IMC 2005: Sessions

Session 1114: From Birth to Old Age, from Art to Archives

Wednesday 13 July 2005, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Paul R. Hyams, Department of History, Cornell University / Independent Scholar, Oxford
Paper 1114-aLegal Definitions of Young and Old: Representations in the Saxon Mirror
(Language: English)
Madeline H. Caviness, Department of Art & Art History, Tufts University, Massachusetts
Index terms: Art History - Painting, Gender Studies, Language and Literature - German, Law
Paper 1114-bDiffering Life Experiences for Urban and Rural Youth in Late Medieval England
(Language: English)
Barbara A. Hanawalt, Department of History, Ohio State University
Index terms: Daily Life, Social History
Paper 1114-cThe Miracle of the Child Rescued from Drowning: Some Selected Examples
(Language: English)
Michael Goodich, Department of History, University of Haifa

Abstract paper a) The German Law Book known as the Sachenspeigel was composed in the thirteenth century, but the illustrated manuscripts date between 1300 and 1375. The text serves to define and maintain difference between groups and individuals. Illegitimate children were without legal rights – along with vagabonds and lepers.
Boys and old men did not have certain powers and responsibilites. In this predominantly oral culture, age was not calculated in years: Boys became adults when they showed a growth of facial and bodily hair. Older men had to relinquish control of their estates when they could no longer mount a horse without help. Women’s legal standing varied with their marital status.

Paper b) The experiences and markers that surrounded and shaped the growth of youth in the medieval English countryside, differed in many ways from those in the urban environment. Contractual labor as servants and apprentices, separation from the natal family, opportunities for entertainment, and even access to greater consumer markets made the urban youths’ experience different from that of their rural equivalents. Wtihout the age markers of apprenticeship or separation from the natal family, rural youths experienced more continuity in their progress from childhood to adulthood.

Paper c) In 1171 Pope Alexander III declared that no relics could be venerated or saints canonized without papal approval. As a result, beginning in the late twelfth century, the judicial procedure of inquisitio was applied to the investigation of the life and miracles of candidates for papal canonization. This procedure required the testimony under oath of reliable witnesses to the miracles attributed to the putative saint in the course of an investigation usually conducted by three papally appointed commissioners. A considerable percentage of such miracles concerned the dangers of childbirth, infertility, stillbirths, childhood injuries and diseases. This high percentage of miracles relating to children has been noted by Finucane, Sigal, Vauchez, Krötzl and others. This paper will focus on several cases of the accidental drowning of children reported in such canonization inquiries from the mid-thirteenth to the mid-fourteenth centuries, from Elizabeth of Thuringia (d. 1231) to Yves of Tréguier (d. 1303). The detail provided in these cases, which sheds light on the social history of childhood, increased as the church became more bureaucratized and the standards for achieving canonization became more stringent.
For example, during her lifetime Elizabeth was widely regarded as a patroness of the young due to her assistance to orphans and children in distress. The first protocol, consisting of an inquiry into 106 of her miracles conducted by a commission appointed by Pope Gregory IX shortly after her death, deals largely with the cure of children from a variety of birth defects and diseases, possession, epilepsy, accidents, and the revival of dead children. As many as eleven witnesses might report about one miracle. These miracles include the accidental drowning of children at Metbach and Zeppenfeld and of a student in the Wetter River at Assenheim.
The new standards for reporting such cases demanded that the witnesses testify concerning the precise circumstances of the event, including the age of the victim, site of the miracle, the signs of death, the natural means employed to revive the victim, how long he or she had remained under water, what vow was uttered in order to effect a resuscitation, how much time had elapsed before the revival had occurred, and who was present. In Elizabeth’s dossier, all occurred in the summer of 1232, the most common period for childhood falls, since during the summer months rural children were typically under less parental supervision and subject to potentially fatal injury due to the dangers of nature, particularly from bridges, ponds, springs, open pits, cesspools, wells, mills, and streams. The signs of death which were recognized in such documents were “the length of time the body was submerged, its rigidity, color and temperature,” as noted in the miracles of Peter Martyr (d. 1253). In the later case of Yves of Tréguier examples of the drowning of children off the Breton coast are also found. Here, we possess the verbatim testimony of the witnesses, the summarized report submitted to the curia, and a kind of checklist indicating the points of agreement and disagreement among the witnesses. The papal bull of canonization indicates which miracles were confirmed by Rome and the subsequent hagiographical biography presents the version of the miracle which reached a wider public. The fullest dossiers therefore allow us to trace the genesis and development of such a miracle story from the initial testimony of the witnesses, through a summarized version, an official life, a papal bull, and in some instances, frescoes, sermons and other media through which news of the event reached a wider audience.