The blessing of the wedding bedchamber in north-western Europe c. 950-c. 1200


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Van Houts, Elizabeth  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1037-8993
Abstract

In this paper I will address two specific problems. First, between c. 950 and c.1200 there seems to be a mismatch between liturgical manuscripts and narrative sources on the Christian blessing of the wedding bedchamber and bed, with the former recording the ritual but the latter scarcely mentioning it. The other problem concerns the question as to whether the ritual was expected to be taking place at home or in the church. In order to try to shed light on the development of the ritual, where it took place and how often, my paper is divided into four parts. My discussion of the evidence of liturgical manuscripts for the blessing of the wedding bedchamber and bed (i) will be followed by an analysis of the prayers in order to establish what it was about the wedding bedchamber and the bed that warranted their blessing (ii). Then follows an evaluation of the sparse evidence for the priest’s liturgical role at home weddings (iii). Finally, I bring the paper to its conclusion by linking the liturgical to historical and fictional evidence (iv), and argue that the ambiguity about where the ritual should take place allowed discretion for those involved in it and that the large majority of the laity may have been ignorant of it.

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Journal Title
Studies in Church History
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Journal ISSN
0424-2084
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Publisher
Cambridge University Press
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Some Leverhulme Trust funding