To paraphrase ‘Monty Python’: nobody expects the Inquisition – least of all two lesbian nuns in Florence.
Although what the inquisitors discovered in the city state was to be something they did not expect themselves.
Between 1619 and 1623 an all-male team of investigators looked into the mystical visions of a nun named Bernedetta Carlini.
During their inquisition they were shocked to discover that Carlini was having a sexual relationship with another nun, Bartolomea Crivelli.
They noted that for two years, two or three times a week, Carlini would go to her cell, disrobe and go to bed to wait for her companion.
Crivelli would arrive, undress and join her lover under the blanket.
Carlini would then begin “kissing her as if she were a man”.
She would “stir” on top of Crivelli so much that “both of them corrupted themselves”.
Sometimes for two or three hours, “Bernedetta, in order to have greater pleasure, put her face between the other’s breasts and kissed them, and wanted always to be thus on her”.
Carlini, the investigators noted, was the instigator.
They wrote that sometimes she “would grab her companion’s hand by force, put it under herself” and she “would put her fingers in her genitals and hold it there. She stirred herself so much that she corrupted herself”.
Carlini imagined herself as a male angel as she made love to Crivelli but the inquisitors found the two were very much in love.
No further action was taken. Not out of sympathy or goodness of heart, but because the love affair would embarrass the church.
The relationship had to end, though, and the nuns were sent to different convents.
* Read more in ‘Lascivious Bodies’ by Julie Peakman.