Page:Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects.djvu/311

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XIII.]
299
Anglo-Saxon Courts.

before this date, and what we do know is not very clear; we may however affirm pretty confidently that there was, over and above the strictly private discipline of the Confessional, a system of church judicature with properly designated judges, and a recognised though not well-defined area of subject-matter in persons and things. To put it very briefly, sacred persons and sacred things, men in orders, monks and nuns, sacred places, churches and churchyards, sacred property, lands, books and the furniture of churches, were under the special protection, and, as protection implied jurisdiction, under the jurisdiction of the bishops, who likewise had authority in matrimonial and like causes. There was a territorial episcopate, and the bishops exercised their judicial powers with the help of archdeacons and deans. But, it would appear, these judicial matters were transacted in the ordinary gemots of the hundred and the shire. Just as the court baron, court leet, and court customary of a manor are held together, so the court spiritual and the hundred or county court Were held together; and the proceedings were probably in strict analogy. Just as suretyship was the rule in the hundred count, it was in the bishop's court; so also compurgation and ordeal, the law of witness, and the claim of the mundborh over the person of the litigant. I am not prepared to say that through intercourse with the French Church some portions of the Roman procedure may not already have crept in, but, so far as I can see, I am inclined to the belief that, whilst there was a customary canonical law and a substantially canonical judicature, the character of the procedure was customary and primitive, and differed in nothing materially from the lay procedure. The bishop declared the ecclesiastical law as the ealdorman did the secular, the assessors determined the point on which evidence or oaths were to be taken, and the suitors were technically the judges. Of course all this is stated subject to correction: but this I suppose to be the case at the Conquest, and more or less the case until the close of the reign of Henry I, for the changes introduced by the Conqueror were not instantaneous in their effects.