Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Medieval Studies

First Advisor

Dr. James Palmitessa

Second Advisor

Dr. E. Rozanne Elder

Third Advisor

Dr. Rand Johnson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Larry Simon

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This study is concerned with violence, attitudes toward violence, and how they affected society and politics in the Rhineland during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. It maintains that, through the careful analysis of narrative sources, such as the Dialogus Miraculorum of Caesarius of Heisterbach, and legal sources known as Landfrieden, the attitudes of medieval people toward different forms of violence can be reconstructed, enabling one to understand and to categorize violence from a medieval perspective.

The results of the examination reveal that certain kinds of violence, including feuds, were legally acceptable, while acts of violence outside of a feud were typically regarded as murder and robbery. The results also show, however, that acts which were normally considered morally culpable, sinful and illegal, such as pillaging, might be condoned even by the clergy if the cause was felt to be just.

This study demonstrates that violence played a unique role in the politics of the Empire on the imperial, regional and local levels through the analysis of a civil war that occurred in the Empire from 1198 to 1208. Finally, this study shows that the political and social history of the Empire can be fruitfully explored using the study of violence as an historical approach.