Timothy Haskett

title.none: Logan, ed., The Medieval Court of Arches (Timothy Haskett)

identifier.other: baj9928.0602.018 06.02.18

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Timothy Haskett, University of Victoria,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Logan, Donald F., ed. The Medieval Court of Arches. Series: The Canterbury and York Society, vol. 95. Woodbridge: The Canterbury and York Society, 2005. Pp. xlviii. $49.95 (hb). ISBN: 0-907239-65-X.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.02.18

Logan, Donald F., ed. The Medieval Court of Arches. Series: The Canterbury and York Society, vol. 95. Woodbridge: The Canterbury and York Society, 2005. Pp. xlviii. $49.95 (hb). ISBN: 0-907239-65-X.

Reviewed by:

Timothy Haskett
University of Victoria

Donald Logan's thesis is, as one would expect from this pleasingly straightforward writer, clear from the start: study of canon law texts and jurisprudence is insufficient to give a complete understanding of the system of medieval canon law, for we must pay equal attention to the ways in which this canon law was applied. And in the application of canon law in England from the mid-thirteenth century to the 1530s the pinnacle was the appellate court of the archbishop of Canterbury acting as metropolitan, the court we commonly know as "the Arches" because of the notable architectural elements of the London church wherein it sat, St Mary le Bow. Since the main records of the court from the medieval period have not survived (there are some, but they are occasional save for the sede vacante records kept at Canterbury) one might wonder where to turn to understand the application of canon law in the practice of this court. This is the real strength and utility of this book, for Logan turns to statutes, customs and treatises to provide answers, presenting the reader with fine editions of these texts that will serve a multitude of researchers in various ways. He remarks in his preface that the volume has been a long time coming; it has certainly been worth the wait, in both quality and content.

The Introduction provides a concise and informative overview of both the history and the procedure in the court, drawing on a wide range of published materials as well as the texts newly-presented here. In conjunction with the indispensable work of Adams and Donahue's' Select Cases from the Ecclesiastical Courts of the Province of Canterbury produced for the Selden Society in 1981--to which Logan gives full credit--and Jane Sayers' Papal Judges Delegate in the Province of Canterbury, 1198-1254 (1971) this volume makes a major contribution to our understanding of this court that was involved in so many important and controversial aspects of Canterbury's metropolitan jurisdiction. While there is no separate bibliography, as is proper for a work that is primarily the editions, the extensive footnotes of the introduction provide a more than ample resource for readers. Most of the main works touching Canterbury are to be found here.

There are two areas of concentration in the Introduction: the history of the court, and its procedure. The history, as is so often the case with courts, must begin with the difficult task of understanding the processes by which the Arches differentiated itself from other forums and found its tasks out of the many activities of the archbishop of Canterbury, a process marked by devolution from the archiepiscopal household and the use of papal judges delegate. The process by which the dean of the Arches became the commissary of the official (by 1251) is outlined, with the eventual conclusion nicely, if perhaps a little determinatively, phrased: "And so it happened: a court was established in London with the Official holding the principal place and the dean of the Arches as his commissary. By mid-thirteenth century the court was in full operation" (xix).

Another factor in the emergence of the court is what Logan insists on describing as "an educated class of ecclesiastical lawyers" (xix), a group later described as "a professional class of practitioners" (xxii, xxvi). That lawyers working in the Arches were well-educated, and professional in the sense that they practiced their craft in the court regularly and for remuneration is undoubted; whether this constitutes a "class" is another matter. Logan clearly wants to link some of his treatises (see below) to the instruction of lawyers, and describes them as lectures, or redactions from lectures, and this seems sound enough, but what he is describing is much more akin to the guild associations well-understood at the time than it is to an abstract notion of a class. His description of the court's lawyers as a "'closed shop' of legal practitioners" and "a fixed, stable, exclusive body of practitioners" certainly describes any guild (xxii). Perhaps it is the eventual emergence of the well-known Doctor's Commons at the very end of the fifteenth century that leads him to use the term, but it is likely improper to read that sense of exclusivity- -which is essentially corporate anyway--back in to the early history of the Arches. Robert Winchelsey's 1295 statute insisting that for advocates to be admitted to practice in the court they had to spend at least a year after their university study at the court learning its craft--extended to proctors by John Stratford in 1342--certainly implies an educational element in the work of the Arches. "Is 'school' too strong a word?" Logan asks (xxvii). Perhaps. But the English royal chancery also had established ways in which aspiring practitioners there learned the forms and processes, and in both cases it is certainly a form of apprenticeship.

The emergence of the Arches is colourful, as is often, if unexpectedly, the case with administrative and legal history. Especially so is Logan's presentation of the great controversy between John Peckham and his suffragans in the 1280s--not new to this book, as he notes--which involved the full range of metropolitan jurisdiction: wills, appeals from the subjects of the suffragans (thus bypassing their jurisdiction), and tuitorial appeals (in support of appeals to Rome). The settlement of the controversy by arbitration in 1282 Logan describes as "a major moment in the history of the court" (xxv), resolving ambiguities and perhaps allowing for Winchelsey's major statutes of 1295 (see below). In the 1370s under Simon Sudbury there was a significant jurisdictional dispute involving St Bartholomew's Hospital, and in the 1490s John Morton was involved in bitter controversy with the bishop of London. The statute in Restraint of Appeals of 1533, of course, marked a major phase in the court's development.

