Justice in the Church: Legal Procedures and Conflict Resolution within Sacred Spaces (Italy, 16th–18th Centuries)


Cecilia Cristellon (Goethe University Frankfurt)




Goethe University Frankfurt (Campus Westend) and Zoom Meeting

During the early modern period, churches were the theatres of justice: inside them, trials and litigations took place, public abjurations and punishments were carried out, and conflicts were resolved. This paper aims to analyse the role played by sacred space in the exercise of ecclesiastical justice, but also in the resolution of conflicts that arose within communities that recognised the church as their very centre. Which parts of the proceedings were staged in the church, and why? What role did the sacred space play in the performance of the proceedings? Obtaining the truthfulness of a testimony? Ensuring the validity of a sentence, or the success of a reconciliation? Punishing the guilty party? Promoting knowledge of the rules? Maintaining the memory of the crime in order to facilitate its repression? In this analysis, the church emerges as a sphere of both publicity and secrecy as well as a space of trust and emotional management for legal purposes.

This presentation was part of the POLY Lecture Series on “Space and Religion II”, held in the winter term of 2023 and 2024. Click here for more information.

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