Swiss Court Relieves Farmer of 655 Year Old Debt


A Swiss court has wiped the slate clean for a farmer and his family, relieving them of an annual debt to a Catholic church dating back to 1357.

The court in the northeastern canton of Glarus ruled that the farmer and his family no longer needed to pay some 70 Swiss francs (£47) a year to keep the sanctuary lamp of the Naefels Catholic church burning. 

The debt dated back to 1357, when a certain Konrad Mueller killed a man named Heinrich Stucki.

To save his soul and avoid revenge attacks from the victim’s family, Mueller gave a sanctuary lamp to a local church and vowed to finance its fuel “for eternity”.

If he failed to do so, his land would go to the Church, Swiss public broadcaster RTS reported.

Over the centuries, owners of Mueller’s old land have continued to pay for the lamp oil.

But when the Naefels parish wanted to register this arrangement officially with the municipality, one of the landowners balked. 

Written By: AFP
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  1. Fascinating. I wonder why the parish suddenly decided it wanted to register this arrangement officially. Good philosophical parallels with Oedipus.

  2. During the Reformation the eternal lamp was transferred to the church of St Hilarius in Näfels and over the centuries that followed, landowners honoured the commitment, which amounted to SFr70 per year to pay for the nut oil – and later the candles – that lit the lamp.

    Will this be another case, like the unofficial teaching of limbo, whereby the Church says, “Whoopsie, the soul of Konrad Mueller was never really safeguarded by the lighting of lamps all these years.”


  3. I would have smashed the lamp. No lamp, nothing to keep burning. Nothing to keep burning, no need for money.

  4. register the arrangement officially??? oh to laugh!! does the RCC ever stop bullying people?

  5. What a great story. It’s a pity it has ended in a way – even though it’s the right result.

    I think if I was one of the farmers involved, I’d keep paying for the fun of it. Fancy having a covernant on your land which went back to 1357. You could dine out on that bit of local history for … well, ever.

  6. The Swiss papers wrote that the lands in question are owned by two different farmers today. One of those did not want to pay the parish any longer, particularly since they sent him a 1400 francs bill for the next 20 years. The parish also tried to get their claim registered in the land registry based on some ancient shreds of paper that only exist in their archives.

    His lawyer and historians examined those and other old documents and could not find any evidence for a relation between the lamp and the murder, if there even was one, nor if the land in question was indeed the right piece of land.

    The court agreed that the church did not have a valid claim since a reform in 1849. I hope they get counter sued for the money they took since then.

  7. If one is allowed to change the fuel, then some luminous material covering a peice of uranium should do the trick. Or perhaps some solar powered arrangment. Sounds like a fun challange. How about rocketing the lamp into the sun… That would make it glow for billions of years.

  8. From another article ~ “The lawyer for the parish said it was never about money. Rather,
    “a simple clearing up of the land registry””.

    Now why do I smell a rat.

  9. A 655 year debt says everything you need to know about the catholic church, namely that the court had to set it aside and the dumb-shit church would have kept it going for ever.

  10. Is this a joke?
    If not, it sounds like the greedy church wanted his land for nothing. An evil plot if I say so.

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