Marsilius of Padua:
from Defensor Pacis, 1324
[Belle Tuten: Introduction]
Marsilius of Padua (c. 1275-1342) was for a time rector of
the University of Paris, where he participated in the important
intellectual currents of his day, including the relation of faith
to reason and of the Church to the State. Defensor Pacis [Defender
of the Peace] is his most famous work. It was originally published
anonymously because of its controversial position. When it became
known that Marsilius was the author, he was condemned as heretic
and forced to flee to the court of Louis of Bavaria, who gave
him protection. Below is the concluding summary of the treatise.
A extended selection from the text
itself is also available.
1. The one divine canonical Scripture, the conclusions that necessarily
follow from it, and the interpretation placed upon it by the common
consent of Christians, are true, and belief in them is necessary
to the salvation of those to whom they are made known.
2. The general council of Christians or its majority alone has
the authority to define doubtful passages of the divine law, and
to determine those that are to be regarded as articles of the
Christian faith, belief in which is essential to salvation; and
no partial council or single person of any position has the authority
to decide these questions.
3. The gospels teach that no temporal punishment or penalty should
be used to compel observance of divine commandments.
4. It is necessary to salvation to obey the commandments of the
new divine law [the New Testament] and the conclusions that follow
necessarily from it and the precepts of reason; but it is not
necessary to salvation to obey all the commandments of the ancient
law [the Old Testament].
5. No mortal has the right to dispense with the commands or prohibitions
of the new divine law; but the general council and the Christian
"legislator" alone have the right to prohibit things
which are permitted by the new law, under penalties in this world
or the next, and no partial council or single person of any position
has that right.
6. The whole body of citizens or its majority alone is the human
7. Decretals and decrees of the bishop of Rome, or of any other
bishops or body of bishops, have no power to coerce anyone by
secular penalties or punishments, except by the authorization
of the human "legislator."
8. The "legislator" alone or the one who rules by its
authority has the power to dispense with human laws.
9. The elective principality or other office derives its authority
from the election of the body having the right to elect, and not
from the confirmation or approval of any other power.
10. The election of any prince or other official, especially ,,one
who has the coercive power is determined solely by the expressed
will of the "legislator."
11. There can be only one supreme ruling power in a state or kingdom.
12. The number and the qualifications of persons who hold state
offices and all civil matters are to be determined solely by the
Christian ruler according to the law or approved custom.
13. No prince, still more, no partial council or single person
of any position, has full authority and control over other persons,
laymen or clergy, without the authorization of the "legislator.
14. No bishop or priest has coercive authority or jurisdiction
over any layman or clergyman, even if he is a heretic.
15. The prince who rules by the authority of the "legislator"
has jurisdiction over the persons and possessions of every single
mortal of every station, whether lay or clerical, and over every
body of laymen or clergy.
16. No bishop or priest or body of bishops or priests has the
authority to excommunicate anyone or to interdict the performance
of divine services, without the authorization of the "legislator."
17. All bishops derive their authority in equal measure immediately
from Christ, and it cannot be proved from the. divine law that
one bishop should be over or under another, in temporal or spiritual
18. The other bishops, singly or in a body, have the same right
by divine authority to excommunicate or otherwise exercise authority
over the bishop of Rome, having obtained the consent of the "legislator,"
as the bishop of Rome has to excommunicate or control them.
19. No mortal has the authority to permit marriages that are prohibited
by the divine law, especially by the New Testament. The right
to permit marriages which are prohibited by human law belongs
solely to the "legislator" or to the one who rules by
20. The right to legitimatize children born of illegitimate union
so that they may receive inheritances, or other civil or ecclesiastical
offices or benefits, belongs solely to the "legislator."
21. The "legislator" alone has the right to promote
to ecclesiastical orders, and to judge of the qualifications of
persons for these offices, by a coercive decision, and no priest
or bishop has the right to promote anyone without its authority.
22. The prince who rules by the authority of the laws of Christians,
has the right to determine the number of churches and temples,
and the number of priests, deacons, and other clergy who shall
serve in them.
23. "Separable" ecclesiastical offices may be conferred
or taken away only by the authority of the "legislator";
the same e is true of ecclesiastical benefices and other property
devoted to pious purposes. (1)
24. No bishop or body of bishops has the right to establish notaries
or other civil officials.
