I'm reading The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco, which has a lot of Latin phrases and expressions, since the story is set in the 14th century and the protagonist is a franciscan friar. The expression I'm having trouble with is "cum inter nonnullos". With a bit of searching, I found this is the name of a short bull( a papal decree) declaring that the doctrine of poverty was heretical. But what does it mean in Latin? I could only find that it translates to something like "Among other things". Is it supposed to mean it was a decree about miscellaneous subjects?

1 Answer 1


Bulls and other papal writings generally do not have a formal name. For convenience, the first few words of the text are often adopted as an informal name. This is the case here. The bull was issued by Pope John XXII on 12 November 1323 and begins with the three words Cum inter nonnullos. (The above-linked text has quum instead of cum but that is a just a spelling variation.)

The words are but a short fragment of the first sentence of the bull and do not really mean anything on their own. A word-by-word translation could be: “when among several.” It makes more sense when you take more of the sentence:

Quum inter nonnullos viros scholasticos saepe contingat in dubium revocari, utrum pertinaciter affirmare, Redemptorem nostrum ac Dominum Iesum Christum eiusque Apostolos in speciali non habuisse aliqua, nec in communi etiam, haereticum sit censendum …

When among a number of scholastic men it is often successfully called into question that it is to be considered heretical to stubbornly assert that our Lord and Redeemer Jesus Christ and his apostles had no individual possessions, nor even shared possessions …

Well, that is my free translation, enjoy the full English text here. The bull was part of an ongoing debate about the precept of poverty, and in particular about the claim that Jesus and the apostles owned no property. John XXII comes down on the side of those who say they very well did. As you can see, the informal title of the bull is not representative of the content, which is typical.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.