about this project
- The Consistory Court of the Diocese of London
- Medieval Canon Law and Consistory Court Litigation
- Late Medieval London and its Hinterland
- Editorial and Translation Conventions
- Further Reading
- Credits and Acknowledgements
Other Consistory Business: Clerical Discipline, Tithes, Testaments, Breaches of Faith (Debt and Perjury)
The Consistory also occasionally dealt with litigation and prosecutions related to other matters that came under ecclesiastical jurisdiction in England. Some of the disputes involved issues associated either with church administration or the clergy. Disputes regarding the collection of tithes (the customary dues laypeople owed to the church), for instance, came occasionally to the Consistory court, usually as an office case (that is, a prosecution by the court) rather than as a lawsuit, as in office prosecution of John Eggot, John Wyndell, Thomas Auger, John Umfrey, and William Herd. Cases involving the disciplining of the clergy -- because of their sexual transgressions or violence, for instance -- could also sometimes be heard in the Consistory court, again usually as office cases but sometimes as litigation (see, for instance, Sir John Hode c. Master John Row. Occasional other matters that are less easily classifiable, but which involved an aspect of church administration, came before the London Consistory, as in the case of an accidental death during the construction of an anchorhold (an enclosure to house an anchorite or hermit).
Other matters that came before the English ecclesiastical courts were less obviously related to sacraments or ecclesiastical matters, but through long- standing custom had come to a regular part of the church courts' business. Among the most important prerogatives of the English ecclesiastical courts in the Middle Ages (and indeed well beyond), for instance, was probate, the administration of testaments.1 Wills were proved in various kinds of ecclesiastical courts in England (including the London Consistory, in a different set of records than the ones considered here).2 Sometimes disputes over testamentary provisions made their way into Consistory court litigation, as in Alice Norman c. William Clerk. The ecclesiastical courts, including the Consistory, also entertained suits related to breaches of faith (or breaking of oaths), a broad category as many transactions in late medieval England were accompanied by the swearing of oaths. Although many late medieval ecclesiastical courts heard a good deal of business related to breaches of faith,3 there were relatively fewer cases in the London Consistory. Debt disputes in late medieval London were normally handled in a secular court, but they could be sued in the Consistory as a breach of faith because business transactions (loans, purchase agreements, etc.) were normally sealed with oaths;4 see, for instance, John Palmer c. Christopher Manser.
1 R. H. Helmholz, The Canon Law and Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction from 597 to the 1640s (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), ch. 7.
3 Helmholz, Canon Law, 359-60.
4 See Helmholz, Canon Law, ch. 6