Jubilee, a festive twelvemonth of the ancient Hebrews, celebrated every 50th year, and inaugurated by the blowing of trumpets (yobel.) According to the Mosaic law every 7th year as well as every 7th day was observed as a period of rest. To avoid the difficulty of supposing two successive years to be thus observed, some critics have endeavored to prove that the year of jubilee was the 49th instead of the 50th. During this year there was neither sowing nor reaping, all depending alike on the spontaneous products of the earth and the surplus produce of the preceding years. Bondmen of Hebrew descent became free, and every one resumed possession of his inheritance, howsoever it had been alienated. Unlike the sabbatical year, however, the jubilee did not annul debts. The design of this institution was to check the rise of any great inequality of social condition, and to prevent the rich from oppressing and enslaving the poor or appropriating their lands. It also strengthened the bonds of families, and bound the people to their country, by leading them to cherish an affection for estates derived from their ancestors and to be transmitted to their posterity.
The jubilee did not continue to be observed after the Babylonish captivity. - In the middle ages, the term was applied to the year in which all who visited the church of St. Peter at Rome for a certain number of days with pious offerings received plenary indulgence. A jubilee was first declared by Pope Boniface VIII. in 1300, and was to recur in every 100 years. The time was limited by Clement VI., Urban VI., and Paul II. respectively, to 50, 33, and 25 years, and the last period still remains the ordinance of the Roman Catholic church. The condition of visiting Rome is no longer in force, certain works of charity or devotion being substituted.