Chastity test

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Trial by fire of Prince Siyawasch : Illustration by Riza-yi Musavvir, MS St. Petersburg, Dorn 333, f. 265v, from 1651

A chastity test is a procedure for testing or proving that a person has retained his chastity , understood as virginity , sexual abstinence or marital fidelity .

Chastity test and virginity test

Chastity trials include medical , magical, and - in the form of divine judgment - legal procedures. They are widespread in many cultures as a cultic or legal practice, element of folk belief or motif of legend and literature and go hand in hand with their own physiological , moral and religious ideas, in particular with culturally shaped ideas about the gender roles of men and women.

To test premarital unaffectedness, in older cultures, as in some cases still today, blood flow as a result of the first marital intercourse was searched for or by looking and touching the abdomen for features such as swelling and softness of the uterus , which were found in ancient and medieval medicine were considered the typical effects of sexual intercourse on the female body.

In addition, however, there are also various other procedures, attested as real practice or at least as a belief or narrative motive, sexual abstinence - be it before marriage and insofar as virginity in the narrower sense, or during marriage (marital fidelity) or independently of a marriage - should prove or disprove. They often appear as a special type of test of innocence or truth, in which a person is to be found guilty or convicted of a liar by divine judgment or magic. And they are partly connected with the idea that chastity or virginity go hand in hand with special abilities and that the chastity or virginity of this person can therefore also be recognized by having these abilities.


  • The 4th book of Moses prescribes that a woman who is suspected of unfaithfulness by her husband should be tried by a priest with an incantation and a drink of "bitter, curse-bringing water": If she is innocent, the drink will not become her harm, if she is guilty on the other hand, "her stomach will swell and her hips will shrink (...), and the woman will become a curse among her people". (4th book of Moses, chap. 5, 11-28)
Sita, heroine of the Indian Ramayana, endures the ordeal by fire (Mughal from around 1600)
  • The treatise Kethuboth (On Marriage ) of the Babylonian Talmud tells that Rabbi Gamaliel could smell the difference between a virgin and a non-virgin by placing her on a barrel of wine: a non-virgin had the smell of wine "through" (namely through the Mouth). As positive proof of premarital unaffectedness, he is said to have carried out this procedure retrospectively on a newlywed woman who was suspected of premarital intercourse by her husband because he had not found any blood after his own intercourse with her.
  • In the Indian epic Ramayana , in the version of the poet Valmiki , written before the 2nd century AD, Sita , the daughter of the earth and wife of the divine king Rama , is kidnapped and held captive by the demon king Ravana . When Rama doubts her marital fidelity after her liberation and refuses to accept her again as wife, she chooses the means of trial by fire to prove her fidelity or otherwise to die. She has a pyre built, walks around first Rama and then around the pyre, calls upon divine omniscience as a witness and finally goes into the fire. Her virtue, however, is so glowing that even the fire god Agni is scorched by it, who then returns Sita to Rama unharmed.
  • According to Pausanias (2nd century), the priestesses of a goddess in the Achaean city of Bura had to maintain chastity from the time of their appointment and were not allowed to have been married to more than one man before. To prove they were telling the truth about it, they had to drink a mug of bull's blood, which if told a lie, turned into deadly poison.
  • Towards the end of his novel Leukippe und Kleitophon (X, 7 ff.), Achilles Tatios (late 2nd century ) has the two heroines Leukippe and Melite each prove their chastity in a court of law. The adulteress Melite successfully proves the truth of her vow that she had not betrayed her husband in his absence (in fact, she had only betrayed him after his return) by wearing an amulet around her neck with her oath written on it Water rises that reaches an innocent's thigh, but a perjured person's neck. The chastity of the virtuous leukippe is tested in a cave in which the syrinx of the god Pan is located: if a virgin is shut in there, the syrinx can be heard, and the entrance of the cave opens automatically to the virgin who wreaths with it Spruce emerges. The sample falls, however, is negative, we hear instead a cry, and when the priest opened the cave three days later, so that is test subject no longer be found.
Claudia Quinta: From the manuscript of a French translation of Boccaccio's De mulieribus claris , 15th century.
  • Claudia Quinta , a Roman matron who had a reputation for unchastity, is said to have been in 204 BC. Restored their reputation through demonstration of superhuman strength. When the holy stone of the Cybele on the Tiber was to be shipped to Rome and the ship ran aground due to the drought at the mouth of the Tiber, she is said to have prayed to the goddess and then freed the ship from the sandbank with her own hands.
  • In the Older Edda (9th – 11th centuries) the third Gudrun song (Guðrúnarkviða in þriðja) tells that Gudrun is slandered by Herkia, a maid and former lover of King Atlis, at Atli for having a relationship with Duke Dietrich . To prove her innocence, Gudrun carries out a kettle test at her own request by pulling stones out of a sacred kettle of boiling water with her bare hand, which the “Prince of the Southern Saxons” previously consecrated for this test. When, to the delight of Atlis, Gudrun passes the test without getting burned, Herkia has to cross-check herself, scald her arm and is executed in retaliation for her false accusation in the moor.
  • The twelfth book of the kings by the Persian poet Firdusi († 1020) tells the story of Prince Siyawasch, who resists the seduction attempts of the Sudebah, one of the wives of his father Kai Kawus , and is then accused of rape by her. The king initially believes that he can determine the innocence of his son by smelling the clothes of the two of them, but again wavers in his judgment and finally orders a trial by fire, which this time the man and not the woman has to pass. A hundred caravans bring the wood for two huge pyre, which are erected next to each other with a narrow passage and set on fire by ten men. Siyawasch, armed with a golden helmet, clad in white and anointed with camphor as if for a funeral, mounts his black steed Shabrang and after a prayer to the divine judge is able to ride unharmed between the two fires. Sudebah is then sentenced to death by hanging at the request of the people, but pardoned at the request of Siyawasch, who nevertheless cannot regain his father's favor.
  • According to the annals of Winchester Monastery (13th century), Emma , the mother of Edward the Confessor , had to go to the church of St. Put Swithun of Winchester to a trial by fire in front of their son and his tycoon to clear himself and Bishop Ælfwine of Winchester of allegations of indecent relationships. To do this, her prosecutor Robert von Jumièges is said to have demanded, she had to take nine steps in a row over nine glowing plowshares - four for her own washing and five for the exculpation of the bishop - without stumbling, each stepping with full foot. and without suffering the slightest burn. With the help of God and St. Swithun, who had appeared at her prayer the night before, is said to have passed the test so easily that Emma didn't notice it herself, but instead asked why she was being brought out of the church without her having to take her test allowed to. According to the type, it is a iudicium vomerum ignitorum (judgment of God through glowing plowshares), also known from legal sources , as it also became part of the legend of holy Kunigunde .
  • Based on a narrative that is used in the Old French Fabliau Le manteau mautaillé , the Middle High German verse novella Der Mantel , various Arthurian novels and the Old Norse Möttuls saga , there is a coat woven by elves that shrinks and if it is put on an unchaste woman exposes a part of the body or specifically that part of the body with which the unchastity was perpetrated. In the Crône Heinrichs von dem Türlin , this motif appears modified as a magic glove that makes the wearer's body parts invisible according to the degree of their chastity.
  • Proof of chastity in popular belief, which is recorded in the Handbuch des German Superstitions, includes the ability to blow an extinguished light on again or to make a plant flourish on a stone.
  • According to press reports, a fourteen-year-old girl from the Untouchables caste in a village in the Indian district of Nalgonda , who was reputed to have slept with a boy from the village, was sentenced to a chastity test by six village elders in 2005, in which she was included Touching a red-hot iron with bare hands or pulling a ring out of a kettle of boiling oil. The implementation is said to have been prevented at the last moment by the police who were initially only involved as spectators.

