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Regular version of the site

Article

A Notary Arrives to Tana: Venetian Notaries in the Overseas Colonies in the Fifteenth Century

The World of the Orient / Східний світ. 2020. Vol. 1. P. 69-76.

This article deals with the fates of the two notaries, Niccolò de Varsis and Benedetto de Smeritis, who served in the 1430s in the Venetian colony in Tana (today Azov), placed in the mouth of the River Don where it flows into the Sea of Azov. In this article the author established based on the notarial documents the chronology of the arrival and departure of our two notaries together with the chronology of the arrival and departure of the respective consuls. Further, based on the self-identifications of the notaries the author inferred that that the self-description of the notary and, more broadly, of any person in notarial deeds varied considerably, and there is no reason to see any clear relationship between the formula and the legal status of the person. The imbreviaturae of the notarial documents drawn up by the notaries Niccolò de Varsis and Benedetto Smeritis mainly, although with a few exceptions, in Tana from 1430 to 1440 are stored in the Archivio di Stato di Venezia, in the sections Notarili Testamenti and Cancelleria Inferior, Notai. After the death or the termination of the activities of public notaries, the Cancelleria Inferior received these imbreviaturae. The deeds of Varsis and Smeritis are the only notary documents of Venetian origin that came to us from Tana in the 1430s. Joining the notarial College, Venetian notaries were not always able to find a place in Venice and went to practice overseas, often combining their work with other positions, most often the clerical ranks, and then they returned home. In the overseas colonies the functions and responsibilities of a notary were much wider than in the metropolis – they included not only the drafting of the private notarial deeds, but also participation in the management of the colonial chancery and administration, the drafting of the official documents of the curial office of the consul, etc. The position of a notary could be combined with other administrative and ecclesiastic posts in the colonies. The notaries in the overseas Venetian trading stations were simultaneously priests, and this can be often seen in Tana, since they could combine in one person a number of essential functions (the chancellor of the consul’s curia, the chaplain, the notary). In Tana, the Venetians lived compactly within a community, which determined the special role of the notary, who performed in relation to them, in addition, the duties of the pastor. One of their tasks was to draw up private notarial deeds for the individuals, although their work as notaries was not limited to this, as it is discussed in this article.