Book Series Studies and Texts, vol. 163

Sex and the New Medieval Literature of Confession, 1150-1300

Pierre J. Payer

  • Pages: 249 p.
  • Size:155 x 230 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2009

Temporarily Out of Stock
  • ISBN: 978-0-88844-163-8
  • Hardback
  • Temporarily Out of Stock


This volume rounds out an important trilogy of studies by Pierre Payer on the topic of sex in the ecclesiastical thought and writings of the middle ages that began with Sex and the Penitentials: The Development of a Sexual Code, 550-1150 (1984) and continued with The Bridling of Desire: Views of Sex in the Later Middle Ages (1993).

In every way the equal of the two magisterial studies that preceded it, this third volume examines the treatment of sex in the 'new' literature of penance and confession. Composed by canon lawyers and by theologians for the instruction of priests, it is one of the most popular genres of writing of the later middle ages, although it remains largely unknown and underutilized as a historical source.

Pierre Payer guides readers through this varied and heterogenous corpus with great patience and erudition. His analysis ranges over the origin and development of the idea of lechery as one of the capital sins and the distinction between natural and unnatural acts, and explores the moral consequences of sexual beahviour even within marriage, providing us much insight into the act, and art, of confession and the intimate relationship between priest and penitent that underlies it.