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Women and Consistorial Discipline: The Case of Courthézon in the Early Seventeenth Century

  • Judith P. Meyer


This study seeks to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of both the Reformed church consistory and women's experience of the Reformation by examining the interactions between the Reformed church consistory and women in the small French town of Courthézon. For the period from 1617 to 1631, it analyzes how the consistory treated women in its exercise of discipline and how women in turn treated the consistory. It examines in-depth a number of cases of women summoned by the consistory for various offenses, including quarreling, dancing, marital and sexual relations, and absence from services. The interactions were complex and suggest that both male patriarchy and female agency were at work. Yet the consistory also treated the two sexes similarly in certain instances. Women demonstrated a remarkable capacity to ignore, negotiate with, and on occasion defy the consistory. One extraordinary woman rejected the consistory's authority altogether when pressed to reconcile. The cases also indicate that the process of consistorial discipline aided women by providing opportunities for them to represent and act for themselves. The consistory was guided by a desire to keep its minority community intact: it showed remarkable patience, forbearance, and a willingness to compromise in its efforts, and it consequently was usually successful.

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1 Recent research on consistory records has resulted in a broader understanding of the consistory's functions, which went well beyond that of a simple morals court. On the organization and functions of French consistories, together with an inventory of extant consistory records in France, see Mentzer, Raymond A., Les Registres des Consistoires des Églises Réformées de France—XVIIe–XVIIe Siècles: Un Inventaire (Geneva: Librairie Droz S. A., 2014). See also Mentzer, Raymond A., ed., Sin and the Calvinists: Morals Control and the Consistory in the Reformed Tradition (Kirksville: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1994); Kingdon, Robert M., Adultery and Divorce in Calvin's Geneva (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995); Watt, Jeffrey R., “Calvinism, Childhood, and Education: The Evidence from the Genevan Consistory,” Sixteenth Century Journal 33, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 439456; and Spierling, Karen E., “Making Use of God's Remedies: Negotiating the Material Care of Children in Reformation Geneva,” Sixteenth Century Journal 36, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 785807. For more on the French Reformed system of discipline, see Raymond A. Mentzer, “Marking the Taboo: Excommunication in the French Reformed Churches,” in Mentzer, Sin and the Calvinists, 98, 102; and Mentzer, Raymond A., “Communities of Worship and the Reformed Churches of France,” in Defining Community In Early Modern Europe, ed. Halvorson, Michael J. and Spierling, Karen E. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 36. For information on Reformed discipline in Scotland, see Graham, Michael F., The Uses of Reform: ‘Godly Discipline’ and Popular Behavior in Scotland and Beyond, 1560–1610 (Leiden: Brill, 1996); and Todd, Margo, The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002). For the Dutch Republic, see Pollmann, Judith, “Off the Record: Problems in the Quantification of Calvinist Church Discipline,” Sixteenth Century Journal 33, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 423438.

2 Raymond Mentzer has argued persuasively in a number of articles that the Reformed identity was essentially communal. He argues that in the Reformed faith, the absence of many traditional, public participatory rites, and forms for “cementing collective identity” meant that the corporate practices, rituals, and sacraments that the Reformed tradition did have assumed greater importance and were crucial in creating a sense of community. Mentzer, Raymond A., “Notions of Sin and Penitence within the French Reformed Community,” in Penitence in the Age of Reformation, ed. Lualdi, Katherine Jackson and Thayer, Anne T. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), 99. He identifies the sermon service as another central element, but the most important ritual for creating and defining Reformed identity and membership was the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist. Mentzer, “Communities of Worship,” 25–26, 41.

