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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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61 PART 2 : THE EVIDENCE FROM EDIFYING TEXTS I. Marriage and married women In the actual community between man and woman, brought about by marriage, partners are exspected to live together, in observance of certain rules. But since marriage as an institution does not function in the same way for the medieval Church as it functions for the laity, the rules of the secular marriage model differ from those of the religious marriage model 1• For the laity marriage has no religious character and it involves sex as an obvious element. For the nobility it is commonly seen as a settled commitment in which no personal feelings, but rather political and socio-economic advantages play a role. The first aim of an official marriage are to keep or bring together a well-defined patrimony and to produce children for continuing the blood and to have successors. There exist different types of marriage contracts and there are no objections against endogamy. A husband can dissolve the marriage when one of its purposes is not realized and look for a new wife, or father children by an other woman2 • The Church, on the other hand, theoretically knows only one lawful marriage type, viz. a monogamous and indissoluble alliance with a religious and sacramental dimension. This alliance should be voluntarily concluded between two people who are each other's equal when sexual morality is concerned. The consensus-principle is held to be much more important than the sexual union: procreation only becomes the primary goal of marriage,...

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