LGBT History Month Poster: Same-sex relations in the Vienna Bible moralisée

Bible moralisée (1220s); Manuscript (Codex Vindobonensis 2554); Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna
Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to the first of a series of postings about LGBT History Month posters going on display around the School of History. Read more here.

Bibles moralisées (“Moralised Bibles”) were illuminated manuscripts that provided commentaries on “biblical events and motifs as a means of passing moral judgement on contemporary society”. This image is taken from one of the earliest Bibles moralisées, produced in the 1220s-1230s and commissioned for French royalty. It depicts two same-sex couples, one male and one female, embracing and kissing, and was positioned in the manuscript immediately below a scene depicting Genesis 3:6, the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Because such depictions are so rare in the surviving source material of the middle ages, this and other similar images have been deployed by several scholars in recent publications on medieval sexuality, commenting on the way it sets alongside, apparently equitably, both male and female sexual activity.  It looks like what we now call homosexuality. At the same time, when we consider this image in its wider context, the images and text that surrounded it, and how it might have been ‘read’ by contemporaries, including its maker, the image must also be seen as a representation of contemporary notions of disorderly desires and of religious wrong-doing. Source: Robert Mills ‘Seeing sodomy in the Bibles moralisées’ Speculum 87.2 (April 2012) 413-468.

Thumbnail of this poster. Click for larger version.

Further reading:

Glenn Burger & Stephen F Kruger eds., Queering the Middle Ages (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001)

Jonathan Goldberg,  Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992)

Mark Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997)

Karma Lochrie, Heterosyncrasies: Female Sexuality When Normal Wasn’t (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005)

Robert Mills, Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015)

James Saslow, Pictures and Passions. A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts (New York: Viking, 1999)

James A. Schultz, “Heterosexuality as a Threat to Medieval Studies” in Journal of the History of Sexuality vol. 15, 2006, 14-29

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With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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