Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Aelred of Rievaulx


Saint Aelred 1110-1167


"As novice-master, responsible for the training of impressionable young men, he found it necessary to build a concealed tank in which he could immerse himself in icy waters to bridle his physical passions."


Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, by John Boswell:

Boswell's argument is that for a period of over a thousand years (roughly between A.D. 500 and 1500), the Catholic and Orthodox churches of Europe sanctioned a ceremony that permitted the life-long union of same-sex couples.


Saint Aelred of Rievaulx(1110 - 1167)

Aelred was born in Northumberland and was a friend of King David of Scotland and also an adviser to Henry II of England. Aelred wrote about friendships between males.

John Boswell wrote: "There can be little question that Aelred was gay and that his erotic attraction to men was a dominant force in his life." (Boswell, John, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, p. 222).

In 1135, at the age of twenty-six, Aelred entered the Cistercian abbey of Rievaulx. Ten years later he became abbot, which he remained until his death in 1167.

Aelred related that he fell in love with boys during his school days.

After the death of one monk whom he loved, Aelred wrote:

"The only one who would not be astonished to see Aelred living without Simon would be someone who did not know how pleasant it was for us to spend our life on earth together; how great a joy it would have been for us to journey to heaven in each other's company .... Weep, then, not because Simon has been taken up to heaven, but because Aelred has been left on earth, alone."

Aelred also wrote:

"It is no small consolation in this life to have someone you can unite with you in an intimate affection and the embrace of a holy love, someone in whom your spirit can rest, to whom you can pour out your soul, to whose pleasant exchanges, as to soothing songs, you can fly in sorrow... with whose spiritual kisses, as with remedial salves, you may draw out all the weariness of your restless anxieties. A man who can shed tears with you in your worries, be happy with you when things go well, search out with you the answers to your problems, whom with the ties of charity you can lead into the depths of your heart; ... where the sweetness of the Spirit flows between you, where you so join yourself and cleave to him that soul mingles with soul and two become one."


Paul Halsall: The Experience of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages

"There are numerous references to homosexual activity in literature in twelfth-century Christian France... The poetry of the homosexual bishops Baudri of Bourgueil (1046-1130) and his friend Marbod of Rennes (1035-1123) reflects the situation of Jewish Spain with an emphasis on pederasty and some awareness by the poets of each other's work... Ivo of Chartres, at the same period and in the same region, discusses sodomy and fellatio distinctly from pederasty, and Peter Damian, who wrote at the same period although in a different place, mentions mutual masturbation, interfemoral sex... For the poets however, pederasty, and by implication an active/passive distinction, was the norm...

"Monastic writing on love and friendship in the twelfth century represents some of the earliest evidence we have of the views of homoerotically inclined men. Unlike Baudri of Bourgueil's musings over pretty boys, writers such as Anselm and Aelred of Rievaulx wrote to other monks. The objects of their affection were younger men but they envisioned lifelong and exclusive relationships, such as the affair Anselm had with the young monk Osbern...

"The Florentines established heterosexual brothels in 1415 with the intent of luring young men from sodomy...


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