Fourth Council of Toledo:
On the Keeping of Slaves, 633
The Council of Toledo in the Visigothic kingdom in Spain took the place of the
Witenagemot among the English and was dominated by the clergy. Among other provisions for
the year 633 it decreed that Jews might not possess Christian slaves, that freedmen under
Church patronage might not withdraw from it, that the children of freedmen might not lose
their status, and that qualified freedom might prevent ordination.
66. By the decree of the most glorious prince this sacred council ordered
that Jews should not be allowed to have Christian slaves nor to buy Christian slaves, nor
to obtain them by the kindness of any one; for it is not right that the members of Christ
should serve the ministers of Anti-Christ. But if henceforward Jews presume to have
Christian slaves or handmaidens they shall be taken from their domination and shall go
70. Men freed by the Church (since the one who freed them will never die) must
never withdraw from the Church's patronage. Neither, indeed, must their posterity,
according to the decrees of former canons. But lest perchance their freedom should not be
apparent in their children, and lest their posterity should struggle against their natural
state of being free, and remove themselves from the patronage of the Church, it is
necessary that these same freedmen as well as their children should make a profession
before their bishop, by which they acknowledge that from being slaves of the Church they
have been made freedmen. And they must never leave the patronage of the Church, but let
them rather, according to its value render submission or obedience to this patronage or
73. Those who have been so freed by their masters, that the patron requires
absolutely no submission from them-those, if they be free from all crime, may freely take
clerical orders; for it is known that they are absolved by direct manumission. Those who
are manumitted, yet owe some submission to their patron, for the reason that they are held
subject by the patron in servitude, are positively not to be promoted to the
ecclesiastical order, lest when the master so wishes slaves should be made from clerics.
74. Concerning the slaves of the Church, it is allowed to make them priests and
deacons in parishes; nevertheless, let right living and honest habits commend them; also
for that reason let them be previously manumitted and receive the full liberty of their
new status, and at length let them succeed to ecclesiastical honors; for it is contrary to
religion for those to remain subject to serfdom, who have received the dignity of holy
orders. But whatever has been granted to such men through their freedom, or whatever has
been theirs by right of inheritance, or conferred by anyone in any manner whatsoever, they
may not transfer to other people in any way; but all their goods ought to belong after
their death to the Church by which they were manumitted. Moreover, all opportunity is
forbidden them, just as to the other freedmen of the Church, of accusing or testifying
against the Church; but if they aspire to this, not only shall they lose the benefit of
liberty but also the promotion they have deserved, not by the worthiness of their nature
but from the necessity of the times.
J. D. Mansi, ed., Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova et Amplissima Collectio, (Paris: H.
Welter, 1901), Vol. X, pp. 635-637; 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. 283-284.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, October 1998