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Speaking of contemporary bad times, global warming, world conflicts, trouble and turmoil, epidemics, on-going territorial elbowing – sound all too familiar? – there’s large-scale European precedent dating back 700 years.
Curiously, the climactic catastrophe of abysmal year 1315 also marked the end of church-sanctioned, same-sex marriages that had been tolerated for previous decades. Yes, the blessing of same-sex marriage is nothing new.
Details are provided in a new history, “The Third Horseman: Climate Change and The Great Famine of the 14th Century, by William Rosen (Viking Group Press).
Writes Rosen, “In May 1315, it started to rain. It didn’t stop anywhere in northern Europe until August. Next came the coldest winters in a millennium. Two separate animal epidemics killed nearly 80 percent of northern Europe’s live stock. Wars between Scotland and England, France and Flanders, and two rivals claimants to the rule of the Holy Roman Empire destroyed the remaining farm land.
“After seven years, the combination of lost harvests, warfare, and pestilence would claim six million lives – one eighth of Europe’s total population.”
As for same-sex marriages, Rosen comments, ‘Through the thirteenth century, ceremonies that can only be called homosexual marriages – so called spiritual brotherhoods that were sanctioned by priests, using the same prayers as ‘traditional’ marriage, including the joining of right hands at the altar, followed by the ceremonial kiss – were being performed in churches throughout the Mediterranean.”
Quoted is a letter written by the most famous scholar in emperor Charlemagne’s court, Alcuin, to a bishop with whom Alcuin was infatuated. “I think of your love and friendship with such sweet memories, reverend bishop, that I long for that lovely time when I may be able to clutch the neck of your sweetness with the fingers of my desires.”
The most notorious same-sex scandal of that same period was between England’s Edward ll and his paramour, the beautiful courtier Piers Gaveston. Edward paid for his erotic worship and folly by banishment and eventually having a red-hot poker shoved up ‘his nether eye.”
The end of same-sex marriages and blessings came in 1306, when the Byzantine emperor decreed that sex between men would officially become a forbidden activity like incest and sorcery. Humbuggery!
A full treatment of the early history of same sex marriage in the early Christian Church is by Yale historian John E. Boswell. His book, “Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe” was published in 1994, the same year that Boswell died from AIDS-related complications. It’s the best reference source on the topic.
Might one ask, Is it possible that the 21st Century global warming might harbinger the end of same-sex marriages? Who knows? What’s past is unfortunately too often prologue.