Liber Paradisus square
Bologna was the first city in the world to abolish slavery and liberate all serfs.
The defeat of the Bolognese feudal lords in the battle of Fossalta in 1249 led to an ethical and economic re-evaluation of the position of serfs, who until that time had been considered as mere property of the lords.ù
On August 25, 1256, Bolognese citizens were called to gather by the Arengo bell in Piazza Maggiore, where the Chief Magistrate and the Captain of the People announced that all serfs living in or around Bologna were now liberated: 5855 slaves were released upon payment out of the municipal treasury of 54,014 silver lire to their former owners. The amount paid was the same (ten) whether the slaves were male or female, with a slight reduction for minors under the age of fourteen (eight).
With this, all residents of the city without distinction became freemen. The serfs, liberated by this proclamation, then became members of artisanal guilds. There is a fresco by Adolfo De Carolis in the main hall of the Palazzo del Podestà depicting this event.
On June 3, 1257 an official document was drafted ratifying the proclamation which had ended serfdom the year before. The document, entitled Liber Paradisus, also contained a list of names of all the serfs who had thereby been released from servitude. With the publication of Liber Paradisus, freedom and dignity for every individual became concrete concepts, long in advance of modern-day human rights charters. Not only: in this case the choice was freely and jointly taken by a group of representatives, rather than forced upon them, as has frequently been the case historically, as the result of conflicts or battles of civil wars or violent national uprisings.
Liber Paradisus is therefore totally unique, both in content and in form The volume, today housed in the State Archives located in Piazza dei Celestini, is called Paradiso because of the first word appearing on its first page, reminding the reader that God in Heaven created man in to live perfect and perpetual freedom:
"Paradisum voluptatis plantavit dominus Deus omnipotens a principio, in quo posuit hominem, quem formaverat, et ipsius corpus ornavit veste candenti, sibi donans perfectissimam et perpetuam libertatem"
[In the beginning the LordGod Almighty planted a paradise of delights. In it He put in it the man which He had formed and He adorned his body with a garment of whiteness, giving him perfect and everlasting freedom]
In 2007, on the occasion of the 750th anniversary of the publication in 1257 of the declarations of liberty, the original manuscript was scanned and published online. In August 2008, when the new City Hall of the Municipality of Bologna was inaugurated in Palazzo Bonaccorso, the square in front of the building was named "Piazza Liber Paradisus".