3 The Discipline refers to a document known formally as The Ecclesiastical Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France. It was adopted by the French Reformed churches at their first national synod in 1559 and later modified. Sunshine, Glenn S., Reforming French Protestantism: The Development of Huguenot Ecclesiastical Institutions, 1557–1572 (Kirksville: Truman State University Press, 2003), 30. It gave the consistory guidelines on how and when to reprimand parishioners for moral infractions: for example, the elders were not to report moral faults “without great reasons.” The goal was the reconciliation of the errant member, not punishment for punishment's sake. Méjan, François, Discipline de l’Église Réformée de France annotée et précédée d'une introduction historique (Paris: Editions ‘Je Sers,’ 1947), 231.

4 Graham, Uses of Reform, 341.

5 Gregory Hanlon pointed out that the considerable confessional exogamy found in his study of a small town in southwestern France in the seventeenth century was partly due to the lack of geographic mobility among its population. Hanlon, Gregory, Confession and Community in Seventeenth-Century France: Catholic and Protestant Coexistence in Aquitaine (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993), 110111.

6 See, for example, Labrousse, Elisabeth, “Une foi, une loi, un roi?” Essai sur la Révocation de l’Édit de Nantes (Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1985), 80; and Bezzina, Edwin, “The Consistory of Loudun, 1589–1602: Seeking an Equilibrium Between Utility, Compassion, and Social Discipline in Uncertain Times,” in Dire l'interdit: The Vocabulary of Censure and Exclusion in the Early Modern Reformed Tradition, ed. Mentzer, Raymond A., Moreil, Françoise, and Chareyre, Philippe (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 265.

7 For discussions of recent research on the question of women and the Reformation's impact on them, see, for example, Mentzer, Raymond A., “La Place et le rôle des femmes dans les Églises réformées,” Archives de Sciences sociales des Religions, 46e Année, N. 113 (Jan.–Mar., 2001), 120122; and Eurich, Amanda, “Women in the Huguenot Community,” in Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition: A Companion to the Huguenots, ed. Mentzer, Raymond A. (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 118149.

8 On the Reformation's positive impact on women, see, for example, Douglass, Jane Dempsey, “Women and the Continental Reformation,” in Religion and Sexism: Image of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, ed. Ruether, Rosemary Radford (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1974), 292318; Roelker, Nancy Lyman, “The Role of Noblewomen in the French Reformation,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 63 (1972): 168195; and Davis, Natalie Zemon, “City Women and Religious Change,” in Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975), 6595. On the Reformation's negative impact on women, see, for example, Roper, Lyndal, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); and Roper, Lyndal, Oedipus and the Devil: Witchcraft, Sexuality and Religion, 1500–1700 (London: Routledge, 1994).

9 Roper, Holy Household, 2–4.

10 See Rapley, Elizabeth, The Dévotes: Women and Church in Seventeenth-Century France (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990). More recent studies on the Catholic Reformation have continued to emphasize women's active agency. For example, in a recent collection of essays comparing institutions of religious discipline in the early modern world—Reformed consistories and Catholic Inquisitions—Allyson Poska argued on the Catholic side that women were not necessarily victims of a patriarchal religious culture. She said that women's testimonies, given when faced with inquisitors, indicated that women understood the gender expectations of their inquisitors and strategically used those female stereotypes to their advantage. In discussing women's mystical and other unconventional religious activity, she also maintained that women were “primary actors in the Catholic Reformation and the evolution of Catholic Reformation spirituality.” Poska, Allyson M., “Gender on Trial: Attitudes toward Femininity and Masculinity,” with Watt, Jeffrey, in Judging Faith, Punishing Sin: Inquisitions and Consistories in the Early Modern World, ed. H., Charles Parker and Gretchen Starr-LeBeau (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 242243.

11 See Mentzer, “Notions of Sin,” 88; Murdock, Graeme, “The Elders’ Gaze: Women and Consistorial Discipline in Late Sixteenth-Century France,” in John Calvin, Myth and Reality: Images and Impact of Geneva's Reformer, ed. Burnett, Amy Nelson (Grand Rapids, 2010), 6990; and Watt, Jeffrey R., “Women and the Consistory in Calvin's Geneva,” Sixteenth Century Journal 24, no. 2 (Summer 1993): 429439.

