Women and their position within religion before 1700

Essay by emmy1515College, UndergraduateA, February 2003

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Two of the institutions most important in Medieval Europe were the church and the family. Women played a large role in the formation of both, and it is no surprise the two were often expected to go hand in hand. Women were expected to fall into a certain religious path - one of piety, virtue, and Christianity, and when that path was strayed from, many women were condemned, persecuted, or used.

Religious differences were common when Medieval Europe began to split into separate religious factions. Marriage was expected to be between members of one religion, and the sanctity of marriage was guaranteed if both members if the couple was religious. Marriages were sacred in much of medieval Europe, but religious differences not only affected who could marry who, but to what level there marriage would be recognized by those around them.

Constance of "The Man of Law's Tale" is a prime example of a religious pawn.

The syrian sultan, who wanted Constance's hand in marriage, became baptized Christian. He had to do this because, as the man of law said, ". . . it was vain to ask a Christian prince to entertain thoughts of alliance . . ." when one was not Christian himself. After his baptism Constance would have to marry him, for political and religious reasons. Her father was ecstatic to gain a portion of stock in Syrian land. The sultan's mother however, saw the religious folly that was to take place. She planned to pretend to be baptized, which, in her opinion, would default the marriage, "this Christian match . . . shall be undone." When the sultan was overthrown and all of those Christians around him were killed, Constance was sent back to her own Christian land. Was this move fair to Constance?...