Council of Nablus
The Council of Nablus was a council of ecclesiastic and secular lords in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

, held on January 16, 1120. It established the first written laws for the kingdom.


The council was convened at Nablus
Nablus is a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, approximately north of Jerusalem, with a population of 126,132. Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center.Founded by the...

 by Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem
Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem
Warmund, also Garmond, Gormond, Germond, Guarmond, or Waremond, was Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1118 to his death at Sidon in 1128. He was from Picquigny in Picardy....

, and King Baldwin II of Jerusalem
Baldwin II of Jerusalem
Baldwin II of Jerusalem , formerly Baldwin II of Edessa, also called Baldwin of Bourcq, born Baldwin of Rethel was the second count of Edessa from 1100 to 1118, and the third king of Jerusalem from 1118 until his death.-Ancestry:Baldwin was the son of Hugh, count of Rethel, and his wife Melisende,...

. It established twenty-five canons
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

 dealing with both religious and secular affairs. It was not quite a church council, but not quite a meeting of the royal court; according to Hans Mayer, due to the religious nature of many of the canons, it can be considered both a parlement
Parlements were regional legislative bodies in Ancien Régime France.The political institutions of the Parlement in Ancien Régime France developed out of the previous council of the king, the Conseil du roi or curia regis, and consequently had ancient and customary rights of consultation and...

and an ecclesiastical synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

. The resulting agreement between the patriarch and the king was a concordat
A concordat is an agreement between the Holy See of the Catholic Church and a sovereign state on religious matters. Legally, they are international treaties. They often includes both recognition and privileges for the Catholic Church in a particular country...

, similar to the Concordat of Worms
Concordat of Worms
The Concordat of Worms, sometimes called the Pactum Calixtinum by papal historians, was an agreement between Pope Calixtus II and Holy Roman Emperor Henry V on September 23, 1122 near the city of Worms...

 two years later.

The council was not mentioned in the chronicle of Fulcher of Chartres
Fulcher of Chartres
Fulcher of Chartres was a chronicler of the First Crusade. He wrote in Latin.- Life :His appointment as chaplain of Baldwin of Boulogne in 1097 suggests that he had been trained as a priest, most likely at the school in Chartres...

, who served in the retinue of Baldwin II and must have been present. This is probably because the nature of the canons, dealing as they do with the crimes and sins of the Latin population, contradicted Fulcher's portrayal of the Kingdom as a Christian utopia. William of Tyre
William of Tyre
William of Tyre was a medieval prelate and chronicler. As archbishop of Tyre, he is sometimes known as William II to distinguish him from a predecessor, William of Malines...

, writing about sixty years later, included a detailed account of the proceedings, but neglected to record any of the canons themselves, which he felt were well-known and could be found in any local church; however, he also probably wanted to avoid the implication that the early Kingdom was not as heroic as his generation remembered it.

Although the canons may have been well known in William's time, only one copy, located in a church in Sidon
Sidon or Saïda is the third-largest city in Lebanon. It is located in the South Governorate of Lebanon, on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 km north of Tyre and 40 km south of the capital Beirut. In Genesis, Sidon is the son of Canaan the grandson of Noah...

, seemed to survive the Muslim reconquest of the Kingdom. This copy made its way to Europe where it was in the papal library at Avignon
Avignon is a French commune in southeastern France in the départment of the Vaucluse bordered by the left bank of the Rhône river. Of the 94,787 inhabitants of the city on 1 January 2010, 12 000 live in the ancient town centre surrounded by its medieval ramparts.Often referred to as the...

 by 1330. It is now located in the Vatican Library
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

, MS Vat. Lat. 1345.

A copy was edited in the Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio of Giovanni Domenico Mansi
Giovanni Domenico Mansi
Gian Domenico Mansi was an Italian theologian, scholar and historian, known for his massive works on the Church councils....

 in the 18th century, and more recently a new edition has been published by Benjamin Z. Kedar in Speculum
Speculum (journal)
Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies is a quarterly academic journal published by the Medieval Academy of America. It was established in 1926. The journal's primary focus is on the time period from 500-1500 in Western Europe, but also on related subjects such as Byzantine, Hebrew, Arabic, and...

