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
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