ABSTRACT

The death penalty in the so-called Old Regime meant the use of jurisdictional and legislative power to decide whether subjects should live or die. That was apparently far from arbitrary because the system acted under a set of appearances of normality: in a regulated manner, in accordance with the legislation, with the intervention of the judge and under the authority of the holder of the jurisdiction, the procedure aimed to penalise an infraction and repair the social damage inflicted because, given the medieval mind-set, humans were understood as part of a collective. 1 Then, as or more importantly, the whole was situated within the cosmic plot configured by the order, social and physical, desired by God, which had to be repaired accordingly, especially if divine wrath against those who tolerated evil was to be avoided. 2 This is why the population assumed the application of the death penalty as a veritable public spectacle. They accepted its moralising aspect and, in doing so, interiorised the gradation of the seriousness of the crimes dictated by those who presented themselves as holders of power and others as regulators of thought.