Paul du plessis, John W. Cairns, Jan M. Smits, Olivia Robinson, Gerhard Thuer, David A. Westbrook

Prof. Alan Watson












Prof. Sima Avramovic

Prof. Sima Avramović






Alan Watson Foundation



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Marko Mrkonjić Receives the Alan Watson Prize




Research Paper:


“The Nomocanon of St. Sava

and Legal Transplants” (First Prize)


*Download Paper



Downloadable paper is written in Serbian.



The fundamental objective of this paper is to show that the notion of legal transplants, in conjunction with diffusion of law as a genus proximum phenomenon, represent a universal tendency in the development of law. History shows us that law has always been borrowed from one social space to another and that laws of discrete social spaces mutually diffuse, resulting in new and usually more sophisticated systems of law. This was the case with Serbian medieval law of the 13th century. The socioeconomic and political conditions in Serbia engendered a need for a new collection of church and civil laws. This resulted in the promulgation of the Nomocanon of Saint Sava, a compilation of civil and church regulations, which is an immense liaison in diffusion of Byzantine-Roman law among the Slavic people, who later became Orthodox Christians. Pertaining to the nature of the Nomocanon, the blend of church and civil regulations in one collection of laws was inescapable due to the authority of the Orthodox Church. The Nomocanon of Saint Sava is almost entirely comprised of legal transplants with the exception of some modifications, which were made to clarify some legal norms and to incorporate them into Serbian law in a manner, which was in conformity with the socioeconomic setting in Serbia of that time. Such modifications are mainly found in the civil regulations, whilst the church regulations remained largely unchanged. The Nomocanon of Saint Sava is a rare example of legal transplants being incorporated to another system of law without undergoing transformation. Legal patterning is not only a legal issue. Diffusion of law is tightly associated with studies of acculturation, the process of cross-cultural imitation. This paper explains us why legal changes should be seen from a sociological perspective and not only examined by comparative law as a method or an independent scientific discipline. On the other hand, the civil rules in this set of laws also illustrate how law can travel through time, originating in ancient Rome, modified in the Byzantine Empire, further being transformed by the Greeks and also accepted by the Orthodox Christians. Furthermore, the local customs and customary law also played a major role in the process of diffusion of law. Customary law significantly conditioned the transformations in civil regulations. On the contrary, the church regulations which were provided with immense authority seemed to be unchangeable. In the centuries which followed the promulgation of Saint Sava’s Nomocanon, Byzantine law acquired a new perspective for diffusion of law through further legal borrowing from Bulgaria to Russia. Additionally, the further convergence of Byzantine law in the Nomocanon with Serbian customary law left a major influence on the Code of Serbian Tsar Stephan Dushan in the 14th century. It is disputed that Tsar Dushan’s codification also led to further legal borrowing or at least left some influence probably on the codifications of Bohemian and Polish kings.



Prof. Sima Avramovic and Marko Mrkonjić,

Alan Watson Prize Winner



Marko Mrkonjić with the AWF Staff



Prof. Avramović at UB School of Law Annual Conference – Alan Watson Foundation Prizes


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