The Shibboleth IdP V4 software will leave support on September 1, 2024.


File(s): conf/relying-party.xml, conf/
Format: Native Spring


The relying-party.xml file is used to specify the functional features (SAML and otherwise) you want the IdP to support (these are termed "profiles"), and to customize IdP or profile settings based on the identity, or a few other characteristics, of a relying party service.

You can modify this file to:

  • control which profiles are supported for particular partners (or for anonymous requests)

  • alter default profile or global settings

  • define and attach custom security configurations at various levels, such as:

    • turning off encryption of assertions and other content

    • changing which layer signing is performed (responses vs. assertions)

    •  supporting multiple signing credentials

    • customizing algorithms

The goal of any deployment is to reduce the number of customizations used, so the ideal is to rarely have to modify this configuration. Further, there are more modern techniques that allow many or most uses of this file to be replaced by MetadataDrivenConfiguration; that is, instead of creating explicit rules in this file, it's usually cleaner in the long run to add information to SP metadata to effect the change desired. Over time, it becomes easier to get a feel for when it's easier to use metadata and when it's easier to use overrides.

General Configuration

While the native Spring syntax can ultimately be used to wire up any beans you choose to define, we have abstracted this to some degree by making use of conventions, parent beans, and pre-defined bean names to limit the amount of XML needed to make useful changes.

The absolute rule is that the file MUST contain three named beans:

  • shibboleth.UnverifiedRelyingParty

  • shibboleth.DefaultRelyingParty

  • shibboleth.RelyingPartyOverrides

All three are defined for you by default.

The first two must define beans that derive from the RelyingPartyConfiguration class, but this is automatically done by inheriting (via the parent attribute) from the bean named RelyingParty.

The "unverified" RP bean controls how to handle requests from peers with no metadata or other mechanism in place to authenticate/verify the request. By default, no profiles are enabled, signified by the empty profileConfigurations list.

The "default" RP bean applies to requests from peers that do not fit the conditions attached to any overrides, and are thus handled with default settings. By default, this relies on a variety of built-in settings, and activates a number of the usual profiles, though the exact list may vary over time with particular releases (things that used to be common may become rare).

The last bean is a List<RelyingPartyConfiguration> for any overrides. Those beans will generally be of special types that determine their applicability, or will generically contain an activationCondition property that determines whether one applies to a request or not.

The first applicable override bean is used, and there is no merging of settings between any of the beans.


Overrides allow for arbitrary conditions to be evaluated to assign behavior to a request. In the general case these conditions can be complex scripts or Java code.

To simplify this in the most common scenarios, we have included additional parent beans that can be inherited from to more easily express these conditions. Right now, we have these built-in helpers:

  • RelyingPartyByName

  • RelyingPartyByGroup

  • RelyingPartyByEntitiesDescriptor 4.1

  • RelyingPartyByTag

  • RelyingPartyByMappedTag


<!-- Example matching one SP --> <bean parent="RelyingPartyByName" c:relyingPartyIds=""> <property name="profileConfigurations"> <list> <!-- Your refs or beans here. --> </list> </property> </bean> <!-- Example matching two SPs --> <bean parent="RelyingPartyByName" c:relyingPartyIds="#{{'', ''}}"> <property name="profileConfigurations"> <list> <!-- Your refs or beans here. --> </list> </property> </bean> <!-- Example matching three (or more) SPs --> <bean parent="RelyingPartyByName"> <constructor-arg name="relyingPartyIds"> <list> <value></value> <value></value> <value></value> </list> </constructor-arg> <property name="profileConfigurations"> <list> <!-- Your refs or beans here. --> </list> </property> </bean

(Note that the second example above uses a Spring Expression Language inline list. This can get arbitrarily long, so the third example shows this in a more readable syntax for longer lists.)

The following example notwithstanding, it's not advisable to create policy based on groups because those hierarchies are very dependent on metadata aggregation and publishing approaches that are much less common today.

<bean parent="RelyingPartyByGroup" c:groupNames="urn:mace:incommon"> <property name="profileConfigurations"> <list> <!-- Your refs or beans here. --> </list> </property> </bean>

There is also support for group matching based on a SAML metadata feature called an <AffiliationDescriptor>, and you are able to create locally (or even remotely) expressed group memberships using that technique, by supplying supplemental metadata to the system. If you want to optimize by ignoring the possibility of  <AffiliationDescriptor> use, the RelyingPartyByEntitiesDescriptor bean has been added (as of V4.1) to bypass that step and suppress some logging that shows up during the affiliation lookup.

An alternative grouping strategy is based on <EntityAttributes> metadata extension tags. The tag-based approach is a generally recommended way of doing simple overrides that might apply to a large number of systems, and is a bridge between the "explicit" syntax and the more generic MetadataDrivenConfiguration approach.

<bean parent="RelyingPartyByTag"> <constructor-arg name="candidates"> <list> <bean parent="TagCandidate" c:name="" p:values=""/> </list> </constructor-arg> <property name="profileConfigurations"> <list> <!-- Your refs or beans here. --> </list> </property> </bean>

In addition to the original bean, the RelyingPartyByMappedTag bean allows you to optimize tag-based overrides by relying on the decoding of tags in the metadata into internal IdPAttribute objects via the AttributeRegistryConfiguration. Even without dedicated rules, the system can auto-decode URI-named SAML Attribute extensions into IdPAttributes with a corresponding name "as is", so generally the mapped variant should work the same way and will be faster.

Finally, the most general example involves defining your own bean and a custom condition. An example using a regular expression:

Multiple Overrides

If more than one override is defined, then it is possible for the activation conditions of multiple overrides to be satisfied by a request. Overrides have "first one wins" match semantics whose ordering is determined by their position in the shibboleth.RelyingPartyOverrides list bean. This leads to a rule of thumb for overrides: more general matches (i.e. by group) should be placed after more specific matches (i.e. by name).

The first override with an ActivationCondition that returns true will be in effect. Multiple matching overrides are not merged or combined in any way. However, it's possible to combine different "dimensions" of conditions by using dynamically-derived profile settings, a feature discussed in the next section and in the MetadataDrivenConfiguration topic.

Profile Configuration

Every relying party configuration (default or override) has a profileConfigurations property whose value is a list of ProfileConfiguration beans that determine which profiles can be used. Any profile not explicitly listed will be disabled and requests for it will fail internally with an error.

Profiles are activated within relying party configurations in most cases by referencing beans defined within the system that apply the default settings for each profile. This wouldn't apply to custom profiles defined in extensions, but it does apply to the built-in feature set. We've pre-defined beans for the built-in profiles as follows:

They ones that are active by default are included in the shibboleth.DefaultRelyingParty bean's profileConfigurations property, by reference. You can turn them on or off using comments or by deleting them.

Additional profile beans are available when the CAS module is enabled; see CasProtocolConfiguration.

As with all relying party settings, an override does not inherit the profiles enabled by default. An override essentially turns everything off unless its own profileConfigurations property enables it.

To statically override a default profile option, you can replace a <ref> element pointing to a profile with a new bean definition like so:

The parent attribute lets you pull in the pre-defined bean definition for a profile and just override what you want to. You can mix these beans with <ref> elements that rely on default behavior with other profiles.