În şalvari şi cu işlic. Biserică, sexualitate, căsătorie şi divorţ în Ţara Românească a secolului al XVIII-lea

TitleÎn şalvari şi cu işlic. Biserică, sexualitate, căsătorie şi divorţ în Ţara Românească a secolului al XVIII-lea
Publication TypePublication review
AuthorsGolesteanu, Raluca
Author(s) of reviewed materialGhiţulescu, Constanţa

Title translated:
In Salwar, with Fur Cap. Church, Sexuality, Marriage and Divorce in Wallachia in the 18th Century

PublisherBucharest: Humanitas
ISSNISBN 973-50-0621-9
Review year


Full Text

This innovative contributions to the histoire de la mentalités depicts the institution of family in Wallachia in the 18th century. Based on qualitative interpretation of the papers issued by the ecclesiastical court under the jurisdiction of Mitropolie (the highest echelon in the Romanian Orthodox Church) in the years between 1739-1850 in cases of breaking the demands of the faith, the book tells the stories of men and women by reconstructing their actions, gestures, words, and deciphers their attitudes towards the "adventures of life": marriage, sex, adultery, divorce, widowhood. 1739 is not a serendipitous date, it is the moment when the petitions of the individuals seeking the clarification of their problems began to be recorded, whereas 1850 meant the definitive transfer of such matters from the religious authority to the secular one.

The very beginning of the eighteenth century witnesses the involvement of the Church in (what we conceive of as) the private life of the individual, as Antim Ivireanul the head of the religious authority at that time (1708-1716) decides that family falls within the competence of the Church and its priests. The first part of the book presents the Church as an institution to which its subjects turn when seeking justice in their private matters, hence the ecclesiastical mechanisms provide the background for the debate of the major events in the life of the individual. The ecclesiastical hierarchy and the interactions between the clerical ranks are described as well, since prior to being directed to the highest authority in Bucharest, the peasants of Wallachia first had to deal with local priests. Yet, the salient role of the Church rests in its official discourse by which it controls families and monitors society: disseminating moral values and canonical laws, the Church imposes its narrative with respect to marriage, divorce, the relations between husband and wife. Furthermore, the Church envisages education in terms of its discourse and sanctions the deviances from its official preachings.

The second and the third part of the study tackle the status of the couple in the society of the time, seen as an economic enterprise since pre-marital contract is a vital condition in establishing a family. The couple is the receptor of the Church`s official discourse, hence its attitude towards religious authority moves along observing, interpreting and transgressing the holy preachings on marriage and sex. In other words, studying the couple, one can see how the official discourse shaped the mentalities of the faithful and the relations between the individual via social group via power. The third part, dealing with marriage, describes the network of solidarities that the couple constructs between relatives and the collective in general, whereas the last part, concerned with divorce, defines the public sphere and the private one from this perspective. A case of divorce shows how the public mingles with the private, as a conflict between husband and wife happens under the eyes of the neighbours. Moreover, this divorce provides evidence that private life was defined differently from the way it is proposed nowadays: in Wallachia of the 18th century the things that supposed intimacy were not the ones whose exposure to public eyes could impair "the dignity of the individual" (crucial in our contemporary view), but the ones which contravened the preachings of the Church.

Though the author does not employ the anthropological approach, this study of microhistory lacks a crucial interpretive dimension. It would have been beneficial to enquire how the psychological make up of these men and women was challenged by (resisted or was changed by) the advance of modernity. More precisely, the author fails to tackle the following crucial, broad questions: to what extent ancient Byzantine laws and the Orthodox Church have shaped the profile of a society that began to be secularized around 1780, and to what extent is it legitimate to talk of a "Byzantine legacy" in Romanian modernity?