The Experience of Homosexuality in the Middle
The following is a paper written in 1988. I would change some,
perhaps many of the conclusions, and certainly the theoretical
approach. In particular I would emphasis the position of large
aggregates of human beings [i.e. cities and monasteries] as a
necessary but not sufficient pre-condition for homosexual sub-cultures.
It should also be noted that this paper stands firmly against
the social constructionist model of homosexual cultures. It sees,
in Western culture at least, the persistent existence of recognizably
homosexual sub-cultures which recur whenever opportunity presents
itself. I am now much more open to constructionist arguments,
but would insist that the free variation some aspects of constructionism
seems to posit, does not exist:- in fact a small number of formulations
The bibliography on medieval homosexuality in the ten years
since this paper was written has grown enormously. There is an
up-to-date online bibliography available. Anyone seriously interested in this topic needs especially
to get hold of the following (full citations in the online bibliography):
- Michael J. Rocke: Forbidden Friendship
- James Brundage: Law, Sex, and Christian Society in
- John Boswell: Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe
- Mark Jordan: The Invention of Sodomy
- Bernardette Brooten: Love Between Women
Let me stress this was a term paper by a graduate student.
It may still have some interest, but it does not represent my
current ideas, or what I would regard as publishable material.
Homosexual sex was widespread in the Middle Ages and there is
abundant information on what church writers and secular legislators
thought about it. Shoddy or partisan scholarship and a distinctly
modern disdain of homosexuals by scholars until recently marked
much of the discussion of the history of this medieval homosexuality.
Since 1955, and especially since 1975, much work has been done
that is of reasonable quality . The concentration has tended
to be on the Church's, or society's, attitude to homosexuality.
This paper takes a different tack and looks at the personal experience
in the Middle Ages of those we would now call homosexuals and
the structures in which they were able to experience their sexuality.
Their experience fits in with the wider experience of sexuality
in Middle Ages and this also will be considered. Naturally, we
can say little about what sexuality felt like for individuals,
but a possible framework for their experience can be reconstructed
from existing sources. This will be, necessarily, a framework
for the experience of homosexual males for significant information
exists only about men and boys .
The main focus of the present paper will be on the experience
of homosexuality for individuals and on what can be gleaned about
the subcultures or other kinds of social networks homosexuals
belonged to in diverse medieval periods. There are theoretical
issues to face in this inquiry, about the concept of homosexual and homosexuality, and the overall place of homosexuality
in the study of medieval sexuality. Only after looking at these
will we move to a consideration of sources and the uses that can
be made of them. A examination of the often ignored issue of why
people engaged in homosexual activities will help us to focus
better on the core of this paper which will be to consider those
medieval societies in which we have knowledge of homosexuality
and to see if they fit into any typology. The typologies looked
at are of the types of homosexuality we can see present and at
the social contexts in which this sexuality was expressed.
Use of Terms
Michel Foucault opened up the serious investigation of the history
of sexuality . His view was that sexuality is socially constructed
in a way similar to grammar, and so to talk about homosexuality in the past would be a solecism; for Foucault the experience of
a modern western gay man is incommensurable with same-gender sex
in other periods or cultures . This distinctive perspective
has become orthodox for many writers . John Boswell led the
attack on Foucault's thesis , although his own theory that
there have always been homosexual subcultures  does not seem
to be verifiable. Other authors not attached to structuralist
theory, such as Guido Ruggiero , are now joining Boswell. The
core issue is did homosexual behavior exist before the modern
period as the affective preference we call homosexuality? The
word homosexual is a nineteenth-century invention, and
it is often suggested that one alternative, sodomy, had
too varied a meaning in the Middle Ages to substitute for it.
Self-conception is surely important in defining a person's sexuality,
but we need not be too realist about it: a thing does not need
a name to exist. Homosexual acts existed and even though the meaning
of the word sodomy has been much discussed for the Middle
Ages, and it could be applied to acts such as anal intercourse
between married people, in the majority of cases it refers to
various sexual acts between men . A working definition is that
homosexuality, the desire for at least sexual contact with someone
of the same gender, is a perquisite of a person practicing homosexual
acts on a regular basis, even though as this paper makes clear,
the social framework may vary greatly.
A study of homosexuality fits into the wider history of sexuality
in the Middle Ages. Discussions of sex dating from the period
are almost all ecclesiastical, while current scholarly interest
is with the sexual lives of lay people. This requires an oblique
use of sources similar to that needed with the history of homosexuality.
Late antique thought in general had turned against sexuality .
The revival of transcendence in philosophy downgraded the body
and exalted rationality as a path to divinity. Christian theologians
took up the theme with gusto. In the West, St. Jerome and St.
Ambrose conceived of sex as a way of tying the spirit to carnality
. St. Augustine took up another platonic theme, that passion
derogated from reason, and argued that, while procreation was
a virtuous end for sex, attempts to gain pleasure were unnatural
since rationality was inevitably compromised . His views set
the tone for western Christianity. Sex was permissible only within
marriage and when it aimed at procreation, and only then if you
did not enjoy it too much . This general theme was particularized
in discussions of what was allowable between married people .
Masturbation was out, as were anal and oral sex; all were pleasurable
and did not lead to procreation. Vaginal intercourse also was
permitted only in what has become called the "missionary
position" and there was an extended discussion of the sinfulness
of having the woman on top, of entry from behind and anal sex
. Eventually many commentators came to the conclusion that
any unusual coital positions were unnatural, although it was never
agreed exactly what was permitted and the concept of "natural"
proved to be flexible .
Clearly the theories of ostensibly celibate authors did not accord
with the practice and types of sexual activity practiced by heterosexuals.
The discussions of possible sins by theologians indicate that
some people were committing those sins; there is some evidence
that users of early medieval penitentials inquired into what sins
a penitent had committed  and so the penitentials do reflect
practice as well as churchmen's concerns. After the institution
of compulsory confession at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215),
the practices of the laity resulted in a new consideration of
ethics by theologians; Bishop Grosseteste of Lincoln, for instance,
worked on Aristotle's Ethics, and new handbooks for confessors
were produced. This evidence shows that heterosexuals in the Middle
Ages practised a wide range of sexual activity. As well as procreative
sex in the missionary position, heterosexuals seem to have enjoyed
sex with the woman on top, in the "doggy position" ,
and oral sex . Heterosexuals also had anal sex , and this
seems to have been used as a form of contraception along with coitus interruptus. In periods when marriage was delayed
we can also be fairly sure that masturbation was an outlet .
Other evidence, apart from conventional love literature, makes
it clear that people also loved each other on occasion . People
do seem to have had psychological defenses against the ecclesiastical
onslaughts on their sexuality; there was a popular belief that
sex between married people was always without sin , and there
was a phrase si non caste, tamen cauts .