(Vol. 74, 1999). Kedar argues that the canons are largely derived from the Byzantine
Byzantine law
Byzantine Law was essentially a continuation of Roman Law with Christian influence, however, this is not to doubt its later influence on the western practice of jurisprudence...

 Ecloga, promulgated by Leo III and Constantine V
Constantine V
Constantine V was Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775; ); .-Early life:...

 in 741. Kedar believes that the canons were put into practise in the 12th century,, although Marwan Nader disagrees, since they were not included in the Livre des Assises de la Cour des Bourgeois and other Assizes of Jerusalem
Assizes of Jerusalem
The Assizes of Jerusalem are a collection of numerous medieval legal treatises containing the law of the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and Kingdom of Cyprus...

, which were written in the 13th century.


The canons begin with the reasons for calling the council: Jerusalem had been plagued with locusts and mice
A mouse is a small mammal belonging to the order of rodents. The best known mouse species is the common house mouse . It is also a popular pet. In some places, certain kinds of field mice are also common. This rodent is eaten by large birds such as hawks and eagles...

 for the past four years, and the Crusader states
Crusader states
The Crusader states were a number of mostly 12th- and 13th-century feudal states created by Western European crusaders in Asia Minor, Greece and the Holy Land , and during the Northern Crusades in the eastern Baltic area...

 in general were suffering from repeated attacks from the Muslims. It was believed that the sins of the people needed to be corrected before Jerusalem could prosper.

Canons 1-3 deal with tithes to the church. Canon 1 is a promise by King Baldwin to surrender the appropriate tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

s to the Patriarch, namely those from his own royal estates in Jerusalem, Nablus
Nablus is a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, approximately north of Jerusalem, with a population of 126,132. Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center.Founded by the...

 and Acre
Acre, Israel
Acre , is a city in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the country....

. In canon 2 Baldwin seeks forgiveness for the tithes he had previously withheld, and Warmund absolves him of this sin in canon 3. This shows that the church was able to assert its rights in the Crusader Kingdom, a victory in the Investiture Conflict still raging in Europe.

Canons 4-7 deal with adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

. Canon 4 outlines punishments for a man who is suspected of committing adultery with the wife of another man; first, he is to be forbidden from visiting the woman, and if he visits her again, he is to come before the church and be subjected to the ordeal of hot iron
Trial by ordeal
Trial by ordeal is a judicial practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused is determined by subjecting them to an unpleasant, usually dangerous experience...

 to prove his innocence. If he is proven to have committed adultery, canon 5 decrees that "eviretur" - he should have his penis cut off - and then he should be exiled. The punishment for the adulterous woman is mutilation of the nose, a familiar Byzantine punishment, unless her husband takes pity on her, in which case they should both be exiled. Canon 6 deals with a similar situation for clerics: if a man suspects a cleric from visiting his wife, the cleric should firstly be forbidden from visiting her; a second offense should be pointed out to a church magistrate, and a third offense will result in the deordination of the cleric. He will then be subject to the same punishments described in canon 5. Canon 7 forbids a pimp or a prostitute from "corrupting a wife with words" and causing her to become an adulterer. The punishments in canon 5 apply here as well.

Canons 8-11 establish punishments for sodomy
Sodomy is an anal or other copulation-like act, especially between male persons or between a man and animal, and one who practices sodomy is a "sodomite"...

, the first appearance of such punishments in medieval law. According to canon 8, an adult sodomite, "tam faciens quam paciens" (both the active and the passive parties), should be burned at the stake. If, however, the passive party is a child or an elderly person, canon 9 says that only the active party should be burned, and it will suffice that the passive party repent, as he is presumed to have sinned against his will. If the sodomy is against his will but he keeps it hidden for whatever reason, canon 10 says that he too will be judged as a sodomite. Canon 11 allows for a sodomite to repent and avoid punishment, but if he is found to have participated in sodomy a second time, he will be allowed to repent again but will be exiled from the kingdom.