12 Françoise Moreil, “Chercher consolation: L'exercice de censure dans les consistoires méridionaux,” in Dire l'interdit, 283–308.

13 Suzannah Lipscomb, “Refractory Women: The Limits of Power in the French Reformed Church,” Dire l'interdit,” 13–28. For more on women's use of gossip and its importance, see Lipscomb, Suzannah, “Crossing Boundaries: Women's Gossip, Insults and Violence in Sixteenth-Century France,” French History 25, no. 4 (2011): 408426.

14 Suzannah Lipscomb, The Voices of NÎmes: Women, Sex, and Marriage in Reformation Languedoc (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming), 318–320. I am very grateful to Dr. Lipscomb who graciously allowed me access to her monograph in advance of its publication. Her study, which concentrates on the everyday lives of poor and middling urban women, is based on more than 1200 cases brought before the Reformed consistories of Languedoc, a Protestant stronghold in southern France, between 1561–1615 and focuses on the role of gender in the Reformation and how it needs to be reimagined.

15 Venard, Marc, L’Église d'Avignon au XVIe siècle, 5 vols. (Lille: Service de reproductions des thèses, Université de Lille III, 1980), 3:1288; Moreil, Françoise, “Le Consistoire de Courthézon au XVIIe siècle,” Mémoires de l'Académie de Vaucluse, series 8, vol. 7 (1998): 69. According to several sources, the Reformed community formed at Courthézon in the sixteenth century was made up largely of notables, and in fact Protestants were dominant among Courthézon notables generally. There is also evidence that some of the noble Protestant families, like the de Beauchastel and the d'Urre, came to Courthézon from France only at the time of the Reformation, probably because of their faith. Leemans, W. F., La Principauté d'Orange de 1470 à 1580: Une société en mutation, 2 vols. (Hilversum, The Netherlands: Verloren, 1986), 1:461–463; and Venard, L’Église d'Avignon, 3:1292.

16 Arnaud, E., Histoire des Protestants de Dauphiné aux XVIe, XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, 3 vols. (Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1970, 1875–1876), 2:212, 293, 324.

17 Courthézon (La Ville: Maury Imprimeur, 1991), 52; and Venard, L’Église d'Avignon, 1:69–70.

18 Venard, L’Église d'Avignon, 3:69–70; Leemans, La Principauté d'Orange, 1:25–30. For more details about this history, see Meyer, Judith P., “On the Front Lines of Coexistence: Courthézon's Consistory in the Early Seventeenth Century,” Sixteenth Century Journal 43, no. 4 (Winter 2012), 1041.

19 These records are located in the Archives Communales de Courthézon (hereafter ACC) in GG 16–18. The first volume, Livre des conclusions et déliberations de l’église réformée, 1617–1631, is found in GG 16 (hereafter GG 16). Consistory records are the most substantial extant records for Courthézon, along with both Protestant and Catholic baptismal, marriage, and burial registers.

20 Cornut, Sylvain, “Le Protestantisme dans la Principauté d'Orange au XVIIe siècle, l'exemple de Courthézon,” Mémoires de l'Académie de Vaucluse, series 9, vol. 4 (2006): 119120. Philippe Chareyre, “‘The Great Difficulties One Must Bear to Follow Jesus Christ’: Morality at Sixteenth-Century Nîmes,” in Sin and the Calvinists, 64–65.

21 See, for example, Graham, The Uses of Reform; Mentzer, Raymond J. Jr., “Disciplina nervus ecclesiae: The Calvinist Reform of Morals in Nimes,” Sixteenth Century Journal 28, no. 1 (Spring 1987): 89115; Chareyre, “‘The Great Difficulties One Must Bear,” 63–96; Estèbe, J. and Vogler, B., “La Genèse d'une société protestante: étude comparée de quelques registres consistoriaux languedociens et palatins vers 1600,” Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 31e Année, N. 2 (Mar.–Apr. 1976): 362388; and Parker, Geoffrey, “The ‘Kirk by law established’ and the origins of the taming of Scotland: St. Andrews, 1566–1600,” in Perspectives in Scottish Social History, ed., Leneman, L. (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1988), 132.

