Secret Weddings of the 16th Century

Same-sex marriage or even just relationships isn’t a 21st century invention and it’s nice to be reminded of that fact sometimes.

Professor Gary Ferguson, a queer studies specialist at the University of Virginia, reveals the 450-year-old history of same-sex marriage.

A same-sex marriage ceremony in… Renaissance Rome?

In the late 16th century, the famous French essayist Michel de Montaigne wrote about two marriages between people of the same sex.

The first involved women in eastern France, the second a group of men in Rome. At the time, same-sex marriages were not recognized by religious or civil law, and sodomy – a term that included a wide range of sexual acts – was a crime. As a result, when those involved were discovered they were usually brought to trial and punished, sometimes by death.

These episodes, along with many others, reveal that even in Renaissance Europe, marriage was a highly contested issue.

Marriage between two men or two women might seem like a concept that has emerged only in recent decades. For centuries, however, same-sex couples have appropriated marriage in their own ways. I investigate a particularly notable example of this – the second of the two cases recounted by Montaigne – in my recent book “Same-Sex Marriage in Renaissance Rome: Sexuality, Identity and Community in Early Modern Europe.”

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2 thoughts on “Secret Weddings of the 16th Century”

    1. I have a friend who has written a same-sex story set in (I think) the 17th Century. Historical fiction.

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