The Penitential of Saint Columban - the first ecclesiastical legal code

And you know that in the Middle Ages there were guidelines for the abbots of monasteries and parish priests, on the imposition of church repentance on those who sinned, and they were called penithelia.

They can be called a set of medieval church laws on crime and punishment, so after peeping into this Talmud, the priest without hesitation appointed the appropriate atoning punishment to the guilty layman or monk.

This system was invented by the Irish monk Columban (540-615), who traveled a lot, conducted educational activities, founded a number of monasteries and, in between, wrote monastic statutes, a book of penance, sermons, commentaries on psalms, a number of poems and letters. Subsequently, he was canonized and, an interesting fact, became the official patron saint of motorcyclists!

The translation of St. Columban's Penitentiary presented here introduces the oldest guide to the imposition of church punishment in mainland Western Europe. Now you, our readers, will be able to find out what used to be due for fornication, murder, fights, theft and other offenses ...

First, about mortal sins, such as are punishable even by the punishment of laws.

1. If any cleric commits homicide and kills his neighbor - let him repent in exile for 10 years. After that, let him return to his homeland, if he performed the penitentiary on bread and water well, according to the testimony of the bishop or priest, with whom he performed penance and to whom he was entrusted; (on condition) to satisfy the relatives of the one whom you killed, return instead of (their killed) son and saying: whatever you want, I will do to you. But if he does not satisfy his relatives, let him never return to his homeland and be like Cain a wanderer and exile on earth.

2. If someone commits the greatest fall and gives birth to a son, he will perform 7 years of penitentiary in a foreign land on bread and water. Then, for the first time with the permission of the priest, it is connected to the altar.

3. But if someone indulges in debauchery, as the sodomites did, let 10 years in prison, 3 first years on bread and water, 7 others abstain from wine and meat, and let him never sleep with anyone else.

4. If someone commits debauchery with women, but does not give birth to a child and no one else knows about this, if a cleric is 3 years old, if a monk or deacon is 5 years old, if a priest is 7, if a bishop is 12 years old.

5. If someone breaks his oath, 7 years in prison and let him never swear later.

6. If someone destroys someone with his witchcraft, he will feast on the measure of bread and water for 3 years, and abstain from wine and meat for 3 other years, and then only in the seventh year he returns to communion. If someone (creates) his witchcraft in order to arouse love, and does not destroy anyone, he will feast on bread and water for a full year, if a cleric; layman - six months, deacon - two, priest - three; especially if by means of this (witchcraft) every woman will be deprived of her fetus, for this reason each additional six times 40 [days] are added to each one more, if he did not commit the deed of homicide.

7. If any cleric commits a theft, namely, steals from his neighbor a bull or a horse, a sheep or any other animal, if he does it once or twice, let him first return to his neighbor and repentance a full year on bread and water. If he is in the habit in this way and is not able to return, he penitates on bread and water for 3 years.

8. But if any cleric or deacon or anyone of another rank who was a layman in the world with sons and daughters, after converting his wife again knows his wife and again begets a child from her, let him know that he committed adultery and sinned no less, as if I would have been a cleric from my youth and have sinned with a foreign girl, because after his vow he sinned, after devoting himself to the Lord, and his vow fails. Therefore, let him also spend 7 years on bread and water.

9. If any cleric in a quarrel strikes and sheds blood, - a full year of prison; if a layman - 40 days.

10. If someone indulges in debauchery with himself or with an animal, - 2 years in prison, if he does not have spiritual dignity; but if he has or took a vow, he will penit for 3 years, if age does not prohibit.

11. If someone desires a woman and cannot fulfill, that is, a woman does not accept him - let him repent for half a year on bread and water and abstain for a whole year from wine and meat and the altar communion.

12. If someone loses the Holy Gifts - the year is pennied. If, from drunkenness and gluttony, the abovementioned vomits and, moreover, drops the abovementioned by negligence, it will foam three times forty [days] on bread and water; however, if from illness - penises for 7 days.

But this was said collectively about clergy and monks, now about laymen.

13. Whoever committed homicide, that is, killed his neighbor, - let him penterate 3 years of unarmed exile on bread and water, and after three years let him return to himself, on this occasion, rendering devotion and service to the relatives of the murdered, and in this way after satisfaction [ them] will unite with the altar by the decision of the priest.

14. If any layman gives birth to a child from another wife, that is, commits adultery, profaning his neighbor's bed, - he penitates for 3 years, abstaining from tasty food and from his own wife, providing, in addition, the price of bashfulness (chastity) to the husband of the abused wife, and thus let his guilt be removed by the priest.

15. However, if any layman indulges in debauchery sodomite custom, that is, commits a woman's intercourse with a man - he penitates for 7 years, the first 3 years with bread, water, salt and dried garden fruits, the remaining 4 - abstains from wine and meat, and thus Let the said wine be forgiven and the priest pray for him, and so [he] will unite with the altar.

16. But if one of the laity indulges in debauchery with women, widows or maidens who are free from matrimony, if with a widow - 1 year, if with a maiden - let him penit for 2 years - but still paying the cost of her humiliation to her relatives; however, if he does not have a wife, but will unite with a virgin as a virgin, let him be his wife with the blessing of his parents - before that, however, let both of them feast for a year, and thus let them unite.

17. But if any layman indulges in debauchery with an animal, he will penitentiate a year if he has a wife; if, however, it does not, - six months. And also the one who has a wife defiles himself with his own hands.

