Search for a Place Name:  

Concepts and Terminology used in the Taxatio database

Ecclesiastical Finance

Spiritualities and Temporalities

The taxatio of 1291-2 was divided into two parts, the first part being mainly concerned with Spiritualities and the second with Temporalities.

1. Spiritualities consist of benefices (each usually taking the form of a church with its chapels) where the income is mainly derived from tithes, oblations and any glebe land they may have held.

2. Temporalities are secular sources of ecclesiastical income, more often held by monastic houses. This is income arising from such sources as plough or meadow land, corn mills, dovecotes etc., as well as from pleas of court.

The Taxatio database is concerned only with the Spiritualities part of this assessment, and Temporalities are rarely mentioned here.

Benefice and Parish

As a benefice is almost always also a parish, the Taxatio database structure is parish based. The two entities are, however, distinct. A benefice is the income belonging to a specific priest or religious institution and upon which tax will be paid. A parish is generally the source of that income, but occasionally there are complications such as a parish split between two or more priests. The distinction needs sometimes to be borne in mind.

Assessed Value

The assessed value of the benefice is based on the tithes and oblations that the parishioners are obliged to pay for the support of their priest and his household and the maintenance of their church. It is not an exact value, which would anyway differ from year to year depending on the number of tithing parishioners and the quality of the harvest. It is instead a value upon which the ecclesiastical authorities have agreed the tax should be paid. There is no way of knowing from the Taxatio database how close the assessed value of any benefice is to the actual wealth of the parish, but as the Papal instruction was to identify the "verus valor" - the true value - the two are, in most cases, likely to be quite similar.  


Nominally, one tenth of the harvest and other income of each householder in the parish. There would no doubt have been many variations on this, a topic that is beyond the scope of the Taxatio database.


Small sums paid by parishioners as fees for specific priestly tasks such as baptisms, burials or the blessing of a marriage, or as penances.

Glebe Land

Land specifically allocated for the maintenance of the rector of a parish and his household. As such, it was generally exempt from the taxatio assessment.

Rector and Vicar

The rector of a parish receives all the income from that parish. If the rector is also the incumbent priest responsible for the cure of souls, then the income provides for his personal support and that of his household and assistants, along with maintenance of the fabric of the church.

A vicar is a parish priest responsible for the cure of souls but without the full parish (rectorial) income, this being held by an ecclesiastical or religious institution to which the benefice has been transferred. In many instances of this, especially when it has happened through appropriation to a monastic house, the bishop will require that the priest receives a guaranteed specified income, known as a perpetual vicarage, paid from the rectorial income.

Pensions and Portions

Parts of the income from the parish which have been allocated to people or institutions other than the rector or vicar. They would be paid annually. If a pension or portion is eligible for tax, this will be paid by the recipient not the benefice from which it is taken.

A portion is a proportion of the income, normally of the tithe, which will vary in value as prices rise or fall. A pension is a fixed money payment. Note, however, that there are many portions, notably in the Worcester diocese, which are money payments.  

Minute Benefices

A minute benefice is a benefice that was not present in the original taxatio listing because its assessed value in 1291-2 was too low to be taxed (ie, less than 6 marks [£4]). These benefices have usually been found in lists which were appended to the original assessment by the diocesan authorities. They have been added to the Taxatio database to enhance the picture of the parochial structure at that time.

The Moiety

The ‘moiety‘ is the shortened name of the Allocationes Extraneorum de Medietate of 1294, a taxation of one-half, for which the tax threshold was raised from the 1291-2 “more than 6 marks” to “more than 10 marks”. It obviously led to many benefices being excluded from this particular tax.

This evidence is important because it is extremely unlikely that low-value benefices excluded for the moiety were appropriated to monasteries (since a monastery’s total spiritual income was very rarely of 10 marks or less); conversely, benefices not excluded for the moiety despite being valued at 10 marks or less were almost certainly appropriated.

