Duhaime's LawGallery - The Law In Pictures


Amende Honorable

  • Object type: Painting
  • Formal Title: Une amende honorable, salon de 1868
  • Creator: Alphonse Legros (1837-1911)
  • Date Created: 1868
  • Origin: France
  • Current Location: Paris

Amende honorable was an archaic form of punishment in use in both France and England right up to the 1700s.

There were several variations but in essence, it involved dressing down to underwear and being tied up and led to kneel before clergy - as in Legros' painting, before a bishop - and begging for official Church forgiveness or pardon.

So great was the role of the clergy in the justice systems of the era that a pardon granted by the church was binding on the state, regardless of the severity of the crime.

Humiliation and submission to God was a large part of the ritual. The person seeking forgiveness was often led into a church with a rope already hung around his neck and pulled along by the public executioner, completely ready for execution if forgiveness was not extended by the priest, or as a prelude to execution.

Men could offer to do amende honorable to cleanse themselves of some wrong hanging on their conscience.

Or they could be ordered to amende honorable, in which case it could lead to death as forgiveness was a matter of discretion.

Legros' painting captures the grandeur of the church and the severity of the legal process.

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