22 Pollmann, “Off the Record,” 423-38. Margo Todd has also discussed the problems with quantification of Scottish consistory records in Todd, The Culture of Protestantism, 18–19.

23 See, for example, Todd, The Culture of Protestantism; and Mentzer, Raymond A., “Morals and Moral Regulations in Protestant France,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 31/1 (2000): 120.

24 Evidence for this comes from lists of men and women who were received to communion in Courthézon in 1592: 55 men to 94 women. ACC, GG 15, Registres protestants (hereafter GG 15), fols. 32r–37v.

25 For example, in Nîmes, in a statistical analysis of thousands of consistory cases between 1561–1614, the distribution of cases which came before the consistory showed that conflicts and quarrels made up the greatest percentage of cases by far—25%. Benedict, Philip, Christ's Churches Purely Reformed: A Social History of Calvinism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 471. See also Mentzer, “Notions of Sin,” 89–90.

26 ACC, GG 16, fol. 118v.

27 National stipulations stated that offenders could be deemed disobedient and therefore suspended from communion after ignoring three summons by the consistory. Mentzer, “Communities of Worship,” 37. But in many places, including Courthézon, consistories showed far more patience.

28 ACC, GG 16, fols. 7v, 8v, and 14r.

29 Ibid., fols. 34r–v.

30 Ibid., fols. 75v–76r. In one entry the fair is identified as the fair of St. Laurens.

31 Ibid., fol. 7r. While the record often says “sacraments” or “holy sacraments,” as in this case, generally the consistory was referring to the Lord's Supper, or communion, not baptism, which was, of course, the other sacrament recognized by Reformed Protestants.

32 Ibid., fols. 34r–v.

33 Ibid., fols. 46r–v, 48v.

34 Ibid., fols. 56v–57r. The girls who promised this were identified as Damoiselles Françoise de Beauchastel; Marthe and Jeanne Durre, sisters; Marie and Isabeau Fabris; Madeleine Gelliberte; Bernardine Bussiere; and Anne Bernarde.

35 Dancing may have been particularly offensive to the minister at that time, Monsieur de La Croze. After he died in October 1623, there were no summonses for dancing during the pastorates of his successors through 1631, although in 1626, during the pastorate of Monsieur Jean Dragon, one woman and three men were censured by the consistory for having put on masks at Carnival. Ibid., fol. 131r. For more information about the pastors in Courthézon, see Meyer, Judith P., “Courthézon's Pastors and the Ministry in a Changing Environment, 1617–1640,” in Agir pour l’Église: Ministères et charges ecclésiastiques dans les églises réformées (XVIe–XIXe siècles), ed. Poton, Didier (Paris: Les Indes savantes, 2014): 111–130.

36 ACC, GG 16, fols. 73v–74r. The synod was held at Die.

37 Ibid., fols. 74r–v. For a fuller discussion of lesser and greater excommunication in French Reformed Churches, see Mentzer, “Marking the Taboo,” 102–110.

38 ACC, GG 16, fol. 74r.

39 Ibid., 75v–76r. Mademoiselle de Beauchastel was undoubtedly demoiselle Françoise de Cavaillon of Arlete in Provence of the house of Cabassela, who had married Pierre de Beauchastel, one of the most prominent nobles in the town in 1588. ACC, GG 15, fol. 3r. Although French women typically kept their own surnames after marriage, women of more elevated social standing generally adopted their husbands’ surnames but kept the honorific title of Mademoiselle or Demoiselle. Lipscomb, The Voices of Nîmes, 9. The two girls mentioned (in addition to her daughter, whose name was not given in this entry) were the young daughter of capitaine Gellibert, and the third eldest daughter of maître Fabry, who had been among those named and censured the previous fall on 4 September. (See above, n. 34.)

