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Swiss court: farmers no longer need to pay parish for medieval crime

January 09, 2013

A Catholic parish in Switzerland has failed in its bid to compel a farmer to pay 70 francs for the maintenance of an “eternal flame” that has burned in reparation for a medieval murder.

In 1357, a murderer who sought to atone for his crime agreed to keep an eternal flame lit at St. Hilary’s Parish in Näfels. When he died, the obligation to pay for the flame’s maintenance was passed on to subsequent owners of the murderer’s land.

In 2012, a young farmer who owned the land refused to pay, leading the parish to file suit. A judge has sided with the farmer, ruling that the obligation was invalidated by 19th-century property law reforms.


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  • Posted by: Savonarola - Jan. 10, 2013 12:12 PM ET USA

    A law can be passed which nullifies a private contract obligation that was apparently a recognized encumbrance on the property?

  • Posted by: wvcatholic - Jan. 09, 2013 2:24 PM ET USA

    It is interesting to ponder the eschatological consequences for both Konrad Mueller (the murder) and the current farm owner.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Jan. 09, 2013 10:53 AM ET USA

    What if they go back, find that the fee was not paid for say, 50 years during the 1400's, and it's been accruing interest this whole time?