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the tenth part of a crop (or other incomes), taken from the population for the support of the clergy and church.
In ancient times, the tithe existed among many Semitic peoples, particularly the Jews, and was passed on to the western Christian Church. The Christian Church first demanded the tithe in 585, citing the Bible. Beginning in 779 the tithe became obligatory for the entire Prankish kingdom. The Catholic Church, which levied the tithe in the Middle Ages, took both grapes and grain (the so-called great tithe), garden and industrial crops (the small tithe), and live cattle and animal produce (the blood tithe). The tithe was canonically divided into one-third for the upkeep of church buildings, one-third for the clergy, and one-third for the paupers of the parish. With the development of feudal relations, however, the tithe became almost completely levied for the benefit of the high church officials. The heaviest burden was on the peasantry, the upper classes often being spared payment.
Complete elimination of or limitations on the tithe were included in the demands of many peasant uprisings. In France the tithe was abolished in 1789-90, and in other countries during the 19th century. In Rus’, the tithe (desiatina) was established during the tenth century by Prince Vladimir Sviatoslavich; later, the church was given the right to collect fines in cases adjudicated by the church court instead of collecting the desiatina, but in certain cases various church organizations, although not the monasteries, continued to levy the desiatina. It was finally abolished at the end of the 19th century.
In Islam, the zakat is the functional equivalent of the tithe.