Saturday, July 5, 2014


In the middle of XVI century the Catholic Church had one of the most important events in it is history, the Council of Trent that established several canons and decrees for the next four hundred years. Church’s practices like marriages and baptisms were subject to those rules and the parish priest should follow them without fault.

The Council of Trent under Innocent III declared that

“…before a marriage is contracted, the proper pastor of the contracting parties shall publicly announce three times in the church, during the celebration of the mass on three successive festival days, between whom marriage is to be contracted; after which publications, if no legitimate impediment is revealed, the marriage may be proceeded with in the presence of the people, where the parish priest, after having questioned the man and the woman and heard their mutual consent, shall either say: ‘I join you together in matrimony, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost or he may use other words, according to the accepted rite of each province.” 

 The marriages should always be contracted in the presence of the Parish Priest or another priest authorized by him and about three days before the consummation of the marriage, the betrothed are encouraged to confess their sins. 

The marriage book record was also a responsibility of the Parish Priest:

“The parish priest shall have a book in which he shall record the names of the persons united in marriage and of the witnesses, and also the day on which and the place where the marriage was contracted, and this book he shall carefully preserve.”

Several other rules apply to those marriages like the number of witnesses present at the ceremony, degrees of relationship which required dispensation and time frame, as they were forbidden at certain times.

“The holy council commands that from the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ will the day of the Epiphany, and from Ash Wednesday till the octave of Easter inclusive, the old prohibitions of solemn nuptials be carefully observed by all; at other times it permits marriages to be celebrated solemnly and the bishops shall see to it that they are conducted with becoming modesty and propriety, for matrimony is a holy thing and is to be treated in a holy manner.” 

While researching the Portuguese and Azores records keep in mind that what you are reading always follows the information above and several others. If you want to read more about those rules and the Council of Trent, the book below was translated into English.

Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent. Rev. H. J. Schroeder, O.P. Tan Books and Publishers, Inc. Rockford, Illinois 61105.1978.