When, during this research, evidence of this later exclusion has been found for a benefice listed in the 1291-2 text, the phrase “(excluded from the moiety)” has been added to its detailed display. (For further details see the Prose Introduction to Hereford Diocese)

Ecclesiastical Structure

Diocese and Archdeaconry

The top two tiers of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, above the Rural Deanery level where the benefices are listed. The taxatio listings for the spiritualities follow this hierarchy throughout, and the Taxatio database matches the listings by means of an internal numbering system.


In the Taxatio database, this term almost always means a Rural Deanery, a geographical area within an archdeaconry containing the parishes that are under the jurisdiction of a local Rural Dean. This follows the taxatio which lists those benefices under the Deanery heading. Occasionally, however, the taxatio lists a group of benefices (eg, prebends) held by a religious institution (generally a collegiate church) located within the diocese. (The parishes involved may not necessarily be within the same geographical area.) To maintain the Taxatio database structure while still following the taxatio sequence, a pseudo-deanery is created for the religious institution, and the parishes which comprise its benefices are listed under this.

Collegiate Church

Generally a cathedral or ancient mother church, a collegiate church is organised by endowment statutes into a self-governing body, or chapter, presided over by a dean. The chapter members (canons) carry out the various functions of the church.


The ecclesiastical name for an office within the collegiate church, such as chancellor, treasurer, precentor, etc. Where the collegiate church is a cathedral, some dignities may be diocesan offices.


Revenue that a bishop or collegiate church grants to a canon or chapter member for his maintenance. It often takes the form of the whole income from a benefice of which the collegiate church is rector, or, in a cathedral, a benefice of which the bishop is the patron. The prebendary thereby becomes the rector of that parish. Alternatively, it may be derived from other sources of income such as holdings in other churches (portions or pensions) or from tithes.


A Peculiar is a district, parish, church or chapel outside the jurisdiction of the bishop and archdeacon of the diocese in which it is situated. It might be under the peculiar jurisdiction of the monarch, an archbishop, another bishop, or the dean and chapter of a cathedral; a few are under the jurisdiction of the Knights Templars or the Knights Hospitallers. An Archbishop’s Peculiar is subject to the direct jurisdiction of the archbishop, and a Royal Peculiar is subject to the direct jurisdiction of the monarch.



The right of nominating a priest for institution to a parish or other ecclesiastical benefice. An advowson may be held by the diocesan bishop or by some other individual, clerical or lay, or a religious organisation. The holder is known as the patron.


The process by which a patron, lay or religious, nominates a priest to the bishop for institution to a parish.  


The procedure by which the bishop admits the candidate into the spiritual cure of souls in a parish.

In the Taxatio database benefice display, this term, abbreviated to “(inst)”, indicates the type of incumbency to which the priest has been admitted by his bishop. Generally this is to a rectory or vicarage, although occasionally it is to another form of incumbency, such as dignity, archpriesthood or curacy. The date of the evidence for the institution is also given.


The name of the procedure for institution to an ecclesiastical benefice where the bishop is the holder of the advowson, ie, when presentation and institution are the same act.

Secular (Lay) Patronage

Many parish churches were originally built and endowed by landholders on their estates to provide the cure of souls for themselves and their tenants. While these were subject to the oversight of a bishop, they were viewed by the estate owners as part of their holdings, with the income and the advowson being under their control. By the time of the taxatio, lay control of church income had been banned by ecclesiastical law and secular patrons had transferred this right to the bishop or a monastic institution. Indeed, many secular patrons had transferred all their patronage rights. Nevertheless, a great many benefices remained under secular patronage, by which the lay patron continued to hold the advowson.

