“Weddings under the gallows”: the tradition of pardoning the executed in Medieval Europe

In medieval Europe, the death penalty was a common punishment for various crimes. However, there was a tradition that allowed those sentenced to death to be pardoned if a woman expressed a desire to marry him right at the place where he was sentenced. Such cases were called “gallows weddings.

The history of this tradition goes back to ancient times, when women were made hostages during wars. To save their husbands and sons from execution, they offered to marry their enemies. Over time, this tradition evolved into the custom of pardoning the executed.

Different European countries had their own rules for “gallows weddings. In Spain, for example, such an offer could only come from a prostitute. In some cases, rapists were exempted from execution if they agreed to marry the dishonored victim, thereby saving her reputation.

The most known literary example of this tradition is an episode from Victor Hugo’s novel “Notre Dame de Paris”, when the gypsy Esmeralda wished to marry Pierre Grenguard, who was sentenced to hang.

Today, the tradition of “gallows weddings” is long gone, and execution is no longer a popular punishment. However, this story is a reminder that love can manifest itself in the most unexpected places and circumstances.

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