RAPE and incest characterise the sexual life of the English in the first millennium of our era; homosexuality and hysteria the years that followed. The Christian missionaries found a people who, especially in the Celtic parts of the country, maintained a free sexual morality. On them, it sought to impose a code of extreme severity, and it steadily increased the strictness of its demands.
The Church never succeeded in obtaining universal acceptance of its sexual regulations, but in time it became able to enforce sexual abstinence on a scale sufficient to produce a rich crop of mental disease. It is hardly too much to say that medieval Europe came to resemble a vast insane asylum. Most people have a notion that the Middle Ages were a period of considerable licence, and are aware that the religious houses were often hotbeds of sexuality, but there seems to be a general impression that this was a degenerate condition which appeared towards the end of the epoch.
If anything, the reverse is the case. In the earlier part of the Middle Ages what we chiefly find is frank sexuality, with which the Church at first battles in vain. Then, as the Church improves its system of control, we find a mounting toll of perversion and neurosis. For whenever society attempts to restrict expression of the sexual drive more severely than the human constitution will stand, one or more of three things must occur. Either men will defy the taboos, or they will turn to perverted forms of sex, or they will develop psycho-neurotic symptoms, such as psychologically-caused illness, delusions, hallucinations and hysterical manifestations of various kinds. The stronger personalities defy the taboos: the weaker ones turn to indirect forms of expression.
The free sexuality of the early Middle Ages can be traced in early court records, which list numerous sexual offences, from fornication and adultery to incest and homosexuality, and also in the complaints of moralists and Church dignitaries. Thus in the eighth century, Boniface exclaims that the English "utterly despise matrimony" and he is filled with shame because they "utterly refuse to have legitimate wives, and continue to live in lechery and adultery after the manner neighing horses and braying asses...." A century later Alcuin declares that
"the land has been absolutely submerged under flood of fornication, adultery and incest, so that the very semblance of modesty is entirely absent".
Three centuries after this John of Salisbury puts his views in verse:
Thys is now a common synne
For almost hyt is every-whore
A gentyle man hath a wife and a hore;
And wyves have now comunly
Here husbandys and a ludby
The pages of Chaucer reveal that even in the fourteenth century there were still many-such as the Wife of Bath ready to enjoy sexual opportunity without inhibition; and Chaucer Chauntecleer, we are told, served Venus "more for delyte than world to multiplye".
So far from accepting the Church's teaching on sex, most people held that continence was unhealthy. Doctors recommended a greater use of sexual intercourse to some of their patients; and it was for this reason that the Church demanded and obtained, the right of passing upon all appointments the medical profession, a right which in Britain it formally retains to this day, though it does not exercise (The issue remains a live one, and Dr. Kinsey, in his report on male sexual behaviour, thought it worth his time to show statistically that persons who practise continence are more likely to have histories of instability than those who do not.)
Aphrodisiacs were much sought after - usually on principles of sympathetic magic. The root of the orchis, which was thought to resemble the testicles, as its popular name "dog-stones" shows, was eaten to induce fertility: though it was important to eat only that one of the stones which was hard, the soft one having a contrary effect. By the complementary arguments nuns used to eat the root of the lily, or the nauseous 'agnus castus' to ensure chastity. The famed restorative powers of the mandrake were similarly derived from its phallic appearance. (69)
In the later period frank sexuality is also betrayed by the clothing. In the fourteenth century, for instance, women wore low-necked dresses, so tight round the hips as to reveal their sex, and laced their breasts so high that, as was said, "a candle could be stood upon them". (184) Men wore short coats, revealing their private parts, which were clearly outlined by a glove-like container known as a braguette, compared with which the codpiece was a modest object of attire. (95) In the time of Edward IV, the Commons petitioned that
"No knight, under the estate of a Lord . . .nor any other person, use or wear . . . any Gowne, Jaket, or Cloke, but it be of such a length as it, he being upright, shall cover his privy members and buttokkes."
Persons of the estate of a Lord or higher might naturally do as they pleased. Even the clergy shortened their frocks to their knees, and in the following century made them "so short that they did not cover the middle parts". (17)
Prostitution was extremely widespread, and at most periods was accepted as a natural accompaniment of society. The Early Church had been tolerant of prostitution, and Aquinas said (precisely as Lecky was to do six hundred years later) that prostitution was a necessary condition of social morality, just as a cesspool is necessary to a palace, if the whole palace is not to smell. The English were especially apt to prostitution, and Boniface commented:
"There is scarcely a town in Italy, or in France, or in Gaul, where English prostitutes are not found."
The Crusades introduced to Europe the public bath, which became a convenient centre for assignations, though it was not until later that they became brothels as we now understand the term. Henry II issued regulations for the conduct of the "stews" (i.e. baths) of Southwark, which make it clear that they were houses of ill-Fame. (13) These regulations were confirmed by Edward III and Henry IV, and the stews remains until the seventeenth century. (254) Many of these stews belonged to the Bishopric of Winchester, the Bishop's palace being near by — hence the euphemism "Winchester geese" and at least one English cardinal purchased a brothel as an investment for church funds. Some jurists argued that the Church was entitled to ten per cent of the girls' earnings, but this view was not officially accepted; however, just as today, the Church did not draw the line at receiving rent from property put to this use. (204)
On the Continent the open acceptance of prostitution went considerably further. Queen Joanna, of Avignon, established a town brothel, as better than having indiscriminate prostitution, and when Sigismond visited Constance, the local prostitutes were provided with new velvet robes at the corporation's expense; in Ulm, the streets were illuminated by night whenever he and his court wished to visit the town lupanar. (154)
Yet with all this there went a kind of simplicity. Men and women could go naked, or nearly naked, through the street to the baths in a way which today would be impossible, except perhaps at a bathing resort, or for undergraduates living out of college at one of the major British universities. The daughters of the nobility thought it an honour to parade naked in front of Charles V. And it was by no means unheard-of for a young man to pass the night chastely with his beloved, as we hear from the romance, "Blonde of Oxford".
One of the things which has done much to build up in our minds a false and idealized conception of the Middle Ages is the representation of King Arthur and his knights as paragon of chaste and gentlemanly behaviour. This has been done primarily by the Christian authorities, who rewrote the old British folk-tales so as to bring them in line with the approved morality of the Middle Ages, though the process was carried further by the romantics of the eighteenth century and by Victorian sentimentalism. The facts are very different. Gildas, as a Christian historian, is no doubt somewhat biased, but he describes the knights as "sanguinary, boastful, murderous, addicted to vice, adulterous and enemies of God", adding "Although they keep a large number of wives, they are fornicators and adulterers." The morals of the ladies are no stricter. At King Arthur's court, when a magic mantle is produced which can only be worn by a chaste woman, none of the ladies present is able to wear it.
