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Pope Gregory I:
On Manumission and Redemption, c. 600

Pope Gregory I not only set free serfs subject to him but he awarded them the goods they held, and he put forward the strongest reason for his act. Besides this he also took pains to assure a freed slave that the price of his redemption would not be required of him.

Since our Redeemer, the Creator of all creatures, wished to assume human flesh, so that by the grace of His divinity He might restore us to our pristine liberty, which has been taken away from us so that we are thereby held captive under the yoke of servitude, it is done wisely if those whom nature brought forth as free men in the beginning, and whom the law of nations placed under the yoke of servitude, are returned in freedom to that state of nature in which they were born by the benefits of manumission. So, moved by consideration of this and by feelings of piety, we make you, Montana and Thomas, serfs of the Holy Roman Church, over which with the help of God we rule, free and Roman citizens from this day, and we free all property held by you in serfdom.

The statutes of the holy canons and lawful authority permit that the goods of Holy Church may be used for the redemption of captives. And so because we were taught by you, before we reached the age of eighteen, that a certain holy man named Fabius, Bishop of the church of Firman, used eleven pounds of silver from that same church for your redemption and for the redemption of your father Passivus, your brother and co-bishop, a priest at that time, and also of your mother, from the enemy, and on account of this fact you are obsessed by the fear that what was paid will be required of you after a certain interval of time, we wish to see your fear allayed by this command, that you and your heirs suffer no molestation at any time by reason of any demand for this money, nor shall you be harassed by any questioning, for the spirit of charity demands that what pious zeal expends ought not to be imposed as a burden or affliction on the redeemed.


J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1849), Vol. LXXVII, pp. 803, 960; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 291-292.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, October 1998
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