Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content

Sermon Illustrations

Home > Sermon Illustrations

Romania’s Matrimonial Prison

Tucked away in the church grounds of Biertan, a quiet village in Romania, there is a small cottage known as the “matrimonial prison.” It was here that couples whose marriages were on the rocks were once sent, to sort out their problems while being locked away for up to two weeks. The method was said to be so effective that records show that there has only been one divorce in the area for the past 300 years.

In Biertan, the most important structure was the church and within the grounds is a small building with a room inside barely larger than a pantry. Couples who approached the local bishop to seek a divorce were sent to this matrimonial prison for a maximum of two weeks—six weeks according to some—to iron out their issues. The room was sparsely furnished with a table and chair, a storage chest, and a traditional Saxon bed. The couple attempting to repair their marriages had to share everything inside this tiny dwelling, from a single pillow and blanket to a single plate and spoon.

According to Lutheranism, the religion of the area, divorce was allowed under certain circumstances, such as adultery. But it was preferred that couples attempt to save their union.

Ulf Ziegler, Biertan’s current priest said, “The reason to remain together was probably not love. The reason was to work and to survive. If a couple was locked inside for six weeks, it was very hard for them to (grow) enough food the following year, so there was pressure to get out and to continue to work together.”

The small, dark room is currently a museum, yet Ziegler reveals that even today he receives requests from couples who look forward to using the prison to repair their own struggling marriages.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Divorce is far too easy in our culture. Although we cannot recommend this method, the idea of a couple being “encouraged” to seriously talk through their issues before simply rushing into divorce is sound.

Related Sermon Illustrations

Actors Can't Live Up to Their Romantic Movie Personas

Americans say they believe in “true love.” In a recent survey, 61 percent of women and 72 percent of men believe in love at first sight. Another poll asked, “Do you ...

[Read More]

Real Love Comes After ‘Being in Love’

In the novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (written in 1994) an older man named Dr. Iannis tells his daughter about his love for his late wife. He says that at first love “erupts ...

[Read More]