When we examine these stories in their original form, we begin to see, not immorality as such, but a completely different system of sexual morality at odds with the Christian one: a system in which women were free to take lovers, both before and after marriage, and in which men were free to seduce all women of lower rank, while they might hope to win the favours of women of higher rank if they were sufficiently valiant. Chrestien de Troyes explains:
"The usage and rules at that time were that if a knight found a damsel or wench alone he would, if he wished to preserve his good name, sooner think of cutting his throat than of offering her dishonour; if he forced her against her will he would have been scorned in every court. But, on the other hand, if the damsel were accompanied by another knight, and if it pleased him to give combat to that knight and win the lady by arms, then he might do his will with her just as he pleased, and no shame or blame whatsoever would be held to attach to him."
As Briffault comments, however, the first part of the rule does not seem to have been regarded so strictly as the poet suggests. Traill and Mann say, "To judge from contemporary poems and romances the first thought of every knight on finding a lady unprotected was to do her violence." Gawain, the pattern of knighthood and courtesy, raped Gran de Lis, in spite of her tears and screams, when she refused to sleep with him. The hero of Marie de France's Lai de Graelent does exactly the same to a lady he meets in a forest — but in this case she forgives him his ardour, for she recognizes that "he is courteous and well behaved, a good, generous and honourable knight". And as Malory recounts, when a knight entered the hall of King Arthur and carried away by force a weeping, screaming woman "the king was glad, for she made such a noise".
In Christianized versions of early folk-tales, the knight or hero is often offered the hand of the king's daughter in marriage if he performs the allotted task; but in the original versions the question of marriage rarely arises. Thus in the Chanson de Doon de Nanteuil, the warriors are promised that if they "hit the enemy in the bowels, they may take their choice of the fairest ladies in the court". The knight who loves the chatelain of Couci exclaims simply: "Jesus, that I might hold her naked in my arms!" And this is precisely the reward which the ladies themselves frankly promise. In any case, marriage itself was often regarded as a temporary liaison, so that the reward of the hand of the king's daughter implies few obligations.
It is noticeable how, more often than not, it is the women who made the advances: Gawain, for one, is pestered by women and they are sometimes curtly refused. They make their proposition in the clearest terms:
Vees mon cots, corn est amanevis
Mamele dure, blanc le col, cler le vis
Et car me baise, frans chevalier gentis
Si fai de moi trestor a ton devis.
It is a praiseworthy act to offer oneself to a valiant knight: "Gawain praises the good taste of his own lady-love, Orgueilleuse, for having offered her favours to so valiant warrior as the Red Knight. In a Provencal romance, a husband reproaches his wife with her infidelity. She replies:
"My Lord, you have no dishonour on that account, for the man I love is a noble baron, expert in arms, namely Roland, the nephew of King Charles."
The husband is reduced to silence by the explanations and is filled with confusion at his unseemly interference." (23)
It must be understood that in thus ignoring the Christian code, the knights were not abandoning morality, but were simply continuing in the manner which had been traditional before the arrival of the Christian missionaries, and which continued to be traditional for many hundreds of years after. Our knowledge of the behaviour of the Celtic and Saxon tribes is limited partly by the fewness of the written records they produced, and still more by the systematic way in which the Church destroyed them and substituted its own purified and moralized redactions. However, we do know something about the Irish in the first few centuries of the Christian era, for they produced a considerable literature. It shows us a people strongly matriarchal and with few inhibitions about sexual matters. Virginity was not prized, and marriage was usually a trial marriage or a temporary arrangement. Queen Medb boasts to her husband that she always had a secret lover in addition to her official lover, before she was married. Sualdam marries Dechtin, the sister of King Conchobar, knowing her to be pregnant, and when Princess Findabair "mentions to her mother that she rather fancies the messenger who has been sent from the opposing camp, the Queen replies:
"If you love him, then sleep with him tonight!"
In this pre-Christian era, even more notably than in the early Middle Ages, the running was made by the women. Their method of wooing was often most determined: Deirdre seizes Naoise by the ears, tells him that she is a young cow and wants him as her bull, and refuses to release him until he promises to elope with her. Nevertheless, polygamy was not uncommon, and many of the heroes are portrayed as having two or more wives. Marriage, even more so than in the days of chivalry, was a temporary affair: thus Fionn marries Sgathach with great pomp "for one year", and frequent change of partners was usual until quite late in the Middle Ages, a fact which makes Henry VIII's marital experiments more easily understandable. Dunham asserts that most of the Frankish kings died prematurely worn out, before the age of thirty.
Nudity was no cause for shame: not only were warriors normally naked, except for their accoutrements, but women also undressed freely: thus the Queen of Ulster and all the ladies of the Court, to the number of 610, came to meet Cuchulainn, naked above the waist, and raising their skirt "so as to expose their private parts", by which they showed how greatly they honoured him.
In such times, to be called a bastard was a mark of distinction, for the implication was that some especially valiant knight had slept with one's mother: this is why the bastard son of Clothwig, the founder of the Frankish kingdom, received a far larger share than his legitimate brothers when the kingdom was divided up after his father's death. William the Conqueror by no means resented the appellation "William the Bastard", as our history books usually fail to make clear. Indeed, it was almost obligatory for a hero to be a bastard, and bastardy was constantly imputed to Charlemagne, Charles Martel and others, as also to semi-legendary figures, such as King Arthur, Gawain, Roland, Conchobar and Cuchulainn. (21) This pride in bastardy is not wholly unknown in modern times: some twenty years ago, for instance, a British Prime Minister used to boast of his illegitimacy.
In circumstances such as these, the Church's first object was necessarily to establish the principle of lifelong monogamous marriage, without which its stricter regulations were practical meaningless. The Anglo-Saxon synod of 786 decreed
"that the son of a meretricious union shall be debarred from legall inheriting.... We command, then, in order to avoid fornication, that every layman shall have one legitimate wife, and every woman one legitimate husband, in order that they may have and beget legitimate heirs according to God's law."
