Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Peter's Pence

Also known as Romescot, Romepenny, Peterpence, or Rome fee (Rome feah), and other variations.

In Latin as Denarius Sancti Petri (Alms of Saint Peter)

The annual tribute paid by the households of England to the pope on the feast of St. Peter ad Vincula [1st August]: this tax was known as Peter’s Pence. Not only England paid it, but Sweden, Norway, and Iceland, countries whose religious traditions closely followed those of England, also paid a hearth tax to the pope. The tax was collected by the local abbots or bishops and sent to Rome in coins of small value, traditionally set at the rate of one silver penny for every household [hearth tax] occupying land worth thirty pence a year. It was meant to be a voluntary payment made by the faithful. Other countries paid tribute for the pope's protection.

In 1074., pope Gregory VII sent a formal demand to King William "Concerning the Peterspence to be collected in England". He wrote, "we charge you to watch over it as if it were your own revenue." By this the pope implied that the Peter's ' Pence was a kind of tribute and the king of England should do homage before him. After a delay of two years William sent a reply refusing to do feudal homage to the pope, as it was not justified by any precedent, but he formally recognized the pope's claim to Peter's Pence, and promised that the arrears would be made up.

It was extended to Ireland under the bull Laudabiliter issued by Pope Adrian IV to Henry II in 1155.

Henry II, during his dispute with Thomas Becket, in November 1164 tried to used the Peter's Pence levy as a bargaining counter with pope Alexander III, who was in exile in France at the time and in desperate need of funds. Henry offered  the pope a bribe of raising the Peter's Pence tribute "from every house whence smoke arises" in his kingdom. This would have increased the amount of money paid by a 1000 pounds of silver per year, but Alexander declined the offer. This is described in William Fitzstephen's account of the Life of Thomas Becket.

Extract from
Gourde, Leo T. (1943), "An Annotated Translation of the Life of St. Thomas Becket by William Fitzstephen"
pp 98-9

" The Count of Arundel spoke more efficaciously and eloquently than the rest end thus was heard with favor and won applause. In secret they murmured in the ears of the Pope concerning the deposition of the Archbishop, prompting him with very great promises. At last it was even added that the annual Peter's Pence, which now came only from only those attached to the soil and not from all and went to the English Treasury, the King would make and confirm forever to be paid to the Church from every inhabitant of the land, from every home from which smoke ascended, from cities, castles, boroughs, and villages. The annual increase indeed to the Curia of Rome would increase to a thousand pounds of silver beyond what it then was. But when they found the Pope immovable and a preserver of rigid honesty, as it had been commanded them not to delay beyond three days at court, nor to await the Archbishop to prosecute the causes, after receiving remission and a blessing, they departed."


Ian Stuart Robinson (1990). The Papacy, 1073-1198: Continuity and Innovation. Cambridge University Press. pp. 278–81. ISBN 978-0-521-31922-5.

E.C. Harington - Peter's Pence

Thurston, H. (1911). Peterspence. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York:

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
Peter's Pence

Notes and Queries. Oxford University Press. 1863. pp. 256–.

James Thompson (1849). The history of Leicester. Index. pp. 148–.

Rapin de Thoyras (Paul, M.); Nicolas Tindal (1757). The history of England. Printed for T. Osborne. pp. 203–.

Peter's Pence and the Population of England about 1164
F. Liebermann
The English Historical Review (OUP)
Vol. 11, No. 44 (Oct., 1896), pp. 744-747
John Weever (1767). Antient Funeral Monuments, of Great-Britain, Ireland, and the Islands Adjacent: With the Dissolved Monasteries Therein Contained; Their Founders, and what Eminent Persons Have Been Therein Interred. As Also, the Death and Burial of Certain of the Blood-royal, Nobility and Gentry of These Kingdoms, Emtombed in Foreign Nations .... W. Tooke. pp. 166–.

John Petheram (1840). An Historical Sketch of the Progress and Present State of Anglo-Saxon Literature in England. E. Lumley. pp. 7–
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. p. 221
William Holden Hutton (1899)

Gretchen Herrmann (1926). The Origin and Collection of Peter's Pence in England. 1903.
Der Englische Peterspfennig und die Lehenssteuer aus England und Irland an den Papstuhl im Mittelalter : Jensen, Ole, Dr

The English Traveler to Italy. Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power: The Church of the First Three Centuries. Stanford University Press. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-0-8047-3559-9.

The 'Denarius Sancti Petri' in England
O. Jensen
Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
New Series, Vol. 15, (1901), pp. 171-247

"Peterspence". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 

Notes and Queries. Oxford University Press. 1863. pp. 256–.

Monumenta gregoriana (tomus secundus) edited by Philipp JaffĂ©
pp. 89-90 Letter I.70 Pope Gregory VII to William I King of England, 1074 AD


No comments:

Post a Comment