Divorce in the Szék district during the mid-seventeenth century

By focusing on divorce in seventeenth-century Transylvania, more specifically in the Szék (Sic) Seniorate, this article explores a series of social and confessional issues specific to that period. The study aims to reconstruct the institutional and technical frame of divorce in the seventeenth-century Transylvanian Calvinist milieu and to place this phenomenon in the broader context of international Protestantism. The two goals are pursued in parallel throughout this article. The article also focuses on moral disciplining and issues related to ecclesiastical autonomy as, in Transylvania divorce was granted only by the religious forum. Based on the Protocollum Matricula Seciensis, this analysis of divorce-cases allows an exploration of social attitudes towards marital breakdown. The position of the church towards this issue is compared to the attitude of the political authority towards the question of disciplining in general, or to divorce in particular. The article deals with issues of agency, duration of divorce suits - in close connection with the motive for which the plaintiff intended the suit or influenced by the regulations settled by the church, and stipulated in the synodical decisions and the location of proceedings. On the other hand, by analyzing the arguments presented by the petitioners when they entered the suit, the essay explores social attitudes to divorce in terms of the acceptable reasons for this action, such as adultery, impotence, frigidity or other causes that impeded the consummation of marriage, willful desertion, real or attempted murder, bigamy, theft, differences in social status, forced marriage, lack of personal hygiene and confessional difference. Finally, the essay attempts to assess the social distribution of divorce cases. 


Keywords: Transylvania, divorce, Calvinism, moral discipline.