ASYLUM

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ASYLUM ; a place to which persons flee for protection. Among the ancients, temples, statues of the gods and altars afforded such a refuge, and it was deemed an act of impiety to remove forcibly one who had fled to them for protection. The abuses of these institutions some times led men to forget their sacred character, as the Lacedemonians did in the case of Pausanias, whom they starved in the temple of Minerva. People who had fled to asylums were often starved to death by their pursuers, or the places of refuge were set on fire. All temples and sacred places, however, were not asylums, but only those particularly consecrated for this purpose. The emperor Tiberius abolished them all, except the temples of Juno and iEsculapius. These institutions passed over to the Christian world. Un der Constantine the Great, all Christian churches were asylums for those who were pursued by the officers of justice or the violence of their enemies. The younger Theodosius extended the privilege, in 431, to all courts, gardens, walks and houses belonging to the church. The Franks confirmed the privilege, and, in limits of asylums to 30 paces from every church. This ecclesiastical privilege has since prevailed in all Catholic countries. It remained. inviolafe, at least in Italy, while the papal government retained its independence. It was a strong armor of defence against the wild spirit of the middle ages, and was not without good consequences at a time when force often prevailed over justice. It also changed civil punishments into ecclesiastical, limited the power of sovereigns, and extended the influence of the church. For this reason, and because justice is now much better administered, asylums have been abolished in most modern countries. It is generally known, and as generally regretted, that the late pope Leo X, on his accession to the apostolical see, reestablished the asylums, which had been abolished by his predecessor, Pius VII; the chief consequence of which has been to afford the robbers in the papal dominions a better opportunity to escape the pursuit of the Austrian troops.In England and the U. States, this name has been given to many charitable institutions for the relief of orphans, blind, or dumb and deaf persons, &c. In no countries are institutions of this kind more common.