The Knowledge of the Canonists in the Late Middle Ages and in the Early Modern Period

Research Project

Since late antiquity, the canon law of the Catholic Church has formed a central intersection of diverse forms of religious and legal normativity. From the 12th century onwards, it was the subject of learned instruction and extensive literature and was intellectually penetrated and applied in practice by academically trained specialists, the canonists. The outstanding role of canon law in legal life only ended in Europe with the Reformation or— in Catholic countries— with the end of the Ancien Régime. Despite its great historical importance, the history of canon law and its scholarship in the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period is still largely under-researched.

The project focuses on the acquisition, ordering, and application of canonistic knowledge in the pre-modern period. Starting from the traditional history of institutions, sources and literature, it is particularly concerned with the development and application of canonistic methods as well as the various attempts to organise and communicate the knowledge gained in this way, for example the phenomenon of epitomisation or epitomes. Apart from this, however, the self-understanding of the canonists and their conception of the location of their discipline, especially in relation to the Catholic Church, faith and (moral) theology on the one hand, and the state, its law and secular jurisprudence on the other, are also of interest.

Publications related to the research project:

Meyer, C. H. F.: Kanonistik im Zeitalter von Absolutismus und Aufklärung: Spielräume und Potentiale einer Disziplin im Spannungsfeld von Kirche, Staat und Publizität (Canon Law in the Age of Absolutism and Enlightenment: Scope and Potential of a Discipline between Church, State and Publicity). Max Planck Institute for European Legal History Research Paper Series 2012-06 (2012), 91 pp.
Meyer, C. H. F.: Putting Roman and Canon Law in a Nutshell: Developments in the Epitomisation of Legal Texts between Late Antiquity and the Early Modern Period. In: Knowledge of the Pragmatici: Legal and Moral Theological Literature and the Formation of Early Modern Ibero-America, pp. 40 - 88 (Eds. Duve, T.; Danwerth, O.). Brill Nijhoff, Leiden; Boston (2020)
Meyer, C. H. F.: Römisches und kanonisches Recht kurz und bündig. Zur Epitomierung lateinischer Rechtstexte zwischen Spätantike und Moderne. Rechtsgeschichte - Legal History Rg 28, pp. 31 - 66 (2020)
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