Cover: Crime and Forgiveness: Christianizing Execution in Medieval Europe, from Harvard University PressCover: Crime and Forgiveness in HARDCOVER

Crime and Forgiveness

Christianizing Execution in Medieval Europe

Not yet available

Product Details

HARDCOVER

$39.95 • £28.95 • €36.00

ISBN 9780674659841

Publication Date: 05/05/2020

Text

624 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

8 photos, 18 color photos

Belknap Press

World

A provocative analysis of how Christianity helped legitimize the death penalty in early modern Europe, then throughout the Christian world, by turning execution into a great cathartic public ritual and the condemned into a Christ-like figure who accepts death to save humanity.

The public execution of criminals has been a common practice ever since ancient times. In this wide-ranging investigation of the death penalty in Europe from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, noted Italian historian Adriano Prosperi identifies a crucial period when legal concepts of vengeance and justice merged with Christian beliefs in repentance and forgiveness.

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 and were for centuries responsible for burying the dead. Under the brotherhoods’ influence, the ritual of public execution became Christianized, and the doomed person became a symbol of the fallen human condition. 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, the criminal in turn publicly forgave the executioner, and the death provided a moral lesson to the community.

Over time, as the practice of Christian comfort spread across Europe, it offered political authorities an opportunity to legitimize the death penalty and encode into law the right to kill and exact vengeance. But the contradictions created by Christianity’s central role in executions did not dissipate, and squaring the emotions and values surrounding state-sanctioned executions was not simple, then or now.

Recent News

From Our Blog

Photo of Lucia Jacobs as a child sitting next to Oaky

How to Plant a Forest

For this week’s University Press Week Blog Tour, Lucia Jacobs offers us a glimpse of environmental stewardship as seen through the activities of the ubiquitous squirrel, a species native to the Americas, Africa, and Eurasia from the Eocene Epoch onward. Lucia Jacobs is Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the

‘manifold glories of classical Greek and Latin’

The digital Loeb Classical Library (loebclassics.com) extends the founding mission of James Loeb with an interconnected, fully searchable, perpetually growing virtual library of all that is important in Greek and Latin literature.