Ordeal, trial by

In trial by ordeal, proof of guilt or innocence was determined by God, the accused being tested by an ordeal which proved innocence if no mark was caused by the trial itself. In the laws of Athelstan anyone undergoing this trial had to be blessed by a priest and live on bread, water and vegetables for three days. One trial involved the accused walking blindfold over red-hot ploughshares. God, it was believed, would guide the steps of the innocent; the guilty would burn their feet. Something equally unpleasant was done with boiling water. After this, the wounds were bandaged. If after three days the wounds appeared to be healing, innocence was proved; otherwise guilt was evident. Dunking displayed a paradox: water being the medium of baptism, it was considered sensitive both to guilt and to innocence. Thus if the water 'accepted' the accused, whose hands and feet were bound, they were innocent; the guilty were 'rejected' by water and floated. The length of rope or depth of sinking was set at 1% ells, or some 5% feet. During the *Angevin period, eight out of ten ordeals were of 'cold water', which were taken by the unfree, i.e. serfs, villeins etc. (Hot iron was taken by free men and women.) Pipe Roll records show that of the cold water ordeals, two out of three passed and were shown to be innocent. A priest was required to be present on these occasions; but the Lateran Council of 1215 condemned the practice and instructed priests to take no part. -

Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases. .

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  • Trial by water — can refer to: * Trial by drowning, the medieval judicial ordeal * Trial by ordeal#Ordeal of water * Castelseprio, the apocryphal Christian story of the trial of Mary and Joseph by water …   Wikipedia

  • trial by ordeal — trial by or·deal / ȯr dēl, ȯr ˌdēl/: a formerly used criminal trial in which the guilt or innocence of the accused was determined by subjection to dangerous or painful tests (as submersion in water) believed to be under divine control Merriam… …   Law dictionary

  • trial by ordeal — noun a primitive method of determining a person s guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused person to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under divine control; escape was usually taken as a sign of innocence • Syn: ↑ordeal • Hypernyms:… …   Useful english dictionary

  • ordeal — The most ancient species of trial for criminal offenses, founded upon the belief of the ancients that if a man were innocent, God would save him from death or injury when he was subjected to an ordeal. See 4 Bl Comm 342. See also Hurtado v… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • trial — A judicial examination and determination of issues between parties to action, whether they be issues of law or of fact, before a court that has jurisdiction. Tittsworth v. Chaffin, Mo.App., 741 S.W.2d 314, 317. A judicial examination, in… …   Black's law dictionary

  • Trial by ordeal — is a judicial practice by which the guilt or innocence of the accused is determined by subjecting them to an unpleasant, usually dangerous experience. In some cases, the accused were considered innocent only if they survived the test, or if their …   Wikipedia

  • Ordeal — Or de*al ([^o]r d[ e]*al), n. [AS. ord[=a]l, ord[=ae]l, a judgment; akin to D. oordeel, G. urteil, urtheil; orig., what is dealt out, the prefix or being akin to [=a] compounded with verbs, G. er , ur , Goth. us , orig. meaning, out. See {Deal},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ordeal bean — Ordeal Or de*al ([^o]r d[ e]*al), n. [AS. ord[=a]l, ord[=ae]l, a judgment; akin to D. oordeel, G. urteil, urtheil; orig., what is dealt out, the prefix or being akin to [=a] compounded with verbs, G. er , ur , Goth. us , orig. meaning, out. See… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ordeal root — Ordeal Or de*al ([^o]r d[ e]*al), n. [AS. ord[=a]l, ord[=ae]l, a judgment; akin to D. oordeel, G. urteil, urtheil; orig., what is dealt out, the prefix or being akin to [=a] compounded with verbs, G. er , ur , Goth. us , orig. meaning, out. See… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ordeal tree — Ordeal Or de*al ([^o]r d[ e]*al), n. [AS. ord[=a]l, ord[=ae]l, a judgment; akin to D. oordeel, G. urteil, urtheil; orig., what is dealt out, the prefix or being akin to [=a] compounded with verbs, G. er , ur , Goth. us , orig. meaning, out. See… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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