Previous to the invasion of William the Conqueror the ecclesiastical jurisdiction in England was not at all clearly defined. Under the protection, and, as protection implies jurisdiction, under the jurisdiction of the bishops were the following: sacred persons and sacred things. Among the former were included men in orders, monks and nuns; and among the latter: churches and church-yards, books and furniture of churches, sacraments, ecclesiastical and marital rituals. So far as can be found, there were not at that time any separate ecclesiastical courts. The bishops, with the assistance of archdeacons and deans, exercised their ecclesiastical jurisdiction through the ordinary gemotes of the hundred and shire. Neither had they developed any procedure that was distinctively their own -in England they used the common law procedure as on the continent they used the" civil law procedure. Ecclesiastical procedure was modified very greatly as a result of the conquest. This is accounted for in large part by the following facts: (i) the conquest coincided in time with the Hildebrandine triumph, which made the influence of Rome more powerful in all parts of the ecclesiastical realm, and (2) what is still more important, the Conqueror carried through his most important reforms by the aid of Norman ecclesiastics, many of whom were essentially lawyers rather than theologians. To these men, the most distinguished of whom was Lanfranc, the civil procedure was familiar, while that of the common law was not understood. They had sufficient influence with the Emperor to cause the separation of the bishops' courts from the sheriffs' courts, and in the former the civil law methods were adopted. They were also promised the assistance of the royal power in enforcing the decisions of the ecclesiastical courts. Thus the ecclesiastical jurisdiction was soon in full swing, with foreign bishops substituted for the native bishops, and the consequent change from customary procedure to that of the civil law.
Ecclsiastical Jurisdiction in England,
Mich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol3/iss5/3