The Ripuarian Law:
Inheritance of Allodial Land, c. 450
The inheritance of land under the barbarians would mean the inheritance of allodial
land (freehold land), and in addition there was inheritance of movables. Among some, women
could inherit land equally with men, and in most cases all the children shared in the
division of paternal property, even the illegitimate children being included; but the
Salic Law says that women may not succeed to land. These laws were mainly codified or
amended after the invasions, and represent a fairly settled state of affairs in Western
Concerning allodial land:
1. If any one die without children, if the father and mother be living, let them
succeed to the inheritance.
2. If the father and mother be not living, let brother and sister succeed.
3. But if he have neither of them, let the brother and sister of the mother and
4. And finally up to the fifth degree of relationship let him who is nearest
succeed to the inheritance. But if the sixth male be living let the female not succeed to
Concerning a man who dies without heirs:
If any one have no sons or daughters, let the husband to his wife, or the wife to her
husband, or to any one whatever among relatives or strangers, bequeath in the presence of
the king all the property, or (give it) as a gift by a series of writings, or by transfer,
and use of witnesses according to the Ripuarian law.
From: Monumenta Germaniae Historiae, Legum, R. Sohm, ed., (Hanover,
1875-1889), Tome V, p. 240; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source
Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936;
reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 334-335.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
This text is part of the Internet
Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and
copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.
Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational
purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No
permission is granted for commercial use.
© Paul Halsall, October 1998