Front Page Titles (by Subject) IV.: ORDINANCE AND NOTICE. HOW MATTERS CONCERNING MARRIAGE SHALL BE CONDUCTED IN THE CITY OF ZURICH. * - Selected Works of Huldrich Zwingli
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IV.: ORDINANCE AND NOTICE. HOW MATTERS CONCERNING MARRIAGE SHALL BE CONDUCTED IN THE CITY OF ZURICH. * - Huldrych Zwingli, Selected Works of Huldrich Zwingli 
Selected Works of Huldrich Zwingli, (1484-1531) The Reformer of German Switzerland, translated for the First Time from the Originals, ed. Samuel Macauley Jackson (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1901).
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ORDINANCE AND NOTICE. HOW MATTERS CONCERNING MARRIAGE SHALL BE CONDUCTED IN THE CITY OF ZURICH.*
We, the Burgomaster, Council and the Great Council, which they call the Two Hundred, of the city of Zurich, offer to each and all people’s priests, pastors, those who have the care of souls, and preachers, also to all over-governors, under-governors, officials and any others who have livings, homes or seats in our cities, counties, principalities, high and low courts and territories, our greeting, favorable and affectionate good wishes. I call your attention to what each one of you has noticed and seen up to the present time, that many kinds of complaints and errors have arisen in matrimonial affairs. Since the parties have been summoned before the court at Constance or other foreign courts again and again, and have been judged at considerable cost; since they, at that place, and in cases where the people were well off in temporal goods, have been detained without judgment, and, as far as we know, to their own danger, etc., and in order that such great cost, trouble and labor among you men and women having business with each other with regard to matrimony, and who live and are at home in our territories, high and low courts, may be put aside, done away with and avoided, and also in order that each may be properly judged with promptness, thus we have ordained the following common ordinances concerning marriage, and have given notice of them, and have undertaken to practice them for a time, with the understanding that they are to be decreased, or increased, or entirely done away with. And if any parties come from our true and beloved confederates, from whatsoever place, who desire to seek and make use of law with regard to matrimony on account of the small cost among us, bringing each from his local authorities letters and seals testifying that such right may be extended to them, then they shall be accepted for the sake of especial friendship, and they shall be treated with regard to this law in every way as our own, but we shall not otherwise burden ourselves with any one dwelling outside of the territories of the city of Zurich.
And in order that such legal business may be attended to promptly, as necessity demands, we have chosen as judges six men, two from the people’s priests in our city, who are taught in the Word of God, also two from the small, and two from the large council. Among these, each one shall serve two months as magistrate or judge, shall summon, order, collect, examine, practice and execute such court business as necessity demands.
Whatever they pronounce and judge, according to the contents of the following articles and ordinances, shall stand. If, however, any of our people, or others, wish to appeal, it shall be made to no other body than the Honorable Council in our city of Zurich.
The court days are, and shall be, on Monday and Thursday. The seat or place of the court the judge shall choose and announce. Accordingly, when it has struck one o’clock in the afternoon, then the judges, secretary, the court beadle, and whoever serves the court, shall be there, on pain of breaking their oath, and shall assist in the action, as is proper. But if any one cannot be there on account of business of the city, or other lawful cause, then the burgomaster shall, by means of the beadle, appoint another, and let him sit. And whoever is judge at a time shall have possession of the seal of the court, and shall, through the beadle, announce orally or by other notice the sessions and orders, always in good time. The cases which come before him, and which need consideration or deliberation, he shall not postpone or hold up more than a week, so that the people may be joined or separated promptly.
And here follow the articles and ordinances concerning marriage.
First, a general ordinance: That no one shall enter into matrimony in our city and country without the testimony and presence of at leat two pious, honorable citizens in good standing.
EXPLANATION OF THIS ORDINANCE.
No one shall marry, engage or give to another his son or daughter without the favor, knowledge and will of the father, mother, guardians or others, who are responsible for the young people. Whoever transgresses this shall be punished according to the manner of the case, and the marriage shall be invalid.
