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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Truce of God

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An attempt of the Church in the middle ages to alleviate the evils of private warfare. Throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, as the life-benefices of the later Carolingian kings were gradually transformed into hereditary fiefs, the insecurity of life and property increased, for there was no central power to curb the warring local magnates. The two measures which were adopted by the Church to remedy these conditions - the pax ecclesiae or Dei and the treuga or treva Dei - are usually both referred to as the Truce of God, but they are distinct in character. The latter was a development of the former.

The pax ecclesiae is first heard of in the year 990 at three synods held in different parts of southern and central France - at Charroux, Narbonne and Puy. It enlisted the immediate support of the regular clergy, particularly the vigorous congregation of Cluny, and of William V. of Aquitaine, the most powerful lord of southern France, who urged its adoption at the Councils of Limoges (994) and Poitiers (999). The peace decrees of these various synods differed considerably in detail, but in general they were intended fully to protect non-combatants; they forbade, under pain of excommunication, every act of private warfare or violence against ecclesiastical buildings and their environs, and against certain persons, such as clerics, pilgrims, merchants, women and peasants, and against cattle and agricultural implements. With the opening of the Ilth century, the pax ecclesiae spread over northern France and Burgundy, and diocesan leagues began to be organized for its maintenance. The bishop, or count, on whose lands the peace was violated was vested with judicial power, and was directed, in case he was himself unable to execute sentence, to summon to his assistance the laymen and even the clerics of the diocese, all of whom were required to take a solemn oath to observe and enforce the peace. At the Council of Bourges (1038), the archbishop decreed that every Christian fifteen years and over should take such an oath and enter the diocesan militia. The idea that peace is a divine institution seems to Xxvii. Ii have given rise to a new name for the peace, the pax Dei, or peace of God.

The treuga or treva Dei, the prohibition of every act of private warfare during certain days, goes back at least to the Synod of Elne, held in the Pyrenees in 1027, which suspended all warfare from noon on Saturday till prime on Monday. Like the pax ecclesiae it found ardent champions in the regular clergy, especially in Odilo (962-1049), the fifth abbot of Cluny, and soon spread over all France. It penetrated Piedmont and Lombardy in 1041 and Normandy in 1042. By this time the truce extended from the Wednesday evening to the Monday morning in every week and also, in most places, lasted during the seasons of Lent and Advent, the three great vigils and feasts of the Blessed Virgin, and those of the twelve apostles and a few other saints. The treuga Dei was decreed for Flanders at the Synod of Therouanne (1063) and was instituted in southern Italy in 1089, probably through Norman influence. The bishop of Liege introduced it in Germany in 1082, and three years later a synod held at Mainz in the presence of the emperor Henry IV. extended it to the whole empire. It does not appear to have secured a firm footing in England, although its general provisions were incorporated in the laws of the land (1130-1154). The popes took the direction of the matter into their own hands towards the end of the 11th century as they realized the necessity of promoting peace among Christians in order to unite them successfully in the crusades against the Mahommedans; and the first decree of the Council of Clermont (1095), at which Urban II. preached the first crusade, proclaimed a weekly truce for all Christendom, adding a guarantee of safety to all who might take refuge at a wayside cross or at the plough. The Truce of God was reaffirmed by many councils, such as that held at Reims by Calixtus II. in 1119, and the Lateran councils of 1123, 1139 and 1179. When the treuga Dei reached its most extended form, scarcely one-fourth of the year remained for fighting, and even then the older canons relating to the pax ecclesiae remained in force. The means employed for its enforcement remained practically the same: spiritual penalties, such as excommunication, special ecclesiastical tribunals, sworn leagues of peace, and assistance from the temporal power. The Council of Clermont prescribed that the oath of adherence to the truce be taken every three years by all men above the age of twelve, whether noble, burgess, villein or serf. The results of these peace efforts were perhaps surprisingly mediocre, but it must be borne in mind that not only was the military organization of the dioceses always very imperfect, but feudal society, so long as it retained political power, was inherently hostile to the principle and practice of private peace. The Truce of God was most powerful in the 12th century, but with the 13th its influence waned as the kings gradually gained control over the nobles and substituted the king's peace for that of the Church.

A few bishops, notably Gerard of Cambrai (1013-1051), seem from the first to have opposed the peace laws of the Church as encroaching on royal authority, but the lay rulers usually co-operated with the ecclesiastical authorities in encouraging and maintaining the Truce of God. In fact, the emperor Henry II. and the French king Robert the Pious discussed the subject of universal peace under church auspices at Monzon in 1023. By the 12th century, however, the ecclesiastical measures had proved ineffectual in coping with private warfare, and secular rulers sought independently to diminish the number and atrocity of private wars within their own domains. The provisions of the Truce of God were often incorporated bodily in municipal and district statutes such as the laws of Barcelona (1067). The emperor Henry IV. approved (1085) the extension of the truce to the whole land, and in 1103 royal laws entirely prohibiting private warfare in the empire replaced the Truce of God. In France royalty acquired little by little a preponderant influence over feudalism and used its increased prestige to substitute for the Truce of God the peace of the state. Louis VI., Louis VII. and Philip Augustus gradually obtained recognition not only from the petty lords of their own domain but from most of the magnates of the kingdom. Thanks to the moral support and material resources which it found in the ecclesiastical lords of central and northern France, and to the growing popular desire for the suppression of feuds, royalty was able to support its pretension to the general government of the kingdom. Confirming what was doubtless an older custom, Philip Augustus decreed the quarantaine-le-roi, which suspended every act of reprisal for at least forty days; and in 1257 Louis IX. absolutely forbade all private wars in the crown lands. By the beginning of the 14th century the royal authority had sufficient force to ensure the maintenance of the Landesfriede. In England, where the Truce of God does not seem to have acquired a firm footing, state law against private warfare obtained practically from the time of the Norman conquest. At least from Henry I. it became an axiom that the law of the king's court stood above all other law and was the same for all.

See L. Hubtrti, Studien zur Rechtsgeschichte der Gottesfrieden and Landfrieden, Bd. i. Die Friedens-Ordnungen in Frankreich (Ansbach, 1892); A. Luchaire, "La Paix et la treve de Dieu," in E. Lavisse's Histoire de France, II. 2, pp. 133-138 (Paris, 1901); E. Semichon, La Paix et la trive de Dieu (2nd ed. 1869); E. Mayer, Deutsche and franzosische Verfassungsgeschichte (1899), vol. i.; J. Fehr, Der Gottesfriede and die katholische Kirche des Mittelalters (Augsburg, 1861); A. Kluckhohn, Geschichte des Gottesfriedens (Leipzig, 1857); K. J. von Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, 2nd ed., vol. 4; Du Cange, Glossarium, s.v. Treuga. The principal French documents on the subject are published in Huberti's book, and those of Germany, Italy and Arles are edited by L. Weiland in the Monumenta Germaniae historica, constitutiones i. 596 sqq. (C. H. HA.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Truce of God'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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