COD AND RELIGION: THE COUNCIL OF TRENT

The increase of cod consumption and its trade is attributed to the Council of Trent, the 19th ecumenical council of the Catholic Church which was held in the city of Trento, Italy, between 1545 and 1963.

In 1545 Pope Paolo III convened the Council to oppose Martin Luther’s protestant reformation. Trent was chosen for its strategic position because it was considered a city-bridge between the papacy’s territories and the emperor ones. In this city, the Catholic Church had strong political and religious power and for this reason, it became one of the main Catholic European city.

During the Council of Trent were issued some precepts which regulated how to live a faithful life: according to the Catholic Church meat consumption had to be reduced in favour of fish, if believers did not respect these rules they risked to be condemned to eternal damnation.

The Council regulations, issued in 1545, imposed to eat fish on Wednesdays, Fridays and during Lent and Advent. During these days, eggs, cheese and dairy products were also banned. Here, the uses of cod begun to flourish and many cod and stockfish recipes were introduced, at first in convents and monasteries, and then in the noblest houses. Fresh cod was preferred amongst the nobility, whilst stockfish was eaten in poorer households. During the time of the Council of Trento, also the Archbishop of Uppsala, Olaus Magnus, played an important role in increasing cod consumption. In 1555 he wrote Description of the Northern People (Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus) and this opera was important because it gave information about cod and its trade in Northern Europe. In particular, Olaus described cod fishing techniques and methods of cod conservation. He also provided information about stockfish in Bergen and the business relationship between Venice and the Northern people.

It can be said because of the Council of Trent, there was a major increase in cod consumption, and, thanks to its versatile recipes and its nutritional properties, it was considered the King amongst the fishes.

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