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Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe [Paperback]

John Boswell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 30 1995
Both highly praised and intensely controversial, this brilliant book produces dramatic evidence that at one time the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches not only sanctioned unions between partners of the same sex, but sanctified them--in ceremonies strikingly similar to heterosexual marriage ceremonies.

Frequently Bought Together

Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe + Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century
Price For Both: CDN$ 46.25


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The acceptance and sanctification of homosexual relations in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches during Medieval Europe are examined in this scholarly work.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Not since Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Univ. of Chicago Pr., 1981) have Christians of all creeds confronted a work that makes them look so closely at their notions of the relationship between the church and its gay and lesbian believers. Diligently researched and documented, this immensely scholarly work covers everything from the "paired" saints of Perpetua and Felicitas and Serge and Bacchus to lesbian transvestites in Albania. Examining evidence that the early church celebrated a same-sex nuptial liturgy, Boswell compares both Christian same-sex unions to Christian heterosexual unions and non-Christian same-sex unions to non-Christian heterosexual unions. Appendixes contain, among other things, translations and transcriptions of cited documents. Whether or not minds are changed on the matter will probably fall along sectarian lines, according to current attitudes on homosexuality. However, the work will provoke dialog. A groundbreaking book for academic, public, and theological libraries.
--Lee Arnold, Historical Society of Pennsylvania., Philadelphia
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The book which destroyed Boswell's reputation Feb. 17 2001
Format:Paperback
In this book, which was not well received by scholars, Boswell deals with two entirely different types of surviving documents. One is the relatively unknown "making of brothers" ceremony, which made two men brothers in Christ -- with no sexual implications at all.
The other document type is a simple wedding ceremony, meant to be used between men and women.
Amazingly, Boswell confuses or conflates these two totally different types of document! It is almost impossible to explain why Boswell reproduced a "brothers" ceremony in four sections, and then somehow appended a traditional heterosexual wedding ceremony as sections five and six of the "brothers" ceremony. He either made an incredible blunder, or was trying to pull wool over people's eyes....
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5.0 out of 5 stars Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe Oct. 6 2009
Format:Paperback
Throughout history, ancient or modern, homosexual relationships have been viewed with disgust and shame, therefore "the love that dare not speak it's name". Because of that, most were never documented, or if they were, they have remained lost or destroyed. John Boswell, in his years of research, studies and eventual writing of these memoirs, brings into focus the realities and the existence of these relationships. While most will agree that homosexual relationships have existed alongside heterosexual relationships in ancient empires such as Greece, Rome and the Middle East, John Boswell has fine tuned these relationships and explained in great detail how they were regarded and respected within ancient societies. A surprise for some, would be the acceptance factor that was held by some churchs and religions in the early days for same gender relationships. Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe is well worth the read, somewhat intense in style of writing, but John Boswell's presentation reflects his attention to detail and his dedication to the concept that these stories must be told and preserved for all generations.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not always opposites attract July 21 2003
By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Friends of mine who had been familiar with Boswell's first book, 'Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality', from its initial publication in 1980 waited impatiently for the follow-up volume. In the end, it took fourteen years to produce, and sadly, did not live up the expectations that had been given it.
Firstly, it did not in fact reveal (if such places exist, the not-always-so-hidden charge behind the disappointment) communities that had continued the practice of tolerance to same-sex couples through the last millenium within the structures of Christendom.
For part of the book he covers old ground, talking about the milieu of the Greco-Roman world, and talks about the development of the idea of marriage and liturgical practices for that. He then proceeds to give examples of liturgies which, Boswell claims, are proof that the church did recognise and bless same-sex unions. This claim is still debated, as there is no blantant 'I now pronounce you husband and husband (or wife and wife)' kinds of statements or liturgies here, but rather testimony to friendship, companionship, communal support, of a sort that is ambiguous.
While this book is important for liturgical forms and narrative discussion (although the narratives can be reinterpreted as something different from Boswell's), it failed to deliver the knock-out punch readers of the first book had been waiting for, i.e., conclusive proof the church was up to no good.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Historical same sex love companion. March 4 2001
Format:Paperback
Acceptance of homosexuality is already a rich source of heated talk, but discussion on gay marriage certainly does not help in dampening spirits. To bring some new perspective to the possible sanctioning of gay unions, historian John Boswell tried to look for evidence of same sex blessed unions in the early European middle ages. Certainly homosexuality was viewed quite differently in earlier times and Christian faith condemned it rather late, somewhat simultaneously with the advent of celibacy in the clergy. In this book, Mr. Boswell presents us his findings and comments. Indeed there is some serious evidence that same sex union were at least more than tolerated a millenium ago. The book is thus an interesting read and helps us consider in a different light some specious arguments presented today to deny civil recognition for homosexual unions. Unfortunately, the book suffers from wanting to say more than what the findings warrant. A pity since the mere fact of finding evidence for same sex unions is already quite telling even if it is not clear in some cases whether it was only a special friendship recognition or a bona fide carnal union recognition. Perhaps the haste at which the book was written and edited explains this, since Mr. Boswell was sick and died around the time of publication. That haste might be deduced from the fact that 25% of the book are notes, and the feeling that ones get upon finishing it that the book could have been at least 50 pages shorter. Still, a convincing case for getting out of today's conventional parameters for marriage is hinted by this book: clearly Mr. Boswell shows us that marriage and homosexuality were not that contrary centuries ago, and did not hinder the development of Western Civilization. And I might add, this book makes us wonder where Mr. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Must read for anyone talking about "traditional" marriage
The other reviews cover most of the issues with this book admirably. One could have appropriately, but less titilatingly, retitled the book "Unions in Pre-Modern Europe", since... Read more
Published on April 18 2004 by Penny Duff
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking enlightenment
I have now read this book twice and both times I find myself looking at great scholarship. However, there is something missing. Read more
Published on April 14 2004 by Michael Dennis
2.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic misreading of history
I find it amazing that so many readers think that Boswell, may he rest in peace, has discovered that in fact the early church actually blessed same sex unions. Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2004 by matt
5.0 out of 5 stars ABOUT MORE THAN ONLY SAME-SEX UNIONS
Boswell's book should be read by everyone interested in some kind of "fixed union", even heterosexuals who want to be married by the Church. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2004 by "finch334"
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Scholarship
I couldn't disagree more with claims that this book is dry. As a student planning to become a historian focusing on homosexual history (one that is interested in the pre-1869 "gay... Read more
Published on Dec 19 2002 by Jon Cruz
3.0 out of 5 stars Great thesis wrong approach
This book had some interesting things to say but it went about it in the wrong way. First of all, I think this book demonstrates that marriage is more then superficial ceremonies... Read more
Published on Dec 13 2002 by "honeydick"
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful authorship, profound implications
At the very least, Boswell deserves credit for bringing to light centuries worth of church documents some people would probably prefer to ignore or even deny the existence of. Read more
Published on July 9 2001 by David Jankowski
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating reading, but not for the faint of heart
Boswell is most famous for his 'Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality,' and this book certainly does not have so great an impact as that classic work. Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2000 by George H. Mcallister
3.0 out of 5 stars A likeness to 'marriage'?
I came to this work from Boswell's famous 'Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality', and found it quite a different sort of book - less panoramic in scope, less assertive,... Read more
Published on June 21 2000 by Andrew Jones
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