Marriage Sources Notes
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! Issue of what the Reformation changed -‐ conﬂicting historiography
‣ Marriage and sexuality -‐ think that there were major changes => new
Luther has a very negative attitude -‐ everything has fallen
Solidiﬁcation of patriarchy e.g. divorce courts
Parental responsibility -‐ cannot have secret marriages
Theory was not always translated into practice
‣ Early marriage may not be economically viable
Greatest change -‐ marriage is not a sacrament => secular control
‣ Consent between a couple
‣ Sexual union
Women sue for the loss of virginity and child support
‣ Often dissolved on the grounds of defective proof -‐ only God knows
Luther's area of Germany -‐ consummate marriage before the wedding
Issue that the conscience may know it is married but this is not recognised by the secular
‣ Are you married?
- Before God you are
If the marriage is not consummated, the sacrament has not taken place -‐ cover put over
the couple to symbolise sexual union
In general, many marriages are very public -‐ need public recognition
What is the single moment of marriage?
Issue of future tense
! Marriage happens at the bridal door -‐ just outside the church
‣ Then they would go into the church
‣ Liminal area -‐ not yet a sacred space but related to one
! Introduction of divorce
‣ Impotence, adultery and desertion
- Impotence -‐ annulment
! Can remarry if you are the innocent party
‣ Marriage is now secular
Secret marriage with the brother of the husband -‐ protects the inheritance
! Early years -‐ based on scripture => less practically applicable
‣ Adulterer can remarry elsewhere -‐ be fruitful and multiply
! Increasing secular registers of marriage
! Serfs -‐ trying to keep people from moving
! Towns -‐ try to control the population => servant women cannot get married or only
those with a certain amount of property
! Marriage is secular -‐ yet it is spiritually right to marry and have children
! People have many marriage problems -‐ pastors have to try to sort these out
‣ Luther becomes very involved
Philip of Hesse -‐ by conscience rather than by law
‣ Not divorce -‐ ﬁrst wife has done no wrong
OT basis for bigamy
‣ Conscience v. public
Sexual need -‐ monastic vows are invalid => not physically designed to fulﬁl these vows
At least Philip's bigamy does not undo a marriage -‐ Luther is very against this
! Marriage of the clergy -‐ regularises something which is already happening in many
Pastor's wife -‐ e.g. the cook
Luther's wife is from a noble family
Carlstadt also marries a noblewoman
Children of pastors can marry other pastors => professional dynasties
Issue of clerical income -‐ may be marrying into poverty
! Anabaptists -‐ issue of the place of sex in marriage
‣ Luther -‐ not a problem => good in marriage
! Luther still praises chastity -‐ just sees it as practically impossible
‣ Symptomatic of his negative view
‣ Discussion of eunuchs
! Kinship of permitted degrees
! 1522 -‐ purely biblical approach
‣ Yet later he rejects Mosaic law
Catholic priests have sold people wives -‐ can give money to remove impediments of
Aﬃnity -‐ can marry adopted children
Rejects godparents as Catholic -‐ yet he has them for all of his children
‣ Network of relationships
‣ Insular community
Should not marry unequal ages
Even if you cannot procreate you should still marry -‐ allows sex for older and pregnant
! Economy is organised through marriage
! Apprenticeships, guild memberships etc. -‐ based on marriage
! Interesting that marriage practices were still so unclear
Marriage -‐ mature member of the community
! Luther -‐ ﬁnancial trouble
100 gulden a year from the elector
Thinks he shouldn't have to pay taxes
Doesn't make money from publishing
Yet they own a couple of farms and the large house in Wittenberg
Has a lot of patrons
! Luther and masculinity
‣ Ideal man -‐ shifting idea
- Not a celibate monk
- Being a father => not eﬀeminate
‣ Material and spiritual responsibility for the family
‣ Luther is aggressive and confrontational
‣ Luther has 6 children
! Women in the domestic sphere -‐ very important job
‣ Household, children and ﬁnance
Luther came from a mining family in Mansfeld
‣ Labour was not in the house -‐ greater gender division of labour
- Father is not at home
! In a student town -‐ there is a lot of prostitution
! Childbirth -‐ suﬀering as part of baptism
! Writings v. table talk
‣ Would never have published his own table talk
How did the Reformation change women's roles?
