the political faction (nobles or popular)[2].

From 1099, Genoa was ruled by consuls, who were invested with the legislative, judicial, and executive powers over the city state. The consuls were elected from the city's notable families, leading to frictions that would eventually lead to an arms race between the two most influential families: the Carmandino and the Maneciano. The latter, who had been in power following the First Crusade, had taken advantage of their predominance to secure commercial priviliges in the East, thereby undoing the delicate competitive balance that had existed and weakening Genoa's commercial power in the struggle against Pisa.

The Commune and its Functions

The creation of the Compagna Communis marked the beginning of the Republic in its truest form. It was governed by a variable number of consuls elected by voters (all male citizens between the ages of 16 and 70), who would gather in the cathedral of San Lorenzo to vote. Once elected, a consul would take charge the 2nd of February.

Although consuls were invested with all three of the legislative, judicial, and executive powers, their power was checked by the Consilium. This was an assembly that had veto rights over the consuls' decisions, and was made up of the most notable citizens and previous consuls. Moulded on the Roman Senate, ballots were cast using white and black pebbles.

The office of the consulate included command of the fleets, the army, and the call to vote, however only the Consilium could call the citizenry to arms. Within the Consilium was a body known as the Consiglio di Credenza, made up of the Silenziari. This body would vote on those matters that needed to be conducted in secrecy, such as the donations made to the Holy See in exchange for its support (as likely occurred for the acquisition of Corsica, given the Pope transferred the spiritual control over the region to Genoa in 1123).

Within the structure of the Compagna Communis, the Bishop (and later Archibishop) of Genoa only maintained a representative function, but was nevertheless apprised of those strategies enacted by the government.

Following the First Crusade, the governmental structure was modified several times. At first the function of the Consoli dei Placiti - those consuls responsible for civil justice - were separated from those of the commune, then their numbers were varied, and their period in office was decreased from four years to one.

The administration of the finances was also separated out from the office of the consuls, and entrusted to the Clavigeri, eight magistrates who held the keys of the treasury.

The office of the magistrates, the Placiti, administered justice in accordance with three legal perspectives: the romano-byzantine norms of civil justice, the precedents set by specific legal arguments, and matters of criminal law and public security.

Among the other offices was also that of the Cintraco, the town crier. This office had the power to summon the citizenry and execute public sentences, including whippings, as well as cautioning citizens to remain vigilant for fires.


  1. "RM Strumenti - La città medievale italiana - Testimonianze, 13". Retrieved 2020-08-15.
  2. Cesare Cattaneo Mallone di Novi, I Politici del medioevo genovese, Genova 1987 pubblica questo documento a pp. 184-193

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