The Collection of Tithes in Ireland, 8th Century
The tithe was not always clearly defined. In this case the clergy appear to be
taking issue with the jurists as to whether the collection of the tithe should be made
only once, or once annually, and giving an explanation of what the tithe ought to be. The
tithe applied to the produce of the soil and to livestock.
1. The jurists say that tithe of cattle should be offered once and on that account
it will be most holy, i.e., the tithe should not be offered again. But others of
the true faith affirm that we should give tithes of living and mortal things to God every
year, since every year we enjoy His gifts.
2. Also, of all fruits of the soil a tithe ought to be offered once a year to
the Lord, for as it is said: "Whatever has been once consecrated to God, will be most
holy in the sight of the Lord." For the tithe should not be offered repeatedly from
those things, as the learned Columman has taught. But of the fruits of the soil a tenth
part ought to be offered every year, because they are produced every year.
3. Also, tithes are from all living things. So the first fruits of everything,
and the animal that is born first in the year should be given. For the first born of
animals are like first fruits; and the first born of men and of animals may be offered.
4. Also, concerning tithes in herds and first fruits. First born are those which
are born before any others are born in that year. It should be known how great is the
weight of the first fruits, i.e., nine or twelve measures. Hence, the measure of the
offering should be sufficient material for nine or twelve loaves. But of vegetables it
should be as much as can be carried in the hand. It ought to be paid at the beginning of
the summer, just as it was offered once a year to the priests of Jerusalem. But in the New
Testament each would offer it to the monastery to which he belongs. And toward this would
be especially charitable; of the first-born let males, never females, be offered.
5. Also, if any have less substance than the tithe they shall not pay the tithe.
6. Also, in order that all might find it convenient to offer tithes in some way
to God, if they have only one cow or ox, let them divide the price of the cow into ten
parts and give a tenth part to God. And so let it be done for other things....
From: J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus, (Paris, 1862), Vol. XCVI,
pp. 1319-1320, 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. 378-379.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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© Paul Halsall, September 1998