Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 13661
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Viscuso , Patrick.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Menstruation: A Problem in Late Byzantine Canon Law
  • Source: Byzantine Studies Conference. Abstracts of Papers 26, ( 2000): Pages 72 - 73.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Byzantium Canon Law Menstruation Ritual Purity
  • Geographic Area: Eastern Mediterranean
  • Century: General
  • Related Resources:
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: Religious regulations are often concerned with conditions governing participation in sacred rituals and actions. Much previous scholarship has addressed sacred rituals and menstruation, but has overlooked the rich sources of Byzantine legal texts. This study will deal with menstruation as a problem of ritual defilement in late Byzantine canon law. The canonical sources examined will encompass commentaries, legal synopses, reference handbooks, and ecclesiastical responses. Representative authors will include Theodore Balsamon, John Zonaras, Alexios Aristenos, Ioasaph of Ephesos, and Matthew Blastares. This study will present the framework of canonical legislation and opinion used in late Byzantine sources to deal with the problem of impurity and ritual defilement associated with menstruation. Among the topics covered, this study will systematically survey church laws and canonical views restricting women's participation in the Eucharist, ordination to major orders, and entrance into church buildings. The legal status and social implications of nocturnal emissions for men will be set in contrast. It will be argued that late Byzantine legal opinion, particularly canonical commentaries, distinguished two main types of ritual defilement, the first caused by a state of impurity resulting from the intention of the subject and the second through contact with an object or subject regarded as impure by nature. It will be shown that menstruating women were viewed as impure by nature as a result of the corruption of blood and Levitical influence when considered in relation to sacred space, public worship, and reception of sacred objects. These laws and views will be set into the context of the dialectic of the theological and social construction of women. The consequences resulting from the late Byzantine resolution of problems associated with women's impurity will be discussed. Conclusions will be reached regarding the social ordering of individuals and the establishment of hierarchical relationships. The implications of this study go far beyond the narrow scope of canon law itself to shed light on the broader understanding of sexuality, women, clergy, and views of the sacred in Byzantine society. [Reproduced by permission of the author.]
  • Author's Affiliation:
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 2000.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 01473387
  • Material/Technique :
  • Rights: