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Ken Pennington

The Catholic University of America


CoverLogosBulletin of Medieval Canon Law A Journal Dedicated to the History and Sources of Medieval Law

The Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law, New Series, was founded by Stephan Kuttner in 1971.  It publishes essays on all aspects of medieval and early modern canon, Roman, feudal (the Ius commune), as well as essays on medieval and early modern secular legal systems.  The range of topics extends from interpretive essays to textual studies of manuscript sources.  Please click on this link for more information.


The Kelly-Quinn
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rofessor of Ecclesiastical and Legal History


School of Canon Law

Columbus School of Law

328 Caldwell Hall 




Bio-Bibliographical Guide of Canonists 1140-1500 in its old version remains on this site. The Old Guide has been updated and enlarged.  It can be accessed at:  Harvard University, Ames Foundation

Ken Pennington's Curriculum vitae: 
2016 was the 800th Anniversary of the Death of Pope Innocent III.  For a Brief History of Innocent's Pontificate click here.
Norman Doe's Play

Legal History Texts:  Johannes Teutonicus, Apparatus to Compilatio tertia;  Baldus de Ubaldis, Consilia; Essays International School of the Ius commune, Erice, Sicily
        Ken Pennington received his Ph.D. in Medieval History from Cornell University in 1972.  In 1971 he moved from Ithaca to Syracuse, venturing even deeper into the Upstate New York snow belt.  He taught medieval and Renaissance history at Syracuse University for thirty years.  In the Fall of 2001 he moved his home to The Catholic University of America. His areas of interest have been ancient, medieval, and early modern legal history, the history of constitutional thought, political theory, church history, history of universities, and paleography. Ken has the misfortune of coming out of a Scandinavian gene pool but attempts to correct this biological problem by spending as much time as possible in Italy.  He directs a School in Sicily each October at a place called Erice where a faculty and a student body from Europe and North America look at the history of law in a magical setting on a mountaintop next to the Mediterranean.  During the summer when he is sailing on Lake Ontario, the Chesapeake, or the Mediterranean,  he responds very well to being called "captain."  He is the author or editor of fourteen books and over 100 essays.  Over the past 23  years, he has used the www. as a tool to teach history in the classroom and to give talks outside it.  He is convinced that just as pasta should be a part of every meal the web should be in every classroom.  He retired from The Catholic University on January 1, 2017 and became emeritus.  Since then he spends his time tending Irnerius' and Gratianus' garden.

In his research he has been particularly concerned to illustrate how the norms created by the medieval Ius commune shaped medieval institutions, thought, and society. This page will provide links to his Curriculum vitae and publications, the syllabi of his classes, the History of Medieval Canon Law Project, the International School of the Ius commune at Erice, Sicily, and edited texts of medieval legal works. Click on address to send Email:




Saint Omer, Bibliothèque muncipale 453, fol. 10r
Bishop Gratian Teaching

Syllabus of Law 507 and Canon Law 701 History of Canon Law  Fall Semester 2015

This course is video and audio streamed on the internet.  For those wishing to have an introduction to the History of Canon Law, the videos are still there.

Syllabus of Law 508 and CL 760 Comparative European Legal History: Roman Law and the Ius commune   Spring Semester 2015

This course is video and audio streamed on the internet. For those wishing to have an introduction to the history of Roman law and its influence on canon law and on European jurisprudence the videos are still there.

Syllabus for TRS 220  The Church Through the Ages:  From St. Paul to Luther  Fall Semester 2009

      Lectures and Talks     

The Tyranny of Law
Norman  Legislation in the Kingdom of Sicily
The Roots of Democracy in the Middle Ages
The Evolution of Court Procedure 1100-1700: The Use of Judicial Torture
Corrupt Judges in the Ius commune
The Prince and Property
Ius commune: What Does It Mean?

