Spiritual Marriage
Sexual Abstinence in Medieval Wedlock
Dyan Elliott


The early Christian and medieval practice of spiritual marriage, in which husband and wife mutually and voluntarily relinquish sexual activity for reasons of piety, plays an important role in the development of the institution of marriage and in the understanding of female religiosity. Drawing on hagiography, chronicles, theology, canon law, and pastoral sources, Dyan Elliott traces the history of spiritual marriage in the West from apostolic times to the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Dyan Elliott is Assistant Professor of History and Adjunct of Women's Studies at Indiana University.