Peace and Truce of God
The Peace and Truce of God was a medieval European movement of the Catholic Church that applied spiritual sanctions in order to limit the violence of private war in feudal society. The movement constituted the first organized attempt to control civil society in medieval Europe through non-violent means. It began with very limited provisions in 989 AD and survived in some form to the thirteenth century.

Georges Duby
Georges Duby
Georges Duby was a French historian specializing in the social and economic history of the Middle Ages...

 summarized the widening social repercussions of Pax Dei:
The Peace and Truce of God, by attaching sacred significance to privacy, helped create a space in which communal gatherings could take place and thus encouraged the reconstitution of public space at the village level. ...In the eleventh and twelfth centuries many a village grew up in the shadow of the church, in the zone of immunity where violence was prohibited under peace regulations.

Classical and pagan precedents

Romans in the pagan
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 traditions commonly used a similar phrase "peace of the gods", meaning when the gods were at peace, when the gods were not causing trouble, such as earthquakes or war, otherwise known as Ira Deorum (The Wrath of the Gods). The object of Roman religion was to secure the cooperation, benevolence, and "peace" of the gods, hence Pax Deorum.

The eighteenth-century historian Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

, interpreting Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

 §40, detected a parallel among the pagan
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 German tribes who worshipped a goddess of the earth (identified by modern scholars with Nerthus
In Germanic paganism, Nerthus is a goddess associated with fertility. Nerthus is attested by Tacitus, the first century AD Roman historian, in his Germania. Various theories exist regarding the goddess and her potential later traces amongst the Germanic tribes...

) who in Gibbon's interpretation resided at the island of Rügen
Rügen is Germany's largest island. Located in the Baltic Sea, it is part of the Vorpommern-Rügen district of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.- Geography :Rügen is located off the north-eastern coast of Germany in the Baltic Sea...

, who annually travelled to visit the tribes. "During her progress the sound of war was hushed, quarrels were suspended, arms laid aside, and the restless Germans had an opportunity of tasting the blessings of peace and harmony. The truce of God, so often and so ineffectually proclaimed by the clergy of the eleventh century, was an obvious imitation of this ancient custom."


The Peace and Truce of God movement was one of the ways that the Church attempted to Christianize and pacify the feudal structures of society through non-violent means. After the collapse of the Carolingian empire
Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

 in the ninth century
Christianity in the 9th century
The High Middle Ages begins in the 9th century with the coronation of Charlemagne in 800 and continued with the Photian schism.- Carolingian Renaissance :...

, France had degenerated into many small counties and lordships, in which local lords and knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

s frequently fought each other for control. At the same time there were often attacks from the Vikings, who settled in northern France as the Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

 but continued to raid territory further inland.

Philip Daileader colorfully summarizes the situation: "Local clergy---abbots, the heads of monasteries
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

, bishops---would hold church councils, and summon the regional nobility to these councils, send out invitations demanding that the nobles show up at a certain point in time. If the nobles showed up at these councils, which were often open air events because you'd expect a fairly substantial number of people to come, the clergy would bring all the saints' relics they could find from the neighborhood---bits of bone from the corpses of saints, vials of blood, pieces of clothing from the garments of saints, bath tubs---any item that had had physical contact with someone who is venerated as a saint. And often they would heap them up in a field, get as many relics as you could, or carry them among the crowd of knights and nobles who had shown up. They would attempt to use the fear of the saints and the retribution of the saints to intimidate the nobility into swearing to abide by the peace and truce of God, waving these relics in the faces of knights and nobles, and hopefully getting [from] them the promise that henceforth they would obey the peace and truce of God. One should never underestimate the fear of saints in the middle ages and of saints' relics. People would travel from miles around to visit the shrines of which saints relics were venerated, seeking physical cures, seeking advice on what to do in the future. And the belief in the power of saints' relics to alter behavior is very, very real. Nonetheless, the peace and truce of God movement was highly limited in its effectiveness, in its ability to restrain the fighting of medieval nobles. It was limited because nobles were under no obligation to attend the Church council. You could get the invitation and simply tear it up, and not attend. Even if you attended, you might not swear to abide by the peace and truce of God. And even if you swore to abide by the peace and truce of God, well, it was one thing to be intimidated by the fear of the saints when all the local clergy were waving bones at you. It was another to be afraid when you got back to the castle with your pillaging buddies, and started to feel the old impulse return once again. The peace and truth of God had to be renewed decade after decade, after decade, in those areas in which it existed. And the mere fact of constant renewal suggests that it was not especially well-obeyed, or a particularly powerful weapon for restraining the medieval nobility."

