Collectio canonum Hibernensis

  • Latin
  • Hiberno-Latin texts
Lacks the initial parts (until 3.2). Recension A.
London, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 123
ff. 11v–128r
Recension A, with additions from B.
Rome, Biblioteca Vallicelliana, MS T XVIII
Monte Cassino, Archivio e Biblioteca dell’Abbazia, MS 297
Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, MS M. p. th. q. 31
Copenhagen, Det Kongelige Bibliotek, MS NKS 58 8◦
Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, MS 522
Cologne, Erzbischöfliche Diözesan- und Dombibliothek, MS 210
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS Clm 4592
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS Clm 6434
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 1244
Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek, Aug. perg. 18
  • Latin
  • Latin.
Textual relationships
Related: Bretha nemed toísechBretha nemed toísechOld Irish legal tract on the law of privileged persons (nemed), with particular attention being paid towards churchmen, poets and judges.Commentarius in MatheumCommentarius in Matheum

An early medieval, perhaps 8th-century Latin commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, attributed to an exegete who in modern scholarship is usually identified by the name Frigulus. 

De vindictis magnis magnorum peccatorumDe vindictis magnis magnorum peccatorum

A collection of excerpts from the Bible, focusing on a number of well-known sinners and their punishments. Some features, such as its use of the term vindicta crucis, might betray a Hiberno-Latin origin for the compilation.

Letter from Cathwulf to CharlemagneLetter from Cathwulf to Charlemagne

Letter dated to c.775 written by an Anglo-Saxon scholar known as Cathwulf to Charlemagne.

Proverbia GrecorumProverbia GrecorumAn early medieval Latin compilation of gnomic maxims attributed to the Greeks, perhaps dating to the 7th century. The earliest transmission of its material is closely associated with Insular, particularly Irish scholarship, as seen in works of Sedulius Scottus and the B-recension of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis.
Associated items
Epistolae deperditae fragmentaEpistolae deperditae fragmentaFragments from letters attributed to Gildas, including one identified as being a response to Finniau concerning monastic matters. These fragments have been preserved as a florilegium (7 fragments) and as quotations attested throughout the Collectio canonum Hibernensis and elsewhere.
Proverbia GrecorumProverbia GrecorumAn early medieval Latin compilation of gnomic maxims attributed to the Greeks, perhaps dating to the 7th century. The earliest transmission of its material is closely associated with Insular, particularly Irish scholarship, as seen in works of Sedulius Scottus and the B-recension of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis.


Hiberno-Latin textsHiberno-Latin texts


Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] Flechner, Roy, The Hibernensis, volume 1: a study and edition, Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Canon Law, Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2019.  
The Hibernensis is the longest and most comprehensive canon-law text to have circulated in Carolingian Europe. Compiled in Ireland in the late seventh or early eighth century, it exerted a strong and long-lasting influence on the development of European canon law. The present edition offers—for the first time—a complete text of the Hibernensis combining the two main branches of its manuscript transmission. This is accompanied by an English translation and a commentary that is both historical and philological. The Hibernensis is an invaluable source for those interested in church history, the history of canon law, social-economic history, as well as intellectual history, and the history of the book.

Widely recognized as the single most important source for the history of the church in early medieval Ireland, the Hibernensis is also our best index for knowing what books were available in Ireland at the time of its compilation: it consists of excerpted material from the Bible, Church Fathers and doctors, hagiography, church histories, chronicles, wisdom texts, and insular normative material unattested elsewhere. This in addition to the staple sources of canonical collections, comprising the acta of church councils and papal letters. Altogether there are forty-two cited authors and 135 cited texts. But unlike previous canonical collections, the contents of the Hibernensis are not simply derivative: they have been modified and systematically organised, offering an important insight into the manner in which contemporary clerical scholars attempted to define, interpret, and codify law for the use of a growing Christian society.
[tr.] Flechner, Roy, The Hibernensis, volume 2: translation, commentary, and indexes, Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Canon Law, Washington, D. C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2019.
[ed.] Flechner, Roy, “A study and edition of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis”, unpublished PhD thesis, Oxford University, 2006.
[ed.] Wasserschleben, Hermann [ed.], Die irische Kanonensammlung, 2nd ed., Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1885.
Internet Archive – earlier edition (1874): <link>
[ed.] Elliot, Michael D., “Hibernensis excerpts and Isidorian Epistola ad Massonam (København, Kongelike Bibliothek, Ny Kgl. Saml., 58 8° ff. 69v–80v)”, Abigail Firey [project director], Carolingian canon law project, Online: Collaboratory for Research in Computing for Humanities, University of Kentucky, 2012–. URL: <http://ccl.rch.uky.edu/node/6388>.

