Presbyters Uniwersytet Warszawski
ER 552
The Visigothic law orders what presbyters and deacons shall do with fugitives seeking asylum in their churches. The codification known as the Lex Visigothorum (created in a few redactions between AD 569 and 702).
Ut debitor sive reus de ecclesia non abstrahantur, sed que sunt debita reddant.
Eos, qui ad ecclesiam vel ad ecclesie porticos confugerint, nullus contingere presumat, sed presbitero vel diacono repetat, ut reformet; et seu debitor sive reus, qui confugerat, si non meretur occidi, aput repetentem ecclesie cultor interveniat, ut ei veniam det, et exoratus indulgeat. Quod si debitor aliquis ad ecclesiam confugerit, eum ecclesia non defendat, sed presbiter aut diaconus debitorem sine dilatione restituat; ita ut ipse, qui debitum repetit, nequaquam cedere aut ligare eum presumat, qui ad ecclesie auxilium decurrit; sed presente presbitero vel diacono constituatur, intra quod tempus ei debitum reformetur. Quia, licet ecclesie interventus religionis contemplatione concedatur, aliena tamen retineri non poterunt.
(ed. Zeumer 1902: 380)
That a debtor or a criminal shall not be dragged away from the church, but they shall give back what they owe
Let no one touch those who have fled to a church or to the porticoes of a church, but he shall ask a presbyter or deacon to hand over the fugitive. And if it is a debtor or a criminal who has fled [to the church] and he does not deserve to be killed, a cleric who is in charge of the church (cultor ecclesiae) shall ask the person who demands the fugitive be handed over to exonerate the fugitive, and he shall yield to this plea and forgive. If a debtor flees to a church, the church shall not defend him, but a presbyter or deacon shall hand the debtor over without delay so that he who recovers a debt does not think of beating or binding the debtor who has has sought the help of the church. But in the presence of a presbyter or deacon they shall determine the time of repayment of the debt. Although out of religious concern we grant the Church a right to intervention, the other things cannot be retained.
(trans. by M. Szada)


For a commentary see Schäferdiek 1967: 17-18, n. 40.

Place of event:

  • Iberian Peninsula

About the source:

Title: Lex Visigothorum, Liber iudiciorum, Liber iudiciorum sive Lex Visigothorum
Origin: Toledo (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 basis of all extant manuscripts is its revised version from the reign of King Reccesvinth (649-672). The codification was also enlarged in the times of Kings 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
K. Schäferdiek, Die Kirche in den Reichen der Westgoten und Suewen bis zur Errichtung der westgotischen katholischen Staatskirche, Berlin 1967.


Non-Latin Origin - Anglo-Saxon
    Functions within the Church - Parish presbyter
      Described by a title - Presbyter/πρεσβύτερος
        Public law - Secular
            Conflict - Violence
              Pastoral activity - Granting asylum
                Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL: M. Szada, Presbyters in the Late Antique West, ER552,