Journal:Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis
Volume 41 (2020): Aspects of Southeast Baltic Social History: The 14th to the 18th Centuries = Baltijos pietrytinės pakrantės socialinės istorijos aspektai XIV–XVIII amžiais, pp. 125–143
After the conversion of Lithuania, Christian norms changed the old pagan traditions in society by adapting them to local customs. Although the blending of Christianity with old traditions in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) has already been studied by historians, previous research has not provided a clear picture of how it changed the institution of marriage. Marriage in the GDL has usually been studied based on an analysis of the institutions of matrimonial property (dowry, dower). This article focuses on the institution of marriage and the concept of the validity of marriage in the 16th-century GDL. The author investigates the secular laws of the GDL, which, despite being codified in the Statutes of Lithuania, preserved some local elements of the marriage custom, and individual secular court cases. The concept of the validity of marriage is analysed by exploring the meanings of the words венчание and шлюб and their evolution. These two Ruthenian concepts described the act of a valid (ecclesiastical) marriage in secular law. The author describes their establishment in the society of the GDL, before discussing their use. A content analysis of both concepts is performed by explaining how the terms were understood and used by the members of different estates (unfree people, peasants, nobility). This allows the author to show not only the regulation of a valid marriage in the norms of the Statutes of Lithuania, but also to reveal how the notion of the validity of marriage functioned in practice.