Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy

Judith C. Brown, Author Oxford University Press, USA $25 (224p) ISBN 978-0-19-503675-6
Discovered in the State Archive of Florence, ecclesiastical papers concerning a homosexual nun shed interesting light on a subject for which there is seldom documentation. Benedetta Carlini was elected abbess of a northern Italian convent in 1620, an achievement for a woman only 30 years old. This honor was largely due to the mystical visions that had made her famous: visitations from the Virgin Mary, a guardian angel and Christ himself, who ""married'' Carlini in a ceremony that caused much talk in the convent and prompted the investigations that led to her downfall. Not only did the authorities discover that the abbess had faked the stigmata she claimed were miraculously induced, they uncovered evidence of her lesbian affair with another nun. Carlini lost her position and was imprisoned for 35 years, but this was light punishment for what were considered serious crimes; apparently it was decided that she had been deluded by the devil and hence was not entirely responsible for her sins. The author, a Stanford historian, provides the historical background necessary to fully understand Carlini's story; Brown has written a book for the general reader rather than the scholar, a book already making news. November 14
Reviewed on: 11/01/1985
Release date: 11/01/1985
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-19-504225-2
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