Starting from the twelfth-century last decades a large number of clerics of the Patriarchate of Aquileia began to an increasingly extend to attend the great universities that were being established: not only Bologna, but also Paris and Oxford. Documents thereon are, among other things, the numerous evidences, just fragments in many cases, of scholastic texts circulating in Friuli in the late Middle Ages.
The Lateran Councils provisions of 1179 and 1215 referring to schools and universities, as well as the new settlement of the conflict between the pope and the emperor that had directly concerned Friuli, contributed to that cultural awakening which had already started in the first half of the twelfth century. An increasingly extent of clerics moved since ever their steps from Aquileia, Cividale and Concordia to take their ways to the big university centres, which were then going to have recognition, where they should be to begin the studies of law and medicine, philosophy and theology. The oldest witnesses come from an Aquileian canon, Artuic, student at Bologna around the year 1180, and Henry, a nephew to the patriarch Ulrich of Treffen, student at Paris before 1182. The statutes of the Chapter of Aquileia, approved in the year 1181, expressly provided for facilities to those canons who wished to attend universities, in the deep conviction that the education obtained in those premises was absolutely necessary for the patriarchal state governance, from chancellery to schools, from representative functions to administering civil and ecclesiastic justice.
Only a few scholastic codices of the Friulian area are kept whole: among these a Decretum Gratiani, belonging to Marsilius, canon of Cividale, which was lent to the patriarch Gregorio da Montelongo (Cividalese, MAN, cod. V), and Peter Lombard’s Sentences owned by the patriarch Antonio Pancera (Guarneriano 142). The circulation and fruition of scholastic texts in Friuli in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries is above all evidenced by fragments, particularly those which are kept at the State Archives of Udine. To point out the phenomenon significance it is enough to recall that as many as 42 fragments were parts of scholastic texts among 81 codex fragments of various consistency that are datable to the thirteenth century: first of all Justinian’s Corpus iuris. The majority of these books are of Italian provenance and confirm the privilege assigned by Friulian students to the universities of Bologna and Padua, as to the studies of law; while as far as philosophy and theology were concerned, the university of Paris is likely to have played a more important role for the echelons of the Aquileian patriarchate than it had been supposed so far. It is as well relevant that the oldest medicine manuscript kept in Friuli, datable to the first half of the thirteenth century, is also of French provenance and was held by a doctor of Cividale in the second half of that same century.