Nicola Pizzolato

An Ordinary Transgression. Adultery and Concubinage: from the Neighbourhood to the Court (Diocese of Monreale, 1590-1680)

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This article focuses on a number of cases of men and women prosecuted for adultery and concubinage by the ecclesiastical Court of the diocese of Monreale, in Sicily. Against the view that in the wake of the Council of Trent these forms of extramarital relations were the targets of a campaign of moralization, the Sicilian sources show the strong impact of neighbourhood dynamics on the decision of the Court to prosecute. Neighbours "judged" concubines and adulterous according to a different moral code than the one prescribed by the Catholic Church and used their own way to chastise, or to support, wrongdoers. For instance, spouses who entered in a relation with another man in order to acquire means of support for the family that the husband did not provide were not disapproved. By examining the motives that brought concubines and adulterous to Court we can explore the system of values of peasants and artisans of rural Sicily and the complex interaction between the community and the institutions. Rather than enforcing its strict view on the legitimate uses of sexuality the Bishop's Court appears to mediate among the conflicts that occurred in the community.

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