Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Livre de la Cour des Bourgeois
(aka Livre des Assises des Bourgeois)


The Livre de la Cour des Bourgeois (also known as the Livre des Assises des Bourgeois or the Liber de justitia de jure from the text’s incipit) is a lengthy description of the formation and procedures of the Burgess court of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (the Cour des Bourgeois), with particular reference to the legal matters of Frankish non-nobles living in the Latin East. Compsed between 1229 and 1244, this text was previously viewed as providing only a snapshot of thirteenth-century law in the Latin East, but more recent studies have demonstrated that the Livre was compiled in stages by multiple authors, and that it served as a handbook for members of the Cour des Bourgeois. In particular, the work offers detailed descriptions of the responsibilities of officers of the court, the rights of burgesses, and the conditions under which men and women could avail themselves of the court. Legal matters addressed in the work include a discussion of misdemeanors, the sale of borgesies (rentable property owned by burgesses), the legal rights of landowners and renters, the limitations on the loaning of money, contestation of marriage, inheritance, dowry, illegitimacy and the making of wills. A number of chapters share similarities with western legal texts, such as the Lo Codi of southern France, suggesting that members of the Eastern law courts had access to western legal codes when they compiled their own works. The Livre de la Cour des Bourgeois proved popular at the time it was composed and was soon copied in other legal centers of the Latin East, including the city of Nicosia in the Kingdom of Cyprus, where it had a significant influence on the development of the Cypriot Burgess court.

Representative MSS

Munich, Bayerische Staatsbiblioteck, cod. gall. 51
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Fr 19026
Venice, Biblioteca Marciana, Fr. app. 6

Beugnot, Arthur, ed. “Assises de la cour des bourgois.” In Recueil des Historiens des Croisades: Lois, tome 2. Paris: Académie Royal des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 1843, 1-226.

See also the English translation of a 14th-century Greek version (there is no English translation of the French version):

Nicholas Coureas,The Assizes of the Lusignan Kingdom of Cyprus (Nicosia: Cyprus Research Centre, 2002).

Secondary Literature

Nader, Marwan. Burgesses and Burgess law in the Latin Kingdoms of Jerusalem and Cyprus, 1099-1325. Burlington: Ashgate, 2006, 48-57

Prawer, Johua. Crusader Institutions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980, 372-377. 



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