When banquets were dangerous for the soul
By Andrea Maraschi
Published Online (2014)
Introduction: In the Middle Ages, wedding banquets were extremely common and popular rituals. Eating and drinking together were the basic public expression of marriage: the most widely accepted, the most genuinely shared. There are many reasons that lie behind this success, but if we should summarise them in one word, we could pick “versatility”: people could celebrate, witness and legitimise a marriage comfortably seated at table, in a society where publicity played a fundamental role for the ratification of such agreements. In spite of this, we can find many testimonies that wedding banquets had something…wrong.
As usual, there is nothing more appropriate and easy than quoting historical sources. For example, in his De habitu virginum (IIIrd century) , the bishop of Carthage Cyprian wrote:
«Nuptiarum festa improba et convivia lasciva vitentur, quorum periculosa contagio est» (Let the shameless feasts and lascivious banquets of marriages, be avoided, the contagion of which is dangerous).
But why does Cyprian need to give such moral indication? What used to happen during wedding banquets that could threaten the integrity of people?