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The Legacy of Paradise

Marriage, Motherhood and Woman in Carolingian Edifying Literature

Katrien Heene

Within the framework of the Carolingian religious and moral reform (750-900) various measures were taken which had direct or indirect implications for the experience of sexuality among the laity as well as among the religious. Those and other measures also influenced the position of women both in the Church and in the world. Taking the Church Fathers as points of reference, this book offers a detailed analysis of the view of marriage, sexuality, motherhood and women as constructed in Latin edifying writings of the time, i.e. hagiographical texts, moral treatises and sermons. By studying the ideas and opinions of the male religious authors of these texts the author aims to examine whether and, if so, to what extent the attitude of the Carolingian Church was inspired by feelings of misogyny and misogamy. In writings addressing the lay public such feelings may have been hidden for pastoral reasons. Therefore attention was more particularly paid to the presence of misogyny and misogamy in texts which were chiefly written for religious readers. In the last analysis the overall attitude towards women-related matters turns out to be different and in many respects more positive than the one found in the writings of the Fathers and of many medieval male religious authors. To explain this phenomenon the author puts forward a number of socio-cultural and psychological arguments.

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INTRODUCTION 11

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11 INTRODUCTION I. Definition It has yet to be determined whether the Carolingian era should be seen as a real cultural "renaissance"1, nor has a date been established for the beginning of this rebirth, since as early as the 7th century various introductory trends were apparenf. However, it is certainly regarded as a "period of reformation" during which intellectual reforms were subservient to religious ones3. The Church, supported by the secular authorities, not only tried to restore (sexual-moral) discipline within its own ranks, but also made special efforts to christianize the religious and moral life of the laity, especially with regard to their attitude towards marriage and sexuality4 • In the late seventies Pierre Toubert wrote an article on the view of marriage in the so-called specula coniugatorum, i.e. the Carolingian moral treatises, specifically addressing lay persons of noble birth, with the intention of turning them into an order, an ordo of "decently" married people. He found the approach of these to be more positive than is usually the case with male religious authors. The present study was undertaken mainly owing to the suggestion that his findings be checked against hagiographical sources5 • Toubert also argues that the positive attitude towards marriage, which goes together with the ambition to introduce the Christian marriage model of the nuclear family, should normally imply a positive approach to woman and motherhood6 . I 1McKitterick, Church, XVII; Trompf, 8 and 25. 2Patzelt, 109-112. See also Riche, Les Foyers, 317; id., Ecoles, 49-64; Van Uytfanghe, Renaissance, 273-274;...

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