Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2002-06 > 1024961037

From: Paul Moynagh <>
Subject: RE: Gladys Dhu: The importance of terminology
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2002 00:23:57 BST
References: <>, <>

In article <>,
(Reedpcgen) wrote:
> Recte:
> In glancing at my file, I see that this reference came from Brundage, 339.
> The
> pertinent part reads:
> <<In 1206, Innocent III attempted to clarify the matter in a decretal that
> dealt with a case in which the couple could not consummate their marriage
> because of a gross disparity of size between their genital organs.
> Innocent
> ruled that the marriage might be ended, and the parties might remarry.
> But
> he
> added that if surgeryor intercourse with a husband later made it possible
> for
> the woman to accommodate her first husband, then she must return to the
> first
> husband and reinstate the prior marriage.>>
> <<X 4.15.6 (Po 2836); cf. _Registrum_ 7.38 in PL 215:360 (Po 2166). See
> also
> the discussion of this problem by Laurentius and Vincentius in Tancred's
> _Apparatus_ to 3 Comp. 4.II. I V . utrum debeat, in Caius MS 28/17, p.
> 290b.>>
> Cheers,
> Paul
> PS IF this gets through, there are quite a few messages which have come
> across
> on SGM which have not appears at Rootsweb.

Thanks - interesting. As medieval docs were reluctant to do any sort of
physical exam on any part of the body in any sex, but especially 'down
there' in women, one wonders what the actual evidence was for disproportion.
My guess, common things being commonest, is that both were anatomically
normal but either he was impotent and blamed her for the problem, or she was
frigid, which a more sympathetic husband / lover might easily overcome. True
vaginal narrowness ('atresia') is rare - but if it was this, I suppose some
'surgical' attempt to dilate her was not entirely outwith medieval
capabilities though it would have been highly likely to fail. I don't
suppose we know of any comeback after the marriage was dissolved? My guess
is that the poor girl never went near any surgeon and was despatched to a
nunnery as unmarriageable. What would have happened to her dowry?

Paul Moynagh

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