Canon Law and the Decretum Gratiani 1140

Canon Law and the Decretum Gratiani 1140

Gratian (c.1110–c. 1158)

Canon Law and the Decretum Gratiani
Canon Law and the Decretum Gratiani

Most people associate canon law with the Catholic Church because of its religious origins and nature. While canon law is primarily concerned with worship, clergy, and the Church, it also has secular legal implications. Legal historians have praised it as an important aspect of the Western legal system.

Much of Europe operated under two legal systems beginning in the late eleventh and early twelve centuries: Roman law and canon law. The two systems competed but also complimented one other, and the former affected the latter. Canon law has its beginnings in ecclesiastical ideas and Church teachings, but it has now expanded to embrace secular matters.

In 1140, Gratian, a Benedictine monk from Bologna, finished compiling roughly 3,800 canonical documents that contain considerable substantive study of doctrine. Gratian set out to resolve inconsistencies, discordances, and outright contradictions that arose when diverse doctrines evolved over time and from various sources. Concordia Discordantium Canonum (Concordance of Discordant Canons), often known as the Decretum Gratiani or Gratian’s Decree, is the formal title of the book. It is “the first thorough and systematic legal treatise in the history of the West, and maybe in the history of mankind,” according to legal expert Harold J. Berman.

Despite the fact that the Decretum was not an official Church publication, it “became the essential and commonly consulted canonistic collection, upon which all subsequent development of canon law rested,” according to legal expert William W. Bassett. In fact, it became the standard canon law literature in universities all over Europe. Its importance stems from its organization and analysis of existing legal principles, as well as the establishment of a hierarchy among the three sources of law: divine law, or God’s revealed will; natural law, which discerned God’s will through human reason or conscience; and positive, or man-made law. Bassett sees this method as producing “a system of law that codified many of the ideas of contemporary law and democratic institutions of modern governance for the first time.”


The Ten Commandments (c. 1300 BCE);

The Talmud (c. 180);

The Quran 652 – The sacred scripture of Islam.


Canon Law and the Decretum Gratiani

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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