Delightful Place Of Torture And Romantic Vengeances

Between the 5th and 11th centuries, a lot of things happened. There were wars, and plagues, and crusades, and Empires collapsed and others rose. In relation to politics and homosexuality, not much changed. The laws that were enacted before the fall of Rome continued to exist through the rebuilding of kingdoms and establishment of governments. Because the Catholic church was so influential in all governments, the laws enacted with the blessing of the Church during the Roman Empire, spread.

By the mid 11th century, direct attack on homosexuality was being promulgated by members of the clergy. In 1051, the Doctor of the Church Peter Damian published a book entitled Liber Gomorrhianus (Book of Gomorrah). In this book, which was dedicated to the Pope (Leo IX),  Damian’s attacked was centred, mostly, on the clergy…although Liber Gomarrhianus would be used as a foundation for anti-sodomy laws, which gained widespread passage during the 12th century. Liber Gomarrhianus specified certain acts “subversive disruptions” against moral order (aka: morality in law) and caused madness associated with excessive lust. Damian argued that homosexual acts were counter-ration, undermined morality, disrupted religious purity and would eventually lead to the downfall of society. He argued that it needed harsh and immediate suppression, before it ran amok and took over the minds and hearts of the clergy.

Damian’s publication was not liked. Although the Pope initially praised it, even he was eventually convinced to denounce it. Liber Gomarrhianus gained Damian a fair amount of enemies amongst his fellow clergymen. Little did Damian know, in less than a century, Liber Gomarrhianus would be lauded and used as the bases for anti-sodomy laws, and Damian himself would receive a sainthood.

In the late 11th century, Hildegard of Bingen wrote a book entitled Scitio vias Domini (Know the ways of the Lord). In Scivias, she records visions in which God told her that homosexuality was an evil deed. Scivias, along with Liber Gomarrhianus, would present itself with the ability to shape moral laws in the 12th century.

By the 13th century, and the theology of Thomas Aquinas, the punishment for homosexuality were intensely severe. Thomas Aquinas’ particular moral theological views were widely lauded as divinely inspired. Aquinas was smart, charming, pious and popular. Aquinas believed that not all of person’s inclinations were natural in a moral sense. He argued “special sins are against nature, as, for instance, those that run counter to the intercourse of male and female natural to animals, and so are peculiarly qualified as unnatural vices’ and thus a destruction of good. Any perversion, according to Aquinas, was a sin. Aquinas believed that in order for sin to be purged, an individual’s natural inclinations must be moral. In order for an individual to regain the moral path, punishment must be meted out each time a person sinned. The severity of the punishment depended on the severity of the sin. Since homosexuality was considered a pervasion that could lead to the down fall of society, a sin ranked only second to murder, the punishment must be most severe for every offence.

In most of Europe, punishment for homosexuality was mostly uniform. According to the French legal treatise Li livres de jostice et de plet (The Book of Justice and of Pleas), the punishment for homosexuality was castration on the first offence, dismemberment on the second offence, and execution by burning on the third. In reality, a large number of offenders died from disease, blood loss and infection before a second, or third, offence could be committed. The numbers of executions for homosexuality during the Middle Ages are remarkably low (or at least the recorded number)…the number of deaths following a first, and particularly second, offence were enormous. In most cities in Europe, civil laws against homosexuality were common. If a person was “found” (word used loosely) to be a homosexual, the city could legally confiscate their property, and could deny them housing and work. Those who were accused of homosexuality, but not outright punished, often found themselves without home, food, employment or family. Many died from diseases associate with poverty and starvation.

During the Papal Inquisition of the mid-13th century, the sects of Cathars and Waldensians were accused of sodomy, fornication and satanism. During the Inquisitions, often, homosexuality and satanism were charges laid side-by-side against a person. During the Trial of the Knights Templar at the beginning of the 14th century, sodomy and homosexuality were major charges levelled against the Templars. In reality, the power and secrecy of the Knights Templar made them a threat to the King of France, and conviction of homosexuality plus heresy resulted in many being burned at the stake.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the recognition of homosexuality as a sin and a threat to a stable society resulted in increased, and deadly, punishment when convicted. The growth,and widespread power of, the Church allowed for moral laws to be written which meted severe consequences for homosexuality. That, couple with the Church’s eventual stance that homosexuality was against nature, laid the foundations for wide spread and harsh homosexuality laws, which would only increase during the Renaissance.

[HISTORY NOTE: someone kindly pointed out to me that so far I’ve only discussed Greece, Rome and the Roman Empire, and why hadn’t I talked about America or Canada or Britain? Ok, well, yes, what they say is true. First, I won’t be discussing gay politics in Asia because I have zero claim to any kind of asian history education: although I can say that homosexuality was legal in China until, well technically now. There were never any sodomy laws in China, not even after the rise of Communism. In her book Magpie Lord, author KJ Charles’ main character comments that China is civilisation…in terms of gay politics, this was certainly true. Considering my last post ended at the beginning of the 5th Century, and this one goes through the 14th, there will be more talk of laws specific to Britain, but Britain was part of the Roman Empire until its fall in the mid-5th century. There will be no discussion of laws in America and Canada, as they don’t yet exist. Also, for the purpose of this series, there won’t be any discussion of laws in Canada until we hit the 20th Century.]

[DISCLAIMER: This is a two part disclaimer: first READ DISCLAIMER FROM PREVIOUS POST. Seriously people, these are not my PERSONAL religious, nor political beliefs, and I have no animosity toward the Catholic church (because, really, let’s all just love each other and get along). This is HISTORY, which is often not PC and not pretty. So..don’t hate the blogger. Disclaimer 2:Yes, I realise that I skipped several centuries, for a couple very good reasons. Reason 1: not a lot happened that’s relevant to the topic, and 2:I’m not even close to remotely confident in my dark ages history. SO, if I missed stuff, point it out. I won’t be offended. One does not survive an MA program without learning to accept ‘you missed stuff’ as a daily occurrence.]

[NOTE: You can find Liber Gomarrhianus online, but it’s probably going to be in latin. If you read latin, that’s no problem, and there’s a full copy on Project Guttenberg. If you don’t read latin, and you’re curious, and don’t anger easily, try Pierre J. Payer’s edition. I realise I left out the specifics of what it said, but I’m trying to keep these posts as PG as possible, and that book is definitely NOT…so if you want to know the specifics of what I left out, either ask or Google.]

Part IV-Homosexual Politics and the Renaissance


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