In Medieval France a paréage or pariage was a feudal treaty recognising joint sovereignty over a territory by two rulers, who were on an equal footing, pari passu; compare peer.[1] On a familial scale, paréage could also refer to the equal division of lands and the titles they brought between sons of an inheritance.

Such a power-sharing contract could be signed between two secular rulers or, most usually, by a secular and an ecclesiastic ruler, as in the case of the most famous, the Act of paréage of 1278 that founded a legal basis for the Principality of Andorra, signed by the Count of Foix and Viscount of Castellbo and the Bishop of Urgell. The Count and the Bishop were to receive taxes in alternate years, to appoint local representatives to administer justice jointly, and should forbear to make war within Andorra, where each might levy soldiers, nevertheless.[2] The wording of a paréage, an exercise in defining reciprocity without sacrificing suzerainty, was the special domain of ministerial lawyers, being produced in the universities from the late eleventh century.

Contracts of paréage were very numerous in the regions of intensely protected local rights, Languedoc and Catalonia, during the high and late Middle Ages, especially between lay and clerical interests. Erecting new towns called bastides repopulated "desert" or uninhabited lands: "in an effort to colonize the wooded wilderness of southwest France, almost seven hundred towns were founded during the two centuries between 1200 and 1400".[3] A formal agreement of paréage was often necessary. By the terms of several paréages agreed upon between the Cistercian abbey of Bonnefont-en-Comminges on the one hand and the local seigneur or the king on the other,[4] the Abbey granted the land from one of its outlying granges, the king granted certain liberties, such as market privileges, that made the new village attractive,[5] and the two agreed to split tax revenues. An example of a paréage that was settled through the arbitration of William Durant the Younger, established the "paréage of Mende" (1307), between the bishop of Mende in the Lozère and Philip IV of France; it remained in effect until 1789.[6]


  1. ^ Georges Duby, Rural Economy and Country Life in the Medieval West (translated by C. Postan, University of South Carolina Press, 1990:79) provides a working definition of paréage: "According to these agreements each party contracted to contribute a share. One provided the land and exclusive rights (bans) over it. The other contributed the influence or connections which permitted recruitment or the money with which to instal men. Profits from the undertaking, and especially the product of the exclusive monopolies (taxes banales) were then equally divided." Typical monopolies would be a water mill or a communal oven..
  2. ^ Whittlesey, Derwent (June 1934). "Andorra's Autonomy". The Journal of Modern History. 6 (2): 147–155. doi:10.1086/236113.
  3. ^ Adrian Randolph, "The Bastides of Southwest France" The Art Bulletin 77.2 (June 1995:290-307), P. 290 and passim.
  4. ^ Charles Samaran and Charles Higounet, eds. Recueil des Actes de l'Abbaye Cistercienne de Bonnefont en Comminges (Collection de Documents Inédits sur l'histoire de France 8), Paris 1970.
  5. ^ These were often drawn up in an ancillary document, a charte des franchises or a chartes des coutumes (Randolf 1995:292), though the "customs" were newly inaugurated.
  6. ^ See Constantin Fasolt, Council and Hierarchy: The Political Thought of William Durant the Younger (Cambridge University Press) 1991.