Tithe, tenth part of the field crop contributed by lay people to support the clergy, introduced as Christianity spread in the Middle Ages. One third of the tithe was due to the diocesan bishop, the rest to the local clergy. Paying tithes was obligatory for all subjects with land holdings, but the subjects themselves were not personally dependent on the tithe holder. Therefore the right to levy tithe soon became a freely saleable form of rent charges, in many cases also acquired by secular lords and even freemen. Only special crops or newly cultivated land were exempt from tithing (for a certain time). Tithes were exacted as field tithes (every 10th sheaf) or as bag tithes from threshed field crops; field tithes were disadvantageous for countryside improvement; blood tithes were levied on livestock (mainly small animals). The tithe system was abolished in 1848.
Literature: W. Plöchl, Das kirchliche Zehentwesen in Niederösterreich, 1935; H. Feigl, Die niederösterreichische Grundherrschaft, 1964.