Animare la Storia: gli Statuti Sassaresi

A visual translation of the Statuti Sassaresi - a manuscript containing the charter of rights of the Sassari’s municipality.

in collaboration with:

Back to 1316

In 1316 the town-republic of Sassari, in Sardinia (Italy), issued its Statuti, a collection of regulations describing the city’s legal and administrative matters. In the emerging frame of north and central Italian “Communal” culture autonomy, the appearence of similar statute-books can be considered a tenet of the movement that lead to the end of the feudal world.

Although similar to many contemporary city’s legislations, the Sassari statutes are in a way unique. They combine in fact a body of justice deriving both from the Roman and the Barbaric Laws with ancient local customary practices peculiar to the history of insular Sardinia.

My role

The Historical Archives of Sassari’s Municipality, the institution who is in charge of the conservation of the Statuti, contacted AnimazioneDesign Lab with the aim of starting a common research project for exploring a system of visual explanations and so improve the dissemination of a unique resource of local heritage and history.

As member of the research team I was asked to accomplish two main tasks: the design and production of the website that gather all the different communication’s artifacts and output produced along the research and the development of a prototype for a “digital edition” of the Statuti.

Beautiful and Unaccessible

Beautiful in their elegant handwritten text, the volumes are hardly accessible to the general public. A first practical reason is connected with the uniqueness of the document itself, which for obvious preservation purposes needs to be stored and handled with extreme care. Moreover, beyond the scarce legibility of the XIV Century hand-writing itself and the ancient parchment’s not always optimal state of conservation, the document’s contents themselves are far from being of easy interpretation. Both the Latin and ancient Sardinian versions are written in archaic form. The language is technical and very specific and, as it was then customary, specific textual formulas and abbreviations are widely used throughout the text.

The passing of time also ought to be taken in consideration. Although many of the general issues the Statuti deal with are still present in today’s life, society as a whole has gone through significant changes. Time has taken its toll on other grounds too: many landmarks of medieval Sassari’s mentioned in the Statuti – buildings, churches, squares and streets – are today hard to spot out, even for the historian: other simply no longer exist or have changed in name and function.

A digital facsímile

The prototype we proposed is a kind of “annotated” version of text – enriched by a system of cross-references.

The original text – presented in the original (either in latin or ancient vulgar) versions as well as translated in Italian – would be enhanced by a web of internal connections within the document contents. These may include a system of visual ‘notes’, in form of icons and document contents.

The layout imitates in many aspects an ancient manuscript, with enumerated paragraphs and capital letters. The digital edition allows at any time to refers to the original version and offers references to a schematic ancient map of the city.

A diagram showing the result of a frequency analysis allows user to navigate the text by clusters of key concepts.

have a look at the prototype / ...

Picturing 700 years of history. Charting political and social relationships from the Statuti Sassaresi, a XIV century manuscript statute-book

Nicolò Ceccarelli, Alfredo Calosci, Marco Sironi

in: “2CO Communicating Complexity. Contributions from the 2017 Tenerife Conference”

edited by: Nicoló Ceccarelli, Carlos Jiménez Martínez

Servicio de Publicaciones, Universidad de La Laguna – La Laguna 2020. Pp. 147-151

ISBN: 978-84-09-10171-9


Archivio Storico del Comune di Sassari

Archivio Storico del Comune di Sassari The Historical Archives of Sassari’s Municipality is a public institution aimed to preserve and disseminate the legacy of Sassari’s municipality administrations.