Crime and Forgiveness: Christianizing Execution in Medieval Europe

Christianizing Execution in Medieval Europe
Harvard University Press
  • erscheint ca. am 5. November 2018
  • Buch
  • |
  • Hardcover
  • |
  • 560 Seiten
978-0-674-65984-1 (ISBN)
Public execution of criminals has been practiced in the West since ancient times. In this wide-ranging investigation of the death penalty in Europe from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, Adriano Prosperi recreates a crucial period when legal concepts of vengeance and justice merged with Christian beliefs in repentance and forgiveness, and shows that squaring the emotions and values surrounding state-sanctioned executions was not simple, then or now.

Crime and Forgiveness begins with late antiquity but comes into sharp focus in fourteenth-century Italy, with the work of the Confraternities of Mercy, which offered Christian comfort to the condemned. Under the brotherhoods' influence, the ritual of public execution became Christianized, and the doomed person became a symbol of the fallen human condition. But because the time of death was known, this "ideal" sinner could be comforted and prepared for the next life through confession and repentance. In return, the community bearing witness to the execution offered forgiveness and a Christian burial. No longer facing eternal condemnation but resurrection through Christ, the criminal in turn publicly forgave his own executioner.

Over time as the practice of Christian comfort spread across Europe, it offered political authorities an opportunity to legitimize the death penalty through law. But the contradictions created by Christianity's central role in executions did not dissipate.
  • Englisch
  • Cambridge, Mass
  • |
  • USA
  • geheftet
  • |
  • Gewebe-Einband
978-0-674-65984-1 (9780674659841)
0674659848 (0674659848)
Adriano Prosperi is Emeritus Professor of Modern History at Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa.

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