The Status of the 'Infidel' in Premodern Canon Law

Completed Project

Over the past few decades, the legal bases and frameworks for the coexistence of different religious communities in the Middle Ages and in the early Modern period have come into sharp focus. This applies equally to both secular and to religious law. However, a survey of the results of more recent research activities reveals considerable difficulties. This is not least due to the fact that most relevant studies come from academic contexts outside of legal history. These particular starting points not only lead to partly disparate research discussions, they also influence the picture of the possibilities and limits of legal convivencia in the pre-modern era.

The present undertaking is part of the MPIeR Project "Convivencia – Legal Historical Perspectives". The aim of this sub-project is to subject the relevant research that has thus far been done to a critical inventory regarding a key factor of legal coexistence in the pre-modern era, namely the canon law of the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Of particular interest in this context is the figure of the infidel (infidelis). Although ecclesial law (primarily) governs the lives of Christians, i.e. members of the Church, quite a few references to non-Christians can be found in pre-modern canon law and its literature, without these references, however, becoming a subject of investigation in their own right. Starting with the question about the status of the infidelis in medieval and early modern canon law, the relevant research literature will, in a first step, be systematically recorded. In a second step the legal status of the infidel will be studied in detail and focus on a single aspect: marriages between Christians and non-Christians.

Christoph H.F. Meyer
Nichtchristen in der Geschichte des kanonischen Rechts: Beobachtungen zu Entwicklung und Problemen der Forschung.
Rechtsgeschichte - Legal History Rg 26, S. 139 - 160 (2018)
Christoph H.F. Meyer
Non-Christians in the Normative Culture of the Catholic Church between Antiquity and the Modern Era: A Select Bibliography (June 30, 2020).
Max Planck Institute for European Legal History Research Paper Series No. 2020-15: subsidia et instrumenta
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