This wider world of medieval sexuality includes homosexuality,
and we have been looking at it to establish that homosexuals were
not alone in having their sexuality negated by ecclesiastical
ideology. Turning now to how historians have approached this aspect
of medieval sexuality, we find that three themes predominate;
biography, church and society's views of homosexuality, and the
persecution suffered by homosexuals.
The least informative in terms of gaining a historical perspective
on the subject has been the biographical approach. There are numerous
biographies of St. Anselm, St. Aelred, William Rufus, Richard
I and various renaissance homosexuals. Little context has been
given to their sexual lives, and the goal is often prurient or
to "prove" that homosexuals are as good or better than
Another approach has been to look at society's view of homosexuality.
This takes into account church views and secular laws. Bailey's
work  is well known in this area, and the results of this
sort of study have been informative. The goal has often been to
change contemporary opinion.
The persecution of homosexuals has been the greatest concern of
many writers on the subject. Gay writers in particular have seen
the origins of modern oppression in Christian Europe . The
two major themes have been the growth of intolerance and actual
persecution. John Boswell  argues strongly that Christianity
only became hostile as it absorbed the effects of social changes
which had nothing to do with religion. Furthermore, it was only
in the thirteenth century that condemnation of homosexual activity
became a major theme. Boswell sometimes overstates his case ,
but he is on to something; churchmen become much more consistent
after the mid-thirteenth century in their condemnation at the
same time that in the secular sphere capital punishments begin
to be handed out . Various writers have drawn links between
the treatment of Jews, lepers, heretics and homosexuals .
Each group tended to be scarred with the stigma of the others.
Physical persecution followed the increase in intolerance. The
burnings began when the secular lawmakers took up the ecclesiastical
themes . Their motives were explicitly religious; fear of
the divine vengeance meted out to Sodom was often given as a reason
for the new laws. Why these laws and punishments were made only
in the thirteenth century is disputed. Gay activist writers tend
to see Christian morality entering the laws, but equally important
was that it was only in the thirteenth century that secular laws
were made in great numbers and law makers looked to Roman Law
which since Justinian had explicitly condemned homosexuality.
If physical persecution was a factor in the lives of homosexuals
only in the late Middle Ages, it was not the only way they might
have felt attacked. They were constantly aware, if they had contact
with the church, that their sexual desires were sinful. There
has been a tendency to see homosexuals as unique in this respect,
but as the discussion of sexuality in general made clear, almost
all sexually active people were in a similar position. Heterosexuals
were allowed at least some sexual expression and the whole orientation
of society towards marriage gave them a way of coping. Homosexuals'
social networks will be examined to see if they provided a similar
There were earlier studies of the history of homosexuality, but
the work of Derrick S. Bailey  marked a new departure in the
use of sources. Bailey's sources were canon law, secular law such
as Justinian's Code and the barbarian codes, and some writings
of the church fathers and their medieval successors. Bailey's
work was constantly referred to by many of the other writers in
following two decades . John Boswell  also uses these
sources, although with a broader knowledge, but due to his determination
not to look only at negative attitudes to homosexuals, he introduced
evidence from sources such as troubadour and other poetry and
writings of monastic authors such as Aelred of Rievaulx. Boswell
also took care to look at the context in which, for instance,
canons were issued, and was able to question Bailey's interpretations
. In this way and by taking medieval discussions of friendship
as relevant to homosexuality, Boswell has widened considerably
the evidence available for discussion.
It is important to look at these sources because both Bailey and
Boswell are interested in a global understanding of medieval homosexuality;
Bailey is mainly interested in the Church's view while Boswell
also attempts to comprehend the lifestyle of homosexuals. The
problem with both is that their sources are discontinuous .
There is much information, but we are talking about a thousand
years of history on a diverse continent. Canon law and commentaries,
along with theological and spiritual writing do allow a fairly
continuous analysis of the views of the clerical elite. The need
to jump from Spain to France to Scandinavia  does not allow
a similar analysis of the actual situation of homosexual people.
Law codes, canons and scholarly commentaries are difficult to
tie to what was happening in particular places to particular individuals.
They necessitate that the authors who use them talk about "medieval
culture" and "Christian attitudes" over large areas
and long time periods. The hermeneutical difficulties of using
such contrasting sources as seventh-century Visigothic codes and
twelfth-century monastic writing to say anything consistent about
medieval homosexuality are immense.
There has been an increase since 1978 in the number of studies
looking at local areas. Ruggiero, Goodich, Gade, Krekic, Roth
 and others have used local inquisition records, court records
and poetry to present the history of homosexuality from such diverse
local areas as Norway and Dubrovnik to Venice and Florence. The
opportunity is now available to use these local records to come
to refine more general conclusions. Many of the sources already
used on a global basis can also be used as local evidence, for
instance St. Peter Damien's Liber Gomorrhanius  might
be looked at for the information it gives on central Italy in
the eleventh century. The goal in this paper is to direct attention
away from the generality and to the variety of homosexual people's
Motivations for Homosexuality
Given the difficulties of homosexual sex in the Middle Ages, it
is legitimate to ask why people chose to act in this way. No etiology
has ever been established for homosexuality and its expression
has varied from culture to culture; in most it has been tolerated
or approved, but in others it has been absent . In contrast
with some non-European cultures homosexual activity is referred
to in such diverse places and times that it always was an option,
a conceivable possibility, in the Middle Ages. John Boswell thinks
it is basically an urban phenomena, and this is true of anything
we can call a subculture, but the evidence of the Irish penitentials,
produced in a land without cities, suggests that the urban aspect
should not be pushed .
It might be thought that homosexual activity, seen as personal
motivations and desires, does not fit into any economic pattern.
Differing patterns of heterosexual institutions such as marriage
can be linked to economic trends. Marriage as a means of property
transfer among the twelfth-century French aristocracy was a different
institution to that of marriages between peasants, or between
town dwellers. Homosexual subcultures, however, emerged fully
only in urban areas. We can see the impact of the commercial revolution
here. The growth of towns was connected to the rise in trade.
Several factors resulted from this. First of all, especially in
Italy, the cities were large enough to provide anonymity; social
control was shifted to the family and the magistracy and away
from the community at large. This "gap" in social control
is what allows a subculture to develop. Delayed marriage in late
medieval Italian towns also meant that there were sexually mature
young people who might experiment given the lack of heterosexual
opportunity . Men who were by inclination homosexual were
also given longer to discover this before being married. Some
reasons for being homosexual, or developing homosexual traits,
do seem to have an economic base.
