First Advisor

DeLys Ostlund

Term of Graduation

Fall 1996

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Spanish


World Languages and Literatures




Spanish literature -- To 1500 -- History and criticism, Portuguese literature -- To 1500 -- History and criticism, Anti-clericalism in literature



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 88 pages)


Clerical sexual incontinence was a prevalent satirical theme during the Middle Ages manifested by anticlerical sentiment towards reprobate clergymen and the laws that they disobeyed. This satirical genre of literature targeted not only the cleric of a small town, but bishops and cardinals who were also abusers of canon law.

The anticlerical theme originated in Western Europe in the time of Constantine when early Christianity was competing with many religions for dominance. In the fourth century, Constantine, through the Edict of Milan, granted religious tolerance to all, thus allowing Christianity to become a major religion. Clerical celibacy originated from the writings of early church fathers such as Augustine of Hippo, Origen, and Tertullian, who determined that celibacy provided greater spiritual access to God. Early patristic church fathers supported the ideal of sexual celibacy for Christians in order to spiritually overcome the other religions.

In the fourth century A.D., the church demanded that the clerics remain celibate even though they were married. By the twelfth century, canonical laws demanded that clerics not marry and remain celibate. These laws initiated an extreme sexual repression of clerics who began to sexually seek women, refusing them absolution for their sins if they refused the clerics' sexual advances.

The purpose of this thesis is to establish that the corrupt clerics victimized the laity, who, although fearing for their salvation, produced satirical poetry expressing their anticlerical sentiment. This thesis also will present literature that discusses the pros and cons of clerical concubinage.

There are three different forms of articulation in this thesis. The first is didactic and teaches the reader by demonstrating literature that encouraged clerical celibacy. The second illustration is satirical poems with the seven deadly sins as a recurrent theme. These poems are divided into two groups: the first is the poems written by the nobility, and the second is the popular anonymous poems, sung to music for peasant entertainment. The third articulation is the proponents of clerical concubinage. This poetry reflects the human side of companionship and need during a tumultuous time when people banded together in order to survive.


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