Reactions to Suicide in Medieval Europe

Just History Posts

People who lived in medieval Europe were, by and large, part of a Christian population. Whilst the strength of religious beliefs, and the Church’s control over individuals’ lives, did vary from person to person and region to region, generally people were aware of and wary of Church laws. As the medieval period progressed, the Church was also able to exert more influence over the law, meaning that if you contravened Church teaching you could find yourself punished secularly.

Attitudes to suicide changed in Europe as the Roman Empire fell, and Christianity took a greater hold in the new states. Under Roman beliefs, suicide wasn’t always frowned upon, and in some cases it was even exalted. In the colony of Massalia (present day Marseilles), if someone wanted to kill themselves then they could petition the Senate, and if their reasons were judged to be legitimate, then they were allowed to do…

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