Another explanation for being homosexual has been suggested, again
in the Italian context, by Herlihy . He takes up the issue
of the age differential, which could be up to fifteen years, between
married couples in Florence. This meant that mothers were often
as near their children's' age as their husbands. Herlihy thinks
this affected infantile development, retarded the age of marriage
and produced a "feminized" society . This is a Freudian
explanation of homosexuality, and apart from being unprovable
does not explain why a "feminized" man should become
a distant paterfamilias when he finally married after the
age of thirty.
One of the reasons people have sex is usually overlooked. They
find it pleasurable . There is no sexual activity that is
unique to homosexuals, although some acts may be more frequent.
The sources available enable us to say something about the type
of sexual activities homosexuals practiced. Early medieval Irishmen
seem to have confessed to anal intercourse, interfemoral intercourse
, and mutual masturbation . Oral sex including the swallowing
of semen  was also noted. We have no information as to whether
kissing was practiced. Flagellation seems to have been a penance
rather than a pleasure. St. Peter Damian thought this constellation
of activities was prevalent amongst his clerical contemporaries
in central Italy . When we hear the voice of homosexual poets
from Spain, Arab writers discuss anal sex but, along with their
more chaste Jewish counterparts, the emphasis is on kissing 
and its pleasures. Kissing was about as far as monastic writers
in Christian Europe would go , although the Templars were
accused of analingus . Renaissance Florence saw prosecutions
for anal sex [55}, and Ruggiero recounts the trials of a transvestite
prostitute and another case in which the relationship of the two
charged parties was sadomasochistic . There was then a variety
of sexual activity practiced by homosexuals and the repertoire
seems more or less complete. It can be noted that discussion of
oral sex apart from kissing is relatively rare, and that interfemoral
intercourse is discussed as frequently as anal penetration. Medieval
writers and trial reports all seem to assume that anal sex was
always done from behind. All these activities were condemned by
the Church and society throughout the period. For people to break
such persistent taboos we must acknowledge just how strong the
drive for sexual pleasure is in many individuals - as strong and
sometimes stronger than any moral precept.
Types of Homosexual Activity in Medieval Europe
Discussion of medieval homosexual sex has brought us to one of
the major themes of the paper - the types of homosexuality we
can see in medieval Europe. Randolph Trumbach  has suggested
one way of understanding the variety. His thesis is that there
are homosexually-oriented men in most societies, but equally that
there is usually horror at the idea of an adult male playing a
passive role in sex, the so-called "women's role". He
suggests that two strategies have normally  been adopted to
cope with the conflict; the first allows men to have sex with
adolescent boys, who are allowed to be passive for this period
of their lives, or there are fully accepted adult male transvestites.
These were strategies to retain the masculinity of one partner.
For Trumbach, Christian society is unique in rejecting both active
and passive homosexual activity, and because of this there is
the phenomenon of homosexual subcultures in West. He thought that
because of this there must always have been homosexual subcultures
in the West. Trumbach is wrong - there have been long periods
in western history without any discernible homosexual subculture
. Trumbach was also at fault in not distinguishing between
types of sexual activity and types of social networks or subcultures;
the two are not necessarily connected. His discussion of types
of sexual activity raises the legitimate question of why in some
societies we observe homosexual relations between equals, and
in others the adult/adolescent pattern . This is not reducible,
as Trumbach supposes, to whether or not there was a homosexual
subculture. There were societies such as Spanish Jewry which show
signs of a conscious subculture but where all the evidence points
to adult/adolescent activity, and places where the opposite seems
to hold. Trumbach's theory is far too rigid, but has value in
raising questions about the variety of forms homosexuality takes.
This variety is the subject now under consideration.
This section will look at those societies  in which we can
see the first type of pattern of sexual activity, that between
men and boys, or where one partner played a definitely passive
role in sex. There were real variations within this pattern.
Scandinavia has left a little evidence in law and literature about
homosexual practice . A single regulation of 1164 survives
against all homosexual activity, but does not seem to have been
enforced . The literature makes it clear that homosexual acts
were acceptable as long as a man played a "male" role.
There was a word "argr" or "ragr" used to
insult men who had played a receptive role; the indication is
that anal sex was the activity imagined . Gade asserts that
homosexual relationships existed in Norse society , but offers
no proof of this from either law or literature. Old Norse society
seems to have been one where it was acceptable for most men 
to express homoerotic desire, especially with slaves, but where
no evidence of homosexual social networks survives. The sex in
question is usually described as between men; a strong distinction
between active and passive roles does not here reflect any emphasis
Medieval Hebrew/Spanish culture has left a more varied record
of homosexual activity than Scandinavia . Maimonides took
a strict view of homosexual activity and admonished both partners,
but seems to have been more lenient when one of the partners was
under nine years old . Although this would be a young age
to have sex, this Rabbinic view has some links with the Hebrew/Spanish
literary culture whose poets wrote many beautiful verses dedicated
to the love of boys. The most notable poets of the period wrote
on the theme, and there seems to have been no question of them
copying ancient Greek forms, although Arabic ghazal poetry
was known to them. The allusions in the poetry were distinctly
Like Joseph in his form,
like Adoniah his hair.
Lovely of eyes like David,
he has slain me like Uriah .
The sexual activity referred to by Jewish poets, unlike Muslims,
did not go beyond kissing  and fondling. There were themes
and images that recurred in this genre of poetry from the eleventh
to thirteenth century. The poets knew of each other's work, were
widely read, and were integrated in society . There was here
then, the same active/passive pattern of homosexuality as in Scandinavia,
but there the similarity ends. Amongst Spanish Jews homosexuality
was a question of sex with boys, but it was also surrounded with
a halo of romance. The boys suffered no disgrace, although sex
with bearded youths was despised, and there was a literary and
social network of those who were attracted to other males.
There are numerous references to homosexual activity in literature
in twelfth-century Christian France. Here the evidence of the
type of sexual activity is mixed. The poetry of the homosexual
bishops Baudri of Bourgueil (1046-1130) and his friend Marbod
of Rennes (1035-1123)  reflects the situation of Jewish Spain
with an emphasis on pederasty and some awareness by the poets
of each other's work. The bishops were even less forthright about
the sexual activity they envisioned than the Jewish poets. However,
pederasty probably was not all that was going on; Ivo of Chartres,
at the same period and in the same region, discusses sodomy and
fellatio distinctly from pederasty , and Peter Damian, who
wrote at the same period although in a different place, mentions
mutual masturbation, interfemoral sex and "the complete act
against nature"  without making a special complaint of
pederasty or one partner being passive. For the poets however,
pederasty, and by implication an active/passive distinction, was
the norm but this might have been a literary topos reflecting
an awareness of Roman literary themes .
