Rape in Medieval Europe

  • Stephen Pistono University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point


In fourteenth-century Europe, Jean Froissart, an important French chronicler, defined rape as a crime of passion. Although some support for his view can be found in the sources, the greater body of evidence confirms the contrary interpretation of modern feminists, who regard rape as a crime of violence and hostility, and who further underscore the difficulty victims confront in deriving redress from the legal system. Similar circumstances prevailed in the Middle Ages as women were put through an excruciatingly painful and degrading set of procedures before charges could be brought against their attackers. Only the church began to develop a more equitable approach to the problem.
Original Research