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  • La répression des délits sexuels dans les États savoyards: Châtellenies des diocèses d'Aoste, Sion et Turin, fin XIIIe–XVe siècle
  • James A. Brundage
La répression des délits sexuels dans les États savoyards: Châtellenies des diocèses d'Aoste, Sion et Turin, fin XIIIe–XVe siècle. By Prisca Lehmann.[Cahiers Lausannois d'histoire médiévale, 39] (Lausanne: Université de Lausanne, Section d'histoire, Faculté des lettres. 2006. Pp. 409. €24,00 paperback.)

The documentary basis for Lehmann's study of judicial efforts to penalize offenses against sexual morality within the dioceses of Aosta, Sion, and Turin (essentially the county of Savoy south of the Alps) rests on a large body of brief records called banna.These documents detail the receipt of fines imposed on those found guilty in 2,071 individual cases of alleged sexual misbehavior.The entries in the banna rest on complaints made to castellans within the three dioceses between the very end of the thirteenth century and the first decade of the sixteenth. The great majority of them, however, fall into the century between 1350 and 1450. Not all of these cases by any matter of means terminated in a judicial decision. Judicial procedure in Savoy strongly encouraged the parties to settle matters through a compromise payment rather than a fine imposed by the judge.These agreements were typically worked out by the castellan or a committee of "good men"whom the castellan appointed to deal with the matter. It is perhaps less amazing that so many cases ended in compromise if one takes into account the fact that the castellan received a quarter of the payment made under a compromise, but only a tenth of the amount imposed as a fine.

Lehmann's analysis shows that the principal offenses treated in these banna have to do with adultery (64%), followed by rape, either attempted (12%) or accomplished (8%). Only 11% allege simple fornication, while 5% are described as incest.Lehmann deals only in passing with the few scattered complaints concerning domestic violence, bigamy, clandestine marriage, concubinage, abortion, and infanticide. Perhaps surprisingly, no cases of bestiality or sodomy appear in these records.

The information in the great majority of these records is extremely sparse, as Lehmann's edition of the texts (pp.175–301) demonstrates.They commonly tell us little more than the offense charged, the amount of the fine or settlement, and usually (but not always) the names of the parties involved. A reasonably typical entry, for example, reads in translation: "Received from Guglielmo de Molendino de Augusta, because he was caught in adultery with Giovanneta de Sancto Eugendo: 2 gold florins."A few, but not a great many, go into slightly more detail than this.This paucity of information makes it difficult to undertake any very detailed analysis of illegal sexual behavior in subalpine Savoy in the later Middle Ages.The value of the book, apart from the edition of the records themselves, lies in Lehmann's close analysis of variation in the kinds of wrongdoing reported, the meanings of the terms used to describe them, and the frequency of the offenses—or at least those that the authorities came to know about and chose to pursue. [End Page 340]

James A. Brundage
University of Kansas (Emeritus)


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