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Benefice

(3 syl.). Under the Romans certain grants of lands made to veteran soldiers were called beneficia, and in the Middle Ages an estate held ex mero beneficio of the donor was called “a benefice.” When the popes assumed the power of the feudal lords with reference to ecclesiastical patronage, a “living” was termed by them a benefice held under the pope as superior lord. This assumption roused the jealousy of France and England, and was stoutly resisted.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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