Quia Pollutae et Peccatrices Erant: Churching as Purification

  • Paula M. Rieder
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In his treatise on the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the twelfth-century theologian Hugh of Saint-Victor defended the idea that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ by asserting that she conceived not through human seed but through the Holy Spirit. Further, he argued that because she conceived without lust, she was able to give birth without pain and suffering. Women who conceived by the seed of their husbands, however, had a different experience. For them, Hugh wrote:

Rightly, indeed, is integrity corrupted in giving birth because virginity is polluted in conception. It was just that [a woman] could not give birth without pain because the conception was not without lust. Bearing a child would not bring suffering in any way if conception had not felt like lewd passion. For if the guilt of illicit delight did not pollute [a woman] conceiving a child, the punishment of pain would not torture her in giving birth.1


Sexual Intercourse Sexual Desire Postpartal Bleeding Sexual Pleasure Thirteenth Century 
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© Paula M. Rieder 2006

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  • Paula M. Rieder

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