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The concept of dispensation : theological approaches to the excercise of papal power (13th – 14th centuries)

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In the wake of studies showing that medieval intellectual production, far from confining itself to distinct faculties or disciplines, resulted from a constant circulation of knowledge, this paper analyzes the relations between theology and law through the controversial case of the dispensation from the vow of chastity, between ca. 1215 and ca. 1315. Focusing on the different aspects of the compelling power of the vow, the possibility to make up for it or to change it and the papal power of dispensation in spite of the particular dignity of the vow and the decretal forbiding any dispensation from it, the reflexion of canonists and theologians shows the interweaving of their disciplines, the changes of some individual positions and the absence of expected solidarities.


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Affiliations: 1: Maître de conférence en histoire du Moyen Age à l'Université de Reims (CERHIC), 12 rue de l'Egalité, F-94300 Vincennes, France;, Email:


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