English Medieval Legal Documents ›
3.3 - Ecclesiastical Law

After the conversion of England to Christianity, the Church adopted the Canon Law. This was based on the rules of discipline and government adopted by the early Christian community. "When Constantine (AD 306-337) publicly sanctioned Christianity, these rules passed from the realm of conscience to that of law, for the Church was given the legal power to enforce them. They were embodied in canons framed by ecclesiastical councils, definitions of doctrine, like the Creeds, and elaborate lists of sins with their corresponding tariffs of money values, called penitentials... To these were added ecclesiastical laws issued by the Anglo-Saxon kings on the advice of their bishops, with whom they were closely allied." (43) An extensive treatment of ecclesiastical law can be found in Maxwell.(44) Only the main sources are listed below.

Duggan, Charles. Twelfth-Century Decretal Collections and Their Importance in English History. University of London Historical Studies, 12. London: University of London, Athlone Press, 1963.
Abstract: Register of decretals cited, 203-211.

Gibson, Edmund, ed. Codex Juris Ecclesiastici Anglicani: or, The Statutes, Constitutions, Canons, Rubricks and Articles, of the Church of England, Methodically Digested Under Their Proper Heads. With a Commentary, Historical and Juridical. Before It, Is an Introductory Discourse, Concerning the Present State of the Power, Discipline and Laws, of the Church of England: and After It, an Appendix of Instruments, Ancient and Modern. 2 Vols. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1761.
Abstract: Reprinted in 1969.

Haddan, Arthur W., William Stubbs, and David Wilkins, eds. Councils and Ecclesiastical Documents Relating to Great Britain and Ireland. 3 Vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press , 1964.
Abstract: Contents:
Vol. 1, British church during the Roman period: AD 200-450. British church during the period of Saxon conquest: AD 450-681. Church of Wales: AD 681-1295. Church of Cornwall: AD 681-1072.
Vol.2, pt.1, Church of Cumbria or Strathclyde: AD 600-1188. British churches abroad: British church in Armerica: AD 387-818. See of Breton~a in Gallicia: AD 569-830. Church of Scotland during the Celtic period and until declared independent of the see of York: AD 400-1188.
Vol. 2, pt.2, Church of Ireland; memorials of S. Patrick
Vol. 3, English churches during the Anglo-Saxon period: AD 595-1066. Originally published 1869-1878. Based upon the Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae of Wilkins, which was itself an enlargement of Spelman and Dugdale's Concilia decreta, leges, constitutiones in re ecclesiarum Orbis Britannici.

Johnson, John, and John Baron, eds. A Collection of the Laws and Canons of the Church of England From Its First Foundation to the Conquest, and From the Conquest to the Reign of King Henry VIII: Translated into English With Explanatory Notes. 2 Vols. Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology. New edition, 54, 55 ed. Oxford : J.H. Parker, 1850-1851.

Luard, Henry R. Annales Monastici. 5 Vols. Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores (Rolls Series), 36. London: Longman, Green, Longman, Roberts, and Green, 1864-1869.

Lyndwood, William, Cardinal Otho, Pope Adrian, and John Acton, eds. Provinciale Seu Constitutiones Angliae Continens Constitutiones Provinciales Quatuordecim Archiepiscoporum Cantuariensium, Viz. a` Stephano Langtono Ad Henricum Chichleium : Cum Summariis Atque Eruditis Annotationibus, Summa Accuratione Denuo Revisum Atque Impressum. Early English Books, 1641-1700, 36:3. Oxford: H. Hall, 1679.
Abstract: A compilation of the canon law of the province of Canterbury from the time of Stephen Langton to that of Henry Chichele.

Thorpe, Benjamin, and R. Price, ed. & trans. Ancient Laws and Institutes of England; Comprising Laws Enacted Under the Anglo-Saxon Kings From Aethelbirht to Cnut, With an English Translation of the Saxon; the Laws Called Edward the Confessor's; the Laws of William the Conqueror, and Those Ascribed to Henry the First; Also, Monumenta Ecclesiastica Anglicana, From the Seventh to the Tenth Century; and the Ancient Latin Version of the Anglo-Saxon Laws. With a Compendious Glossary, Etc. 2 Vols. London: Commissioners of the Public Records, 1840.
Notes: Also available online in HeinOnline and Modern Economy (subscription databases)
Abstract: Contains the earliest recorded Anglo-Saxon laws - enactments or dooms made by King and Witan from ca. 601 up to and including the laws of Henry I. Vol. 1, Secular laws; Vol. 2, Ecclesiastical laws. Contains a concordance. Begun by R. Price and completed after his death by B. Thorpe. Reprinted in 2003.

Thorpe, John, ed. Registrum Roffense: or, A Collection of Antient Records, Charters, and Instruments of Divers Kinds, Necessary for Illustrating the Ecclesiastical History and Antiquities of the Diocese and Cathedral Church of Rochester. London: W.& J Richardson, 1769.
Abstract: Includes a law record of the reign of Henry I and the laws of several of the ))Anglo-Saxon Kings((, particularly of the four kings whose laws are omitted by Lambarde, together with the Anglo-Saxon form of oaths. Text in Latin.

Whitelock, Dorothy, M. Brett, Christopher N. L. Brooke, Frederick M. Powicke, Christopher R. Cheney, and Arthur W. Haddan , eds. Councils & Synods, With Other Documents Relating to the English Church. 2 Vols. in 4. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964-1981.
Abstract: Contents:
Vol. 1, AD 871-1204 (pt. 1, 871-1066, pt. 2, 1066-1204), edited by D. Whitelock, M. Brett and C.N.L. Brooke
Vol. 2, AD 1205-1313 (pt. 1, 1205-1265, pt. 2, 1265-1313), edited by F.M. Powicke and C.R. Cheney, continues the English section of the Councils and ecclesiastical documents, (1869-78) of Haddan and Stubbs from King Alfred to King Henry VIII.

Wilkins, David, ed. Concilia Magnae Britanniae Et Hiberniae, a Synodo Verolamiensi A.D. CCCCXLVI Ad Londinensem A.D. (MD)CCXVII. Accedunt Constitutiones Et Alia Ad Historiam Ecclesiae Anglicanae Spectantia. Bruxelles: Culture et Civilisation, 1737.
Abstract: Records the legislation of ecclesiastical councils. Vol. 1, AD 446 to AD 1265; vol. 2, AD 1268 to AD1349; vol. 3, AD 1350 to AD 1545; vol.4, AD 1546 to AD 1717. Reprinted in 1964.


43. Winfield, Percy H. The Chief Sources of English Legal History, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925 at p.56
44. Maxwell, William Harold, and Leslie F. Maxwell , comps. A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations. 8 Vols. 2nd ed. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1955- at pp.163-202





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