This marital prison in Transylvania, Romania, would “cure” the urge of divorce in medieval times. Couples willingly seeking counseling found this method quite effective.
The village of Biertan, in Transylvania, Romania, is one of the Saxon Unesco World Heritage villages. Aside from its picturesque view and its well-preserved medieval appearance, this small place hides traces of one of the most unusual, long-gone couples therapy practices.
In the center of Biertan stands the tallest building of all – a fortified church, built in the 15th century. On the church grounds stands a one-room construction which served as a marital prison. Oddly enough, couples would voluntarily submit to being locked in there for weeks in a row, as a form of therapy. The purpose? To dodge divorce.
Back in the days, people whose marriage was on the rocks were seeking help through the church. The bishop also served as a counselor. And often times, his advice was that the couple try to save their marriage by entering the marital prison.
The “therapy” could last up to six weeks, during which the husband and wife, unhappy or fed-up with each other, would have to share one room with one table, one chest (serving as storage space) and one bed. Not only the big furniture objects were one of each, but also the smaller objects, such as one pillow, one blanket, one plate and so on.
From a psychological point of view, sharing is always the result of collaboration and collaboration happens as a result of negotiation. Thus, the possibility of saving a marriage that, in other circumstances, would have been doomed.
Ulf Ziegler, the current priest, reveals that the marital prison was more efficient than any mediation, or counseling, then and now. He calls the prison “blessed” and tells BBC: “Thanks to this blessed building, in the 300 years that Biertan had the bishop’s seat we only had one divorce.”