GEN-MEDIEVAL-L ArchivesArchiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 1999-03 > 0921163405
Subject: Re: Medieval Marriage
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 09:43:25 EST
In response to what was asked by Michelle Murphy about the definitions of
medieval marriage I can only add a few citations to the wonderful answer of
John Carmi Parsons.
As John pointed out in his response medieval marriage was defined by two
There was "mutual attraction" which was deemed in the post 12th century
medieval world to be an indissoluble spiritual bond (the church really hadn't
defined the sacramentality of marriage at his time which also allowed for
clandestine marriage and concubinage which were a large factor in medieval
society). This bond also carried implied consent to carnal coupling. This is
how many of the 12th and 13th century theologians got around the issue of the
perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The second factor was "the Office of Matrimony" which was actual consummation.
The question of what implied a lawful marriage was first taken up by Gratian
the Decretum. Gratian when he wrote the Dictum's in the Decretum believed
that both parts of the marriage must be enacted for the marriage to be
lawful.This created problems for other theologians defining the marriage of
Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. Hugh St. Victor tackled this issue in
his "De Beatae Mariae Virginitate" :
Concerning the uncorrupted virginity of the Mother of God, this is piously,
and this piety is faithfully, confessed, that the consent to marriage in no
way diminished its perfection, just as the conception did not violate the
chastity, nor childbirth do away with purity.
To substantiate this argument, St. Victor defined both parts of marriage and
elevated the "mutual attraction" above the "Office of Matrimony." This view
and taken up by later medieval theologians.
Thomas Aquinas in his desire to equate reason to faith had a real problem with
this definition. He wrote an answer to this early in his career in his
"Commentary on Sentences" which was an answer to Peter Lombard's "Four Books
In the work he deems both parts of marriage to be equivalent and the
excellence of the Sacrament to be the same as the Good of the union. Aquinas
saw marriage as a natural act and created that way by God and saw the denial
of carnal coupling as essentially heretical, citing the Manichees (Aquinas
The church basically upheld the view that both portions of the marriage must
be enacted to achieve validity and that is also why the Fridigum laws were so
often invoked among the lower classes to obtain annulments.
Annulments were granted often by the medieval church, but the issue of wealth
and who you were married to always tempered the ease with which you could end
So in answer to your question about the necessity to prove Consummation for
the marriage to be valid, that was definitely needed, but even without the
"Office of Matrimony" implied consent had already been given by the betrothal
and "Mutual Attraction."