Judges and trials in the English ecclesiastical courts
in Judicial tribunals in England and Europe, 1200–1700

This chapter examines the nature of trials in the English ecclesiastical courts, paying special attention to the role played by the judges. It focuses on the period from the mid-fifteenth century to the 1640s, when the ecclesiastical courts in England were abolished, as it turned out temporarily. As in the Western Church generally, the English courts were organised by diocese. A few of the consistory courts also employed an 'examiner general' to carry on the depositions of witnesses which provided the bedrock of proof in the spiritual forum. Some courts would also have been able to call upon the bishop's 'sequestrator' to enforce appropriate orders to take revenues of churches into the bishop's hands, although it seems unlikely that these men regularly attended court sessions. Like many office-holders in the Ancien Regime, the judges of England's ecclesiastical courts depended upon court fees for their basic incomes.


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