ADVOWSON is the right of present ing a fit person to the bishop, to be by him instituted to a certain benefice within the diocese, which has become vacant. The person enjoying this right is called the patron (patronus, advocatus) of the church, and the right is termed, in law Latin, an advowson (advocatio), because the patron is bound to advocate or protect the rights of the church, and of the in cumbent whom he has presented. [AD VOCATE.) As this patronage may be the property of laymen, and is subject to alienation, transmission, and most of the changes incidental to other kinds of property, it would be liable to be misused by the intrusion of improper persons into the church, if the law had not provided a check upon abuse by giving to the bishop a power of rejecting the individual pre sented, for just cause. The ground of his rejection is, however, not purely dis cretionary, but is examinable at the instance either of the clergyman pre sented or of the patron, by process in the ecclesiastical and temporal courts.
According to the best authorities, the appointment of the religious instructors of the people within any diocese formerly belonged to the bishop : but when the lord of a manor, or other considerable landowner, was willing to erect a church, and to set apart a sufficient portion of land or tithe for a perpetual endowment, it was the practice for the founder and his heirs to have the right of nominating a person in holy orders to be the offici ating minister, as often as a vacancy should occur, while the right of judging of the spiritual and canonical qualification of the nominee was reserved, as before, to the bishop. Thus the patron is properly the founder of a church or other ecclesi astical establishment : he who built the church, gave the ground for it, and en dowed it with lands. (Du Cange, Gloss., Advocates, Patron us.) This seems to be the most satisfactory account of the origin of advowsons and benefices, and it corresponds with many historical records still extant, of which examples may be seen in Selden's History of Tithes. It also explains some circum stances of frequent occurrence in the division of parishes, which might other wise appear anomalous or unaccountable.
Thus the existence of detached portions of parishes, and of extra-parochial pre cincts, and the variable extent and capri cious boundaries of parishes in general, all indicate that they owe their origin rather to accidental and private dotation than to any regular legislative scheme for the ecclesiastical subdivision of the country. Hence, too, it is frequently ob servable that the boundaries of a parish either coincide with, or have a manifest relation to, manorial limits. The same connexion may, perhaps, have suggested itself to those who have had opportunities of noticing the numerous instances in different parts of England, in which the parochial place of worship is closely con tiguous to the ancient mansion of its founder and patron, and within the im mediate enclosure of his demesne.
As an illustration of the respect incul cated in early ages to the patron of a church, we find that the canons of the church permitted him alone to occupy a seat within' the chancel or choir, at a time when that part of the building was partitioned off from the nave, and reserved for the exclusive use of the clergy. (Ken nett's Paroch. Antiq. Glossary, tit. " Ps. tronus.") An advowsou which has been imme morially annexed to a manor or to other land, is called an advowson appendant, and is transmissible by any conveyance which is sufficient to pass the property in the manor or land itself. It may, how ever, be detached from the manor, and is then termed an advowson in gross, after which it can never be re-annexed so as to become appendant again.
An advowson is in the nature of a tem poral property and a spiritual trust. In the former view, it is a subject of lawful transfer by sale, by will, or otherwise, and is available to creditors in satisfac tion of the debts of the patron. It may be aliened for ever, or for life, or for a certain term of years ; or the owner may grant one, two, or any number of succes sive rights of presentation on future vacancies, subject always to certain re strictions imposed by the law, for the prevention of corrupt and simoniacal transactions.