Chastity test as a test

The temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas, painting by Giovan Francesco Gessi (1588–1649)

In a broader sense, a chastity test is also a special type of virtue test, which is not about finding the truth about past behavior, but rather a person resists a current erotic temptation and thereby proves his or her virtue or loyalty. It is a widespread narrative motif, which in the Christian tradition became a widely varied topos , especially in the lives of saints of the desert fathers , best known in the temptation of Saint Anthony , and in the lives of other saints .


  • Huon d'Auvergne , hero of a Franco-Venetian chanson de geste (13th century), in search of the entrance to hell on the banks of the Tigris, arrives in a land of youth and joy, whose beautiful ruler dressed as a widow gives him her Proposes love and promises to show him the entrance to hell in return. When Huon resists and calls on God's help, the queen and her entourage turn into horned devils and the castle and its inhabitants go up in flames. Huon finds himself in a forest with his steed tied to a tree and is able to continue his search.
  • When Thomas Aquinas entered the Dominican order as a novice against the will of his family, his father had him imprisoned in his Roccasecca castle and is said to have tried, among other things, to dissuade him from his decision to go to the room in which the son was locked up, had a prostitute brought. Thomas resisted the advances by grabbing a burning log from the fireplace with his bare hand and threatening to burn the visitor with it. To confirm that he had passed the test, angels appeared to him and presented him with a belt to protect him from further temptation as a token of his chastity. The belt was later worshiped in the monastery of Chieri . From this cult the brotherhood Militia angelica for the preservation of chastity arose .

Immaculate acts as a test of chastity

Against various heretical movements of the Middle Ages such as the Brothers of the Free Spirit , the Adamites and the Luciferans , the accusation of sexual debauchery was raised on the part of the church, which the accused sometimes countered with the justification that the incriminated acts did not serve fornication, but in the state spiritual perfection and thus without sin or as evidence of particular chastity.