40 ACC, GG 16, fol. 78r. Mademoiselle de Beauchastel's daughter, Françon, was most likely her daughter Françoise, born in 1603. ACC, GG 15, 54v. She was also among the girls named and censured the previous fall on 4 September. All three girls had promised to make public reparation “on their knees” if they ever returned to the dances.

41 ACC, GG 16, fols. 78v–79r.

42 Ibid., fol. 79r. The prince of Portugal was Prince Emmanuel of Portugal, the Catholic nephew of Prince Maurice of Nassau, a Protestant, the prince of Nassau to whom the principality of Orange belonged. He installed the prince of Portugal as his governor in the principality, but before Maurice died in April 1625, he recalled the prince to Holland because of reports of his extravagance and misconduct. Grew, Marion E., The House of Orange (London: Methuen, 1947), 98, 101102.

43 ACC, GG 16, fols. 79r–v. The next day, on 4 September 1621, charge was given to one of the elders to summon the young daughter of capitaine Gellibert and the third daughter of Monsieur Fabry (previously summoned along with Mademoiselle de Beauchastel and Mademoiselle Françon) for having danced at the fair, but there is no record of any further proceeding or action. Ibid., fol. 81r. Presumably it was settled privately. Only one other summons for dancing occurred during the pastorate of Monsieur de La Croze: at a consistory meeting on 27 February 1622, Jeanne Reybaude was to be summoned for having been at the dances and for having “danced publicly.” Ibid., fol. 86 v. But there is no indication in the record that any further proceedings occurred.

44 For a discussion of private versus public reparation, see Mentzer, “Notions of Sin,” especially 91–96.

45 See n. 35 above.

46 Benedict, Christ's Churches, 477. For a fuller discussion of French Reformed attitudes toward dancing and the reasons for its ban among French Protestants, see Ruel, Marianne, Les chrétiens et la danse dans la France moderne: XVIe–XVIIIe siècle (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2006). She analyzes the reasons for its ban within the broader framework of early modern controversies about dancing and the motives, arguments, and consequences that drove the opposition movement to dancing. Dancing was not the only activity that French Protestants believed could lead to sexual immorality. Graeme Murdock points out that Calvin thought there was a close connection between female modesty and the prevention of sexual immorality. For that reason, Calvin wanted women to restrict visual access to their bodies; that was why he did not want men and women to sit together in church, bathe together, or dance. Women's immodest clothing and elaborate hairstyles were the object of concerted consistory activity in Nîmes during the 1570s and 1580s. Murdock, “The Elders’ Gaze,” 71–74.

47 Lipscomb, “Refractory Women,” 17; Lipscomb, The Voices of Nîmes, 58; and Mentzer, “La Place et le rôle des femmes,” 124–125.

48 Mentzer, “Marking the Taboo,” 107–108.

49 For references to their marriage and births of their children, see ACC, GG 15, fols. 1r, 7r, 19v, 21r, 22v, 25r, 41r, 83r. Both parents appeared in the list of church members who received communion in 1592. Ibid., fols. 32r–37v.

50 ACC, GG 16, fols. 1r–v, 4r.

51 Myroir was clearly identified as capitaine Picard in the record of his death, ACC, GG 15, 94v. His name also appears in consistory records elsewhere as Du Miroir, among the list of elders given in May 1620 and March 1620. ACC, GG 16, fols. 50v, 51v, 53r, 59r–v, 63v.

52 ACC, GG 15, fol. 71r. Records indicate that his previous wife had died at Avignon in December 1600 and been buried at Courthézon two days later. ACC, GG 14, Registres protestants (hereafter GG 14), fol. 130v. It is likely that Aultranne was the widow of sire Anthoine de Georges, who died on 25 January 1600. Ibid., fol. 130 v.

