1st Edition

Making Laws for a Christian Society The Hibernensis and the Beginnings of Church Law in Ireland and Britain

By Roy Flechner Copyright 2021
    206 Pages
    by Routledge

    206 Pages
    by Routledge

    This is the first comprehensive study of the contribution that texts from Britain and Ireland made to the development of canon law in early medieval Europe. The book concentrates on a group of insular texts of church law—chief among them the Irish Hibernensis—tracing their evolution through mutual influence, their debt to late antique traditions from around the Mediterranean, their reception (and occasional rejection) by clerics in continental Europe, their fusion with continental texts, and their eventual impact on the formation of a European canonical tradition. Canonical collections, penitentials, and miscellanies of church law, and royal legislation, are all shown to have been 'living texts', which were continually reshaped through a process of trial and error that eventually gave rise to a more stable and more coherent body of church laws. Through a meticulous text-critical study Roy Flechner argues that the growth of church law in Europe owes as much to a serendipitous 'conversation' between texts as it does to any deliberate plan overseen by bishops and popes.


    1. The Hibernensis in context

    2. Early canonical collections and the Hibernensis

    3. Identifying an insular tradition of ecclesiastical law

    4. Irish vernacular law and church law

    5. Deploying sources

    6. The Bible, exegesis, and the interpretation of law

    7. Reception and practice: Brittany as a case study


    Appendix I: A Synopsis of the Hibernensis and Cop, fols. 69v–80v

    Appendix II: Texts attributed to annales with and without additional qualifiers

    Appendix III: Texts attributed to Origen (Origenes)


    Roy Flechner is Associate Professor at University College Dublin. He has held Research Fellowships at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and at the Freie Universität in Berlin. His other books include The Hibernensis (in two volumes), and Saint Patrick Retold.

    'It is an excellent place for readers to become oriented not only in the Hibernensis but in the bewildering and important corpus of writings to which it belongs' - Speculum, 98/4.

    '… these essays provide a useful point of reference which helps us to contextualise the development of Collectio Canonum Hibernensis' – North American Journal of Celtic Studies, 6/2.