It was long before this attempt succeeded. The tenth-century ordinances of Howel the Good, for instance, allow seven years' trial marriage, and one year's trial marriage existed in Scotland up to the Reformation. (232), (240)
In this period marriage was still (as it had been in the Classical world) a private contract between two individuals - one for which the blessing of the Church was customarily sought, but not invalidated by its absence. Today we hardly remember that there was once a time when the Church did not claim the power to make a marriage.
It was not until the Counter-Reformation that the Church first ordained that a wedding must be conducted in the presence of a priest, and by this time England had left the Roman communion. Any man could marry any woman, within the laws of consanguinity, and provided neither was already married, by a simple declaration of intention. This process was known as spousals, and effected a valid marriage, even if performed without oath or witness. (191) This was clearly understood in Shakespeare's time, as we can tell from the scene in Twelfth Night, where Olivia asks the priest to say what has passed between Viola (supposedly a boy) and herself The priest replies, not that he has married them but that they have made
A contract of eternal bond of love,
Confirm'd by mutual joinder of your hands,
Attested by the holy close of lips,
Strengthen'd by interchangements of your rings;
And all the ceremony of this compact
Seal'd in my function, by my testimony . .
It was considered very desirable to have witnesses, in case of any future dispute, but their absence did not invalidate the marriage. It was usual to follow such spousals by going to church and saying a Bride Mass, and so it became the practice to perform the spousals at the church door, supported by one's friends, before entering for the Mass. As Chaucer's Wife of Bath tells us, "Husbondes at churche dore have I had five." It was only in the tenth century that the priest took to supervising the marriage at the door, and not until the sixteenth that it became obligatory to conduct the whole of the ceremony inside the church. (133) In the form of marriage used in England, the break between the two parts of the ceremony, the actual marriage in the presence of witnesses, and subsequent blessing of the marriage by God, can be clearly seen, but in the corresponding U.S. service the part after the break is now omitted.
The Church, it must be made clear, distinguished between an illegal marriage and an invalid marriage. To enter into spousals without a priest was illegal, and called for penalties but it was still a valid marriage. An illegal marriage might also lead to difficulties in the inheritance of property.
The form of spousals just described was known as spousals 'de praesenti'. It was also possible to perform spousals 'de futuro', by promising to take someone as spouse at some future date: whence the present practice of announcing one's engagement. The legal age for marriage was fourteen in the case of males, twelve in the case of girls, but the Church performed marriages on children much younger, even on infants in arms. For instance, the youngest marriage in the Chester records is one between John Somerford, aged three, and Jane Brerton, aged two; the point of these early marriages was frequently to prevent an estate reverting to the crown under feudal law. For the marriage of those under seven, parental consent was necessary. But all such marriages could be declared void when the legal age was reached, provided copulation had not taken place. Conversely, copulation was also what converted spousals, technically, to marriage, and penalties were imposed if it occurred before church blessing had been given. (172) (This point was controversial, as I shall explain later.)
By way of relief let me try to put a little flesh on these dry bones of canon law by describing the marriage ceremony as it may actually have occurred towards the end of the Middle Ages, and in the early days of the Reformation.
The bridal procession would set out from the house of the brides father: first, the bride, accompanied perhaps by two pages, bearing a branch of rosemary, "gilded very fair" in a vase and hung about with silken ribbons. Next would come the musicians, fiddling and blowing, then a group of maidens. These would all be dressed in the same way as the bride, in order to confuse any demons, who might have been attracted by the odour of contamination, as to who was actually the bride; and if the bride happened to be called Mary they would all be in blue — the deep blue in which the Virgin is usually shown as being clad in medieval paintings. In Reformation times some of the bridesmaids would be carrying great bride cakes, others garlands of wheat finely gilded, or wheat sheaves on their heads — symbols of fertility and memories of Ceres — and they would throw gilded wheat grains over the couple. (137) Thus it is in honour of a pagan deity that today trees are felled in Sweden or Canada, and converted into coloured paper discs that we may throw them at weddings and miscall them by the Italian name for a sweetmeat, 'confetto'.
Last would come the bride's family. In Saxon times, the father would sell his daughter, for at that time women were valued as a source of labour, and the father was felt to suffer a loss. But the Crusades, and other wars, had caused women greatly to exceed men in number, and now he only comes "to give her away". The priest, appearing, asks if the man will take the bride to be his wedded wife — the 'wed' being the bride price — and he promises. The bride, promising in almost the same words as are used in England today, takes a similar oath, but adds the promise to be "bonere and buxum in Bed and at Boorde, if Holy Chyrche will it ordeyne". The bride and groom drink the wine and eat the sops — the Hereford missal attached special importance to this act, which was still practised in Shakespeare's time, as we know from the reference in the "Taming of the Shrew". (233) After the Bride Mass has been said, the priest kisses the groom, who transfers the benediction to his bride by kissing her. The married couple, followed their friends, might then play follow-my-leader all round the church and end by sitting down to the wedding feast in the body of the church, which would be, of course, free from obstruction in the form of pews. The body of the church was always felt to belong to the local people, only the parts about the choir and altar being reserved to the clergy, a distinction which is easily perceived in any great cathedral, such as Salisbury.
At nightfall there would be a banquet and dancing at the house of the bride's father, and bride and groom might remain there a week or more before going to their own home.
But the ecclesiastical precautions are not yet finished. The married couple retire with their friends, who help them undress and help them into bed, where they sit wearing their dressings gowns. Next comes the ceremony of throwing the stocking. Two of the groom's friends sit on one edge of the bed, two of the bride's maids on the other; each man then throws one of the groom's stockings over his shoulder, hoping to hit the bride; then each girl throws one of the bride's stockings, in an attempt to hit the bridegroom. If the stocking hits, the thrower is likely to marry before the year is out. Now appears the priest, and the benediction posset. This drunk, the priest blesses the bed, sprinkling holy water on the couple and censing the room, to dispel the demons who will undoubtedly be attracted by the performance of the sexual act which is presumably to follow though not, if the couple are devout, until the three Tobias-nights have passed. Finally, the curtains of the bed are drawn and the guests withdraw, leaving the newly married couple to their own devices. (137)
"The pride of the clergy and bigotry of the laity were such that new married couples were made to wait until midnight, after the marriage day, before they would pronounce a benediction, unless handsomely paid for it, and they durst not do without it on pain of excommunication", the History of Shrewsbury tells us.
