Original Research - Special Collection: HTS 75th Anniversary Maake Masango Dedication

‘Foucault se sodomiet’: Damianus se Liber gomorrhianus (1049) heropen

Johann Beukes
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 4 | a5216 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i4.5216 | © 2019 Johann Beukes | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 August 2018 | Published: 07 November 2019

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Johann Beukes, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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Foucault’s sodomite’: Damian’s Liber gomorrhianus (1049) reopened. Taking Michel Foucault’s famous statement about the difference between the ‘Medieval sodomite’ and the heteronormative ‘19th century homosexual’ as its cue, this article surveys the discursive source of that statement in the work of Peter Damian (1007–1072) with regard to his obscure, yet consequential text, Liber gomorrhianus (presented in 1049 to Pope Leo IX, preceding the Council of Reims). Drawing on the recent research by Ranft and because Damian is such an understated figure in the corpus of Medieval philosophy, an overview of Damian’s life and work is presented, especially in terms of Damian’s 11th century reforming labour ethics. Only then the article proceeds to reopen Damian’s text, indicating that the ‘Medieval sodomite’ is far removed from an elementary precursor to the modern scientia sexualis homosexual, but is indeed presented by Damian as a complex and gender-inclusive licentious person, within the context of the disintegration of sexual morality (especially within the domains of celibacy and confession) in the middle to late 11th century church and monasteries. Cross-referencing the own translation of the Latin text with the translation of Payer, the article disseminates and critiques the key concepts in Damian’s argument for the summarily deposition of lapsi [fallen priests] and the expulsion of promiscuous monks (and nuns) from the orders, especially with regard to Damian’s concepts of contra-natural and irrational fornication. Pope Leo’s deeply pastoral and insightful answer to Damian (Ad splendidum nitentis) is presented in the last part of the article, including his sanctioning of Damian’s complex concept of sodomy, which on that ground, became the conceptual source for the council of Reims (1049), and subsequent Medieval councils dealing with the ‘problem of sodomy’ in the church and monasteries. The canons of those councils were indeed the source of Foucault’s analysis of Medieval sexuality – yet the more fundamental source was Damian’s obscure text.


Foucault’s analysis of sexuality in the middle ages; confessional practice; celibacy; ‘the problem of sexuality’ during the 11th century; homosexuality in the early middle ages; Liber gomorrhianus; Damian’s Sodomite; Sodomy as a gender-inclusive concept


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