Church Courts, Civil Procedure, and the Professionalization of Law

in The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780226077598
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226077611 | DOI:
Church Courts, Civil Procedure, and the Professionalization of Law

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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A new romano-canonical procedural system began to take shape during the second half of the twelfth century. Litigants inundated the church's legal system with a mounting deluge of legal actions. This growth in demand for the services of church courts apparently originated with litigants. Although the early bishops of Rome had managed to give personal attention to the judicial business that came before them, by the late ninth century contentious matters referred to the papacy had grown sufficiently numerous that popes occasionally sought assistance in coping with their judicial workload. A massive increase in the volume of litigation threatened to turn the pope, bishops, and other church authorities into full-time judges and arbitrators and to leave them with little time, energy, or capacity to provide the religious leadership and inspiration that justified their authority, power, and privileges. Faced with this situation, popes and bishops began to search for new methods to cope with the flood of lawsuits that were pouring into their courts.

Keywords: papacy; litigation; lawsuits; popes; bishops; church courts; judges; arbitrators; legal system

Chapter.  16958 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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