In early feudal times, the marriage day might have ended differently, with the feudal lord deflowering the new bride, before releasing her to her husband. The existence of this 'jus primae noctis, also known in France as "jus cunni", in England as "marchette", in Piedmont as "cazzagio", has been much disputed, but Ducange has provided detailed evidence and the best authorities now accept that it existed; (190) cases are even known where monks, being at the same time feudal lords, held this right — for instance the monks of St. Thiodard enjoyed this right over the inhabitants of Mount Auriol. (71) Analogous practices are found in many other societies: for instance, in the so-called Nasamonian custom all the wedding guests copulate with the bride. (23) The psychological purpose of the custom, derived from fertility-religion, is said to be the diversion from the husband of the resentment which a woman generally feels for the man who deprives her of her virginity. Whether or not this is an adequate explanation, it would certainly be misleading to regard the 'jus cunni' simply as the cruel and wilful exercise of feudal power, even if that is what it finally became. It is chiefly of interest as evidence of the survival of magical beliefs.
The picture of normal sexual behaviour which I have been trying to sketch so far cannot, unfortunately, be left to stand on its own. Against it must be put a very different one, if an accurate impression of medieval sexuality is to be presented — a picture of the perversion and neurosis which emerged wherever the Church succeeded in establishing its moral codes. About the beginning of the twelfth century, soon after the Hildebrandine reforms and the extension of celibacy from the cloister to ministers, a perceptible change comes over the character of the Middle Ages. We begin to find references to sodomy, to flagellation, to sexual fantasies, while false Christs appear and heresy springs up all over Europe as tens of thousands begin to question the doctrine of the Church.
Perhaps the most remarkable phenomenon is the development of extensive fantasying about the idea of a really satisfactory sexual congress. These fantasies soon took the specific form of claiming that one was visited in the night by a supernatural being, known as an Incubus (or, in the case of men, a Succubus). In his book "On the Nightmare", Ernest Jones has traced the relation of these fantasies, and of nightmares generally, to sexual repression. Medieval writers evidently recognised the connection also. Chaucer satirically points out that Incubi have become much less heard of since the 'limitours', or wandering friars, appeared on the scene — for it was notorious that these friars took their pleasure of women while their husbands were absent. (In America, today, an exactly similar reputation is conventionally attached to travelling salesmen.)
For there as wont to walken was an elf
There walketh now the limitour himself
. . . .
Women may now go safely up and down
In every bush and under every tree
There is no other incubus than hee.
Writers noted that widows and virgins were more frequently troubled with Incubi than were married women, and nuns most of all: as it was put at the time, "Incubi infest cloisters". The more enlightened medical men were certainly aware that Incubi were delusions: du Laurens, for instance, recounts how he was able to bring two women who had complained of the attention of Incubi to admit that the whole thing was a wish-fantasy. (257) The Church, of course, accepted their real existence and asserted that they were devils in human shape, and this belief persisted in Catholic countries long after the end of the Middle Ages. Just as today psychologists note that patients often do not wish to give up their neurotic illusions, so also in this case. Thus Goerres describes how he was sent to exorcize a girl of twenty who had-been pursued by an Incubus.
Elle m'avoua sans detour tout ce que l'esprit impur faisait avec elle. Je jugeai, d'apres ce qu'elle me dit, que, malgre ses denegations, elle pretait au demon une consentement indirect. En effet, elle etait toujours avertie de ses approches par une surexcitation violente des organes sexuels; et alors, au lieu d'avoir recourse a la priere, elle courait a sa chambre et se mettait sur son lit. J'essayai d'eveiller en elle des sentiments de confiance envers Dieu; mais je n'y pus reussir, et elle semblait plutot craindre d'etre delivree. (Cited Delassus.)
At the same time, it seems possible that, at least towards the end of the period, people sometimes deliberately made use of the belief in the Incubus as a convenient excuse. The sceptical Scot certainly thought so. In his "Discoverie of Witchraft", under the heading of
Bishop Sylvanus, his lecherie opened and covered again, how maides having yellow haire are most combred with Incubus, how married men are bewitched to use other men's wives, and to refuse their own,
he tells how once an Incubus came to a lady's bedside and made "hot loove unto hir". The lady, being offended, cried out loudly, and the company came and found the Incubus hiding under her bed in the likeness of Bishop Sylvanus.
Scot, writing in the sixteenth century, sees the psychological origin of these fantasies even more clearly than Chaucer.
"But in truth this Incubus is a bodily disease," he says, "although it extend unto the trouble of the mind: which of some is called the mare" (i.e. the nightmare). And he adds acutely: "Melancholie abounding in their heads . . . hath deprived or rather depraved their judgments"
— a diagnosis which antedates by three centuries Freud's teaching that sexual repression causes depression.
Not infrequently these delusions were followed by phantom pregnancies. Thus the Inquisitors, Sprenger and Kramer, write:
"At times women also think they have been made pregnant by an Incubus, and their bellies grow to an enormous size; but when the time of parturition comes, their swelling is relieved by no more than the expulsion of a great quantity of wind."
The strict sexual taboos imposed by the Church created widespread fears of impotence, as we can tell from the countless Church edicts forbidding attempts to restore potency by magical means, from the demand for restoratives, and from the fact that witches were constantly accused of blighting potency, as we shall later see in more detail. Such potency difficulties are precisely what one would expect to find in a period when the sexual act was represented as a mortal sin.
The marked increase in homosexuality which occurred in the twelfth century is commonly attributed to the Norman invasion, but since homosexuality is not, in fact, a contagious disease some further explanation is called for. It certainly affected court circles: for instance it was because of his homosexuality that King Rufus was refused burial in consecrated ground. Bloch has denied that Edward II was a homosexual, despite his love for Piers Gaveston, but it seems likely that he was, since Higden says that he was
"sleyne with a hoote broche putte thro the secret place posteriale". (245)
But it was above all the failing of the priesthood, as one can tell from the numerous church edicts on the subject: for instance in 1102 we find a Church council specifying that priests shall be "degraded for sodomy, and anathematised for Obstinate sodomy". This new preoccupation with the subject is also betrayed by the constant accusations of buggery levelled at the heretic sects.
