Theses Doctoral

Law, Liturgy, and Sacred Space in Medieval Catalonia and Southern France, 800-1100

Matthews, Adam Christopher

With the collapse of the Visigothic kingdom, the judges of Catalonia and southern France worked to keep the region’s traditional judicial system operable. Drawing on records of judicial proceedings and church dedications from the ninth century to the end of the eleventh, this dissertation explores how judges devised a liturgically-influenced court strategy to invigorate rulings. They transformed churches into courtrooms. In these spaces, changed by merit of the consecration rite, community awe for the power infused within sacred space could be utilized to achieve consensus around the legitimacy of dispute outcomes.

At the height of a tribunal, judges brought litigants and witnesses to altars, believed to be thresholds of Heaven, and compelled them to authenticate their testimony before God and his saints. Thus, officials supplemented human means of enforcement with the supernatural powers permeating sanctuaries. This strategy constitutes a hybridization of codified law and the belief in churches as real sacred spaces, a conception that emerged from the Carolingian liturgical reforms of the ninth century. In practice, it provided courts with a means to enact the mandates from the Visigothic Code and to foster stability. The result was a flexible synthesis of law, liturgy, and sacred space that was in many cases capable of harnessing spiritual and community pressure in legal proceedings.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Kosto, Adam J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 30, 2021