Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 204
The law issued by King Chindaswinth (ca AD 642-653) concerning clerics who refuse to appear in court. The codification known as Lex Visigothorum (issued and re-edited several times between AD 569 and 702).
De his, qui admoniti iudicis epistula vel sigillo ad iudicium venire contemnunt.
Iudex cum ab aliquo fuerit interpellatus, adversarium querellantis admonitione unius epistule vel sigilli ad iudicium venire conpellat, sub ea videlicet ratione, ut coram ingenuis personis his, qui a iudice missus extiterit, illi, qui ad causam dicendam conpellitur, offerat epistulam vel sigillum. Et si tali admonitione conventus aut se dilataverit aut ad iudicium venire contemserit, pro dilatione sola quinque auri solidos petitori et pro contemtu quinque alios iudici coactus exolvat.
Follows the regulations imposing the corporal punishment for the further avoidance of the court. Then the case of bishop summoned by the judge is considered.
Si certe presbiter, diaconus vel subdiaconus adque clericus vel monacus ad accipiendam iudicis epistulam vel sigillum se dilataverint aut pro sui persona ad respondendum minime direxerint prosecutorem vel contumaciter fuerint contemtores, unusquisque eorum iuxta legis huius sententiam, que in laicis superius lata est, indicta damna suscipiat; et si non habuerit, unde conponat, eius episcopus moneatur, ut pro eo satisfacere, si voluerit, licentiam habeat. Sin autem noluerit, sacramentis coram iudice se noverit obligandum, quod supradictis personis districtionem talem adibeat, ut per XXX dierum spatium ieiuniis continuis adfligantur, sufticiatque illis circa solis hoccasum per dies singulos panis vel aque refectionem accipere, que contumacis vitam rationabili possit districtione corrigere. Illa omnino discretione servata, ut, si aut etatis aut egritudinis instantia patuerit, que hanc disciplinam sustinere non posse demonstret, tam in clericis cuiuscumque ordinis quam in laicis, non tam durissime sententiam castigationis instantia conpleat iudicis, sed habita consideratione pro egritudine vel etate, ita contemtore corrigat, ne ipse contemtor aut langorem maximum aut debilitationem vel mortem incurrat.
Follows the other regulations and penalties concerning those who fail to appear in court without valid justification.
(ed. K. Zeumer 1905: 65-67)
On those who refuse to come to the court after being summoned by a letter from the judge, or his seal.
If someone brings a claim to the court, the judge summons to court the adversary of the plaintiff by a letter or a seal, viz. in this way that a messenger of the judge should give this letter or seal to the person who is summoned to the court in the presence of respectable witnesses. And if one is summoned by such admonition, and delays or refuses to go to the court, he should pay to the plaintiff five solidi only for the delay, and the next five solidi to the judge for the refusal.
There follows the regulations imposing the corporal punishment for the further avoidance of the court. Then the case of a bishop summoned by the judge is considered.
If then a presbyter, deacon, subdeacon, or other cleric, or a monk avoids receiving a letter or seal of the judge, or does not send anyone to represent him, or is stubborn in his resistance, he, whoever he is, should receive the same punishment as was indicated above for the laymen according to this law. And if he does not have any money, his bishop should be informed, that he can pay for his cleric if he wishes. But if the bishop refuses, he should take an oath before the judge that he would compel above-mentioned persons to fast continually for thirty days and it should be enough for them to eat only some bread and water in the evening; by this means the bishop will correct the life of a stubborn person in a proper manner. The only exception is the case of clerics or laymen who because of their age or illness cannot stand the severity of this punishment. In their case the punishment should not fulfil the rigorous sentence of the judge, but it should correct the objector with regard to his illness or age, so that great weariness will not cause disability or death.
There follows the other regulations and penalties concerning those who fail to appear in court without valid justification.
(trans. M. Szada)


Chindasuinth was a Visigothic king from 642 to 653. Law 17 was included in the codification both in Recceswinth's and Ervig's revision.

Place of event:

  • Iberian Peninsula
  • Gaul

About the source:

Title: Lex Visigothorum, Liber iudiciorum, Liber iudiciorum sive Lex Visigothorum
Origin: Iberian Peninsula
Denomination: Catholic/Nicene/Chalcedonian
Lex Visigothorum is a codification of law first composed during the reign of King Leovigild (569-586) on the basis of the Code of Euric, but the origin of all extant manuscripts is its revised version from the reign of King Recceswinth (649-672). The codification was also enlarged in the times of King Ervig (680-687) and Ecgica (687-702).
K. Zeumer ed., Liber iudiciorum sive lex Visigothorum, Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Leges nationum Germanicarum 1, Hannover, Leipzig 1902, 33-456.
The Visigothic Code (Forum Judicum), trans. S.P. Scott, Boston 1910
Leges Visigothorum in: Bibliotheca legum regni Francorum manuscripta,  Karl Ubl (Ed.) assisted by Dominik Trump and Daniela Schulz, Cologne 2012. URL:


Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
    Public law - Secular
      Economic status and activity - Indication of wealth
        Economic status and activity - Indication of poverty
            Relation with - Bishop/Monastic superior
              Relation with - Secular authority
                Administration of justice - Ecclesiastical
                  Administration of justice - Secular
                    Administration of justice - Corporal punishment
                      Devotion - Fasting
                        Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER204,