A nomocanon (Greek: Νομοκανών, Nomokanōn; from the Greek nomos 'law' and kanon 'a rule') is a collection of ecclesiastical law, consisting of the elements from both the civil law and the canon law. Nomocanons form part of the canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches (through the Eastern Catholic canon law) and of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Byzantine nomocanons

Nomocanon of John Scholasticus

The first nomocanon, in the sixth century, is ascribed, though without certainty, to John Scholasticus, whose canons it utilizes and completes. He had drawn up (about 550) a purely canonical compilation in 50 titles, and later composed an extract from the Justinian's Novellae in 87 chapters[1] that relate the ecclesiastical matters. To each of the 50 titles was added the texts of the imperial laws on the same subject, with 21 additional chapters, nearly all borrowed from John's 87 chapters.[2]

Nomocanon in 14 titles

The second nomocanon dates from the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (610–641), at which time Latin was replaced by Greek as the official language of the imperial laws. It was made through the fusion of the Collectio tripartita (collection of Justinian's imperial law) and Canonic syntagma (ecclesiastical canons). Afterwards, this collection would be known as Nomocanon in 14 titles.

Nomocanon of Photios

The Nomocanon in 14 titles nomocanon was long held in esteem and passed into the Russian Church, but it was by degrees supplanted by the Nomocanon of Photios in 883.

The great systematic compiler of the Eastern Church, who occupies a similar position to that of Gratian in the West, was Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople in the 9th century. His collection in two parts—a chronologically ordered compilation of synodical canons and a revision of the Nomocanon—formed and still forms the classic source of ancient Church Law for the Greek Church.[3]

It contained the Nomocanon in 14 titles, with the addition of 102 canons of Trullan Council, 17 canons of the Council of Constantinople of 861,[4] and three canons substituted by Photios for those of the Council of Constantinople of 869. The Nomocanon in 14 titles was completed with the more recent imperial laws.

This whole collection was commentated about 1170 by Theodore Balsamon,[5] Greek Patriarch of Antioch residing at Constantinople. The Nomocanon of Photios supplemented the Pedalion (Greek: Πηδάλιον 'rudder'), a sort of Corpus Juris of the Eastern Orthodox Church, printed in 1800 by Patriarch Neophytos VII.

The Nomocanon of Photios retained in the law of the Eastern Orthodox Church and it was included in the Syntagma, published by Rallis and Potlis (Athens, 1852–1859).[6]

St. Sava's Nomocanon

First page of St. Sava's Nomocanon, manuscript, 1262

Main article: St. Sava's Nomocanon

The Nomocanon of Saint Sava, or in Serbian Zakonopravilo (Savino Zakonopravilo), was the first Serbian constitution and the highest code in the Serbian Orthodox Church; it was finished in 1219. This legal act was well developed. St. Sava's Nomocanon was the compilation of civil law, based on Roman law[7][8] and canon law, based on ecumenical councils. Its basic purpose was to organize functioning of the young Serbian kingdom and the Serbian church.

During the Nemanjić dynasty (1166–1371) rulersof the Serbian medieval state could not create code of laws, which would regulate the relations in the state and church. Serbian rulers reigned with single legal acts and decrees. In order to overcome this problem and organize legal system, after acquiring religious independence, Saint Sava finished his Zakonopravilo in 1219.

The Zakonopravilo was accepted in Bulgaria, Romania and Russia. It was printed in Moscow in the 17th century. So, Roman-Byzantine law was transplanting among East Europe through the Zakonopravilo. In Serbia, it was considered as the code of the divine law and it was implemented into Dušan's Code (Serbian: Dušanov zakonik).

During the Serbian Revolution, in 1804 the priest Mateja Nenadović established the Nomocanon of Saint Sava as the code of the liberated Serbia. It was also implemented in Serbian civil code in 1844. The Zakonopravilo is still used in the Serbian Orthodox Church as the highest church code.

East Syriac tradition

Nomocanons of the Church of the East by author are:

See also


  1. ^ For the canonical collection see Voellus and Henri Justel, "Bibliotheca juris canonici", Paris, 1661, II, 449 sqq.; for the 87 chapters, Pitra, "Juris ecclesiastici Græcorum historia et monumenta", Rome, 1864, II, 385)
  2. ^ Voellus and Justellus, op. cit., II, 603.
  3. ^ Justin Taylor, essay "Canon Law in the Age of the Fathers" (published in Jordan Hite, T.O.R., & Daniel J. Ward, O.S.B., "Readings, Cases, Materials in Canon Law: A Textbook for Ministerial Students, Revised Edition" (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990), p. 61
  4. ^ "Photian Synods of Constantinople (861, 867, 879)". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1908. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  5. ^ Nomocanon with Balsamon's commentary in Voellus and Justellus, II, 815; P. G., CIV, 441.
  6. ^ P. G., loc. cit.; Beveridge, "Synodicon", Oxford, 1672.
  7. ^ "S. P. Scott: The Civil Law". Retrieved 14 August 2018.
  8. ^ "::: The Roman Law Library ( Last Update : July 20, 2012 )". Archived from the original on 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2010-05-10.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Nomocanon". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.