Priests' Wives and Concubines In the Medieval West

Thu October 27th 2022, 8:30am - Fri October 28th 2022, 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Organized by the Department of History with generous funding from France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. Cosponsored by Department of Religious Studies, Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Language, and the Europe Center.
Cecil H. Green Library, Hohbach Hall
557 Escondido Mall Stanford, CA
Admission Information


This conference builds on a multi-year project that explores the 11th century clerical celibacy rules for both priests and women, and particularly, for priests’ wives. Speakers examine the celibacy movement from a gendered standpoint, investigating the effects on medieval communities and families of the movement to eliminate priests’ wives. More broadly, we excavate a history of clerical wives and concubines, whose erasure was fundamental to the emergence of the Latin Church as a single-sex hierarchy during the central Middle Ages. More information about the project can be found here


Conference Program

Thursday, October 27, 2022

8:30-9:15 am: Coffee

9:20 am: Greeting and Introduction

9:30 -11:00 am: 

  • Steffen Patzold (Universität Tübingen) and Bastiaan Waagmeester (Universität Tübingen): Contexts for the Defense of Clerical Marriage in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Coffee break

11:30 am -1:00 pm:  

  • Anne Massoni (Université de Limoges): L’entourage féminin des chanoines de la collégiale Saint-Seurin de Bordeaux au XIIe siècle : épouses et veuves dans la vie communautaire séculière
  • Alice Hicklin (University of Sheffield): Ego Agna, mater tua: Priests' wives and Female Relatives as Protagonists in Frankish and Spanish Charters, c. 900-1100

1:00 -2:30 pm: Lunch (Citrus Courtyard)

2:30 - 4:00 pm: 

  • Maureen Miller (University of California- Berkeley): Priest’s Wives, their Children, and the Bishop’s Notaries: The Thirteenth-century Visitation Records of Città di Castello
  • Emilie Kurdziel (Université de Poitiers): Priests’ and Bishops’ Wives in Tuscany (10-12th): An Ambiguous Recognition



  • Charles Mériaux (Université de Lille): Ecclesia, quae sponsa vel uxor eius dicitur: Priests, Women and Churches in the early medieval West
  • Charles West (University of Sheffield): “Since a priest or deacon cannot have a lawful wife”: Rather of Verona’s struggle against clerical families in late tenth-century northern Italy.

Friday, October 28, 2022

8:30 - 9:00 am: Coffee

9:00-10:30 am: 

  • Tovi Bibring (Bar-Ilan University): Riding the Black Mare, Casting Away a Hungry Rat: The Priest’s Concubine in Medieval Folklore
  • Abel Lorenzo-Rodriguez (University of Santiago de Compostela): Put the Blame on Her? Wives, Lovers, Daughters, and Sisters Facing Priest's Celibacy (NW Iberia, 800-1200)


11:00-12:30 pm: 

  • Samuel Sutherland (Stephen F. Austin State University): Priests, Concubines, and Slaves in Central-Medieval Bavaria
  • Fiona Griffiths (Stanford University): Making Men “Worthy of the Priesthood”: Clerical Wives and Ordained Husbands

12:30-2:00 pm: Lunch (Citrus Courtyard)

2:00-4:15 pm: 

  • Margot Laprade (Université Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne): Cleric's wives in Britanny: Exceptions or Models for Clerical Couples in France ? (late 10th-early 11th century)
  • Sara McDougall (John Jay College of Criminal Justice): The Bishop’s Wife
  • Hazel Freestone (Independent Scholar): Describing Priests' Wives in Normandy and England, 1050-1150


4:45 pm: Wrap up and conference conclusions