53 Leemans, La Principauté d'Orange, 1:63.

54 ACC, GG, 16, fol. 2r.

55 Ibid., fols. 2r–v.

56 Ibid., fols. 3v–4r.

57 Ibid., fols. 4r–v. Myroir was listed as an elder from April 1620 through May 1622. Ibid., fols. 48r, 59v, 63v, 95r.

58 For an analysis of coexistence in Courthézon, see Meyer, “On the Front Lines of Coexistence,” 1037–1060.

59 Raymond A. Mentzer, Jr., “Le Consistoire et la pacification du monde rural,” Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire du Protestantisme Français 135 (July-August-September 1989), 388.

60 Mentzer, “La Place et le rôle des femmes,” 124.

61 I omitted a third case involving Philippe Autranne because although the term “cohabitation” was used, the case revolved around the fact that she had married a Catholic, by a priest. ACC, GG 16, fols. 47r–v, 48v.

62 Their son Jean had been baptized on 15 April 1618 and their daughter Isabeau on 23 June 1619. ACC, GG 15, fols. 67r–v.

63 ACC, GG 16, fols. 37v–38r.

64 Ibid., fols. 93r–v.

65 Entry tokens were often ornately decorated metal tokens that were distributed by the elders to qualified church members before each celebration of the Lord's Supper. They were then collected when the member showed up for communion. Mentzer, “Marking the Taboo,” 98.

66 ACC, GG 16, fol. 98r. I included this case here rather than in the following section on cases of paillardise, because even though the language of living together was not explicitly used, the fact that the couple quickly married makes it different from the cases of paillardise in the record, wherein only one partner is named and no marriage followed.

67 See n. 47 above.

68 In Nîmes in the late sixteenth century, for example, although women made up only one-third of offenders summoned before the consistory, they accounted for two-thirds of those accused of paillardise. Mentzer, “La Place et le rôle des femmes,” 124.

69 Courthézon's minister of more than ten years, Pierre de La Croze, had died the previous year, and his successor, Jean Dragon, did not arrive in Courthézon until later in the year.

70 ACC, GG 16, fol. 135r.

71 Ibid., fol. 110v.

72 Ibid., fol. 117r. In neither of these cases was there any mention of the women or children involved, probably because they were Catholic and outside the range of its jurisdiction.

73 Pluviers had stood as godmother to children of both the present and past ministers in Courthézon. ACC, GG 15, fols. 56v, 66r.

74 ACC, GG 16, fols. 46v–47r.

75 Ibid., fol. 65r.

76 Eurich, “Women in the Huguenot Community,” 136.

77 Mentzer, “Communities of Worship,” 25, 28.

78 ACC, GG 15, fols. 1v, 25v. Correge was the son of Vincent Correge and Angelique Vincent, both of Sérignan. Correge apparently settled in Orange after his marriage to Claudette Serre. He died on 16 May 1604. W. F. Leemans and Elisabeth Leemans, La Noblesse de la Principauté d'Orange (La Haye: Société royale de Généalogie et d'Héraldique des Pays Bas, 1974), 118, 260, n. 7.

79 Leemans and Leemans, La Noblesse, 118. She was the daughter of Serre's first wife, Marguerite Genevèse.

80 ACC, GG 15, fol. 12v.

81 Ibid., fols. 28v, 29v, 38v, 82v, 40v.

82 ACC, GG 16, fols. 7v–8r. The record notes that this was in accord with an ordinance made at the synod held in Nyons.

83 Ibid., fols. 8v, 16v.

84 Ibid., fol. 60r.

85 Ibid., fols. 60r–61r.

86 Ibid., fol. 62v.

87 Mentzer, “Communities of Worship,” 25–26, 41.

88 ACC, GG 16, fols. 62v–63r. Consistories viewed “rebellion” against the consistory's authority as a very serious offense. Mentzer, “Marking the Taboo,” 114. Correge's stubbornness, her refusal to yield to the consistory's will, made her offense especially grievous.

