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Ecclesiastical Courts in United Kingdom

(Source: the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law) No distinct system of ecclesiastical courts existed in England before the twelfth century. Rather, bishops of the church were also secular lords, who exercised their authority through the local assemblies.

“In the shire court, the bishop presided with the sheriff, and it seems that spiritual matters were placed first on the agenda. William I ordered in the 1070s that pleas of bishops and archdeacons should not be heard in the hundred courts, but that the power of the king and the sheriff should be available to compel appearance before the bishop. This was an attempt to prevent the corrective jurisdiction of the Church, which generated monetary income, from passing with the hundreds into lay hands. The separation of ecclesiastical and lay pleas at county level probably did not occur until the next century.” (26)

By the end of the twelfth century a machinery of ecclesiastical judicature had developed consisting of a hierarchy of tribunals with the Roman Curia as its apex. As described by Baker,

“At the lowest level, archdeacons had criminal courts for the correction of moral and disciplinary offenses; appeal lay from archidiaconal courts to episcopal ‘courts of audience’. The bishops also had their ‘consistory courts’, presided over by chancellors learned in Canon law, which heard lawsuits such as matrimonial and defamation cases. From bishops, appeal lay to one of the two archbishops: in the province of York to the Chancery Court of York, in that of Canterbury to the Court of Arches. From these provincial courts, appeal lay to the pope.” (27)

The Church tried cases involving actions of the clergy, articles concerning the church, and cases where the matter was of a spiritual nature. This last included, with respect to the laity, issues of morality, religious behavior, marriages, legitimacy, wills, and the administration of intestate estates. It served as a registry concerning baptisms, marriages, and burials.

Most of the records are held in the archives of the various religious houses and diocesan headquarters.

Court Christian

An ecclesiastical, as distinct from a lay, court. In medieval times the ecclesiastical courts in England claimed wide jurisdiction, over all matters of ecclesiastical status and spiritual functions, church property, matrimonial causes, testamentary matters, promises made by oath or pledge of faith, and over clerics and all personal causes, civil or criminal, in which a cleric was accused or defendant.

Source: The Oxford Companion to Law, 1980, p. 303.

Ecclesiastical Courts and Medieval Law

Ecclesiastical Courts and Legal History

Legal Materials in relation to Henry VI

(Compiled by the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law) Raine, James, ed. Depositions and Other Ecclesiastical Proceedings From the Courts of Durham, Extending From 1311 to the Reign of Elizabeth . Publications of the Surtees Society, 21. London: J. B. Nichols & Son, 1845.

Abstract: Early depositions in Latin. Depositions respecting witchcraft, matrimonial causes, and probates.

Walsingham, Thomas, Matthew Paris, and Henry T. Riley , eds. Gesta Abbatum Monasterii Sancti Albani, a Thoma Walsingham, Regnante Ricardo Secundo, Ejusdem Ecclesiae Praecentore, Compilata. 3 Vols. Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores (Rolls Series), 28. London: Longmans, Green, 1867-1969.

Abstract: Text in Latin. Chronicles of St. Albans Monastery. Vol. 1, AD 793-1290; Vol. 2, AD 1290-1349; Vol. 3, AD 1349-1411. Reprinted by Kraus, 1965.

Bibliographies of English Law History

  • Maxwell, William H. A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Volume 1: English Law to 1800. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1955-
  • Beale, Joseph H. A Bibliography of Early English Law Books. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926.
  • Winfield, Percy H. The Chief Sources of English Legal History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925.

Ecclesiastical Courts and Medieval Law

Ecclesiastical Courts and Legal History

Resources

See Also

  • Lordship Rights (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Medieval Lawyer (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Ancient Law (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Medieval Church Law (in this legal Encyclopedia)

Bibliographies of English Law History

  • Maxwell, William H. A Legal Bibliography of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Volume 1: English Law to 1800. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1955-
  • Beale, Joseph H. A Bibliography of Early English Law Books. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1926.
  • Winfield, Percy H. The Chief Sources of English Legal History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1925.

Resources

See Also

  • Edict (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Torture (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Usury (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Canonical Legislation (in this legal Encyclopedia)
  • Canon Law (in this legal Encyclopedia)

English Law: Ecclesiastical Courts in the Past

English law. Courts held by the king’s authority as supreme governor of the church, for matters which chiefly concern religion.

Developments

There are ten courts which may be ranged under this class. 1. The Archdeacon’s Court. 2. The Consistory Court. 3. The Court of Arches. 4. The Court of Peculiars. 5. The Prerogative Court. 6. The Court of Delegates, which is the great court of appeals in all ecclesiastical causes. 7. The Court of Convocation. 8. The Court of Audience. 9. The Court of Faculties. 10. The Court of Commissioners of Review. [1]

Resources

Notes and References

  1. Partialy, this information about ecclesiastical courts is based on the Bouvier´s Law Dictionary, 1848 edition. There is a list of terms of the Bouvier´s Law Dictionary, including ecclesiastical courts.

See Also

Some UK Ecclesiastical Courts

UK Ecclesiastical Courts include the following items:

Arches Court

See this section in the UK legal Encyclopedia for more information.

Chancery Court

See this section in the UK legal Encyclopedia for more information.

Commissary Court of Canterbury

See this section in the UK legal Encyclopedia for more information.

Consistory Court

See this section in the UK legal Encyclopedia for more information.

Court of Ecclesiastical Causes Reserved

See this section in the UK legal Encyclopedia for more information.

Court of Faculties

See this section in the UK legal Encyclopedia for more information.

Palatine of Lancaster Court

Ecclesiastical Courts

Resources

See Also

  • CORPORATIONS
  • COURT


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  • Article Name: Ecclesiastical Courts
  • Author: Valentine L. Korah
  • Description: (Source: the University of South Caroline Gould School of Law) No distinct system of ecclesiastical courts existed in [...]

This entry was last updated: January 31, 2020

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