In 1401, the ecclesiastical courts in England were given the power to burn heretics. In modern times the ecclesiastical courts have no control over anyone who does not belong to the Church of England, and can't give out 'serious' punishments like imprisonment.

When were they stripped of powers like this?

  • Unfortunately, I don't understand the question. Especially on matters of jurisdiction, it is better to absolutely clear on the question.
    – J Asia
    Mar 15, 2018 at 20:19
  • I'm off to bed, but I'd lay odds that it was during the c 1180 judicial rewrite by Henry II - Yeah, that guy who did penance for the murder of Beckett. Mar 16, 2018 at 3:45

1 Answer 1


Technically, the Suppression of Heresy Act 1400 (enacted 1401) - De Hæretico Comburendo - didn't grant the ecclesiastical courts in England the power to burn heretics. Anyone convicted of heresy was to be handed over to the secular power

... the sheriff of the county of the same place, and mayor and sheriffs, or sheriff, or mayor and bailiffs of the city, town, and borough of the same county ...

who would then carry out the sentence as laid down by the law.

The 1401 statute was repealed by the 1558 Act of Supremacy under Elizabeth I.

There is an article titled A Brief History of Medieval Roman Canon Law in England which you might also find interesting available on JSTOR.


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