89 ACC, GG 16, fol. 63r. The public pronouncement of her suspension was itself witness to the seriousness of her offense, since such suspensions were generally made more privately. Mentzer, “Marking the Taboo,” 109–110.

90 Yzabeau Correge does not appear in any of the Courthézon baptismal, marriage, nor burial registers at least through 1652, nor in my transcription of the consistory records through June 1640, nearly twenty years after her suspension from the sacraments.

91 Mentzer, “Notions of Sin,” 96–97.

92 ACC, GG 16, fols. 67r-v, 80v–81r.

93 See nn. 84 and 85 above for references.

94 See analysis of dancing cases above.

95 Given the importance attached to social hierarchy in early modern society, it is not surprising that the elevated rank of so many of its church members would have moderated, at least to a degree, the consistory's actions in dealing with them.

96 As an example, women were taken more seriously by consistories than by French law courts. Women's testimonies before consistories were recognized as valid, accorded status, and were recorded, whereas under French law women were deemed legally incapable. Lipscomb, The Voices of Nîmes, 93, 107. Jeffrey Watt, in his essay comparing Reformed consistories and Catholic Inquisitions, made the point that consistories were “in many ways more akin to compulsory counseling services than tribunals per se,” unlike Catholic Inquisitions. The context for his observation was his argument that Reformed consistories were not generally concerned with policing their members’ inner beliefs, unlike the Catholic Inquisitions. The observation is also useful in the context of assessing the significance of the consistory in providing women with a space to express and assert themselves. Jeffrey Watt, “Gender on Trial,” with Allyson M. Poska, in Judging Faith, Punishing Heresy, 229, 237. Similarly, Judith Pollmann argued that unmarried women sought membership in the Dutch Reformed Church (where church membership was not obligatory for anyone) because of the church's disciplinary process, which they felt safeguarded their honor and gave them respectability. Judith Pollmann, “Honor, Gender and Discipline in Dutch Reformed Churches,” in Dire l'interdit, 29–42.

97 Karen E. Spierling and Michael J. Halvorson, “Introduction,” in Defining Community, 8–13. In this recent collection of essays devoted to the question of the role of religion in how early modern communities defined community, the editors noted that they began the project with a fairly broad definition of community and that in their particular group of studies the main commonality was usually “adherence to a particular religious confession.” However, the studies collectively showed that this definition of community had to be more flexible in application because of the demands made by the competing communities to which its members belonged. Hence, these early modern communities were “surprisingly permeable.” Spierling and Halvorson, “Introduction,” Defining Community, 2, 8–13, 22. This idea of competing loyalties and demands faced by early modern religious communities is also central to Keith Luria's arguments about the importance of confessional boundaries. Luria, Keith P., Sacred Boundaries: Religious Coexistence and Conflict in Early Modern France (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America, 2005), xxi, xxvii–xxix, xxx.

98 I found no case where total excommunication was imposed by the consistory in the first volume of consistory records. Apostasy was one offense which theoretically merited total excommunication, but in the one case of apostasy brought before the consistory during these years, the consistory opted not to impose such a severe penalty. It consulted former consistory members in arriving at its decision. In the case of Francery Girarde, who had clearly left the Protestant church, married a Catholic, and baptized her daughter in the Catholic church, the consistory concluded that it would not proceed against her with total excommunication because “in the past they have not proceeded against apostasy by excommunication.” ACC, GG 16, fol. 47r. For further details on the case, see Meyer, “On the Front Lines of Coexistence,” 1054–1055.

99 Although the consistory's success was not universal, even in other types of cases that I have explored in Courthézon, even those of mixed marriages, I have been struck by how often, in these early decades of the seventeenth century at least, in the face of anger, resentment, canny manipulation, and lengthy defiance, the consistory was able to shepherd its members back into the community of faith. See Meyer, “On the Front Lines of Coexistence,” and Meyer, “Courthézon's Pastors and the Ministry.”


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