Views on Sexuality in Croatian Medieval Sources
By Stella Fatovic-Ferencic and Marija-Ana Dürrigl
Croatian Medical Journal, Vol. 45:1 (2004)
Abstract: We analyzed attitudes towards sexuality during the medieval period in Croatia. For that purpose we investigated numerous medical and literary texts, statutes, and specific natural philosophical work entitled “Lucidar”.Contrary to medical books, which had a low impact on the broader community, literary texts were important in spreading messages on sexuality, as well as in shaping medieval mentality and creating sexual taboos. Consequently, a specific perspective and culture influenced rules and practices for community protection, as well as various levels of social systems.Within the three large groups of sources,we selected those typical both in their content (ideas) and forms, and representative in shaping attitudes toward sexuality on our territory. The first group of sources (examples from literary genres) were identified as an important vehicle in transferring messages of morality, moral obligation and sexuality in general. Deeply rooted in Christianty they became a pattern according to which the way of life and value were measured, a specific view toward sexuality was shaped, and notions of stigma and taboo articulated.
To explore sexuality in the Middle Ages is always a challenge, leading the investigator through a complex area of controversies. This is partly because medieval writers were not explicit and often used cryptic language, mostly to avoid committing sin by talking about issues, which, as they thought, were essentially corrupted. Although there is always some kind of “caveat” for the people writing about sexuality, medieval Croatian authors did not restrain from dealing with the topic, the hidden presence of which shines through the lines written in Croatian medieval Glagolitic script. In the Middle Ages, human sexuality fell within the domains of physicians, natural philosophers, moralists, and theologians, and the voices of the latter two are preserved in Croatian Glagolitic texts.
In medieval times, literary texts were important in spreading messages and shaping mentality regarding sexuality as well as in creating sexual taboos. Medical books, on the other hand, had a low impact on the broader community. Consequently, this specific mentality and culture influenced the community rules and practices regarding sexual issues. Stigmas and taboos as well as negative attitudes towards women pervaded the intellectual, medical, legal, and social systems in Europe during the Middle Ages, and survived in different shades and expressions until today.