Collectio canonum Hibernensis
The Collectio canonum Hibernensis (English: Irish Collection of Canon law) (or CCH) is a systematic Latin collection of Continental canon law, scriptural and patristic excerpts, and Irish synodal and penitential decrees. The CCH is thought to have been compiled by two Irish scholars working in the 8th century, Cú Chuimne of Iona (died 747) and Ruben of Dairinis (died 725).
The CCH is one of the oldest systematic canon law collections in Europe. It was composed ca 725, probably in Ireland though possibly in Brittany. The author is believed to have been Cú Chuimne of Iona (†725), who perhaps collaborated with Ruben of Dairinis (†747). The attribution of the CCH to these two men is problematical, however, because it is based solely on a garbled colophon found in a ninth-century Saint-Germain manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Lat. 12021). Several recensions of the collection may have circulated in the early Middle Ages, but two main recensions―recensions A and B, each containing upwards of 70 books―seem already to have gained dominance by the ninth century. The CCH circulated widely on the Continent in the eighth and ninth centuries, particularly in Brittany, and had a particularly strong influence on Italian canonistic thought after the ninth century. Beyond topics typically covered by canon law collections, the CCH touches on prayer, consecrated places, martyrs, the ‘substances of men’, blessings, and the soul; indeed, certain chapters often verge on essays on morality. Maurice P. Sheehy said of the CCH, ‘as a single document, [it] is probably the most ambitious endeavour to codify Christian life of all the medieval canonical compilations.’ A relatively small portion of the work comprises excerpts from ancient canons and decretals; far more common are citations of Scripture and the Church Fathers―Origen, Jerome, Augustine, Pope Gregory I, and Gregory Nazianzenus being most prominent among these. Its use of Greek Fathers as sources for canon law has been called ‘unique’. Not including quotations inside excerpted patristic writers, the CCH contains about 1,000 quotations of Scripture, two-thirds of which come from the Old Testament. To date one of the most important studies on the CCH has been carried out by Thomas Charles-Edwards, who carefully considered the methods by which the compiler(s) of this collection organized their material: ‘the Hibernensis both contains and relies on exegesis to a far greater extent than do such collections as those of Dionysius Exiguus.’ The compiler, or ‘exegete’ as Charles-Edwards calls him, was interested not only in presenting decisions, but in finding answers to questions on morality; it was the compiler’s own moral preoccupations, as well as his own interpretation of his sources that determined the shape and content of the collection. The compiler’s use of testimonia and exempla to prove a rule sometimes led him to take a ‘dialectical’ approach to legal questions, in which he would present opposing rules on a single topic and attempt some sort of crude reconciliation, though usually this reconciliation is only ever implied. For some scholars, this has qualified the CCH as something of a summa discordantium. The exegetical and essaic qualities of the CCH were signalled by Gabriel le Bras when he argued that the CCH is ‘more than a canonical collection, but a repository of scriptural and patristic texts on discipline, which the author accepted as the principal sources of the law. This characteristic of the Hibernensis quite naturally results in its embracing a much wider domain than the other collections: not only the entire domain of the ecclesiastical institution, but also the realm of the social and spiritual life.’
The CCH was not the only form of law available in medieval Ireland. A secular law, more commonly known as the Brehon Laws, existed and is often at variance with the CCH, although perhaps more surprising is their tendency to overlap.
Sources for the Collection Canonum Hibernensis
The CCH was an attempt to make available diverse authorities for use by Canon Jurists. Among the sources included are:
- the Collectio canonum Turonensis
- collections of Gallic and other Continental canons
- ecclesiastical histories
- a definition by Virgil Maro Grammaticus
- a compusticial tract by Pseudo-Theophilus
- spurious 'Acts' of the council of Caesarea
- several quotes from all but one of the works of Isidore of Seville
- so-called dicta of Saint Patrick.
- Charles-Edwards, ‘Construction’, 213 n. 7. For a summary of past arguments on the authorship of the Hibernensis, see Davies, ‘Isidorian texts’, 212–15.
- On the colophon see R. Thurneysen, ‘Zur irischen Kanonensammlung’, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 6 (1907–08), 1–5; and on problems in accepting the authority of this colophon, see Dumville, ‘Transmission and use’, 86. For a thorough consideration of the identities of Ruben and Cú Chuimne, including their possible political and ideological affiliations, see B. Jaski, ‘Cú Chuimne, Ruben, and the compilation of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis’, Peritia 14 (2000), 51–69.
- Mordek, ed., Kirchenrecht, 255–59; Reynolds, ‘Unity and diversity’; Dumville, ‘Transmission and use’.
- R. Reynolds, ‘Excerpta from the Collectio Hibernensisn three Vatican manuscripts’, Bulletin of medieval canon law n.s. 5 (1975), 1–9, who cites on p. 1 seminal work on the subject by Paul Fournier.
- Sheehy, ‘Celtic phenomenon’, 527.
- Davies, ‘Isidorian texts’, 212.
- M.P. Sheehy, ‘The Bible and the Collectio canonum Hibernensis’, in Irland und die Christenheit, eds Ní Chatháin and Richter, 277–83, at 281. Fournier-le Bras, Histoire, 63, counted around 500 biblical quotations.
- Charles-Edwards, ‘Construction’, 230.
- Charles-Edwards, ‘Construction’, 234–36.
- Charles-Edwards, ‘Construction’, 210. The term summa discordantium is Sheehy’s, ‘Celtic Phenomenon’, 527, on which see also Sheehy, ‘The Bible’, 277–78. For a discussion of the ideological implications of the ‘dialectical’ style of the CCH—namely its relevance to the ‘nativising and internationalising tendencies within Irish Christianity’ in the seventh and eighth centuries—see Dumville, ‘Transmission and use’, 86.
- Wasserschleben's edition of the CCH (Die irische Kanonensammlung, second edition, ed. F. W. H. Wasserschleben (Leipzig, 1885))
- The Collectio canonum Turonensis, one of the major sources for the CCH
- Excerpts from the CCH (interspersed with the Isidorian Epistula ad Massonam) in Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, Ny kgl. Sam. 58 (8°)