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The works of Christopher St German

Johnson, M. (2021) The works of Christopher St German. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00099498


This thesis examines the writings of early-modern common lawyer Christopher St German (c. 1460-1540/1). Though many scholars have written about St German, none has studied the known canon of his works in their totality and considered them against the background of the Reformation. This thesis fills that gap. It demonstrates how initial concerns about where the jurisdictional boundaries should lie between the common law and other forms of authority developed into broader considerations of where the boundaries of authority between the temporality and spirituality should lie. This debate prompted St German’s ‘battle of the books’ with then Chancellor Thomas More, with More staunchly upholding the status quo and the traditional rights and authority of the Church. Conversely, St German argued for a new world order where the Church was limited to dealing with ‘merely spiritual matters,’ promoting ideas of both royal and parliamentary supremacy, i.e. where non-spiritual matters were dealt with under the supervision of a lay supremacy that was at once royal and parliamentary. During the later 1530s, this programme required a consideration of what the formulary of faith of the English Church should look like, and crucially what body was to be vested with the power for authoritatively determining and authorising Scripture. St German practically and firmly situates this authority with the King and his Parliament who, for St German, have the duty to command and prohibit on this and other issues, so as to promote the peace and quietness of the people. St German's text predicts and narrates what law is becoming and will be, whilst asking the foundational question: 'what is law and how does it relate to fundamental belief'? Ultimately, St German is no Catholic conservative, no Lollard, no Lutheran and no Erasmian. Rather, he promotes his own idiosyncratically practical approach to religion which focusses on redressing the balance between temporality and spirituality, based on the Marsilian notion that both the clergy and the laity make up the ‘universal Church,’ but that submission to Rome is not required.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Cromartie, A., Banks, S. and Smith, C.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Politics and International Relations
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:99498
Date on Title Page:March 2019


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