Review of R. H. Helmholz: ‘The Spirit of the Classical Canon Law’

5 Pages Posted: 27 May 2011 Last revised: 30 Nov 2017

Date Written: 2001


This work is a learned and lively account of the law of the medieval Catholic Church and the hundreds of learned commentaries and texts on these church laws, written by the jurists. R. H. Helmholz, leading historian of medieval canon law, reads these texts as a modern inquisitor who wants to know what his ancient brethren thought and taught about the most pressing legal questions of the day – concerning marriages and their dissolution, torts and their restitution, associations and their incorporation, and much more. His work shows both the diversity of ideas within the medieval canon law texts but also the sophisticated scholarly consensus that often emerged from their dialectical interaction. Helmholz’s volume is a brilliant guide to both the letter and the spirit of medieval canon law and viewed both as a living legal system in its day and as a critical scholarly resource for the Western legal tradition.

Keywords: R. H. Helmholz; Middle Ages; Canon Law; Roman Law; ius commune; Canonists; Papal Law

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Review of R. H. Helmholz: ‘The Spirit of the Classical Canon Law’ (2001). Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 16, 2001, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics