Evolution and Varieties of Church Courts and Laws in Reformation Scotland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter will illustrate how the Scottish Reformation occasioned the fragmentation of the “spiritual jurisdiction” of the Roman Catholic church courts between the new Reformed Kirk courts on the one hand, and the system of commissary courts on the other, both being new parts of the Scottish legal system created during the Reformation. The Kirk rejected canon law but still administered a spiritual jurisdiction regarding moral discipline, doctrine, liturgy, and church government. The commissary courts inherited the spiritual jurisdiction over marriage law, benefice law, executry law and slander. The new commissary courts continued largely to administer pre-Tridentine canon law. Despite both systems being recognized parts of the Scottish legal system, their jurisdictions were not clearly defined. This led to jurisdictional conflicts, but also an attempt to reconcile both “spiritual jurisdictions” within the Kirk in the 17th century. This involved the restoration of the commissary courts’ jurisdictions to the revived Scottish episcopate in 1610, notwithstanding the continued superiority of the Court of Session over such courts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to the Reformation in Scotland, c.1525‒1638
Subtitle of host publicationFrameworks of Change and Development
EditorsIan Hazlett
Place of PublicationLeiden, The Netherlands
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-33595-0
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-32972-0
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameBrill's companions to the Christian Tradition
ISSN (Print)1871-6377


Dive into the research topics of 'Evolution and Varieties of Church Courts and Laws in Reformation Scotland'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this