chapter  9
Law and Nonmarital Sex in the Middle Ages
ByHenry Ansgar Kelly
Pages 20

In keeping with both the Justinian Code and its medieval interpretation, the statutes passed in Florence in 1415 punished stuprum, adultery, and incest committed upon decent virgins, widows, and wives, but specifically exempted consensual sex not only with prostitutes but also with women of the servant classes. In Florence, the court records only deal with clerical sexual offenses, in which cases, of course, "simple fornication" is no longer simple. In the south of France, many of the customaries did not consider sex to be adultery when a married man had relations with an unmarried woman, and perhaps something of this attitude held sway elsewhere as well. We are almost entirely ignorant of the situation in those areas corresponding to modern France, because of a lack of ecclesiastical criminal records for them from the Middle Ages. One French jurist, John Faber, a professor of Roman law at Montpellier, held that the modern judge could also impose death for adultery.