Trumbach's first type of homosexuality, where a great distinction
is made between active and passive roles is made, does then appear
to have occurred in medieval Europe . In the instance where
the strategy was most clearly to preserve the masculinity of one
participant, Scandinavia, pederasty does not seem to have been
an issue. Where we find pederasty as the pattern of active/passive
activity our evidence comes from individuals who do not stress
their own masculinity. So while passivity/activity is a fair way
to typify sexual activity, more than just the desire to preserve
masculinity was at issue; in the Jewish case, Mosaic law was slightly
less harsh on pederasty and Christian intellectual poets had classical
models to consider. Trumbach's theory may be correct for "primary"
cultures, ones that do not have to come to terms with previous
cultural norms, but in Jewish and Latin Christian societies constant
referral to earlier classical formulations requires that anthropological
data and theories be used with care.
Homosexual activity where there was not an active-passive pattern
would, in Trumbach's theory, be unique to the West and related
to the subculture he thought always existed. Here we are talking
about the possibility of reversing sexual roles in a given culture,
or where no strategy was deliberately adopted or expected by society
to preserve masculinity. In every culture there would be some
who preferred an active or passive role, but the strategy, if
it could be called that, would be the agreed pleasure of the participants.
Was this sort of sexual pattern evident in any time or place in
the Middle Ages?
Early medieval Irish confessors, as reflected in their penitentials,
were not worried by pederasty and made no great distinction between
active and passive activity. They do distinguish between men and
boys and talk about sexual acts that are mutual  and do not
fit into the active/passive paradigm. The penitential of Cummean
(c. 650) in particular talked about boys having sex together 
and Columban (c. 600) instructed that a sodomite should never
be housed with another person  without mentioning the age
of either person. Sex between monks was condemned frequently,
and here also there was some equality in that sexual activity
was between men of similar status. So in early Ireland , where
there is no evidence of any homosexual subculture, there may well
have been the option of sex on an equal basis. In this case Christian
condemnation of both parties may ,as Trumbach predicted, have
led each partner to act for pleasure rather than to preserve social
status. The only problem concerns the degree to which we can trust
the penitentials to reflect social reality.
Monastic writing on love and friendship in the twelfth century
represents some of the earliest evidence we have of the views
of homoerotically inclined men. Unlike Baudri of Bourgueil's musings
over pretty boys, writers such as Anselm and Aelred of Rievaulx
wrote to other monks. The objects of their affection were younger
men but they envisioned lifelong and exclusive relationships,
such as the affair Anselm had with the young monk Osbern .
It is not clear what part sex played in these relationships; although
it is not mentioned overtly by the writers they were attracted
to males and all their emotional life centered on men . In
this milieu also we can perhaps allow some sort of equality in
the activities of homosexuals .
Contemporary with these loving monks, there was a very different
society of young fighting men, the aristocratic elite of northern
France. Duby described the life of aristocratic youth and thought
it possible that they had sex together . Possibly the education
of knights in all-male groups, for many years with little prospect
of early marriage, would have encouraged homosexual activity .
Certainly Richard I, who embodied twelfth-century knightly mores,
had homosexual relationships . From what we can construe of
this aristocratic activity it was mutual and between men of the
same age group. We hear nothing of the condemnation of passive
activity seen in Norse lands.
There is some evidence from non-elite and non-monastic groups
in Southwest France in the late thirteenth century from the inquisition
records of Jacques Fournier . One Arnold of Verniole was tried
c. 1323 and his homosexuality came up in the records. It is clear
that he had no trouble persuading many younger men to sleep with
him. In spite of the age difference, both partners played active
and passive roles in penetrative sex . Arnold's motive in
changing roles around was pleasure. He does not seem to have had
a masculinity ax to grind.
The most extensive evidence of sexual activity comes from renaissance
Italy. It will be argued later that this is the best example we
have of a homosexual subculture in the period before 1500, but
for the moment the thing to note is that there is evidence of
a wide variety of sexual patterns. Florence in establishing its
magistracy to extirpate sodomy in 1432  specifically condemned
active and passive partners as if they were both committed by
adults, although the prosecutions published by Brucker  refer
to homosexual rape of boys. The Florentines also established heterosexual
brothels in 1415 with the intent of luring young men from sodomy
: they seem to have thought the problem was one of unsatisfied
sexual urges  rather than the possibility that some men might
have preferred to be passive. In Venice, Ruggiero, drawing upon
trial records, suggests that active/passive role playing was the
norm  and there were many cases of an older man and an adolescent
engaging in classic pederasty. But in this homosexual subculture
this was not the only pattern; Ruggiero's own figures  show
that the number of sodomy cases involving boys remained steady
at about 25 per cent for 175 years. There were also cases of whole
groups of young noblemen of the same age group being prosecuted
 and depositions from partners who did take turns in active
and passive penetration . In Italy as well then, we find that
equality in sexual roles was a conceivable option for homosexuals.
In this long section Trumbach's theory of homosexual activity
has been tested in reference to medieval Europe. He erred it seems
in thinking that the active-passive model of homosexual sex would
not occur in Christian societies, and in tying types of sexual
activity to particular types of culture. On the other hand, the
Christian condemnation of both partners in penetrative sex may
be related to the existence, in a variety of western contexts,
of a homosexuality that does not conform to the norm in other
cultures of distinct active and passive partners. The wide spectrum
of social contexts looked at here has also demonstrated that social
context and the types sexual activity are not closely related.
The rest of this paper leaves the study of sexual practice and
takes up the theme of social contexts.
Homosexual Networks & Homosexual Experience
So far homosexual networks or subcultures have been distinguished
from sexual activity. It is worthwhile asking just what we mean
by a subculture. Only then can the social experience of homosexuals
By "subculture", sociologists mean a number of different
things. A culture is the name given to the whole web of assumptions,
history, language, traditions, art, and crafts that a individuals
in a society hold in common. Society is composed of many groups,
and each group will have its own particular subset of traditions
that make it a subculture; consciousness of being a group is usually
a factor. The number of groups is enormous, since one individual
may belong to more than one group, so there is academic interest
only in certain sorts of subcultures; religious, ethnic, women's'
and deviant subcultures have all been of interest to scholars,
often reflecting their own concerns. In any large subculture there
will be sub-sub-cultures. To take the example of the modern gay
subculture, within the whole there are the distinct, if sometimes
overlapping, subcultures of men interested in leather clothing,
and of men interested in opera ; they share the general subcultural
knowledge of code words, gay meeting places, and gay history,
and will probably be aware of and understand "camp"
, but each subgroup also has its own meeting places, interests
and language. Such subcultures did exist in the Middle Ages, amongst,
for instance, the Jews, but as a category of thought "subculture"
describes a society more complex than that discernible in our
sources about homosexuality, with the possible exceptions discussed
later. This is not to say that homosexuals lived life in total
isolation. A more useful concept is that of a social "network"
: a homosexual would not have experienced his sexuality in
isolation if he had had a social network of homosexual friends,
fellow monks or former sexual partners. It is also easier to discern
such networks than the apparatus of a subculture through the sources
we have. A generalized homosexual subculture after all would mean
only that a series of such smaller networks were interlinked.
