The Kiss of Peace: Ritual, Self, and Society in the High and Late Medieval West

The Kiss of Peace: Ritual, Self, and Society in the High and Late Medieval West

The Kiss of Peace: Ritual, Self, and Society in the High and Late Medieval West

The Kiss of Peace: Ritual, Self, and Society in the High and Late Medieval West


This book reveals the social logic of the medieval rituals of reconciliation as showcased by the most potent rite, the kiss of peace. Ritual is presented as a contested ground on which individuals, groups, and political and moral authorities competed for and appropriated political sovereignty. The thesis of the study is that by employing ritual and bodily mnemonics as strategic tools, the forces of order and official morality strove to organize personality structures around a hegemonic value system. Researching three analytical fields the legal bonds of peace, the emotional economy of ritual, and the building of identity the book highlights the contents and evolution of ritual reconciliation in diverse cultural contexts in the period between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries.


Inter omnia vero pacis signa, que actibus transiguntor, precipuum
et magis expressum est osculum, non dico pedis aut frontis aut
auris aut alicuius membri alterus, sed oris tantummodo. Quia enim
evidentius per oris officium quam per ceterorum membrorum nutum
animi votum exprimimus, ideo per osculum oris pacis beneplacitum
apertius annotamus….

Rufinus of Sorrento, De bono pacis, ii, 28.

It is hardly a surprise that the earliest surviving systematic treatise on the medieval peace, Rufinus’ De bono pacis, was composed by a person who had been a canon lawyer earlier in life and was archbishop of Sorrento at the time he wrote. Ever since the early Middle Ages, clerics of all ranks had spearheaded the effort to justify the peace as a highest religious demand on the denizens of the West and infuse its practice with the precepts of the Christian religion. Ranging from theoretical compilations with limited applicability to practical programs with increasingly secular orientation, such endeavors sought to involve the lay population in non-violent modes of conflict resolution. Around the dawn of the new millennium the religious

Roman Deutinger, ed. and trans., Rufunus von Sorrent, De bono pacis (Hanover, 1997), 1–29 and De bono pacis, chs. 18–26. Deutinger’s introduction contains a fine historiographical essay on earlier scholarship. See also Klaus Arnold, ‘De bono pacis: Friedensvorstellungen im Mittelalter und Renaissance,’ in Jürgen Petersohn, ed., Überlieferung: Bildung als Leitthemen der Geschichtsforschung (Wiesbaden, 1987), 137–44.

There is a solid corpus of studies on the medieval peace. See, among other works, Ludwig Huberti, Studien zur Rechtsgeschichte der Gottesfrieden und Landesfrieden. Vol. 1: Die Friedensordnungen in Frankreich (Ansbach, 1892); Roger Bonnaud-Delamare, L’idée de paix à l’époque carolingienne (Paris, 1939); La Paix, Recueils de la societe Jean Bodin pour l’histoire comparative des institutions, vol. 14 (Brussels, 1961); Hartmutt Hoffman, Gottesfriede und Treuga Dei (Stuttgart, 1964); Thomas Renna, ‘The Idea of Peace in the West, 500–1500,’ The Journal of Medieval History, 6:3 (June 1980), 143–68; Thomas Head and Richard Landes, eds., The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response around the Year 1000 (Ithaca, 1992), and, most recently, Ben Lowe, Imagining Peace: a History of Early English Pacifist Ideas, 1340–1560 (University Park, pa, 1997); Udo Heyn, Peacemaking in Medieval Europe: a Historical and Bibliographical Guide (Claremont, 1997); and Diane Walfthal, ed., Peace and Negotiation: Strategies for Coexistence in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Turnhout, 2000). On representation

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