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State power and illicit sexuality: the persecution of sodomy in late medieval Bruges

State  power  and  illicit  sexuality:  the  persecution  of   sodomy in  late  medieval  Bruges

Boone, Marc

Journal of Medieval History, Volume 22, Issue 2, June (1996), Pages 135–153

Abstract

With ninety executions of sodomites and a proportion of about 15% of all executions and bodily punishments relating to this offence, Burgundian Bruges (1385–1515) ranks among Europe’s most important centres for the repression of sodomy, a mostly hidden aspect of its rich social history. If these figures allow a comparison of the northern commercial metropolis of the late middle ages with some better known Italian cities, such as Venice and Florence, the actions of the authorities charged with the organization of the repression give an insight into the ideological apparatus behind this repression. Bruges occupied a most important position both as an economic centre and as one of the big Flemish cities opposed to princely centralization. It therefore served on several occasions as the ideal setting for the manifestations of the Burgundian theatre-state. The exceptional repression against the illicit form of sexual behaviour par excellence may be linked with the need to control the city and impose state authority.

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