1051: Dodgy clerics to be whipped, shaved, spat on and fed grain

Petrus Damiani was an influential Benedictine monk, born in Ravenna in the middle of the 11th century. Damiani was widely respected for his piety, devotion and self-discipline, as well as his attempts to eradicate clerical corruption.

Around 1051, Damiani wrote Liber Gomorrhianus or ‘Book of Gomorrah’, in effect an open plea to Pope Leo IX to do something about licentiousness and perverted behaviour among members of the clergy. Of particular concern to Damiani was the sexual mistreatment of boys by some monks and priests. In this extract he calls for stiff penalties for transgressors:

“A cleric or monk who seduces youths or young boys or is found kissing… is to be publicly flogged and lose his tonsure. When his hair has been shaved, his face is to be foully besmeared with spit and he is to be bound in iron chains for six months…”


“He shall never again associate with youths in private conversation nor in the counselling of them. [And he should be] be denied bread but fed only barley, as whoever acts like a horse and a mule [should] not eat the food of men”.

Liber Gomorrhianus caused a stir until around 1062 when the original manuscript was ‘borrowed’ from Damiani by Pope Alexander II – who locked it away and refused to return it.

Source: Pietro Damiani, Liber Gomorrhianus, c.1051. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.