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Papal Jurisprudence, 385–1234
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Book description

Why did bishops turn to the papacy for advice in late Antiquity? And what does the reception of these decretals reveal about the legal and religious culture of the mid-thirteenth century? This interpretative volume seeks to explain the first decretal age of late antiquity, placing the increased demand for papal jurisprudence – long before it exerted its influence through religious fear – within its social broad context. D. L. d'Avray then traces the reception of this jurisprudence through to the mid-thirteenth century, and the post-Gratian decretal age. Along the way he explores the role of Charlemagne and 'Pseudo-Isidore', which included many genuine early decretals alongside forged ones. Similarities between the Latin world c. 400 and c. 1200 thus help explain parallels between the two decretal ages. This book also analyses decretals from both ages in chapters on pagan marriages, clerics in minor orders, and episcopal elections. For both ages the relation between canon law and other religious genres is elucidated, demonstrating many fascinating parallels and connections.


‘The history of the papacy in the early Middle Ages is plagued with conflicting scholarly interpretations of its role, importance, and doctrines. David d’Avray has written a masterfully lucid analysis of the first papal letters, papal authority and institutions, and the problems the bishops of Rome faced as they strove to create a universal set of norms for the church.’

Kenneth Pennington - Catholic University of America

‘As he did for sermons, David d’Avray combines meticulous case studies and a compelling narrative to explain the responsive nature of canon law and collapse distinctions between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Both late antique and high medieval papal decretals were issued and interpreted in response to ‘social complexities and uncertainties.’ The sheer quantity and complexity of papal decretals in canon law collections and the specialist glosses these required meant that canon law became dominated by Rome rather than local experts, forever determining the nature of canon law in the West.’

Jessalynn Bird - Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN

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Page 1 of 2

  • 2 - The Christian Roman Empire, c. 400
    pp 21-34

Page 1 of 2


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