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(môrt`mān') [Fr.,=dead hand], ownership of land by a perpetual corporationcorporation,
in law, organization enjoying legal personality for the purpose of carrying on certain activities. Most corporations are businesses for profit; they are usually organized by three or more subscribers who raise capital for the corporate activities by selling shares
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. The term originally denoted tenure (see tenuretenure,
in law, manner in which property in land is held. The nature of tenure has long been of great importance, both in law and in the broader economic and political context.
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, in law) by a religious corporation, but today it includes ownership by charitable and business corporations. In the Middle Ages the church acquired, by purchase and gift, an enormous amount of land and other property. The struggle over this accumulation of material wealth was an important aspect of the conflict between church and state. Moreover, lands held by monasteries and other religious corporations were generally exempt from taxation and payment of feudal dues, greatly increasing the burden on secular property. Attempts to limit ecclesiastic mortmain began as early as Carolingian times, and by the late 19th cent. the right of religious bodies to own land was in general highly restricted. In many countries the prevailing principle limited such ownership to absolutely necessary holdings. In the United States ecclesiastic mortmain was never a serious problem, and remaining statutes on the subject are essentially inoperative vestiges of former law.


See H. C. Lea, The Dead Hand (1900); C. Zollman, American Civil Church Law (1917).



one of the norms of feudal law in Western and Central Europe.

Under mortmain, a feudal lord had the right to confiscate part of the property of a deceased peasant, usually the best cattle and clothing or their corresponding monetary value. Until the llth century mortmain applied in some form to all individuals who were personally dependent on the landowner; from the 12th and 13th centuries it began disappearing as the peasants received personal freedom, but endured in some backward localities until the 16th to 18th centuries.

For the church mortmain signified a ban against alienation of the landed property of church institutions; in some countries, every landholding of the church was secured in this fashion. It was abolished in the Protestant countries during the Reformation of the 16th century and in France during the French Revolution.

References in periodicals archive ?
Se convirtio en el medio por el que las donaciones para los franciscanos pudieran satisfacer tanto la letra del estatuto de Mortmain como los requisitos de la pobreza apostofica.
When Mortmain eventually begins his second novel, he includes crossword puzzles; children's rhymes; comic strips; and, indeed, "the cat sat on the mat" among its sources.
Life alters drastically when American brothers Simon (Marc Blucas) and Neil Cotton (Henry Thomas) inherit the estate on which the Mortmains live.
Life alters drastically when American brothers Simon and Neil Cotton (Henry Thomas, Marc Blucas) inherit the crumbling estate on which the Mortmains live and both fall under the spell of Rose.
Life alters drastically when American brothers Simon and Neil Cotton inherit the crumbling estate on which the Mortmains live.
Life alters drastically when American brothers Simon and Neil Cotton (Thomas, Blucas) inherit the crumbling estate on which the Mortmains live.
Seventeen-year-oldCassandra Mortmain lives with her dysfunctional family,including self-obsessed older sister Rose (RoseByrne).
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra (Romola Garai from TV's Daniel Deronda) narrates the story of her rather eccentric family, led by impoverished author James Mortmain (Bill Nighy), living in an increasingly decrepit country castle because poor dad's suffering from writer's block.
Seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain (Garai) lives in a crumbling English castle with her dysfunctional family, including her novelist father James (Nighy) who has been struck down with writer's block, her nudist step-mother Topaz (FitzGerald) and self-obsessed older sister Rose (Byrne).
Far from your average coming-of-age drama, I Capture The Castle is narrated by the selfless and wise-beyond-her years Cassandra Mortmain (Romola Garai) who lives with her dysfunctional family in practical squalor in a tumble down English castle (actually a relic that can be found in Pembrokeshire
It therefore has no owners, certainly not the Government, and is a mortmain organisation.