Bisexual Priests, Eleventh Century

Becoming a priest did not exempt you from the weaknesses of the flesh. Many priests wrote sermons and poetry about their own struggles with desire. Some of this poetry revealed that these priests had sex with both men and women*. While it is debated whether or not these poems are truly personal or just echoes of classical texts, we cannot assume that priests had no experience at all with sex.  It was well known that they did – and many were condemned for it in the religious purges of homosexuality from the church in later centuries.

Here are some excerpts from the eleventh century, spoken in Latin and English.

Baudril of Meung sur Loire (1046-1130),
abbot of Bourgueil, and later archbishop of Dol

Obicunt etiam, juvenum cur more locutus
Virginibus scripsi quaedam quae compliectuntur amorem;
Carminibusquae meis sexus uterque placet

This their reproach: that wantoning in youth,
I wrote to maid and wrote to lads no less
Some things I wrote, ’tis true, which treat of love
And songs of mine have pleased both he’s and she’s.

Marbod, Bishop of Rennes, (ca. 1035-1123)

Errabat mea mens fervore libidinis amens…
Quid quod pupilla mihi carior ille vel illa?
Ergo maneto foris, puer aliger, auctor amoris!
Nullus in aede mea tibi sit locus, o Cytherea!
Displicet amplexus utriusque quidem mihi sexus

My mind did stray, loving with hot desire
Was not he or she dearer to me than sight?
But now, O winged boy, love’s sire, I lock thee out!
Nor in my house is room for thee, O Cythera!
Distasteful to me now is the embrace of either sex.

*While we would term this sexual activity ‘bisexual’, this was not a term used in the eleventh century, and it is a definition only used in this instance to identify sexual activity with more than one gender to a modern audience.

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