A well-known case of this kind was Gerardo Segarelli , who in 1260 in Parma brought into being the Franciscan and joachite- inspired poverty movement of the Apostle Brothers and Sisters, which was later led by Fra Dolcino . According to the account of the Franciscan chronicler Salimbene de Adam , who observed the initial successes of the movement among the population and also among followers of his own order with jealous resentment, Segarelli was a sanctimonious fool who, among other things, put himself in a cradle wearing diapers and " "Sucked milk from the breasts of an ignorant woman", but above all lay "naked with naked" followers in the same bed "to check whether he could maintain his chastity or not", and also allowed his followers to have sex and same-sex intercourse. During the persecution of the sect by the Inquisition, which began in the 1290s, interrogations were also held about such practices, with Zaccaria di Sant'Agata from the area of Bologna , who led a life as a preacher of the movement since 1290, before the Inquisitor confessed to the view that

"... that a man and a woman who are not married to each other, as well as a man with a man or a woman with a woman, can embrace and touch each other unclothed in lewd places and other parts of the body, and this can be without sin, [ ...] if it happens in the state of perfection. "

further reading

  • Christine Kasper: Of lousy knights and sinful women and those who were better: tests of virtue and chastity in medieval literature, primarily in the German-speaking area. (= Göppingen work on German studies. Volume 547). Kümmerle Verlag, Göppingen 1995, ISBN 3-87452-788-3 . (also dissertation University of Vienna 1990)
  • Kathleen Coyne Kelly: Performing Virginity and Testing Chastity in the Middle Ages. (= Routledge Research in Medieval Studies. Volume 2). Routledge, London 2000, ISBN 0-415-22181-1 .
  • Giulia Sissa : Le corps virginal: la virginité féminine en Grèce ancienne. (= Études de psychologie et de philosophie. Volume 22). Vrin, Paris 1987, ISBN 2-7116-0934-0 ;
    engl. Translation: Greek Virginity. (= Revealing Antiquity. 3). Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 1990, ISBN 0-674-36320-5 .


