Statute of Saint Prince Volodimir [Vladimir, ca. 980-1015],

Who Converted the Rus' Land, On Church Courts

(Synod Copy)

Translated by Daniel H. Kaiser


1. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

2. Lo I, Prince Vasilii, called Volodimir, son of Sviatoslav [962-72], grandson of Igor' [913-45] and the blessed Princess Ol'ga [945-62], accepted holy baptism from the Greek Emperor and from Photius [ca. 820-97], the Patriarch of Constantinople, [and] I received the first Metropolitan for Kiev, Leon, who baptized the entire Rus' land with holy baptism.

3. Then, [in 996?] after many years had passed I founded [in Kiev] the Tithe Church of the Holy Mother of God, and gave it a tithe from all the Rus' land, from my principality [to support] the cathedral church, from [the fees of] all [cases that come before] the prince's court [every] tenth veksha, and from trade [fees] the tenth week, and from [my] houses, from all [my] herds and from all [my] grain every year [a tithe] for the miracle-working Savior and his miracle-working mother.

4. Then, having opened the Greek nomocanon we discovered in it that the prince ought not hold jurisdiction over these [following] cases [over which the church should hold jurisdiction], neither [ought] his boyars or judges [hold jurisdiction over these cases].

5. And I, having consulted with my Princess Anna [d. 1011] and with my children, have given these cases to the churches, to the Metropolitan, and to all the bishoprics throughout the Rus' land.

6. And henceforth neither my children, grandchildren, nor any of my descendants ought ever interfere either [in the affairs of] church people or in any of their courts.

7. I have given [jurisdiction in these cases to the church] in all towns, villages and settlements wherever there are Christians.

8. And I [hereby] order my overseers not to offend [against] the church court and not to hold court [of mixed jurisdiction] without the archbishop's representative.

9. And these are [the cases subject to the jurisdiction of] church courts: divorce; fornication; adultery; rape; abduction [of women]; [disputes] between a husband and wife over an inheritance; [cases which arise] if [a man and woman] marry within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or spiritual relationship [which stem from acting as godparents for someone]; witchcraft; [making of] potions; [making of] charms; sorcery; magic; these three dishonors: [accusations of] fornication and [making of] poisons, heresy; fighting [in which a man bites another]; or [cases in which] a son beats his father or [if] a daughter [beats] her mother, or a daughter-in-law [beats her] mother-in-law; if brothers or children bring suit over an inheritance; church theft; [cases in which] people uncover a [buried] corpse; [if some people] cut down a cross or carve [mutilate?] a cross on the walls; or [if someone] leads cattle, or dogs, or fowl [into church] without good reason, or does anything else not fitting for church; or [if] two friends fight and the wife of one grabs the other by the genitals and crushes [them]; or [if] they catch someone with a four-legged animal [about to sacrifice it? committing bestiality?] or [if] someone prays [to a pagan god] beneath a grain-drying bin, or in a copse of trees, or by the water; or if an [unmarried] girl aborts a fetus.

10. All these cases are given to the church. The Prince, his boyars and their judges are forbidden to interfere in these courts.

11. I have given all [these cases to church courts] according to the regulations of the first [Christian] emperors and according to [the canons of] the seven holy ecumenical councils of the great hierarchs [of the church].

12. If anyone violates our statute, they will not be forgiven by the law of God, and they will inherit much sorrow.

13. And I [hereby] order my overseers not to offend the church court, and to give nine parts [of fees collected] from [the prince's] court to the prince, and [to give] the tenth part to the holy church.

14. And if someone violates a church court, he is to pay by himself, and answer for that [offense] before God at the Last Judgment before myriads of angels, where no one's deeds, [whether they be] good or evil, are hidden, where no one can help another, but only just [living allows one to] escape a second death, eternal torture, the baptism that does not redeem, [and] the inextinguishable fire. The Lord said, "On [that] day I shall take vengeance on those who harbor injustice in [their] mind, [and] their fire shall not be extinguished, and their worm shall not die. Those who have done good [shall enter] into life and ineffable joy; but those who did evil [shall appear] at a resurrection of judgment, and these same," he said, "shall receive implacable judgment."

15. From of old it was established and entrusted to the holy bishops to supervise all town and trade scales, weights and dry measures; from of old it was established by God [that] the bishop is to supervise [these scales and measures] without trickery, neither diminishing nor increasing [the weights and measures], [since] he is to give his accounting for all [these things] on the Day of Judgment, just as [he will] for men's souls.

16. And these are church people: abbot, priest, deacon, their children, priest's wife, and whoever is in the choir, abbess, monk, nun, the woman who bakes the Eucharist bread, pilgrim, physician, freed [debt] slave, manumitted slave, wanderer, the blind and the lame; [also all church people in] monasteries, hospitals, inns [and] refuges for wanderers and pilgrims.

17. They are church people, those who do God's work. The Metropolitan or bishop holds jurisdiction [in disputes] between them, whether [it be a case of] insult, or quarrel, or physical harm or inheritance.

18. If there be a case of another person [not subject to the church] with this [church] person, then a joint court[, whose judges will represent both church and non-church courts, will hear the case].

19. Whoever violates these rules, which we have established in accordance with the canons of the Church Fathers and according to the regulations of the first emperors, whoever shall violate these rules, whether [they be] my children, my great-grandchildren [sic], or a lieutenant [of mine] in some town, or an overseer, or judge, and they offend a church court, or [if] someone else [offends against a church court], then may they be cursed in this age and in the next by the seven ecumenical councils of the holy Fathers.

SOURCE: The Laws of Rus'--Tenth to Fifteenth Centuries, tr., ed. Daniel H. Kaiser (Salt Lake City: Charles Schlacks Publisher, 1992), 42-44.

1992, Daniel H. Kaiser. All rights reserved.