The Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research has created an image database hosted by the University of St Andrews Library in collaboration with the Canterbury Cathedral Archives. The aim of this project is to bring primary sources to the forefront and to help facilitate access to manuscript sources.

We hope to facilitate further work on the interaction between secular and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and the changes which occurred over the thirteenth century. This jurisdictional interaction can be seen in particular in the cases concerning bastardy and inheritance, wills and testaments, violence against clerks, oaths, and excommunication, all of which were part of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, but were also particular areas of cooperation and conflict with the secular courts. It is hoped that the material will provide the background for another ‘Talking Law’ project, based on the trial of Thomas Becket.

The Court of Canterbury was one of the two highest ecclesiastical appeals courts in England (the other was York) and it was presided over in name by the archbishop of Canterbury or, when there was no archbishop, by the prior and chapter of Christ Church Canterbury. Both the archbishop and the prior and chapter would frequently appoint an official to preside over the Court in their place.

The ILCR database includes a large portion of the thirteenth-century court records from Canterbury and will assist researchers working on canon law, administration, manuscript studies, and many other topics.

This database of images has been constructed by Sarah White in connection with her PhD thesis, titled “Legal arguments and equity in Church courts in England in the thirteenth century.” Her thesis examines the forms of legal argument that were used by litigants and their counsel in the thirteenth-century Court of Canterbury and the various legal and procedural texts used to support these arguments. The documents from the later half of the century containing exceptions, depositions and arguments drafted by the litigants form the core source material for this research.

This project has been funded by the Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research (ILCR), the Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections (AMARC), and the Royal Historical Society (RHS).