Duhaime's LawGallery - The Law In Pictures


Dagobert's Grant to the Church at Rouen, 1540

  • Object type: Other
  • Formal Title: Dagobert remet un privilège à l'église de Rouen
  • Creator: unknown
  • Date Created: 1540
  • Origin: Rouen, France
  • Current Location: Louvre Museum, Paris

In ancient France, as elsewhere, the word of kings was law.

In this marvelous stained glass piece made in 1540, the French King Dagobert (603-639) is shown handing over a document to the church of Rouen, France on which sets out certain grants to the church, likely to do with taxation or land.

In medieval Europe, the king's will was law and it was enforced at by use of brutal force, often at point of knife or sword. While too much regulation or arbitrary law could cause a revolt, most kings of the medieval era ruled at whim, fattened with the best food, mistresses galore, illegitmate children and the spoils of local wars.

Circa 600, the Roman Catholic was taking a strong hold on France. To exert their authority without being eliminated meant centuries of gradual encroachment upon the Royal perogatives. Attrition ... as the kings eventually gave the church powers and authority far in excess of strict religious needs.

This stained glass shows one of those incremental steps as Dagobert formally recognizes the church in Rouen almost as a peer, and extends some power or authority in a document handed over by him, as shown in the image.

The power and authority of the church was a worldwide phenomena and indeed, in some societies, such as many Muslim countries, the Church remains the highest law-making authority.

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