Official website of Notaires de France

History of notaries

  • Origins of notaries

    • In the 3rd century AD, under the late Roman Empire, officers whose roles were similar to that of modern Notaires were already authenticating contracts on behalf of the State. The colonizers introduced the concept into Gaul and "Gaulish notaries" started drawing up documents, particularly land censuses designed to establish the basis for property tax .

    • The profession disappeared after Rome fell to the barbarians, but reappeared in the 9th century by virtue of a capitulary issued by Charlemagne.

  • At the dawn of the Kingdom of France

    • In 1270, shortly before setting off on his last crusade, King Louis IX, commonly known as Saint Louis, and King Philippe le Bel, in 1302, played an important part in developing the role of the Notaire.

    • King Louis IX appointed 60 Notaires at Le Châtelet who worked on behalf of the Provost.

    • King Philippe le Bel extended the role of the Notaire to all the lands governed by the sovereign.

  • From the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts to the age of "enlightenment"

    • France became a nation in the 16th century. In 1539 King Francois Ier, by ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts prefigured how the civil law notary was to be organised : the instruments were to be written in French instead of regional dialects, the instruments were to be archived and a record their existence was to be kept.

    • In 1597, King Henri IV made the Notaires keepers of the Seal of State.

  • French Revolution and 19th century

    • The French Revolution did not challenge the notarial institution.

    • During the final phase of the Consulate, life-consul Napoleon Bonaparte, under an Act dated 25 Ventôse year XI by the revolutionary calendar , gave Notaires a status the main features of which have remained unchanged.

  • The 20th century

    • At the end of the greatest war in history, the Order dated 2 November 1945 gave Notaires their institutional bodies and founded the High Council of French Notariat (Conseil supérieur du notariat).

    • The Notaire's profession considerably developed since this period, made particularly vital by the need to rebuild France after World War II. The civil law notary has made a major contribution to this rebuilding in the legal and tax fields.

    • The legal profession experienced dramatic expansion after the War as politicians reformed most of France's institutions or created new institutions in many different fields.

    • At the same time as these developments, town-planning regulations underwent dozens of one-off changes and two new areas of law emerged: that of protection of consumer rights and that of environmental protection.

    • In short, the law has seen more changes in the last half-century or less than it underwent in the previous one hundred and fifty years. However, by investing significant technical and financial resources, the civil law notary has managed to cope with and adapt to all these changes.

See also


European Certificate of Inheritance