The Medieval Church: The World of Clerics and Laymen

The Medieval Church: The World of Clerics and Laymen

The Medieval Church: The World of Clerics and Laymen

The Medieval Church: The World of Clerics and Laymen


Las Siete Partidas, or Seven Divisions, is the major law code of thirteenth-century Spain, compiled by Alfonso X the Learned of Castile. Seven centuries later, this compendium of legal and customary information remains the foundation of modern Spanish law. In addition, its influence is notable in the law of Spain's former colonies, including Texas, California, and Louisiana. The work's extraordinary scope offers unparalleled insight into the social, intellectual, and cultural history of medieval Spain. Built on the armature of a law code, it is in effect an encyclopedia of medieval life.

Long out of print, the English translation of Las Siete Partidas --first commissioned in 1931 by the American Bar Association--returns in a superior new edition. Editor and distinguished medieval historian Robert I. Burns, S.J., provides critical historical material in a new general Introduction and extensive introductions to each Partida. Jerry Craddock of the University of California, Berkeley, provides updated bibliographical notes, and Joseph O'Callaghan of Fordham University contributes a section on law in Alfonso's time.

Las Siete Partidas is presented in five volumes, each available separately:

The Medieval Church, Volume 1: The World of Clerics and Laymen (Partida I)

Medieval Government, Volume 2: The World of Kings and Warriors (Partida II)

The Medieval World of Law, Volume 3: Lawyers and Their Work (Partida III)

Family, Commerce, and the Sea, Volume 4: The Worlds of Women and Merchants (Partidas IV and V)

Underworlds, Volume 5: The Dead, the Criminal, and the Marginalized (Partidas VI and VII)




We make this book for the service of God and the common benefit of nations, as we have shown in its beginning. And we divide it into Seven Parts, in the manner which we have mentioned above, in order that those who read it may find therein all things complete and certain, in order to be able to profit by them. And we divide each Part into titles, which means the sum of the principles which are explained in it. And these principles, in which all matters are shown perfectly as they are and how they are to be understood, are called laws. But, because the Latin races give the name of laws to the religious beliefs which men have, and some persons may think that the laws of this book do not speak of anything else except that alone, for this reason we, to avoid this doubt, desire to make it understood what kind of laws these are, in what manner they are divided, and why they are so named. Also, what is their efficacy and their power, and from what sources they were derived and drawn; which of them relate to the belief of Our Lord Jesus Christ; which pertain to the government of nations; why they have the name of laws; of what nature they are in themselves; how they ought to be made, and in what respect they are of advantage; of what character the maker of them should be; who lias power to make them; how they should be understood, and who can make them clear, and cause them to be interpreted, when any doubt exists in regard to them; in what way they should be obeyed; how they should be enforced; how judgment should be rendered by means of them; and in what way they should be combined with laws newly made; for what reasons men cannot excuse themselves from the judgment of laws by saying that they were ignorant of them; and who those are who are exempt from the penalty imposed by the laws, although they may not have known of them.


What Laws These Are.

These laws are ordinances to enable men to live well and regularly according to the pleasure of God, and also, as is proper, to live a good life in this world and to observe the religion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as it is. They also show how men should live with one another in right and justice, as is explained further on in the laws which treat of each of these matters. Such as especially relate to religious belief, according to the ordinances of the Holy Church, we have placed in the first Part of this book. The others, which treat of the government of nations, are set forth in the six Parts, which follow.

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