The Jurisprudence of a Justifiable Defense  and the Right to Bear Arms

Dante and the Heavens
Irnerius and Bologna
Inquisitorial Procedure in Classical Canon Law
Canon Law and Modern Jurisprudence
Dance to the Music of Torture
European Jurists' Treatment of Medieval and Early Modern Jews  

Teaching Canon Law with St Gall 673

Cy-Près Doctrine
Pietro Collevaccino Beneventano
Rights of Native Americans  University of Lisbon Part 1
Rights of Native Americans  University of Lisbon Part 2
Rights of Native Americans  University of Lisbon Part 3
Law Schools Return to Europe
The Influence of Canon Law
The Golden Age of Episcopal Elections
The Bishop in Medieval Illuminations
Dance to the Music of Torture
The Jurisprudence of a Justifiable Defense and the Right to Bear Arms
Ecclesiastical Liberty on the Eve of the Reformation
Wandering Legal Manuscripts: Their Texts, Margins, Illuminations and Glosses
The Jurists' Defense of Indigenous Peoples in the New World  
 Magna Carta
Medieval and Early Modern Jurist: A Bio-Bibliographical Lisiting
Law as a Source of Historians: Possibilities and Pitfalls
The Fourth Lateran Council, its Legislation  and the Development of Legal Procedure
John T. Noonan Jr. and the Father of Canon Law
Hitchhikers' Guide to Torture
The Ius commune, the Origins of Ius, and the Jews 
Origins of Case Law and Precedent in Medieval Canon Law
The Law's Violence against Medieval and Early Modern Jews
DC Legal History Roundtable, April 13, 2012
The Evolution of Due Process in European Jurisprudence
Torture as Evidence
The Principle of Due Process, the Women of Naples, and Statutes  contra the Norms of the Ius commune
Pisa, Authenicae, and Roman Law in the Twelfth Century
Legal Manuscripts and Books in Cyberspace
A Son’s Memories of Stephan Kuttner
Prosecution of Clerics in Medieval Canon Law
The Origins of Rights in the European Legal Thought
Lex naturalis et ius naturale
Lex and ius in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
The Beginings of the Ius commune:  The Big Bang
Legislation and Consent in European Political Thought
Torture Past and Present
The Ius commune and the Statutes of the Ius proprium
Justice, Procedure, Torture and Execution
Università di Catania:  Il nascita e la giurisprudenza del diritto comune
Uniwersytet Jagielloński: Comparing Common and Civil Law
Gratian:  Teacher and Advocate
La Causa 19, Graziano, e lo Ius commune       Testo

Freedom in the Ius commune

   Was Baldus an Absolutist? The Evidence of his Consilia  
Criminal Procedure in the Ius commune
The Normans in Palermo
Justice in the Ius commune


History of Medieval Canon Law

Coimbra, Biblioteca da Universidade 722, fol. 2r

In 1986, Wilfried Hartmann (Universität Tübingen) and Ken Pennington began to organize a team of international scholars to write a new History of Medieval Canon Law. After meetings in San Diego, Bad Homburg (Frankfurt), Rome, the project was launched with over fifty scholars from thirteen countries participating. The first five volumes of the project are published and volume six on the early Middle Ages is being prepared for publication.  Click here for details and for electronic versions of some of the chapters.
As part of this project, we have published a bio-bibliographical guide to early medieval canonical collections, Canonical Collections of the Early Middle Ages (ca. 400-1140): A Bibliographical Guide to the Manuscripts and Literature, compiled by Lotte Kéry (Washington, D.C. The Catholic University Press, 1999).  In retrospect we should have concurrently published this volume on the web as well.  The second volume covering the period from 1140 to 1500 will be will  be published only on the web (link to the right).  Many scholars have already contributed to work, and we hope they will continue to send additions and corrections to the entries.  We plan on expanding our survey to 1650.   If you send information about jurists working after 1500, we will add your entries (with many thanks).

Bio-Bibliographical Guide of Canonists 1140-1500 in its old version remains on this site. It has been updated and enlarged.  It can be viewed at:

Harvard University, Ames Foundation


Medieval Legal Texts

The following links are to Johannes Teutonicus's Commentary on Compilatio tertia. I published the first two books in 1981 and am preparing (slowly, I'm afraid) books three, four, and five for publication. Until the text is ready to be printed, I shall maintain a corrected and up-dated transcription of Johannes's Commentary based on the best manuscript, Admont, Stiftsbibliothek 22 on the Web. 

