Almost a thousand years ago, on April 16, 1061, a same-sex wedding took place in Spain. Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz married in the little Catholic chapel they lived next door to.
It seems extraordinary now that two men once married in a Catholic chapel. And with the blessing of the local priest!
The Catholic church and sodomy
Our modern-day experience of the Catholic church is of an institution fiercely opposed to same-sex love. We remember from our history lessons that, in days gone, mere suspicion of homosexuality prompted the church to burn men alive.
But philologist Carlos Callón, author of Amigos e sodomitas. The configuration of homosexuality in the Middle Ages, says that was not always the case. He argues that the church only began to condemn relationships between men from the twelfth century.
Indeed, surviving documentation demonstrates the church took little interest in homosexuality before Peter Damian’s 11th-century Book of Gomorrah. But even that fierce denunciation of sodomy resulted in more pearl-clutching than real consequences. Not until the Reformation did the Catholic Church really become serious about homosexuality.
But since then, to quote Carlos Callón, “Sodomy has become a public sin especially useful for securing power.”
Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz
The document recording the marriage of Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz originally came to light during an excavation of the rubbish tip at the Monastery of San Salvador de Celanova. The monastery was founded in 936 CE. A chapel in the complex dates to 946 CE.
Spanish historian and staunch Catholic Eduardo Hinojosa mentioned the union between Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz in his early 20th-century writings. By then, the historic document was lodged in the National Historical Archive of Madrid. American medievalist John Boswell next mentioned the marriage in his 1994 study, The Marriage of Resemblance. Same-sex unions in pre-modern Europe. Carlos Callón then researched the union further for his 2011 book.
Carlos Callón says that the marriage demonstrates romantic same-sex love is nothing new.
“We knew of the existence of tombstones that speak of love between two men in the [Iberian] peninsular context, but this document is special because it reflects that love between men is not a recent invention.”
The wedding took place in Santa María de Ordes church, with the consent of the priest. However, the author describes it as a civil union. Because Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz owned the church, the house next door and the surrounding lands. The document recording their union also mentions their involvement in the church.
“Pedro Díaz and Muño Vandilaz agreed between us and for the knowledge of others […] in relation to the house and the church of Santa María de Ordes, which we both own and in the which we are equal in work, in receiving visitors, in taking care of it, decorating it and governing it, as well as planting, building and working in the garden.”
In his discussion of Pedro and Muño’s wedding, Carlos Callón sums up beautifully how homosexuality transitioned over the centuries from barely mentioned to modern-day Christianity’s most reviled sin.
“During the first thousand years of Christianity, there is no word to refer to the subsequent sin of sodomy, not even in the preaching of Jesus Christ. Homophobic prejudices were born in the 11th century and consolidated during the Late Middle Ages. Sex became to have a more important role in the discourse of the Church, which paradoxically will be one of the first victims of this persecution, although it later actively participates in it. And, at the same time, the authoritarian monarchies that were beginning to take shape resorted to crimes that allowed them to have more power.”
The Titanic, April 15 <— On this day —> April 17
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