In the Year of Mortality: Plague and Marriage in the Fourteenth-Century Diocese of Lucca

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 9:00 AM
Elizabeth Ballroom A (Hyatt)
Corinne M. Wieben , University of California, Santa Barbara
In fourteenth-century Lucca, 1348 came to be called “the Year of Mortality” after the massive loss of life resulting from the epidemic of the plague known as the Black Death.  Based on her research in the records of civil marriage disputes brought before the episcopal court of Lucca between 1341 and 1361, Wieben argues that the demographic crisis resulting from the 1348 plague epidemic gave greater freedom of choice in marriage to many, but also may have led to an increase in illicit and bigamous marriages.  After the deaths of their parents in 1348, some young Lucchesi refused to marry their betrothed, challenging the contracts and withdrawing their consent.  Others suddenly found that they could make better matches and sought escape from both betrothals and consummated marriage contracts.  In a few instances, some married Lucchesi with spouses abroad received rumors of their spouses’ deaths and remarried only to have their first spouses reappear years later.  In such situations, the episcopal court faced the daunting task of determining which marriage was legitimate and restoring order to lives potentially torn apart by adultery and scandal.  Using the records of the episcopal court, this paper explores the ruptures that affected marriage in Lucca in the year of the plague and well into the next decade.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>