Naturally, persons vowed to total celibacy exhibit the earmarks of sexual repression more vividly than laymen: not only inversion but perversion and hysterical symptoms are found in the monasteries and cloisters in very marked forms, as also among the practising clergy as soon as the rule of celibacy was enforced. Perhaps it is not generally realized how strongly the clergy opposed the imposition of priestly celibacy. It is true that it was an age of violence — an age in which, for instances Archembald, Bishop of Sens, taking a fancy to the abbey of St. Peter, could simply evict the monks and install himself, establishing his harem in the refectory-but, even so, the scale of the clerical revolt against celibacy was remarkable. Monks repeatedly murdered their abbots for preaching better behaviour to them; priests left their benefices to their sons, as if they were private property, openly defying the rule. In 925, for instance, we find the Council of Spalato forbidding priests to marry for a second time, having apparently become resigned to first marriages. In 1061 these protests culminated in an organized rebellion: a number of Lombard bishops and Roman nobles, claiming that it was no sin for a priest to marry, elected Cadalus, Bishop of Parma, as Antipope, under the title Honorius II. Honorius marched on Rome and captured it, but two years later the defection of Hanno of Cologne, for complex political reasons, caused the revolt to fail.
The repeated failure of the Church to impose a life of celibacy on the clergy, and the extent to which the clergy defied its efforts by marriage, fornication and turning to homosexuality, have been recounted in a degree of detail which is unlikely ever to be surpassed by H. C. Lea in his "History of Sacerdotal Celibacy". He relates how, as priestly marriage was made increasingly difficult, priests were driven to content themselves with simple fornication — to the point where, in Germany, the word Pfaffenkind (parson's child) was used as a synonym for bastard. It was said that in many towns the number of bastards exceeded the number of those born in wedlock, and the claim does not seem incredible if one judges from such examples as that of Henry III, Bishop of Liege, who was known to have sixty five natural children. So serious did the situation become that in many parishes — at least in Spain and in Switzerland — the parishioners insisted that the priest must have a concubine as a measure of protection for their wives.
More sinister was the danger of incest, which was deemed sufficiently real for the Papal Legate in France, Cardinal Guala, to rule, in 1208, that mothers and other relatives must not live in the house of clerics, a regulation repeated in many subsequent orders up to the end of the fourteenth century. In general, May has noted that in the court records of the period, priests outnumber laymen, sometimes by as much as fifty to one. This was not because the Church was especially punctilious in prosecuting clerics: quite the contrary. It was frequently declared that clerical sins should be overlooked unless they became a public scandal, exceptionally light penalties were imposed, and frequent dispensations and absolutions were granted by the Curia. (154)
That the clergy should break the rule of celibacy is no doubt understandable: what is more dreadful is that they were often prepared to use their supposed power of granting or with holding absolution for sin as a weapon to force a woman's compliance — and what a weapon that was in an age when many believed that they would roast in hell without absolution! This frightful crime was, however, treated by the ecclesiastical courts with the greatest lenience, in line with their policy of treating fornication as a milder offence than concubinage, and absolution for it could be purchased for as little as 36 gros tournois. As an example of the fantastic lenience of such courts we may take the case of Valdelamar, tried at Toledo in 1535 for seducing two women and refusing absolution to a third unless she slept with him — and also accused of theft, blasphemy, cheating with bulls of indulgence, charging for absolution and frequenting brothels. His whole sentence was to be fined two ducats and condemned to thirty days' seclusion in church, before being free, as Lea puts it, to resume his flagitious career.
It was to reduce the incidence of such crimes that the confessional box was evolved. The Council of Valencia ordered it to be used in 1565, and in 1614 it was prescribed for all churches, though 150 years later the decree was still being ignored in many places. Unfortunately this invention created another evil: salacious laymen used to enter the box in order in hear confessions. This was regarded as a serious matter by the Church only if, at the end of the confession, they gave absolution: This amounted to usurping the prerogative of a priest and the penalty was being burnt alive. Theology also dominated consideration of sacerdotal offences: the Judges were more interested in discovering whether the attempt at seduction had been made before or after granting absolution than in protecting the women. Thus it was argued that to give a woman a love letter in the confessional was only "solicitation" (as the offence came to be called) if it was intended that she should read it on the spot, before being absolved. Once the question of intention had been introduced the casuists were able to confuse the issue still further: it became possible to argue that a conditional statement, such as "If I were not a priest, I should like to seduce you", was innocuous. (154)
Confession had other abuses: for instance, requiring a man who confessed to fornication to name his partner, so that the priest might discover where best to apply his own efforts — a thing which was not banned until 1714. There is also evidence that confessors would talk at length with young nuns on sexual matters, discussing every detail of the sexual act, ostensibly to warn them, actually to arouse their desires, but it would take us too far from the subjects and require too many pages, to record all the ingenuities of priestly lust.
The influence of the clergy can best be summed up by the comment made by Cardinal Hugo, when Innocent IV left Lyons after a visit of eight years' duration. In a speech of farewell to the citizens, he said:
"Since we came here we have effected great improvements. When we came, we found but three or four brothels. We leave behind us but one. We must add, however, that it extends without interruption from the eastern to the western gate." (154)
The bad example set by the clergy, as this story hints, was not confined to those of lower rank; and in point of fact the Vicar of Christ himself descended again and again to the utmost licence. Sergius III contrived, with the aid of his vicious mother, that his bastard should become Pope after him. The notorious John XII (deposed 963) turned St. John Lateran into a brothel: at his trial he was accused of sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery and incest. Leo VIII, while still a layman, replaced him: he died stricken by paralysis in the act of adultery. Benedict IX, elected Pope at the age of ten, grew up
"in unrestrained licence, and shocked the sensibilities even of a dull and barbarous age".
While the popes were resident in Avignon,
"the vilest issues were the pastime of pontifical ease. Chastity was a reproach and licentiousness a virtue."
Balthasar Cossa, elected Pope to end the Great Schism, confessed before the Council of Constance to "notorious incest, adultery, defilement, homicide and atheism". Earlier, when Chamberlain to Boniface IX, he had kept his brother's wife as mistress: Promoted to Cardinal as a result, he was sent to Bologna
"where two hundred maids, matrons and widows, including a few nuns, fell victims to his brutal lust". (154)
For those who were enclosed in monastic orders, the opportunities of satisfying sexual appetites were even more limited, and especially, perhaps, for women, who could less easily take the initiative in such matters. Hence, while the records show plenty of cases of nuns, and even abbesses becoming pregnant or being involved in scandal, (43) we also find the sexual impulse emerging in the form of hysterical manifestations — using the term hysteria in the strict medical sense. It has long been recognized that people can (without conscious intention) induce in themselves various forms of illness and defects of function at the behest of an unconscious or repressed need. Thus a man who has seen a particularly terrifying sight may develop blindness, and this blindness will disappear as suddenly as it came, when the underlying anxiety has been dissipated. In a similar way, people sometimes become ill in order to escape from situations which they find intolerable — and the illness is quite genuine. Such hysterical seizures usually bear a close relationship to the unconscious fantasy: in particular, women sometimes exhibit convulsive bodily movements, or become rigid, with the body arched so that the pudenda are thrust forward as in coitus — the so-called 'arc-en-cercle' position.
