Jurisprudence in the Service of Pastoral Care: The Decretum of Burchard of Worms

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Burchard, bishop of Worms, was a well-educated thinker versed in theological interpretation of the Bible. He also compiled one of the most popular books of canon law, or the law governing the church, in the European Middle Ages. Born into a wealthy family in Hesse c. 965, he had received what was probably one of the best educations available at that time. “Dedicated to study, learned in the pages of Holy Scripture, and full of the wisdom of God,” his biographer wrote—and Burchard apparently lived up to those claims. He had an oratory and study built for him in the countryside outside of Worms as a place where he could study undistracted. It is also testimony to his own excellent education that he worried about the state of education that boys were receiving. At his death, if we can believe his Vita, local nobles sacked his rooms in search of money and found only books.