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Happiest Day: Wedding Customs in Transition

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Wallfahrt Mariae: The Marriage of the Virgin

15th century
13.3 cm x 9.5 cm (5 1/4 in. x 3 3/4 in.)

Lienhart Ysenhut. (active ) Printer
Anonymous (active ) Primary

Object Type: print
Artist Nationality: Europe, Swiss
Medium and Support: Woodcut
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1983
Accession Number: 1983.132.26/55

During the Middle Ages, the ideal life was one dedicated to learning, contemplation and spirituality. Marriage, with its mundane concerns and promise of sexual satisfaction, was deemed a distraction and was discouraged. It was not until the twelfth century that the pope made marriage a sacrament. The marriage of Mary and Joseph, understood to be chaste and celibate, was held up as a model for married couples. Although the location of the ceremony is non-descript here, it bears noting that weddings were not usually performed inside a church. Because unions between two households signaled a redistribution of wealth in the form of a dowry and possibly a consolidation of political power, weddings were carried out at the door of the church in view of the communities they would affect. After banns, a church announcement of a forthcoming wedding, were read publicly, neighbors were invited to comment. Assuming there were no objections, the couple exchanged vows, then entered the church to celebrate mass.

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