The States of Savoy collection comprises a set of documents featuring inventories and other lists of objects from an area falling within the domains of the counts of Savoy in the later middle ages.
The Savoy states extended across both sides of the western Alps. The power of the counts of Savoy first emerged in the Kingdom of Burgundy shortly after the year 1000 and was based on control over major Alpine passes, such as those of Moncenisio and Great St Bernard, linking northern Italy with France and Germany. In the fifteenth century, the House of Savoy, which acquired the duchy in 1416, controlled part of Piedmont and the Aosta Valley in Italy, along with what are now French territories between the Alps and the County of Nice and most of the French-speaking regions of Switzerland. The areas ruled by this dynasty, particularly on the Italian side, were marked by a dense network of urban centers, including ancient civitates (Aosta, Ivrea, Nice, Turin, and Vercelli), where bishops often enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy (such as in Lausanne). Also found in the domain were more recently established, dynamic villages such as Chieri in Italy and Chambéry in Savoy. However, the power of the counts also extended over vast rural areas which had not been affected by the political expansion of cities and which were governed by lay lords, vassals of the count, and by major monasteries, such as San Giusto di Susa in Piedmont and Saint-Maurice d’Agaune in the Canton of Valais.
From the mid-thirteenth century onward, those territories directly controlled by the House of Savoy were organized into districts governed by castellans, which on the French and Swiss side of the Alps were grouped together into bailiwicks. Shortly before the year 1300, Chambéry became the administrative center for the counts’ domains: officials would periodically travel there for an evaluation of their financial work; and it was there that most of the documents pertaining to the States of Savoy were stored. In Piedmont, first Pinerolo and then Turin played key administrative roles.
Historians have rarely examined documents from the Savoy territories that include inventories or lists of objects. Most of the editions of such documents have been produced by scholars studying individual rulers or territories, as in the case of Lucien Quaglia’s work on the canons of Great St Bernard. The inventories of the residences of the dukes of Savoy were studied by Pietro Vayra in the late nineteenth century, with a special focus on library inventories. In recent years, they have been newly examined by architectural historians such as Andrea Longhi. Detailed lists of objects may be found in last wills and testaments, many of which have been studied and published, as in the case of the list pertaining to the village of Chieri examined by Lorena Barale. A wide-ranging investigation of inventories from the Savoy territories has yet to be undertaken.
Most of the documentary evidence related to inventories and lists of objects from the Savoy territories falls within three groups of sources. Hundreds of notarial registers have been preserved, from the mid-thirteenth century onward, in the state archives of Italy and France (Archivi di Stato in Italy, Archives départementales in France, Archives cantonales in Switzerland) and also in archives belonging to religious institutions such as the Archives de l’abbaye de Saint-Maurice in the Canton of Valais. These registers contain post-mortem inventories, dowries, and lists of assets involved in transactions, along with private documents of other sorts. The registers from secular and ecclesiastical tribunals preserved from the late thirteenth century onward include both inventories of wards and lists of stolen or confiscated objects. Particularly abundant and noteworthy are those from urban tribunals in Piedmont and from the tribunal of the Abbey of San Giusto di Susa. A few dozen fifteenth-century inventories of castles and other public buildings belonging to the counts and dukes of Savoy are preserved in complete or partial form in the Turin State Archives.
Most of the documentary evidence relevant to the project is stored in the Archivio di Stato of Turin, in the Archives régionales in Aosta, in four Archives départementales in southeastern France, in some municipal archives in Piedmont (e.g. Turin, Moncalieri, Pinerolo, Ivrea), and in the archives of various religious institutions and aristocratic orders (e.g. Archives de l’abbaye de Saint-Maurice, Archivio storico dell’Ordine mauriziano in Turin). Most of the documents examined so far come from collections belonging to the Turin State Archives: the “Gioie e mobili” collection, which includes roughly forty fifteenth-century inventories pertaining to princely castles; collections from religious institutions such as San Giusto di Susa (roughly eighty registers from the abbey’s tribunal, dating between 1271 and 1400) and Santo Stefano di Ivrea (a notary register from the years 1299-1305); and the collection of notarial records for the House of Savoy. We are currently also examining the roughly one hundred registers from the Savoy tribunal of Moncalieri produced before the year 1400 and stored in the local municipal archives.
Goals and Prospects
The investigation is currently centered on the Piedmont area. The main focuses are two categories of sources: court records (particularly from the Abbey of San Giusto di Susa and the municipality of Moncalieri) and records that include inventories of the residences of the counts and dukes of Savoy.
At the same time, the team is laying the foundations for a broadening of the investigation to Valle d’Aosta, the Canton of Valais, Savoy, and the County of Nice. In the future, we hope to come up with an overall map of these inventories, so as to contribute to the reconstruction of material culture within the whole area that was under the political control of the Savoy in the Middle Ages.
The collection includes inventories and lists of objects drawn up between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. These documents make it possible to reconstruct the material culture of different contexts and territories: urban and rural areas, manufacturing and storage areas, and lordly residences. The lists of objects from court records, often pertaining to craftsmen and merchants, enable us to study the production, consumption, and circulation of goods throughout the territories ruled by the Savoy. Some inventories from religious institutions and castles also include information on the content of libraries and archives. The inventories of Savoy residences offer an overall view of the objects used within the princes’ entourages, including luxury goods.
Highlights include the inventories from the castles of Turin, Ivrea, and Stupinigi, drafted between 1416 and 1432. These provide a detailed description of the arrangement of the objects in each room, from halls to utility areas, enabling a reconstruction of the castles’ furnishings and architectural structures, which for the most part are still visible.
Owner and Contributors
The owner of this collection is Paolo Buffo, who has transcribed all the records in the collection. He is also the author of the images, unless otherwise stated.