Was There ‘Christian Marriage’ in the Middle Ages?

Dr. Ruth Mazo Karras

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 7 p.m. | Haub Executive Center, McShain Hall

The issue of who gets to decide what constitutes marriage in American society is under much discussion today, in media headlines as well as among academicians. Many voices invoke the “Judeo-Christian tradition” to argue for a Bible-based understanding of marriage. People tend to think of the Middle Ages as a time of traditional religion; so is that when Christian marriage developed, out of the Roman and Jewish traditions? This lecture argues that calling medieval marriage “Christian” is problematic, and raises the further question of whether an institution is Christian because it happens among Christians in the same way that something is Jewish because it happens among Jews.

Ruth Mazo Karras is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is also a co-editor of the journal Gender & History. Past President of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians (2005-08), she is the author of four books and numerous articles on various aspects of medieval social and cultural history, gender, and sexuality. Her current research concerns the formation of quasi-marital unions in medieval Western Europe.