Women, Family, and Society in Medieval Europe: Historical Essays, 1978-1991

By David Herlihy; A. Molho | Go to book overview

8
THE FAMILY AND RELIGIOUS IDEOLOGIES IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE

The histories of medieval religion and of the family intersect at so many points that we need a clear analytical framework with which to guide our discussion. To begin with, the objects of our inquiry are the medieval Christian religion and the Christian family. Space and the author's competence preclude an examination of family and religion in Byzantium, in Islam, or in medieval Jewry, in spite of the interest of recent work in these areas.1 Nor can I consider in any depth the currently debated issue of what was the true domain of Christianity in medieval society.2 Was it limited to a tiny elite of clergy and literate laymen, while the unlettered masses followed a folk religion with its origins lost in Indo-European antiquity? We assume here that the Christian religion, and its variants in the form

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1
See S. D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed by the Documents of the Cairo Genize, 4 vols., 3: The Family ( Berkeley, 1967-). Initial orientation into the Byzantine family can be gained from E. Patlagean, Structure sociale, famille, Chrétienté ... Byzance ( London, 1981). Not recent, but recently reprinted, is W. R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia ( New York, 1979). The book was originally published in 1903.
2
The argument that official Christianity did not penetrate beyond the clerical and a tiny lay elite has been most vigorously advanced by J. Delumeau, Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire: A New View of the Counter Reformation ( Philadelphia, 1977) and J. Delumeau, G. Gaudet-Drillat, S. Jannssen-Peigné, and C. Tragnan, Un chemin d'histoire: chrétienté et christianisation ( Paris, 1981), to cite only two of Delumeau's many publications. J. Le Goff and J.-C. Schmitt have also maintained that the unlettered masses of medieval society followed a kind of folk religion, with roots stretching far back into the European past. For the latter, see J. C. Schmitt. [incomp. cit.]

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