Canons 12-15 pertain to sexual relations with Muslims, an important question in the Kingdom, where Muslims far outnumbered their Latin overlords. Canon 12 states that a man who willingly has sexual relations with a Muslim woman should be castrated, and she should have her nose mutilated. If a man rapes his own female Muslim slave, according to canon 13 she should be confiscated by the state, and he should be castrated. If he rapes another man's female Muslim slave, canon 14 says that he should be subjected to the punishment for adulterers stated in canon 5, castration. Canon 15 deals with the same subject for Christian women - if a Christian woman willingly has sexual relations with a Muslim man, they should both be subjected to the punishment for adulterers, but if she was raped, then she will not be held accountable and the Muslim will be castrated.

Canon 16 prohibits Muslims from dressing like Christians. This canon foreshadows the similar canon 68 of the Fourth Lateran Council almost one hundred years later in 1215, which would prohibit both Jews and Muslims from adopting Christian dress. Similar laws were promulgated in Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, where Christians, Jews, and Muslims similarly intermingled.

Canons 17-19 deal with bigamy
In cultures that practice marital monogamy, bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another. Bigamy is a crime in most western countries, and when it occurs in this context often neither the first nor second spouse is aware of the other...

, another important subject, as many crusaders had abandoned their families in Europe. If a man takes a second wife, he should do penance until the first Sunday of Lent
In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer – through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and...

, but if he hides his crime and is discovered, his property should be confiscated and he should be exiled. Canon 18 allows for bigamy to go unpunished if a man or woman unknowingly marries someone who is already married, as long as they can prove their ignorance. If a man has taken a second wife and wishes to divorce her, canon 19 states that he must prove that he is already married, either by the ordeal of hot iron, or by bringing witnesses to swear for him.

Canons 20-21 deal with clerics. Canon 20 says a cleric should not be held guilty if he takes up arms in self-defense, but he cannot take up arms for any other reason nor can he act like a knight. This was an important concern for the Crusader states; clerics were generally forbidden from participating in warfare in European law, but the Crusaders needed all the manpower they could find, and only one year before, Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 had been defended by the Patriarch
Latin Patriarch of Antioch
The Latin Patriarch of Antioch was an office created in 1098 by Bohemund, founder of the Principality of Antioch, one of the crusader states....

 following the Battle of Ager Sanguinis
Battle of Ager Sanguinis
In the Battle of Ager Sanguinis, also known as the Battle of the Field of Blood, the Battle of Sarmada, or the Battle of Balat, Roger of Salerno's Crusader army of the Principality of Antioch was annihilated by the army of Ilghazi of Mardin, the Artuqid ruler of Aleppo on June 28,...

, one of the calamities referred to in the introduction to the canons. Canon 21 says that a monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

 or canon regular who apostatizes
Apostasy , 'a defection or revolt', from ἀπό, apo, 'away, apart', στάσις, stasis, 'stand, 'standing') is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is known as an apostate. These terms have a pejorative implication in everyday...

 should either return to his order or go into exile.

Canon 22 simply forbids false accusations.

Canons 23-25 pertain to theft. Canon 23 says that anyone convicted of stealing property worth more than one bezant
Bezant is a medieval term for a gold coin from the Byzantine Empire, which term is derived from the Greek name Βυζάντιον for the relatively minor city which in the 4th c. became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, renamed Constantinople by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great...

 should have either a hand or foot cut off, or an eye removed. If the property was worth less than one bezant, he should be branded on the face and publicly whipped. The stolen goods should be returned, but if they are no longer in the thief's possession, the thief himself becomes the property of his victim. If the thief is caught stealing again, he should either have his other hand, foot, or eye removed, or he should be killed. If the thief was underage, canon 24 says he should be kept in custody and then sent to the royal court, but no further punishment is outlined. Canon 25 states that these punishments also do not apply to the barons, who should be subject only to the judgement of the royal court.


Those who signed as witnesses to the canons were mostly ecclesiastics, with a few secular nobles:
  • Warmund
    Warmund, Patriarch of Jerusalem
    Warmund, also Garmond, Gormond, Germond, Guarmond, or Waremond, was Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1118 to his death at Sidon in 1128. He was from Picquigny in Picardy....