Johannis Teutonici Apparatus

glossarum in Compilationem tertiam

  Books One and Two

Book  3.1 to 3.22
Book 3.23 to End Book Four
Book 5.1 to 5.16 Book 5.17 to End


Baldus de Ubaldis

I have been working on the consilia of Baldus de Ubaldis in the Barberini manuscripts of the Vatican Library. These manuscripts were originally in Baldus's library and offer invaluable insights into how he wrote his consilia. The manuscripts demonstrate how Baldus revised them, sometimes several times. I have edited three consilia from the Vatican manuscripts that illustrate his methodology.  Finally, Joe Canning and I have had a pleasant and interesting exchange about whether Baldus believed that the emperor could make absolute, arbitrary decisions.  My latest response is Was Baldus an Absolutist?   

Consilia 1.326-327 (Milan) Consilium 3.279 (Venice) 

  Consilia 1.328, 1.333 (Milan) 3.280, 3.285 (Venice) Additio to Rex


These consilia have been placed here to aid scholars who wish to use the computer to search the texts.  These texts files did not keep their formatting commands when I put them on the Web; consequently they must be consulted in their published form to understand  how Baldus revised, edited, and altered them. See my  Curriculum vitae for details on their publication.

Articles on line

Web publishing has several advantages over print: an author can update the text and provide signposts in them that indicate what is particularly important (good for using them in class).  The text is never "fixed".  In the following articles I have added an index at the beginning that highlights the points that I think are most important.  They also differ from the printed versions of the articles in smaller and larger ways. I have also put my more recent essays online on several websites.  The most important is  You can download or read my essays there.

Ken Pennington, Bartolomé de Las Casas and Medieval Legal Tradition
Ken Pennington, The History of Rights in Western Thought
Ken Pennington, Learned Law, droit savant, gelehrtes Recht:  The Tyranny of a Concept
Ken Pennington, Due Process, Community, and the Prince in the Evolution of the Ordo iudiciarius
 Ken Pennington,  Spirit of Legal History
Ken Pennington, A Short History of Canon Law from Apostolic Times to 1917
K. Pennington, Innocent Until Proven Guilty: The Origins of a Legal Maxim
K. Pennington, Sovereignty and Rights in Medieval and Early Modern Jurisprudence: Law and Norms without a State
K. Pennington, Bishops and their Dioceses
K. Pennington, Nicholaus de Tudeschis (Panormitanus)
Kenneth Pennington, The Ius commune, Suretyship, and Magna carta

Kenneth Pennington, Gratian, Causa 19, and the Birth of Canonical Jurisprudence Revised

K. Pennington,  Innocent III and the Ius commune
K. Pennington, Representation in Medieval Canon Law
K. Pennington, The Formation of the Jurisprudence of the Feudal Oath of Fealty
Ken Pennington, Politics in Western Jurisprudence
Ken Pennington, The Birth of the Ius commune:  King Roger II’s Legislation
Ken Pennington, Between Naturalistic and Positivistic Concepts of Human Rights
Ken Pennington, The “Big Bang”:  Roman Law in the Early Twelfth-Century
Ken Pennington, Lex naturalis and Ius naturale
Ken Pennington, Torture and Fear:  Enemies of Justice
Ken Pennington, Roman Law at the Papal Curia in the Early Twelfth Century
Ken Pennington, Women on the Rack: Torture and Gender in the Ius commune
Ken Pennington, The Law’s Violence against Medieval and Early Modern Jews

Intrrnational School of Ius commune

Ettore Majorana Centre, Erice, Sicily


Manlio Bellomo, Orazio Condorelli, and Ken Pennington direct the International School of Ius commune each year at the Ettore Majorana Centre in Erice, Sicily. With faculty and students from both sides of the Atlantic, Erice has become a focal point for legal history and the study of Western European law. For information about the next school click here

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