Role as wife + mother = concerning marriage and sexual relations - links to -
Role within religious community = abolition of convents
Sexual relations key to deﬁnition of female roles during the Reformation
Conceptions of sex important in determining how women experienced the Reformation in Germany
Luther on Sex:
• Both men and women have 'natural desires'
o Since 'the fall' of Adam and Eve, cannot be suppressed
o Should not be suppressed - carnal lustful desires
o (tension that Luther doesn't really resolve is his notion of sex as inherently sinful,
and sex as natural and ordained by God)
• Denial of or resisting natural desires leads to sin through fornication or adultery
• Also goes against natural and divine ordinance
• Luther bases his teaching on Genesis 1:28 "Be fruitful and multiply" - he asserts this is of
the upmost importance -
• In his letter to three nuns in Wittenberg (1524) Luther wrote:
"Although women are ashamed to admit such things, both Scripture and experience teach that
among many thousands there is not one to whom God gives the grace to maintain pure
chastity. A woman does not have the power [to do this] herself."
In order to act upon these desires free from sin, individuals must enter a marriage union -
this way they can also procreate
For Luther, sex and marriage were so inextricably linked - for a pious Christian, one didn't
come without the other
How did this aﬀect the roles of women?
On the whole, weren't radically re-‐deﬁned: Lutheran teaching intensiﬁed traditional role of woman
as wife and mother - entrenched domesticity of female duty
Sexual role within marriage
• Women's vocation, or calling, was to bear children - most important duty
• However, could only enjoy sex within a marital union - thus a woman should, and must,
marry, in order procreate and so she can have a sexual outlet
Marriage = balance of duties / desires between men and women - but also subject to natural social
• Wife's role was to support and obey her husband
• She enjoyed spiritual equality with her husband before God, but inequality in worldly sense
• Wife is the helpmeet and subordinate of the husband!
• Woman's role was to support her husband, be obedient to him
Role as wife links to role as mother
• Job to have children, feed them, raise them etc
• V important role as teacher too - raising good Christian children essential to salvation -‐
huge responsibility here;
One big change however, was the implications of Reformation for sexual choice:
True Protestant innovation not so much found in theology and imagery of marriage; more about
eradicating Catholic religious ideal of celibacy
• No longer was virginity accredited sacred or holy status;
• Celibacy was seen as unnatural - against human nature - and a contradiction of God's Word
and bible teaching
• Individuals no longer had a choice about whether they wished to remain single and celibate
or enter into a marital relationship
• For a pious Christian, marriage only choice!
Biggest impact on nuns:
⇒ Thus, taking monastic vows was no longer seen as a higher calling
⇒ Nuns during reformation attracted much distain and contempt -
⇒ Seen as burning in their own lust, supressing carnal desires and instincts - inherently sinful
⇒ Women no longer had a role within the institution of the church hierarchy
The more Luther attacked celibacy and vows, the more important marriage had to become
WHY? To combat chaos of sexually immoral behaviour that would supposedly follow with decline of
celibacy and vows
Conservative nature of Reformation impact on female roles within German society
• Increase in policing of sexual actives and morals
• Women have a very speciﬁc role in society to fulﬁl: wife and mother
Wife = helpmeet, obedient to husband, sexual partner
• No longer have a choice about entering marriage and / or a sexual relationship
How did the reformation change masculinity?
Changes in notions of masculinity were not only aﬀected by the Reformation, but by economic
developments of the 16th century.
Role of man as head of family unit emphasized in a new patriarchal order
-‐ Husband as Christ's ﬁgure - family mirroring governmental structure with man as head of family
-‐ world-‐wide discipline and order were seen to stem from the family unit and from the husband
-‐ husband had a responsibility over his children's souls more importantly than their bodies - in the
late medieval period this appeared to have been part of the female sphere, relating more to late
medieval concepts of female piety.
-‐ husband's role as teacher and preacher in the family mirrors what happens in the reformation with
primarily male preachers and male priests and bishops e.g Luther
-‐ marriage is seen to encompass a new order, led my the man - Luther cites the proverb "Early to
rise and early to wed." 'because from that there come people who retain a sound body, a good
conscience, property, and honor and family.' (p.10 of 11, of Luther's Sermon on the estate of
marriage) - marriage functions as a way to prevent further moral ills. 'plagues have befallen lands
and people because of fornication'. - marriage set apart as a paradigm for righteous religious life -
seen as a measure for the prevention of sin.
-‐ Luther says that 'he who refuses to marry must fall into immorality' - the act of marriage is seen as
a masculine act - one initiated by men.
-‐ many vernacular guides were written on the subject of husbandry and fatherhood by reformers
and moralists.-‐ dealt with issues e.g how to raise one's children and how to be a good father.