    , Patriarch of Jerusalem
    Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
    The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem is the title possessed by the Latin Rite Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem. The Archdiocese of Jerusalem has jurisdiction for all Latin Rite Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan and Cyprus...

  • Baldwin II
    Baldwin II of Jerusalem
    Baldwin II of Jerusalem , formerly Baldwin II of Edessa, also called Baldwin of Bourcq, born Baldwin of Rethel was the second count of Edessa from 1100 to 1118, and the third king of Jerusalem from 1118 until his death.-Ancestry:Baldwin was the son of Hugh, count of Rethel, and his wife Melisende,...

    , King of Jerusalem
  • Ehremar
    Ehremar or Ebramar or Evremar was Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1102 to 1105 or 1107, and then Archbishop of Caesarea.Ehremar was a priest from Thérouanne in France who in old age went east with the First Crusade...

    , Archbishop of Caesarea
    Archbishop of Caesarea
    The Archbishop of Caesarea was one of the major suffragans of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem during the Crusades. The Bishop of Caesarea became metropolitan of Palestine in the early 3rd century but after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 he was subordinate to the Patriarch of Jerusalem...

  • Bernard, Bishop of Nazareth
    Archbishop of Nazareth
    The Archbishop of Nazareth was one of the major suffragans of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem during the crusades.The ancient diocese was located at Scythopolis, known as Bethsan to the crusaders. It was the metropolis of Palaestina Secunda. After Nazareth was captured following the First Crusade,...

  • Ansquitinus, Bishop of Bethlehem
  • Roger, Bishop of Ramla
    Lydda (titular see)
    Lydda is a Catholic titular see. The city of Lydda was in Palestina Prima in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.-History:It was the Biblical Lod, founded by Samad of the tribe of Benjamin...

  • Guildoinus, abbot-elect of St. Mary of the Valley of Josaphat
    Valley of Josaphat
    The Valley of Josaphat is mentioned in only one passage of the Bible, in Joel 3.2 : "I will gather together all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Josaphat: and I will plead with them there for my people, and for my inheritance Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations"...

  • Peter, abbot of Mt. Tabor
  • Achardus, prior of the Temple
    Temple in Jerusalem
    The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

  • Arnaldus, prior of Mt. Sion
  • Girardus, prior of the Holy Sepulchre
    Church of the Holy Sepulchre
    The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. It is a few steps away from the Muristan....

  • Pagan, chancellor of Jerusalem
    Officers of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
    There were six major officers of the kingdom of Jerusalem: the constable, the marshal, the seneschal, the chamberlain , the butler and the chancellor...

  • Eustace Grenier
    Eustace Grenier
    Eustace Grenier was an important crusader lord, and Constable of the Kingdom of Jerusalem....

    , Lord of Caesarea and Sidon
    Vassals of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
    The Crusader state of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, created in 1099, was divided into a number of smaller seigneuries.-Introduction:According to the 13th century jurist John of Ibelin the four highest barons in the kingdom proper were:* the Count of Jaffa and Ascalon...

    , constable of Jerusalem
  • William de Buris
    William I of Bures
    William of Bures was a French crusader from Bures-sur-Yvette, Ile-de-France.He arrived in the Kingdom of Jerusalem before 1115, with his brother Geoffrey. They were vassals of Joscelin I of Edessa....

  • Barisan, constable of Jaffa
    Barisan of Ibelin
    Barisan of Ibelin was an important figure in the crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, and was the founder of the Ibelin family. His name was later written as "Balian" and he is sometimes known as Balian the Elder or Balian I....

  • Baldwin, Lord of Ramla
    Baldwin I of Ramla
    Baldwin I was the castellan and lord of Ramla in the Kingdom of Jerusalem from 1106 to his death. In 1120 he participated in the Council of Nablus. In 1126, the castellany, which controlled the surrounding countryside too, was given in fief the Count of Jaffa...

The signatories appear after the introduction, and before the list of canons begins.
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