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Pope Gregory the Great: Payment of Merchet, c. 600

The payment of merchet was exacted from serfs at marriage. When the serf married a woman from another estate the indemnity was called formariage, but if he neglected to pay, he suffered confiscation of his goods. Serfs under the jurisdiction of unscrupulous bailiffs suffered heavily by these fees.

Report has also reached us that in the matter of the marriages of serfs, excessive payments are taken. We therefore command that no payments for marriage in any case exceed the sum of one solidus. If they are poor, even less should be given. If they are rich, they are never to pay more than the said solidus. We also desire that the marriage payment be in no way assigned to our accounts, but that it be devoted to the good of the tenants.


J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1849), Vol. LXXVII, p. 498; 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. 392-393.

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.

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© Paul Halsall, October 1998