Throughout the Middle Ages, and especially in nunneries, we find epidemics of such convulsions. A particularly clear-cut case is that investigated by the great German doctor de Weier (1515-76), one of the first people to explore such supposed cases of diabolic possession clinically and objectively. He reports them in his great work "De Praestigiis Daemonum", a model of scientific detachment. He was one of the members of an investigating committee sent in 1565 to enquire into the case of "possession" occurring among the nuns of the convent of Nazareth at Cologne. De Weier noted that the convulsions exhibited several features betraying their erotic origin: during the attacks, he noted, the nuns would lie on their backs with closed eyes and their abdomens elevated in arc-en-cercle. After the convulsions had passed, his notes say, they
"opened their eyes with apparent expressions of shame and pain".
The epidemic had started when a young girl who lived in the nunnery began to suffer from the hallucination that she was being visited every night by her lover. Nuns who were put to guard her became frightened by her convulsive movements and began to exhibit them also. Soon the epidemic spread to the entire group. (25)
Upon investigation, the committee discovered that some of the neighbouring youths had been climbing into the nunnery every night to enjoy an affair with nuns of their acquaintance. It was when this had been discovered and stopped that the convulsions developed. De Weier also studied similar phenomena in other nunneries and an orphanage, as he recounts in his Fourth Book. (256) Maury has collected a number of such cases in his "Histoire d'Astrologie et Magie".
Erotic convulsions seem frequently to be induced when a hysteric loves a particular individual and the love is withdrawn or is not returned. In the celebrated case of Loudun (1634) which Aldous Huxley has recently popularized, the nun concerned, Jeanne des Anges, was enamoured of the Cure Grandier: as a move towards coming to know him better she invited him to become the confessor of the small convent of which she was abbess. He refused. She then developed a prolonged series of convulsions, accusing him of having bewitched her — and, psychologically, he was of course the responsible, though innocent, party. The sexual character of her hysteria is patent. Thus she claimed to have become possessed by seven devils, each of which she named and described. The first, Asmodeus, filled her head, she said, with sexual fantasies. The fourth, Isaacaron, aroused her passion by more direct methods, and this, she explained, was the cause of the violent bodily movements — a frank explanation which anticipates that of Freud by almost 300 years. Her convulsions culminated in a phantom pregnancy. The Cure was burnt alive as a sorcerer; the nun became an object of veneration, was presented to the queen and performed several miracles.
Many other cases can be found. A quarter of a century earlier a young girl called Madeleine de Mandol, of La Baume, accused a local priest, Gaufridi, of seducing and bewitching her, and soon she was joined in these accusations by Louise Capeau. Both exhibited convulsions with the characteristic rigidities. Once six men stood on the arched body of Madeleine de Mandol, just as later men were to stand on the body of Jeanne des Anges.
Only ten years after the Loudun incident, while Jeanne was still performing tours of France, the nuns of Louviers accused two priests, one of them already dead, of bewitching them, and we are told that in their convulsions they indulged in "foul languages", that is, they gave voice to the sexual desires in their unconscious minds, which were indeed the cause of the convulsions. Once again, the priests were burned, the dead one being exhumed for the purpose.
Even a century later, in the comparatively enlightened year of 1731, we find the story repeated almost without change. Catherine Cadiere of Toulon accused her confessor, Fr. Giraud, of seduction and magic. Levi says that she was a stigmatized ascetic and suffered
"lascivious swoons, secret flagellations, lewd sensations".
Apart from these grossly erotic manifestations, it is difficult to avoid detecting the influence of erotic feeling in the language and behaviour of many Christian mystics. Catholic authorities attempt to explain this eroticism by saying that the language of romantic poetry had become common currency, and was borrowed by the clergy. (52) And certainly the use of erotic images in an attempt to convey a transcendental experience is quite understandable — as understandable, say, as the use of the image of thirst — even if one adds that one can hardly employ the image without having at some time experienced the reality to which it corresponds. But much of this imagery seems to go so far beyond the mere expression of longing, and to dwell so fondly on physical detail, that it is difficult to resist the suspicion that in many cases the writers were projecting on to the deity an earthly love which had been deprived of its natural object, and colouring very human fantasies with a veneer of mysticism.
Mechthild of Magdeburg (1210-88) felt herself sick from passionate love for the Saviour, and advised
"all virgins to follow the most charming of all, the eighteen year old Jesus",
that He might embrace them. Her "Dialogue between Love and the Soul" is studded with passages such as:
"Tell my Beloved that His chamber is prepared, and that I am sick with love for Him."
"Then He took the soul into His divine arms, and placing His fatherly hand on her bosom, He looked into her face and kissed her well."
If the writer was describing a mystic experience, there can be little doubt that this experience was created by the damming up of erotic feeling. We can readily see how the blocking of the normal outlet produces the religious erotomania by a case such as that of Margaretha of Ypern (1216-37) who, after the cessation of her mania for men believed herself engaged to Jesus. Similarly, Christine Ebner (1277-1356), after two years of masochistic self torture, was seized by sensual visions in which she felt herself embraced by Jesus and to have conceived a child by Him. (81)
Fosbroke points out that the medieval ceremony for the consecration of nuns was in several respects like a wedding A ring was put on the candidate's finger and a wedding crown on her head. one of the responses which she had to make ran:
"I love Christ into whose bed I have entered."
After the kiss of peace had been bestowed, she was urged to
"forget there all the world, and there be entirely out of the body; there in glowing love embrace your beloved (Saviour) who is comes down from heaven into your breast's bower, and hold Him fast until He shall have granted whatsoever you wish for."
It may be added that the Church received the sum of money which had been put aside by the parents for their daughter's dowry if and when she married.
Is it remarkable to learn that nuns filled with such thoughts frequently developed phantom pregnancies?
