A Book of Record

Posted by Censor Librorum on Nov 11, 2007 | Categories: Lesbian in a Catholic Sort of Way

How many references to lesbianism have been recorded by Church authorities, scribes and others and are waiting to be found in Church records? There are probably dozens, maybe more, but they are mostly hidden, forgotten or lost. One of these stories was discovered by Stamford University professor Judith C. Brown quite by accident. While researching the economic history of Florentine communities under Cosimo I, she chanced upon the inquest transripts of Sister Benedetta Carlini, Abbess of the Theatine Convent of the Mother of God in Pescia, Italy.

Brown’s discovery led her to write the book, “Immodest Acts – The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy.” It was published by Oxford University Press in 1986. 1986 was also the year of a CCL conference in California. I wrote to Dr. Brown and asked if she would be one of our speakers but unfortunately she was unable to participate.

Ever since the publication of her book, I have been intrigued with the possibility of trying to identify Catholic lesbians in history, especially those in conflict with Church authorities.

Brown’s book will be featured in the December The Bookshelf. In the meantime, here’s a excerpt:

“The most damaging testimonies the authorities heard, however, did not have to do with the wounds of Christ, or the ring, or the faked death, or the pretensions to living sainthood. …Much worse than that, and what the nunzios emissaries had been totally unprepared for, were the revelations made by Sister Bartolomea Crivelli, Benedetta’s specific companion during the previous years. She was the nun whom Benedetta persuaded to “engage in the most immodest acts,” and who now, prodded by a sense of “very great shame,” was ready to talk.”

“This Sister Benedetta, then, for two continuous years, at least three times a week, in the evening after disrobing and going to bed would wait for her companion to disrobe, and pretending to need her would call. When Bartolomea would come over, Benedetta would grab her by the arm and would throw her by force on the bed. Embracing her, she would put her under herself and kissing her as if she were a man, she would speak words of love to her. And she would stir on top of her so much that both of them corrupted themselves.”

Bookmark and Share

Leave a Reply