The History of Courts and Procedure in Medieval Canon Law

By Burden, John | The Catholic Historical Review, Summer 2018 | Go to article overview

The History of Courts and Procedure in Medieval Canon Law


Burden, John, The Catholic Historical Review


The History of Courts and Procedure in Medieval Canon Law. Edited by Wilfried Hartmann and Kenneth Pennington. [History of Medieval Canon Law.] (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press. 2016. Pp. xiv, 506. $75.00. ISBN 978-0813229041.)

This long-awaited volume addresses church courts in western and central Europe between about 1100 and 1500. Bringing together an international group of senior scholars, it contains fourteen essays divided into two parts.

The basic story is familiar. In the first half of the twelfth century, academic jurists at the nascent universities developed a set of procedural rules derived from newly discovered texts of Roman law. These rules-known as the ordo iudiciorum- standardized the stages of litigation, modes of proof (namely, witness testimony), and rendering ofjudgments. The ordo was quickly adopted by the papacy and incorporated into the canon law of the Church, giving birth to a joint "Romano-canonical procedure" that replaced older forms of proof such as the ordeal and oath-compurgation. Between 1150 and 1250, bishops across Europe adopted the ordo and established fixed courts (consistory courts, officialities, etc.) whose jurisdiction included-but was not limited to-marriage, sexual crimes, church property, injury to clerics, and oaths/contracts. Part of an appellate network which reached all the way to the pope in Rome, these courts survived well into the early modern period.

Essays in this volume explore aspects of the Romano-canonical legal system, including its procedure, personnel, jurisdiction, physical location, documentation, and regional variation. Kenneth Pennington and Charles Donahue explain its procedural norms as described by jurisprudential treatises and papal decretals. Barbara Diemling addresses the location of church courts, identifying a transition around the year 1200 away from church portals and toward separate civic courtrooms. James Brundage charts the development of legal professionals, including advocates, proctors, and notaries. Brigide Schwarz describes the papal court and its officials, while Charles Duggan explains the rise and fall of the papal judge delegate between 1150 and 1250. Essays in the second part focus on the records of individual regions: France and adjoining territories (Charles Donahue and Sara McDougall), England and Scotland (Richard Helmholz), Spain (Antonio García y García), and Poland and Hungary (Péter Cardinal Erdő). …

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