  1. Cf. 5th Book of Mose , chap. 22, 13-20, according to which the parents of a woman who is accused of premarital sexual intercourse by her husband should show the elders a "blanket" as proof of virginity
  2. Kathleen Coyne Kelly: Performing Virginity and Testing Chastity in the Middle Ages (2000), chap. I.
  3. ^ Bernhard Kummer: Jungfrau. In: Concise dictionary of German superstition . Volume IV (1932), Col. 841-854; Eugen Fehrle : Chastity. ibid. Col. 1291-1303.
  4. Kethuboth 10b ( Memento of the original from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (English online version), the interpretation that the non-virgin's wine smell was smelled specifically on the mouth comes from Raschi , cf. Ibid. Note 10 ( Memento of the original of September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. Linda Hess: Rejecting Sita: Indian Responses to the Ideal Man's Cruel Treatment of His Ideal Wife. In: Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 67, 1 (1999), pp. 1-32; Cristiano Grottanelli: The King's Grace and the Helpless Woman: A Comparative Study of the Stories of Ruth, Charila, Sita. In: History of Religion. 22, 1, pp. 1-24 (1982).
  6. ^ Pausanias, Periegesis, VII , 25, 13 in French translation by Abbé Gédoyn (1731, édition de 1794)
  7. ^ Franz Boll: To the Greek novel. In: Philologus. 66 (1907), pp. 1-15, here pp. 11-15 for the sources.
  8. Woldemar Görler: Tiber upwards to Rome: a theme and its variations. In: Klio. 75 (1993), pp. 228-243, here p. 236 ff.
  9. ^ Arthur George Warner / Edmond Warner: The Shahnama of Firdausi. Kegan Paul, Trench, Truebner and Co, London 1909, Volume II, pp. 200–225 ( Online Version ( Memento of the original from August 19, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check Original and archive link according to instructions and then remove this note. ), For parallels in the material cf. Stephen Beler: The Diffusion of the Book of Sindbad. In: Fabula. 28, 1-2 (1987), pp. 34-58, especially p. 41 ff. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. Annales monasterii de Wintonia. In: Henry Richard Luard (ed.): Annales monastici. (= Rerum britannicarum medii aevi scriptores, 36). Volume II. Longmann, London 1865, pp. 20-24.
  11. Matthias Wemhoff: Kunigunde, receive the crown. Bonifatius-Verlag, Paderborn 2002, p. 85 ff.
  12. Nathalie Koble (ed.): "Le lai du cor" et "Le manteau mal taillé". Les lingerie de la Table round. Éditions Rue d'Ulm, Paris 2005, ISBN 2-7288-0347-1 ;
    Fredrik Amadeus Wulff: Le conte du Mantel, texte français des dernières années du XIIe siècle, édité d'après tous les mss. In: Romania. 14 (1885), pp. 343-380 ( online version )
  13. Werner Schröder: The Ambraser coat fragment, reissued from the only manuscript. (= Meeting reports of the Scientific Society at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. Volume 33, No. 5). Steiner, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-515-06836-8 ;
    Werner Schröder: The coat. In: The German literature of the Middle Ages - author's lexicon. 2nd edition, volume 11. Verlag de Gruyter, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-11-016832-4 , pp. 962-965.
  14. Beate Schmolke-Hasselmann: L'intégration de quelques récits brefs arthuriens (Cor, Mandel, Espine) dans les romans arthuriens du XIIIe siècle. In: Danielle Buschinger (ed.): Le récit bref au moyen âge: actes du colloque des 27, 28 and 29 Avril 1979. Champion, Paris 1980, ISBN 2-901121-04-7 , pp. 107-128.
  15. ^ Rudolf Simek: Two knight sagas. The legend of the coat and the beautiful Samson. Möttul's saga and Samson's saga fara. Translated from Old Norse and provided with an introduction. (= Fabulae medievales, 2). Wilhelm Braumüller, Vienna 1982, ISBN 3-7003-0333-5 .
  16. Werner Schröder: Manufacturing attempts on the text of the Crône Heinrichs von dem Türlin . (= Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, treatises of the humanities and social sciences class. Born in 1996, No. 2 and No. 4). Steiner, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-515-06900-3 .
  17. ^ Bernhard Kummer: Jungfrau. In: Concise dictionary of German superstition . Volume IV (1932), Col. 841-854, here Col. 846.
  18. GS Radhakrishna: Lift red-hot crowbar, prove you're a virgin. In: The Telegraph. (Calcutta, India), February 20, 2005.
  19. Edmund Stengel: Huons of Auvergne chastity test. Episode from the Franco-Venetian Chanson de geste by Huon d'Auvergne based on the three surviving versions, the Berlin, Turin and Paduan. In: Mélanges de philologie romane et d'histoire littéraire offerts à M. Maurice Wilmotte, professeur à l'Université de Liège à l'occasion de son 25e anniversaire d'enseignement. Champion, Paris 1910, Volume II, pp. 685-713.
  20. ^ Edmund Colledge: The Legend of St. Thomas Aquinas. In: St. Thomas Aquinas 1274–1974: Commemorative Studies. Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto 1974, Volume I, pp. 13-28.
  21. Jeffrey Button Russell: Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Cornell University Press, London / Ithaca 1972, pp. 140 ff.
  22. ^ Salimbene de Adam: Cronica. ed. by Giuseppe Scalia, CCCM 125 (1998–1999), p. 369 ff., online version in the Archivio della Latinità del Medio Evo (ALIM) ( Memento of the original from June 25, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link became automatic used and not yet tested. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . On Salimbene's account of Segarelli, cf. Brian R. Carniello: Gerardo Segarelli as the Anti-Francis: Mendicant Rivalry and Heresy in Medieval Italy, 1260-1300. In: The Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 57 (2006), pp. 226-251. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  23. ^ Salimbene de Adam: Cronica. P. 371: "... in cunabulis iacuit fasciis involutus et lac et mammas suxit cuiusdam nescie mulieri"
  24. ^ Salimbene: Cronica. P. 383: “cum mulieribus, nudus cum nudis, in eodem lecto iacebat ad probandum utrum castitatem tenere posset necne”, cf. P. 371, where Salimbene offers the unsteady story that Segarelli was housed by a widow with a marriageable and beautiful daughter and explained to his hostess that it was revealed to him by God that he was "nudus cum nuda" with the daughter Bed must sleep in order to check "whether he can maintain chastity or not" ("ut probaret si castitatem servare posset necne")
  25. ^ Salimbene: Cronica. P. 390: "masculi in masculos turpitudinem operantur, maxime senes cum iunioribus, qui ingrediuntur ad eos, ut dixerunt michi"
  26. See Raniero Orioli: Fra Dolcino. Nascita, vita e morte di un'eresiarca medievale. (= Le origini: storie e cronache, 4). Europía, Novara / Jaca Book, Milan 1984, pp. 29-39.
  27. Lorenzo Paolini / Raniero Orioli (ed.): Acta S. Officii Bononie from anno 1291 usque ad annum 1310. (= Fonti per la storia d'Italia, 106). Volume I, No. 25, Istituto Storico Italiano, Rome 1982, p. 53 f .: “… quod homo et mulier, que non sint in matrimonio, et homo cum homine et mulier cum muliere, possunt se contractare et tangere mutuo ad nudum in locis impudiciis et in aliis partibus corporis, quod potest esse sine peccato, talis potest esse intentio, si est in perfectione "," ... set possent exerceri sine peccato in homine perfecto "