Marriage Contracts, Liturgies, and Properties in Reformation Geneva
“Marriage Contracts, Liturgies, and Properties in Reformation Geneva,” in To Have and to Hold: Marrying and its Documentation in Western Christendom, 400-1600, Philip L. Reynolds and John Witte, Jr., eds. (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 453-488
40 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2005 Last revised: 2 Sep 2019
In John Calvin's Geneva, as much as today, marriage was a contract between a fit man and a fit woman of the age of consent. Marriage was much more than a contract. It was also a spiritual, social, natural, and economic unit that could involve many other parties besides the couple. But marriage was never less than a contract. It could not be created unless both the man and the woman properly consented to and celebrated this union. This Article analyzes the new Geneva theology and law of marriage contracts and marital property contracts both as set out in statutes and formal treatises and implemented by the Genevan consistory. Notable are the Genevan authorities' deep concern for freedom and capacity of both parties to enter engagement and marriage contracts, the dramatic changes they introduced in the mandatory wedding liturgy, and the complex laws and customs concerning engagement gifts, dowers, and dowries that they adopted and adapted often under Calvin's direct influence.
Keywords: marriage, John Calvin, contract
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