manhælghi (OSw) manhælgh (ODan) mannhelg (OGu) mannhelgi (ON) mannhelgr (ON) manhælghþ (OSw) noun

Literally ‘sanctity of man’, these two forms are used as synonyms in the medieval Nordic laws. A translation, or rather a modern interpretation, suggested in private correspondence by Helle Degnbol of Copenhagen University, was ‘human rights’. These rights applied to free men and women, but not to slaves, under the law. The books in the law that are entitled manhælghisbalker (q.v.) cover those aspects of the law that we would today call criminal law (as opposed to civil law, family law, land law, ecclesiastical law, etc. Sometimes, however, these statutes are split over a number of different books in the law, covering theft, killing, wounding and in some law texts there are no divisions into books at all. Crimes against manhælgi include cases in which the personal security and liberty of an individual are breeched in situations ranging from murder to petty theft. In GL, and elsewhere, the word is used particularly in connection with periods in which greater security was granted to people — times of church festivals, harvest, etc. — times that were called -friþer, ‘-peace’, with a prefix specifying of the period in question. The link between manhælghi and the concept of ‘peace’ is therefore very close. From there the link to hemfriþer (q.v.), the sanctity of the home, can be made and by extension to the grave crime of hemsokn (q.v.) — an attack upon a man in his own home.

book of personal rights ONorw FrL Mhb 45
crime against the personal peace OSw YVgL Add
individual’s right to peace and security OGu GL A 8
individual’s right to protection OGu GL A 9
inviolability of the person ONorw GuL Krb
man’s personal peace OSw ÖgL Vm
personal and property rights OSw DL Mb
personal liberty OSw DL Mb
personal peace ODan ESjL 2, 3
ODan JyL 2, 3
ODan VSjL 41, 65, 87
OSw ÄVgL Slb
OSw ÖgL Äb
OSw SdmL Kkb, Gb

personal rights OGu GL A 8 (rubric only)
OIce MagBref Mah 1 Llb 30 Þjb 3, 16
OIce KRA 29
ONorw FrL Intr 7 KrbB 20 Mhb 1

personal security or liberty OSw UL Kkb, Mb
OSw VmL Äb, Mb

violation of someone’s personal liberty OSw DL Mb
violation of someone’s personal rights OSw DL Mb Refs:

KLNM s.v. manhelgd; Peel 2015, 102−03 note 8/2, 106 note 9/10−11; Schlyter 1877, s.v.v. manhælghi, manhælghþ; SL DL, 38 note 1; SL GL, 252 note 1 to chapter 8; SL UL, 117; SL ÖgL, 96 note 6

  • ‘manhælghi’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.