Abstract

This essay reconstructs the lives of a neglected group of women in the Christian church during the later Middle Ages. So-called clerical “concubines” were well-known in their communities, but their lived experience has been largely ignored by modern historians. Yet studying clerical concubines sheds light not only on the women themselves, but also on the social organization of the medieval Christian church. Drawing on information gathered from notarial acts across the northern Italian peninsula, I argue that concubines were not a unitary group. Their experiences varied instead according to their status and the regions they inhabited. For instance, while laywomen who became priests’ concubines moved into their lovers’ homes, nuns retained cells in their religious houses during these relationships. Furthermore, concubines in cities such as Treviso could openly live with their lovers and share their property, while in other places, such as Bergamo, severe legal restrictions on concubines made them a particularly vulnerable group.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 110-131
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-10
Open Access
No
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