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Networks of Ideas, Networks of Men: Clerical Reform, Parisian Theologians and the Movement to Reform Prostitutes in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century France

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2016

Keiko Nowacka
Affiliation:
Paris
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Extract

In the first decades of the twelfth century, a wandering preacher was reported to have ‘advised’ the young men of Le Mans to marry the prostitutes of the town in order to save these ‘unchaste women’ (feminae quae minus caste vixeruni) from their lives of sin: ‘On his advice many of the young men married the unchaste women for whom he bought clothes to the value of four solidi, just enough to cover their nakedness.’ At the end of the same century, something very similar occurred in Paris, where another preacher was praised for encouraging the scholars and burghers either to marry prostitutes or to donate towards their dowry fund:

      Almost all the public prostitutes, no matter where the athlete of Christ went, abandoned their brothels and flocked to him. He himself led most of these women to marriage.
      Others, however, who were unable to remain chaste on account of fear of weakness, he gave a not insubstantial sum of money as dowries and reformed them with legal marriage. To this goal the Parisian students collected two hundred and fifty silver pounds and the burghers over a thousand.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 1994

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References

1 Ex Gestis Pontificum Cenomannensium, ed. Bouquet, M., in Recueil des historiens des Gaules et de la France, 24 vols (Paris, 1840–1904), 12: 549;Google Scholar ET in Moore, R. I., The Birth of Popular Heresy (London, 1975), 36.Google Scholar I have replaced Moore’s ‘corrupt women’ with ‘less than chaste’ to give a more literal translation.

2 de Vitry, Jacques, The Historia Occidentalis of Jacques de Vitry: A Critical Edition, ed. Hinnesbusch, J., Spicilegium Friburgense 17 (Fribourg, 1972), 99100.Google Scholar

3 Otto of Saint-Blaise, Chronica (ed. A. Hofmeister, MGH SRG 45, 78).

4 Baldwin, J.W., Masters, Princes and Merchants, 2 vols (Princeton, NJ, 1970), 1:1337.Google Scholar

5 On the cult of Mary Magdalene, see Jansen, K., The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages (Princeton, NJ, 2001);Google Scholar Saxer, V., Le Culte de Marie Madeleine en Occident des origines à la fin du Moyen Age, Cahiers d’histoire et d’archéologie 3 (Auxerre, 1959).Google Scholar The ‘holy harlot’ is a term defined by Ruth Mazo Karras, ‘Holy Harlots: Prostitute Saints in Medieval Legend’, Journal of the History of Sexuality 1 (1990), 3–32These lives are collected and translated in B. Ward, Harlots of the Desert: A Study of Repentance in Early Monastic Sources (London, 1987).

6 Procopius, Anecdota 1.9, lines 5–10 (ed. and transl. H. B. Dewing, LCL 290 [Cambridge, MA, 1969], 105).

7 Lex Visigothorum 3.4.17 (ed. K. Zeumer, MGH Leges nationum Germanicarum 1, 152); Augustine, De Ordine 2.4.12 (ed. W. Green, CChr. SL 29, 114); Jerome, Epistola 64 (PL 22, cols 607–22. See also Bullough, V., ‘The Prostitute in the Early Middle Ages’, in idem and Brundage, J., eds, The Handbook of Medieval Sexuality (New York, 1996), 3442.Google Scholar L. L. Otis has suggested that the incidence of prostitution had decreased severely in the early Middle Ages, due to the absence of large towns and cities: Pros titution in Medieval Society. The History of an Urban Institution in Languedoc (Chicago, IL, 1985), 14.

8 Payer, P., Sex and the Penitentials: The Development of a Sexual Code, 330–1150 (Toronto, ON, 1984), 17.Google Scholar

9 For a biography, see Venarde, B., Robert of Arbrissel: A Medieval Religious Life (Washington, DC, 2003);Google Scholar also Dalarun, J., L’Impossible Sainteté. La Vie retrouvée de Robert d’Arbrissel (1043–1116, fondateur de Fontevraud (Paris, 1985).Google Scholar

10 Dalarun, J., Robert of Arbrissel: Sex, Sin, and Salvation in the Middle Ages, transl. Venarde, B. (Washington, DC, 2006), 723.Google Scholar

11 The Life was commissioned by the first abbess of Fontevraud, Petronilla of Chemillé, between 1116 and 1120. See Dalarun, J. et al., eds, Les Deux Vies de Robert d’Arbrissel, fondateur de Fontevraud. Légendes, écrits et témoignages, Disciplina Monastica 4 (Turnhout, 2006), 78–9 1345.Google Scholar

12 Baudri, , Vita prima Roberti, ibid. 13083.Google Scholar

13 Vaux-de-Cernay was one of the earliest houses of the Order of Savigny, founded in 1112 by Vitalis of Savigny. After 1148, it was affiliated to the Cistercian Order; see Moolenbroek, J. van, Vital Vhermite, prédicateur itinerant, fondateur de l’abbaye normand de Savigny, transl. Nambot, A.-M. (Assen, 1990).Google Scholar

14 Dalarun, , L’Impossible sainteté, 349 Google Scholar (transl. Venarde, Robert of Arbrissel, 107). I have changed Venarde’s ‘whores’ to ‘prostitutes’ in order to give a less pejorative and more literal rendering of meretrices.

15 Luke 7: 36–50 By Robert’s time, the ‘sinner’ and Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha, were merged into the figure of Mary Magdalene. See n. 5 above.