The second section of the introduction, on process, is concise and informative. It focuses, of course, on appellate matters, either direct or tuitorial. Tuitorial appeals especially were, as Logan suggests, "almost predestined for controversy" (xl), since from the point of view of the suffragans their jurisdiction, and thus some of their income, could be bypassed. Covered is the subject matter of the appeal (a large number concerning benefices), inhibition and citation, and procedure. Interestingly, the sub-heading of the latter is "Actual procedure in the Arches", apparently in opposition to theoretical, though this is not developed (xliii). This section is particularly informative, and includes advice to the promoter of a case on the procurement of fine wines, spices and pears for the examiner; it cannot be said that the texts presented here are not practical. Writs of prohibition, cerciorari (this heading one of the rare typographical errors in the book) and consultation are described, and finally the conclusion of the case, once more with practical advice on preparing wine, bread and other delicacies for the judge if one's case were successful.

The editions are evidently the core of this book, and are presented in four parts. First, the statues of the court. The majority of these come from the Liber statutorum, the court's official copy, and there are a dozen of them, ranging from those of Robert Kilwardby in 1273 to Henry Chichele in 1423. Some are brief, focussing on particular aspects of practice in the court, such as the taking of oaths by advocates, proctors and ministers of the court (nos 1, 6), the sequestration of fruits of benefices under dispute (no 4), registrar's fees (no 7), custody of the records (nos 8, 9), and limitation of standing to advocates and proctors of the court, the balance of the activities of each and their attendance (nos 10, 11, 12). But there are two that are comprehensive in their range, of which the most important are Winchelsey's statutes from 1295 (no 2), presenting 45 sections which governed the court's activities. In 1342 Stratford established a further 18 regulations (no 5) which, along with Winchelsey's, provided extensive guidance for the running of the Arches. There are five extravagant statutes, from 1280 to 1528.

The second set of editions presents the customs of the court (1280 x 95), and Logan is clear in reminding the reader that custom is not to be construed as something inconsequential or unimportant when compared to statute. "They were complementary and each of equal canonical value," he notes (65), something established by Gratian's time and fully understood by the time of the Arches. It is refreshing to see this boldly stated, and it provides a fine platform from which to present the customs of the court, in both their long and short versions. This is well in keeping with the book's intention of providing material about the practical nature of legal process; after all, consuetudo optima est legum interpres, as the author reminds us both here (65) and in the introduction (xxvii). Consistent with this the fuller of the two versions is edited as a historical text, that is, one that was in use, rather than an Ur-text.

Treatises form the third part of the edition, and once more, practice and utility are the guiding concern behind these five texts, which Logan describes as either academic or practical. First is a single folio, c.1300, that deals with appellate procedure in the court. The second Logan calls "'A Lawyer's Guide to the Arches'" (90), a mixture of canon law material to help practitioners there, compiled in the mid-1480s by a lawyer of considerable experience in the court. Of more academic quality is the third treatise, in which Logan discerns a "personal flavour", concluding that this collection of procedural material for both the Arches and Rome derives from a set of lecture notes from the 1290s. In this he returns to his suggestion of some sort of schools for training lawyers for the court. Of quite different quality is the fourth treatise, a short piece on the calumnies of the court, reciting seventeen practices there that the author--a practitioner of the court, Logan thinks, 1316 x 27--considered "unfair, inappropriate and unjust" (114). Finally, the fifth and by far the longest treatise is a detailed exposition of the procedure in the court from the 1290s, and Logan is adamant that this, like the third treatise, is derived from lectures whose audience "was principally advocates or advocates-to-be" in the Arches (118). Interestingly, he notes that the base MS is in content "a patchwork," wherein after the initial summary there is no organizational principle for the treatise (122), which would seem somewhat strange given that one of the main strengths of canon law is its systematization, especially in its academic elements. But then, we are told that these are practical, so perhaps the lectures were either not as well- organized a they might have been, or the process of redaction failed to organize as well as transcribe. There is certainly volume here, and important content, if medieval readers had the patience to flip back and forth.

In part four Logan provides something for which every researcher in the field will be grateful: an up-to-date list of the personnel of the Arches. Regardless of how much one might use the texts in this book, this section will be consulted by many. Provided are all the ascertainable officials, deans of the Arches, examiners general, registrars, scribes of the acts, apparitors (bedels), advocates, and proctors general.

Finally, part five offers information on the schedule of the court, based on three medieval calendars. Determining precisely when any court sat can be difficult, and for ecclesiastical courts such as the Arches with many dies non sessionis, the task is especially awkward. Logan is careful, too, to avoid imposing the calendar of the royal courts, which is often a danger.

Coming nearly 40 years after the publication of his major work Excommunication and the Secular Arm in Medieval England (Toronto: PIMS, 1968), this book is a fitting, impressive and valuable return to the detailed subjects and texts of major legal institutions in medieval England, and the practical aspects of their work.