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Baptismal Kinship in Eighteenth-Century Dubrovnik: Children, Parents and Godparents as Knots in the Social Ties

Vedran Stojanović orcid id
Nella Lonza orcid id ; Zavod za povijesne znanosti HAZU u Dubrovniku, Dubrovnik, Hrvatska

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 1.589 Kb

str. 293-325

preuzimanja: 523



By analysing the data of 110 baptisms registered in the Dubrovnik parish baptism records for the year 1770, we aim to reconstruct how godparenthood was used as a device for improving the family’s position in the community by establishing ties with the persons of higher social capital (Bourdieu). Although the baptismal records of Dubrovnik for the period before the Council of Trent have not been preserved, several personal records of baptism traced in the noble families indicate that godparents were numerous, mostly male, and that godparenthood was used to reinforce the family relationships and moreover to create and to widen the horizontal and vertical social networks, which also included the commoners. With regard to its forms and objectives, the role of godparenthood practiced in Dubrovnik was identical to that in Italy and other South-European societies of the same period. By limiting the number of godparents, the decrees of the Council of Trent significantly narrowed the potential of this institute in creating and extending the social relations. The godparent-parent relationship of the second half of eighteenth-century was upwardly mobile, i.e. the godparent was chosen from a rank higher than that of the godchild’s parents. Most commonly, the nobility and the urban elite chose godparents among the relatives, while the common people tended to use godparenthood for creating new social relationships and for bettering their position in the community. The nobility acting as godparents to the children of the lower ranks were almost never present at the rite of baptism, and they sent their representatives (proxies) instead, which shows that the personal and spiritual character of godparenthood was of secondary importance. When parents and godparents belonged to the same social class, the appointment of representatives was less common. It is clear that parents played a central role in the selection of representatives, quite contrary to the actual idea of representation. A comparison with the baptisms registered in the same parish in 1870 demonstrates a shift in the role of godparenthood, as its potential in creating social networks often remained unexploited. Moreover, the number of godparents from the noble ranks had been largely reduced as a consequence of the diminished social influence of the nobility after the fall of the Republic.

Ključne riječi

Dubrovnik, 18th century, baptismal kinship, social networks, Council of Trent, social class structure, family relationship

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Podaci na drugim jezicima: hrvatski

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