A final point here, pace Trumbach, is that no continuous
homosexual subculture did exist in the Middle Ages. Although we
have looked at evidence from a number of periods and regions there
is no evidence that any one group of homosexuals knew of any other's
existence . In this section we shall look at the this social
experience of gay men and at why there were social networks or
subculture in some places but not others.
Plainly, some homosexuals had an entirely individualized experience
of sexuality with no awareness of others, or at least many others
with same feelings and certainly no conception of a different
sexuality. There were a number of homosexual monarchs, who, with
the exception of Edward II, seem to have escaped any severe punishment;
one example would be Richard I of England. Many of these monarchs
do not seem to have been tied into any social network. Of the
societies already covered Scandinavian homosexuals seem to have
been integrated with the general population: there is no evidence
that all men had sex with others, but those who did were not regarded
badly . The Norse concept of "argr" or being passive
in sex does not seem to have been applied to any particular group.
Ireland and other regions reflected in the penitentials have left
no other evidence that would allow us to see social networks.
Possibly there were small groups in some monasteries, and men
who played with other as youths might have remained in contact,
but this remains speculation. We can be fairly sure that in the
many areas and periods for which there is no surviving evidence
there were isolated individuals who possibly made local contacts;
the sexual habits we can observe in the variety of places we do
know about indicates as much. Such individual experience might
have been the fate of the majority of homosexuals in the Middle
There are sundry cases where the sources point to small groups
or networks. In some royal courts there was a network of homosexually
interested men. At the court of Charlemagne, Alcuin and his circle
wrote erotic poems and letters to each other, complete with nicknames
with classical references . This is too small to be considered
a subculture, but the homosexuals who belonged to it did have
social support. The Norman courts, particularly that of William
Rufus, also bear witness to homosexual networks: St. Anselm preached
a sermon asking the court to stop wearing long hair, and William
of Malmesbury, admittedly at a distance of thirty years, reports
young men walking naked around the court . A similar phenomenon
of social networks can be seen in monastic circles. In the eleventh
century St. Peter Damian imagined that whole groups of clerics
in his region  got together with "eight or even ten
equally sordid men"  and that homosexual priests absolved
each other of their sins . Such social networks, although
not necessarily sordid, can be seen in the letters of Aelred of
Rievaulx . For many men of a homosexual inclination, once
the Cistercians introduced adult recruitment, a monastery must
have seemed a good way to escape the pressures of marriage. Our
evidence comes from abbots' writing; the experience of lower level
monks is not known . Of the non-elite and non-monastic groups
examined earlier, the records of Montaillou, and the trial records
of Arnold of Verniole , indicate no extensive subculture,
but Arnold did have a whole circle of homosexually active acquaintances.
Although there is no way of quantifying, it is possible that small
social networks of friends were the commonest way homosexuals
who had any social support experienced their sexuality. The sources
just do not support the theory of a continuous or even a commonly
recurring subculture, but do show more than isolated individuals.
If social networks are the most we can see in most periods, are
we ever justified in seeing more developed homosexual subcultures
in the Middle Ages? The Hebrew/Spanish poets bear witness to a
tradition lasting many centuries: the first poet to write in the
tradition of homoerotic poetry was Yishaq ben Mar-Saul in the
eleventh century  and his successors continued composition
until the thirteenth century . This seems to lend support
to the idea that amongst Spanish Jews there was a subculture.
The problem is that our evidence is literary, and, while this
does show a continuing tradition of code words, images, and sensibility,
we do not know if there were meeting places, lasting relationships
or any consciousness among non-literary homosexuals that they
formed a group . Even with these reservations, we can see
some sort of subculture in Spain, based, as noted earlier, on
the sexual attraction of adults for adolescents. Boswell is keen
to see twelfth-century French culture and literature as evidence
of a widespread subculture . He brings into play the writings
of Baudri of Bourgueil, Marbod, and variety of other literary
works, including one poem which seems to refer to male brothels
operating in Paris, Chartres, Sens and Orleans . There was
also a verse debate between Helen and Ganymede on the merits of
the love of boys and the love of women. Boswell sees such literature
as "the product of a society in which gay people were an
important segment of the population," and "where defenses
of gay love were sufficiently common to have taken on a defiant
rather than apologetic tone" . Added to the sources
discussed by Boswell, there were reports of homosexuality at Paris
University in 1219 , and in Paris in general in 1230 .
The limited evidence does point to a homosexual subculture amongst
clerics, both priestly and scholarly, in northern France from
perhaps the late eleventh until sometime in the thirteenth century.
The sexuality expressed in the surviving poems is centered on
sex with young males but with some indications of more equal relationships
between adults. It is not clear if the homosexual networks we
can see in English monasteries at the period, or the possible
homosexuality amongst aristocratic youth, were linked with the
homoerotic traditions of the secular and urban clergy of northern
France. Late medieval and renaissance Italy presents a special
case. Italian homosexuality in late Middle Ages has been well
documented by Ruggiero. The sources are entirely different
from the literary evidence used by Boswell, and although we do
not hear the voices of homosexuals, Venice's court records describe
a varied homosexual subculture in the fifteenth century with distinct
meeting places near the Rialto amongst other places . Ruggiero
thinks that this subculture only came into being in the fifteenth
century . More rudimentary social organization is discernible
in Italy before that: Dante is quite aware of sodomites a century
earlier . Although only Venice has been investigated in full
there were municipal statutes in many other Italian cities of
the period , and it is possible much more evidence of homosexual
subcultures is available in their court records . Homosexual
subcultures did exist in the Middle Ages, although there are full
records for none of them. The total number was small, and they
were limited to certain areas. For most of the period there was
only the most limited social organization for homosexuals.
