Monthly Archives: January 2021

Death Threats and Adultery: The Words of Marital Conflict

By Isabel Harvey, 18/01/2021.

Protagonists: Virginio Gavelli, layman from Spoleto, and his wife Felice.

Sources: Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Congregazione dei Vescovi e Regolari, Positiones,  1605, Letter R-S. Spoleto, September 20th 1605. (See the sources here).

The case of the marital conflict between Galeazzo Garganello and Lucretia Pasi presented above is far from unique. It was abundantly documented by the archives of the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars for two reasons: first, because Lucretia Pasi was a noblewoman, inviting the Bishop to give considerable attention to her situation, and second, because Galeazzo Garganello categorically refused to pay the allocation his wife needed to live in the convent, and refused furthermore to return her dowry, which a divorce would have compelled. This refusal to lose the economic benefits acquired during the marriage led the man to fight his legal battle at several levels of ecclesiastical justice, from the Episcopal Court to the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars.

Numerous letters, usually written by bishops or their vicars and accompanying the pleas of women in distress, reported situations of marital conflict and asked Rome for permission to place the woman in a convent, at least temporarily. These letters presented the situation in a codified form, aiming to justify beyond any doubt the need for the Church’s intervention in the couple’s life and the need for a refuge for the woman in difficulty. The arguments in defense of these women were twofold: first, the husband’s adultery, which in itself was a valid reason for divorce, and second, the danger to the wife’s life if she remained with her husband. The bishops’ requests were always the same: to place the woman in a convent, where she or her husband would pay her living expenses for a limited period of time, until the dust settled and the couple would get back together.

An example is the letter sent to Rome by the vicar of Spoleto on 20 September, 1605 about the conflict between a certain Felice and her husband, Virginio Gavelli. The vicar began the letter by explaining that he asked, on behalf of Felice, “permission to withdraw to the Monastery of S. Giovanni, until she found an agreement with her said husband.”(1) He added that the nuns of the Convent of S. Giovanni would be happy to accept her, that they were used to accommodating such married women, and that they expected to receive alms from Felice at the time of her entry, in addition to a recurring allowance for food and other expenses. The convent’s solution for Felice seemed simple and already pre-planned, in response to a marital problem that the vicar explained bluntly.

Only six months after marrying Felice, Virginio Gavelli had “retreated himself from her company, to live in Rome for two years with a concubine.”(2) Only after being found by the Episcopal Court of Spoleto and being summoned to appear did he return to the Bishop’s territory. It was on Virginio’s return to Spoleto that Felice asked to enter a convent, “because between them there are such a dislike, that she swears, and protests that she doesn’t want, nor is able to go with her husband, for fear of some irreparable deeds, which she says she is sure will happen to her.”(3)

All the elements necessary for quick and unbureaucratic action by the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars are present in these cases: adultery and death threats, imminent danger for Felice, and a perfect solution, the convent, where the wife would be welcomed in exchange for a price that had already been negotiated. The churchman, vicar, or bishop then became the women’s advocate and their intermediary with Rome. 

(1) (licenza di poter ritirarsi nel Monasterio qui di S. Giovanni, sino che se sia accordata con detto suo Marito)

(2) (retirò dalla sua compagnia, habitante con una Concubina per spatio de due anni in Roma)

(3) (per il che tra loro ne sono nati disgusti tali, che ella giura, et protesta non volere, ne poter andare con esso Marito, per tema di qualche male irreparabile, che ella dice tener per sicuro, li sia per succedere)

Death Threats and Adultery: The Words of Marital Conflict. Sources

By Isabel Harvey, 18/01/2021.

Archivio Apostolico Vaticano, Congregazione dei Vescovi e Regolari, Positiones,  1605, Letter R-S. Spoleto, September 20th 1605.

Letter from the Vicar of Spoleto to the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars

Per parte di D. Felice … di questa Città, mi à stata presentata una lettera di V.S. Ill.ma delli 5 del corrente, nella quale mi viene ordinato, che io m’informi della qualità della persona di essa Felice, et della occasione de dispareri, che essa hà esposto alla sacra Congregatione haver con Virginio Gavelli suo marito, per li quali ha supplicato per ottener licenza di poter ritirarsi nel Monasterio qui di S. Giovanni, sino che se sia accordata con detto suo Marito, et poi, che io m’informi se il Monastero sudetto sua solito tener simil donne maritate; se le Monache si accontentano di accettarla, et che donativo pensa di fare nell’ingresso oltre l’alimenti. In essecutione della quale lettera, e cosò anche instato da essa Felice, la quale in questa Città è gentil donna honorata, et per tal tenuta; et reputata; Ho trovato che l’occasione de disparere, quali se ritrovano tra questi Marito, et Moglie procede perche il Marito, dopo sei Mesi, che hebbe presa la supplicante per moglie, per quanto essa asserisce, se retirò dalla sua compagnia, habitante con una Concubina per spatio de due anni in Roma essendosi retirato per paura della Corte ecclesiastica di Spoleto, per il che tra loro ne sono nati disgusti tali, che ella giura, et protesta non volere, ne poter andare con esso Marito, per tema di qualche male irreparabile, che ella dice tener per sicuro, li sia per succedere. Dal Monastero poi, dopo havere havuto fede, come tutte le Monache si contentano di accettarla, mi vien anche fatto fede in esso essere stato solito starceve delle altre simili Donne maritate per cause tale, dicendomi anche il nome et cognome di alcune che ci sono state. Quanto al donativi mi hà risposto essa Felice voler dare cento scudi, overo non havendo alle mano al tempo dell’ingresso, ne farà obligo di pagarli in termine di poco tempo ritrovandosi ella assai commoda di facoltà ch’è quanto posso scrivere intorno a questo negotio à V.S. Ill.ma alla quale facendo humilissima riverenza prego dal Signore felice successo ad ogni suo santo …. Di Spoleto a 20 di settembre 1605. 