The official explanation seems hardly adequate to explain the ardent longing of La Bonne Armelle and St. Elizabeth to mother the infant Jesus; or the action of Veronica Giuliani beatified by Pius II, who, in memory of the lamb of God, took a real lamb to bed with her, kissing it and suckling it on her breasts. The desperate frustration of natural instincts is also shown by such incidents as that of St. Catherine of Genoa, who often suffered from such internal fires that, to cool herself, she lay upon the ground, saying "Love, love, I can do no more". In doing this she felt a peculiar inclination for her confessor. (86) Again, it seems rather naive to absolve of erotic feeling the nun Blaubekin, who became obsessed by the thought of what had happened to the part of Jesus's body removed by circumcision. (In point of fact, she need not have distressed herself: no fewer than twelve churches possess, among their sacred relics, the prepuce of Jesus Christ — notably St. John Lateran, Coulombs, Charroux, Hildesheim, Puy-en-Velay and Antwerp, the last imported at great expense by Godefroy de Bouillon in an attempt to discourage the worship of Priapus. (110), (165) There is also an equal number of umbilici. (71))
Psychoanalysts have shown how a sense of sexual guilt leads to the in turning of Thanatos, in an attempt to relieve the guilt by continual self punishment, while flagellation, specifically, which is a kind of assault, may be a substitute for sexual intercourse. It is therefore in no way surprising to find that the celibates often indulged in prodigies of masochism, and especially in flagellation, and we find cases of confessors making use of their power of absolution to force their female parishioners to beat them.
The early Christian fathers delighted in such simple self tortures as hair shirts, and failing to wash. Others proceeded to more desperate extremes, such as Ammonius who tortured his body with a red-hot iron until it was covered with burns. In the Middle Ages, these excesses became ever more frantic. Christine of St. Trond (1150-1224) laid herself in a hot oven, fastened herself on a wheel, had herself racked, and hung on the gallows beside a corpse; not content with this, she had herself partly buried in a grave. Fielding observes:
"She suffered from obsessions which are now generally recognized as transparent sexual hallucinations."
Christine Ebner, who as noted earlier imagined herself to have conceived a child by Jesus after being embraced by Him, cut a cross of skin over the region of her heart and tore it of, sufficiently demonstrating the linkage of sexual desire and masochism. (81)
It would not be necessary to dwell on these depressing details if it were not for the fact that the Church erected these appalling practices into a virtue, often canonizing those who practised them, as in the case of St. Margaret Marie Alacoque, St. Rose of Lima and St. Mary Magdalene dei Pazzi. It is true that her superiors forbade the Alacoque to practise excessive austerities, but she ingeniously found others. She sought out rotten fruit and dusty bread to eat. Like many mystics she suffered from a lifelong thirst, but decided to allow herself no drink from Thursday to Sunday, and when she did drink, preferred water in which laundry had been washed She, too, fell to the ground in convulsions and had the illusion that the devil was buffeting her. she said incessantly "ou souffrir, ou mourir", either suffer or die. Not content with miraculously caused infirmities, rather like Christine Ebner, she cut the name of Jesus on her chest with a knife, and because the scars did not last long enough, burnt them in with a candle. Her respectful biographer, who has been at pains to emphasize her remarkable holiness and splendid example, here cautions his readers against imitating "this astonishing, not to say imprudent operation". (99) She was Canonized in 1920.
The stories of these masochistic nuns indeed show a dreary similarity. St. Rose ate nothing but a mixture of sheep's gall, bitter herbs and ashes. (214) The Pazzi, like the Alacoque, vowed herself to chastity at an incredibly early age (four, it is said). Like St. Catherine, she ran about in a frenzy, calling "Love, Love". After a prolonged rapture in 1585, she had hallucinations of being mauled and pushed about. She would run into the garden and roll on thorns, then return to the convent and whip herself. She would have herself tied to a post and demand to be insulted, or drop hot wax on her skin. Like the Alacoque, she was thought a suitable person to put in charge of the novices, but whereas the latter had one of the novices dismissed for rivalling her in holiness, the Pazzi made one stand on her mouth and whip her. (65) She was canonized in 1671.
It is in the eleventh century that one first finds the Franciscans extolling self flagellation as a penance; and it is at the end of the same century, when the practice of confession became generally established, that one finds confessors also imposing sentences of whipping. At first the priests used to do the whipping themselves, the penitents usually being entirely nude, and the penance being inflicted in a place attached to the church. To judge from illustrations, the victims accepted the penance in just the resigned spirit in which today people accept the verdict of a doctor; and penitents, stripped naked, awaited their turn for treatment as placidly as patients at a doctor's clinic. In the twelfth century St. Dominic made the practice widely known, and established a scale of equivalents, 1,000 lashes being considered equivalent to the reciting of ten penitential psalms. But the danger of priests indulging their sadistic instincts soon became evident, and other methods were evolved, especially public processions of flagellants, nude from the waist up.
There were those who sensed the perverted nature of this development: France refused to accept the practice and the Polish king imposed penalties on those who adopted it. But the device of organizing groups of Flagellants proved unwise, for in groups a strange contagion occurs. Perhaps the fact of being with others who are giving- rein to powerful instincts normally held in check, gives a man a sense of being licensed by public opinion to break the normal rules, as seems to occur, for instance, in lynchings, looting and other mob phenomena. Whatever the explanation, in the middle of the thirteenth century Thanatos burst loose in the populace at large, but not, as in a lynching, directed outward upon others: this time, it was directed inward in a masochistic sense. The contagion started in North Italy in 1259 everywhere people formed themselves into groups for the purpose of self-flagellation.
"Day and night, long processions of all classes and ages, headed by priests carrying crosses and banners, perambulated the streets in double file, praying and flagellating themselves."
Even children of five years old took part. Magistrates, appalled, expelled them from their cities, but to no effect. Ultimately the movement died down, only to flare up again in 1262 and again in 1296. In the following century, stimulated by the fears aroused by repeated earthquakes this Flagellomania reappeared in 1334. Finally, the culminating horror of the Black Death, which started in 1348, caused an outbreak far exceeding any of the foregoing in scale. Beset by the fear of death and the evidence of God's displeasure whole populations indulged in a desperate frenzy of self maceration. Processions of men and women, nobles and commoners, priests and monks, numbering hundreds and sometimes thousands, spread over Austria, Bohemia, Germany, Switzerland, and the Rhine province, to the Netherlands and even to England. (77) The movement continued all through 1348 and 1349, while the Plague raged, killing in many cases seven in every ten of the population. These flagellants, like pilgrims, moved from town to town and in each town they sought out the shrine of the most powerful saint, hoping to procure his help. They began to form themselves into a coherent organization, under the title the Brethren of the Cross. The idea emerged that one could dispense with the services of the Church in attaining salvation. Thirty-three and a half days of scourging, recalling Christ's thirty three years of life, were the passport to salvation. The Pope, instantly alarmed, on October 20 issued a Bull accusing them of forming a new sect without permission, condemning them as devilish, and calling upon bishops and inquisitors to stamp out the heresy. Under this pressure, the movement broke up or went underground, only to burst out again two years later, and yet again three years after that. This time the sect was destroyed by fire and sword. Except for sporadic outbreaks in Italy, Holland and Thuringia in the early fifteenth century, we hear no more of Flagellomania. That is, we hear no more of a mass popular movement: we find plenty of processions of flagellants on specific occasions under control of the Church.
