Peace of God

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A movement, largely of ecclesiastical inspiration, to arrest anarchy by means of censures and pacts of peace; it originated in Aquitaine toward the end of the 10th century and had spread to most parts of Europe by the middle of the 12th century.

By the time the Capetian dynasty took over in France (c. 987), the Carolingian organization had been in a shambles for over a century, particularly in the center and south: property was a prey of robber barons; private wars were common; the judicial system was next to powerless. Consequently, local churches were moved to take measures to protect property, lay as well as ecclesiastical. An early example comes from a council of the archbishop of Bordeaux and his suffragans (Poitiers, Périgueux, Saintes, Angoulême) at Charroux (Poitiers) in 989, where excommunications were pronounced against violators of churches, aggressors of unarmed clerics, and despoilers of the livestock of the poor (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio [Paris 18891927] 19:90). At Le Puy in the following year, the local bishop imposed a "peace pact" on all his subjects; and a council called by Count William V of Aquitaine at Poitiers (100014) had as its theme "A delicious name indeed is that of peace" (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio [Paris 18891927] 19:267). Later, with the consent of King Henry I of France, a Council of Peace was established by the bishops of Aquitaine at Bourges in 1031 (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio [Paris 18891927] 19:507); its success allowed the Limousin bishops meeting at Limoges in 1033 to hope, as they formulated a stirring anathema against warlords, that the peace then prevailing in Aquitaine "would soon be achieved among the Limousins" (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio [Paris 18891927] 19:529530). Writing in 1046, Rodulphus Glaber, a Burgundian historian, described how the example of Aquitaine had inspired all France to hold councils "for remaking peace" at which those present cried out with hands uplifted, "Peace! Peace! Peace!" as "a sign of a perpetual pact between them and God" (Historiarum libri quinque, ed. M. Prou [Paris 1886] 103105). In the principalities of Normandy and Flanders in the north, secular power was sufficiently strong to dominate the movement; thus Baldwin IV of Flanders organized a great collective oath of peace in 1030, while in Normandy the rulers commissioned the bishops to use excommunication and, if necessary, to call on the secular arm, against violators of peace pledges (Council of Lillebonne, 1080;J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio [Paris 18891927] 19:555).

Outside of France. In Italy, despite overtures by some French prelates to Italian bishops in 1040 and 1041, the peace was not introduced until Pope urban ii and the Norman barons proclaimed it in 1089 in southern Italy. During the quarrels between Pope gregory vii and the Emperor henry iv, the bishops and nobles took the initiative in Lorraine and Germany, but the emperor assumed charge of the peace on his return from Italy in 1077. Spain lagged behind until c. 1124, while the peace was never more than a name in England, since an Anglo-Saxon regime in which the power of the lords never wholly impaired the freedom of others passed directly in 1066 to a vigorous, well-organized monarchy. In general the movement had a qualified success, relying greatly upon excommunication and on the feudal homage due rulers, nobles, and bishops (see feudalism). Sometimes the pledges of local lords were substantiated by hostages, and barons often undertook to bring to heel any of their ranks who should break the collective oath. On occasion the movement got out of hand, as in the reckless and illfated Militia of Berry, founded in 1038 by Aimon, bishop of Bourges, or in the popular "Peacemaker" groups founded in Le Puy in 1082.

Truce of God. Allied to the peace of God, but distinct from it, was a "Truce of God," during which hostilities would be suspended. First mooted, perhaps, at the Council of Toulouges (Roussillon) in the diocese of Elne in 1027, where certain "days of rest" from fighting, notably Sundays, were proclaimed (J. D. Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio [Paris 18891927] 19:483484), this excellent idea was later overused to the point of extinction; by 1139 (Third lateran council; Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta [Bologna-Freiburg 1962] 169) it covered a weekly lull from sunset on Wednesday until sunrise on Monday, as well as the whole of Advent, the octaves of Christmas and Epiphany, and the period from Quinquagesima (from Septuagesima by 1179; Conciliorum oecumenicorum decreta [Bologna-Freiburg 1962] 198) to the Octave of Easter.

Bibliography: l. huberti, Studien zur Rechtsgeschichte der Gottesfrieden und Landfrieden (Ansbach 1892). f. v. duval, De la Paix de Dieu à la Paix de Fer (Paris 1923). y. bongert, Recherches sur les cours laïques du X e au XIII e siècle (Paris 1949). b. tÖpfer, Volk und Kirche zur Zeit der beginnenden Gottesfriedensbewegung in Frankreich (Berlin 1957). m. bloch, Feudal Society, tr. l. a. manyon (Chicago, Ill. 1961). k. bosl, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765) 4:110607. d. kennelly, "Medieval Towns and the Peace of God," Medievalia et humanistica 15 (1963) 3553. a. hoffmann, Gottesfriede und Treuga Dei (Stuttgart 1964).

[l. e. boyle]