There are no set reasons why a homosexual network or more developed
subculture should develop in one area and not in another. Much
work has been done on the persecution of homosexuals, and Boswell's
thesis is that persecution destroyed the homosexual subculture
of the twelfth century. That may have been the case in France,
but the most developed subculture we are aware of, that of Venice,
grew up in an atmosphere far more dangerous for homosexuals than
anything in the thirteenth century. Persecution was not the only
relevant fact in the existence of a subculture. Urbanization as
such has little to do with the existence of homosexual activity,
Scandinavia and early medieval Ireland show that, but a developed
social organization seems to be necessary before sub-groups can
form their own networks. Not every town had a homosexual network,
as far as we can see, but almost all the networking that did occur
was related to urban life . Small networks must have grown
up accidentally as a group of acquaintances came to recognize
their sexuality in each other. Only when and where there was a
continuous subculture would there be real opportunities for homosexuals
outside these chance networks to find a social context for their
This paper has looked at the experience of medieval homosexuals
from a distinct perspective. In particular the development of
persecution and hatred, the elaboration of a theological and juridical
onslaught, has been sidelined. The goal has been to discuss the
way in which homosexuals experienced their sexuality. The theoretical
problems were discussed along with previous approaches to the
issue. Source material instead of being used to make large generalizations
has been taken as evidence for localized information. The central
part of the paper looked at why people might act homosexually,
and at the type of sex they had. The last two sections took up
the suggestions of Randolph Trumbach on the type of sexualities
and subcultures that might be found. Very clearly there were distinct
types of sexual activity in different periods and areas, but these
activities do not seem to accord with any particular social organization
of homosexuals: there was a pederastic emphasis in the Spain,
with a developed subculture, and there were relationships conducted
on a more equal basis in areas where there is little evidence
of homosexual social organization. What has become clear is that
homosexuality existed in immensely varied forms in the Middle
Ages. A global approach to the whole period is of some use and
interest, but to try to understand the lives of homosexual individuals
it is necessary to consider their local circumstances and the
structures in which they lived.
- Derrick S. Bailey: Homosexuality and the Western
Christian Tradition (London: Longmans, Green, 1955) (repr.
Hamden, Ct: Archon/Shoestring Press, 1975), Boswell Christianity and the work of Vern Bullough, James Brundage and Guido Ruggiero
are all valuable.
- Judith C. Brown: Immodest Acts - The Life
of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy (New York: Oxford UP,
1986), p. 9, can find perhaps twelve references in fifteen hundred
years to women's homosexuality. She also argues p. 171,n. 54,
that "before the nineteenth century, women who engaged in
sexual relations with other women were incapable of perceiving
themselves as a distinct social and sexual group, and were not
seen as such by others." This may have been true of men at
some periods, but not always as this paper makes clear.
- Michel Foucault: History of Sexuality, Vol
I: An Introduction (New York: Pantheon, 1978).
- In similar vein the word heterosexual would be inappropriate to describe the both the experience of
sexuality of men and women in, for instance, a society such as
ancient Athens, where a women's world was cut off from a man's,
and the more integrated world of the United States. Foucault's
wider point is that there is no such thing as "humanity"
and that each society constructs its own reality.
- For instance Barry D. Adam: The Rise of a
Gay and Lesbian Movement (Boston: Twayne, 1987), and Alan
Bray: Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London: Gay
Men's Press, 1982).
- Implicitly in Boswell Christianity, and
explicitly in his "Towards the Long View: Revolutions, Universals
and Sexual Categories" in Salmagundi 58-59 (Fall 1982-Winter
1981), pp. 89-113.
- Personal communication.
- Guido Ruggiero: The Boundaries of Eros: Sex,
Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice (New York: Oxford UP,
1985), p. 114.
- This statement is based on my own reading, but
see also Brundage Law, Sex p. 213.
- Boswell Christianity, p 128.
- Joyce E. Salisbury: "The Latin Doctors of
the Church on Sexuality" in Journal of Medical History 12:4 (1986), p. 279.
- Salisbury, pp. 285-288.
- Gratian thought that a couple who married because
they were attracted to each other were guilty of fornication.
See James Brundage: "Let me count the ways: Canonists and
Theologians Contemplate Coital Positions" in Journal of
Medieval History 10:2 (1984), p. 84
- Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 82.
- Brundage "Coital Positions", pp. 82-84.
- Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 87.
- John T. Noonan: Contraception: A History of
its Treatment by Catholic Theologians and Canonists (Cambridge,
Mass: Belknap Press, 1966), p 166.
- "a canio" or "a tergo". See
Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 88.
- Gratian discusses this, Brundage "Coital
Positions", p. 84.
- This was often called "sodomy" in a
heterosexual context. See Noonan Contraception, p 226.
- J.L. Flandrin: "Marriage tardif et vie sexuelle:
Discussions et hypotheses de recherche" in Annales ESC (1972), pp. 131178, argues on grounds of realism that it
is unreasonable to expect that young people sublimated sexual
urges for up to fifteen years.
- Gene Brucker: Giovanni and Lusanna: Love and
Marriage in Renaissance Florence (Berkeley & Los Angeles:
Univ. of California Press, 1986). This uses a fifteenth-century
law suit to discuss the passions of a Florentine couple. This
kind of evidence, which involves marriage law, is just the sort
of law case that we do not have for homosexuals, for whom we have
only criminal cases.
- Brundage "Coital Positions", p. 87.
- P.A. Biller: "Birth Control in the Medieval
West" in Past and Present 94 (1982), p. 17. "If
not chaste, then with care", which has the same thought as
the modern "if you can't be good, be careful".
- An example of this approach is A.L. Rowse: Homosexuals
in History: Ambivalence in Society, Literature and the Arts (New York: Macmillan, 1977).
- Bailey Homosexuality
- For example, Louis Crompton: "The Myth of
Lesbian Impunity: Capital Laws from 1270 to 1791) in Journal
of Homosexuality 6:1/2 (1980), pp. 11-26, and Warren Johansson:
"Ex parte Themis: The Historic Guilt of the Christian Church"
in Homosexuality, Intolerance and Christianity: A Critical
Examination (New York: Scholarship Committee, Gay Academic
- Boswell Homosexuality, passim.
- Brundage Law, Sex p. 174, for instance,
challenges Boswell's view that early penitential literature treated
sodomy as a "commonplace". Brundage did a statistical
analysis of the assigned penances for various activities and shows
(Table 4.3, p. 600) that sex between men was given by far the
- Crompton "Lesbian Impunity", p. 17,
finds the earliest burning of a male sodomite in Ghent in 1292.
- Vern L. Bullough: "Heresy, Witchcraft and
Sexuality" in Journal of Homosexuality 1 (1974), pp.
183-201, repr. in Vern L. Bullough: Sex, Society and History (New York: Science History Publications, 1976), and R.I. Moore: The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Oxford: Blackwell,
- Brundage Law, Sex, p. 472.
- M.E. McAlpine: "Pardoner's Homosexuality
and How it Matters" in PMLA 95 (1980), pp. 15-17,
suggests one example of the internalization of Church teaching.
He proposes that Chaucer meant his Pardoner, who is called a "mare",
slang for homosexual, to be homosexual, and that the Pardoner's
need to wear relics around his body was Chaucer's way of expressing
the feelings of an outcast that his body was dirty.
- Bailey Homosexuality, (1955)
- It was so influential that it contributed directly
to the support given by the Church of England for the decriminalization
of homosexuality in England and Wales in 1967.
- Boswell Homosexuality.
- For example, Boswell Homosexuality, pp.
