Regulating Marriage in the Diocese of Troyes

Saturday, January 9, 2010: 9:20 AM
Elizabeth Ballroom A (Hyatt)
Sara Ann McDougall , Yale University
The people of the diocese of Troyes in Northeastern France suffered great devastation as a result of the Hundred Years’ War. Large-scale suffering may well have led to a sort of “moral panic” as Millard Meiss found in the paintings of Florence and Siena after the outbreak of plague. Such signs of God’s disapproval seemed to lead the bishops and their judicial officials, at least, to call for renewed moral and religious rigor in the diocese.

In the midst and aftermath of the Hundred Years War, the fifteenth-century bishops of Troyes did not hesitate to make use of episcopal jurisdiction to impose order upon a disordered society. This action took place above all, it seems, by means of the ecclesiastical court, which summoned and processed thousands of suspected offenders in the course of the century.

As I will argue in this paper, these bishops and judicial officers labored with special energy to combat abuses of the sacrament of marriage caused by bigamous unions. For the sacrament of marriage to be protected, and to properly reform married life in the diocese, bigamous marriages, a danger to society and to salvation, had to be detected and invalidated. In examining the synodal statutes and court registers, this paper will explore extensive evidence of a drive to prevent, prosecute, and punish bigamy in the diocese.