Bishops, Abbots and Popes

Ralph of Tours, /John of Orleans;

At the close of the 11th Century, Archbishop Ralph of Tours persuaded the King of France to install as Bishop of Orleans a certain John  – who was widely known as Ralph’s gay lover, as he had previously been of Ralph’s brother and predecessor as Bishop of Orleans, of the king himself, and of several other prominent men.   This was strongly opposed by prominent churchmen, on the grounds that John was too young and would be too easily influenced by Ralph.  (Note, please, that the opposition was not based on the grounds of sexuality, or even of promiscuity).  Ivo of Chartres tried to get Pope Urban II to intervene.  Now, Urban had strong personal reasons, based in ecclesiastical and national politics, to oppose Ralph.  Yet he declined to do so. In spite of well-founded opposition, John was consecrated Bishop of Orleans on March 1, 1098, when he joined two of his own lovers, and numerous  others, in the ranks of openly homosexual Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Longchamps of Ely (d. 1197)

There was a well-known line about Longchamps that the barons would trust their daughters with him, but not their sons.

Roger de Pont L’Évêque (d.1181)

According to John of Salisbury, who first reported this story in 1172 after the death of Thomas Becket, as a young clerk Roger was involved in a scandal involving a homosexual relationship with a boy named Walter. After Walter made the relationship public, Roger reacted by embroiling Walter in judicial case that ended with Walter’s eyes being gouged out. When Walter then accused Roger of this crime, Roger persuaded a judge to condemn Walter to death by hanging. Becket supposedly was involved in the cover-up afterwards, by arranging with Hilary of Chichester and John of Coutances for Roger to swear an oath that he was innocent. According to John of Salisbury, Roger then went to Rome in 1152 and was cleared of involvement by Pope Eugene III. John of Salisbury further alleges that it was only after bribery that the pope cleared Roger. Frank Barlow, a medieval historian and Becket’s biographer, points out in his biography of Becket that while Roger was accused of these crimes, and may even have been guilty of some sort of criminal homosexuality, John of Salisbury’s motives for bringing up this story in 1172 were almost certainly to defame Roger. Such a story would naturally have put Roger in the worst possible light.[3]


Marbod of Riennes,

Marbod produced lyric poetry on a wide variety of subjects, including frankly erotic love lyrics concerning male and female love interests. Many of his shorter poems circulated primarily in florilegia, collections assembled for the use of students; the essential discussion of the authorship of poetic works attributed to Marbod is by André Wilmart, “Le florilège de Saint-Gatien: contribution à l’étude des poèmes d’Hildebert et de Marbode,” Revue bénédictine 48(1936):3-40; 145-181; 245-258. The most radical of Marbod’s poems, while printed in the earliest collections, were omitted by Beaugendre and Bourassé; they were reprinted by Walther Bulst in “Liebesbriefgedichte Marbods,” in Liber floridus: Mittellateinische Studien Paul Lehmann, zum 65 Geburtstaag am 13. Juli 1949, ed. Bernhard Bischoff and Suso Brechter (St. Ottilien, 1950), p. 287-301, and Lateinisches Mittelalter: Gesammelte Beitraege (Heidelberg, 1984), 182-196.

Several of his poems speak of handsome boys and homosexual desires but reject physical relationships (An Argument Against Copulation Between People of Only One Sex). This exemplifies a tradition of medieval poetry which celebrated same-sex friendship while generally denouncing the wickedness of sexual relations. Some poems, such as the one where he sent an urgent demand that his beloved return if he wished the speaker to remain faithful to him, have nonetheless been interpreted to indicate that more than poetic invention was involved.[6]


Baudri of Bourgeuil,

a “Spanish Monk“,

and other medieval clerics, like

Walafrid Strabo (c. 808-849),

Notker Balbulus (c. 840-912),

Salamo (c. 860-920)

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