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SAML 2.0 authentication for Django

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SAML 2.0 authentication for Django


You need to have the Python binding for the Lasso library installed, you can find source and package for Debian on

Add mellon to your installed apps:


Add the SAMLBacked to your authentication backends:


Add mellon urls to your urls:

urlpatterns = patterns('',
    url(r'^/accounts/mellon/', include('mellon.urls')),

If SAML 2.0 should be your only authentication method you can define mellon_login as you main LOGIN_URL:

LOGIN_URL = 'mellon_login'
LOGOUT_URL = 'mellon_logout'

Your metadata will be downloadable through HTTP on

If your identity provider ask for your assertion consumer URL it’s on

If your identity provider ask for your logout URL it’s on


After an authentication attributes are stored in the session using a dictionary, the key is mellon_session. The dictionary contains:

  • issuer: the EntityID of the identity provider

  • name_id_content: the value of the NameID

  • name_id_format: the format of the NameID

  • authn_instant: the ISO8601 date of the authentication on the identity provider, optional.

  • session_not_on_or_after: the ISO8691 date after which the local session should be closed. Note that we automatically set the expiration of the Django session to this value if it’s available.

  • authn_context_class_ref: the authentication method of the current authentication on the identity provider. You can restrict authorized authentication methods using the setting MELLON_AUTHN_CLASSREF.

  • all attributes extracted from the assertion.


All generic setting apart from MELLON_IDENTITY_PROVIDERS can be overridden in the identity provider settings by removing the MELLON_ prefix.


A list of dictionaries, they must contain at least one of the keys METADATA (inline copy of the identity provider metadata), METADATA_URL URL of the IdP metadata file, or METADATA_PATH an absolute path to the IdP metadata file.. All other keys are override of generic settings.

When using an URL, the URL is automatically cached in the MEDIA_ROOT directory of your application in the directory named mellon_metadata_cache. If you restart the application and the URL is unavailable, the file cache will be used. The cache will be refreshed every MELLON_METADATA_CACHE_TIME seconds. If the HTTP retrieval of the metadata URL takes longer thant MELLON_METADATA_HTTP_TIMEOUT seconds, retrieval will be skipped.

When the cache is already loaded, retrievals are done in the background by a thread.

When using a local absolute path, the metadata is reloaded each time the modification time of the file is superior to the last time it was loaded.


List of public keys of this service provider, add multiple keys for doing key roll-over


The PKCS#8 PEM encoded private key. If neither MELLON_PRIVATE_KEYS and MELLON_PRIVATE_KEY are set, request will not be signed.


Password for the private key if needed, default is None


A list of private keys contained in strings (same format ass MELLON_PRIVATE_KEY) or of tuple paris (private_key, private_key_password). If MELLON_PRIVATE_KEY is None, the first key in MELLON_PRIVATE_KEYS will be used to sign messages. Other keys are only for decrypting encrypted assertions. If the same key appear in MELLON_PRIVATE_KEY and MELLON_PRIVATE_KEYS it will be ignored the second time. If neither MELLON_PRIVATE_KEYS and MELLON_PRIVATE_KEY are set, request will not be signed.


NameID formats to advertise in the metadata file, default is ().


The NameID format to request, default is None.


Whether to force authentication on each authencation request, default is False.


A list of class providings methods handling SAML authorization, user lookup and provisioning. Optional methods on theses classes are

  • authorize(idp, saml_attributes) -> boolean

    If any adapter returns False, the authentication is refused. It’s possible to raise PermissionDenied to show a specific message on the login interface.

  • lookup_user(idp, saml_attributes) -> User / None

    Each adapter is called in the order of the settings, the first return value which is not None is kept as the authenticated user.

  • provision(user, idp, saml_attributes -> None

    This method is there to fill an existing user fields with data from the SAML attributes or to provision any kind of object in the application.

Settings of the default adapter

The following settings are used by the default adapter mellon.adapters.DefaulAdapter if you use your own adapter you can ignore them. If your adapter inherit from the default adapter those settings can still be applicable.


The default realm to associate to user created with the default adapter, default is ‘saml’.


Whether to create user if their username does not already exists, default is True.


The template to build and/or retrieve a user from its username based on received attributes, the syntax is the one from the str.format() method of Python. Available variables are:

  • realm

  • idp (current setting for the idp issuing the assertion)

  • attributes

The default value is {attributes{name_id_content]}@realm.

Another example could be {atttributes[uid][0]} to set the passed username as the username of the newly created user.


Maps templates based on SAML attributes to field of the user model. Default is {}. To copy standard LDAP attributes into your Django user model could for example do that:

    'email': '{attributes[mail][0]',
    'first_name': '{attributes[gn][0]}',
    'last_name': '{attributes[sn][0]}',


Attributes superuser flags to user if a SAML attribute contains a given value, default is {}. Ex.:

    'roles': 'Admin',


Authorized authentication class references, default is (). Empty value means everything is authorized. Authentication class reference must be obtained from your identity provider but SHOULD come from the SAML 2.0 specification.


Name of the SAML attribute to map to Django group names, default is None. Ex.:



Whether to create group or only assign existing groups, default is True.


URL for the continue link when authentication fails, default is None. If not ERROR_URL is None, the RelayState is used. If there is no RelayState, the LOGIN_REDIRECT_URL, which defaults to /, is used.


Timeout in seconds before automatically redirecting the user to the continue URL when authentication has failed. Default is 120 seconds.


Verify SSL certificate when doing HTTP requests, used when resolving artifacts. Default is True.


Name of an attribute to use in replacement of the NameID content when the NameID format is transient. Without it no login using a transient NameID can occur with the default adapter. Default is None.


Should be post or artifact. Default is post. You can refer to the SAML 2.0 specification to learn the difference.


Allow looking for user with some SAML attributes if the received NameID is still unknown. It must be a list of dictionnaries with two mandatory keys user_field and saml_attribute. The optionnal key ignore-case should be a boolean indicating if the match is case-insensitive (default is to respect the case).

Each dictionnary is a rule for linking, applying all the rules should only return one user, the boolean operator OR is applied between the rules.

So for example if you received a SAML attribute named email and you want to link user with the same email you would configured it like that:

        'saml_attribute': 'email',
        'user_field': 'email',

The targeted user(s) field(s) should be as much as possible unique individually, if not django-mellon will refuse to link multiple users matching the rules.


When using METADATA_URL to reference a metadata file, it’s the duration in secondes between refresh of the metadata file. Default is 3600 seconds, 1 hour.


Timeout in seconds for HTTP call made to retrieve metadata files. Default is 10 seconds.


The list of supported assertion consumer bindings. Default is:

['post', 'artifact']


Unit tests are written using pytest and launched using tox, and can be run with:


Code Style

black is used to format the code, using thoses parameters:

black –target-version py37 –skip-string-normalization –line-length 110

There is .pre-commit-config.yaml to use pre-commit to automatically run black before commits. (execute pre-commit install to install the git hook.)

isort is used to format the imports, using those parameter:

isort –profile black –line-length 110

pyupgrade is used to automatically upgrade syntax, using those parameters:

pyupgrade –keep-percent-format –py37-plus

djhtml is used to automatically indent html files, using those parameters:

djhtml –tabwidth 2

django-upgrade is used to automatically upgrade Django syntax, using those parameters:

django-upgrade –target-version 2.2

There is .pre-commit-config.yaml to use pre-commit to automatically run these tools before commits. (execute pre-commit install to install the git hook.)


To honor the SessionNotOnOrAfter attribute sent by an IdP you must use a specific SessionEngine, only db and cached_db are supported currently, the equivalent session engines are:




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