Secondary sources (select)

Flechner, Roy, “Aspects of the Breton transmission of the Hibernensis”, Pecia 12 (2008): 27–44.  
Brittany played a major role in the early transmission of the Collectio canonum hibernensis. In total, seven copies of the Hibernensis (and a fragment) were written in Brittany or copied from Breton exemplars, and all complete copies of the Hibernensis but two have Breton connexions. The present paper examines how the Hibernensis figured in ninth-century Breton politics, and introduces new evidence pertaining to individual Breton copies of the Hibernensis and their relationship.

La Bretagne a, au départ, joué un rôle crucial dans la diffusion de la Collectio canonum hibernensis. Au total, sept manuscrits de l’Hibernensis (et un fragment) ont été rédigés en Bretagne, ou alors copiés à partir d’exemplaires bretons. Seules deux copies complètes de l’Hibernensis n’ont aucune filiation avec la Bretagne. Cet article se propose d’examiner comment l’Hibernensis a pu figurer dans la politique bretonne du neuvième siècle. Ce faisant, il fournit de nouveaux éléments concernant l’étude des manuscrits bretons de l’Hibernensis et de leurs relations réciproques.
Flechner, Roy, “Libelli et commentarii aliorum: the Hibernensis and the Breton bishops”, in: Katja Ritari, and Alexandra Bergholm (eds), Approaches to religion and mythology in Celtic studies, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2008. 100–119.
Flechner, Roy, “A study and edition of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis”, unpublished PhD thesis, Oxford University, 2006.
Reynolds, Roger E., “Further evidence for the influence of the Hibernensis in southern Italy”, Peritia 19 (2005): 119–135.
Howlett, David, “The prologue to the Collectio canonum Hibernensis”, Peritia 17–18 (2003–2004): 144–149.
Davies, Luned Mair, “The ‘mouth of gold’: Gregorian texts in the Collectio canonum Hibernensis”, in: Próinséas Ní Chatháin, and Michael Richter (eds), Ireland and Europe in the early Middle Ages: texts and transmissions / Irland und Europa im früheren Mittelalter: Texte und Überlieferung, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2002. 249–267.
Tatsuki, Akiko, “The early Irish Church and marriage: an analysis of the Hibernensis”, Peritia 15 (2001): 195–207.  
The modern view of marriage in early Ireland has been drastically changed by recent work, but much remains to be done in this field. From an examination of books 45 and 46 of the Collectio canonum hibernensis, for example, we can deduce what were the policies and attitudes on the part of the church which must have influenced native Irish laws. The provisions concerned basically conform to the continental norm in moral matters, but as regards the legal dimension, especially where property is involved, they tend to adopt the provisions of native laws. Traces of Roman law, which Ó Corráin proposed to see in Cáin lánamna, are not obvious. Moreover, though the Hibernensis and Cáin lánamna do not differ in every respect, their dissimilar natures cannot be overlooked. In conclusion, it will be argued that the success of the church was not so total by the early eighth century as Ó Corráin maintained.
Meens, Rob, “The oldest manuscript witness of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis”, Peritia 14 (2000): 1–19.  
This article examines two small collections of canonistical material in Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek, ms Ny. Kgl. S. 58 8° containing material which has close parallels with the Collectio canonum hibernensis. It discusses the relationship between these collections and the Hibernensis. The fact that one Copenhagen collection contains a much longer extract from the letter to bishop Massona, allegedy written by Isidore of Seville, than the one found in the Hibernensis, suggests that we have here with one of the forerunners of the Hibernensis. On palaeographical grounds, the Copenhagen manuscript has been assigned to the first half of the eighth century. It is, therefore, older than the oldest mss of the Hibernensis. Lowe has implausibly ascribed it to southern France. Though a northern Italian origin cannot be ruled out, its penitential and canonistic texts strongly suggest the recently converted regions of northern Gaul as the place of compilation and use.
Reynolds, Roger E., “The transmission of the Hibernensis in Italy: tenth to the twelfth century”, Peritia 14 (2000): 20–50.  

Contrary to the opinion of the late Maurice Sheehy and other specialists in early medieval canon law, this article demonstrates that the Collectio canonum hibernensis, despite its ‘Irishness’ or ‘Celticity’, had a substantial influence on canon law collections down to the time of Gratian, especially in central and southern Italy. Manuscripts from these regions—both excerpta and the entire Hibernensis—are examined first, and then twenty independent collections borrowing heavily or in part from the Hibernensis are studies.

