Daily Life in the Households and Archives of Ferrara in the Fifteenth Century




Cossar, Roisin

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Until recently, histories of the Christian church in the Middle Ages rarely examined the domestic worlds of those who lived and worked within the church. Now, a growing group of scholars is exploring the households of Christian clergy across Western Europe. Their discoveries are changing our understanding of the history of the church and the family in the medieval period. Several scholars have noted that the sexual and intimate relationships of supposedly celibate clerics were documented in complicated ways: sometimes in records that were hostile to those relationships and sometimes in records that deliberately obscured them. In this presentation, I use a case study from the Italian city of Ferrara to examine how critical attention to written sources enhances our understanding of daily life in clerical households. My source is a register created by the notary Pietro Lardi at the behest of the Dominican inquisitor Fra Bartolomeo after the local lord, Niccolò III d’Este, forced the expulsion of dozens of women from clerics’ residences in that city and diocese in 1421.