Now in order that marriage requirements may not be made lower than before, no marriage shall hold which a minor shall enter into without the knowledge of the above-mentioned, his father, mother, guardian, or other people responsible, as have been named, before the minor is fully nineteen years old. But if it happens before this, then the ones mentioned, the father, etc., can hinder it and nullify it. But in case these are careless, and have not provided for their children in the nineteen years, then the children may marry and care for themselves, with God’s help, unhindered by any one and without any payment. Neither father, mother, legal representative or any one shall force or compel their children to a marriage against their will at any time. But where that has happened, and is legally reported, it shall not be valid and the trespasser shall be punished.
Marriages that have been arranged for or already consummated shall not be hindered or disturbed, as is right and proper, in any degree, by anything, cause or reason, except the clearly expressed causes as are in the holy Scriptures, Leviticus xviii.
And what has heretofore been achieved by dispensations and money shall be done away with entirely, and cause no more trouble.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW.
When two take each other who are free, and who had no one to whom they were under obligation or who took an interest in them, or two are engaged to each other, they shall stand by each other. But the girl shall be over fourteen and the boy over sixteen.
But where they are engaged, and have no references, according to the above ordinance, a marriage shall not be valid. Accordingly, let each one take care and avoid such disgrace and injury.
But if one seduces, disgraces or ruins a daughter, maid or young woman, who was not yet married, he shall give her a morning gift, and shall marry her. But if her father and mother, or the guardian, or other person responsible, refuse her to him, then the perpetrator shall give a dowry to the girl, according to the judgment of the authorities.
And if any one boasts to the danger and injury of another [matrimonially], and is convicted of such a thing, he shall be severely punished.
Likewise, in order to avoid suspicion, calumny and deceit, we desire that each marriage that is properly performed shall be publicly witnessed in a church, and provided with a license of the parish. Each preacher shall enroll and keep record of all such persons, and no one shall give those under him to another without his favor and will, publicly expressed.
WHAT CAN NULLIFY AND BREAK UP A MARRIAGE.
It is proper for a pious married person, who has given no cause for such act, to put away from himself or herself the other who is caught in open adultery, indeed to leave him or her, and to provide himself or herself with another spouse.
This we call and consider open adultery, which is discovered and proved, with sufficient public notice, before the matrimonial court, as is proper, or is so plain and suspicious in fact that the deed cannot be denied with any kind of truth.
But in order that adultery may not be condoned, and that no one may seek a cause to secure a new marriage by means of adultery, it will be necessary that a severe punishment be placed upon adultery, for it was forbidden in the Old Testament on pain of stoning to death.
The preachers to whom the Word of God and superintendence (of morals) are commended shall ban and exclude such sinners from the Christian parish, but the corporal punishment and the matter of the property shall be referred to the civil authorities.
But that no one for this reason may fear marriage, and resort to prostitution, these sinners, too, as is now announced, shall be excluded.
Since, now, marriage was instituted by God to avoid unchastity, and since it often occurs that some, by nature or other shortcomings, are not fitted for the partners they have chosen, they shall nevertheless live together as friends for a year, to see if matters may not better themselves by the prayers of themselves and of other honest people. If it does not grow better in that time, they shall be separated and allowed to marry elsewhere.
Likewise, greater reasons than adultery, as destroying life, endangering life, being mad or crazy, offending by whorishness, or leaving one’s spouse without permission, remaining abroad a long time, having leprosy, or other such reasons, of which no rule can be mdae on account of their dissimilarity—these cases the judges can investigate, and proceed as God and the character of the cases shall demand.
The ordinances shall be carefully and repeatedly announced by all clergymen, and their parishes warned against trespassing them.
Given at Zurich on Wednesday, the 10th of May, in the year 1525.
[* ]Printed at Zurich by John Hager. Zwingli’s Works, II., 2, 356-359. Translated from the original German by Prof. Lawrence A. McLouth. Bullinger expressly remarks that Zwingli was the author of the order of the canonical court.