Source: Manumission in Genoa
A slave was manumitted (freed) in each of these two documents. Both were drawn up by notaries in Genoa during the thirteenth century. In the first document, the master has voluntarily manumitted his slave, waiving his right to her peculium (her personal property) as well as his right to patronage (which would allow him to exert a degree of control over her actions even after manumission). The second document is the will of a wealthy Genoese woman. Among her many charitable bequests and gifts to friends and relatives, she chose to manumit a slave and leave her a moderate sum of money. Since this slave was jointly owned by the woman and her husband, the husband’s permission was recorded to ensure that the manumission would be valid.
Document 1: Sergius de Castello manumits Gilla
Translated from the Latin by Hannah Barker. Printed in John Williams, “From the Commercial Revolution to the State Revolution: The Development of Slavery in Medieval Genoa.” PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1995. Doc. 7b. This translation CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
May 13, 1214
The witnesses are Raymond the notary, Raibaldus Formica, Martinus the barber, [and] Montanarius the weigher. I, Sergius de Castello, for the love of God and the remedy of my sins, give to you, Gilla the Corsican, my slave woman, pure and clean liberty, therefore releasing you and all your peculium and acquisition from every bond of servitude, and granting to you and your heirs in every way the faculty of bestowing, receiving, taking an oath, and making a testament, and carrying out all civil contracts and business just as you wish as a Roman citizen. Also I remit the law of patronage to you. I promise to you the aforementioned liberty, which I and my heirs ought to hold firm and broad and to defend from any person, under the penalty of 10 lire of pure gold, etc. Done in Genoa, in the fondaco, the 13th day of May, after terce.
 References to Roman law, especially the Roman practice of granting citizenship to freed slaves, remained common in European manumission contracts throughout the late Middle Ages.
 A fondaco is a commercial building with several stories surrounding a central courtyard. The ground floor might be used for warehouses or shops, while the upper floors provided housing for merchants.
Document 2: Oliva de Frexoni manumits Johaneta
Translated from the Latin by Hannah Barker. Printed in John Williams, “From the Commercial Revolution to the State Revolution: The Development of Slavery in Medieval Genoa.” PhD diss., University of Chicago, 1995. Doc. 7b.
April 9, 1252
In the name of the Lord, amen. I, Oliva the wife of Simon de Frexoni, fearing the judgment of God, for my good memory, healthy in mind and in contemplation of my final will, make such disposition of my things. First, if it happens that I die, I want and order that my body be buried at the church of St. Syrus, and I declare 5 Genoese lire in distribution by my husband Simon for candles and bells and other funeral rites and my burial, of which I declare ten years for the work of St. Lawrence. Also 5 Genoese lire for the singing of masses for my soul for one year, in distribution by the said Simon. I leave 3 Genoese lire to Johaneta my servant [servicialis]. I leave 20 Genoese soldi to Maria, the prior of St. Andrew de Porta. 10 soldi to the monastery of the Holy Spirit. I leave 10 Genoese soldi to the sisters of St. Agatha. I leave 20 Genoese soldi to Mathea de Ioculi my sister. 5 Genoese soldi to the hospital of St. Stephan. 10 Genoese soldi to the hospital of St. John. 10 Genoese soldi to the sick of St. Lazarus. 10 Genoese soldi to the monastery of the Holy Sepulchre in Sampierdarena. 10 Genoese soldi to the revenues of Faxolo. 10 Genoese soldi to the work of the mole [the wharf]. 10 Genoese soldi to the monastery of Banno. 20 Genoese soldi to the Friars Minor [the Franciscans]. 20 Genoese soldi to the Friars Preachers [the Dominicans]. 5 Genoese soldi to Alda. 20 Genoese soldi to Alda de Bavali my nurse. 40 Genoese soldi to Castellana, wife of the late Facolus Turgius.
Also I leave my husband Simon up to the complement of 100 Genoese lire with his accounts which come to him from the chapter. To my daughter Adalaxia I leave 100 Genoese lire.
Also I want and arrange, in the presence and with the consent and will of the said Simon, my husband, present and willing, that Johaneta my slave [sclava] and [the slave] of my said husband may be free and released from every bond of servitude, thus finally that she ought and is held to serve me and my said husband during my life and his.
I establish Jacobinus my son as the heir for me of the rest of my goods, always excepting the bonds, receipts and burdens of the commune of Genoa; thus finally concerning my available goods, that my successors cannot have possession or lordship of my immovable goods unless they first cause [something] to be written concerning it in the cartulary of territory in order to pay the commune. This is my last will, and if it does not have force by the law of testaments, I want it to have as much force [as possible] of codicils or of any other kind of last will.
Done in the villa which is called Pastorezia in the house of the said couple. Witnesses named and called: Enricus de Levanto, Lanfrancus Bucha, Bonusvassallus de Domoculta, Obertus Frexonus and Nicolaus Sardena. In the year of the Lord’s birth 1252, the ninth indiction, the ninth day of April, after terce.
 I.e. real estate.
- How soon after the creation of these documents would Gilla and Johaneta become free? Why do you think Oliva chose to delay Johaneta’s manumission?
- According to these documents, what does freedom imply? What rights do slaves gain when they become free? What obligations are removed?
- Johaneta was jointly owned by two people, Oliva and Simon. What might have happened if Simon did not agree with Oliva’s plan to manumit Johaneta?
Related Primary Sources
- Manumission in Cyprus
- Slave Women and Their Children in Venetian Crete
- Visigothic Manumission Charters