The Power to Pardon in Medieval and Early Modern Christianity: Exceptions and Diversities

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International Workshop

Thursday, 2 November 2023 to Friday, 3 November 2023


Käte Hamburger Kolleg (Iduna Building)
Room 7011
Servatiiplatz 9
48143 Münster


Prof. Dr. Ulrike Ludwig
Käte Hamburger Kolleg "Einheit und Vielfalt im Recht"

Dr. Quentin Verreycken
Université catholique de Louvain


by 15 October 2023

via Indico

Please follow the link and click "Register now"


In the medieval and early modern Christian world, the power to exercise pardon over rigor of justice was one of the strongest manifestations of sovereignty and, as such, it was almost ubiquitous. While the Pope was probably one of the first monarchs to initiate an extensive use of pardon after establishing the Apostolic Penitentiary in the thirteenth century, he was rapidly imitated by lay rulers – kings, princes, and even magistrates – who started to grant letters of pardon for those who petitioned for clemency after committing a crime. For these merciful rulers, the exercise of pardon was a means to enforce peace and impose their authority and justice over any other jurisdiction, whereas for the subjects, it was primarily a way to save their lives and escape punishment that was often less expensive than other mitigating practices. For historians and legal scholars, finally, studying the predominant role of pardon in medieval and early modern societies raises the question on how these pardons operated in complex legal systems characterized by a plurality of legal orders, where various means of conflict resolution coexisted, interacted, and sometimes replaced each other, while litigants had to navigate between multiple levels of authorities.


Thursday, 2 November 2023

Quentin Verreycken (Louvain-la-Neuve), Ulrike Ludwig (Münster) | Welcome and introduction

Theme 1: Discussing pardon, norms, and legal pluralities

Chair: Quentin Verreycken

Philippa Byrne (Oxford) | The absolution (or not) of Solomon: theology, law, and politics in a twelfth-century debate on an exceptional case

10.30–11.00 | Coffee break

Bernadette Meyler (Stanford) | Grace or forgetting? Acts of oblivion in historical context

12.00–14.00 | Lunch

Theme 2: Pardon, legal practices, and agencies

Chair: Eva Schlotheuber (Düsseldorf)

Elisabeth Lusset (Paris) | Competition or complementarity of pardons? When supplicants turn to both the Apostolic Penitentiary and the King of France (15th century)

15.00–15.30 | Coffee break

Darlene Abreu-Ferreira (Winnipeg) | Pardons for and by racialized and enslaved individuals in pre-modern Portugal

Tomás A. Mantecón (Santander) | Justice, gendered agency and royal pardon in Old Regime Spain

18.30 | Dinner

Friday, 3 November 2023

Theme 3: Pardon, multilevel of power, and the construction of sovereignty

Chair: Ulrike Ludwig

Rudi Beaulant (Dijon) | From the duke to the king. Pardoning criminals in Dijon under the king of France after 1477

Luke Giraudet (Louvain-la-Neuve) | The power to pardon as a tool of governance: the case of the Spanish Low Countries, 1540-1633

11.00–11.30 | Coffee break

Gerd Schwerhoff (Dresden) | Hanging or pardoning? Coping with the rebels after the Peasant’s War of 1525

12.30–14.30 | Lunch

Simon Berggren (Umeå) | Petitions for mercy and the construction of royal authority in Early Modern Sweden

Nancy Kollmann (Stanford) | The Tsar’s power to pardon

16.30–17.00 | Coffee break

Xavier Rousseaux (Louvain-la-Neuve) | Summary Keynote

Penitence, penalty, and pardon: How Medieval and Early Modern practices of forgiveness have shaped the Western conception of violence, power, and justice

Final discussion

19:00 | Dinner