The movement was not very effective. "In trying to control warfare without the use of physical coercion it rapidly foundered on the rocks of a violent feudal reality." (Richard Landes). However it set a precedent that would be followed by other successful popular movements to control nobles' violence such as medieval commune
Medieval commune
Medieval communes in the European Middle Ages had sworn allegiances of mutual defense among the citizens of a town or city. They took many forms, and varied widely in organization and makeup. Communes are first recorded in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, thereafter becoming a widespread...

s, and the Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...


In addition to the Peace and Truce of God movement, other non-violent, although less direct, methods of controlling violence were used by the clergy. By adding the religious oaths of fealty
An oath of fealty, from the Latin fidelitas , is a pledge of allegiance of one person to another. Typically the oath is made upon a religious object such as a Bible or saint's relic, often contained within an altar, thus binding the oath-taker before God.In medieval Europe, fealty was sworn between...

 to the feudal act of homage
Homage is a show or demonstration of respect or dedication to someone or something, sometimes by simple declaration but often by some more oblique reference, artistic or poetic....

, and in organizing rights and duties within the system, churchmen did their utmost to Christianize feudal society in general and to set limits on feudal violence in particular. This can be seen as combining the spiritual (potestas) and secular authority (auctoritas) in a dual concerted action that had defined the idea of Christian government since the fifth century.

The oaths to keep the peace sworn by nobles spread in time to the villagers themselves; heads of households meeting communally would ritually swear to uphold the common peace.

The two movements began at separate times and places, but by the eleventh century they became synonymous as the "Peace and Truce of God".

Peace of God

The Peace of God or Pax Dei was a proclamation issued by local clergy that granted immunity from violence to noncombatants who could not defend themselves, beginning with the peasants (agricolae) and the clergy. A limited pax Dei was decreed at the Synod of Charroux in 989 and spread to most of Western Europe over the next century, surviving in some form until at least the thirteenth century.

At the Benedictine abbey of Charroux
Charroux Abbey
Charroux Abbey , is a ruined monastery in Charroux, in the Vienne department of Poitou-Charentes, western France.-History:Charroux was a Benedictine abbey, founded in 785 by Roger, Count of Limoges. It had up to 213 affiliated abbeys and priories. The Council of Charroux was held at the abbey in 989...

 in La Marche on the borders of the Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

 "a great crowd of many people (populus) gathered there from the Poitou
Poitou was a province of west-central France whose capital city was Poitiers.The region of Poitou was called Thifalia in the sixth century....

, the Limousin
Limousin (province)
Limousin is one of the traditional provinces of France around the city of Limoges. Limousin lies in the foothills of the western edge of the Massif Central, with cold weather in the winter...

, and neighboring regions. Many bodies of saints were also brought there" bringing miracles in their wake. Three canons promulgated at Charroux, under the leadership of Gombald, Archbishop of Bordeaux
Gombald, Archbishop of Bordeaux
Gundobald or Gombald was the Archbishop of Bordeaux from 989 to his death. He was the episcopus Gasconum, bishop of the Gascons, from 978, holding the episcopal dignity in all the Gascon sees. He was the third son of Sancho IV of Gascony and thus a brother of Sancho V and William II, successive...

 and Gascony
Gascony is an area of southwest France that was part of the "Province of Guyenne and Gascony" prior to the French Revolution. The region is vaguely defined and the distinction between Guyenne and Gascony is unclear; sometimes they are considered to overlap, and sometimes Gascony is considered a...

, were signed by the bishops of Poitiers, Limoges, Périgueux, Saintes and Angoulême, all in the west of France, beyond the limited jurisdiction of Hugh Capet. Excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 would be the punishment for attacking or robbing a church, for robbing peasants or the poor of farm animals—among which the ass is mentioned but not the horse which would have been beyond the reach of a peasant—and for robbing, striking or seizing a priest or any man of the clergy who is not bearing arms. Making compensation or reparations could circumvent the anathema of the Church.

