On the Purification of Women: Churching in Northern France, 1100-1500 (Ebook, PDF)

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Honorable Mention for the SMFS First Book Prize! On the Purification of Women examines the medieval ritual of churching, a rite of purification after childbirth performed on a woman’s first visit to church after giving birth. The book describes the development of the rite from its original meaning as a response to blood pollution to its redefinition as a rite honoring marriage. This redefinition, accomplished within the heated context of twelfth-century Church reforms, promoted lay conformity with the Church’s understanding of marriage and allowed the Church to use the ritual as a disciplinary tool with important consequences for the lives of women and men in late medieval France.

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