- E. William Monter: "Sodomy and Heresy in
Early Modern Switzerland" in Journal of Homosexuality 6:1/2 (1980), p. 42, points this out, and thinks that it makes
suspect any talk of subcultures north of the Alps before 1700.
- Boswell Homosexuality, Chap. 8, Bailey Homosexuality, Chap. V.
- K.E. Gade: "Homosexuality and the Rape of
Males in Old Norse Law and Literature" in Scandinavian
Studies 58 (1986), pp. 124-141, Michael Goodich: The Unmentionable
Vice: Homosexuality in the Late Medieval Period (Santa Barbara,
Ca: ABC-Clio, 1979), B. Krekic: "Abominandum-Crimen: Punishment
of Homosexuals in Renaissance Dubrovnik" in Viator 18 (1987), pp. 337-345, N. Roth,: "Deal Gently with the Young
Man: Love of Boys in Medieval Hebrew Poetry of Spain" in Speculum 57 (1982), pp. 21-50, Guido Ruggiero: "Sexual
Criminality in the Early Renaissance: Venice 1338-1358" in Journal of Social History 8:4 (1975), pp. 18-37, and Boundaries.
- St. Peter Damian: Liber Gomorrhanius in PL CXLV, cols 15990 and as Book of Gomorrah: An
Eleventh-century Treatise Against Clerical Homosexual Practice trans. Pierre J. Payer (Waterloo, Ont: Wilfred Laurier University
- D.E. Greenberg & M.H. Bystryn: "Christian
Intolerance of Homosexuality" in American Journal of Sociology 88 (1982), p. 515.
- Ludwig Bieler: The Irish Penitentials (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1963). For some
reason Bieler does not translate all the earthier passages. Boswell's
emphasis on the urban nature of homosexuality is partly due to
his belief that tolerance declined because the late antique and
early medieval ruralization of society meant a more rigid and
- R.C Trexler: "La Prostitution Florentine
au XVe Siecle: Patronage et Clienteles" in Annales ESC 36:6 (1981), p. 984 points out that Florence built municipal brothels
specifically to lure young men away from sodomy.
- David Herlihy: "Veillir a Florence au Quattrocento"
in Annales ESC 24 (1969), pp. 1344-1345.
- Herlihy "Veiller", p 1345. He suggests
this was the reason Florence had no strong military tradition.
- This is of course a judgement in which the strictest
patristic moralists, who did not stop to consider economic or
psychological reasons, would concur.
- John McNeill & Helena Gamer: Medieval
Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal "libri
poenitentatles" and Selections from Related Documents (New York: Columbia UP, 1938), p. 103.
- McNeill Handbooks, p. 113.
- McNeill Handbooks, p. 186. To take semen
in os is described as the worst of evils.
- Damian Liber Gom. I, (p. 29, Payer translation).
- Roth p. 24.
- Boswell Homosexuality, p 225. Boswell
suggests St. Aelred had gone further as a youth.
- Malcolm Barber: The Trial of the Templars (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1978), p. 163. Many of the Templars
denied the charge and it is not clear whether they were being
accused of a ritual or sexual crime. This is also the only reference
I found to kissing of the nipples.
- Gene Brucker (ed.): The Society of Renaissance
Florence: A Documentary Study (New York: Harper and Row, 1971),
- Guido Ruggiero: "Sexual Criminality in the
Early Renaissance: Venice 1338-1358" in Journal of Social
History 8:4 (1975), p. 23.
- Randolph Trumbach: "London's Sodomites:
Homosexual Behaviour and Western Culture in the Eighteenth Century"
in Journal of Social History 11:1 (1977), pp. 1-33. This
article discusses homosexuality in a cross-cultural perspective
before it gets down to London's subculture.
- The "norm" envisioned by Trumbach refers
to the majority of cultures studied by anthropologists.
- Boswell Homosexuality, p. 169.
- For Europe the transvestite pattern has not been
an option and will not be discussed here. There have been transvestites
but nowhere does this seem to have been a way of socialising homosexual
- A definitive study of this question would require
an accurate picture of what sort of people were homosexuals in
the periods looked at and the relative proportions of each subgroup
within that group. Such a sampling frame has not been developed
for the present decade, and so all statements based on the limited
material available for the Middle Ages are tentative.
- Gade "Homosexuality", and Thorkil Vanggaard: Phallos: A Symbol and Its History in the Male World (New
York: International Universities Press, 1973), pp. 76-80.
- Gade, p. 131.
- Gade, p. 134.
- Gade, p. 135.
- Vanggaard, p. 80, makes this point, saying homosexual
practices were acceptable amongst "normal" men.
- Roth "Love of Boys" and Fred Rosner: Medicine in the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (New York:
Ktav, 1984), pp. 193-213, discuss respectively the literary and
- Roth, p. 23, and Rosner, p. 204, and p. 211.
Maimonides wrote in Egypt, but was important for all Sephardic
Jews. If the boy was under nine both partners were exempt from
punishment, if the boy was under thirteen the boy was exempt and
the adult was punished. Males over thirteen are adults in Jewish
- Yishaq ben Mar-Saul (eleventh century) translated
in Roth, p. 31.
- Roth, p. 24, although Roth's view that kissing
alone is the subject of the verse he translates on p. 45 as "I
undressed him, and he undressed me;/ I sucked his lips and he
sucked mine." (where the verb used is "suck" with
no mention of lips), is debatable.
- Roth, p. 51.
- Boswell Homosexuality, pp. 244-248 and
E.R. Curtius: European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages trans. Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series 36 (New York, Pantheon,
1953), pp. 115-116.
- Brundage Love, Sex, p. 212.
- Peter Damian Liber Gom. I. (p. 29, Payer
- Baudri de Bourgueil: Les Oeuvres poetiques
de Baudri de Bourgueil ed. Phyllis Abrahams (Paris: Librarie
Ancienne Honore Champion, 1926) (repr; Geneva: Slatkine Reprints,
1974), p. xviii.
- Instances other than those discussed could be
cited from records from Charlemagne's court, some monastic writers,
and later medieval Italian sources.
- chiefly mutual masturbation.
- McNeill Penitentials, p. 113.
- McNeill Penitentials, p. 252.
- And any other area considered by compilers of
- B. McGuire: "Love, Friendship and Sex in
the 11th Century: The Experience of Anselm" in Studia
Theologia 28 (1974), pp. 111-155.
- McGuire "Anselm", p. 146.
- Vern L. Bullough: Sexual Variance in Society
and History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976),
p. 338, suggests homosexuality was a feature of Byzantine monasticism
as well as Western.
- Georges Duby: "Youth in Aristocratic Society:
Northwestern France in the Twelfth Century" in The Chivalrous
Society (1977), p. 119, cites Orderic Vitalis' reference to
young men returning from training "Quasi de flammis Sodomiae". In his own William Marshall: The Flower of Chivalry trans. R. Howard (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), p. 14 and p.