By giving official sanction to actions which in normal people are deeply repressed or held under control, the Church contrived that the tendencies to conformity which normally act as a civilizing force should be put at the service of the dark and uncivilised desires of the unconscious. Here, as so often in other fields, the Church acted in just the way calculated to release the very forces it was officially trying to repress — so easily do our unconscious desires mould our conscious action to their purpose. It was an attempt which recoiled on the Church and was therefore dropped: the Church's next experiment in this field was to direct the death dealing forces outwards in the form of witch persecutions, as I shall attempt to show in another chapter.
If a reasonable brevity were no object, this account of medieval sexuality could be greatly extended. I have considered only general trends: a full account would have to consider the differences between different classes and different regions, and would have to study the demoralizing effect of social disorganization such as occurred in the wake of wars and pestilence. It would have to describe the violence and lechery of the Crusades, and the wave of frantic debauchery which followed in the wake of the Black Death, when it was held that to commit incest on the altar was the only certain prophylactic against infection. (184) But for such matters I have no space.
The frank sexuality of the early Celts was associated with the worship of fertility religions; when the Christian missionaries imposed a new morality, many of the old ceremonies survived and provided occasions for outbursts of sexuality in defiance of Church law. Best known of these were the May Games and the Christmas mumming. The May Games, which celebrated the growing of the crops, took place round the maypole, and these we know survived until the Puritans abolished them in the seventeenth century. Chaucer speaks of the "great shaft of Cornhill" from which the church of St. Andrew Undershaft takes its name. Similarly the Christmas mumming coinciding with the middle of the winter solstice, derived from the Roman Saturnalia. Indeed, actual phallic worship continued at first openly, later secretly, throughout the Middle Ages, and Early Church statutes often inveigh against it. A full account of medieval sexuality must also consider certain religious sects and minority groups which developed distinctive attitudes to sex. But all these are subjects of such interest and importance that they deserve chapters to themselves and I shall discuss them at a later point.
I opened the chapter by suggesting that the Middle Ages resembled a vast insane asylum. The phrase was not intended as a hyperbole. John Custance, a manic depressive who has been certified on a number of occasions, has recorded his feelings and sensations: a few extracts will serve to establish the resemblance. In the manic phase, he says, he experience a "heightened sense of reality" which Canon Grensted has compared with the experience of St. Teresa. He felt a sense of love in which there was no repugnance for the loathsome He strives to describe his sense of intenser life, of being at peace; of love with the whole universe. There was a sense of revelation; he saw visions continually and could not distinguish them from dreams. With this went an insensitivity to pain and a release of sexual tension: he had hallucinations of male and female sex organs copulating in mid-air. He felt, also, that he might follow the promptings of the spirit with impunity, however unorthodox; he felt an impulse to throw off all his clothes. He often saw aureoles round people's heads.
Strangest feature of all, so far from feeling any repugnance at the loathsome, he felt attracted by it. He explains how his sense of the nearness of God was in some way associated in his mind with the idea of dirt, so that dwelling on the idea of dirty and disgusting things, such as spittle or faeces, seemed to emphasize and enhance his nearness to God. This is particularly striking, since many Christian ecstatics have made precisely the same observation. The Alacoque, for instance dwelt on these ideas with an irresistible compulsion. In her diaries she describes how once, when she wished to clean up the vomit of a sick patient, she "could not resist" doing so with her tongue, an action which caused her so much pleasure that she wished she could do the same every day. Mme. Guyon the seventeenth century quietist, describes an almost exact similar experience. (149) St. John of the Cross licked out the sores of lepers, which he described as "pleasurable". St. Rose, more ambitiously, drank off a bowl of human blood, newly drawn from a diseased patient. (214)
But whereas the performers of these hardy acts were canonized, Custance, undergoing exactly similar experiences, in modern times, was certified.
Before the mystic reaches his sense of unity with God, and the release of sexual tension, he passes through two dreadful phases which have been called the "dryness" and the "dark night of the soul". Custance underwent experiences which seem identical with these in his depressive phase. He felt, he says, that he had sold his soul to the devil. He was hypnotized by an absolutely horrifying vision of ever increasing pain — remarkably similar to the conviction of endless torture in hell described so vividly by Calvinists. Furthermore, this depressive phase developed in two stages. The first was a state of deep depression about ordinary earthly misfortunes, which Custance himself calls "a dark night of the soul", echoing St. John of the Cross's phrase. The second stage was a sense of spiritual abandonment and of "vulnerability to demonic attack", resembling the sensations reported by Bunyan, Luther and others. In this phase, Custance was obsessed by a sense of guilt for his sexual sins and found himself to be impotent; indeed, he says that sin appeared exclusively as sexual sin. And he adds that he suddenly understood why Catholics find it impossible to conceive of Heaven without also believing in a purgatory.
And just as in the manic phase he had felt attracted to the idea of dirt, now he felt repelled from it; and associated with this fear of dirt was a sense of remoteness from God, which could only be combated by getting rid of every speck of it — a feeling which, as we shall see, the Puritans had already experienced. I may add that this very compressed summary does small justice to Custance's extraordinary book, which should be read.
With this in mind, it hardly seems too much to say, therefore, that the Church's code of repression produced, throughout Western Europe, over a period of four or five centuries, an outbreak of mass psychosis for which there are few parallels in history. Perhaps only the Aztec passion for blood sacrifice provides a comparable case.
It is an important psychological, as it is also a physical, fact that every action breeds an equal and opposite reaction. While the Church claims that repressive measures were required because of the immorality of the times, it seems more probable that, in reality, the immorality of the times was a result of the pressures applied. As Pascal observed:
"Qui veut faire Lange; fait la bête."
In the next chapter, therefore, let us see what was the moral teaching which could produce these fearful results. It will be worth examining the medieval ideal in some detail, for it provides the basis from which our present sexual regulation in the U.S. no less than in Britain, have been derived.