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Women And Their Position Within Religion Before 1700

1453 words - 6 pages

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? Her religion was not only exploited by the Sultan's mother, it was also desecrated by the woman and her cohorts. This is just one way religion was used against a woman in marriage.Another aspect women had to deal with in relation to marriage was the lack of union for nuns and other devote-religious types. Catherine of Siena was a famed mystic. She was a nun, and was particularly pious. Not only was she not allowed to marry men, she was, in essence, "married to God." Because of this, she was particularly against wedding feasts. "They are costly, yet we gain nothing from them, and the more we stuff ourselves at them, the more empty we become . . ." How can a woman see wedding ceremonies in this way? Today, young girls dream of the day they will marry. They long for big receptions and fancy dresses. As a nun, Catherine of Siena did not feel this way. Here, we see a pious, Christian woman look down upon the wedding practices of other Christian women. Therefore, not only was the value of marriage different from religion to religion, it even varied on the strength or extremity of religious beliefs.Margeret Paston admired her husband, referring to him as 'right reverend and worshipful husband." The religious convictions of men often dictated those of their women. Margeret...

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