53, Duby looks at homosexuality and notes that only men are said
to love each other.
- Greenberg & Bystryn, p. 532. If true this
type of activity would not be due to homosexual preference or
attraction but faut de mieux.
- Roger of Hoveden: Gesta II.7 - describes
the future Richard I and Philip II Augustus going to bed.
Ref. in John Gillingham: "Richard I and Berengaria of Navarre"
in Bulletin of the Institute of HIstorical Research 53:128
(1980), p. 169. Gillingham thinks Richard was not homosexual,
but his evidence is against him, and he demonstrates his anti-homosexual
prejudice when he proposes (p.170) that the name of the modern
writer N.I. Garde means "in drag".
- Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: Montaillou: village
occitan de 1294 a 1324 (Paris: Gallimard, 1975), trans. by
B. Bray (New York: 1978), used these records. The trial of one
Arnold of Verniole is translated in full in Michael Goodich: The
Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Late Medieval Period (Santa Barbara, Ca.: ABC-Clio, 1979), pp. 93. ff.
- Goodich, p. 96.
- Gene Brucker (ed.): The Society of Renaissance
Florence: A Documentary Study (New York: Harper and Row, 1971),
- Brucker Society, pp. 204-206.
- Trexler, p. 984.
- David Herlihy: "The Tuscan Town in the Quattrocento"
in Medievalia et Humanistica 1 (1970), pp. 90-91, has a
table showing that in 1427 most men were unmarried by the age
- Ruggiero Eros, pp. 123-124.
- Ruggiero Eros, p. 128, Table 6.
- Ruggiero Eros, p. 127.
- Ruggiero Eros, p. 116.
- These are only two out of many possible modern
subgroups within the gay subculture.
- "Camp" is the distinctive way of looking
at the world adopted by gay men in the West. "Effeminacy"
does not quite describe what it involves. It has been characterized
as the triumph of style over substance in aesthetic appreciation.
- I spent the summer of 1988 working for a modern
social research project, interviewing 120 gay men on the effects
of the AIDS epidemic on a study directed by John Martin and Laura
Dean at the Columbia University School of Public Health. One of
the ways of organizing data from interviewees was in terms of
their social network. Among heterosexuals this would often reduce
to their close family members. Gay men, and, I think it is fair
to say, some active homosexuals in earlier periods form support
networks through friends and occupation as much as through their
family. I am not suggesting modern social structures may be read
back into the Middle Ages, but the conceptual framework is useful.
- Some educated circles in the West knew of classical
antiquity, but not other contempories.
- Vanggaard, p. 80.
- Boswell Homosexuality, p. 189.
- McGuire "Anselm", p. 148.
- The area around Gubbio in central Italy.
- Peter Damian Liber Gom. II (p. 30 in the
Payer translation.) This may be one of the few references we have
to group sex in the Middle Ages. Payer dismisses it on the grounds
that there are no other references to be found in the period.
- Peter Damian Liber Gom. VII (p. 43 in
the Payer translation.)
- Boswell Homosexuality, pp. 221-226.
- The experience of the Templars might be included
as an extreme case of monastic homosexual networks, but apart
from the uncertainty of whether the charges against them were
true, many of the activities charged were meant to have taken
place on only one occasion. See Anne Gilmour-Bryson,: The Trial
of the Templars in the Papal States and the Abruzzi (Vatican:
Biblioteco Apostolica Vaticana, 1982), p. 47.
- Goodich, p. 93 ff.
- Roth, p. 30.
- Boswell Homosexuality, p. 266.
- It would also be useful to have some knowledge
of the attitude of non-homosexual Jews of the period towards homosexuals.
- Boswell Homosexuality, Chapter 9 "The
Triumph of Ganymede". On p. 243 he uses the term "gay
- Boswell Homosexuality, p. 262-264. The
poem is an attack on sodomitical practices, which it describes
- Boswell Homosexuality, p. 260.
- D. Stanley-Jones: "Sexual Inversion and
the English Law" in Medical Press and Circular 215
(1946), pp. 391-398, referred to by Bailey Homosexuality,
suggests the introduction of Aristotle into the curriculum somehow
veiled a battle over homosexuality. I was not able to find a copy
of this article.
- By Jacques de Vitry, see Arno Karlen: Sexuality
and Homosexuality: A New View (New York, W.W. Norton, 1971),
- Ruggiero Eros, Chapter VI "Sodom
and Venice". He is explicit on the nature of the subculture
- Ruggiero Eros, p. 139. Apothecaries, gymnastic
schools, dark areas near churches an pastry shops were used as
- Ruggiero Eros, p. 135.
- Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy, Inferno
XV and Purgatorio XXVI. There has been a lot of debate
as to whether Inferno XV refers to homosexuality; whatever
the case it is clear that Purgatorio does.
- Brundage Law, Sex, p. 534, lists sixteen
cities, but the list is not complete.
- This would not always be the case. B. Krekic:
"Abominandum-Crimen: Punishment of Homosexuals in Renaissance
Dubrovnik" in Viator 18 (1987), pp. 337-345, has looked
at the records of Dubrovnik, a Slavic town largely influenced
by Venice. Although he found strict laws against male sodomy,
the records leave no indication of homosexual activity (p. 340).
- Monasteries are a special case. They have a developed
social organization apart from the urban life.
Alan of Lille: The Plaint of Nature (De Planctu
Naturae) trans. James J. Sheridan (Toronto: Pontifical Institute
of Medieaval Studies, 1980)
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Baudri de Bourgueil ed. Phyllis Abrahams (Paris: Librarie
Ancienne Honore Champion, 1926) (repr. Geneva: Slatkine Reprints,
Bieler, Ludwig: The Irish Penitentials (Dublin:
Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1963)
Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy trans.
John A. Carlyle, Thomas Okey & P.H. Wicksteed (New York: Random
House, 1950, original publication details not given)
Fone, Byrne R.S. (ed.): Hidden Heritage: History
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and Selections from Related Documents (New York: Columbia
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Thomas Aquinas, St.: Summa Theologiae (New
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Aries, Philippe & Andre Bejin (eds.): Western
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Blackwell, 1985) trans. from Sexualities Occidentales (Paris:
Editions du Seuil/Communications, 1982)
Armour, Peter: "Dante's Brunetto: the paternal
paterine" in Italian Studies 38 (1983), pp. 1-38
Bailey, Derrick S.: Sexual Relations in Christian
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________: Homosexuality and the Western Christian
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Bell, R.M.: "Renaissance Sexuality and the Florentine
Archives; the "lesbian nun" of Judith Brown" in Renaissance Quarterly 40 (1987), pp. 485-511
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