Mature manhood increasingly associated with marriage
-‐ marriage becomes the way in which men become adult men - they graduate from journeymen to
masters in their professional guilds, and in conjunction with this, set up their separate household,
and begin to cohabit with their wife for the ﬁrst time. In practice however, the economic situation of
particularly the later 16th century, when it became harder for men to graduate to the status and
ﬁnancial stability of being a 'master', meant that couples often had to wait longer in between
engagement and marriage until conditions were right.
-‐ marriage rituals emphasise the diﬀerent roles that the man and woman are signing up to play.
Gifts to each other for example - the man's role being more monetary and material, he might
present the betrothed with jewellery and ornamental tankards denoting his personal wealth and
willingness to keep the woman in a manner appropriate to his rank, where the woman would
present the husband with items which symbolized a willingness to devote herself to control over the
household tasks e.g handkerchiefs and shirts.1
-‐ masculinity thus connected to an ability to provide ﬁnancially and materially for a wife and family.
-‐ masculinity appears to be less connected with sex than with providing the function as a good
husband in material and moral ways
Masculinity and sex
-‐ after the reformation-‐ tighter control over prostitution - men were increasingly condemned and
prosecuted for the use of prostitutes - using prostitutes was not seen as portraying masculine
strength, but weakness and wickedness. A good Christian man would remain faithful to his wife.
Men who committed adultery were increasingly equally punished to women.
-‐ nonetheless - being a man still connected to a man's virility - e.g in Luther's sermon on the estate
of marriage, he speaks of eunuchs and of those who have entered monasteries.
-‐He refers to eunuchs who have been born as such as 'those who are impotent or who are by nature
not equipped to produce seed and multiply because they are physically frigid or weak or have some
Lyndal Roper, The Holy Household, p.134
other bodily deﬁciency which makes them unﬁt for the estate of marriage' - implies that you cannot
be a man if you are unﬁt for marriage.
- one's masculinity is still connected to one's sex.
-‐ the most emphasized exceptions to Luther's views upon adultery are those which involve cases
where the man cannot sexually satisfy the woman - Luther advises women to address the issue
with their husband suggesting that she say "Look my dear husband, you are unable to fulﬁll your
conjugal duty toward me; you have cheated me out of my maidenhood and even imperiled my
honor and my souls salvation; in the sight of God there is no real marriage between us. Grant me the
privilege of contracting a secret marriage with your brother or closest relative…Consent to being
betrayed voluntarily by me, as you have betrayed me without my consent."
-‐ in the same way though, Luther advocated the divorce of a woman who would not uphold her side
of the marital deal. He says that (p.6 of 11) 'one ﬁnds many a stubborn wife like that who will not
give in, and who cares not a whit whether her husband falls into the sin of unchastity ten times
over.' Going on to say, 'Do not deprive each other, except by agreement' - each party appears to
have a right to the other's body.
-‐ sex is thus seen as one of the major cruxes of marriage and is somewhat used synonymously with
marriage - 'there is no real marriage' without it. For a man, being sexually deﬁcient is seen as a
betrayal of the male part of the marriage bargain. - sex is thus still integrally connected to the
masculine role as husband-‐ becoming a father even more important to notions of masculinity.
After the reformation - there was a changed attitude towards celibacy
-‐ rather than celibacy being a man's ideal - the Reformation upheld man's sexuality as an integral
part of how God made men and women - not purely a command by God, but a natural part of the
way that humans were made. Luther says that those who can resist marriage are 'rare, not one in a
thousand, for they are a special miracle of God. No one should venture on such a life unless he be
especially called by God…or unless he ﬁnds God's grace to be so powerful within him that the divine
injunction, "Be fruitful and multiply," has no place in him.'
-‐ this contributed to a condemnation of monastic life - it was believed that these restrictions upon
men's sexual behaviours were actually responsible for more instances of adultery, for the practice of
having concubines by Bishops and priests and thus of the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.
-‐ whereas before the Reformation - such acts of hypocrisy are deemed as weakness in giving in to
sexual desire - men reporting of their failing consciences and guilt in such acts as masturbation and
whoring, after the Reformation, such desires are set ﬁrmly within the natural order, and are
facilitated by a new system which accepts sex as a primary feature of masculinity and an acceptable
and very desirable feature of Godly life.
-‐ this was a change from the medieval period - families feared sex and thus marriage because it was
something that was condemned - many more families sent their children to monasteries and
nunneries so that they could avoid these perceived diﬃculties.
Reformers appeared to remove aspects of guilt relating to married life by changing the religious
paradigm from one of celibacy to one of marriage.
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