Children and women (virgins and widows) were added to the early protections. The Pax Dei prohibited nobles from invading churches, beating the defenseless, burning houses, and so on. Merchants and their goods were added to the protected groups in a 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...

 of 1033. Significantly, the Peace of God movement began in Aquitaine
Aquitaine , archaic Guyenne/Guienne , is one of the 27 regions of France, in the south-western part of metropolitan France, along the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees mountain range on the border with Spain. It comprises the 5 departments of Dordogne, :Lot et Garonne, :Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes...

, Burgundy and Languedoc
Languedoc is a former province of France, now continued in the modern-day régions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées in the south of France, and whose capital city was Toulouse, now in Midi-Pyrénées. It had an area of approximately 42,700 km² .-Geographical Extent:The traditional...

, areas where central authority had most completely fragmented.

The tenth-century foundation of the Abbey of Cluny aided the development of the Peace of God. Cluny was independent of any secular authority, subject to the Papacy alone, and while all church territory was inviolate, Cluny's territory extended far beyond its own boundaries. A piece of land 30 km in diameter was considered to be part of Cluny itself, and any smaller monastery that allied itself with Cluny was granted the same protection from violence. This grant was given at a Peace of God council in Anse
Anse is a commune in the Rhône department in eastern France.It is situated on the river Saône, approx. 7 km south of Villefranche-sur-Saône .-Councils of Anse:Several medieval councils were held in this French town....

 in 994. The monastery was also immune from excommunication
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

s, interdict
Interdict (Roman Catholic Church)
In Roman Catholic canon law, an interdict is an ecclesiastical censure that excludes from certain rites of the Church individuals or groups, who nonetheless do not cease to be members of the Church.-Distinctions in canon law:...

s, and anathema
Anathema originally meant something lifted up as an offering to the gods; it later evolved to mean:...

s, which would normally affect an entire region. The abbey of Fleury
Fleury can refer to:* Abbo of Fleury abbot of the monastery of Fleury* Andrew of Fleury, historian from the monstery of Fleury* Cardinal André-Hercule de Fleury, Bishop of Fréjus , chief minister of Louis XV of France...

 was granted similar protection. Not coincidentally, many of the Cluniac monks were members of the same knightly class whose violence they were trying to stop.

"Peace of God" can also be used as a general term that means "under the protection of the Church" and was used in multiple contexts in medieval society. For example, pilgrims who traveled on Crusade did so under the "peace of God" ie. under the protection of the Church. This general usage of the term is not always related to the Peace and Truce of God movement.

Truce of God

The Truce of God or Treuga Dei extended the Peace by setting aside certain days of the year when violence was not allowed. Where the Peace of God prohibited violence against the church and the poor, the Truce of God was more focused on preventing violence between Christians, specifically between knights. It became a convention among the seigneurs of Roussillon
Roussillon is one of the historical counties of the former Principality of Catalonia, corresponding roughly to the present-day southern French département of Pyrénées-Orientales...

 and Catalonia
Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an...

 and was first proclaimed in 1027 at the Council of Toulouges
Toulouges is a commune in the Pyrénées-Orientales department in southern France.-History:Toulouges was probably grew upon a Roman villa. It was first mentioned in 904 at the same time mentioning the church called Tulogias...

— a town of Roussillon — which was presided over by Oliba
Abbot Oliva
Oliva was the count of Berga and Ripoll and later bishop of Vic and abbot of Sant Miquel de Cuixà. He was the son of a noble Catalan house who abdicated his secular possessions to take up the Benedictine habit in the Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll...

, bishop of Vic
Vic is the capital of the comarca of Osona, in the Barcelona Province, Catalonia, Spain. Vic's location, only 69 km far from Barcelona and 60 km from Girona, has made it one of the most important towns in central Catalonia.-History:...

, the first notable patron of the movement. An initial ban on fighting on Sundays and holy days was extended to include all of Lent, and even the Friday of every week.


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