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English Medieval Legal Documents Database

A Compilation of Published Sources from 600 to 1535

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.

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