Advowson Law and Legal Definition

Advowson is a term of ecclesiastical law that refers to the right of presenting or nominating a person to a vacant benefice in the church. It is the perpetual right of presentation to ecclesiastical living. The person enjoying this right is called the patron of the church or advowee. When a living becomes vacant, the patron of the living has the right to nominate the clergyman who shall hold the living next. In short it means the right to nominate a person to hold a church office in a parish.

The patron presents the nominee to the bishop. Subject to the right of veto on certain specified grounds, the Bishop is bound to institute any duly qualified person presented. If there is no patron or if the patron neglects to exercise the right within six months the right lapses. Then the title is given to the ordinary like the bishop to appoint a cleric to the church.

In medieval England, an advowson was regarded as property, and could be bought and sold, as well as bequeathed. However, by the 12th century Canon law, decreed that the right to present belonged to the saint the church was dedicated to, and that only church courts could rule on cases involving advowsons.