Institutes of the Laws of England

Dugdale describes closely the feasts of All Saints rituals enacted in the Middle Temple and the Eucharist as performed by the Church; 'there is delivered unto every Barrister a Towell with Wafers… and unto every Gentlemen under the Bar, a wooden Bowl, filled with Ipocras… after a solemn Congee made, the Gentlemen of the Bar first carry the Wafer; the rest, with the new Reader, standing in their places. At their return, they all make another Ipocras to the Judges… " 

For the church the Eucharist is of obvious importance but in the lives of lawyers of the early modern period, the sacrament in the Inns of Court were both considered to be for the 'building a community of the faithful and an order of privileged knowledge. '29 Moreover, it is bears the theme of recognition and represents the continuing presence of deity while referring to the past. 29b Linked with the idea of sacrament, the rites of Communal Dining in the Inns of Court are perhaps one of the most iconic of the Christian theology that influenced the legal profession.

The importance of the influence of Christian theology on the legal profession was clearly demonstrated 'unequivocally through the act of communal dining at the Inns of Court'30 One striking images is that of lawyers at the Gary's Inn and Middle Temple eating Calves head to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ at Easter. The strong religious symbolism- the calves being the traditional animals for sacrifice in the Old Testament as well as a symbol for kingship and procreation. 30a It is also apparent that even the diet of the secular lawyers in the Inns of Court were affected by Judaeo-Christian religious symbols.

The consumption of mutton in the Middle Temple was highly symbolic. It signifies the sacrifice of Christ as well as what the presence of Christ in law. Moreover, although the legal profession certainly considered themselves an elite group that exclusively writes and interprets the issues of English law they do not appear to have led daily lives in great luxury in the Inns of Court. They are more similar to those of clergy. According to Fullbecke " a student [of the common law] must in his diet be temperat, and abstinent… continency in dyet us the step to wisdom.

"31 He goes on to say '[the] next thing I require in a Student is temperance… a restreint of the minde from all voluptuousness and lust, as namely from covetousness, excesse of diet, wantonness and all other unlawful delights"32. These are clearly values that Judaeo-Christianity prescribes of those in presitly roles, or those residing in monasteries. These ideals seem to reinforce the idea that lawyers were to act to act in a 'sacredotal' fashion. Finally, it is also evident is that Judaeo-Christian influences on the way in which business was conducted within the Inns and how lawyers received training.

Dining reflected the notion that the Word of God was symbolically eaten at dinner. The spoken Word and readings were also viewed in a similar light. The Word was made flesh and the students of the law who had to perform moots and readings, Coke wrote specifically with regards to eating the law; 'in reading these and other of my Reports, I desire the Reader that he would not read (and as it were swallow) too much at once; for greedy appetites are not for the best digestion; the whole is to be attained by parts'. 33 Conclusion

In conclusion, with regards to the jurists of the time, it is not to bold to say that Judaeo-Christian theology formed the basis of early English Common law. There were other influences at play during the early modern period, for example the classical tradition was a highly influential source of English constitutional authority and it played a significant role, sometimes in synthesis with Christian theology. 34 However, the notion that English law was the earthly manifestation of God's law was the assertion made by many English jurists of the medieval and early modern period.

Moreover, even though the legal profession became a largely secular, the Inns of Court remained a place full of religious iconography in the form of dining rituals, the Eucharist, the oral tradition in the training of lawyers and what lawyers begin to consider as their right- the Sacredotal role of the legal profession to interpret the ancient constitution. Therefore, It would seem therefore that the importance of Christian theology in the development of English common law and the secular legal profession was an incalculable one.


Books Coke, E. , "The Second Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England", London: Flesher, 1642 Coke, E. , "The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England", London: Flesher, 1644 Coke, E. , "The Reports, 7 Volumes", London Rivington, 1777 Dugdale, W. , "Origines Juridiciales or Historical Memorials of the English Laws", London: F. & T. , Warren, 1666 Fortescue, J. , "De Laudibus Legum Angliae: ed. J. Selden, London: R. Gosling, 1737 Fortescue, J. , "The Governance of England", ed. C Plummer, Oxford: Clarendon, 1885