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IMC 2009: Sessions

Session 1026: Canon Law, III: Marriage and the Courts

Wednesday 15 July 2009, 09.00-10.30

Sponsor:Church, Law & Society in the Middle Ages (CLASMA) Research Network
Organisers:Peter Douglas Clarke, Department of History, University of Southampton
Kathleen Cushing, Department of History, Keele University
Moderator/Chair:Peter Douglas Clarke, Department of History, University of Southampton
Paper 1026-aThe Canon Law of Marriage: A Useful Concept for the 9th Century?'
(Language: English)
Rachel Stone, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Canon Law, Ecclesiastical History, Mentalities, Sexuality
Paper 1026-bProtection of Women in Papal Letters?: Marriage in Church Law in England at the End of the 12th Century
(Language: English)
Gisela Drossbach, Stephan Kuttner Institute of Medieval Canon Law, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t M√ľnchen
Index terms: Canon Law, Ecclesiastical History, Mentalities, Sexuality
Paper 1026-cMurder, Mayhem, and a Very Small Penis
(Language: English)
Frederik Pedersen, School of History, Divinity & Philosophy, University of Aberdeen
Index terms: Canon Law, Ecclesiastical History, Mentalities, Sexuality

Paper -a:
Histories of canon law normally include at least a short section on the Carolingian period, seen as significant both for its 'canon law collections' and for the early development of the church's jurisdiction over marriage. However it is not clear that using such legal categories as 'canon law', 'jurisdiction' or 'church courts' is appropriate for the early Middle Ages. Drawing on examples from a number of marital disputes recorded in the 9th century in which bishops became involved, this paper argues that examining practices and documents within a 12th century framework has led to distorting our view of the evidence.

Paper -b:
I will be proceeding in this context from the three following premises:
1.) It was precisely the political situation of the church in England in the 12th century which opened up new possibilities for the development
of church law.
2.) Conditions in the Anglo-Saxon realm facilitated the acceptance of the model of marriage developed by the church allowing it to prevail
over other models of marriage.
3.) It is worth considering whether the positions taken by the medieval church with regard to marriage were part of a conscious effort to protect the rights of women.

Paper -c:
The Impediment of Impotence appears relatively infrequently as an argument for the annulment of marriage in medieval English cause papers. Several reasons have been proposed to explain this: the fact that such a legal argument would only permit one party re-marry, the stigma attached to the condition was pronounced causing the argument to be only sparingly used, or that the literally 'hands-on' method of proof that was employed by the English church courts was likely to produce a 'situational impotence' which might allow the courts to pronounce a sentence against the marriage which would be null and void when the man regained his potency. Although the number of impotence cases is relatively small, the fact that so few men successfully defended themselves against the charge of impotence requires explanation. This paper will investigate the English material anew and suggest a further reason: the men that failed the court's investigation were suffering from identifiable physical malformations of their genitals that made it impossible for them to function sexually and will include analyses of social and gender issues arising from a consideration of the legal evidence.