Ecclesiastical Patronage

As lay patrons responded to pressure and transferred their patronage to religious institutions, many benefices were passed to bishops who might allocate them to their episcopal administrators or the canons who served their cathedrals. Thus the taxatio lists many benefices belonging to cathedral dignitaries and prebendaries. In general (although there are many exceptions), a dignitary was the patron of his benefice, presenting another priest for institution as rector, while a prebendary was the rector of the parish which formed his benefice. Where these benefice-holders were the rectors, they were largely if not entirely absentee from their parishes, providing for substitute priests from part of the rectorial income. Sometimes a perpetual vicarage with a guaranteed share of the income would be established, but more often the substitute would be a stipendiary curate whose stipend, determined by his employer, might well be inadequate for the role.  

Monastic Patronage

Many benefices were transferred to monasteries or other religious houses such as nunneries. A monastery might simply become the patron, presenting a candidate to the bishop for institution as the rector. More often, however, it would appropriate the benefice.


The procedure by which a bishop permitted the rights of patronage, that is, the whole income of a benefice along with the advowson, to be held by a religious house. To ensure that there was enough income to support the cure of souls in the parish, the bishop would establish a perpetual vicarage, funded by part of the parochial income, and the monastery would present priests for institution to this.

Other - RECN:The Recension Code

The recension code – Recn – is mentioned widely in the Prose Introductions and database notes. Recension is defined as the practice of editing or revising a text based on critical analysis. The recension code is used in the Taxatio database to identify and differentiate between the sources from which the database entries have been taken.

Recn 01 indicates that the item was part of the core taxatio listing for the diocese and was taxed as an immediate result of the assessment.

Other Recn codes identify items which were either not part of the core taxatio listing or not taxed as a result of the assessment. For each item in these categories, the Recn code generates a brief note in parentheses which is shown below the Full Entry text for the item in the Full Benefice display.

The codes are as follows:-

Code U1 (listed as exempt; appropriated to military order, hospital or poor nunnery)

Items assessed initially and appearing in some versions of the taxatio lists but excluded immediately from tax because they belonged to the Templars, the Hospitallers, hospitals or poor nunneries (or on occasion because the income was used by a monastery for alms – see for example RO.RO.SH.U29).

Code U2 (listed as exempt: reason unknown)

Items assessed initially but immediately excluded for no clear reason, sometimes no doubt because of an original error.

Code UM (listed as exempt: too low in value)

Minute benefices assessed initially but immediately exempted because they were of 6 marks or less in value. Also, occasionally, a portion of a church exempted because the recipient did not have income exceeding 6 marks.

Code 15 (added after 1291-2 but not re 1302-3 brief new threshold)

Minute benefices added to a taxatio listing at a date very soon after 1292-3 but not as part of the re-assessment of 1302-3. For example, in the London Diocese, the items appear in an additional listing of all the churches of the city of London.

Code 16 (added because of new low threshold of papal tax of 1302-3)

Items added, or most probably added, because of the 1302-3 re-assessment.

Code 17 (added after 1291-2 and perhaps after 1302-3, and of very low value)

Some minute benefices in the archdeaconries of Coventry and Shropshire (Coventry and Lichfield diocese) which are in a separate but related listing compiled at an unknown date after 1291-2 and, possibly, the 1302-3 re-assessment.

Code 18 (added on much later schedule, or as a correction)

Miscellaneous items which although recorded later or elsewhere are nevertheless considered likely to have been in existence at the time of the original taxatio assessment. An accompanying note will give the reason for the item’s inclusion.

Code 0T (listed among temporalities)

Items that are considered to be spiritual income but which are listed only among the temporalities, for example, the Hereford prebends.

Code 0C (duplicate of line elsewhere in taxatio)

Items created, in the taxatio listing itself, from another item or items which are in whole or in part listed elsewhere in the assessment. For example, the St Paul’s London dignities, benkeys LO.LO.SP.00A-00H.

Code CC (created record for Collegiate Church)

Code CM (created record for Monastic Cathedral)

Records created by the database editors for cathedrals and major collegiate churches which do not appear in the taxatio listing as separate entities because their income is from benefices listed in their own right elsewhere in the assessment.

You can also browse the Taxatio database: