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

John Witte Jr.

Emory University School of Law


Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 16, 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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 5

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

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Date posted: May 27, 2011 ; Last revised: October 4, 2014

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. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1851144

Contact Information

John Witte Jr. (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)

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