Vicario Generale

Regula Bleuler: Sources

By Adrina Schulz, 5/1/2021.

Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich (STaZH) A.27.141, Case of Regula Bleuler.

(working transcription, there may be errors; thanks to Nicole Zellweger for her help with the transcription)

i.

Wie sie heiße?

Regula Bleuwler.

2.

Wo her?

Aus der Eyerbracht.

3.

Wie alt?

Etwann 25. jährig.

4.

Warum hier im Öetenbach im Verhaftt?

Es werde leider, Gott erbarm, Euch meiner gnädigen Herren wol bekannt seyn.

5.

Sie solle dermahlen einen richtigen Bescheid geben, warum sie eigentlich zugegen?

Sie habe einen kerli verschinen Frytag nach mittag ungefahr um i. uhren zu Seebach angetroffen, der mit Ihro nacher Eglisau gegangen; hernach aber außert Eglisauw hinder einer Scheür bey den arm gezehrt und gsagt, müß ihme zwillen werden und es ihro thun; und disem nach, schon sie sich deßen bestermußen gwehrt, bey ernannter Scheür am boden beschlafen.

6.

Ob sie aber zu vor mit selbigem nicht auch den einkehr gemacht, und trincken geholffen?

Ja, zu Bülach in einem Schenckhaus, sammt noch einem andern ihro unbekanten weibsbild.

7.

Wer aber diser manns Persohn eigentlich seye?

Habe geheißen sey ein Eglisauwer und verehlichet, jedoch selbigen zu vor niemahlen gesehen noch gekennt.

24.

Von wem sie den beyligenden brief her habe?

Von einen geistlichen Herren zu Rheinauw, zu dem sie 12. wochen lang gegangen, und bey ihme gelehrt habe.

was denn?

die  X. Gebott, und den Rosen-kranz

25.

Wer sie aber veranlaset, dahin zu gehen?

Niemand, sonder sey aus sich selbsten dahin gekehret.

26.

Ob sie ihmme auch gsagt, woher sie eigentlich seyn möchte?

Ja

27.

Ob aber auch, worum sie hinweg?

Ja, habe gesagt, sey deß Lands verwisen worden.

28

Was sie sonsten zu Rheinauw weiters thun müßen nachdem sie beschriben mäßen daselbst unterrichtet worden[?]

Sie habe zum Althar zum Mutter Gottes-bild knien müßen. Darbey sey diser pfaff, 1. männ und eine Frauw sammt dem Mesmer gewesen; und harauf ihre finger auf ein buch legen, jedoch kein wort reden müßen.

29.

Wie lang es sieth dem, daß diß alles beschehen?

Ungefahr ein 1/2 Jahr.

30.

Ob ihro aber auch etwas auß dem Closter gegeben worden?

Ein juppen, und 5 R. an gelt.

A Chaplain in the Engelthal Sister-Book

By Emma Gabe, 04/01/2021

Ez saz ein reicher pfaff ze Vilseck, der hiez Ulschalk, der waz manig jar ein grozer offener sunder gewest, und da er ir heiligez leben vernam, da bat er sie, daz sie in enpfingen, er wolt ir caplan sein und wolt in mit allen trewen vor sein. Der wart ein so heiliger man, daz man leider von im sang.

Karl Schröder, Der Nonne von Engelthal, 3.

The Engelthal sister-book––a hagiographical text written in the first half of the fourteenth century containing the religious experiences of nuns from that community––tells about the nuns’ chaplain, Ulschalk. The writer, an anonymous nun, notes that Ulschalk was a great sinner for many years before reforming, asking to become the community’s chaplain, and becoming “such a holy man that songs were written about him” (Schröder, 3). But why was he called a “great sinner”? Does this label result from particular deeds and actions performed by Ulschalk while he lived a worldly life, or was it simply a way of accounting for his late conversion to the religious life? This description of Ulschalk’s previous life is notably different from the lives of the nuns, many of whom appear to have always led virtuous lives––at least according to the sister-book’s author(s). This raises the question: while Ulschalk reformed and became a holy man, would the same type of reformation be possible for a woman who had been a great sinner in the world?

Ulschalk’s religious conversion occurred after he had a family, because his daughter was later elected prioress. This suggests that Ulschalk’s family was also powerful and influential outside the monastery. Indeed, family networks and influence permeated medieval cloister walls and shaped internal politics. Yet his daughter took the opposite approach to power, which reveals gendered approaches to power: where Ulschalk wished and asked to be the nuns’ chaplain, his daughter rejected the powerful position of prioress with a typical modesty topos by claiming she would rather be sick than prioress, a wish that God kindly granted (Schröder, 38–39).

Karl Schröder, ed. Der Nonne von Engelthal. Büchlein von der Genaden Uberlast. Tübingen: Laupp, 1871.