18. If any layman or lay woman strangles [sleeps or crushes in her sleep] her child - let him feast on bread and water for a full year and the other two abstain from wine and meat, and then let him first approach the altar by the decision of the priest, and in his bed thereafter, this spouse legally enters into sexual intercourse. For the layman should know that during the period of penance prescribed to him [the laity] from the priest, it is illegal for them to have sexual intercourse with their wives, except (only) after the end of the penitentiary; since in fact the penitentiary should not be halved.

19. If any layman commits theft: he steals a bull or a horse, or a sheep, or any other animal of his neighbor, if he did it once or twice, let him first return the damage inflicted to his neighbor and three times 40 days on bread and water foment. However, if he is used to stealing, (he stole many times) and is not able to return it, let him penny for a year and three times 40 days and then undertake not to commit at all; and so on Easter of the second year, he returns to communion, that is, after two years, provided that he first gives alms to the poor from his own labor and arranges a meal for the priest who imposed a penitentiary, and thus the sin of this bad habit is forgiven.

20. If any layman breaks his oath [swears falsely], if he does this out of greed, let him sell all his property and distribute to the poor and devote himself completely to the Lord, and be tonsured, rejecting the whole world, and until death serve God in the monastery. If, however, not out of greed, but does so in fear of death, - pennies 3 years in unarmed exile on bread and water and, moreover, abstains from wine and meat for 2 years; and thus restores the soul for himself, namely: freeing a servo or ancilla from the yoke of slavery and by creating in the last 2 years a lot of alms, in which he legally, can easily eat everything except meat; let after the seventh year come to the sacrament.

21. If any of the laity in indignation sheds blood or injures his neighbor or cripples, - as much damage, let him return so much; however, if he cannot pay, let him first do the work of his neighbor while he is sick and, moreover, invite a doctor, and after his recovery, he will drink for 40 days on bread and water.

22. If any layman gets drunk or gets drunk and eats up to the point of vomiting, let him drink for a week on bread and water.

23. If any layman wishes to commit adultery or indulge in debauchery with a (already) betrothed and passionately desires his neighbor's spouse and does not do [this], that is, he cannot [do], since the woman will not allow him, he himself (was) ready to commit debauchery, let him confess his sin to the priest and then feast 40 days on bread and water.

24. However, if any layman gets drunk and gets drunk near churches, if he does it out of ignorance, let him be released - so that he does not repeat it, and for 40 days he will drink on bread and water. But if he does this out of neglect, that is, after the priest warns him that this is a sacrilege, and if he then takes communion at the table of the demons, if this happens or repeats only from the vice of gluttony - three times 40 [days] foams on bread and water; but if this is done because of the veneration of demons or in honor of idols - 3 years penny.

25. If a layman unknowingly communicates [communes] with the Bonosians (Bonosius - Bishop of Sardica at the end of the 4th century. Denied the eternal virginity of Mary. His followers were also credited with denying the divinity of Christ. The presence of Bonosians was characteristic at the beginning of the 7th century for the vicinity of Luxale) or other heretics, (he) turns out to be among the catechumens, that is, separated from other Christians, then let 40 days and the other twice 40 days among the worst category of Christians, that is, among those punished by penance, the sin of mad communion dissolves. But if he does this out of neglect, that is, after he has been notified by the priest, as well as the prohibition to desecrate himself with the sacrament with the vicious side, let him feast for a full year and three times 40 [days] and abstain from wine and meat for two other years, and then after the laying on of hands by the Catholic bishop, let him commune to the altar.

At the end, there should be added small legalizations about monks.

26. If anyone leaves the fence open at night, let the penance of additional fasting be imposed; but if during the day - [punished] with 24 blows, if no one gets inside through the open entrance. If anyone there himself goes decisively forward, let a strict penance be imposed.

27. If anyone, wanting a bath, wash himself naked, a penalty of additional fasting is imposed. But if someone, lawfully bathing in the presence of the brethren, does this while standing, if there is no need to wipe the dirt harder, let them correct them with 24 strokes.

28. But if someone, even while still sitting in the bath, bares his knees or hands without having to wash off the dirt, let him not wash for 6 days, that is, let this shameless bathhouse attendant not wash his feet until the next Lord's Day [Sunday] comes. On the other hand, a monk is only allowed to wash his feet while standing apart; although the elder is still publicly allowed to wash himself while standing, but washing his feet with the help of another.

29. But for the Sunday sermon, everyone, excluding the (absent) by real necessity, should gather together so that no one leaves the sermon from among the listeners, except the cook and the gatekeeper, who themselves, if they can, should try hard to come when the gospel bell sounds (In the text: tonitmum - letters, "thunderbolt, thunder." Possible translation is "evangelical voice", "sound of the gospel".).

30. However, it is prescribed to carry out confessions carefully, especially about the stimulation of thought, before going to Mass, so that, if possible, not allow the unworthy to approach the altar, that is, if [one of them] does not have a purified soul. Of course, it is better to wait until the heart [soul] is healed and becomes alien to temptation and evil, than to daringly reach the judgment of the judgment seat [of God's throne]. Indeed, the (judicial) chair of Christ is an altar, and there His flesh together with His blood are judged by the unworthy [of] those who come. Therefore, just as we must guard ourselves from mortal and fleshly sins before communion, so we must be withheld and delivered from internal vices and diseases of a weak soul until uniting with the true world and achieving [gaining] eternal salvation. The end.