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
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
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