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Peter's Pence

Peter's Pence or Rome-scot began in Saxon times as an annual tribute of 1 penny from each household to the papacy. After the Conquest, it became a total payment of about £200 p.a., collected by the bishops. Attempts to increase it were strongly resisted. Though the amount of revenue involved was insignificant, the claim of tribute was of symbolic importance. Monarchs could put pressure on the papacy by withholding payment and by Henry VIII's statute of 1533 (25 Hen. VIII c. 21) it was abolished altogether.

J. A. Cannon

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Peter's pence

Peter's pence, in the Roman Catholic Church, the annual voluntary laymen's contribution to the support of the pope. Formerly Peter's pence was a yearly tax of a penny levied by the Holy See on every household in England and elsewhere. The name derives from the fact that the Holy See is called the see of Peter.

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Peter's Pence

PETER'S PENCE

Originally an Anglo-Saxon tax of obscure origin, paid to the Holy See and theoretically levied on every English hearth not specially exempted. It was probably distinct from money gifts made to Rome by the rulers of newly converted subkingdoms, such as that by King offa of mercia. It seems, rather, to have originated under King alfred the great of wessex, at least as early as 889, and to have been imposed throughout the English kingdom built up by him and his immediate successors. The practical difficulties of collecting such a tax under contemporary conditions were not inconsiderable, but payment was regular for some time, being annual under edward the confessor. If a later authority is to be believed, the proceeds were originally shared between the Roman See itself and the Schola Saxonum at Rome.

In the reign of King william i the Conqueror the tax was in arrears: these payments were requested by Pope alexander ii in a letter that also asserted a claim to feudal suzerainty over England, though it is not certain that the two claims were connected. William consented to pay the traditional Peter's Pence but rejected the claim to feudal suzerainty. Collection of the tax continued to be difficult, and in the course of the 12th century payment was commuted into an annual payment of 299 marks (£199 6s 8d) for which each diocese was assessed according to its means. Prosperity and population were then increasing, with the result that the bishops who levied Peter's Pence were making a profit from the transaction. Pope innocent iii protested vigorously but fruitlessly against this, and all attempts to increase the valuation proved quite unsuccessful.

In later times the sum involved was usually small, and payment of it was irregular. By the time of the Reformation, Peter's Pence was a very small item in the complex financial relationship of the English Church and the papacy. It was abolished by King henry viii in 1534 (25 Henry VIII, c. 21) along with other payments.

It seems that during the Middle Ages not only was Peter's Pence (called also Rome-Scot, heorðpaenning, denarius, or census s. Petri ) extended into Ireland and Wales, but the denarius-per-household was offered the Holy See by the northern nations whose religious background had known England's influence, e.g., Sweden, Norway, and Iceland. Other areas, such as Hungary, Istria, Dalmatia, and Poland, may also have paid a "Peter's Pence" distinct from their feudal tribute. As in England, Peter's Pence in these areas did not survive the Reformation.

The modern Peter's Pence collection originated under Pope Pius IX in the 1860s as a subsidy to compensate the papacy for the loss of revenue from the states of the church. Through the encyclical Saepe venerabiles fratres (1871), it was given official approval. Even after the Lateran Pacts, it remains a free offering of Catholic dioceses to the pope.

Bibliography: o. jensen, "The Denarius Sancti Petri in England," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, NS 15 (1901) 171247. s. l. ollard et al., eds., A Dictionary of English Church History (Milwaukee 1912; 3d ed. New York 1948) 457458. w. e. lunt, Financial Relations of the Papacy with England to 1327 (Cambridge, Mass. 1939) 384.

[m. j. hamilton]

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