© 2006

On the Purification of Women

Churching in Northern France, 1100–1500

  • Authors

Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Paula M. Rieder
    Pages 1-11
  3. Paula M. Rieder
    Pages 123-145
  4. Paula M. Rieder
    Pages 165-171
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 173-257

About this book


This book is a social history of the ritual and custom of churching, a liturgical rite of purification after childbirth performed on a woman's first visit to church after giving birth. The book describes the development of the rite from its original meaning as a response to blood pollution to its redefinition as a rite that honoured marriage.


France history marriage social history women

About the authors

PAULA RIEDER is Assistant Professor at University of Nebraska, USA.

Bibliographic information


"An important part of the success of Rieder's study is her emphasis on the possiblities for women to take a seemingly prescriptive ceremony and imbue it with their own meanings....Rieder successfully insists on the alternative meanings of churching." - Medieval Feminist Forum"Paula M. Rieder's learned, careful book examining the ritual reincorporation of postpartum mothers into the parishes of medieval France offers a useful corrective to the broad generalizations about churching, a topic that has become visible only recently.....Certainly, the book offers a useful model for the kind of painstaking research that is needed to fully understand the churching of women in medieval Europe." - The American Historical Review

"In her investigation of the rite of churching that dates to the early Middle Ages, Rieder sheds light on a custom that influenced medieval attitudes and values and reinforced the social order. The approach the author takes is interdisciplinary, consistent with the general thrust of the new series, and, therefore, the work is of interest to specialists in gender studies and to sociologists, as well as historians." - The European Legacy