16 John 8: 3–11

17 See Ward, , Harlots of the Desert, 7684.Google Scholar

18 Dalarun, , Robert of Arbrissel, 65.Google Scholar

19 Dalarun et al., eds, Les Deux Vies, 134–5.

20 The Vita prima was probably presented to Pope Callistas II in 1120 along with the statutes of Fontevraud. The canonization attempt was unsuccessful.

21 Baudri also stresses that nobody was rejected from Fontevraud. ‘Suscipiebant pauperes, ac débiles non repellebant, nee incestas nee pellices refutabant, nee leprosos nee impotentes’: Vita prima 17 (Dalarun et al., eds, Les Deux Vies, 174–6.

22 Now in Paris, BN, MS n. a. lat. 217.

23 Abbot of Vaux-de-Cernay, Stephen of Lexington (1229–43 commissioned the Liber de miraculis sanctorum Savigniacensium in order to promote the canonization of the ‘Savigny saints’: van Moolenbroek, Vital I’hermite, 81–2. The story of the Rouen miracle was most likely composed earlier by a companion of Vitalis and Robert and then inserted into the Liber de Miraculis: Dalarun et al., eds, Les Deux Vies, 318–19.

24 van Moolenbroek, , Vital I’hermite, 165;Google Scholar Leyser, H., Hermits and the New Monasticistn: A Study of Religious Communities in Western Europe 1000–1150 (London, 1983), 49;Google Scholar Dalarun et al., eds, Les Deux Vies, 314. See also n. 13 above.

25 There is evidence to suggest that they had met already in the 1090s: ibid. 84.

26 Ibid. 530–3

27 Smith, J., ‘Robert of Arbrissel: Procurator Mulierum ’, in Medieval Women: Dedicated and Presented to Professor Rosalind M. T. Hill on the Occasion of her Seventieth Birthday, ed. Baker, D., SCH S1 (Oxford, 1978), 17584.Google Scholar

28 Geoffrey of Vendôme, Letter 79, in Oeuvres, ed. G. Giordanego (Turnhout, 1996), 148 (transl. Venarde, Robert of Arbrissel, 104).

29 These have been translated and collected in Moore, Popular Heresy, 33–60

30 Ex Gestis Pontificum Cenomannensium, ed. Bouquet, 547–50.

31 Ibid. 548.

32 Ibid. 549.

33 Peter of Cluny, Tractatus Contra Petrobrussianos (PL 189, cols 720–850.

34 Bernard of Clairvaux, Epistola 241, in S. Bernardi Opera, ed. J. Leclercq and H. Rochais, 8 vols (Rome, 1957–77, 8: 125–7 at 126.

35 Ibid. 127; transl. James, B. Scott, The Letters of St. Bernard of Clairvaux (London, 1953). 387–9 at 388.Google Scholar

36 Ex Gestis Pontificam Cenomannensium, ed. Bouquet, 548.

37 See n. 1 above.

38 Elliot, D., Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality, and Demonology in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, PA, 1999), 83.Google Scholar

39 See Lopez, R., The Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages, 950–1350 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1971);Google Scholar Litde, L. K., Religious Poverty and the Profit Economy in Medieval Europe (London, 1978).Google Scholar

40 Farmer, S., Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris: Gender, Ideology and the Daily Lives of the Poor (Ithaca, NY, 2002).Google Scholar

41 Dalarun et al., eds, Les Deux Vies, 315.

42 X.4.1.20, in CICan, i, col. 668.

43 Innocent III, Opera, PL 214, cols 102–3 (Letter 112).

44 See Brundage, J., Law, Sex and Christian Sodety in Medieval Europe (Chicago, IL, 1987);CrossRefGoogle Scholar Ivo of Chartres, Panormia, PL 161, col. 1235.

45 Gratian, Decretim, in CICan, vol. 1.

46 Huguccio was a teacher of canon law at Bologna, and amongst his students was Lothario da Segni, the future Pope Innocent III. Innocent was also a student at Paris: Baldwin, Masters, Princes and Merchants, I: 343.

47 Brundage, , Law, Sex and Christian Society, 30811.Google Scholar

48 Rufinus, , Summa Decretomm, ed. Singer, H. (Paderborn, 1902), 475.Google Scholar

49 Brundage, , Law, Sex, and Christian Society, 311.Google Scholar

50 Thomas of Chobham, Summa confessomm, ed. E Broomfield, Analecta mediaevalia Namurcensia 25 (Louvain, 1968), xv; cf. Peter the Chanter, Summa de sacramentis et animae consiliis, ed. J.-A. Dupaquier, Analecta mediaevalia Namurcensia 7 (Louvain, 1957), 175.

51 Raunié, E.;, ‘Abbaye Royale de Saint-Antoine-des-Champs: Notice Historique’, in idem, Epitaphier du vieux Paris: Recueil général des inscriptions funéraires des églises, couvents, collèges, hospices, cimetières et charniers depuis le Moyen Age jusqu’à la fin du XVIII’ siècle , 4: Saint-Eustache, Sainte-Geneviève-la-Petite (Paris, 1914), 127.Google Scholar

52 Simon, A., L’Ordre de Ste Marie-Madeleine en Allemagne (Fribourg, 1918), 6.Google Scholar In addition, Pope Innocent III (who also studied in the Paris schools) allowed prostitutes to be cared for at his foundation of Santo Spirito during Holy Week: PL 217, col. 1146 (Letter 46).

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