The Romanian Church With a Divorce Room

In the middle of Romanian Transylvania, far from any major cities, lies the small, picturesque village of Biertan. This lovely town is worth visiting in its own right, as it’s been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

Biertan is also quite old. It was first mentioned in official documentation in 1283. Its most impressive work of architecture, though, is its 15th century fortified church, which sits on top of a hill in the middle of the village. This house of worship/fortress is completely encircled by 35-foot-high defensive walls, which made it impossible to conquer during much of its history.

romaniaturismo.it
romaniaturismo.it

The church has many other impressive features, including its multi-panelled wooden altar and its Viennese organ, with over 1290 pipes and 25 registers. The most interesting part of the church, however, is a small room located in the church’s Prison Tower.

This room was not used to house thieves or murderers. In an era when the church was responsible for administering family law as well as seeing to the spiritual needs of its parishioners, the room was used to perform a primitive type of marital counselling. This chamber is now known to us as the Divorce Room because couples who wanted to get a divorce had to agree to be locked into this tiny cell together for two weeks before a divorce would be granted.

The Divorce Room had only one bed, one pillow, one blanket, one plate, and one set of cutlery. They were also given only bread and water for sustenance. There was only one of everything, which forced the unhappy couples to share everything during their two-week “marriage retreat.” According to legend surrounding the room, in over 300 years of its use, only one couple decided to go through with their divorce plans after undergoing the ordeal.

There are several theories explaining why this odd form of couple’s therapy worked. First, the confinement of the spouses took them away from their daily stresses and chores. This allowed them to focus on each other and re-establish healthy communication. Shame could have also played a factor in the Divorce Room’s success. It was most likely considered shameful to be locked in the room, so many couples may have worked out their differences before being subject to the public humiliation of being locked in the cell.

Experts today generally disagree with the idea of forcing couples to reconcile. Absent from the historical record of Biertan are statistics regarding instances of spousal abuse or intimidation that might have occurred in the chamber. We also don’t know how well these marriages worked out in practice after the spouses returned home.

The Divorce Room has been preserved, and you can still visit it today. No matter your thoughts on this unusual divorce deterrent, the fortified church and the village of Biertan are worth a stop on any Romanian tour itinerary.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Missing Couple Found Frozen After 75 Years

    On August 15, 1942 Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin, a Swiss married couple who were also parents to seven children, walked up to a mountain pasture near Chandolin, Switzerland to feed their cows. This was a rare excursion for the couple to take together, since Francine was often pregnant and could not usually make the climb....

    Read More
  • 27 Contact Lenses Found Lodged in One Woman’s Eye

    The biggest nightmare for wearers of contact lenses came true for one British woman late last year. The 67-year-old went in for cataract surgery at Solihull Hospital in England last November. In addition to the cataracts, she also complained of pain in her right eye, which she assumed was caused by dry eyes or old...

    Read More
  • Was Jane Austen Poisoned?

    In July of 1817, popular novelist Jane Austen died. This writer of such perennial favorites as Pride and Prejudice and Emma was only 41, and she did not have a history of health problems. As medical science was not very advanced in the 1800s, no one knows what killed her, though Addison’s disease and lymphoma...

    Read More
  • The Man Who Tried to Raise the Perfect Wife

    Finding a wife was difficult in the 18th century. There was no online dating, and strict social controls made it difficult for members of the opposite sex to get to know one another. But things were especially hard for a man named Thomas Day, and he came up with a novel, though cruel, way to...

    Read More
  • Giant Iceberg Breaks Free in Antarctica

    Sometime between July 10th and July 12th, a giant iceberg broke free from Antarctica, wreaking havoc on shipping lanes in the area while it breaks up into smaller pieces. It broke off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf, automatically reducing that shelf’s area by 12% when it did so. Larsen C is now at its...

    Read More
  • The Worst Husband in British History

    By all accounts, Mary Eleanor Bowes should have had a happy life. She was born into one of the wealthiest families in England, as her father was the wealthy mine owner George Bowes. She was an only child, and she was much cherished by her parents. However, when her father unexpectedly died in 1760 when...

    Read More
  • The Papin Sisters and France’s Most Gruesome Murder Case

    Life seemed to be against the Papin sisters, Christine and Lea, from the time of their births, in 1905 and 1911 respectively. They were born into a highly dysfunctional family. Their mother reportedly had affairs, and their father was an abusive alcoholic. Their mother never showed them any affection, and was so mentally unstable that...

    Read More
  • The Legend of Spring-Heeled Jack

    Despite the many advances in science and industry that took place in Victorian England, that time period was till full of superstition and paranormal belief. Many people still believed in fairies, phrenology and spiritualism- all things that have since been proven false. Quite a few people also believed in a devil-man called Spring-Heeled Jack. The...

    Read More