Jaski, Bart, “Cú Chuimne, Ruben and the compilation of the Collectio Canonum Hibernensis”, Peritia 14 (2000): 51–69.  

The compilation of recension A of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis has been associated with Cú Chuimne of Iona and Ruben of Dairinis. Ruben may have been son of Broccán son of Connad of Tech Taille, who can be identified as a scholar mentioned in Commentarius in epistolas Catholicas and as Braccán of the Cíarraige in the genealogies. He belonged to the community of Munnu which maintained close bonds with that of Columba. Dairinis played a formative role in the development of the Céli dé. Cú Chuimne and Ruben cannot simply be regarded as Romani, and CCH is not simply a Romani text. Its form suggests that CCH was a practical guide for superiors in dealing with those under their authority, in spiritual and worldly matters. CCH complements native Irish law, with which it has close affinities but its direct influence on native Irish law still remains difficult to establish, and in any case this may not reflect the intentions of its compilers.

Richter, Michael, “Dating the Irish synods in the Collectio canonum Hibernensis”, Peritia 14 (2000): 70–84.  

An attempt is made here to narrowing down the time in which the Irish synods excerpted in the CCH were held. It is suggested that they post-date the discussions in Ireland concerning the paschal question in the years between roughly 630 and 640. These synods are not mentioned in the Irish annals, but when viewed together they show that the Romani were not necessarily more progressive than the Hibernenses. The latter, however, also show an awareness of Irish secular law which would appear to pre-date the compilation of the corpus of Irish law.

Davies, Luned Mair, “Statuta ecclesiae antiqua and the Gallic councils in the Hibernensis”, Peritia 14 (2000): 85–110.  

Early conciliar decrees were read in Ireland and in Irish centres on the Continent. The compilers of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis (or Hibernensis) had access to both the Gallic and Spanish traditions of the Statuta ecclesiae antiqua (a small book of ordination rites and clerical discipline). The B recension of the Hibernensis is less accurate in quoting the Statuta text than is the A recension. A distinct Breton family of Hibernensis manuscripts emerges again from details of the Statuta quotations. The quotations are important evidence for ordination rites in the early Irish church. The Cologne manuscript of the Hibernensis uses far more Gallic canons than do the other manuscripts of the Hibernensis.

Charles-Edwards, T. M., “The construction of the Hibernensis”, Peritia 12 (1998): 209–237.  
This study uses a single main tool, comparison of the collection of ‘contrary cases’ at the end of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis (book 67 in the A recension) with corresponding material in books 21–29. It has two main purposes, to reveal something of the way in which the compilers worked and to help towards resolving the issue of which recension was the earlier.
OʼLoughlin, Thomas, “Marriage and sexuality in the Hibernensis”, Peritia 11 (1997): 188–206.
Davies, Luned Mair, “Isidorian texts and the Hibernensis”, Peritia 11 (1997): 207–249.  
Past scholars have taught us much about the date, form and authorship of the Collectio canonum hibernensis (CCH), but little about the compilers’ use of their sources. They used at least six Isidorian texts. Various manuscript traditions of Isidore’s writings were drawn on in Ireland and at Insular centres on the Continent. Use of Isidorian texts is more evident in manuscripts of the B recension than of the A recension of the CCH. The more accurate quotation of Isidorian texts in Breton manuscripts shows that there existed a distinct Breton textual tradition among the CCH manuscripts.
Davies, Luned Mair, “The Biblical text of the Collectio canonum Hibernensis”, in: Próinséas Ní Chatháin, and Michael Richter (eds), Irland und Europa im früheren Mittelalter: Bildung und Literatur / Ireland and Europe in the early Middle Ages: learning and literature, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1996. 17–41.
Sheehy, Maurice P., “The Bible and the Collectio canonum Hibernensis”, in: Próinséas Ní Chatháin, and Michael Richter (eds), Irland und die Christenheit: Bibelstudien und Mission. Ireland and Christendom: the Bible and the missions, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1987. 277–283.
Sheehy, Maurice P., “The Collectio canonum Hibernensis: a Celtic phenomenon”, in: Heinz Löwe (ed.), Die Iren und Europa im früheren Mittelalter, 2 vols, vol. 1, Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1982. 525–535.
Sheehy, Maurice P., “Influences of ancient Irish law on the Collectio Hibernensis”, in: Stephan Kuttner (ed.), Proceedings of the Third International Congress of Medieval Canon Law, Strasbourg, 3-6 September 1968, 4, Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1971. 31–42.
C. A., Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
February 2011, last updated: January 2024