25. No bishop or body of bishops may give permission to teach
or practice in any profession or occupation, but this right belongs
to the Christian "legislator" or to the one who rules
by its authority.
26. In ecclesiastical offices and benefices those who have received
consecration as deacons or priests, or have been otherwise irrevocably
dedicated to God, should be preferred those who have not been
27. The human "legislator" has the right to use ecclesiastical
temporalities for the common public good and defence after the
needs of the priests and clergy, the expenses of divine worship,
and the necessities of the poor have been satisfied.
28. All properties established for pious purposes or for works
of mercy, such as those that are left by will for the making of
a crusade, the redeeming of captives, or the support of the poor,
and similar purposes, may be disposed of by the prince alone according
to the decision of the "legislator" and the purpose
of the testator or giver.
29. The Christian "legislator" alone has the right to
forbid or permit the establishment of religious orders or houses.
30. The prince alone, acting in accordance with the laws of the
"legislator," has the authority to condemn heretics,
delinquents, and all others who should endure temporal punishment,
to inflict bodily punishment upon them, and to exact fines from
31. No subject who is bound to another by a legal oath may be
released from his obligation by any bishop or priest, unless the
"legislator" has decided by a coercive decision that
there is just cause for it-
32. The general council of all Christians alone has the authority
to create a metropolitan bishop or church, and to reduce him or
it from that position.
33. The Christian "legislator" or the one who rules
by its authority over Christian states, alone has the right to
convoke either a general or local council of priests, bishops,
and other Christians, by coercive power; and no man may be compelled
by threats of temporal or spiritual punishment to obey the decrees
of a council convoked in any other way.
34. The general council of Christians or the Christian "legislator"
alone has the authority to ordain fasts and other prohibitions
of the use of food; the council or "legislator" alone
may prohibit the practice of mechanical arts or teaching which
divine law permits to be practiced on any day, and the "legislator"
or the one who rules by its authority alone may constrain men
to obey the prohibition by temporal penalties.
35. The general council of Christians alone has the authority
to canonize anyone or to order anyone to be adored as a saint.
36. The general council of Christians alone has the authority
to forbid the marriage of priests, bishops, and other clergy,
and to make other laws concerning ecclesiastical discipline, and
that council or the one to whom it delegates its authority alone
may dispense with these laws.
37. It is always permitted to appeal to the "legislator"
from a coercive decision rendered by a bishop or priest with the
authorization of the "legislator."
38. Those who are pledged to observe complete poverty may not
have in their possession any immovable property, unless it be
with the fixed intention of selling it as soon as possible and
giving the money to the poor; they may not have such rights in
either movable or immovable property as would enable them, for
example, to recover them by a coercive decision from any person
who should take or try to take them away.
39. The people as a community and as individuals, according to
their several means, are required by divine law support the bishops
and other clergy authorized by the gospel, so that they may have
food and clothing and the other necessaries of life; but the people
are not required to pay tithes or other taxes beyond the amount
necessary for such support.
40. The Christian "legislator" or the one who rules
by its authority has the right to compel bishops and other clergy
ho live in the province under its control and whom it supplies
with the necessities of life, to perform divine services and administer
41. The bishop of Rome and any other ecclesiastical or spiritual
minister may be advanced to a "separable" ecclesiastical
office only by the Christian "legislator" or the one
who rules by its authority, or by the general council of Christians;
and they may be suspended from or deprived of office by the same
(1) By "separable powers," Marsilius means those powers
which are not essential to the clergy. Essential powers would
be those things, such as blessing the sacraments, which only a
priest could do. Separable powers are those which could be exercised
by someone who is not clergy.
From Marsilius of Padua, Defensor Pacis, Part III, ch.
ii; in Goldet, Monarchia Sancti Romani Imperii, 11, pp.
309 ff. trans in Oliver J. Thatcher, and Edgar Holmes McNeal,
eds., A Source Book for Medieval History, (New York: Scribners,
1905), pp. 317-324
The text was first provided electronically by Internet Medieval Source Book.
The introduction and notes here are from the version Belle Tuten
prepared at Juniate College.
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© Paul Halsall May 998